# Can 5/3/1 Work for Natural Women?

I’m a 21 year old natural female powerlifter. I just competed in my first meet a couple weeks ago. I had been using stronglifts 5x5 to train for the meet, but my squats had stalled, so I figured I would try a new program. I’d been curious about 5/3/1 for a while.

I looked at the program and did my calculations. For bench, squat, and deadlift, I based my calculations off my numbers from the meet, since they were recent. For overhead press, I worked up to a hard 6rm, then plugged that into a 1rm calculator, then multiplied by 0.9.

Not sure about assistance exercises. I have been doing different set/rep schemes for the assistance exercises for each lift, and trying not to do too much, but I’m not sure if that’s good, or I should be doing a consistent set/rep scheme for the assistance exercises on each lift. Here’s how the first week went (all weights are in pounds):

Day 1: squats
I based my calculations off the 1rm 225
Warm up: 135 x 5
Set 1: 145 x 5
Set 2: 170 x 5
Set 3: 190 x 5 or more (I got 8 reps)

Squats 5 x 10 at 135 lbs
Calf raises (5 x 20 at 135 lbs)

Day 2: Overhead press
I didn’t know my 1 rm before I started for this one. I am just learning how to overhead press, as I don’t normally do it as part of my training.

Warm up: 20 x 5
Set 1: 45 x 5
Set 2: 55 x 5
Set 3: 65 x 5 or more (I got 6)

I plugged 65 x 6 into a 1rm calculator and got 75. I multiplied 75 by 0.9 to get 67.5. I’ll base future calculations off the 1rm 67.5

Overhead press: 5 x 10 @ 25 lbs
Pull ups: 4 x 8 (bodyweight)

Day 3: rest

Basing my calculations off the 1 rm 325

Warm up: 135 x 5
Set 1: 210 x 5
Set 2: 245 x 5
Set 3: 275 x 5 or more (I got 7)

Run for 20 minutes
Pull ups: 4 x 8 (bodyweight)

Day 5: Bench press
Basing my calculations off the 1rm 145

Warm up: 75 x 5
Set 1: 95 x 5
Set 2: 110 x 5
Set 3: 125 x 5 or more (I got 9)

100 push ups (in 4 sets of 25)

Today is day 6. I think I’ll do cardio today and tomorrow.

Questions:

1. Assistance exercises…is it okay to do different set/rep schemes on assistance work for each day? For instance, to do big but boring as assistance for one lift and bodyweight exercises for others? I like pull ups, so I want to keep the 4x8 pull ups at least one day. Is that good or bad?

2. If I get more than 8 reps on my 5+ set (like I did with bench press), does that mean I am not using enough weight? Should I up the weight I use for my calculations in that case or just keep with what I am at?

3. Is my split good? This is the split I was trying:

Day 1: squat
Day 2: overhead press
Day 3: rest/cardio
Day 5: bench
Day 6: rest/cardio
Day 7: rest/cardio

I like that split because it allows me to do cardio when my legs are most rested. However, I wonder if it would be better for me to rest in between each lifting day, rather than putting upper body work the day after lower body work. If so, what days should I do cardio?

1. Just…does this work for women? Does anyone know any women who have tried this? What results did they get? And can women stay natural and use this program?

[quote]Lioness wrote:

I looked at the program and did my calculations. For bench, squat, and deadlift, I based my calculations off my numbers from the meet, since they were recent. For overhead press, I worked up to a hard 6rm, then plugged that into a 1rm calculator, then multiplied by 0.9.

Not sure about assistance exercises. I have been doing different set/rep schemes for the assistance exercises for each lift, and trying not to do too much, but I’m not sure if that’s good, or I should be doing a consistent set/rep scheme for the assistance exercises on each lift. Here’s how the first week went (all weights are in pounds):

Day 1: squats
I based my calculations off the 1rm 225
Warm up: 135 x 5
Set 1: 145 x 5
Set 2: 170 x 5
Set 3: 190 x 5 or more (I got 8 reps)

Squats 5 x 10 at 135 lbs
Calf raises (5 x 20 at 135 lbs)

Day 2: Overhead press
I didn’t know my 1 rm before I started for this one. I am just learning how to overhead press, as I don’t normally do it as part of my training.

Warm up: 20 x 5
Set 1: 45 x 5
Set 2: 55 x 5
Set 3: 65 x 5 or more (I got 6)

I plugged 65 x 6 into a 1rm calculator and got 75. I multiplied 75 by 0.9 to get 67.5. I’ll base future calculations off the 1rm 67.5

Overhead press: 5 x 10 @ 25 lbs
Pull ups: 4 x 8 (bodyweight)

Day 3: rest

Basing my calculations off the 1 rm 325

Warm up: 135 x 5
Set 1: 210 x 5
Set 2: 245 x 5
Set 3: 275 x 5 or more (I got 7)

Run for 20 minutes
Pull ups: 4 x 8 (bodyweight)

Day 5: Bench press
Basing my calculations off the 1rm 145

Warm up: 75 x 5
Set 1: 95 x 5
Set 2: 110 x 5
Set 3: 125 x 5 or more (I got 9)

100 push ups (in 4 sets of 25)

Today is day 6. I think I’ll do cardio today and tomorrow.

Questions:

1. Assistance exercises…is it okay to do different set/rep schemes on assistance work for each day? For instance, to do big but boring as assistance for one lift and bodyweight exercises for others? I like pull ups, so I want to keep the 4x8 pull ups at least one day. Is that good or bad?

2. If I get more than 8 reps on my 5+ set (like I did with bench press), does that mean I am not using enough weight? Should I up the weight I use for my calculations in that case or just keep with what I am at?

3. Is my split good? This is the split I was trying:

Day 1: squat
Day 2: overhead press
Day 3: rest/cardio
Day 5: bench
Day 6: rest/cardio
Day 7: rest/cardio

I like that split because it allows me to do cardio when my legs are most rested. However, I wonder if it would be better for me to rest in between each lifting day, rather than putting upper body work the day after lower body work. If so, what days should I do cardio?

1. Just…does this work for women? Does anyone know any women who have tried this? What results did they get? And can women stay natural and use this program?[/quote]

Welcome to the forum. First off, did you use your actual meet maxes, or 90% of your meet maxes? Your above paragraph read like you based your program off of your actual maxes. If so, recalculate your numbers off of your TRAINING MAX, which is 90% of the actual maxes. Your numbers will feel light and you will get several more reps on the last set, which is fine because the program will catch up to you!

Secondly, it’s fine to use different assistance work sets/reps for different lifts. This brings me to the most important point. The 5/3/1 program is effective because of the effort you give to the 4 main lifts. The assistance work is such a small part of the whole picture. Having said that, make sure you are lifting each rep of each set with as much power as you can, given good form. That doesn’t mean that your complete each set with lightning speed, just lower each rep under control, and lift it with all you have. This is VERY important in submaximal training.

If you get 8 or more reps, even 15-20 on your last set, don’t raise your training max. Stay the course, because, again, after a few cycles, the weight will catch up to you.

Your split is fine. This isn’t as important as getting the work in on each lift. You can even change splits along the way. For instance, I found that combining my deadlift/press days works best for me.

Lastly, this is a great program for any lifter because it’s entirely customized to your needs given you utilize the basic principles that Jim lays out. NOTE: I would recommend doing FSL work in the 3-5x5 range instead of a bunch of assistance exercises. Less guess work, and more effective training.

If you have any other questions, ask away. Good luck.