Crushed Previous Estimated 1RMs. Use 90% New 1RM as TM for Next Cycle?

Kind of self explanatory title, but take for example my deadlift, which i originally estimated a max of 290 on (using his formula wr.0333 + w = 1rm).

Now that estimated max is closer to 320 and i haven’t even gone into my third week of the first cycle. I’m coming back to lifting from a somewhat extended hiatus and i think i’m just gaining back a lot of what i had. I could be wrong with that “muscle memory” hypothesis, tho i don’t think it matters why i’m making these gains, at least in this context. I’m just concerned with what a reasonable increase might be.

So yea, i’m open to whatever, would just like to hear people’s reasoning on what they’ve done or would do in a similar case as mine. Or ideally what Jim recommends in a case like this. I doubt its all that uncommon.

Keep going on the same path. To put it in perspective - you got better/stronger and you want to change things? Why?

Increasing your TM makes ZERO sense - it is a tool, nothing more. And that tool has allowed you to get better.

I have been using a TM for a long, long time. And this shit works IF you do it right and don’t let your ego fuck with it.


something tells me the Op doesn’t have a understanding of the principles behind it.

If your training max feels too light and your not even to the 3rd week, I assume your getting a lot of reps. The 1RM calculation is less accurate with more reps so maybe the explanation. Your actual 1RM and 90% TM might be exactly where they should so don’t change anything. And if that’s wrong, still don’t change anything because Jim said so too.

1 Like

Wow, did not expect a reply from the man himself! Thanks so much for taking the time. I’ll be deferring to your expertise in what i do, but here was my thinking behind the question.

You recommend that to start, we take 90% of the 1rm and then work from there… and then when someone stalls, that they drop back to 90% of their 1rm, and then start cycling over again, using smaller increments.

Based on that rationale it seems like the 90% principle kind of works as a floor for the whole program… So my curiosity lays here… Say i finish this cycle and my new max for deadlift is 320. 90% of that would be 288, yet if i use the increment prescribed, then i’d be working off a TM of 270, which would be 84% of my actual 1rm, not 90%.

And then of course all work done would be still below that 84%, with only one actual set throughout the whole cycle being above 80% of my actual 1rm, at which point (given strength gains) it would probably still be below that level.

I’ve read that in order to make significant increases in strength, you have to train above 80% of your 1rm. So it seems like, at least for a time, the training will mostly be in favor of hypertrophy, and less in favor of strength.

Like you said OP, defer to Jim’s expertise. I think you’re also overthinking the numbers. Like Jim said, the TM is a tool. That’s all. It took me about six months to really grasp what that meant even when I was following the program’s principles. Ordinarily I’d never, ever advise following something without fully understanding why, but this is an exception. You’ll get it.

You’re lucky enough to get answer from Jim himself on a free forum, don’t push it haha.

It is like that for a reason, and I hope you have the read the books. There are answers in there.

The program is about long term progression, LONG term. If you started with your actual max by week 3 you’d be grinding reps at 95%, by cycle 2 you’d be at 100% your body would hurt, your reps would suck. You’d go nowhere.

Starting low is about increasing rep QUALITY and having room to grow. As you increase the weight cycle to cycle you will get closer and closer to a true max, rep totals on + sets will go down and things will get harder. This is the process. You are only hurting yourself by trying to jump the gun and make things go faster.

If I add 10 pounds to my deadlift every month for a year, ensuring good form with consistent progress. And you jump 30 a month, the reps suck, your back hurts, then you have to drop 20, drop 10, add 40 and by the end of the year you’re exactly where you started or only marginally higher, who wins?

1 Like

You’re missing what i’m saying, which is not to add 30 lbs each time. Its to use a 90% TM as a floor for the whole program, which might mean adding even less than 5/10 pounds per cycle! As far as i can tell, that principle, which Jim spends at least a page or two over the course of the book backing up, gets used in some instances and not in others, which, to me seems inconsistent. I’ve yet to hear a strong argument speaking to that point specifically.

I mean the fact that you revert back to 90% when you stall seems to indicate that 90% is your base. And if we take a contrarian example to my own particular situation here too: say someone starts a mesocycle with an estimated 1rm of 400 lbs (TM of 360 lbs) and by the end of the first cycle his estimated 1rm is 405 lbs.

Now the program has a general call for an increase of 10 lbs on dead/squat, which would mean using 370 as a training max next cycle, unless you used a smaller increment like the 5 lb increment also recommended… which would result in a 365 lb TM.

In both of those cases the TM is higher than what it would be if you had based it on 90% of your 1rm. So if your max was now 405, you would use 364.5 as your TM… i shouldn’t have to point out that this is a particularly small increment and can get even smaller. Its not so rigid as the increments recommended in the book. Then yea, at some point you have reached genetic potential and its time to move on to other means of progression.

What does that all mean tho? It fits everyone’s own moment in progression. Its more personal. and you can always base it off an e1rm from the 3rd week in your cycle before you start your next cycle.

Its food for thought. Idk if the idea has been covered before, but i haven’t heard anyone here address it specifically.

I think you are blatantly overthinking to try maximise progress in the short term. But I do like a hearty discussion and you’ve clearly thought about this alot and it’s something I have never considered.

So to clarify, you are proposing to adjust your TM to 90% of the highest e1rm you achieve in a given cycle for each lift when calculating your new weights for the next cycle? As Opposed to standard consistent incremention as described in the program. And you would like to do this consistently every cycle?

E.g. (We will use a TM of 100 to keep it simple)
TM 100: OH Press
Highest rep record 958 = e1rm of 120
Standard Method:
New TM = 100+10
Your Method:
New TM = 120

I think this is a flawed method for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, the formula used to find a e1rm, does just what it says. It estimates. It is not to be used to say, “yea I can bench 315,” because your e1rm says you can but you’ve never done it. It is simply a tool used to standardise and COMPARE rep records. You will also have 3 e1rm’s for a given lift each cycle, I assume you propose to pick your best record, which isn’t necessarily reflective of actual ability and the reps you get on each day are highly dependent upon feel and mood. Your e1rm from week 1 could be the highest and now you want to adjust to that when your most recent 2 weeks you couldn’t make it to that level. You may have busted out 2 extra reps on the deadlift cause you had too much pre workout or some shit and didn’t realse your back was out of neutral and now you start your new cycle and your back can’t take it.This is a silly example but the point is they are highly subject to variability and are not used for ANY reason in 531 other than comparing rep records.

Secondly you are putting alot of faith in the 90% and it seems you think doing this will prevent you from stalling longer than normal. Firstly the rule to drop back to 90% when you stall is kind of outdated. The genral rule is to drop the TM 2 cycles worth. And moreover saw the rise in popularity of the 5 cycles forward, 3 back rule of keeping consistent progress. And one of your prime justifications for this is that you may progress even LESS than using standard incrementation, to try and show that you are not just trying to progress quicker than normal when lets be real, you are, that’s the point of starting this thread. Let’s just call it what it is. But if you program your starting TM’s correctly to 90%, current recommendations suggest even starting 85% or lower in some cases, then there is almost no scenario in which using 90% of the e1rm’s you initially get won’t result in a LARGER increase than the standard incrementation. E.g. if you program it correctly and 100 is a TRUE 90% of 1rm. It is standard practice for those using true 90% to achieve 12-15 reps on 5+. Using the lower number with your method would still result in a jump of 7.5 as opposed 5 with standard incrementation.

Lastly this won’t necessarily fall in line with the basic principles of the program. Start too light, progress slowly etc. and make consistent progress. Doing this is inconsistent. I’ve already established that each e1rm is essentially arbitrary so one month you may jump 10, one 5 and one 20 dependent on how you did and how you were feeling. Inconsistent jumps lead to poor form, which leads to breakdown, which leads to failure. The purpose of 531 is to be simple and straightforward. You are adding unnecessary complication which will fuck you up in the long run. If you keep it slow and keep it consistent this is how you make sure you squat is always to depth and your knees don’t buckle i.e. you body stays stable and knows what it’s doing.

Also Jim clearly states in ALL of his books that if you’re e1rm is way higher DON’T change it, the program is working. You could probably just read that.

This is probably full of typos, I have really bad eyes

1 Like

Jim always says you can’t fault yourself by starting light. I do believe it was outlined as one of the 5/3/1 principles.

Interesting ideas. Jim once wrote something along the lines of not needing an advanced degree from Bulgaria to program properly.

90% may or may not be the optimal percentage. That could be 87.17643 or 93.7536. But 90 (or 85, or 80) falls within an acceptable range of optimal for long-term, continued success.

Where are you getting this from? I have not seen Jim ever suggest it here. You shouldn’t be stalling on the program, assuming you use the right TM.

It’s in the 2nd edition. Can’t remember if it’s in the first.

Well i’m not gonna argue all your points, since i don’t have a lot of time and you really haven’t moved me here.

For the OH press example, you used an increment double whats recommended by Jim.

For the e1rm, i would use NSCA’s coefficients, not Jim’s. Those are lift specific and, as far as i can tell, have more research going into them.

I don’t take pre workout. I would always estimate maxes based off the final week of training, not “whatever i did best in over the cycle”. I basically said that in my first response.

“Secondly you are putting alot of faith in the 90% and it seems you think doing this will prevent you from stalling longer than normal.” So you think thats wrong? Cause you don’t say why it might be at any point here.

Why couldn’t i still do 3 back 5 forward?

And i’m not justifying anything, i have nothing to prove to anyone here, including Jim. If i give a criticism, and no one gives a strong enough argument in rebuttal, then i’m left to believe my point is legitimate. So my wanting to add 15 lbs instead of 10 lbs for my first cycle doesn’t need your approval or Jims approval. If anything, it needs you to break it down and show me that the idea is wrong. And that hasn’t happened.

Thanks for commenting. I agree.

About the percentage… cuz i was wondering the same thing… I think 90% is actually good. If you look at the big sets in program, week 1 you have go for max reps at 85%, week two at 90%, and week 3 at 95% of TM.

These relate to your actual 1rm at something like 76.5% , 81%, and 85.5%.

So i think someone would be in a good spot training with those numbers…

That’s what I figure; it’s something a little dated. Jim has really hamered the point of picking the right TM these days.

So one month into the program and you’re a critic? People who have run the program for months or years offer insight into why things are, and that doesn’t "move you’? Are you trying the program to get stronger, or for the joy of pedantic critical analysis in an internet forum?

You can do one of two things:

  1. Run the program as written, chart your e1RM’s for every workout for six or eight months, and then see the light -why the program is written the way it is.

2. Plug your own ‘expert’ ideas into the program, bastardize it until it’s unrecognizable, complain that the program didn’t work, and then program hop to the next shiny object.

Best of luck.


Listen boss, there’s a good chance you’ll blow off what I say, but your thinking here is emblematic of what I’ve seen with a lot of newer lifters who spend a deal of time on lifting forums and reading articles, and I have some thoughts about it that might be helpful if you consider them.

First, the kind of thinking and dialectic you are engaging in here just isn’t terribly useful, and I understand it is an easy trap to fall into. I am an attorney in real life, and so I understand the appeal of the kind of crystalline precision you’re looking for in the philosophical underpinnings of the training you’re doing. But I’ve also been lifting for over a decade with some success, and I can tell you it isn’t productive.

Strength training is an applied science, and as such the models we use to govern how we do it can only grope at physiological realities. Numbers are not super important beyond the role they play in illustrating ideas…90% is not better than 88 or 92%. But probably better than 70 or 98%.

That said, the concept of a training max is useful because it gets you into the right range in terms of putting the right weight on the bar for that day, which is the only goal of percentages in a training program. Jim’s advice lately has been that for most programs, 85% is about right. That falls in line with my experience most of the time, and I think you should aim for that.

If you’re training this way, you are probably looking for a set of grounding principles that can govern how you train over a long period of time, so the notion of modifying those principles three weeks in does not seem smart. Then again, the best and most important thing about training is that it is a voluntary activity over which you have full control and responsibility, so ultimately, if your tinkering makes sense to you and you want to do it, you should go ahead.


I don’t like the idea because I don’t want to jump up and down in weight based on if I had a good day or not, which is what you’re doing if you’re only using the 1 week. I’ve had some great days on those weeks and I’ve had days that really shit the bed. I don’t want to dump my TM because I was off and I don’t want to jack it up because I smoked a set, only to get crushed the next cycle. Just too many variables involved.

But it’s your training and I say if you like the idea, go for it.