T Nation

Disruption Rule of Thumb

Just started the Krypteia Program for MMA (2x/week variant) and have to say I absolutely love it thus far. It’s near perfect for not only martial artists but also active duty military types (I fall into both camps). Jim, thanks for creating it and all that you do, first off.

Background: After a 5/3/1 lead/anchor cycle I did with my first lead being a 5s PRO, second lead being 5/3/1 PR set, and anchor at 3/5/1 plus Joker Sets I decided to run Krypteia for MMA.

I polished off half the 3x5 week (Squat and Bench) of cycle 1 but then got the call that someone in my unit tested positive for COVID-19 and for 14 days I’m quarantined at home. Thankfully I’ve got kettlebells ranging from 16KG to 40KG to stay as far North of Vag as I can.

A rule of thumb I’ve been working with (since I’ve had some of my 5/3/1 cycles interrupted by things like temporary trips (about a 4-5 day duration) for work) is as follows: If the disruption to training is shorter than a week, I carry on as planned, but if it exceeds 2 weeks I generally think it best to retest my TMs. Just curious how others here have handled disruptions of any kind to their 5/3/1 training.

I like the points you’ve made and I don’t worry about a missed week.

I set really low TMs, 80-85%, I found that its hard to set them too low as it still works. But high TMs and interruptions are a pain as I rush wotkouts or get inside my own head.

I’ve just changed my programme to one where I got 5 pros for 3 lifts on one day. With the other lift and BBS supplemental for two lifts coming on other days. That way if I can only make one day it’ll be 3 lifts 5 pros to keep me going.

My programmes arent what Jim has written as all I have access to is a barbell, plates, kbs and chin up bar. So no squat or bench. I use his ideas and principles to make a programme that works for me.

I chose how I set up my workouts by what I think I’m working over the next few months.

@tails1, I ordinarily run an 85% TM due to my other activities (Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu)plus other pesky Army physical stuff from time to time that can be a disruption to one’s routine.

I came up with that Rule of Thumb within the past year and a half, first by travel due to the nature of my work and lately this COVID thing. I did note, post COVID when I ran through my most recent 5/3/1 cycle detailed in my original post, that I had strength losses only in the squat and bench press of around 3.68% for the former and 12.17% for the latter based on TM tests I took back in June when our base’s gym reopened.

Wow, that’s pretty exact calculations of strength loss. In reality, unless you have a prolonged stretch of inactivity, it’s most likely just your body and mind adapting to lifting heavy barbell weights again and not real muscle loss. If it were me, I wouldn’t retest the TMs but might start back on the 5’s week of whatever template I was running if I felt the need to build back up my mental and physical readiness for the weeks ahead. If I’m coming back from vacation, it’s just mentally easier for me to start lighter (5’s week, not too high a TM) than to come right back to PR’s at 95% of a TM.

Also, remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint. As long as you get back into it after a layoff, it ultimately won’t matter if you did so by jumping right back in, restarting at the 5’s week, or retesting your TM.


What this guy says.


Thanks @Jim_Wendler, I’ll just restart Krypteia at the same loadings. My current run through was disrupted halfway through my 5s week so I think this two week disruption is negligible.

@antiquity, Well the exactness stems from a large chunk of my academic and professional education including a fair amount of science and engineering.

So what constitutes a ‘prolonged stretch of inactivity’ if I might ask, by your definition?

Also, remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint. As long as you get back into it after a layoff, it ultimately won’t matter if you did so by jumping right back in, restarting at the 5’s week, or retesting your TM.

Certainly a good point. I noted a ‘sea change’ so to speak on how I look at the purpose of training and ways to go about it over the past decade (i.e. how I saw training in my late twenties versus my late thirties) and over said decade I’ve been thinking of the long term sustainability of a training protocol of any sort.

By no means will I be inactive during this quarantine. Having my set of kettlebells and bodyweight activities means I’m at least doing something over these next twelve days of quarantine.

I don’t know, maybe a month or more of no resistance training. Even if you are doing only bodyweight and KB work for a month, I don’t think you’ll lose much muscle (if any) if you have a long history of training. It’s really just the re-acclimation to heavy barbell lifting.

I, too, am a scientist but I don’t think you can measure loss of strength with that kind of accuracy. Changes like how well you slept last night, current stress levels, the day’s temperature/humidity, etc… will cause day-to-day variations in how well you can demonstrate your strength beyond anything you’re attributing to short term, legitimate strength loss.


The truth is that you can’t say whether or not you lost strength. Using high precision data when the overwhelmingly largest variables are elsewhere is a big distraction.

Rather than “at least doing something”, why not set some kind of kettlebell PRs? Getting differently stronger is still stronger. Strong is the goal, barbells and barbell lifts are a means to an end.


@oscare, I’m actually using this period to “trial run” a kettlebell strength program from the fine folks on Pavel Tsatsouline’s StrongFirst site.

The article titled: Simple Strength for Difficult Times is a great one stop shop and I’m working the two kettlebell military press, two kettlebell front squat, two kettlebell renegade row, and the heavy ass swing, goblet squat and getup on alternate days for the two weeks I’m in ‘quarantine’.

My apologies if my choice of words “at least do something” came across the wrong way. I perhaps should have expressed this in a ‘get stronger differently’ sort of manner instead. And you are right, the barbell is only a means to an end not the end all be all of strength implements.


@antiquity, Thanks for putting that into perspective. I figured sleep and stress would affect day to day variations in strength but I didn’t realize temperature and humidity could do so as well for an air conditioned gym on an island where average temperatures are between 75-85*F in the daytime.

Because of how our gym is built only the place I do benching is subject to temperature variations as our benches and some machines were moved out to the basketball courts and that space is ventilated and uses fans to cool it.

I don’t mean so much as this (the exact temperature of where the bench is housed), but more so variabilities that you can’t control. If there is a hot spell and the days reach into the high 90’s, that will affect your short term strength in the gym. If you work out after a heavy lunch, or had to squeeze in an evening workout because your morning got booked, this may affect your strength numbers that day.

The point is, day-to-day variables impact us at all to an extent that makes saying you lost 3.68% of your strength on bench press meaningless.

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  • Taking off your t-shirt: -200g/0.45lb (0.1% of 200kg/440lbs)
  • Wore your hoodie/sweatshirt?
  • Shorts vs pants
  • Metal collars: 260g a pair
  • Uncalibrated plates: potentially +/- 10% weight variance day to day unless you use the exact same plates each time.
  • Cheap assorted barbells: potentially 1 or maybe 2 lbs variance day to day.
  • Different shoes? Different heel heights, different sole softness, feet slide within shoe during squat differently, etc.
  • Your recovery that day
  • Mental focus at that moment
  • Stress
  • Sugar levels
  • Sleep
  • Not your usual training time?
  • Did some gardening
  • Changed training program
  • TSLC (Time Since Last Coffee)
  • We aren’t robots and our output and performance randomly varies (otherwise every throw would be exactly the same / every kick the same power / every pitch the same speed, etc.).

This is the reason why we use a training max - so that we always make the reps even on a bad day, after helping grandma move the piano.



TSLC (Time Since Last Coffee)

I love it. I may well start using that around the office when this quarantine for me ends next week.

I usually run an 85% TM, and found that’s a better alternative than the 90% TM I used to run witin the last year or so. I find the 85% TM works well for me presently, but I’ve had a teammate who runs an 75%-80% TM and I’ve found that enlightening as well. Then again he is the fellow aspiring to fight professionally at my MT/BJJ gym and he’s a decade and some change younger than I am, so there’s some differences there.

The military loves acronyms.

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@oscare It doesn’t matter what nation, what service, what anything, the military loves its acronyms…some official, some unofficial (and usually HIGHLY offensive…and thus funny as hell).

After a colleague of mine tested positive a couple of weeks ago for COVID-19 and my whole office got quarantined for two weeks (background here for the curious). During those fourteen days, I relied on my set of kettlebells (1x40KG, 2x32KG, 2x24KG, and 2x16KG) for strength and conditioning work.

I wound up jumping back into the Krypteia program for MMA (which I was halfway through the first week of before quarantine) this week. I started with the 3x5 week from the get go and experienced no setback with either the bench or squat. I’m chomping at the bit for next week when it’s deadlift and press for the 3x5 week.

Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback on my original questions on training around disruption to my lifting.