T Nation

Dropping Bench/OHP 5/3/1

As a quick background, I’ve been on 5/3/1 for about 9 months now (injured lower back after first 7 and had to reset after a 6 week recovery period) and progress has been steady on squats and deadlifts (even with the time off due to injury).

My bench and OHP have no budged since the 3rd cycle. I haven’t increased my training max weight since then because my rep PR’s have been stagnant. Everyone thinks I just need to be more patient. Well, 4months without gains in a bit frustrating especially when I’m still considered a noob by most standards.

I’m considering changing my upper body training while staying on 5/3/1 for squat and DL. Has anyone done this or is this not advisable?

Anyhow, my upper body strength is pathetic and I feel the need to try something different before coming back to 5/3/1 for bench and OHP.

So you’ve been using the same TM for the last 4 months? That’s not how the program works. Try something else if you want but it doesn’t sound like you’ve done the program properly. Doing the same thing over and over again is a perfect way to stagnate. You need to push the weights up over time. Try the 5 /3 setup that Jim always recommends.

I haven’t upped the training max because I haven’t broken any rep PR’s. It didn’t make sense to me to increase my TM when I wasn’t improving my rep counts at lower weights in any way shape or form.

I know one of the most frequent mantras of this site is “YOU MUST EAT MORE!” I think its something to think about in this case. In my experience bench and mil press tend to be very relative to your body weight. Also are you actually missing the prescribed reps? As in are you just not hitting the 5,3, or 1 based on your TM? Many may disagree, but I think its fine to move up if you’re only hitting the prescribed reps. If you feel its necessary you could reduce your current TM down to 90% to give yourself room to grow.

diet?

Could be physical: See a professional

Could be mental: Why are you keeping the same TM if you are reaching your reps? You only said you didn’t add reps or had PR’s.

Could be diet: Fix it.

Could be your balls: Grab them?

So you don’t go up in training max, and you don’t follow the program and you wonder why it doesn’t work. Brilliant!

I find diet to be doubtful as factor (my squat and DL have been improving every cycle). I’m at a 300 calorie surplus for my body weight with 1g Protein/lb BW and 0.5g Fat/lb BW with carbs filling in the rest. I prep all my meals from “whole” foods and eat out once a day (usually a chicken salad with pita bread or a cold cut sandwich with roast beef or turkey).

I haven’t considered going heavier, although I have thrown in sets AFTER the max set (e.g. AMRAP of lower weight sets after trying to hit a rep PR). The extra volume hasn’t seemed to help, so perhaps I do need to sack up and just go heavier anyway.

[quote]Mitchnasty wrote:
I know one of the most frequent mantras of this site is “YOU MUST EAT MORE!” I think its something to think about in this case. In my experience bench and mil press tend to be very relative to your body weight. Also are you actually missing the prescribed reps? As in are you just not hitting the 5,3, or 1 based on your TM? Many may disagree, but I think its fine to move up if you’re only hitting the prescribed reps. If you feel its necessary you could reduce your current TM down to 90% to give yourself room to grow.[/quote]

I am surpassing the prescribed reps, but not improving on them week to week (and yes, I am trying to avoid hitting a true 1RM). I’m currently hitting 215 for 3 reps on bench on my Week 3 and would prefer it be 4 or 5 reps before jacking up the TM again. But it looks like the concensus is that I up the weight and go from there regardless of my reps.

Either way, thanks to all for the responses so far.

Yeah, you should definitely go up. If you’re surpassing the prescribed reps AT ALL its a good sign your on the right track and things are as they should be. Bump those numbers up

I agree - just up your weight. Now if your not hitting the reps during the 5’s and 3’s week, re-evaluate your 90% TM. I had to redo this myself for my bench as in the weight for my final set of 5’s I could not even do. Adjusted weight accordingly and now I can do that weight for like 8 or more reps.

Don’t overthink it. Push yourself and your numbers but if there is an obvious issue in weight used, adjust it. Remember - don’t worry about the 1RM, go for that 90% and be smart with it.

So, the most I have EVER hit on a 1+ week is 3, but in Oct my 1+ was 295 for 3, and last cycle my 1+ was 325 for 3, and my 5+ was 295 for 7. Keep adding weight, and when you are just hitting the prescribed, drop the TM by 10-15 lbs and start over.

There are 2 very apparent reasons for lack of improvement and it has nothing to do with program:

Diet
Law of Adaption

Your actions must reflect your goals. I’ve rarely ever seen anyone I’ve worked with not reach their goals IF they 100% commit to the cause. I am absolutely amazed at the genetic anomalies on forums who think they can side step decades of 90% compliance.

Jim’s reply reminds of the movie miracle. Its the movie about the 1980 US mens ice hockey team. In the movie the coach asks for 90% effort from everyone, and says it will make his job a lot easier. A cool quote I think, and I think the idea applies here.

There ya go.

By “Beyond” and use some of the tools. You might be someone who benefits from FSL, Full Body, etc… FSL has jump started gains when I have stalled before.

[quote]Dangles wrote:
I haven’t upped the training max because I haven’t broken any rep PR’s. It didn’t make sense to me to increase my TM when I wasn’t improving my rep counts at lower weights in any way shape or form.[/quote]

I have been in the same boat with press often. I have found that PRs come eventually if I just change the TM as usual. Instead of hitting 3 weights with three within a narrow rep range again and again, it can help to hit, say, 12 weights with a reps ranging from a true 1rm (just before you need to reset) to 15 or more after you have a hard reset. Then going through all those cycles again gives me a lot of opportunities to squeeze out an extra rep here or there. You might want to try it. Also, Jokers and rep work with the press could help.