T Nation

First Time Going Through 5/3/1


I’m going to be running 5/3/1 for the first time next week, just running the standard one that’s posted on here in an article. My question is, should I just run the prescribed sets for my main lift (3x5,3x3, 5/3/1, etc.) for the first couple cycles or can I add joker sets and FSL?


Everyone’s gonna do what they wanna do anyway, but as someone that has run 5/3/1 and its variations successfully for a number of years now, I would strongly recommend you run it as written for AT LEAST the first several months. Probably better the first six months.

5/3/1 is more than just a set/rep scheme. You need to run the baseline first to see how your body responds, develop an appreciation for the philosophy and programming behind it, and to measure your results before you start going crazy with the variations. Additionally, you need to get your mind around the deloads and you especially need to learn how to properly utilize a TM as a tool having nothing to do with your “max”. There are some experienced guys out there that “get it” right away, but most people don’t properly understand these things at first. It takes time and experience with the program to learn them.

Just my two cents,


Yeah I was planning on running it as written, I just knew that jokers and FSL were added to the program after the original article was written so I was just wondering if I could go right into em or wait til a few cycles to add em in


Thanks for the help btw


Again, this is just my opinion and I’m not insulting your intelligence. I’m a pretty “smart” guy, yet it took me years of experience with the program to really get it, and I’m still learning things. I’ll give you a simple example:

In May 2015 I injured my shoulder while benching without a spotter (dumb). I immediately went out of state for a training course that was very physical and I continuously re-aggravated that injury until I returned home several months later. My bench was pathetically weak at that point. I began rehabbing/rebuilding my shoulder/bench strength by setting my TM extremely low. I mean pathetically low. I was the weakest I’d been in forever, and yet the TM was so low I was hitting 20 reps or more on the 5’s week. Five months later I blew away my lifetime previous 1RM on the bench press. “Conventional” wisdom would say this isn’t possible. Yet it happened. This sent me back to the drawing board, completely, with respect to how I think of a TM, and it taught me to use the TM as a tool, rather than “90% of 1RM”. I’d heard it from Jim 20 times by reading his books and articles, but it didn’t sink in until I experienced it myself in the weight room.

The problem with jumping right into the variations is that you haven’t yet established a baseline. And without that baseline you’re unlikely to properly utilize the jokers, FSL, etc., to their maximum benefit. Basically, you need to get to a point with the program and it’s philosophy where you can appropriately auto-regulate their use, erring on the side of restraint, and that takes an investment of time during which you’re doing exactly what Jim tells you.

It’s hard, I know, but don’t think of it as forcing yourself to start basic while working your way up to something “better”. Think of it as the first positive steps in accumulating real knowledge with respect to strength Training, rather than the nitwit internet “knowledge” so prevalent nowadays. Jim’s right with his slogan “You’re being lied to”. And yes, I drink the cool aid, but I drink it because it works, and because the philosophy behind it has had positive carry-over into other aspects of my life. I can’t thank Jim enough for that.

Good luck!


Get your hands on the 531 2nd edition ebook. It’s all well and good reading the program on here but reading the book and more importantly understanding the principles behind why it is the way it is is so important to getting your head in the right space to make consistent progress. You’ll also know about how to progress and what to expect while doing it.

Don’t do jokers for awhile. Standard 531 w/ FSL or just a straight pyramid back down Triumvirate assistance style will get you places. Don’t worry about any fancy details.



Thanks gents. I’ll start as basic as possible and build up. Good tips!


What you do after really depends on your other assistance work. Basically if you do jokers and FSL that’s easily the time of another assistance lift. For that reason I would recommend the following

  • At least 2 full cycles with only the basic program, the + set on your main lift then go do some other lifts
  • After 2 cycles experiment with FSL and jokers but only on some days, don’t schedule it in your program yet
  • Once you find a good balance of other assistance work you can add them in as you feel necessary

Also a big reason for experimenting first is every lift is different, you might like jokers but only on 2 of the 4 lifts or something.


Sounds good, I’ll hold off on the jokers and FSL. How does this set up look for someone trying to prioritize push press:

Push press 531
DB OHP press 5 sets
Lat pull down 5 sets

Squat 531
Leg extension 5 sets
Hanging leg raise 5 sets

Bench 531
(Incline bench/military press/dips?) 5 sets
Rows 5 sets

Deadlift 531
GHR 5 sets
Ab wheel 5 sets

I can’t decide what I want to do for the push assistance exercise on bench day. You think military press would be overkill for shoulders even when trying to focus on press?


Consistency and good habits will get you farther than worrying about which press to do for assistance work. Just pick one and get after it


Sorry to jump into someone else’s thread, but when you say ‘run the baseline’ do you mean cycles of Not Doing Jack Shit?


I think he means just the standard 531 and assistance. No jokers and FSLs and such


This cannot be overstated. It took me a few cycles to really understand the TM as a tool paradigm.


I’m excited to learn about all the nuances of 531 and how my body responds to different things. I started my first log “The humongous 531 log” if you wanna keep tabs and wouldn’t mind givin me some pointers whenever you can/feel like it


Consider Boring But Big. There’s something about the weekly combo of 5/3/1 heavy work in conjunction with the 5x10 volume that always produced great results for me. Just make sure you eat like a horse. Lots of whole food protein, healthy carbs and veggies. I prefer Type II, offset lifts, but most of the focus I’ve read has been on Type I, same lift. Also, When running a MTTF split I prefer to deadlift on Tuesday and squat on Friday. This gives you four days of recovery from the squat session versus three (before touching legs again). I found this particularly important on week one coming off the deload, which is always the squat session that makes me the most sore.

Don’t understand the focus on Push Press. It’s a tool, like any other, but you’re already deviating from the program…


Tag me in any post you want me to check out @lord_humongous , I’ll also try to remember to swing by periodically as well.

@Saeufer is on fire with the advice here too.


It’s not as much a focus on push press as much as general overhead pressing. It’s my weakest area i feel like so I was trying to prioritize it to bring it up to speed.
And where’s the deviation? Like I said, I don’t have the book(which I’m buying tomorrow) so I built it off the template off the website. I’ll also be looking at boring but big, thanks!


Yeah, I remembered after posting that that you’d mentioned the online article, and so maybe didn’t have all the information with which to work. Recommend, as diege did, his 5/3/1 Second Edition to start. Read it cover to cover, twice. Everything you need is in there and there are enough variations in that book alone to keep you productively busy for probably two years (or more).

I promise if you run it exactly as described, eat and sleep right, you’ll get stronger everywhere. With discipline, work and consistency you’ll get a helluva lot stronger.