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Forever 5/3/1 Assistance: How to Approach this Without Overtraining?

Hello everyone!

I have a question (sorry in advance if it’s a very stupid question; I could be overthinking and underestimating myself).

In Forever 5/3/1, Jim Wendler, peace be upon him, says that every workout with assistance work requires completing a certain range of reps for pushing, pulling, and single-leg/core and what you do is up to you, regardless of day’s main lift. If I am doing assistance work for the same movement every time I go workout on top of the main lifts, wouldn’t that lead to overtraining at some point?

Another way of looking at it is, am I supposed to beat personal bests on assistance work, i.e. try to do 5x10 @ 50lb dumbbell presses and if I am successful, I increase the weight to 55lbs the next time I workout? Or am I supposed to just go through the motions to reach the goal reps (i.e. always reach goal reps with pushups, never adding weight to a body vest even if I have the strength to do so)?

I remember Wendler saying your assistance should be 50% of your 1RM more or less (shouldn’t be dying or out of breath), so I would assume that since you will be making some sort of progression over time, that you’d want to increase the weight of the assistance work as well. If I abide by the 5/3/1 principles for 5 years, it can’t be expected that you do the same exact sets, reps, and weight for assistance work on year 5 that you were doing on year 1. But if that’s the case, wouldn’t this lead to overtraining because if you go to the gym on two consecutive days, you never had time to rest the muscles that are required for going through a particular movement?

Again, I apologize if I’m overanalyzing and thank you for your input!

You are.

Just add weight/reps whenever you can without interfering with your main lifts

I don’t remember him saying anything about assistance and 50%…

Have you read any other 5/3/1 books? Like the 2nd edition? Beyond?
Jim says that you need to have a clear foundation and understanding of 5/3/1 before you read Forever, and it sounds to me like you don’t…

The rep ranges and and exercise suggestions in the book give you a ton of flexibility to do what is best for you on a given day/ given yours goals and strength levels.

e.g. 50-100 reps pulling could be 100 weighted pull ups to 50 light band pull aparts or anything in between. You need to determine what you on any given workout.

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I have read the first book a while back. I remember in his Boring But Big example that his assistance lifts were based on the movement he was doing. Actually if you look on page 48-49, you have only pushing assistance work on bench press day, push/pull on press day, and single-leg/core assistance work on squat and deadlift day.

Hopefully this shows how I got confused in the first place. To me, it seems like it would make more sense to do assistance based on a certain lift instead of doing assistance work for push and pull and single-leg/core all in the same workout, done 3 or 4 times a week (which means working the same muscles potentially two consecutive days).

I guess this makes sense. It’s about moderation and being smart. If I do 5x10 of dumbell presses on bench press day, common sense would tell you to not do the same thing the next day. Instead you could do push-ups or something to give your chest a break. Same idea with Kroc Rows. If anything you’d alternate heavier and lighter assistance work depending on what you’re doing. Wendler even says “Do whatever as long as it doesn’t affect your main lifts”, so I guess that would sum up everything I just said in a phrase.

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“Don’t major in the minors”–Wendler

Seeing as how 5/3/1 and the Forever templates are really not designed for novices, auto regulation is not only implied, but stated. Go in smash the main work sets, assist the main lifts, go home. If today’s not your day, hit the main lift, go home. YOU determine what you do, Jim just gives you some ideas HE has tried. I personally love BBB and Joker sets give me something to look forward to on days i feel like I’m killing it. As for overtraining, some muscle groups respond great to high frequency others not so much. And every lifter has something different than the next. That’s where being experienced in the 4 main lifts and training to know when and where to push yourself and when/where to leave a couple in the tank.


I have to say …I’ve been doing the BBB for about 3 months now and those 5 x 10 sets of squats and dead lifts kick my ass every week…I’m at 65% of TM and it’s killer …but I’m getting stronger and stronger …!!!


I usually pick two categories of the three for each workout, depending on main and supplemental lifts. I.e. on DL day I only do leg raises/abs and curls, on Press day I do pullups, face pulls and pushups, on Squat day I do goblet squats and leg raises and on Bench day I do DB rows and face pulls.

Right now, I don’t see the point of doing pushups/dips the day right before or right after bench/press days, or doing goblet squats/good mornings the day right before or after deadlifts/squat days. Maybe abs work could be spread out on all days easily. And maybe in the future I’ll manage to fit everything into every workout.

Also, you have to take into account everything else:
-supplemental work: different templates impact differently, especially on recovery, 5x5@FSL allows to push more on assistance than say BBB@FSL;
-conditioning: especially hard conditioning, there’s no chance in hell I’m doing heavy squats today, lighter goblet squats tomorrow and then go running the day after;
-real life stuff: if you do a heavy/physical job, shitty days and such

Just get the reps in man. If you’re doing 5x10 DB presses, you should use a weight that you’re sure you can do them all. And just regulate yourself on assistance work. Don’t do heavy dumbbell pressing work the day before you bench if you think it’ll interfere. I squat the day before I bench, so I just do weighted push-ups for push on squat day and then after I bench I’ll push the DB work or weighted dips or whatever a little bit. I do ab work and things like DB snatches for the core work on my upper body days, and single leg/lower back type stuff on my squat/DL days. It’s not hard to do full body training every training day if you plan it wisely and don’t do anything that will interfere with the main lifts. Your body will adjust.

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Yep, that totally makes sense. My question is a really stupid one because common sense would tell you this. I tend to overanalyze things so thank you kbama and everyone for your input!

Med ball chest passes are another great conditioning/ assistance on lower body days - if I am beat up I will keep the weight and reps lower, 25-30 or so. They shouldn’t get in the way of pressing.