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FSL Doesn't Work. What to Try Next?

Hi everyone,

I have recently switched program to 531 from having tried various other programs in the past. I started with doing two cycles of 5s Pro with BBB and will now soon finish my anchor that consists of “normal” 531 with FSL. I have done both main lift and supplements on the same day.

Overall I am happy with the strength increases in all lifts except squats. My squat has remained the same and perhaps even regressed a little bit. I have gained weight during each cycle, so that should not be the problem. Also, since all lifts but the squat have gone up, it feels like there is something off with the programming for the squat in particular.

For my next leader cycles I am considering continuing with classic 531 + FSL for all lifts but the squat, as that seems to be working quite well for everything else. My question now is what to do with my squat training. I have previously had some success when my squat training has consisted of squats 5x5 sets at about 80% of RM one day, and then 3x8-10 Front Squats on another day (increasing the weight each week). So one option I see is to try SSL for squats and keep everything else the same in order to get more heavy sets in. Another option I am consider is simply doing the supplemental lifts on my DL day (and the DL supplement on my squat day) to increase frequency. I guess it is best to only change one thing at the time to see what can solve the problem.

I would be very grateful if anyone of you have any input on what you guys think I should change first in order to get my squat back on track.

Just a quick few clarification questions.
Have you been doing the + set for anchor?
Are you tracking your pr’s?

You can change lifts rep/set scheme like you laid out. Just try different intensity/volume/frequency variations the book offers.

If you feel the FSL does not boost your squat, the SSL could be worth trying. Just remember - plateauing is rarely connected only to the programming. Check out your recovery, form and mobility too.

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Yes, I have been doing the + set during my anchor phase, which I am currently in the third week of.

I am tracking my PRs. Today I managed 4 reps on 147.5 kg in Squat, while I managed 5 reps on 150 before switching to 531.


Yes, I did the + sets during my anchor. I am tracking my PRs. Today I did 4 reps at 147.5 kgs in the squat, while I did 5 reps at 150 kgs a couple of months ago before starting my 531 leader cycle.

Was this only one + -set? Remember that sometimes you just have a crappy day/week/month.

I was also weak in the + set on my first week of this anchor cycle (140 kg x 6 reps). Also, I can feel that the weight feels heavier than I think it should if I had kept/increased my previous strength level. I feel pretty certain that I have lost strength and that it is not a matter of having a bad day/month, especially since all other lifts have been going very well.

In that case I’ll refer to my first post.

It seems like your TM is too high.


I am going to agree with Pwnisher and say that the training max is probably too high. Drop.it down to where you could hit 5 solid reps on you 95%+ set and go from there.
5/3/1 requires a psychological switch. Focus on pushing rep pr’s, track all prs from 1-20 reps. Try to beat those numbers each week for as long as you can.
I started with a super low tm 5 months ago and have just recently failed to beat a pr every session.
Hope this helps, keep grinding. At the end of the day, consistency and drive are what matter.

Sounds like you might be tired or beat up. I work a very strenuous day job and Ive found Im a lug on squat days if I do anything more then 531 and 5x5 fsl with glute ham raises and ab work being my assistance. You may have been able to get away with certain lifestyle choices and lifting technique until this point in your training age as well (not getting enough sleep, eating questionable food, too much indulgences am i killing myself at work). This is not an attack and myself or anyone else here doesnt need to know the answers just questions to ask yourself. From there you can better formulate the programming to fit your needs. Video tape yourself squatting from multiple angles with heavy weight and critique your own form (This one usually slaps me in the face when im having issues). Hope you get it sorted.

A little late to the party. I see what you mean.
Before you did 150 kg x 5 reps.
This is a quess but you seem to have programmed to hit 147,5 kg at the end of the anchor. After 10 weeks of lifting you should have been able to hit 147,5 with ease.
I have a problem with the 5’s pro, they tend to be too light in some way, as if the volume just don’t really carry over to the anchor cycle.

I’ve been having really great fun doing the main lift for the + set, trying to beat the previous rep count. Then FSL for a widowmaker, that is one MF of a beast.
The same goes for DL (not widowmaking here though, capping at 10) but when the reps goes down under 5 my CNS seems to fry me, and I’m beat up for weeks.

Try squat main + set then FSL widowmaker. You could throw in SSL for 5 reps between if you really want to hurt yourself.

On DL day after main and supplemental do 3-5 sets of 5 either back squat or front squat.

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Pretty much same plan except for the Widowmaker. I do a fsl type set to failure after +set trying to break higher rep PR.

Hi guys,

Thank you very much for your replies and effort to help me out.

I am reluctant to think that my TM was set too high from the start, as it was set at 145 when starting my first leader and at that time (or shortly before at least) I had done 150 kg x 5 reps. I am therefore not to keen on simply resetting the TM and trying the same thing again.

It seems as if there is no clear answer as to what to try next, but I am currently considering continuing with 531 with a + set + 5x5 FSL for my next two leaders (as that seems to work so well for everything but the squat). For the squat, I am thinking about whether to give 531+ + 5x5 FSL a chance for some additional time (as maybe it was simply the leaders with BBB that didn’t work during my current cycle) or to change it up slightly and to something like 3x8 FSL. Or if I should do 3x8 Front squat for my supplement. So many choices…

high rep squats works well for many

It was a long time ago since I did more than 10 reps for squats. So you think 531 with + set and then only a single widowmaker set with FSL weight could be worth trying? That would only amount to 4 sets a week though. Should I throw In 3x5 at FSL at DL day too you think?

The reference to the Leader phase struck a chord with me too. In my last Deadlift cycle I hit 10 reps on the 531 set (had 2 more in me if I wanted but liked ending on an even number with more in the tank) then started on the 5s PRO. After completing two 5s PRO/Leader cycles, and my deload, I then began my new Anchor phase and the weights felt heavy–I had slightly regressed. The weight was heavier, yes, but the reps were significantly less. This wasn’t an “off day” but a recurring theme on all main lifts.
I have, however, reverted to the original 531 and progress has restarted. I’m curious to know why this should have happened. Perhaps some trainees need to be pushed more frequently than others. It’s a boring truism, but find what works for you. Not every template will yield success. I love the original 531, but the Leader/Anchor templates did nothing for me.


Try it.
There is no way I could do 3x5 or 5x5 after my + set and an additional FSL to failure type set. I am on limited time however so my situation is probably different.

The widowmaker is absolutely enough. That’s 20 reps without pause.
5x5 is 5 more reps, but you get the pauses.
You could do a SSL between the top set and the widowmaker OR the 3 sets of 5 after DL if you feel you lack volume.
Play around with Wendler and eventually you find what works for you. And when that don’t work anymore you’ll find something new.