T Nation

Help Finding a Strength Program


I apologize in advance for the lengthy description. So I've been "training" (blindly) for about three years now. With no real goal other than to get bigger (albeit stronger) and stay in shape. I'm an ex-Marine and my pursuit to be bigger started when I got the fleet the day of field meet and there was a lot of huge ass mother fuckers there.

I didn't really know what I was doing beyond the scope of stuff I did from football (our weight room and strength program was a joke, and I wasn't really there to lift I just wanted to hang out with my friends), and what other people did that I went to the gym with. I got bigger (noob gains I assume) and did the shit I read in magazines (sorry I didn't know any better).

After 3 years of weight "training", 2 deployments, and a metric fuck-ton of field ops I muster a measly 200lb OHP, 340 Bench Press, ~500 Deadlift, ~425 Squat, and Clean around 225 (everything higher than that is an ugly, leg spreading, catch thing).

I'm just wondering if there is a program anyone recommends following after 3 years of not having a clue of what I'm doing.


Wendler's 531. And your numbers aren't bad.


Always a good adaptable template, for sure.

You've mentioned doing 5/3/1 before, and DC training before. Have you given Wendler's 5/3/1 rest-pause routine a shot?
It's "only" a two day a week plan, with conditioning work on the non-lifting days, but it's laid out that way intentionally.

Agreed. For a 6' 200-pounder, you're absolutely in a good place all around. BW overhead press and more-than-BW clean, especially, are things a lot of guys have trouble with if they even do them at all.


I loved the structure of 5/3/1. Being able to go into the gym and knowing exactly what numbers I needed to hit. The rep PR is definitely a big plus too. I recently bought the Beyond 5/3/1 book so Joker sets and First set Last was a cool change of pace. I just enjoy training a lot more frequently than what Jim writes out. (I realize I don't have to, to make progress I just enjoy training a lot more often.)

And I'm always working on my squat. I used to go super "ATG" but then as I got stronger it made my low back hurt a lot (discovered the butt wink). So started reading a lot more about how to properly squat, which a lot more information than I was ever ready for. Such as high bar, low bar, foot placement, opening the hips, the list goes on and on.

The more information I gathered in my weightlifting progression have both hindered and helped me. I enjoy training everyday. I can't just have a day where I don't lift. It's not a fun day and puts me in bad mood. I don't want to bastardize Wendler's program by making into a program that has me training everyday. Then its not Wendler's 5/3/1 anymore. Its Clint's Crazy Dipshit Burnout Cycle.

Maybe I just need to accept some off days and just go do more sprints.

Thanks for the input guys. I appreciate it.


I've never read that article. But now you see I like how the Bench Press and Squat are on the same day and the Deadlift and Press are paired together. But theres no way I could only train on Monday and Thursday. I would go nuts between days of not lifting. And this is where my downfall is. I try to make it my own by making everything more frequent then I get burnt out or injured.


Wendler has a "high frequency 5/3/1" downloadable plan on his own site, I forget the details but I think it's five or six days a week. Google should get you there.

But, bigger picture, I definitely get that training twice a week can screw with some guys' heads and feel like you're regressing. I'd just say keep your eye on the long term. It might be worth toughing it out anyhow. It's just six weeks. Worst case scenario, you learn you really just cannot handle only two sessions a week.


Even DC was training every other day though. That I can wrap my head around a little bit easier. It was hard to follow that program for too long when training by myself and made me sometimes question if I was really training hard enough.

Except the widow makers. I never questioned it after that shit.


your numbers are good man, congrats


Thanks I appreciate it. Y'all are feeding me a lot of ego waffles right now.


i like 531, but at first i would try to do a strength routine with faster progression like the texas method, and if the progression on that is too fast, then move on to something like 531


If you like 5/3/1 but want more frequency you can simply divide the work over more days. Instead of main + assistance, simply do them separately. So something like...

Mon- Squat 5/31+jokers
Tue- Bench 5/3/1+jokers
Wed- Lower assistance (I like to include a compound lift like SSB/front squats. Just remember your principles, it's ASSISTANCE, get a little quality work in and leave it.)
Thu- Upper assistance (Again something compound in here like Inclines/DB'S/Arnold's/whatever.)
Fri- Dead 5/3/1+jokers (or however you program deads)
Sat- Press 5/3/1+jokers

Something like this keeps weekly volume roughly the same, doesn't violate the principles of the program and can help with the focus for day. It is also an easy way to plan, just come up with your normal 5/3/1 template and put the movements in the appropriate slots.


I like this idea.


So if I was doing the BBB assistance template I would probably use a trap bar deadlift after the squats. Some ab work, and farmers carries for my conditioning.

Bench Press: OHP BBB with Bent-Over Rows for assistance.

Lower Assistance: Front Squat 5x5 ~80%..?? Power Cleans 5/3/1 possibly? Conditioning: Farmers Carries

Upper Assistanace: Swiss Press Bar Bench Press or Dips: 5x5 style?
Pull-ups: 5x5 style?

Deadlift: Squat BBB, ab work, Farmers Carries

OHP: Bench Press BBB, Bent-Over Rows



When the dude already has a BW press, over 1.5xBW bench, over 2xBW squat, and 2.5xBW dead, how much faster strength progress do you think he can make??

As a quick heads up, if you're pretty much decided on 5/3/1, you might want to start a new thread with these particular questions in the 5/3/1 forum. Wendler might be able to give you some input if he gets a chance.


What a realistic goal to shoot for in a year?
Deadlift: 580
Squat: 500
Bench Press: 365
OHP: 225
Clean: 275

I've been thinking about starting a training log of some sort so I can hold myself accountable better for sticking with the program.


While Chris is decidedly right that Wendler himself could steer you better, I don't think with your strength level and jokers that BBB is a great assistance plan. When pushing the main lift hard, like with jokers, I would keep the volume and intensity in check for your assistance.


Wendler advised against jokers with BBB in a thread a month or so ago. With jokers usually what is prescribed is first set last (FSL).


Thank you everybody for your input! It's greatly appreciated.

So while I've been in Limbo, so to speak, between finding a strength program to run I've just been experimenting for a couple weeks with a Reg Park inspired "Program". What I mean by that is I'm really only using the exercise selection from his Phase 3 for bodybuilders thing.
Phase Three for Bodybuilders

45-degree back extension 4x10
Front squat 5x5
Back squat 5x5
Standing barbell shoulder press 5x5
Bench press 5x5
Bent-over barbell row 5x5
Deadlift 5x3
Behind-the-neck press or one-arm dumbbell press 5x5
Barbell curl 5x5
Lying triceps extension 5x8
Standing barbell calf raise 5x25

This is what I'm talking about if you didn't know.

But anyway I've been taking this exercise selection and basically thats the only thing I'm taking from it. On Monday I have a Strength oriented day where I every exercise is done in a Chad Waterbury 10x3 fashion. Yeah it takes a long time, but for me it's a blast and I have the time to do it. Just this past Monday I Front Squatted on all sets 315 starting at 255 a few weeks ago. Back squatted 385, when I previously had an estimated 1 RM of about 425. The Front Squatting first seems to make my Back Squat a whole lot smoother too.

Bench Pressed 315 for all sets and OHP 185 for all sets.

Who knew a simple linear progression would still be working for me.

I know this was terribly long and no one is gong to probably read all of it but if you would like to know how I've been programming the rest of the week let me know!


I wish I could do that without getting too tired. Really like how old school bodybuilders used to train. If you can do the whole workout as you listed you are a tough person no doubt, especially with your numbers, that should tire you much faster due to cns fatigue.
How about the other days, will they also be strength oriented and you change after a few weeks or you will change on the course of the week like strength Monday, explosiveness Wednesday hypertrophy Friday? How are you going to program that?


I think thats why I like training like this. Those old guys just put in pure, unadulterated, hard work. And I just didn't jump into this one day. I've definitely built up the work capacity through the past few years. Especially when I was living in California. I would wake up at 5:30, have to go run a few miles up and down hills. Go to work (When I was in California I was just a Marksmanship Coach so my everyday schedule was pretty relax). I could got to the gym for a couple hours. Then once I got off I would go surf for a few hours.

But Wednesdays I usually do a hypertrophy focused day. Like a Vince Gironda 6x6. I'll do trap bar deadlifts instead of conventional and floor or board presses instead of bench presses. Then Friday I'll do a 9x4 with the weight I used for the 10x3 day. It's only 6 more reps than the 10x3 but the fatigue accumulates a lot faster. Once I can lock in that weight I increase the 10x3 day for another 5-15 pounds depending on how good my bar speed was. I film a lot of my lifts just to see how fast I'm moving the bar. I don't really feel the need for an explosive focused day because I'm always trying to move the bar as fast as possible.

I do sprints and/or farmers carries on "off" days, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. And a lot of jump roping and bodyweight pull-ups.