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Help with Picking the Right Template

Hey everyone. I have been doing starting strength for about 3 months now. I recently was given a program that I tried and didn’t feel it would really fit my needs. I asked a few places and found the program was just a mix of bad news. I was recommended 5/3/1. I have done 5\3\1 before and don’t mind trying it again. The problem I had in the past was my lifts seemed to suffer last time. My lifts seemed like they were going up but looking back they actually declined.

Heres some issues that I have run into. I was struggling with some form issues and the starting strength community recommended a coach but I can’t afford to drop $800 on a person to try to coach me over the internet. I asked some other lifters and found someone who could help me but he wanted me to run his program which was a mess. I spend almost 2 hours in the gym which I wouldn’t have a problem with but with kids and a wife and a full time job, that’s a no go for me. Today I tried the building a monolith and I liked the squat part of the program but I ran out of time to do anything besides the squat and press. I pulled out the 5\3\1 books and looked over a few programs and a few caught my eye. 5’s progression seems like a good program coming off starting strength and could keep me progressing. I feel like I need some accessory work and that’s what starting strength was missing and causing some issues in progressing.

Didn’t you post almost the exact same question yesterday? And received several responses from people?

By the people on here who told you it was bad literally this morning?

Again, by several people within the past 24 hours.

What does this mean? They either went up, or went down. Did you get stronger? Could you lift more weight or do more reps with a certain weight than you could at some point before this? If yes, you got stronger. And how long did you try it? I’d say do it for 3 months at least. Honestly probably longer. Like you’ve been told several times already, there’s tons of different templates that have all been shown to help people meet their goals. Pick one and follow it.

You keep mentioning form issues…with what? While the bench press and overhead press require focus on form, I’ve never seen anyone be completely unable to fix issues with those lifts if they just pay attention.

So I’m guessing your form issue is with the squat or deadlift? That’s usually just a matter of mobility and/or strength. Do Joe DeFranco’s Agile 8:

Do it 2-3 times a day, every day, for 2-3 weeks, then back down to once a day, every day, forever.

If you still have issues with your form, then you’re too weak to hold your body in whatever place it needs to be during the lift. I’m gonna guess your back is rounding - any other issue like stance, hand placement, breathing, etc. doesn’t really require any work besides simply paying attention to what works for you.

Strengthening your posterior chain and possibly the abs should fix this. So do movemens that hit the hamstrings, glutes, lower back and abdominals. You sound like you’ve done enough to know what will work for this, and if you don’t, there’s tons and tons and tons of articles and forums on this website to help you.

If it’s a no go, then why are you doing it? I myself said this morning when you do 5/3/1 you can literally do 3 sets of a movement than call it a day. 3 sets (+ warmups) is honestly nothing. Then I sent you a program that takes a half hour, two days a week. That’s basically the least amount of work you can do - 1 hour of lifting in a 168 hour week. If you can’t spend less than 1% of your week getting stronger, you’re out of luck.

You just have these laying around? Then what are the questions for?

If you see some you like and that sound like you’d enjoy and would progress on, then just DO THEM!!!

Then add it in.

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My lifts seemed like they were going up but looking back they actually declined.

What does this mean? They either went up, or went down. Did you get stronger? Could you lift more weight or do more reps with a certain weight than you could at some point before this? If yes, you got stronger. And how long did you try it?

I went up in numbers but I also lost some as well. The press I was up to 115lbs but than dropped to 80-90lbs and couldn’t get over that. I would top out my squat at 140lbs but never get any where else. Deadlift I could hit 165 for 3 reps but than I started to struggle with all the lifts and keeping moving forward.

You keep mentioning form issues…with what?

My form issues was in low bar squat according to starting strength my hips and knees were not breaking at the same time. My bracing breaks down in the hole. On the Dead lift I guess my shins are over the bar and should be straight up and down. My lats don’t engage in any lift from what Ive been told. Lower back on squat is lose.

I spend almost 2 hours in the gym which I wouldn’t have a problem with but with kids and a wife and a full time job, that’s a no go for me.

If it’s a no go, then why are you doing it? I myself said this morning when you do 5/3/1 you can literally do 3 sets of a movement than call it a day. 3 sets (+ warmups) is honestly nothing. Then I sent you a program that takes a half hour, two days a week. That’s basically the least amount of work you can do - 1 hour of lifting in a 168 hour week. If you can’t spend less than 1% of your week getting stronger, you’re out of luck.

I tried the new program thinking it was going to get me stronger and add size like the guy said. I explained my needs but apparently that was thrown out the window. I saw your program and I understand you can do anything with time restriction and limited movements but I don’t think I would respond as well. Starting strength worked because I kept adding weight to the bar but fell short at addressing weaker areas that need to be there to continue growing.

I pulled out the 5\3\1 books

You just have these laying around? Then what are the questions for?

I have read the books and tried the program in the past. I have always liked Jims way of thinking and how to keep going lifting without killing yourself. I liked doing a 4 day program or a 3 day program and not walking out of the gym feeling like I just killed myself for 3 days. The last week I did squat work plus some accessory work that was applied for that program and it killed me for 3 days or more.

I feel like I need some accessory work

Then add it in.

I will but I also don’t know what would be the best things to build the weak areas. I have a rough idea after some research but was looking for some help in making the best overall program. I used one of those online calculators that have some 5/3/1 programs with accessories in them but some that I like only have things like tricep work. Leg work. I get it but I don’t want to be doing leg presses when it would be better for me to be doing leg extensions or leg curls to help promote say the squat or dead lift.

(Just want to clarify I was not trying to be rude or anything - just getting the right info.)

How much do you weigh? Just wondering. Cause a 140lb squat and 165lb deadlift are both quite low, unless you weigh 100lbs. And if you’ve said your weight before, I apologize, but I forgot. Anyway, the reason I mention that is that I’d say keep doing a linear progression. 5/3/1 is monthly progression. With no glaring injuries you are, to be frank, weak enough to still be progressing daily or at least weekly.

Something like Starting Strength has you practicing the movements fairly often - squats three times a week, and bench, press, deadlift, and power clean three times every two weeks. If you are squatting three times a week, and eating and sleeping enough (if you struggle with this, work on it. It’s important.) then there is no way you will not be able to get your squat up to 185lbs or around there. It’s really not that high.

LP’s are boring as hell, but if you’re looking to get strong, then it’s the simplest, fastest way to get there.

If you’ve actually read the Starting Strength book (have you?), then you’d know that after your deadlift and power cleans (are you doing cleans?) slow down, you begin adding in glute-ham raises, back extensions, and chinups. This is accessory work for your hamstrings, glutes, lower back, lats, upper back, and biceps, most of which are being worked every workout anyway. Your quads, triceps, and shoulders are also getting worked every workout. Chinups will help your bench and press go up. The extra posterior chain work will help your lower body lifts go up.

What are the weak areas you needed addressing? As I just stated, quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, lats, upper back, biceps, triceps, and shoulders are all worked quite often. If you still need to get in extra work, do face pulls or pull aparts between all sets of pressing for your upper back/rear delts (I do think you SHOULD do this), and an easy ab and/or arm movement.

I really do think if you’d follow this for a while - say, 3-9 months (most LP’s last around this range. Probably most often closer to 3 than 9 months.), your squat and deadlift would both surpass 200lbs, your presses would be higher, and your legs, hips, back, shoulders, and arms would all be bigger. Not amazingly big, but I think bigger than now.

Then I think it would make more sense to do 5/3/1. Personally. Just makes sense to me to continue with daily progressions as long as possible, even if boring, before switching to monthly progressions.

Don’t rule it out unless you’ve tried it. And that program does add weight to the bar - the point is to get bigger and stronger, over time, by spending very little time in the gym, which it sounds like you may need.

Then you’re out of shape. Did you go back and repeat it? I heard this great analogy once, on here I think - if a garbage man spends his first day on the job running to houses and picking up heavy garbage cans and lifting them, and is sore the next day, does he take a few days off to rest and recover? No, he has to go back and do the same thing over again. Eventually, he adapts and doesn’t become sore from it. Maybe it was more than you’re used to. If you’d repeated it, don’t you think you’d have gotten used to it?

Or, just do less work? If it’s too much for your liking, do less.

What are your weak areas? That affects what movements people would recommend. From your lifts, I’d say you don’t have weak body parts, you have a weak body. And that’s not to insult, I’m just saying your lifts are quite low.

In this case, leg presses. You can go much heavier. Work more muscles at once. That was just an example you threw out, I know, but leg presses. For strength at least.

Question - what does your job entail? If you can tell me. You said extra strength helps it. What tasks do you have to do? That could affect things.

I may have taken it a bit aggressive sounding. Seems sometimes you ask for help and get told to go away instead of get someone to help you out. Its ok though. I am 33 years old, I am between 180-185lbs. My current numbers are
Squat-200 for 5 reps
Press-95 for 4
Bench- 140 x 5
Dead lift- 205 for 5

The numbers were the last numbers on the 5/3/1 program. I have poor posture that ive been working on and a wrist that had surgery on in July. I have not added in power cleans yet mostly because of trying to figure how to perform them and get the confidence up to do them. I have been reading starting strength but struggling through it since Rip tends to be a bit winded on the exercises and how to do them. I can keep going on the program i’m close to that 3 month mark now if not already there. I haven’t added accessories or anything since I haven’t read the book that far

OK, those numbers sound much better. I misunderstood, and thought your old numbers were your current ones.

I’m tired so I’m not gonna say much till the morning but real quick - what have you been doing to work on your posture, and what is the current state of your wrist?

I have been cleared to get back to lifting. That’s when I started doing starting strength. I wear a wrist wrap when I press or pull. I have some mild pain when I max out on deadlift but I think it’s normal. As for my posture I have been attempting to keep my neck back as I have a habit of the neck being out in front of my body/chest. I get the right lat that gets tight and agitates my right pec and sometimes the arm. I found using a lacrosse ball over the back shoulder and the pec help lossen the muscles and ease the pain. I’ve been trying to focus on keeping my chest up while walking around and in general. Other than that no big things to fix the posture.

Look into The 5/3/1 Philosophy for Beginners by Jim Wendler. It’s on his website. Train 3x a week do 2 big lifts a day plus 5x5 then accessory work (push, pull, legs or abs) quick and easy. It’s what I’ve been doing and I have a wife, kid, full time third shift job with tons of appointments I have to keep throughout the week. I have had phenomenal results on this beginner program.

Edit: best thing about doing the big lifts 2x a week is you get more practice on the movement and more time to perfect form.

The ops are 100% correct though. You have to be committed. I’ve been in and out of the gym ever since I hurt my back, so about 10+ years. If you’re not committed it’s easy to make excuses not to go and eventually stop going altogether. As Jim says “discipline over modivation”. Modivation fades but discipline is what gets you results in the long term.

Some days I go in and have to leave early but I make sure to hit my major lifts.
Try doing accessory work in between your working sets.

Those are a few tips I have to cut down on time if need be.

Ahhh, that old trick. Never go to a gym where the weight labels have been drawn on.



I have no problem putting in the work or getting into the gym to spend an hour. The issue I have is when lifting heavy having to spend 2 hours at the gym. I work at 330pm and leave for work at 1pm. Most days I get up around 9am to get at least 6 hours of sleep do that doesn’t leave a ton of time between the gym, eating, packing lunch, kids and getting ready for work. When my numbers were low I could nail a workout with little to no rest which was great but as the weight has increased to bigger numbers rest is needed. I like 5/3/1 especially a 4 day split allowing a focus on the main lifts each workout. I’m thinking I’m going to keep at starting strength till I can’t go anymore and add in some of the accessories. Than I’ll jump to 5s pro

Take this with a grain of salt since I am not a doctor, haven’t seen your wrist, and really know nothing about it: I would say that there is a slight chance that if you wear a wrist strap every time you press or pull, you are not really strengthening your wrist, and it could get hurt in the future due to not being built up along with the rest of your body.

But I could be completely wrong. Just something that popped into my head.

The biggest thing that helped my posture (not that I do it a ton) is cutting back on screen time. I still spend a decent amount of time on the computer, but have really cut back on time on my phone, and that’s where you’re really looking down.

This is like a 5 part series or something that’s a pretty good read. If you really care to, I’m sure there’s stuff to incorporate in there. Just out of curiosity, is there a reason you want to work on your posture? Besides the reason that it looks better? No judgement or anything I’m just wondering.

I think doing some hanging, just from a bar, with both arms and one arm, has helped me stretch out my lats. For the chest/shoulders/biceps, do 50 total reps of this either every time you lift, or daily if you’re really tight:

That second one looks quite similar. But the first one is something I have done before and recommended to others.

Here’s what Starting Strength is, coming from the 3rd edition of the book:

Workout A:
Squat 3x5
Bench 3x5
Deadlift 1x5

Workout B:
Squat 3x5
Press 3x5
Deadlift 1x5

after 2-3 weeks, once your deadlift has proven itself your highest lift, you switch to:

Workout A:
Squat 3x5
Bench 3x5
Power Clean 5x3

Workout B:
Squat 3x5
Press 3x5
Deadlift 1x5

Now I personally added in a little section between these two parts, where I do front squats for 3x3 instead of power cleans, maybe for two weeks or so, simply to get used to holding the bar in that position. I think knowing how to do front squats makes catching the bar a lot easier when learning the power cleans. And if you’re really tight, spend time stretching your lats, shoulders, triceps, and wrists so you can catch it. I’ll try to send a picture later of a stretch someone taught me.

Watch his video on YouTube teaching power cleans btw. His method won’t get you into the Olympics but it’s fine for someone who doesn’t care to compete in weightlifting. It seems like a big deal to learn the clean, but just do your best and don’t overthink it. It’s really not a huge deal.

Anyway, after introducing power cleans (and possibly front squats, which let me remind you, is NOT part of the Starting Strength program, as Mark Rippetoe believes it is hard to teach the front squat so soon after leaning the back squat, since they can be quite different. You have some experience though so I’m going to guess you can figure it out, if desired), you stick with that until your deadlifts and/or cleans start to stall. Then you do this:

Workout A:
Squat 3x5
Bench 3x5
Deadlift/Power Clean 1x5/5x3

Workout B:
Squat 3x5
Press 3x5
Chinup 3xfailure
GHR/Back Extension 3x10

So when you do workout A, you alternate which pull you do - deadlift or clean, every time. And then you add in chinups, and pick between GHR’s and back extensions on workout B. I’d do both - switch it up. They work the same muscle group but in different ways so doing both would be smart. At this point, you can clean on a Monday, and then not clean again until the Wednesday of the next week (if you’re lifting M/W/F). Same with the deadlift. Basically, you’re just doing the lifts less often so you can rest more.

Once that stops working I think Rippetoe says you are classified as an intermediate, and can no longer progress daily, meaning you will use some method to progress weekly (I’d highly recommend Practical Programming for Strength Training, 3rd ed. by Rippetoe. It’s got some good stuff in it) for as long as possible, before monthly (usually a 5/3/1 method), and before yearly. You can skip the weekly stuff and move to 5/3/1 at that point instead but it’s up to you.

I will say, once you truly have maxed out your LP, your workouts could take a while. Squatting, bench, and cleaning the heaviest weights you can, with warmup sets, rest times, etc. can end up taking a long time. If time is truly the most important part of it, then once the workouts start to take too long is when you should switch.

And to clarify, I don’t agree with a lot of what Rippetoe says, but since you’re mentioning doing the program, that’s what I’d recommend based off of reading his books.

And I’m sorry but I’m confused:

Do you wake up around 9am, after getting 6 hours of sleep? Just wondering. Have you tried a sleep aid? That may help you feel more rested, if you struggle with that.

Lots of people like

I’ve never tried it but am planning on it soon. Just food for thought.


Do you need to travel to get to work? Again, just curious. Perhaps you missed it, but what is your occupation? What tasks does having extra strength help you perform?

Anyway, if you think you have a plan, go for it.

Yeah I travel to work and have to take a ferry so I’m at there mercy. I get home for 1am and up at 9am if I’m lucky. I have been able to lift and function before but I am also dealing with a toddler and 2 month old so sleep has been a bit limited. As for the posture I have rounded shoulders and possibly TOS or thoracic outlet syndrome, no diagnosis yet but when I had been dealing with the wrist I had some shoulder issues and saw multiple doctors for it and they all wanted to check other things and if no answers it would be TOS. After the surgery 85-90% of the pains I was having went away. I know I hunch over and could open my shoulders up a bit and might even help my form on my lifts. I don’t always lift with a wrap on my wrist. If I go heavy or feel after the first couple pulls or presses hurt and I’m sore I’ll add the wrap.

Dude, this is the second time you’ve completely ignored me asking what about your job requires strength. I’m starting to think that wasn’t really true.

Anyway, most people’s shoulders are further forward than they should be. Do face pulls or pull aparts with a band DAILY. Do 100 reps or more EVERY DAY. Not gonna cure everything but you probably have a weak upper back/rear delts if your shoulders are actually that far forward. And limit time over a computer/phone if you can. That has a whole lot of health benefits besides posture as well.

Front squats really help strengthen your thoracic extensors. Kinda like your mid back muscles (if I’m remembering that right). Do them. They help posture.

And ok about the wrist. Good luck with that. Hope it gets back to feeling 100%. Not quite sure how helpful this is, but maybe some wrist curls both ways (working the extensors and flexors) could help? They don’t actually do much to build up your forearms but maybe they’d strengthen your wrists. Look into that.

I mentioned this program a couple days ago but I’ll mention it again:

Day 1: Squat & Bench
Day 2: Power Clean & Deadlift
Day 3: Front Squat & Press

I’d sincerely recommend doing that once you’ve decided you’re done with your LP. Your legs, hips, back, shoulders, and triceps will become quite strong if you stick with that. Do chinups between sets of pressing and rows between sets of benching. This adds in extra back work for your posture and shoulder health, and works your biceps twice a week. After you’ve done both main movements, you can rest easy knowing you’ve basically done a full body workout, and if you don’t have any more time, you can call it a day right there. Otherwise do GHR’s at the end of day 1, do back extensions at the end of day 2, and lunges at the end of day 3. Keep doing the band work I said at the beginning or end of your workouts. You can skip those assistance movements, but do the band work every day, and do the chinups/rows between sets of pressing/benching.

You literally will not have very many weak points after that.

That program can be quick, or it can be made longer. Addresses all necessary muscles for true strength, and I just gave you the best assistance movements (although you can pick others), which are almost all bodyweight movements, meaning it’ll be a good reminder of whether or not you’re getting fat, since bodyweight movements become quite hard when start to get fat.

Go ahead and finish your LP. Then try that ^^ program out, or do another one you like. But you can make very good gains if you actually put intensity into whatever you’re doing.

I’m gonna add this in. It’s from that article by Chrisitan Thibadeau I sent, the one with the workout program you hadn’t tried but knew wouldn’t be good enough:

“If you have access to a barbell and have 20 minutes a day to spare, I can make you bigger and stronger. I have plenty of clients who work inhumane hours, yet all of them train 4 to 7 days a week and all are making significant progress. I’m fed up with people who make excuses not to train. I couldn’t care less if someone doesn’t want to hit the weights. To each his passion. However, I do get pissed off when someone complains about not being able to build a good physique because he doesn’t have time or that he’s too tired. If you really want it, stop being weak and make time to train.”

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Random considerations (haven’t read the whole thing since the posts are fairly long, will catch up later):

  • if you workout in a commercial gym with only stiff bars (like I do), cleans/power cleans are rough on the joints - wrists, shoulders and elbows, you’ll feel the rebound of the bar when it makes contact, even with a smooth catch. Not saying to avoid them, but in this scenario I wouldn’t train them as aggressively as the main lifts;

  • “teh starting strength low bar skwaat”: don’t sweat on that, work on finding what works for you. Make small adjustments, see if/how you feel stronger and more stable. This whole approach of technique being written in stone is bullshit. For squats, find a setup that actually helps you bracing, can’t speak for other people but for myself, but I found that keeping the bar fairly high, a narrow-ish grip and doing “a pulldown” with the bar against the traps helped a lot in keeping my core tight and engaging the lats at the same time. I know that if I tried to train using “the Rippetoe squat”, my shoulders would be absolutely wrecked by now. Find what works for you. Same for the deadlift, not everyone pulls with vertical shins. I’d say most people don’t, to some degree;

  • length of workouts: I started off with the original 5/3/1 protocol and still think it’s a great way for a beginner to learn the basis of autoregulation. It took me a few cycles to dial in with PR sets since I never pushed a set and wasn’t sure at first if I was pushing enough, or too much. But once you get a grip on it, it’s a great tool to gauge intensity on pretty much everything else - including straight sets and assistance stuff. That’s what I’d do moving from Starting Strength, pick the original template and run it for a few cycles. Main work pushing the PR set, then assistance work - pick few exercises that offer a great return and don’t require you to overthink stuff. Chins, rows, dips, DB presses, goblet squats, good mornings/RDLs, leg raises, some arm work. Split them up how you see fit and depending on your ability to handle them, i.e. don’t try to do 50 pullups if you know it will take you 30 sets to get there.
    So, say, your squat day could consist of 3 working sets (the last pushed for AMRAP), 50 reps goblet squats, 50 reps tricep pushdowns and 50 reps curls. Something like this doesn’t take 2 hours, actually takes one hour or less most likely.
    Once you’ll be used to this volume (since I understand you’re currently doing little to no assistance work), you can work on reducing rest times or superset exercises to make your workouts quicker and/or increase the assistance work;

  • posture: try to do at least 100 pull aparts and 50 dislocators every day, they take a few minutes and you might be able to do them at work if you have some spare time. This is the least of the least you should do, I’d suggest you do some pull aparts and dislocators during your warmups too and I like to do them during rest times - usually, pull aparts between sets of the main exercise and dislocators between sets of the remaining supplemental/assistance work. They’re just too good for overall posture and shoulder health, and take zero out of you in terms of recovery and time required

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You need to actively work on your posture through out the day, if you’re slumped over your desk for 10 hours per day, spend 2 hours playing with your phone, then come to to lay on the couch with your head and shoulders propped up for 3 houes then 15 minutes 3x per week is only going to do so much. Defranco, for example, was recommending 100 or so 3 to 5 times per day (or something)

Consider, having a reminder so you correct your posture through out the day (eg a wrist band, so when you look at it you’ll think about your poature. Havings a band to do pull aparts near your bed so you do them when you wake up/go to sleep. In between sets, do lat stretches. Put a heavy focus on mobility during your deload weeks. Do neck stretches. Look up McGills big 3 back exercises and do them regularly. Posture can be related to back stability issues. Plus the stuff that has been mentioned.

When your posture starts correcting itself then you can ease up on this.

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I’m a corrections officer so even though my job doesn’t require me to be strong in this case strength isn’t a weakness. I like that program you listed and will use it after lp stops

I recently was introduced to bird dogs and McGill crunches which I was skeptical about but as simple as they seem they have been something that I’ve added before my workouts

I don’t know if this will help but it helped my wife. Look up “how to overhead press with Mark riptoe” on YouTube. They grip he shows helps to.make the wrist stay inline with the forearm and elbow and makes it a lot stronger. My wife had a lot of wrist pain on pressing movements and that went away when I had her start using the grip he shows.