T Nation

Help with Recovery

I’m 44 years old, never played sports as a kid, and never consistently weight trained until the last two years.

I was basically doing a PPL split, sets in the 8-12 rep range up until I decided to change things up and give 5/3/1 a whirl. I really enjoy the program, but I’m having a tough time with recovery.

I’m currently on week 2 of my 4th cycle. I did not deload after the first cycle, but I did deload after the 2nd and 3rd cycles. My work schedule is a bit wacky, so my workout days vary a bit week to week. As an example, I did bench press Friday, rested Saturday, squats Sunday, press Monday (yesterday). Today…I feel just DEAD. Energy and motivation are almost zero. Brain fog, trouble concentrating.

I’ve read 2nd edition only, haven’t read Beyond or Forever. Maybe there’s some different programming in one of those books that might be better for me?

Current programming – 4 days per week

Press – 5/3/1 sets, BBB 5×10, lat pulldowns ~100 reps total

Deadlift – 5/3/1 sets, BBB 5×10, decline sit up ~50 reps total

Bench – 5/3/1 sets, BBB 5x10, lat pulldowns ~100 reps total

Squat – 5/3/1 sets, BBB 5x10, leg extensions ~50 reps total

It doesn’t seem to me to be too much volume, I don’t think? Occasionally, if I’m not quite feeling up to it, I’ll take assistance down a notch, or even skip the assistance altogether, though I almost always complete the BBB sets.

I don’t have any hard conditioning programmed. My job is not physically strenuous, but I do a lot of walking.

I think my diet is okay? I’m eating plenty of protein, and I’m gaining weight. I’ve gained about 10 pounds since starting 5/3/1.

Stress? Can’t really control that LOL. But I don’t think it’s too bad. Not any worse than before.

Sleep? 6 or 7 nights out of 14, I only get about 5 or 6 hours of sleep. Unavoidable, due to work and family schedules. But the other 7 or 8 nights out of 14, I’m getting a solid 8 hours, and almost always an hour or two afternoon nap on top of it. Not really much I can do to improve that, either.

I think my TMs are okay. I feel challenged, but I’m hitting all the required reps. I think I’m close to hitting a ceiling on press, and might need to lower my TM next cycle. But I feel like I’m progressing well and getting stronger.

Maybe low rep strength training is a young man’s game LOL and I’m getting to the point that I can’t train like this. I really enjoy the program though.

The only other thing I can think of is to change my programming a bit to improve recovery. Any suggestions?

Or any other suggestions on improving recovery?

Thanks in advance

Is it just TODAY that you feel like this, or is it often? If its the first time, no big deal. Sometimes you get worn down an bit. If it happens often, how often?

You should always be able to complete all these reps. If not its an indicator your TM is too high.

Are you running PR sets AND BBB? If you are, you should stop. Generally speaking combining a high volume supplemental and high intensity PR sets is not the best idea. Your should be doing either 5’sPRo (all work sets for 5 reps) OR minimum reps when running BBB.

You shouldn’t think they are okay, you should KNOW they are set properly. BBB should have a TM set for 80-85%. You should be able to hit your TM for 3-5 reps. 3 means 90% 5 means 85%. Another indicator is if you cannot hit your “95% x 1+” set for at LEAST 5 reps, your TM is too high.

The vast majority of time, a person new to 5/3/1 posts on here they are having recovery issues, its almost always that their TM is set too high.

Also, many cycles have you been running BBB?

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This. Move to 5’s PRO’s and lower your TM to 85%. You should not feel run into the ground doing this workout.

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Thank you for your thorough reply. Forgive me, I’m typing on my phone and can’t quite figure out how to embed quotes so elegantly as you did LOL.

No, it is not just today. I’m feeling drained like this pretty regularly. One or two days a week, at least.

To clarify – I’m always able, strengthwise, to complete the BBB reps. And I almost always complete all 5 sets. Once in a while, due to time constraints, or if I’m just a bit tired that day, or just not feeling in the groove, I’ll cut the number of sets down a bit. But I almost always complete all 5 sets.

Yes, I was running BBB and PR sets. It was written that way in the 2nd edition book, as I understood it. 5s Pro must be in one of the later books. Maybe this is my issue, and that’s what I should change in my programming. Thank you for the tip!

I set my TMs as the 2nd edition suggested – 90% of estimated 1RM. I’m currently on my 4th cycle, and haven’t retested. I thought I was moving conservatively – I added 5 lbs to deadlift and squat, and only 2.5 lbs to press and bench TM at the beginning of each new cycle.

On the last “95% 1+” week, I hit 3 reps on squat and press, 4 reps on bench and dead. So…yeah, sounds like my TM is too high!

Still much to learn! Thank you so much!

That’s the plan. Thank you!

You just highlight the text you want to quote, and a small box should appear that you can click that will embed it in your response automatically.

As I suspected. I would recommend an immediate deload. The exhaustion is probably an indicator you need one. Then after just take a week to test your TM’s. I would just take your reps from your last “1+” set and use those to estimate your 1RM and calculate your TM from there. But still make sure to test them.

Once you run BBB the correct way for a couple cycles change over to just the base program and shoot for some PR’s.

P.S. You should buy Forever if you get the chance. Its great, and will show you how to set everything in a fool proof way. If you can’t just yet, thats ok too, just keep running the OG program. I did for years and got plenty strong.

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x2 with do a 5s pro plan.
Also can just do the minimum required reps for for deadlifts for a week or three -can make a difference.

Do some HIIT /proper cardio on one off day to up work capacity. Could be something just like 45 mins bike with few hard intervals in the middle.

As an older guy also not bad idea to go back and forth between 5/3/1 and other proven approaches off T-Nation. This a very good strategy…

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