T Nation

Is 5/3/1 Good for a Beginner?


#1

Hello everyone !
Long time reader, first time poster.
I've been doing crossfit for 8 months and decided in September I need to build muscle. Did my homework, got 5/3/1 and started the program. I preferred it to all the programs suggested for beginners (such as SS, for example), simply because I LOVE the variety thats offered with assistance exercises (mainly the ones contained in the Beyond 531) and also, my schedule is insanely hectic and I cant make a proper gym schedule and 531 philosophy seemed to fit my needs.

Well 3 months later, I think I sort of went overboard with the diet cuz I gained some noticeable flab (20% bodyfat atm) and my gains arent so great (i stalled on the 5 phase). I dont mind either - it was my first run and its experience ! However, many people keep suggesting I try a program with linear progression. Just being rational, I know in SS you raise the weight each week, whereas in 531 I'd raise each new phase, i.e. every 3 weeks or so.

So I know many of you here are big fans of Jim here, what would your opinion on this be ? Also beimg at 20%bf, should i aim to cut first or just go balls out amd continue eating amd training (learnimg from experiemce though) Cheers !


#2

In SS you raise the weight each workout, not each week, for as long as progress continues.

What are your lifts? Assuming they are pretty low (beginner level), then linear progression is a good idea. But you’ve come to the 5/3/1 forum to ask a question about SS? I’m not sure what kind of answer you’re looking for. Choose a program and do it correctly. A beginner should be able to add weight to the bar continuously for many months.


#3

[quote]craze9 wrote:
In SS you raise the weight each workout, not each week, for as long as progress continues.

What are your lifts? Assuming they are pretty low (beginner level), then linear progression is a good idea. But you’ve come to the 5/3/1 forum to ask a question about SS? I’m not sure what kind of answer you’re looking for. Choose a program and do it correctly. A beginner should be able to add weight to the bar continuously for many months. [/quote]

Im a big fan of 531. Ive bought 2 hardcopy books and read them through couple of times, but since I lack the experience, I wanted to consult if itd meet my needs with more experienced lifters.


#4

My opinion is that one should do a program that keeps you in the weight room and motivated. The fact that you are asking anonymous people what YOU should do is a bad sign. You don’t know their experience level or if they are thick tongued. Linear profession is liked by many people but it’s very limiting. Horribly limiting especially if sports/athletics is your end goal. It’s even more limiting for upper body movements. I could go on and on about this but it doesn’t take an IQ over 8 to figure out how a TM and Never Peak Again attitude/programming (aka Lifer) is great for beginners. Just because you TM goes up every 3 weeks doesn’t mean you don’t get stronger in those 3 weeks. Quite the opposite. Again, thick tongues selling you the dookie they ate and threw up.

But again do what YOU want. It’s your life and your body. The only thing that matters (and I’ve said this 100000 times) is the you put the work in. And you will only do that when it’s something you want to do.


#5

Metal Days…

Like Craze9, I’m also curious as to your current lifts on the squat, deadlift, bench, and overhead press? Also, I know you said you’re at 20% bodyfat, but what’s your approximate height, weight, age, stress level, if you don’t mind? (By “stress level,” are you a 35-year-old guy with 3 young kids, two jobs and no sleep? Better? Worse?)

As Jim said, you have to do a program that you want to do—otherwise you won’t work hard and if you expect it not to work, it won’t.

But those above stats would help the board put your situation into context so you can make the best decision.


#6

I’ve been doing 5/3/1 for beginners from Jim’s blog on his website, it’s full body 3x a week. Doing everything except for hill sprints consistently which I really need to start doing. Anyway I started fairly light and recently tested my maxes and they’ve gone up a lot in the 3.5 months I’ve been going at it, granted I started purely as a beginner and my lifts weren’t that impressive to begin with.

Go check it out though


#7

[quote]tmiller197431 wrote:
Metal Days…

Like Craze9, I’m also curious as to your current lifts on the squat, deadlift, bench, and overhead press? Also, I know you said you’re at 20% bodyfat, but what’s your approximate height, weight, age, stress level, if you don’t mind? (By “stress level,” are you a 35-year-old guy with 3 young kids, two jobs and no sleep? Better? Worse?)

As Jim said, you have to do a program that you want to do—otherwise you won’t work hard and if you expect it not to work, it won’t.

But those above stats would help the board put your situation into context so you can make the best decision.[/quote]

Im 26, 183cm tall (6 feet), weight 93.5kgs
(206lbs). Stress levels are enormous at the moment - started insane work with completely insane work hours (12-16 hrs a day, thats lawyering for you…worst mistake of my life). My lifts are:
Deadlift 130 kgs or 286 lbs
Benchpress is 86kgs or 190 lbs
Military press is at 53kgs or 113 lbs
Squat is at 90kgs or 200 lbs

Also just want to add, Ive gotten to a point in my life, where gym is the only thing that makes me happy. I love the 531 philosophy and if i didnt, i wouldn’t drag my ass to the gym, whenm my brain is working on autopilot, to lift some iron. I even sold all my video games so i could focus on working out as a hobby instead of wasting time with anything else, as my time is very limited (like many others’). That is why, i want to train and get the best results I can. Simce I do not have the experience, im consulting you, more experienced lifters. If 531 is the way go - great ! If id profit from other programs, im open to anything. I very much appreciate all your info amd comments guys.


#8

[quote]metal.days wrote:

[quote]tmiller197431 wrote:
Metal Days…

Like Craze9, I’m also curious as to your current lifts on the squat, deadlift, bench, and overhead press? Also, I know you said you’re at 20% bodyfat, but what’s your approximate height, weight, age, stress level, if you don’t mind? (By “stress level,” are you a 35-year-old guy with 3 young kids, two jobs and no sleep? Better? Worse?)

As Jim said, you have to do a program that you want to do—otherwise you won’t work hard and if you expect it not to work, it won’t.

But those above stats would help the board put your situation into context so you can make the best decision.[/quote]

Im 26, 183cm tall (6 feet), weight 93.5kgs
(206lbs). Stress levels are enormous at the moment - started insane work with completely insane work hours (12-16 hrs a day, thats lawyering for you…worst mistake of my life). My lifts are:
Deadlift 130 kgs or 286 lbs
Benchpress is 86kgs or 190 lbs
Military press is at 53kgs or 113 lbs
Squat is at 90kgs or 200 lbs

Also just want to add, Ive gotten to a point in my life, where gym is the only thing that makes me happy. I love the 531 philosophy and if i didnt, i wouldn’t drag my ass to the gym, whenm my brain is working on autopilot, to lift some iron. I even sold all my video games so i could focus on working out as a hobby instead of wasting time with anything else, as my time is very limited (like many others’). That is why, i want to train and get the best results I can. Simce I do not have the experience, im consulting you, more experienced lifters. If 531 is the way go - great ! If id profit from other programs, im open to anything. I very much appreciate all your info amd comments guys. [/quote]

A couple of questions:

Are your best lifts 1rm’s, estimated 1rm’s or for reps( if for reps how many )?

What was your starting point in terms of bw and strenght levels in the big 4?

Regarding 5/3/1 vs linear progression:

5/3/1 allows you to increase weight each cycle and beat rep PR’s, that is IMO alot more fun, varied and might even be better for hypertropy considering some of the top sets are for higher reps and are very intens if you give it your all. Ergo 5/3/1 is IMO a more all-round progression system than linear progression AKA SS, wich lacks the variety and gets boring fast. In conclusion I say stick to 5/3/1 and reap the benefits long term.


#9

I think you should stick with 5/3/1, since your lifts are high enough that you won’t necessarily make quick or sustainable progress with LP and because you say you like the program. Just make sure you’re doing it correctly, focus on eating well and try to get as much sleep as you can, given your work schedule.


#10

You have made a solid beginning so far with your lifts and your first run-through with this program. Itâ??s good work for only a few months. While linear progression does indeed work very well, these are the two biggest reasons why you might want to stick with 5/3/1 (in addition to what the others said):

  1. The level of stress/work/possible recovery issues/hectic schedule youâ??re describing.
  2. You said you love the 5/3/1 philosophy and variety of templates and flexibility and it makes you excited about going to the gym.

Yes, it is true that a 26-year-old guy whoâ??s 6-foot tall could ride linear progression out to higher numbers than where youâ??re at now (specifically, with the squat). But it has to be done correctlyâ??with good recovery. I think your â??completely insaneâ?? work schedule and â??enormousâ?? stress levels would not make linear progression a fun process for you at this particular point. If you really wanted to, there are strategies for someone in your situation, but it looks like 5/3/1 is the program that you like AND that fits your needs.

So, here are some ideas about your next cycles of 5/3/1â?¦.

  1. You mentioned that you stalled out, so reset your training maxes. Read about the 5 forward, 3 backwards philosophy of the training maxes. (Search this message board.) Or use the formula to estimate your 1-rep max based off of your recent workouts and then take 90 percent.

  2. Consider one of Jimâ??s 2-day-a-week programs (if youâ??re not already doing that) to help with recovery. If you had been lifting 3 or 4 days a week when you stalled out, this might be the key to moving forward.

  3. If you had been going to rep PRs on all three weeks (5, 3, and 1) when you stalled out, consider the 5â??s progression (as explained in the â??Beyondâ?? book) to help avoid future burnout.

  4. If youâ??re looking to lean out, slowly make some cuts in your OVERALL calories on a week-by-week basis. Nothing drastic. Too much of a cut too quickly might force you to have to choose between leaning out and continuing heavy lifting. Sounds like you want both, so you need to go for too much too soon.

Also, read Jimâ??s article about his philosophy on eatingâ?¦…

http://www.T-Nation.com/strength-training-topics/1464


#11

[quote]tmiller197431 wrote:

http://www.T-Nation.com/strength-training-topics/1464

[/quote]

I did I love that article! How do you know however, that you’re eating enough ?


#12

I would just like to give my opinion and personal experience.

i am a novice trainer much like yourself, our numbers are not too far off either. I have just returned to 5/3/1 and i cannot believe i ever gave it up…

To give you more background, the start of the year i ran a linear progression program, was getting gassed out every week, couldnt concentrate at work and was sleeping my weekends away for recovery. i start 5/3/1 and i never felt better, fresher and i was setting PR’s be it rep or weight on a regular basis…
but as people are… i was hungry for bigger numbers, faster… so i went back to linear progression… and guess what happened? exactly the same as before, except this time i have even less sleep ( new father )

by the sounds of your replies to people, you are fully commited to this program and its principles. stick with it, dont make the same mistake i did by wanting everything now. it will come and when it does, you will only be hungry for more, so play the long game.


#13

5/3/1 is good for beginners, intermediate, and advanced. There are hundreds of variations.

Beginners can use the 5s PRO.


#14

Find some proven strength programs, figure out which one looks like you’ll enjoy the most, trust it to the T, and plan to stick with that particular program for a significant amount of time.

My story is that I started weight lifting at 15 and have been flopping around in the weight room until about 2-3 years ago. Now that I’ve learned to pick and stick with a good program I’ve made real strength gains, rarely miss lifts, and don’t have weeks where I feel like an overtrained pile of garbage.

Good luck and enjoy the journey my friend.


#15

I think you’d be better off asking this in the beginners forum. This is the 5/3/1 forum, so naturally people here will be biased towards that.

Having said that, I think 5/3/1 is a terrible idea for beginners. There’s no sense in messing around with percentages if your starting strength is quite low. Just milk the shit out of a 5x5 program, get your strength up, THEN try something more advanced such as 5/3/1. Keep it simple.


#16

I started 5/3/1 3 cycles ago (21 weeks) as a complete beginner (ex mid-distance runner.). I disagree that you need to “milk” a 5x5 program, then move on. Eventually, you might end up at the same place either way, but I think with the slower progression, you’ll set yourself up to be more consistent and less injured. Just being able to consistently do work every week is a training accomplishment in itself. Maybe the biggest one.

I know strength and endurance are opposite ends of the sporting spectrum, but programming in 800/1500m training is completely concerned with slowly increasing intensity and workload over the course of years. A good track coach would never ever think of “milking” beginner improvements, as that would lead to burnout, injury and a quick and short peak. That bias is why I was attracted to 5/3/1 instead of one of the 5x5 programs when I decided to start lifting. There might not be any carryover between the two sports, but I think that general concept remains true.


#17

At the end of the day it’s lifting weights. Any program that allows progressions over time and for good days/bad days will in fact work if you stay the course, work hard and be patient. 5/3/1, 5x5, Cube Method or whatever will work if the person starts off light enough instead of beating themselves into the ground. The one thing I notice that Jim has done with 5/3/1 is he talks about, and even lays out in his templates, is mobility work & conditioning. Just about every other program talks about just the main lift or the main lift with supplemental/assistance work. 5/3/1 basically covers your warm up, strength work, conditioning and gets a bit into recovery work as well. This is important because everyone needs a certain level of mobility, strength training & conditioning.


#18

Crossfitter, looking to add muscle? Why not look at a bodybuilding program? Strength programs are not the optimal way to add muscle.


#19

It can work!

I definitely didn’t start with it, but I hadn’t found it when I started.

If building muscle is your primary concern, not strength…AND you have a schedule that doesn’t exactly allow a ton of rest and such…you might want to try a bodybuilding-specific program.

That being said, being strong is a worthy goal, your lifts don’t indicate that you’re a COMPLETE novice, and you can absolutely achieve both with this program if you wish.

I’m what people would call a textbook ecto/hardgainer (to whatever degree that is true), so I come from a slightly different place…but I’ve used this program many times, different variations, have tapped into some nice aesthetic progress, and TOTALLY understand your lifestyle issues (also went through law school/passed the IL Bar, while training and working as a musician throughout, etc. etc.).

Best of luck!