T Nation

Jeremy's Intermediate 8/5/3 Routine


#1

Hello guys, I have been weightlifting for a couple of years and like most of you It has probably taken a long time to find a routine that “works” for you. I came up with this routine and I’d like to share it and hear some feed back.

This routine is all about lifting heavy and pushing your limits. It relies on the use of cluster sets and supersets to push volume and ramping up to a 3 rep max on the four big lifts.

JP

FYI I will put in fine details about the program underneath

Workout 1 - Heavy

  • Warmup
  • Deadlifts 8x70%/5x75%, 3x80%, 3x85%, 3x90%+
  • Bench Press 8x70%/5x75%, 3x80%, 3x85%, 3x90%+
  • Pull Ups 8/5/3-bw x 2 (superset with below)
  • Close Grip Bench Press 8/5/3-65 to 75% x 2 (superset with above)
  • Light Cardio & Stretch

Workout 2 - Heavy

  • Warmup
  • Back Squats 8x70%/5x75%, 3x80%, 3x85%, 3x90%+
  • Overhead Press 8x70%/5x75%, 3x80%, 3x85%, 3x90%+
  • Goblet Squat 8/5/3 x2 (superset with below)
  • Lateral Raises 8/5/3 x2 (superset with above)
  • Calf Raises 8/5/3 x2 (superset with below)
  • Rear Delt Raises 8/5/3 X2 (superset with above)
  • Light Cardio & Stretch

Rest day if needed. Or do cardio here instead of on lifting days.
(I don’t plan my rest days so just whenever I feel I need to have a breather I’ll have a day off. I’ll either take one or two days off in a week or not at all.)

Workout 3 - Volume Chest, Back & Arms

  • Warmup
  • Bench Press 8/5/3-65 to 75% x2 (superset with below)
  • Pull Ups 8/5/3-bw x2 (superset with above)
  • Romanian Deadlift 8/5/3-70% x2 (superset with below)
  • Incline Flys 8/5/3-60% x2 (superset with above)
  • Dips 8/5/3-bw x2 (superset with below)
  • Curls 8/5/3-75% (superset with above)
  • Light Cardio & Stretch

Workout 4 - Volume Legs & Shoulders

  • Warmup
  • Back Squats 8/5/3-65 to 75% x2 (superset with below)
  • Seated Press 8/5/3-70% x2 (superset with above)
  • Lunges or Front Squat 8/5/3- 70% (superset with below)
  • Lateral Raises 8/5/3 x2 (superset with above)
  • Calf Raise 8/5/3 x2 (superset with below)
  • Rear Delt Raise 8/5/3 x2 ( superset with above)
  • Light Cardio & Stretch

Rest, Cardio or sometimes I’ll add a 5th workout with “functional stuff” like farmers carry, kettlebells or anything else I can think of.

  • So I have been working the main exercises off of 1rm percentages, so if you are not sure of this you could warm up to 5 or 3 reps of a heavy weight throw that number into a 1rm calculator and Bob’s ya auntie.

  • Start with 8 & 5 rep warmup sets with a short rest in between (10-15 seconds). I try to rest during working sets as long as my body needs ranges from 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

  • “CLUSTER SETS” So 8/5/3 means do 8 reps rest for 10 or so seconds do 5 reps rest again then finish the last 3.

  • The way these work in this program is you do 8 reps on first exercise then immediately do 8 reps on the 2nd exercise in the superset then to the 5 on the 1st, 5 on 2nd then the last 3 reps to finish. Just means your rest is when you are working the opposing muscle group.

  • Anytime I feel my isolation exercises during the final 3 reps is too light I simply go for time under tension. This means I’ll explode it to the height of the lift, pause is briefly then lower it slowly.

  • If you cannot complete a lift you should not add or take off any more weight. You should increase your rest times and go with less reps. I never drop a weight during a session. I will however go to “failure” and reset the weights during the next session. It’s all a mind game, so you have to think I’ll hit that weight until it’s my bitch.

  • This program offers many variables to help you improve for example the lifts should always challange you, perhaps tighten up on rest times, add another 5kg or work on time under tension.

  • A + at the end of a set means if you feel you have it in you continue to add weight and complete 3 reps until you can only hit 2.

  • Your body will adapt despite what your mind trys to tell you.


#2

I’d like to know your own stats if possible:

Age
Height
Weight
S/BPL/DL
Training age

Also how your weight and lifts have changed while doing this and over what time period.

The main reason I want to know that is that I can tell you from my own experience beyond a certain level hitting triples at 85-90% every week on the main lifts is simply not going to be sustainable in the long term.

For a less experienced lifter, sure. They’re simply not strong enough to get beat up from that. Different story when the lifter starts getting stronger.


#3

[quote]MarkKO wrote:
I’d like to know your own stats if possible:

Age
Height
Weight
S/BPL/DL
Training age

Also how your weight and lifts have changed while doing this and over what time period.

The main reason I want to know that is that I can tell you from my own experience beyond a certain level hitting triples at 85-90% every week on the main lifts is simply not going to be sustainable in the long term.

For a less experienced lifter, sure. They’re simply not strong enough to get beat up from that. Different story when the lifter starts getting stronger. [/quote]

This. I just hit my 3 rep plateau of adding 10lbs each week. 90% triples for a long period of time once you reach a certain level isn’t obtainable each week with increases in weight.

I am also interested in the numbers though. I’m not a fan of the cluster sets, seems like counterintuitive for a one rep max, but great for volume work on assistance lifts.


#4

Age 22
Height 176cm
Weight 93kg
S/BPL/DL S 137x3,B 101x1 ,DL 184x2
Training age 4 years of lifting weights.

I played rugby through childhood and teenage years. Started lifting around 18 after leaving rugby I went from 90kg 172cm to 70kg doing 5km runs, push ups, BW squats, planks , pull ups and curls. After months of this I purchased a barbell, kettlebells and bench press. I would hit a bodybuilding 10x3 program for a year with next to no progression in getting to heavier weights. So about 20 had some life changes. Had roughly 8 months off weights, did alot of biking and lifting furniture with next to no food or sleep. I have since been going great. I did I ton of reading and tried out (as completed at least 2 months of the program) 5/3/1, a full body bb split, squat everyday, 5x5, and various of my own.

I definitely think this is a stepping stone in programing as the title says intermediate. I wouldn’t give this to a beginner but If I could start again it would be based off this stuff, as I feel it’s worked for me. I can’t say anything on an advanced or elite level because I am not their yet. I’d put myself above beginner level, just starting the intermediate journey.

Since recording my weights (last year and a half) I have gone from 80kg squat 65kg bench press and 88kg deadlift, to 137kg+ squat, 107kg bench and 184kg deadlift.

I have definitely found this routine to work for me.


#5

So you wouldn’t use cluster sets on the main exercises? Just keep them heavy?

I use cluster sets because I have a busy life 5am rise to 10pm at night I work a physical 12 hour days I have two kids and a partner. So it fits really great and I love the pump plus heavy breathing. I plan on getting up to 3 sets this year and of course 200 kg squat 150 bench and somewhere over 200 kg deadlift. I understand my needs will change but at this time it’s working well for me and I enjoy it.


#6

From looking at this program I feel like there is way to many body building movements even if its for volume.


#7

[quote]Jperriton wrote:
Hello guys, I have been weightlifting for a couple of years and like most of you It has probably taken a long time to find a routine that “works” for you. I came up with this routine and I’d like to share it and hear some feed back.

This routine is all about lifting heavy and pushing your limits. It relies on the use of cluster sets and supersets to push volume and ramping up to a 3 rep max on the four big lifts.

JP

FYI I will put in fine details about the program underneath

Workout 1 - Heavy

  • Warmup
  • Deadlifts 8x70%/5x75%, 3x80%, 3x85%, 3x90%+
  • Bench Press 8x70%/5x75%, 3x80%, 3x85%, 3x90%+
  • Pull Ups 8/5/3-bw x 2 (superset with below)
  • Close Grip Bench Press 8/5/3-65 to 75% x 2 (superset with above)
  • Light Cardio & Stretch

Workout 2 - Heavy

  • Warmup
  • Back Squats 8x70%/5x75%, 3x80%, 3x85%, 3x90%+
  • Overhead Press 8x70%/5x75%, 3x80%, 3x85%, 3x90%+
  • Goblet Squat 8/5/3 x2 (superset with below)
  • Lateral Raises 8/5/3 x2 (superset with above)
  • Calf Raises 8/5/3 x2 (superset with below)
  • Rear Delt Raises 8/5/3 X2 (superset with above)
  • Light Cardio & Stretch

Rest day if needed. Or do cardio here instead of on lifting days.
(I don’t plan my rest days so just whenever I feel I need to have a breather I’ll have a day off. I’ll either take one or two days off in a week or not at all.)

Workout 3 - Volume Chest, Back & Arms

  • Warmup
  • Bench Press 8/5/3-65 to 75% x2 (superset with below)
  • Pull Ups 8/5/3-bw x2 (superset with above)
  • Romanian Deadlift 8/5/3-70% x2 (superset with below)
  • Incline Flys 8/5/3-60% x2 (superset with above)
  • Dips 8/5/3-bw x2 (superset with below)
  • Curls 8/5/3-75% (superset with above)
  • Light Cardio & Stretch

Workout 4 - Volume Legs & Shoulders

  • Warmup
  • Back Squats 8/5/3-65 to 75% x2 (superset with below)
  • Seated Press 8/5/3-70% x2 (superset with above)
  • Lunges or Front Squat 8/5/3- 70% (superset with below)
  • Lateral Raises 8/5/3 x2 (superset with above)
  • Calf Raise 8/5/3 x2 (superset with below)
  • Rear Delt Raise 8/5/3 x2 ( superset with above)
  • Light Cardio & Stretch

Rest, Cardio or sometimes I’ll add a 5th workout with “functional stuff” like farmers carry, kettlebells or anything else I can think of.

  • So I have been working the main exercises off of 1rm percentages, so if you are not sure of this you could warm up to 5 or 3 reps of a heavy weight throw that number into a 1rm calculator and Bob’s ya auntie.

  • Start with 8 & 5 rep warmup sets with a short rest in between (10-15 seconds). I try to rest during working sets as long as my body needs ranges from 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

  • “CLUSTER SETS” So 8/5/3 means do 8 reps rest for 10 or so seconds do 5 reps rest again then finish the last 3.

  • The way these work in this program is you do 8 reps on first exercise then immediately do 8 reps on the 2nd exercise in the superset then to the 5 on the 1st, 5 on 2nd then the last 3 reps to finish. Just means your rest is when you are working the opposing muscle group.

  • Anytime I feel my isolation exercises during the final 3 reps is too light I simply go for time under tension. This means I’ll explode it to the height of the lift, pause is briefly then lower it slowly.

  • If you cannot complete a lift you should not add or take off any more weight. You should increase your rest times and go with less reps. I never drop a weight during a session. I will however go to “failure” and reset the weights during the next session. It’s all a mind game, so you have to think I’ll hit that weight until it’s my bitch.

  • This program offers many variables to help you improve for example the lifts should always challange you, perhaps tighten up on rest times, add another 5kg or work on time under tension.

  • A + at the end of a set means if you feel you have it in you continue to add weight and complete 3 reps until you can only hit 2.

  • Your body will adapt despite what your mind trys to tell you.
    [/quote]

So many things I don’t like
-Why do you try to do upper and lower body stuff every workout?My suggestion is just go by upper lower
-Why ohp at 90 %?I guess you are overhead pressing to build your bench and shoulders/arms so just work lighter for more reps
-Why so much planning at your accessory movements?What I’d suggest is
Main movement well planned(bench for a 5 rm or something)
Movement to aid your main movement the same(close grip 2 board press for a 3x3)
Bodybuilding work going by feel(barbell extensions for 60 total reps,barbell row for 3 sets to failure ect)


#8

Don’t mean to be an ass or anything but why not just stick with regular 531? Your numbers aren’t all that amazing and this somewhat feels like “majoring in the minors”. I’m 4 years younger than you, been training for close to 2 years, 20-ish kilos lighter than you and our numbers aren’t even that different. S 140x6, 160x1 B 95x1 D 170x1, missed 180 at lockout. I’m probably not as “qualified” as the rest but I would suggest that you just stick to something along the lines of 531BBB. It works, I know it does.

Sure, it might not be the most efficient program at gaining strength quickly but I would argue that isn’t what you want. You don’t want QUICK strength, you want strength that sticks with you. Maybe it’s just me but I feel like people get greedy, they want more bang for their buck and it often goes back to bite them in the ass. Hell, that’s how most people get injuries and shitz.

TLDR: Stick to 531BBB/something similar

I hope this doesn’t sound too harsh, this is just some of my views on the matter.


#9

[quote]Benanything wrote:
Don’t mean to be an ass or anything but why not just stick with regular 531? Your numbers aren’t all that amazing and this somewhat feels like “majoring in the minors”. I’m 4 years younger than you, been training for close to 2 years, 20-ish kilos lighter than you and our numbers aren’t even that different. S 140x6, 160x1 B 95x1 D 170x1, missed 180 at lockout. I’m probably not as “qualified” as the rest but I would suggest that you just stick to something along the lines of 531BBB. It works, I know it does. Sure, it might not be the most efficient program at gaining strength quickly but I would argue that isn’t what you want. You don’t want QUICK strength, you want strength that sticks with you. Maybe it’s just me but I feel like people get greedy, they want more bang for their buck and it often goes back to bite them in the ass. Hell, that’s how most people get injuries and shitz.

TLDR: Stick to 531BBB/something similar

I hope this doesn’t sound too harsh, this is just some of my views on the matter.[/quote]

Exactly that

Just by watching this video you’ll see that training goes way deeper than ‘‘go lift brah’’


#10

Essentially you would go heavy every workout with the main lifts and lower volume on assistance? I love doing upper and lower in the same day as I feel if I did a 5 day split or something I’m not getting enough out of it at this stage. I have tried these splits and it’s not as effective for me.

I definitely aimed this program at my ohp and upper body. My ohp and bench are the weak points. I originally had an extra set of presses and one less close grip bench. The accessory work comes from a cluster set program and it is a fair amount but the challange of it is great. Are you saying to shift the bodybuilding exercises out for moves that are more suited for powerlifting?


#11

[quote]Jperriton wrote:
Essentially you would go heavy every workout with the main lifts and lower volume on assistance? I love doing upper and lower in the same day as I feel if I did a 5 day split or something I’m not getting enough out of it at this stage. I have tried these splits and it’s not as effective for me.

I definitely aimed this program at my ohp and upper body. My ohp and bench are the weak points. I originally had an extra set of presses and one less close grip bench. The accessory work comes from a cluster set program and it is a fair amount but the challange of it is great. Are you saying to shift the bodybuilding exercises out for moves that are more suited for powerlifting? [/quote]

The 5 rm was an example.I personally have a max effort and a dynamic effort day so no I don’t always go heavy.No I don’t say to ditch powerlifting exercises but after the main 1-2 movements are done bodybuilding movements can be of great help.A bigger muscle has potential for produting greater strength


#12

Nah you don’t sound like that at all. I’m enjoying the responses to this it’s what I need. I have done a 5/3/1 program before and I didn’t enjoy the low volume and working a bench day, squat day separately. It helped my bench but did nothing for my squat which at the time was really behind. I went to a higher volume squat everyday program and loved that concept. I’m very aware of injury which 3 years ago I had poor squat form and did out my knee.

It’s a huge focus in all this. With my understanding the high volume is essential in getting better and to fit it in I found cluster sets and super sets to benefit greatly at this moment. I have my own gym and i workout alone so I don’t have anyone to spot me or talk to regarding these things. In this I have to be really careful so I don’t smash myself.


#13

In my experience, and this is from research and testing (not meaning it’s true and fact, just what I’ve read and done), I find the following ideologies to follow when building a program:

  1. Train the main lifts first and old school. 5x5, 3x3, 10-8-6, work up to one set of 5, one set of 3, or max reps at one percentage (basically 5/3/1 ideology for max reps). Anything else loses benefit of strength gain due to too much tearing of the muscle / recovery / just not pushing heavy shit or pushing too much heavy shit.

  2. 2nd lifts, or accessory lifts, should be compound and not isolation. Example-do standing bicep curls over isolation curls. Do dumbbell press instead of cable fly’s. Keep these in the rep range of 5-15, not to failure.

  3. 3rd lifts, the pump lifts. Use these to build mass. They can be items from item 2, and isolation exercises. Same rep range, but you can do more, but more of a focus on failure to build mass.

  4. Simpler is generally better

Cluster sets belong in items 2 and 3 from above in my mind.


#14

[quote]Jperriton wrote:
Age 22
Height 176cm
Weight 93kg
S/BPL/DL S 137x3,B 101x1 ,DL 184x2
Training age 4 years of lifting weights.

I played rugby through childhood and teenage years. Started lifting around 18 after leaving rugby I went from 90kg 172cm to 70kg doing 5km runs, push ups, BW squats, planks , pull ups and curls. After months of this I purchased a barbell, kettlebells and bench press. I would hit a bodybuilding 10x3 program for a year with next to no progression in getting to heavier weights. So about 20 had some life changes. Had roughly 8 months off weights, did alot of biking and lifting furniture with next to no food or sleep. I have since been going great. I did I ton of reading and tried out (as completed at least 2 months of the program) 5/3/1, a full body bb split, squat everyday, 5x5, and various of my own.

I definitely think this is a stepping stone in programing as the title says intermediate. I wouldn’t give this to a beginner but If I could start again it would be based off this stuff, as I feel it’s worked for me. I can’t say anything on an advanced or elite level because I am not their yet. I’d put myself above beginner level, just starting the intermediate journey.

Since recording my weights (last year and a half) I have gone from 80kg squat 65kg bench press and 88kg deadlift, to 137kg+ squat, 107kg bench and 184kg deadlift.

I have definitely found this routine to work for me.

[/quote]

The numbers explain why you can still train like this.

No offence, but you’re pretty weak for a guy your size who’s been at it for four years, or even a year and a half of proper training.

To that extent, the numbers also suggest this isn’t really working for you. I don’t doubt you’ve been enjoying it or that you’ve been consistent. I just doubt that you’re getting the results you could using a better approach.

A good first base to shoot for is something around 2xbw squat/1.25xbw bench/2-2.25xbw deadlift. You won’t necessarily hit all those at the same time, but IMO those kind of numbers are still decent to aim for as an initial goal.

The thing is, once you’re hitting those sort of numbers the way you’re training just isn’t going to be sustainable. The catch is that I doubt you’ll get to those numbers using your current approach.

Something like 531 would definitely get you there.


#15

Hi MarkKO, no offense taken. Thanks for your honest opinion. I definitely have made gains with this program though. I still feel I have made at least considerable gains as in going from a single 80kg squat to a 145kg squat then from an 87 deadlift to a 184 deadlift. These have been acomplished with the plans so far. I have done the 5/3/1 for months and didn’t make as much progress. I really enjoy my routine and it fits with my lifestyle. I definitely will go back to a 5/3/1 in time but i can’t just give up on my current focus. I’m really enjoying the input and will take it all into count for.


#16

Well, if you’re enjoying it that’s a good reason to keep doing it.

You’re also right, you have made progress - I just suspect you’d make better progress on a different program. But, since effort and consistency play a huge role, you’ll get something out of what you’re doing simply by keeping at it.

I would suggest checking out a Cube variation and possibly also some Candito programs if only to have a look. Paul Carter’s Base Building might also be an idea.

That way, when you get strong enough that your approach stops being sustainable you’ll have some ready options.