T Nation

Last Set vs. Joker Sets


Hello Jim and the 5/3/1 community,

im on the 5/3/1+ week in the 1st month of the strength challenge. So I am doing my regular 5/3/1 reps for that week plus a heavy single at my TM. Im operating at an 85% TM. I got 10+ reps on all lifts for the 3+ week. I got 9 reps at 285 for bench at the 1+ set, which was better than my 3+ week (I got 270 for 11 reps in my 3+ week).

But today I only got 6 reps at 345 for squat at the 1+ set, which was comparably worse than my 3+ week (i got 325 for 10 reps in week 3+). And the crazy part is i got 2 joker sets after my squat 3+ set = 385x1 and 405x1. So i have a couple questions.

  1. does the upper body respond to more volume? if so, should I pull back my warmup squat sets to better prep for the 3+ and 1+ sets? or does my work capcity suck for squat?

  2. is their any significance (or weakness i need to address) to me getting joker sets at 105% and 110% of my TM on a day when my 1+ set was worse than my 3+ week?



Do a couple cycles before you start drawing any conclusions. Reading too much into one workout, or one week of workouts, leads to program hopping, masturbatory tinkering and related maladies.


don't make shit more complicated than it needs to be. And don't wonder if your performance in one of your training sessions is not as expected. It will not always be a good training session. Sometime you score a PR, sometimes you just make it through your sets and reps....


Personal experience... I've had sessions where I've struggled to do the requisite reps. The next week I kicked ass and PR'd reps, hit jokers up to 110% and did first set last at 65%. I've had everything in between. This is why training is a marathon and not a sprint. Plus with 5-3-1 95% of 90%(tm) is 85%. This allows for shitty day while letting one make gains, which is what we are after right?

I've found that if my 1rms were what I said they were 5-3-1 becomes 9-7-5 on the PR sets. More is progress. less is a 'bad week', 9-7-5 is par for the course.


This is called the Ebb/Flow of Training - you won't have great days EVERY day.