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My 5/3/1 BBB Thus Far + Question about Assistance

Hey, whenever I seem to google a question in relation to lifting or 5/3/1 the best results tend to come from here so I’ve decided to join up so I can have a place to talk about the program and read others’ experiences.

Since I’m new, here’s a little history. In October 2015 I was 33, 178cms and 109kgs. I was addicted to pizza, beers, etc. You the know story. There is a strong depressive streak in me that led to me zombie-walking my way into a gym one day last year. There was a keen desire to fix myself, stop ruining myself, distract myself.

So I joined up and did hours and hours of steady-state cardio. I also decided to sit my ass down at various machines and worked on (this is how I saw it) my upper body, and the next day, my lower body. I did this all on machines because I was scared to lift free weights. I had no experience, and the guys all in a row doing dumbbell benching and bicep curls all a. intimidated me and b. infuriated me. They looked better than me, but they all seemed like such wankers. I was somehow morally and philosophically against the idea of free weights. So I sat at my machines and did my little routine and my cardio and went home. At home, I was eating a pretty major caloric deficit (about 1800 calories/day, probably more than a 500 calorie deficit.) I lost about 0.8kgs/week on average.

The most important thing comes here. I read and read and read and read. Articles and books on fitness. Reddit posts, anything and everything. I started to see that resistance training, with free weights and not machines, would better help serve me in my pursuit of a better body and mind. I became interested in fitness, and muscle, and health, and nutrition. The more I read about it, the more there was to know. You could spend hours (I did) every day chasing theories and ideas down their respective rabbit holes. The problem was, now that I’d convinced myself I had to do free weights, I had no experience. So here’s where I grew some balls and decided to fuck around in the intimidating free weights section. Grabbed a dumbbell, did some curls. Okay, pretty easy. Lifted them above my head. Found some challenging weights. Secretly copied what I saw other people doing. Eventually I downloaded an app called Jefit and stitched together a program for myself. It resembled a typical gym bro split, in that I’d do my chest, shoulder, arms, back and legs in a variety of different ways. I got comfortable with this, and started to move up in the weights I was using. I was getting doms, and I was pretty sure I was on the way to becoming awesome.

There’s an elephant in the room, and that elephant is the barbell. The king of gym equipment. There was was laying down on a bench hitting my chest from all these angles, doing flies, concentration curls, lateral raises, shrugs… getting somewhere but eventually I also realised I was kind of getting nowhere. I noticed I was maybe looking better (dropping fat, getting some toning happening) but also not getting much stronger. The deficit would have affected this obviously, but I could also sense the limitations in lifting for aesthetics. So I went back to google and came across a few articles that compared strength training to bodybuilding training (and yes I realise they are mostly entwined.)

I read about how to get stronger (progressive overload.) About how best to achieve that. And everything mentioned the barbell. Well, I thought. I’d better step up. The power rack was the one area of the gym I had never entered. From what I’d read, I knew I would need to squat, deadlift, barbell bench, etc. And add more weights each time. I decided to do StrongLifts 5X5, even though I was pretty sure 5 reps wasn’t enough to do fuck all. Clearly I had no idea. But before I got the app and started the program, I gave myself a week to fuck around with the bar. I watched tutorials and decided to be anal about form. Scared of injury yes, but I also had this new mindset (that I’d rarely had before) that if I was going to do something, I was going to fucking do it and do it right.

I ended up doing SL for a few months. I started with the empty bar on every lift. Yes, it was easy at the start. I emptied my mind and gave myself to the relentless logic of progressing slowly, focusing on form. I am so glad I did this. In the end, I had got to the point where I needed to take 5 minutes between squat sets. I could squat 100kgs, 5X5. That was incredible to me. And I loved how it made me feel. I felt puffed and shaky and overwhelmed and like I was going to be crushed. From reading about CNS training, I knew that everytime I lifted heavier, I was training my mind to recruit more muscle. That it would not get lighter, but the weights would eventually feel lighter. Towards the end of my time doing SL, I realised I would plateau because I was still eating that caloric deficit. So I went up to 2500 calories/day, a little under my current maintenance. Lifts continued increasing. So far so good. As a former fat guy (by this point I was around 78, 79 kgs bodyweight - I’d lost 30kgs) I was scared of putting on more fat. But it felt so good to eat more and lift more. And I didn’t gain back fat at all. In fact, SL was making me feel thicker and denser, even though the scales weren’t moving. I started to feel my abs like a tree trunk. Legs got thick. They used to be flabby, now they’re bulky but hard. And my glutes! No more droopy/flat fat guy ass. I could flex my ass and it kind of looked like a good ass!

So a couple of things happened after these months on StrongLifts. I couldn’t lift any more without feeling like my mind was trying to talk me out of getting under the bar. The battle is real. And I wasn’t conditioned to heavy lifting, not yet. It was fucking scary squatting 100kgs for the first time. I did it first time but stalled on 102.5kgs the next session. My bench got stuck at 70kgs. My deadlift has never stopped going up. My OHP was lame, but I was okay with it being lame because I was so form-obsessed. SL didn’t give me much upper-body mass.

Again I started reading around, and thanks to that Alan Thrall video (what to do after SL/SS/beginner program) and thanks to a few articles I’d read about volume and how increasing the muscle size will help with strength, I decided to look for a new program. I spent probably about a month shopping around. Wondering what kind of level I was actually at. What would be appropriate. What I was craving was a program that increased weights but not every goddamn session. In that sense, my n00b gains had expired.

I looked at MadCow, Texas Method, etc etc. What swayed me to 5/3/1 was the slower progression, the percentages of a TM, the more intelligent framework and then the flexibility to append assistance work as appropriate. I ended up choosing 5/3/1 BBB.

Right now I’m in the 2nd week of my third cycle.

I started off with my 1RMs at:

OHP: 52kgs
DL: 131kgs
BP: 79kgs
SQ: 112kgs.

They’ve gone up linearly each cycle, but on the AMRAP sets I’ve been hitting 10+ reps, my best results so far are (theoretical 1RMs):

OHP: 61.8kgs
DL: 161kgs
BP: 95.3kgs
SQ: 130kgs.

This would give me a one plate press, 3-plate+ DL, almost a 2 plate bench and almost a 3 plate squat.

This blows my mind, especially since I’m only 2 cycles in, with only about 6 months of barbell lifting behind me total.

What I find 5/3/1 does for me is allows me to walk into a session and not be intimidated by the weight. I’m way more comfortable. Not complacent - comfortable. I will, from that place of comfort, work my way through the warm ups and the working sets and eventually find myself heaving with aggression as I get into the concluding AMRAP set, in which I give my all.

Since I’m determined to keep getting stronger, I’ve started eating more. I’ve put on a few kilograms (literally 3kgs) since starting 5/3/1 BBB and eating about 3000cals/day. No visible fat increase, but this new feeling of being a thicker version of me. I’m still getting used to it. The former fat guy in my mind still screams at me “what are you doing?!” but my gut is happy to continue on eating more. I know I need to, and I’m gradually able to not give a fuck about the scale movement. I’ll cut when/if I ever start to hate the way I look.

I chose BBB so I could increase volume, get bigger muscles, which would help me get stronger. I’m not doing this to be the most ripped guy in the gym, although sometimes I feel like the strongest (lifting gave me confidence…eve though a lot of it may or may not be misplaced!). In my first cycle, I went with the prescribed 50% of the TM. Second cycle I went up to 60% and now in my third cycle I am hitting 65% for my 5X10. I’m doing the main lift of the day as my BBB accessory. After DLs, I’m taking weight off after the AMRAP set, and doing yet more DLs. A lot of you have mentioned that this is too much, that this was too hard. Which kind of made me want to do it (there’s a newfound fuck off attitude in me… you can’t do it? I’ll do it then.) Today for example, I hit 115kgs for 12 reps on deadlift. Then went to 82.5kgs for 5X10. I was exhausted, yes, but I did it, and I feel fucking amazing.

After DL and squat days, I do the main sets, the BBB set of the same lift, then some simple ab work. After OHP main sets, I do OHP BBB, and the same thing with bench on bench day.

One question I have is this: everyone knows that the upper body will progress slower. It’s where I’m seeing the slowest development, both in muscle mass and lift progression. Would it be too much for me to do the following:

OHP day: OHP main sets including AMRAP set then OHP 10X5 @ 50% of TM. Assistance: bench press at 75% of bench press TM for 3 sets of 10 reps.

BP day: Bench main sets including AMRAP set then BP 10X5 @ 50% of TM. Assistance: OHP at 75% of OHP TM, again 3 sets of 10 reps.


I don’t believe this changes the BBB program. It is merely using bench as OHP assistance and vice versa. I want to lift upper body more frequently and this was the neatest way I could think of to do so.

I am fucking pooped after my squat and DL BBB sets and so the assistance work is just a bit of core action. The next day after my Squat and DL days, I’m generally a little fatigued and listless but recover very well. I rest and sleep and eat. But after days in which I train OHP or bench, I’m bursting with energy and want to give a bit more. I want to see the chest grow, and my shoulders harden up and bulge some more. Will I end up overtraining if I do BBB like this? Also please point out if I’ve stepped out of the bounds of the program. I merely want to up my bench and OHP volume somehow.

I take the deload week every cycle.

Thanks for reading. It’s nice to find a home to talk about this shit. Thanks to Jim for the program and for being one of the good guys who turn personal experience into practical wisdom for others to follow.

Depending on how I go, I plan on running 5/3/1 BBB for 5 cycles, reset to the weights from cycle 3, and continue. 5 steps forward, 2 steps back. If I can keep going linearly I will, but I know I’ll need to go backwards sometimes and I’m happy to. I plan on doing this until I’m an old man.

I’m currently 34, 178cms tall, 81kgs and when I go to the gym I might seem boring and I may not have the biggest lifts in the world yet, but strength training has become my salvation. I don’t even notice the treadmills and dumbbells any more. I just have my task and I go about it. Since I’m still new to it relatively, I’m realising how potent this is, and how it has an effect on the rest of my life. I thought you guys were all meatheads a year ago. I was wrong and I’m sorry :wink:

My dude i’m gonna be honest with you that’s a bloody essay of a story and I didn’t read it other than the actual question. I genuinely don’t want to be rude and from the jist of what I skimmed through you’ve made some progress and that’s awesome! Just saying you’ll have more success in getting responses being short and sweet.

So in regards to the question. I wouldn’t say the upper body progress’s slower. It may seem that way as the increments are smaller but relatively it should progess the same… This is different for everyone though.

Adding Bench on OHP day and vice-versa is a good idea and doesn’t change it being BBB. I personally always do a variation of the opposing main movement on any given day for Upper and Lower and love it. 3x10 @ 75% may be a little bit much though at that percentage. Jim personally prescribes 3x5 @ 75% alot in his book for crossover.

Also before I continue I hope you are doing more assistance than just the main movement e.g. rows, chins, db presses etc.

Get the Beyond 5/3/1 book and there’s heaps of variations in there.

I would suggest adding a different back of protocol to main sets and crossing over with just the BBB. Like this

OHP day: OHP 5/3/1+, FSL or Pyramid + FSL, Bench Press 5x10@50% (BBB), Rows 5x10

BP day: Bench 5/3/1+, FSL or Pyramid + FSL, OHP 5x10@50% (BBB), Rows 5x10

You’ll be adding more main set volume and a bunch more reps through the Pyramid FSL combo. And then have crossover for rep work and won’t over fatigue the movement on the one day.

No no no, no no, no no no no.

Current BBB recommendation is 5’s pro, start w/ 5x10 at 50%. No idea where 3x10 @ 75% is coming from, and I really thought we’ve been through the FSL with BBB thing enough here.

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I didn’t read the story either, but I got the gist of what you are doing.

1.) We don’t do 5 up/ 3 back cycles anymore. This is information Jim keeps for his private forum, so I will respect his decision and let you know that you need to go there. Sorry, I wish I could say more.

2.) Do 5’s PRO w/ BBB, as @FormerlyFast mentioned

3.) FSL, BBB, FSL Pyramid, SSL, SBB, Jokers, and the like are all supplemental sets. PICK ONE.

4.) Assistance done in terms up total reps, not specific setXrep prescription. For BBB, you are to do a total of 25 reps of each pull/push movements, and 50 reps of abs (no low back or single leg with this template)

So, with all that in mind, here is a sample BBB template (I’ve taken the liberty of pairing OHP with bench since you mentioned it:

-DeFranco’s Agile 8
-3x5 Med Ball Throws superset w/ warm up Bench sets
-Bench 5’s PRO superset w/ chins
-OHP 5x10 @ 50% TM superset w/ Face Pulls

  • 25 reps Push
  • Pull reps are already complete through supersetting
  • 50 hanging leg raises

So there you have it. Run this for a few cycles and report back.

EDIT: Mistake by me, you can go ahead and run PR sets with BBB… I was thinking of the 3-Month BBB challenge

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I find it hilarious how defensive you are about “current” recommendations when the original BBB that was the single most popular template for 7 years worked perfectly fine. Now all of a sudden another recommendation is made and you guys think it just won’t work anymore. Running FSL with the opposite BBB, not the same movement, works perfectly fine and you can easily find so many people that have used this to great success, myself included.

And I like the part where you correct me on 3x10 @ 75% and said that it should be 5x10 @ 50%. When that is exactly what I said. God I give up on the people on here. OP, you picked the wrong community to be a part of. Just read the books and articles that Jim himself has written simplest way to have no confusion.

No it doesn’t and no you won’t. Unless you are using such light weights you may as well not bother, combing FSL and BBB will do you no favours. You’ll just get beat to shit. You can absolutely run FSL for one lift while running BB for the other - some lifts respond better to different approaches. Just born both at the same time for the same lift.

You’re in a good place OP. I’d have found it harder to run 531 when I started without this section of the forum. We’re just honest and have little patience for people who consistently mess up the program.

True, where you will also find no reference to running BBB and FSL concurrently on the same lift.

Tell me exactly why running:
Bench Press 5/3/1+, FSL
Close Grip Bench Press 5x10
DB Rows 5x10
Bench Press 5/3/1+, FSL
OH Press 5x10 @ 50% (BBB)
DB Rows 5x10

Is so fundamentally wrong that you as a random consumer can objectively label it as incorrect and will lead to problems?

The first is standard Triumvirate assistance, the most common assistance program directly from the book, using the exact same musculature, is perfectly fine and acceptable to run with FSL and as the weeks progress you will move past 50% of your max. However the second oh no that’s bad for you.

BBB, from the book, has listings of 5x10 @30-40% all the way up to 5x10@75%. Whatever % works to get the reps is fine. and push as listed from the book. In fact if I had of not used the letters BBB and just written it as 5x10 I bet you would have been like oh that’s cool a bit of extra volume on the presses. But because it’s BBB you’re triggered.

Drop the elitism.

To me what doesn’t work is that BBB is one assistance approach: you do 5x10 main/opposite lift at whatever percentage you can, then 5x10 one other assistance; FSL is your first set for either one AMRAP or 3-5x5-8 and is specifically for adding volume without getting the soreness of BBB with assistance left up to you.

Now, if you combine the two, you get a pretty massive amount of volume but very little variety. That’s not going to be particularly helpful. You’re faced with either doing just that, your main lifts and one assistance lift, which means you won’t hit useful stuff like dips, incline presses, DB work, etc; or you go ahead and add in that assistance anyway which is going to push your volume way too high.


Do what you want but please stop giving crappy advice on here. 3x10 obviously wasn’t mentioned by you, got that. Bbb was originally prescribed with amrap, that’s fine, but the fsl combo, god that’s been beaten to death. I feel bad for Jim coming on here and reading the same stupid shit over and over.

This is one reason 531 is sometimes a pain to ask about,to many opinions,everybody has a different way,stick to the book or jims advise ONLY.

Some very bad advice being given here. This question has been answered many, many times on this forum. Right on the first page, too!

Not sure why that question keeps coming up. Unexplainable, but on another note i have to thank you for recommending Pyramids. Out of all the bands you’ve recommended Lord Mantis, Divider, Generation Of Vipers, etc. Pyramids blew me away the most. In particular the song I Am So Sorry, Goodbye. Can’t stop listening to it. So good!

Pyramids are an amazing band. The main man, R. Loren, is a genius. Check out the song “Cialo” by Furia. It’s on Invisible Oranges now - their new album is streaming. Just different and powerful.