T Nation

New Gains - Where am I Doing Wrong?


I’m currently trying to increase my daily calorie intake due to starting a new job 3 months ago. I’m an electrician, so I’m constantly moving. All summer long, I basically sat on my ass and did nothing and was probably eating around 2800-3200 calories a day. I weighed in at 230-232 (later in the day) @ 6’6". I’m pretty lean, abs are visible, especially since I started a more physical job as a tradesman. When I first started working, I noticed my weight dropped quickly to around 225, so I increased my calories and got back up to around 230-235lbs (where I’m sitting at now).

I’m basically looking to increase muscle mass with minimal fat gain. Do I increase my calories even more? I’m probably hitting close to 3500-4000 calories a day now. I know I probably need more to increase muscle. I’ve also been following 5/3/1 on my main lifts for years now, and basically doing an upper/lower split with an additional arm day on the weekend. Maybe I need to change up my programming to see new gains as well?

Any additional information I need to add, feel free to let me know. Thank you


To gain muscle mass, you need to eat. If you get fat, eat less. If you loose too much weight, eat more. Look also into the type of foods, timing and quality.

Are you doing 5/3/1 or upper/lower split? If you need an extra arm day, you need to get on a proper program.


I follow 5/3/1 for my main lifts: Bench, Squat, Deadlift and Overhead Press.

So for example, if I have a 5/3/1 Bench day, I would consider this an upper body day, push and pull work. It would look like this:

-5/3/1 Bench

  • DB rows
    -Incline DB press with pull ups or pull downs
  • (Maybe another incline movement with a row variation)
  • DB flies or Pec Dec with another back movement

The direct arm work doesn’t necessarily need to be done on the weekend. I could throw in some bicep/tricep work at the end of each upper body day? But for example, I would probably need to lower the volume for this upper body day, maybe take out a push and pull and then add in 3-5 sets of biceps/triceps at the end?

Lower body days usually have longer rest periods and are done as straight sets rather than supersets.


Only increase your food intake if you are no longer adding weight.

Do a better program that what you outlined.


Any other programs you would recommend?


Anything from someone reputable, 5/3/1 is a fine choice, but I wouldn’t call what you posted 5/3/1 - more an annihilation of the upper body, one exercise having the 5/3/1 progression scheme.


So basically I’m doing too much volume and this could be hurting any gains I want to see? I guess it’s a matter of if I can recover or not right?


Would be curious to know that for myself too. There are 5/3/1 templates with tons of upper body volume though (e.g. the bodybuilding template). And AFAIK Wendler often advocates supersetting chest exercises with pulling movements (chin ups, face pulls, etc.). I have also noticed that I need to target my pecs with more volume in order for them to grow, that’s why I’ve been adding dips and flyes to my bench day…

I switched to 5/3/1 two years ago but that might have been too early for me. I should have stuck with a linear progression longer.


How can anyone tell you that? The only thing you can do is adjust your volume and compare your own results.


Load up on intraworkout supps/nutrition -as much Plazma, aminos, bcaas glutamine as you can digest or within budget


Also Goddamn whats with this influx of 6’5’"+ guys lately? Feeling like a real shorty :sunglasses:


Exactly. And my chest is a weak point that I want to bring up as well. Pairing a push and pull never effect either movement for me personally.

I could possibly be overdoing it, but I find my body can recover. I think I just need to figure out my programming a bit better, and making sure I eat enough.


For what it is worth, I know people who are on 5/3/1 and are strong but not big. I think it comes down to the assistance lifts. Ill give you a direct example of what I just got done doing (will be switching my routine since my schedule is changing)

(Upper Body Days)
5/3/1 lift
Assistance 1 - 3 sets of as many reps as possible with a lift similar or identical to the 5/3/1 lift. The goal for this lift is to get 20 reps on the first set.
Assistance 2 - Antagonist movement to 5/3/1, heavier but reps for AMAP, 3-4 sets. My goal is 10 reps for the first set.
Extras - depending on how I feel or what need improvement, something simple like triceps, shoulder, biceps, etc
Cardio - Stationary Bike, Running, 100 air squats, anything fun that gets the heart beating.

(Lower Body Days)
5/3/1 lift
Assistance lift - 3 sets of AMAP reps, the goal here is 10. This lift is also similar to the 5/3/1 lift.
Weighted Carry - 3 sets for max distance. The weight depends on how my back feels.
Extras - good mornings, lunges (rarely), SLDS, anything that needs work.

Now, I cant explain why, but I have big legs, big torso, and A big yoke (small arms though) and don’t follow any sort of size building routine. All I do know is that this has worked for me pretty well. I feel the common denominator is using assistance lifts that can be hit for at least 10 reps and are done to failure. I have certainly seen my recovery improve between strength sets by doing these lifts. My diet is mediocre, but mostly consists of protein and fats, and very little carbs.


there’s not a damn thing wrong with this. It’s a fine example of a 5/3/1 bench day


You don’t need a new program, you need the actually follow the program.

You want a bigger chest? Get stronger. Period.

Nothing wrong with the above, but get rid of the “other back movement”. Concentrate on chest. Dips are amazing.


I doubt its author would agree.


what do you think he’d have issue with?


You 5/3/1 nazis crack me up. Not far from trumvirate or however it’s spelled.


Triumvirate purposely limits you to 3 movements (including the 5/3/1 lift) to prevent you from doing exactly what the OP is doing. That’s like saying a credit card is not far from a savings account.

Yogi, the basic structure of a 5/3/1 program is:
Main lift (eg 5/3/1)
Supplementary llift (eg BBB)
Accessories (eg chins)

You just don’t see two movements hit together for 4 rounds without any coherent purpose (make you better at X) to each part.

Anyway, the OP can do what he likes but someone else reading this shouldn’t be led to bbelieve this is 5/3/1.


Since you’re doing 5/3/1 and apparently are not happy with the results you’re getting with your program, there’s a maybe time to turn towards tested 5/3/1-hypertrophy programs: BBB-variations, Beach-Body Challenge, Building the Monolith etc…

You don’t need to hit million different exercises to grow. Try some of templates above and see what happens.