T Nation

New Programme Critique


#1

Hi, I'm 38 and have been lifting on/off for 20 years. Consistently now for nearly 2 years, I was following a linear progression program before my gains stopped before switching to 531 about 4 months ago.

I have a few questions about my assistance work/conditioning. This is my set up so far.

Day 1 531 bench s/set chin ups
5x5 bench s/set 5x10 dumbell rows

Day 2 531 squat
5x5 squat
5x15 incline weighted sit ups

Day 3 rest

Day 4 531 press s/set chin ups
5x5 press s/set 5x10 dumbell rows

Day 5 rest

Day 6 531 deadlift
5x5 deadlift
5x15 weighted incline sit up

Day 7 rest

I'm Doing my 5x5 assistance lifts using 80% of my training max and limiting jokers to my 531 week every other cycle.

My weakness is my upper back, I can only do a max of 3 chin ups, so I'm only doing sets of 1 or 2 between my 531 pressing sets, so I feel I'm missing out on volume.
What's the best way to increase my chin up max? And overall upper back volume?

I've been doing 20-30 mins liss cardio after my lifting, i was thinking of switching to high intensity intervals on the rowing machine. How long and often should this be done and is this better done after lifting or on rest days?

Also stretching and foam rolling before and after squat and deadlift days.

Thanks in advance for any input.


#2

Would be good to explain your goals with this training cycle(s), will help assesment.

note on the chins - im quite bad myself, i use bands as assistance to help me get reps. rather than 5x10 i just aim for a total of 50 reps aiming to reduce sets performed when i can


#3

Frequency has always helped my chin-up numbers. Sub-max sets throughout the day almost everyday seem to work well for most including myself.

Edit: when I peaked in terms of chin-up numbers, is when I had a chin-up bar hanging on my bathroom door. Whenever I needed to use the bathroom or felt bored, I cranked out a set of about 50% max reps. This took my max-rep chin-ups from about 15 to 25+ (with virtually the same bodyweight). I’d suggest something like that or similar. If your est. max set is 3, just do sets of 1-2 throughout the day, adding reps as it becomes easier.

For upper-back/traps, Power Cleans are a great way to add extra strength and size to your routine, and they fit well before squats or deads. Sometimes I like to do sort of an fsl for Power Clean at the end of my workout, by using the first set weight for an all-out barbell row. Since incorporating this strategy my upper back feels much more full and stable.


#4

TXiron that’s interesting. I’ve read about and heard people talk about frequent sub-max pull-ups for increasing your pull-up numbers. do you have a fixed number of sets you usually do throughout the day? or does it vary?


#5

[quote]BlastTyrant wrote:
TXiron that’s interesting. I’ve read about and heard people talk about frequent sub-max pull-ups for increasing your pull-up numbers. do you have a fixed number of sets you usually do throughout the day? or does it vary?[/quote]

Well there are programs out there that shoot for a set number, and would likely shoot your numbers up pretty fast. Personally, each day widely varied; I used a bit of auto-regulation in that overall volume heavily depended upon how I felt that day. Some days I felt great and did 10+ sets throughout the day, some days I just hit a few reps until I got bored after a set or two, some days I did none.

To be honest, I just did them because I enjoyed them, and carried about in this manner until I realized that a few months had gone by and my pull-up numbers had spiked. Like most things training-wise, time coupled with consistency was the biggest factor for me with this.


#6

Unless you are running some sort of cycle (which I doubt), I don’t quite understand why you are doing 5x5 @80% every single training session. That’s not something that should be kept year round. As well, If you know your back is a weakness why are you not training it? 5/3/1 is meant to be a template. Any successful training program will have clearly defined goals within a certain period of time, a logical progression, and address weakpoints. I suggest you:

-Write down some goals to attain within a certain period of time
-Figure out how you will progress and attain these goals within that time (ie. a plan)
-Figure out what your weakpoints are (back if you say so) and incorporate that into the plan


#7

Also, the best way to increase back volume is to increase back volume.


#8

my aims are for improved overall strength and added lean upper body mass.

I’m eating at maintenance atm. And my big lifts are still going up. When my lifts start stalling I plan on increasing calories, but I am wanting to get my chin ups numbers up before this.


#9

[quote]TX iron wrote:

[quote]BlastTyrant wrote:
TXiron that’s interesting. I’ve read about and heard people talk about frequent sub-max pull-ups for increasing your pull-up numbers. do you have a fixed number of sets you usually do throughout the day? or does it vary?[/quote]

Well there are programs out there that shoot for a set number, and would likely shoot your numbers up pretty fast. Personally, each day widely varied; I used a bit of auto-regulation in that overall volume heavily depended upon how I felt that day. Some days I felt great and did 10+ sets throughout the day, some days I just hit a few reps until I got bored after a set or two, some days I did none.

To be honest, I just did them because I enjoyed them, and carried about in this manner until I realized that a few months had gone by and my pull-up numbers had spiked. Like most things training-wise, time coupled with consistency was the biggest factor for me with this.[/quote]

I like the sound of this method, how often would you test you max set?


#10

[quote]PlainPat wrote:
Unless you are running some sort of cycle (which I doubt), I don’t quite understand why you are doing 5x5 @80% every single training session. That’s not something that should be kept year round. As well, If you know your back is a weakness why are you not training it? 5/3/1 is meant to be a template. Any successful training program will have clearly defined goals within a certain period of time, a logical progression, and address weakpoints. I suggest you:

-Write down some goals to attain within a certain period of time
-Figure out how you will progress and attain these goals within that time (ie. a plan)
-Figure out what your weakpoints are (back if you say so) and incorporate that into the plan
[/quote]
Thanks for the input, how long would you recommend running the 5x5 assistance for and at what percentage? I was planning on 3 cycles before reassessing it.

I like the structured plan approach, and I know what I want to achieve I have set goals by the end of the year. I’m Just unsure on how to improve my chin ups and which back exercises and volume/frequency to use.

If I took the just doing 50 reps in as few sets as possible using assistance bands route, then 5x10 dumbell rows on upper body days, does that look like enough work?


#11

[quote]Steve7600t wrote:

[quote]TX iron wrote:

[quote]BlastTyrant wrote:
TXiron that’s interesting. I’ve read about and heard people talk about frequent sub-max pull-ups for increasing your pull-up numbers. do you have a fixed number of sets you usually do throughout the day? or does it vary?[/quote]

Well there are programs out there that shoot for a set number, and would likely shoot your numbers up pretty fast. Personally, each day widely varied; I used a bit of auto-regulation in that overall volume heavily depended upon how I felt that day. Some days I felt great and did 10+ sets throughout the day, some days I just hit a few reps until I got bored after a set or two, some days I did none.

To be honest, I just did them because I enjoyed them, and carried about in this manner until I realized that a few months had gone by and my pull-up numbers had spiked. Like most things training-wise, time coupled with consistency was the biggest factor for me with this.[/quote]

I like the sound of this method, how often would you test you max set?[/quote]

I actually never planned for a max set attempt, I just did them when I felt really good, which was usually about once a week. However even then I never went to true failure, only did that about once a month.


#12

you should do KROC ROWS after your d.b. rows one day with straps and the other without and just keep plugging along on the chins they will come


#13

[quote]Steve7600t wrote:

[quote]PlainPat wrote:
Unless you are running some sort of cycle (which I doubt), I don’t quite understand why you are doing 5x5 @80% every single training session. That’s not something that should be kept year round. As well, If you know your back is a weakness why are you not training it? 5/3/1 is meant to be a template. Any successful training program will have clearly defined goals within a certain period of time, a logical progression, and address weakpoints. I suggest you:

-Write down some goals to attain within a certain period of time
-Figure out how you will progress and attain these goals within that time (ie. a plan)
-Figure out what your weakpoints are (back if you say so) and incorporate that into the plan
[/quote]
Thanks for the input, how long would you recommend running the 5x5 assistance for and at what percentage? I was planning on 3 cycles before reassessing it.

I like the structured plan approach, and I know what I want to achieve I have set goals by the end of the year. I’m Just unsure on how to improve my chin ups and which back exercises and volume/frequency to use.

If I took the just doing 50 reps in as few sets as possible using assistance bands route, then 5x10 dumbell rows on upper body days, does that look like enough work?[/quote]

I wouldn’t do 5x5@ 80% with 5/3/1 for more than 1-2 cycles at most before moving on… It’s something that should fit into a more lengthy plan. That’s medium volume and medium intensity and would fit into the middle of a longer plan.

You sound like youre mostly focused on hypertrophy but want some strength focus so this is what I’m going to recommend keeping in mind that you want to work on back the most:

Weeks 1-6: 3/5/1 with BBB at 60% 5x10
Weeks 7: deload
Weeks 8-13: 3/5/1 with FSL for 5 sets of 6-8
Weeks 14: deload
Weeks 15-17: 3/5/1 with 80%x5x5
Weeks 18-20: 3/5/1 with 90% for 5 singles
Weeks 21: Deload
Weeks 22-24: 3/5/1 with Second set last for an AMRAP set and jokers on week 3

Then possibly deload and test or restart with more hypertrophy work.

In this plan you can see you spend a lot more time at the bottom of the triangle working with mostly volume at 60-75% at most. Then You spend some time in middle part of the triangle with your 5x5 at 80% work after. After That you spend a small period of time (6 weeks) focusing on strength with lower volume and highest intensity of the whole cycle.

I would keep a template like this:

Squat Day
-Squat 3/5/1 and such
-Chins 50 total reps
-Back Extensions or Ab Rollouts 3-5x10-15

Bench Day
-Bench 3/5/1 and such
-BB Rows 3-5x8-12
-Dips 50 total reps

Deadlift Day
-Deadlift 3/5/1 and such
-Weighted Chins 3-5 sets of 6-8
-Ab work or Hamstring work 3-5x12-15

Press Day
-Press 3/5/1 and such
-DB or T-bar Rows 3-5x8-12 or high rep kroc rows
-Dips weighted 3-5x6-8

You do back work everyday, working on chins on the days that you do lower body and rowing work on the days you do upper.


#14

I’d recomend: Do your rows after your 5x5 sets rather than superset, and do sets of chins between EVERY set of presses. Use your weakest grip on one of the days, and your strongest grip for the other if that is something that applies to you. I’d also recomend replacing the rows on Press day with pulldowns if your chins are that bad, and toss in an additional set or 2 of high rep dumbell rows at the end of deadlift day. Start out with half your max reps for every set, and just gradually add one rep to the total volume every week spaced out over the sets.


#15

Good call. I’m gonna do that for awhile and see where it takes me. Like you, I love doing pull-ups. And being able to do more can never hurt. Did you find the need to adjust your accessory work? Obviously if you add something in its smart to take something out, but I’m thinking this wouldn’t be stressful enough to have to change any of your accessory work


#16

[quote]PlainPat wrote:

[quote]Steve7600t wrote:

[quote]PlainPat wrote:
Unless you are running some sort of cycle (which I doubt), I don’t quite understand why you are doing 5x5 @80% every single training session. That’s not something that should be kept year round. As well, If you know your back is a weakness why are you not training it? 5/3/1 is meant to be a template. Any successful training program will have clearly defined goals within a certain period of time, a logical progression, and address weakpoints. I suggest you:

-Write down some goals to attain within a certain period of time
-Figure out how you will progress and attain these goals within that time (ie. a plan)
-Figure out what your weakpoints are (back if you say so) and incorporate that into the plan
[/quote]
Thanks for the input, how long would you recommend running the 5x5 assistance for and at what percentage? I was planning on 3 cycles before reassessing it.

I like the structured plan approach, and I know what I want to achieve I have set goals by the end of the year. I’m Just unsure on how to improve my chin ups and which back exercises and volume/frequency to use.

If I took the just doing 50 reps in as few sets as possible using assistance bands route, then 5x10 dumbell rows on upper body days, does that look like enough work?[/quote]

I wouldn’t do 5x5@ 80% with 5/3/1 for more than 1-2 cycles at most before moving on… It’s something that should fit into a more lengthy plan. That’s medium volume and medium intensity and would fit into the middle of a longer plan.

You sound like youre mostly focused on hypertrophy but want some strength focus so this is what I’m going to recommend keeping in mind that you want to work on back the most:

Weeks 1-6: 3/5/1 with BBB at 60% 5x10
Weeks 7: deload
Weeks 8-13: 3/5/1 with FSL for 5 sets of 6-8
Weeks 14: deload
Weeks 15-17: 3/5/1 with 80%x5x5
Weeks 18-20: 3/5/1 with 90% for 5 singles
Weeks 21: Deload
Weeks 22-24: 3/5/1 with Second set last for an AMRAP set and jokers on week 3

Then possibly deload and test or restart with more hypertrophy work.

In this plan you can see you spend a lot more time at the bottom of the triangle working with mostly volume at 60-75% at most. Then You spend some time in middle part of the triangle with your 5x5 at 80% work after. After That you spend a small period of time (6 weeks) focusing on strength with lower volume and highest intensity of the whole cycle.

I would keep a template like this:

Squat Day
-Squat 3/5/1 and such
-Chins 50 total reps
-Back Extensions or Ab Rollouts 3-5x10-15

Bench Day
-Bench 3/5/1 and such
-BB Rows 3-5x8-12
-Dips 50 total reps

Deadlift Day
-Deadlift 3/5/1 and such
-Weighted Chins 3-5 sets of 6-8
-Ab work or Hamstring work 3-5x12-15

Press Day
-Press 3/5/1 and such
-DB or T-bar Rows 3-5x8-12 or high rep kroc rows
-Dips weighted 3-5x6-8

You do back work everyday, working on chins on the days that you do lower body and rowing work on the days you do upper.
[/quote]
Firstly, thanks for taking time to give such a detailed response, looking at a plan like that I can see the bigger picture rather than just jumping from 1 assistance template to another, they follow a structure.

I already did 2x 3 week cycles of bbb before moving onto this cycle of 5x5, should I…

  1. carry on as though it’s week 17
  2. finish this cycle, deload and pick up from week 8
  3. finish this cycle, deload and start at week 1

Also should I push the +sets? I do at the moment as my weights are relatively low being on my 3rd cycle, I feel like a pussy if I stop at the prescribed reps. I shoot for 10,8,6 reps

I never thought of doing back on all days as I had my mindset on it being 2day upper/lower programme but I will give that a go as it gives me the extra volume and variety of exercises.


#17

[quote]Steve7600t wrote:

[quote]PlainPat wrote:

[quote]Steve7600t wrote:

[quote]PlainPat wrote:
Unless you are running some sort of cycle (which I doubt), I don’t quite understand why you are doing 5x5 @80% every single training session. That’s not something that should be kept year round. As well, If you know your back is a weakness why are you not training it? 5/3/1 is meant to be a template. Any successful training program will have clearly defined goals within a certain period of time, a logical progression, and address weakpoints. I suggest you:

-Write down some goals to attain within a certain period of time
-Figure out how you will progress and attain these goals within that time (ie. a plan)
-Figure out what your weakpoints are (back if you say so) and incorporate that into the plan
[/quote]
Thanks for the input, how long would you recommend running the 5x5 assistance for and at what percentage? I was planning on 3 cycles before reassessing it.

I like the structured plan approach, and I know what I want to achieve I have set goals by the end of the year. I’m Just unsure on how to improve my chin ups and which back exercises and volume/frequency to use.

If I took the just doing 50 reps in as few sets as possible using assistance bands route, then 5x10 dumbell rows on upper body days, does that look like enough work?[/quote]

I wouldn’t do 5x5@ 80% with 5/3/1 for more than 1-2 cycles at most before moving on… It’s something that should fit into a more lengthy plan. That’s medium volume and medium intensity and would fit into the middle of a longer plan.

You sound like youre mostly focused on hypertrophy but want some strength focus so this is what I’m going to recommend keeping in mind that you want to work on back the most:

Weeks 1-6: 3/5/1 with BBB at 60% 5x10
Weeks 7: deload
Weeks 8-13: 3/5/1 with FSL for 5 sets of 6-8
Weeks 14: deload
Weeks 15-17: 3/5/1 with 80%x5x5
Weeks 18-20: 3/5/1 with 90% for 5 singles
Weeks 21: Deload
Weeks 22-24: 3/5/1 with Second set last for an AMRAP set and jokers on week 3

Then possibly deload and test or restart with more hypertrophy work.

In this plan you can see you spend a lot more time at the bottom of the triangle working with mostly volume at 60-75% at most. Then You spend some time in middle part of the triangle with your 5x5 at 80% work after. After That you spend a small period of time (6 weeks) focusing on strength with lower volume and highest intensity of the whole cycle.

I would keep a template like this:

Squat Day
-Squat 3/5/1 and such
-Chins 50 total reps
-Back Extensions or Ab Rollouts 3-5x10-15

Bench Day
-Bench 3/5/1 and such
-BB Rows 3-5x8-12
-Dips 50 total reps

Deadlift Day
-Deadlift 3/5/1 and such
-Weighted Chins 3-5 sets of 6-8
-Ab work or Hamstring work 3-5x12-15

Press Day
-Press 3/5/1 and such
-DB or T-bar Rows 3-5x8-12 or high rep kroc rows
-Dips weighted 3-5x6-8

You do back work everyday, working on chins on the days that you do lower body and rowing work on the days you do upper.
[/quote]
Firstly, thanks for taking time to give such a detailed response, looking at a plan like that I can see the bigger picture rather than just jumping from 1 assistance template to another, they follow a structure.

I already did 2x 3 week cycles of bbb before moving onto this cycle of 5x5, should I…

  1. carry on as though it’s week 17
  2. finish this cycle, deload and pick up from week 8
  3. finish this cycle, deload and start at week 1

Also should I push the +sets? I do at the moment as my weights are relatively low being on my 3rd cycle, I feel like a pussy if I stop at the prescribed reps. I shoot for 10,8,6 reps

I never thought of doing back on all days as I had my mindset on it being 2day upper/lower programme but I will give that a go as it gives me the extra volume and variety of exercises.
[/quote]

If I had already done 2 cycle of BBB then I would start at week 8 and go with option 2, but that’s highly individual based on focus. Spending more time and going back to week 1 is still an option but that’s something if you want to focus on more hypertrophy. If at this point you feel like your 6 weeks of BBB added quality mass and you’re ready to work up and hit some PRs then go for it.

I would hold back some days and push on other days. Again kind of individual. I think it’s smart to hold back on 5’s week to give yourself a break but I know some people are able to and benefit from pushing every week. Try each one out and determine which benefits you more.

As to assistance exercises and the back question in general yeah it’s again kind of up to the person designing the program. 5/3/1 is a good template, it can be altered in 1000s of ways to fit different goals. I would only run it hitting back every day if you think that’s a big weakpoint for you or if your goal is increased back strength/mass to carry over into the main lifts.

Your best bet as to picking assistance work is to video your lifts, look at where you have sticking points, then picking 1-3 movements that work on hitting this weakness. For me I know that back work is important to all my lifts so I hit it every day. I also know that I have trouble keeping upright squatting as well as shaking on pulls around the knee area which has been fixed before with ab work for me so I hit lots of rollouts and planks on my lower days. For OH I suck at the top so I hit lots of tricep work. Bench, I suck off my chest and hit more wide grip work on backdown sets and dips etc.

I hope that gives some indication of what to do with 5/3/1. There’s no real WRONG way to use 5/3/1. There are more intelligent ways that Jim can tell you directly, but in the end it is only a template and you have to use your head and think “what do I need and how do I keep it within the 4 core principles”


#18

[quote]BlastTyrant wrote:
Good call. I’m gonna do that for awhile and see where it takes me. Like you, I love doing pull-ups. And being able to do more can never hurt. Did you find the need to adjust your accessory work? Obviously if you add something in its smart to take something out, but I’m thinking this wouldn’t be stressful enough to have to change any of your accessory work[/quote]

No, because the reps and sets weren’t pre-determined and everything was based on feel, recovery never became an issue. Of course if I knew I was going to be doing some heavy pulling the next day I didn’t go nuts. Good luck!


#19

Awesome thanks man. I’m excited to keep at it for awhile and see where I can take it


#20

@PlainPat - I’ve been doing 5x5@85% bench/squat assistance for the last six or seven months as per the 1000% Awesome Template and have added at least 35lbs to my bench and at least 50lbs to my squat doing so, and have dropped nearly 25lbs bw in the process. I have to disagree with your point about long term 5x5 implementation.