T Nation

Please Critique My Program


My program generally follows Wendler's 5/3/1 strength challenge template with a focus on weaknesses with the assistance lifts.

Primary goal is to get stronger OBV and keep adding weight to my primary lifts.

My squat focus is on speed, bench focus is on the top portion of the lift where I get stuck and deadlift focus is keeping my back tight which I find goes hand in hand with being strong of the floor and maximising posterior chain activation.

My Squat/Dead warm up:
-DeFrancoâ??s Agile 8
-Box Jumps 3x5*
-Exercise ball ham curls 3x6*
-Hip thrust: 3x8*
-Glute ham raise: 3x5*
-Bike 10-15 min*

*all low intensity done for posterior chain activation

Bench/Press warm up consists of DeFranco's Agile 8 along with a bunch of shoulder mobility work, lightweight pressing and wrist activation.

Conditioning + Hockey*

*This isnâ??t hockey played on a team. It consists of drills and technique rather than full on games. Games happen maybe twice a week and are played for fun (though still with full contact). I find it a great form of conditioning.

Squat: 5/3/1
Good Mornings: 5x8-12
Hip Thrust: 3x6-10
Hanging leg raise 4x8-12
-superseted with-
Ball Slams: 4x15

Press: 5/3/1
Rack press: 3x8-12
Pullups: 2x8-12
Kroc rows: (after a few warmup sets with light weight) 2x20-25
Pullups: 2x8-12

Conditioning + Hockey

Deficit Deadlift: 5/3/1 (Since I am fixing my deadlift, the TM is the most weight I can lift with immaculate technique)
Deadlift: (with 2 second hold just below knees) 3x8
Hanging leg raise 4x8-12
-superseted with-
Ball Slams: 4x15

Bench: 5/3/1 + FSL
Floor press: 3x6-10 @ 60% of bench TM
Pendalay Row: 3x8-10
Dips: 3x10-15

Box Jumps: 5x5
Safety Squat Bar Box Squat: 3x8 @ 50%
Squat: 2x25
Kettlebell Swings: 3x20
Bike: 20 min


Only thing that jumps out is the lack of rest. It would benefit you to have one day per week to just lay around and eat, so to speak.


What are your best lifts? This is very low frequency for the main lifts


How is hitting each of the main lifts once a week, and the squat twice a week, very low frequency? There are a zillion powerlifting programs based on exactly this frequency.


Well, maybe it wouldn't be considered low frequency from an American perspective, where programs are often influenced by the bodybuilding scene, but in Europe serious lifters Squat 3-4 times per week, bench 3-5 times per week and deadlift 1-3 times per week. This method has proven very effective, especially in terms of learning good technique but also in terms of putting up very big weights. If you're on some very good supplements or are very strong, such a low frequency probably isn't optimal. Which is why proven powerlifting programs, Texas Method, Starting Strength, Sheiko, Smolov often use a higher frequency.


Yeah, just my 2 cents, but I agree with Danemuscle. 5/3/1 is kind of a glorified bodybuilding routine.


fair enough. I definitely have an American bias. And I'm also self-biased, in that I've achieved decent results using similarly low frequency. It's hard for me to recommend very high frequencies when I haven't done them, although I certainly agree that Sheiko, Smolov, et al. have been proven effective.


I have my own views on training frequency, but I more just wanted to say that I don't really know of any authority that considers Starting Strength a proven powerlifting program. It tends to be more lumped in as just a beginner strength training program.

Based off the results I have seen it create, I'm honestly not a big fan of it, but I ran other abbreviated programs when I started that were effective.


I am of the philosophy of doing the least amount of work for the most amount of gain. If my lifts go up 5% in 6 weeks working out 3 days per week, but would go up 6% if I worked out 5 days, I would still stick with three day program. But that's just me.


My best lifts as of 2 weeks ago are 355-275-425*

*425 was my last PR with my old, not so great, deadlift form.
My best pull was 465. Not TOO ugly, but I wouldn't attempt it again.

I'm with you on this one I would love nothing more than to hit the main lifts a few times a week.

However, I am fixing my deadlift technique at the moment so it has no place in a high frequency program. Once the technique is down I will add frequency to reinforce the motor engram.

My bench and squat are still going up quite fast, I am hitting new PRs (rep PRs and 1rm PRs) every cycle.

You should know that I have not done a meet yet, my first will be in the spring. My plan is to run the 5/3/1 strength challenge a few more times (exactly 2) before my meet before switching to a more high frequency powerlifting program for all meets to follow. By then all my lifts should be top notch and ready to transition into a high frequency, ball busting regimen.


How do you know that your new technique is better than your old technique?


I'm indifferent to your choice of program, but if you stop to think about the statement above, you'll realize it makes no sense. How is performing a lift less often going to improve your technique? Every time you touch the bar is an opportunity to work on your technique.


agreed. I don't really understand the logic here. If I want to groove a new movement pattern, I'm going to do it more often, not less. When I was learning to perform a full clean, and I was trying to break bad habits, I did at least a few of them with a light weight every single time I went to the gym.


I think frequency has a lot to do with intensity, volume, RPE, and the person's individual ability to recover.

The way I see it, you can always change your frequency if you find that you aren't recovering well from workout to workout, or that you are fresh and ready to go 48 hours later.

Nothing is set in stone.


I definitely have seen examples of what in my eyes would constitute "low frequency programs" being quite effective, but mostly in terms of just building people up to the 400-300-500 range. What I'm trying to convey is, that what I did to achieve decent lifts fairly quickly (~400/~300/~570 IPF comp lifts) at 18 y/o was a higher frequency.

The stronger guys in my gym told me, that since I wasn't moving a lot of weight, it was a good idea to build my technique with higher frequency that wouldn't harm me because of not being very strong. In the case of a very strong and/or drugged (Which I have no bias against) I would think that low frequency programs would be better given the higher total tonnage. I've just never seen examples of strong IPF (meaning at least supposedly) drug free lifters using lower frequency programs.


For the sake of discussion, could you share an example of a higher frequency approach that worked for you? What kind of frequency? How was the intensity and volume waved over the days and weeks?


It seems like arguments are being made about two things: technique development and optimal strength progression, which can be mutually inclusive or exclusive. Good technique can build strength and shitty technique may also build strength. On the other hand, getting stronger doesn't necessarily mean that technique will improve.

For technique, we can argue all we want about increasing his total number of reps to give him more chances to practice but the most important thing is the quality of each rep. Quality comes before quantity in technique development. He should be training at weights challenging enough to require a great amount of effort while low enough to provide room for error so that he doesn't automatically revert to his old form.

This is typically a weight of moderate intensity, around 80%. I would recommend the OP get most of his work in at intensities around 75-85%. He could do extreme amounts of volume with 50% or less but that would be challenging his endurance and not providing a good enough stimulus for the muscles that are lagging due to improper form.

Working in the 50-70% range can build a base for strength development but I still don't think reps at that weight will have the greatest technique carry over to maximal weights as compared to the 75-85% range - good but not great carryover. The pause DL work he's doing for assistance is great as long as he's doing that with moderate intensities because it's technique focused and really targets/develops the lagging muscles.

For strength gains, the OP should do what allows him to make gains at the rate he wants while taking into consideration his experience and balancing risk/reward. If he puts on 5 lbs a month to his squat by only doing the lift once a week and he's satisfied, then that's fine. If his lifts starts to plateau despite having good technique, recovery and diet, then he could increase his frequency by just one day to see how it affects him for long term programming. When that is no longer effective then he can up the volume/frequency again. Jumping from 1x/week squatting to 3-4x/week doesn't make sense if he's already making good progress; and that drastic of a change can lead to injury. I'm only referring to long term programs that can be run year round, not something like Smolov.

I'm also assuming that each training day utilizes total volumes similar to Prilepin's Chart so increasing frequency effectively increases volume, e.g., not dividing 1 training day over 3-4 days and keeping weekly volume the same.


My old technique would make you cringe. The pull was 80% low back and 20% of a half asleep posterior chain. Anything is better than my old technique.

While this is true, I would like to get the technique down first. At the moment, I don't have any technique. Only the beginning of one. I'm still fucking around with foot position, bar position, breathing, muscle activation, etc. So far every deadlift session is an experiment and I wait a few days to see how things feel. I don't expect to be doing this for longer than a month at which point I will add in higher frequency as needed.

That's the plan!

Precisely why I don't want to start hammering away at the deadlifts yet.

I'm only 25 I have plenty of time to get on a high frequency program. It's not a race to see who can be strongest faster.

That being said, I have the same question as:

What high frequency programs are optimal for powerlifting and efficiently bringing up your lifts based on your personal experience?


Is "hip thrust" a glute bridge? If so, it's a pointless lift for most people.


In general it seems that volume is the indicator for experience level. Frequency is used to spread that volume throughout the week based on the ability to recover within a single training session or across training days. I'll show a few easy calculations of a typically weekly squat volume for some common programs that I have done based on repetitions x intensity including Bill Star 5x5, 5/3/1 BBB, Sheiko 29, and Smolov.

Bill Star 5x5 (Advanced) - 3x/Week Squatting
Week 2 Mon: 5 x 5 x 74% = 18.5
Week 2 Wed: 5 x 5 x 65% = 16.25
Week 2 Fri: 5 x 5 x AVG(48%,56%,64%,72%,80%) = 16
Total Week 2 Volume = 50.75
Average Intensity = 67.7%

5/3/1 BBB (Assume Training Max = 95% True Max) - 1x/Week Squatting
Week 2 Main: 3 x 70% x 95% + 3 x 80% x 95% + 6 x 90% x 95% = 9.4
Week 2 BBB Assistance: 5 x 10 x 60% x 95% = 28.5
Total Week 2 Volume = 37.9
Average Intensity = 61.1%

Sheiko 29 - 2x/Week Squatting
Week 4 Mon 1: 5 x 50% + 4 x 60% + 2 x 3 x 70% + 5 x 3 x 80% = 21.1
Week 4 Mon 2: 2 x 5 x 50% + 2 x 4 x 62.5% + 3 x 3 x 75% = 16.75
Week 4 Fri: 5 x 50% + 4 x 60% + 2 x 3 x 70% + 6 x 3 x 80% = 21
Total Week 4 Volume = 61.6
Average Intensity = 68.4%

Smolov - 4x/Week Squatting
Total Week 2 Volume = 111.8
Average Intensity = 82.2%

You can see how low the volume is for 5/3/1 but this is sustainable for beginner to intermediate. The volume for 5/3/1 is basically filled with body building work since the bulk of it is low intensity from assistance work. If the assistance work was taken to a higher intensity then volume would drop. But overall the program can help people get to a decent level of strength before gains begin to slow. You can see the jump in volume with the 5x5 Advanced and Sheiko. These volumes are sustainable once you acclimate to the volume. And finally you can see the ridiculous volume of Smolov which can be run successfully if diet and recover are dialed in but your body takes a beating and this can't be run often.

Edit: Corrected an error and added squatting frequency and average intensity for reference.