T Nation

Program Critique


Considerations/background: This is important when critiquing my program. I apparently have a herniated disc. It doesn’t hurt a whole lot, but if I use bad form, it can be tweaked and I am out. This has occurred for almost 2 years now. I’ve stretched/rolled for about an hour a day to rehab this for the past 2 months. I’ve also gone to the PT and doctor. I don’t feel the injury when squatting, but I do feel it when barbell deadlifting (if I have improper form) or if I arch in the bench. Because of this circumstance, I have taken heavy barbell deadlifts out, and subbed in trap bar deadlifts.

Also, I do not compete in any strength sport. I play tennis every day that I possibly can, including after my lifting session. Sometimes, I’d like to hit the ball instead of going to the gym that particular day, because it is a nice day, and the next day will be raining. Therefore, my schedule is often dictated by weather. At the same time, I’d like to be as strong as I can, given the time and effort I can afford to put in. I also do not have a consistent schedule of office/physical work for my career (sometimes I’m out doing physical work for days or weeks at a time, sometimes i’m in the office, theres no predicting it). Because of these reasons, I’ve created a program in which I can get in and out in an hour or so, and also a program in which the A, B, C workouts can be moved around, based on my schedule. B can be done the day after A. B can be switched with C. Though I wouldn’t ever do A after a B or C.

I’ve also been lifting for 6 years or so. I’ve ran juggernaught, candito LP, and 531 for months at a time. My numbers are still fairly novice.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of considerations, but have at it: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1561J-NGiyDj0Jb-xCNwf5r1SMBB5JeEBn6ayilioMLo/edit?usp=sharing


This is my opinion so take it for what it is.

This shouldn’t impede your performance too much. I’ve had one, and a slipped disc and still trained hard and heavy, just cautious.

So don’t use bad form, and make sure your brace. When benching, you shouldn’t be arching your low back but your upper back. Look up videos if you’re more visual. [quote=“kyle_eng, post:1, topic:228085”]
I have taken heavy barbell deadlifts out, and subbed in trap bar deadlifts.

This is fine. Unless you powerlift, its fine to sub it in

This is where my issues lie. I do not see how you have lifted this long, on programs such as these, and still have the numbers you do. Not being a dick, but you shouldn’t have novice numbers after that long. Also, if you have disc issues, why is there nothing to help with spinal compression in your program? I’d be doing trunk work and hyperextensions or GHR every session and maybe a few extra sets when you sit at the office.

I personally think you should go back to one of those programs you’ve tried in the past, do it right and make it your life, and then come back if you need to. Beacause this:

Is bullshit if you want to get strong.


I’ve been advised not to do those exercises by my physical therapist. Only certain ab exercises, which to me seem like minimal effort. I’m not writing in all those exercises I’m doing in the program in my document. but I am doing certain exercises and stretches every day for hamstrings and glutes.

Regarding my time that I put in, I’d like to get as strong as I can given the time I put in. We all have our standards and priorities. For me, my gf occupies my weekends, so friday-sunday are off limits. For me, tennis > weightroom, so I’m accepting that I will only get as strong as the time I put in. For you, strong may be a 405 squat, but for me, 315 - 375 is good enough. I don’t have time to make the weightroom my life because there are more important things to me. I will accept low numbers, but I do not want to accept my strength if I can do better with the 3-4 hours I have in the gym/week.

Here is my juggernaut spreadsheet if you’re interested: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1LtMas0jyvrPsF6J-zTk7cq-7AL0F2q-AIMRXV79S-AQ/edit?usp=sharing

Given this information, how do you feel about the exercise and rep scheme of my program? Programs like juggernaut and 531 were fun. I loved them, but I feel I needed to be exposed to heavier weight. For example in my squat, I always tried my hardest on the AMRAPS, and came out to the same projected max… until I started hitting heavier weights. As soon as ~240lbs came, everything felt dramatically heavier. I probably wasn’t used to the heavier weights. Therefore, I’m doing 5s.


The spreadsheet doesn’t make any sense to me because I only see a deadlift there but no types of squatting, and no horizontal or vertical pressing. It just looks like a lot of fluff. Why are you doing good mornings if you have a herniated disc? I would just run 531, don’t worry about the maxes and eat. Too many people get caught up in max weight and blah blah blah. Just go in the gym and put in quality work. You could even look up some of Jim’s 2 day a week training if tennis is number one for you so you can still strength train without worry of your tennis dropping.


This is a tough task to address. I understand you’d rather play tennis than lift. I’d rather pay basketball. I also want to be bigger and stronger than the average person. This requires me to make lifting a priority over basketball. You only have so much gas in the tank; your secondary focus will always suffer. For me, my legs are usually sore and tired when I play ball.

If you’re playing tennis then I’m assuming you spend some significant time on the court because it’s not a short/quick game.

If you want to improve your strength 100lbs or more (on squat per your reference) then you’ll have to be consistent and make it a priority. You don’t have to trade your racket for power lifting gear, but spend 12-16 weeks where you really focus on strength.

Make some gains and then go to a maintenance lifting program and back to the court.

If your spreadsheet is completed then it appears your problem might be that you’re missing workouts too often. If you like 5/3/1 then run that and do the “Ain’t Doing Jack Shit” assistance program when you’re pressed for time. Add Jokers to get under some heavier weights after your AMRAP sets.

Plan your week in advance. If you have more time certain days then do more on those days. I plan my longer workouts on my days off and leave the shorter stuff for work days.

Again, I understand you want to be your best under your circumstances but strength isn’t a passive achievement. Would it be that bad if you picked a phase of your year to attack strength gains? Maybe winter or summer when the weather is a bit cold or too hot?


I think everybody is looking at the wrong spreadsheet. You guys are looking at my juggernaut spreadsheet, which is a great program. Thank you for your sensible post Jmaier.

While I do typically miss workouts pretty often when I was on a 4 day split, I’m doing pretty well on the 3 day split. I’ve only missed one week + 1 one session, and that was because I had a lot to do that week, plus the gym closed very early. I treat these as deloads instead of scheduled deloads, but this happens fairly often enough where something comes up.


Also, this is exactly what I do. I tend to spend more time in the winter lifting, and on rainy days like today, im there longer.


I looked at the spreadsheet in your first post. It had three months (tabs) and appeared to be a 3 days/week total body split.

I haven’t done Juggernaut so I’ll stick with 5/3/1 references since I’m familiar.

I read A LOT. A common thing I’ve noticed over the past year is programs with 3 total sets. Sets 1-2 are working sets and land at about a 7 out if 10 in terms of effort. Set 3 is all out to technical failure. Both 5/3/1 and CT’s Best Damn Workout For Naturals have this. CT’s program advocates high frequency/low volume workouts. Your spreadsheet has that. 5/3/1 has a total body program that’s 3 days per week and you get to practice squats all three days. You can also structure it to do the 5/3/1 reps on bench and BBB or FSL with overhead press. The same applies to squats and bench.

That program gives you frequency which is good for us naturals but it also gives you more reps (practice) on the strength movements.

I think your workout should get results as long as you don’t miss days, put in the right effort, and follow a good progression. It might also be necessary to lift before tennis or on non-playing days.


I didn’t realize 531 had a full body that lets you practice that frequently. I knew of one that lets you practice each lift twice. The second day was always too easy (it made me wonder why I even made the commute to the gym).

I will definitely look in to the 531 routine that you’re talking. I loved 531 when I was doing it, it was just difficult with my schedule. I know I miss days (though i’d still usually make it to the weightroom at least 2-3 times a week), but my work is also physical. There are many days where I would just perform 3-4 reps shy of what I normally could get because my body was just tired.

I’m trying to create a program in which it is acceptable to move days around a little, and where it is ok to not perform at your best every time. Would this work with 531 in any scenario you can think of?

Also, this might sound very noobish… but why is strength not a passive pursuit. And I mean very moderate strength. I see these people on starting strength getting 3-4 plate 3x5 sets before they stall willy nilly. Seems like they just follow the program 3 days a week and they’re good. Nothing special.


Here’s an idea. I don’t think it’s one of Jim’s templates but it’s inspired by one.

The total body template in Beyond had 5/3/1 squats on Monday and then 3x5 with 65/75/85% on Wed & Fri which is basically week 1. Jim also offered 3x3 @ 70/80/90% or 5,3,1 @ 75/85/95% as an option for Wed & Fri. Using that I think you could do this:

Squat 5/3/1
Deadlift 3x5 @65/75/85%
Bench 5/3/1
OHP 3x5 @65/75/85%

Squat 3x5 @65/75/85%
OHP 5/3/1
Bench 3x5 @65/75/85%

Deadlift 5/3/1
Squat 3x5 @65/75/85%
Bench 3x5 @65/75/85%
OHP 3x5 @65/75/85%

If you can squat 3 days per week then why not bench and OHP? You could deadlift Wed too but I figured twice was enough. As I mentioned above the 3x5 could be 3x3 or 5,3,1 with their usual percentages.

Also, the original book had 3x5-10 with 40/50/60% for squats on Wed & Fri. You could do that rep scheme if you’re feeling fatigued.

I haven’t tried this personally. This is just a variation of 3 days a week, full body training, that I’ve created based on how Jim suggests to do the squat on the full body template. See the book for his actual template.

You can also do a 4 day program and stretch it to 4 weeks instead of 3. Days 1-3 MWF on week 1. Day 4, 1 & 2 MWF week 2 and so on.


I looked at both. Your first program had a good idea, but not enough especially for a natural imo. And the second one doesn’t look anything like a juggernaut method I’ve ever seen. Just get on a 2 or 3 day 531 and go from there. To me, you just need to be consistent with a program for AT LEAST a year and eat. I honestly don’t get why it has to be very hard. If I were in your position with injuries and such I would just hammer overhead press and trap bar deads (and add in a squat variant to practice) twice a week once heavy and one with more volume and the middle day I would squat heavier if you can and do a bench variant. You never see anybody yoked playing tennis so take that for what it is. If tennis is the main idea, train with weights twice a week and train agility and bodyweight the other days.


You could also try to get her to train with you. Or I’m sure she wouldn’t mind you slipping out for an hour and a half. Shouldn’t be too big of a deal


I’ve tried; we just fight. She doesn’t wanna work out with me, nor does she want me to leave.

I appreciate the help, greatly. Unless you understand my commitments, priorities, and scheduling, i don’t expect you to understand why this is so difficult. I’ve tried explaining it to other people over the internet in the past, and most people don’t get it, but for my friends in town who do know who I am, it is very easy for them to understand.

This is why I asked for help to look at MY program, not to suggest another program. I’ve done and looked at other programs. They’re great, but do not fit my needs. Many programs work; they would probably work better than mine if lifting was a higher priority, or if I didnt have so many other commitments. I think my program works; I’m asking how can I make THIS program better.

So because tennis holds a priority, and because I have many other commitments, I need a program which isn’t extremely intense and high volume. I need a program which is flexible, in which I can shift days around. In addition, let’s say I have an off day, which is often due to work, I need a program that won’t be affected in the following weeks if I skip or under perform. I need a program which has variation, because imo, SBD is too narrow and we need different planes of motion. I need a program that gets me in an out quickly. I need a program that addresses my squat, as it is my lagging point. I need a program that isn’t extremely intense on my back. I’d like a program that has a weekly progressive overload, as opposed to rep PRs (for now) because this is something I haven’t done before.


So try and do the 531 2 days a week and add squats to both days and add a 3rd day of squatting when you can. And on the 3rd day if you do not feel fulfilled, do some bodyweight and agility work. I really want to help you and know that I did help. Ha


If it means anything, I am going to try to do more agility exercises whenever I have time, or at least something more dynamic than pushing, pressing, and pulling. I just didn’t want to sound argumentative, my friend.


You might consider a push/pull or upper/lower split. It allows you to train every day or miss days. It won’t affect the program if you lift 2 days one week and 5 the next. That’s the best approach for flexibility.

Look at CT’s stuff for progressive overload ideas. He’s currently doing 1x3, 7x2 on an exercise. The next workout he does 2x3,6x2. Then 3x3,5x2 and so in until he hits 8x3. Then he adds weight and starts over. You could try that for your squat.

A recent article of his also discussed the best rep ranges for different goals and I don’t think any of them had AMRAP sets.


I will look into CT’s stuff. I’ve never read his stuff, but I’m doing something similar for my pull up progression. I’ll do 3x6 in week 1, then 4x6 the next, then 3x7 the next, and 4x7 the next, etc.


Not at all brother. Love hearing different opinions and seeing what works and what doesn’t. I hope everything turns out great for you man