T Nation

Program Help


#1

Hello, I am looking for a bit of help with programs. I am currently doing a 5x5 setup that has stopped working for me. I have heard of great results with the 5/3/1 program and was wondering if its right for me?

My numbers are not the great (compared to many here) and my goals are generally to look better and be slightly stronger. I'm not aiming to bench 3 plates for reps but a solid set of 5 with 2 plates would be great, for example.

I can give diet, current routine, height, etc if needed.

Thanks in advance.


#2

[quote]vancouvernewbie wrote:
I am currently doing a 5x5 setup that has stopped working for me. I have heard of great results with the 5/3/1 program and was wondering if its right for me?[/quote]
5/3/1 is a very solid program. If 5x5 has legitimately “stopped” working for you, and you’ve squeezed out all the progress you can from it, it might be time to switch.

Current weekly plan (days, exercises, sets, and reps), height/weight/general fat level, and current strength in the bench and other basic lifts would definitely help.

Really not a lot of info to go on right now though.


#3

I just didn’t want to overload that first post with information.

29 years old, well 30 in 3 weeks. 6 feet tall, 178lbs with about 11% body fat (can see the hint of abs). Current lifts, not sure of 1rep max but, squat 195lbs 5x6 was fine, bench 3x5 with 175lbs, deadlift 275lbs 4x5. These numbers were all this/last week. My goals are to look better, but also add some strength such as 235lb squat for 5, bench 185 for 5 and deadlift 365 for 1.

Routine
Monday
5x5 back squats
5x6 front squats
5x10 single leg squats
glute bridge or deadlift from a dificit of about 1 inch

Wednesday
3x5 bench press
3x5 close grip bench press
3x8 incline press
tricep & chest work on cable machine

Friday
work up to 3x5 deadlift
deadlift with hold at the top with supinated grip until failure x3
lat pull down 5x10
low cable row 3x8

Saturday
5x5 overhead press
3x8 behind the neck press
3x10 lateral raises
5x12 bent over raises

Sunday
20min walk around neighbourhood
~12 sets of ab work

Diet
typical Tuesday-Saturday (days I work)
1.5 cups of oatmeal breakfast
1 protein shake snack
3/4 cups of brown rice & chicken (or random meat) with olive oil for lunch
3/4 cups of brown rice & chicken (or random meat) with olive oil again for dinner
about 1.5 cups of greek yogurt snack
and plenty of water throughout.

Hope this helps


#4

[quote]vancouvernewbie wrote:
6 feet tall, 178lbs with about 11% body fat (can see the hint of abs). Current lifts, not sure of 1rep max but, squat 195lbs 5x6 was fine, bench 3x5 with 175lbs, deadlift 275lbs 4x5. These numbers were all this/last week.[/quote]
Yeah, I was afraid of that. Have you had any injuries in the last few months or lapses where you skipped the gym?

Over a year ago, you were almost the same bodyweight and had almost the same maxes. What’ve you been up to, man?


"Weight 172lbs
BF% approx 13.5%

Current lifting:
Squat 240lbs 3x5, or 205lbs 5x5
Deadlift 225lbs 3x3 or 285lbs for 1
Beach 155lbs 5x5"

Not calling you out necessarily, just pointing out that in a very long time you’ve made very little progress. The most likely reason is diet. You’re simply not eating enough total calories (to gain muscular bodyweight) and/or enough quality protein (to gain muscular bodyweight).

Use this info to set up your approach to nutrition:

Can you get a little more specific on this?

Maybe it’s time to take a break from the 5x5. I don’t agree that it’s “stopped working”, but I think you might be done with it for now. You’ve been on it, sort of, for a pretty long time and it hasn’t clicked.

Give this a shot:


#5

I am about your size and age, which I know everyone is different but I managed to squeeze a 315 squat, 235 bench, and 365 dead out of a simple starting strength program before starting to grind and switching to something else.

Also, from what you said you eat, provided you don’t drink anything but water because you didn’t specify, you are probably only getting like 1500-2000 cals a day which is low for someone your size who is training as well.

Edit: I gave my stats as a way to say, maybe you could use a simple linear progression model like SS or SL5x5 3 or 4 months and I think that could get you to your strength goals. Then maybe you could switch to a more complex job but I think if you eat enough you still have a lot of fairly quick linear progress left in you.


#6

@Chris - no major injury, but I did strain my back doing squats once and deadlift once, since I didn’t grasp the idea of keeping tight properly and breathing into the lower part of the belly and not chest. When I did the 240 3x5 squat I was doing low bar and wide stance, but after looking at a few videos I was very high. I switched to high bar, closer stance (and got some lifting shoes) which feels a more natural stance for me.

I have actually increased my overhead press which I think is a good start. Slightly better form (a lot less lean back) and now doing 120lbs for reps. But you are right, I’m not overly strong at all. I do worry about benching because I workout in the AM before work, and dont have a partner. Slow and steady isn’t working out for me I guess.

I was doing SS 5x5 with squats every session and after picking up my lifting shoes found myself not doing squats as often since between mobility work and changing shoes, I dont have enough Wednesday and Friday mornings. I ended up putting Squats Monday etc because I thought I could still make progress. I am not, which is why I was asking for program help. I probably should have stuck to a program rather than alter one so much it didn’t make sense anymore.

As for the goal of looking better, I suppose getting more visable abs (who doesn’t lol) and a bit larger muscle mass, which after writing this I figure I will need to eat more and lift heavier. I dont have any solid physical goals, but just look better without my shirt, if thats a thing.

@jbpick I do eat a small snack between lunch and dinner but didn’t include it since its usually greek yogurt, almonds, things like that. I also have a cup of coffee once a day. Also on gym mornings I have a pair of eggs cooked up after oatmeal. So maybe not 1500 but it sounds like I dont eat enough.

Hope that helps


#7

[quote]vancouvernewbie wrote:
@Chris - no major injury, but I did strain my back doing squats once and deadlift once, since I didn’t grasp the idea of keeping tight properly and breathing into the lower part of the belly and not chest. When I did the 240 3x5 squat I was doing low bar and wide stance, but after looking at a few videos I was very high. I switched to high bar, closer stance (and got some lifting shoes) which feels a more natural stance for me.

I have actually increased my overhead press which I think is a good start. Slightly better form (a lot less lean back) and now doing 120lbs for reps. But you are right, I’m not overly strong at all. I do worry about benching because I workout in the AM before work, and dont have a partner. Slow and steady isn’t working out for me I guess.

I was doing SS 5x5 with squats every session and after picking up my lifting shoes found myself not doing squats as often since between mobility work and changing shoes, I dont have enough Wednesday and Friday mornings. I ended up putting Squats Monday etc because I thought I could still make progress. I am not, which is why I was asking for program help. I probably should have stuck to a program rather than alter one so much it didn’t make sense anymore.

As for the goal of looking better, I suppose getting more visable abs (who doesn’t lol) and a bit larger muscle mass, which after writing this I figure I will need to eat more and lift heavier. I dont have any solid physical goals, but just look better without my shirt, if thats a thing.

@jbpick I do eat a small snack between lunch and dinner but didn’t include it since its usually greek yogurt, almonds, things like that. I also have a cup of coffee once a day. Also on gym mornings I have a pair of eggs cooked up after oatmeal. So maybe not 1500 but it sounds like I dont eat enough.

Hope that helps[/quote]

I actually just outlined what I eat in another thread. It is around the 3000 cal mark and I would think that you would do alright in that 2500-3500 range. Just pick a number, try it for 2 weeks, no improvement, raise it 500 cals.


#8

@jb I actually forgot to write that I generally drink about 500ml of chocolate milk during the day and have my shake with milk which might help with calories and such

@chris the 5/3/1 BBB webpage you linked looks like a great program for me. I do have a question about the reps though when it says “5/3/1 sets” I am not sure what this actually means since I dont own the book. Also do you think it would be okay to switch the days (not the order) of the selection so that for example Monday is squat rather than Friday?

Thanks again for all your help


#9

Buy the book. Look at it as an investment for yourself.


#10

If you seriously think you need to lose fat to look better your body fat is probably higher than 11%. Just a heads up.


#11

@JFG It sounds like everyone endorses this book, so I will be picking it up for sure, $30 isn’t breaking the bank.

@nighthawkz - you are right that its probably higher than 11%, it was just an estimate. Basing it on that I can see the outline of abs but not really well defined.

Sounds like to me I need to 1) Buy the book 2) Pick a solid plan like 5/3/1 BBB 3) Eat more/train hard


#12

[quote]vancouvernewbie wrote:
But you are right, I’m not overly strong at all.[/quote]
It isn’t about not being strong. Nobody’s “strong” when they’re getting started. It’s about what is or isn’t delivering results, and making tweaks to diet and/or training if needed to make sure progress occurs.

There’s slow and steady and then there’s s-l-o-w and steady. Beginners can usually see results relatively-quickly because they’re new to the stimulus. Under-eating will throw the brakes on any good training plan though. In any case, it sounds like you’ve got an idea of what to do and which way to go with the training and eating. That should kickstart some real progress over the next few months.

Be sure to monitor bodyweight and strength each week and make adjustments as needed (mostly to nutrition. The key to the lifting is sticking with it and letting it work).

These are contradictory in the short-term. Focus on one or the other, preferably the one which is more important and fundamental. (Hint: it’s the muscle mass one).

It’s a thing, yep, but specific goals give concrete targets to shoot for.

Getting the book is definitely a great idea, but he’s written plenty about it, so you can get started ASAP instead of waiting to get the book first:

Juggling the particular days is fine as long as it’s still well laid out. Basically try not to have the hard deadlift session right before or right after the hard squat session. If you’re still training four days a week, this is easy.

Fixed. But yep, that should do it.


#13

dude----eat. Not to be harsh but you might be the most undernourished 30 yr old male I’ve seen. The program hasn’t stopped working for you-----you quit on the program. That food would barely keep you alive if you were in a coma. Trying to lift 4 days like that is ridiculous on that nutrition. And someone was right up top…at 11%–your main goal wouldn’t be to see your abs. You’d have a pretty good look at them.
If your goal is really just being ‘in shape with abs’…and that is not a slap–just a descriptive term–:::

Go full body. Hit the first exercise in a 5 rep range and then do your next 2 exercises with 8-12 reps. Lose the rest time. get out of the gym in 40-45 minutes max. Feed yourself.


#14

I have the book and its plenty of reading to do. I am getting more confused by all the variations that the books lists however. Is there a 4 day a week program that someone can guide me to? there was one called the 5’s progression and it seemed clear enough (for the first 3 weeks) Im just confused slightly as to what to pick.


#15

5/3/1 is simple. You will have four main lifts - these will follow the percentage-based progression. You can train four days a week and do one of the lifts on each day. Then, pick two to three assistance exercises - ideally, these should include pull ups and rows. For instance:

Monday: deadlift - back extensions - leg raises
Tuesday: bench press - dumbbell bench press - rows (- curls)
Thursday: squat - lunges - sit ups
Friday: overhead press - dips - pull ups (- face pulls)

The program gives you a lot of room to customise as long as you do the four lifts. It really isn’t hard.


#16

Well I get that the basic program uses 4 days a week using %'s off of your training max (an estimate of about 90% of your real 1RM).
Week 1 is 3x5 @ 65%, 75%, 85% then "as many reps as possible using 65%"
Week 2 is 3x3 @ 70% 80% 90% then "as many reps as possible using 70%"
Week 3 is 5 with 75% 3 with 85% 1 with 95% then “as many reps as possible using 75%”

What is week 4-6 though? Just increase Training max by 5lbs for upper body lifts and 10lbs for lower body lifts?


#17

oh and honestly thanks for helping me out, I really do appreciate all the help everyone is offering.


#18

There’s 531 spreadsheets/calculators out there that may help


#19

[quote]vancouvernewbie wrote:
What is week 4-6 though? Just increase Training max by 5lbs for upper body lifts and 10lbs for lower body lifts?
[/quote]

Week 4 is a deload week - you’ll just do 1x5@40%, 1x5@50% and 1x5@60%, do some very easy assistance work if you want to and go home. It’s basically a week of active rest and practising the lifts with light weights - but please remember that it is important for you long-term progress. When you’re done with the four weeks, you will take the training maxes of the last four weeks, add 5lbs to the ones for bench and press and add 5-10lbs to the ones for squat and deadlift and do another four weeks.


#20

[quote]vancouvernewbie wrote:
Well I get that the basic program uses 4 days a week using %'s off of your training max (an estimate of about 90% of your real 1RM).
Week 1 is 3x5 @ 65%, 75%, 85% then "as many reps as possible using 65%"
Week 2 is 3x3 @ 70% 80% 90% then "as many reps as possible using 70%"
Week 3 is 5 with 75% 3 with 85% 1 with 95% then “as many reps as possible using 75%”

What is week 4-6 though? Just increase Training max by 5lbs for upper body lifts and 10lbs for lower body lifts?
[/quote]

This is not quite correct. The last set (set 3) for weeks 1-3 are always AMRAP at the heaviest weight. So for week 1 you would do 5 reps at 65%, 5 reps at 75%, and 5 or AMRAP at 85%. The same for weeks 2-3. Week 4 is the deload week so you only do the prescribed reps, not AMRAP. There are no weeks 5 or 6. After week 4 you increase training max (not the lifts) by 5 or 10 pounds and start over.