Programming a Year of 5/3/1 to Build Size Without Much Fat

Hi all
Have been reading, re-reading and then reading again my 531 forever book. There’s so much information in it. An amazing resource and I think I can safely say probably the only resource I’ll need for the rest of my lifting life.
On to my question. I want to build lean muscle and strength and I hate not having a plan. Therefore, I want to have a plan for at least a 12 month period. There’s so many great variations in the book I’m struggling to put together a structured 12 month plan to deliver my goals.
Any insight into the best way to structure a 531 progression over 12 months would be greatly appreciated.
Many thanks in advance.

How would you feel about 3 cycles then reevaluating where you are?

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That would be cool. Had been thinking about bbb. 2 cycles and then an anchor of pr set/fsl or 5s pro/fsl.
Really wanted to plan out more than this though. Lol

I would say that you’re losing part of the effectiveness of 531 if you overplan. The leader/anchor phases (usually done 2 leaders, 1 anchor) will last 10 weeks, where at this point you evaluate your progress. This will guide you on where to go next, what changes to make, etc… What advantage would there be to planning out one full year over planning out 10-week blocks?

Also, if you’re looking to gain strength while also staying lean and/or losing weight, try supersetting hard assistance with the main lift. For example, Krypteia, which is a BBB with specificed assistance between the main lifts. Also, it lasts 17 weeks total which seems to be consistent with your longer term approach.

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Thanks antiquity. I’d looked at krypteia. Wasn’t sure I was ready for that yet. Lol. I’ll be starting 5/3/1 after coming off a cut to get rid of my mid life spare tyre so thought that a straight forward bulk on bbb would be the way to go. But maybe you’re right, krypteia might be the best of both worlds.

Alternatively, I was thinking of jumping rope in between sets in all exercises but the main lift.

Its a bit tough to help you plan out an entire year when:

  1. You don’t give any indications about what your specific goals are. (ie. how much weight you want to lose, particular lifting numbers you want to hit, if you want to push a particular lift or hit a conditioning goal)


  1. What your unique training situation is like. (ie. how many days a week you can train and how much time, equipment limitations, injuries)

Regardless, you have the book. If you can define these goals yourself you shouldn’t need anyone to tell you how to structure your training, Forever has all that information in it.

Hi bigbadbombs.
Thanks for your reply. I don’t have a weight goal. I am cutting just now and I’m going to start my 531 life when I’m happy that I’ve got rid of most of my 45yr old spare tyre. Lol. At that point I just want to pack on slabs of lean muscle. I want to get bigger and stronger and improve my lifts but I don’t want to get fat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for a bodybuilder physique. I would just like to keep some definition as I get bigger.
I’m currently 80kg or 178lb
Currently my lifts are:
Squat 135kg (298lb) for 6
Deadlift 170kg (398lb) for 2
Bench 85kg (187lb) for 5
OHP 45kg (100lb) for 3
Want to get squats over 150kg, deadlift over 200kg, bench over 100kg and OHP over 60kg. However, as Jim says I need to squat 140kg first!
I train 3 days a week and unfortunately I can’t manage any more than that. I have access to most equipment at my gym.
I realise all the information is in the book. (It really is the most comprehensive lifting book I’ve ever seen). And I realise that most of finding out what works is trial and error. I am just looking for someone with a lot more experience of 531 than me to point me in the direction of variations that stack well and would add up to give me a well rounded program for size and strength with limited fat gain for a 12 month period.
I may be barking up the wrong tree and maybe it’s not really possible to plan that far in advance I just thought I’d ask the question of the many, more experienced lifters in t-nation.

Sorry. Forgot a couple of things you asked. No real injuries. A bit of tendinitis in my left arm. Nothing much and I spend about 2 hrs in the gym each of the 3 days a week. About 1.5 hrs warmup/lifting, 30 minutes cardio.

Why wait? I guess if you are already following a set program and want to follow it to completion there is merit there. But there is no reason you can’t follow 5/3/1 and lose weight at the same time. If your focused on dropping a few pounds pick a program with lower volume and more days of conditioning. If you want to switch over to focus on packing on strength and or muscle pick a program with higher volume and make sure to eat enough to recover.

Rather than have anyone here tell you what to do, I say just read through the book until you find stuff that interests you and fits your goals. Just make sure to follow the principles of the program and you will make progress.

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Yep. Too many people are always “planning” rather than “doing”. Start a program, eat sensibly for performance, and you’ll get to where you need to be. All the programs will work; just find one that suits you. Finish that, then find another. After one year, if you consistently run programs from the book and eat to perform well at them, you’ll be happy with the results. I guarantee it, or your money back. (okay, no money back, but the guarantee still stands).

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I think if you wait to lose weight before strength training, you’ll end up with an unimpressive lean physique. Keep in mind you’re only 178 - Personally, I gained from 145 to 195 and have no intention of being lower than 180 ever again in my life. But I remember being 145 thinking I’d look big once I hit 160.

I’m not saying to recklessly bulk, but I think you can strength training, do cardio, eat at slightly above maintenance, and still put on size while remaining somewhat lean. I think you’re best off doing a few months at a slight caloric surplus and then dialing back if you think you got too far.


I ran 531 from Jan 1 until yesterday with a small Hypertrophy program splitting my cycles.

This last cycle was my best one. I’m 43. If you do your homework and listen to the body. It will teach you a ton about lifting. I use the simple strength program. 4 days a week. Main lift, supplemental lift, and accessory work that compliments the main and supplimential.

I’ve added jokers, pyramids, down sets. All in the same week, mixed and matched, and done none. Just follow the principles of the program and have fun in the gym.

Don’t overthink it. Just start lifting light and focus on your form to stay healthy. When you think you have the form down watch another video and rework your form from top to bottom. Then work it and rework your form again. Form will keep you healthy.

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Thanks everyone for your advice. I’m going to trust you all, pick a program and run with it. Just need to keep my OCD for forward planning under control!!