T Nation

Setting Training Maxes Between Templates

In Forever, there are suggested TMs for each template. Is the intention that you set a new TM at the onset of a new template even if it involves increasing your TM significantly? Given the variance in suggested TMs in the books it appears it would be necessary on some occasion in order to run a template as intended.

E.g. I’ve just completed a template with an 80% training max and my progression has kept pace with - or slightly exceeded - said max. I now want to try a template with a 90% suggested TM (thinking SSL). Is the intention that I move my TM to 90%?

At 90% my deadlift TM would be 202.5kg. At 80% my TM is 180kg.

Running SSL with a 180kg TM for my deadlift ends up being slightly lighter than running FSL with a 90% training max on the supplemental lift. If, 9 weeks ago, I’d decided to do SSL, I’d have been working with significantly higher weights.

Usually I pay little attention to my TM and just keep it between 85-90% for most lifts, but in this case it’s a substantial difference, so I’m curious.


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When in doubt, refer to the best practices outlined in Forever. Increase TM only by 5-10 lbs from cycle to cycle, and follow the indicators that show if your making progress or not. This ensures reliance on the guiding principles of the program of slow, steady progress.

Test the TM you intend to use. Its all good an well that you are going to run a template at this or that weight, but until you test it who knows what the result will be. If you can hit the required reps and the required bar speed, that is your TM.

At the end of the day if you go outside the best practices, and your results are sub par, that is on you.

I have run a template at 85% and after completing it, estimated my new training max was closer to 77% of my 1RM. I still kept it the same. The lower the TM you can make progress with, the better. You can use this as an opportunity to choose a longer template (3 Leaders, 2 Anchors) to see if your strength gains start to slow, and a reset is required.

Thanks for the reply.

The purpose of my post is to clarify what best practice is. 531 Forever recommends an 85-90% TM for SSL. Using an 80% TM (in reality it’s slightly less than 80%) with SSL, thereby maintaining my TM from my previous template, would mean using significantly lower intensities than I used on my previous template (Portal’s 5x5), or would be using on SSL had my previous template called for an 85-90% TM.

In practice, this would mean using weights for SSL equivalent to those I’d be using on a FSL 5x5 anchor cycle in a hypothetical world in which I’d chosen to do a template with a 90% TM in my previous cycle rather than an 80% one. Not to mention conditioning and assistance would be reduced (to meet SSL recommendations rather than FSL 5x5 recommendations).

Just use the 7th Week Protocol TM Test in between templates. Allows you to avoid all these hypotheticals.

That’s what I do. I’m asking out of curiosity - in practice I think it’s only a few of the full body templates which have you drop down to 80%.

You’re thinking of the TM in a way you shouldn’t be, let me explain. In the Forever book when he mentions recommended TM he’s more of stating it for if you just started out using his program and choose to run that template. I think you need to actually read the Forever book, the early chapters, don’t just skip to the Templates.

I would never jump my TM from 80% to 90%, when using the 7th week deload TM test i’ts not to jump your TM up it’s to make sure your TM is not to heavy.

Me personally, I always make sure my TM is a weight I can handle 8-10 reps which is usually 80%, I have seen amazing results doing it this way, when I was trying to use 90% as a TM I would tend to stall more. Think of your training as long term not short term and stick to the path.

NO. The TM suggestions in the book are the HIGHEST one should use. If possible, use a lower one, especially if that’s where you TM is “at”. Don’t increase just to do it.

We use a very, very low TM with our athletes and the strength/size increases are insane. If one is consistently giving solid effort, he will be rewarded.

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Thanks Jim. I’ll leave them as they are and focus on bar speed.

Cheers for the replies guys.

I’ve gone months without even adjusting my training max. There are so many ways to get stronger with this system. Jokers, FSL, SSL, LSL for multiple sets; AMRAP; capped AMRAP for multiple sets, widow makers etc… And on and on it goes. Using a lighter TM in reality should only affect the first two work sets of any workout. Then it’s gametime.

People who use low TMs - like @fairbjosh1 is using 80% - do you find yourselves getting better results from one particular kind of 531 program? I’m thinking in particular of routines that use PR sets (like original 531) vs. ones that don’t (like for example 5’s Pro + BBB (or BBS, FSL, SSL, etc.)?

I’m thinking of dropping my TM% back to see if I get better results and wanted to see what your experience was.


I absolutely get better results - but…I’m older (51), been using 5-3-1 since '07, and I’ve made ALL of the mistakes and done everything Jim says NOT to do.

If you lift heavy and regularly put a strain on your muscles, skeletal system, csn, etc…staying at 90% for a sustained period of time will take its toll- at least it does with me.

Also- I have read through “Forever,” and though I’ve read in some places to not use a PR set, I have always used it except when I have done insane shit like 5x5 w/ the last set (see above). It has always been a guiding principle of the program for me - unless I am not up for it, i.e. lack of sleep, time, etc.

Does he say not to do it w/ bbb somewhere? Actually nevermind because I probably wouldn’t listen.

Addendum- I do remember bypassing PR sets in a few of the full body routines now that I think about it.

I wasn’t asking whether or not a low TM was a good idea.

I was asking, do the people who use low TMs get better results from one type of 531 program rather than another. For example, do they get better results from programs that use PRs, or ones that don’t.

With my low TM, which is usually 75-80% TM, I don’t think it’s better for just one routine but more of getting you a lot of momentum. For example if you start at 90% or heavier you will end up stalling faster which in return will get you frustrated, with the 80% your building more momentum and won’t stall as fast.

Now with all that said the routine I have been running is 2 Leaders of 5s Pro w/ SSL and 1 Anchor of 3/5/1 PR Set, Joker Set (except 5s week) and 5x5 FSL. With the 2 Leader of 5s Pro w/ SSL, I do the SSL Malcolm X style which is I try to and finish them in as less sets as possible and with this style of training I have seen great results, muscle & strength.

Thanks for the reply, I’ve used SSL with Malcolm X before for my press (during a second go around with ‘The Whip and the Body’ from 531 Forever), and had good results (maintained good bar speed for all the reps - I find that works insanely well for the press). What made you decide to do that?

My OP isn’t about the principles of using a low training max / sub max training with a focus on bar speed.

It’s a question regarding the training max guidelines for certain programmes. I gave the specific example above: if you drop your TM to 80% for a full body programme, is the intention that you raise it back to 85-90% if that’s the recommended range for the next programme / the anchor. I asked because it effectively changes the weights handled for a template like SSL to what you’d be handling as FSL weights with your previous TM, which in turn would throw the guidelines for assistance and conditioning off, so it had me wondering.

This will very rarely be an issue for anyone though, and most people will know what works for them. I’m using this as an excuse to try a lower TM.

I decided on SSL because I’ve ran a lot of Jim’s routines and wanted to give this one a shot. I must say 5’s Pro with SSL Malcolm X has to be my favorite so far. You’re still able to shoot for PR’s with the Malcolm X style, I know some that cap SSL at 6-8 reps I decided to try it with no cap and basically do as many reps until bar speed went down. This style kept me motivated and gave me something to shoot for. Once I’m done with my Leader and Deload TM Test I will probably try TSL Top Set Last and see how that goes.

As for your question about raising your TM, I would never do this, for example my TM on Squat and Deadlift is probably 75% - 77% of my true TM. You can also think of the TM in this way, instead of percents think of it as you should be able to lift your TM for 8-10 solid reps, which typically is 75-80 % of the TM.

I think your putting to much emphasis on the TM, it’s important but nothing to be pulling your hair out over. If you just stick with a TM that’s light (around 80%) you will have no issues.

Is SSL Malcolm X one of Jim’s routines? I did it for the sake of time management during a busy period but hadn’t seen it written up anywhere.

Yes and No, the best advice I can give is join Jim’s private forum. It’s only like $5 dollars a month and the knowledge and information you get on it is a an absolutely steal for that price.