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Started 5/3/1 for Beginners but I'm Afraid TM is High

Hey guys, I started 5/3/1 for beginners today with the following information:
Squat: last weight 74kg for 6x2 (did GZCLP before)
Bench: last weight 66kg for 6x2

I used the formula (weight x reps x .0333 + weight) to find my e1RM, found:
Squat: 78kg
Bench: 70kg

So the 90% TMs are:
Squat: 70kg
Bench: 63kg

For the squat, I got 7 reps on the 5+ set and the bench I got 8, but the two last reps of both lifts were with a little, very little grind (it was more visible in the squat) and people say that on the first week, the 5+ sets should be very easy that you could get ~10 reps, it wasn’t for me, I’m afraid I’m starting with a TM too high, I repeat, it was not a real grind, but it wasn’t too easy either, the thing is, this is my first cycle and I stayed near the minimum number of AMRAP sets.
I thought about two things, or I really did start with a higher TM or I’m not accostumed to a higher volume routine and high rep sets because before this, I only did linear progression routines and no conditioning. If is the second reason, maybe I should suck it up and keep doing it to improve my conditioning and work capacity.
Should I retest my TM in the gym (using the TM Test Week Protocol), do I use the same 1RM but with a lower TM (80~85%) or do I continue as it is?

You’ll be okay. Your TM will sort itself over time if you manage it correctly.

Jim generally recommends starting with a TM with which you can do five strong, fast reps. I’ve learned that I make better strength gains with lower TMs and faster bar speeds, and many other people have said the same thing. If you just started and are only getting 7-8 reps on 5s week during your first cycle, then you started too high.

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Nothing is lost by starting a little too light. You’ll catch up with your old mark - and surpass it - sooner than you think. I started with a TM that was a little too high, adjusted lower (thanks @mortdk!), and am now closing in on my initial strength goals after about a year of consistent training.


Thanks @burien_top_team yes start with the TM light even lighter than you think.
It’s very bad for the ego… BUT it will pay you back after some cycles.
If you want to run 531 do it for a long time maybe a year.
TM I would highly recommend working up to a good strong fast 5RM, and use that weight for your TM.
Just keep those cycles coming and should you find the weights too light, don’t advance the process the weights will eventually catch up with you.
Good luck 531 is a very good filosofi.


Concurring with the others. Lower your TM. Here is some anecdotal experience of mine that may help. I started 5/3/1 around 4 months ago(mostly BBB), purposely used very low TM’s, to the point now where I am still using a TM well below what my best gym lifts were despite the increases over time.

Never felt better, progress is smooth, smashing rep PR’s and most importantly, pain free. I’ve gained about 14 lbs(coming off a dieting phase and eating around 500-700 cals over maintenance). I also know I have a very long time ahead of me before I will plateau. Start too light, progress slow.

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Just an update, I lowered my TM and I’m feeling better and more motivated than ever, thank you all for the suggestions.


I just made a thread about asking for advice and this seems to have answered it. You started low and didn’t find any muscle loss or strength loss? Was it hard to swallow the ego pill? I apologize for the crazy questions but as a teen who wants nothing more than to progress, taking steps backward is damn scary for me. I just want to know it won’t hurt me.

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Not a crazy question for a teen and one I wish more teens asked. Better to learn young.

You won’t lose size or strength. You’ll gain both. If you’re not a total beginner I would recommend BBB. All of the reps combined with the ‘lighter’(remember this is a relative term) will increase your neural efficiency at the lift thus making you stronger. The volume will make you grow. The progession will make you gain strength and size as well. You do not need to be destroying yourself with weights too heavy to gain both. Build strength, don’t test it.

As far as the ego goes, this is easy. Fuck it. Hard to understand when you are younger but trust me, nobody gives a shit how much you lift. Like nobody. The only exception are judges in a lift based competition, or insecure people who want to compare temselves. That’s it. One of my favorite quotes all time is from Larry Winget(not a fitness celebrity). “You’re opinion of me is none of my business”. This is something that comes more natural in your 30s but harder in youth to grasp.

Lastly, after 15 years+ in the iron game, coming from 107 lbs at this height soaking wet with rocks in my pockets to now(190), I can tell you that despite my “noob gains”, 4 months of 5/3/1 using the lightest relative weights in my life, I have made some of the best gains of my life.

Conquer the ego now while you are young, more important than conquering a 2x bodyweight bench. I hope you enjoyed the long answer as much as I enjoyed the question and actual desire from someone younger wanting to learn. You have given me back my faith in the youngins here.


Also. Easiest way to conquer ego is to workout in a garage or basement. Commercial gyms are poison.

Thank you so much for the detailed reply. It was exactly what I was looking for when I started to to feel lost about the program last night. Swallowing the ego won’t be easy but I will remind myself that I’m in it for the long run, as in decades more of working out hopefully.

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