T Nation

Training for Maintenance


I train for increased size and strength and typically go through phases where I focus on one or the other. For example I completed two rounds of The Complete Power Look Program this year and now I'm trying the Best Damn Workout For Naturals.

Every once in awhile I get tired and begin to question why I'm doing what I'm doing. What's the point? Is the pain and abuse worth adding 5 lbs to my squat? Am I ever going to exceed my current lean body mass amounts? Since age 23 I've gained and lost weight but it's pretty much only been fat. 220 @ 10-11% BF. 235 @ 14%, etc.

Sometimes I think about going to an indefinite maintenance program. What could I do to maintain what I have and keep at least 90% of my current strength? In reality all that I care about is looking good, being strong for an average Joe, and being athletic (don't want to be that guy who blows out a different joint every time he plays rec league softball).

It's just a thought about a bare minimum program. Anyone else had these thoughts or actually tried a long term maintenance program? Be nice. I'm just throwing this out there for the sake of discussion.


I can see two possible issues with this approach:

  1. A lot of the time if you stop moving forward, you end up going backwards. Even when you're trying to move forward, you'll go through periods where you don't move for a while - but if you keep at it, you'll eventually go forward again because you're working to that end the whole time. If you're just trying to stay where you are, I would suspect that you'll end up going backwards quite fast.

  2. The only time your idea of just maintaining will work is probably when you're a strong/muscular AF person who's getting older and more beat up. At that point, you accept that your best is behind you and focus on keeping at a level of strength/muscularity you're OK with but which won't destroy you. You're still essentially going backwards, but in a controlled and deliberate manner.

It sounds to me like you've reached the stage where progress no longer comes easily, or even relatively easily. Maybe other factors are at play on your life that are impacting on your desire or ability to train and eat right. Since you mention your fat levels and looking good as a main priority, why not go all out in trying to achieve the look you really want? Don't even think about strength much. Get to that look, work out what you need to maintain it and only then see where you can get your strength to while maintaining that look.


I don't disagree with you. I don't like it but it's probably true. I even posted on this site about deteriorating as you age and how maintaining your strength, physique, or whatever could be considered progress since most people fall apart.

I'm not throwing in the towel yet. I've been reading Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 stuff. Been in this game 15 years and never tried 5/3/1. The 5/3/1 combined with the Jack Shit assistance could be an option for short and sweet workouts that still have a purpose and goal. Jim also has a version that adds double rest/pause to the program like CT's recent stuff.


I can't recommend 531 enough. There are so many templates Jim has brought out it's almost impossible not to find one to suit any given individual.



What are your thoughts on 5/3/1 compared to CT's Best Damn Workout For Naturals in regards to the frequency/training splits?

After reading the Best Damn article it seems that frequency is key for naturals but the standard 5/3/1 only hits each muscle group once or twice per week depending on your assistance work.

I was thinking of using the total body 3 days/week version to increase frequency for each muscle group.


@JMaier31 I think at face value, CT's program ticks the frequency box better - as it should, because it's a BB program more than a strength one.

However, when you look a bit more closely you can very easily bump frequency in 5/3/1 without deviating from its core principles in the slightest.

For example, you want to hit your squat more than once a week? Easy! Hit a squat variation after deadlifting. Want to deadlift more often? Do a DL variation after squatting. Same applies for bench and press. No reason not to use a bench variation for assistance after pressing and vice versa.

I run 5/3/1 pretty much like this:

Press 5/3/1 + FSL
Bench variation
Row variation

DL 5/3/1 or 3/5/1
Squat variation

Bench press 5/3/1 + FSL
Row variation

Squat 5/3/1 + FSL

I add calves in between upper body FSL sets, pull aparts between upper body warm-ups and pull-ups/fatman pull-ups between lower body warm-ups.

If you wanted it to be really simple, set a nice low TM and do opposite lift BBB four days a week. You'd hit everything twice, do lats/upper and middle back twice a week and abs/lower back twice a week.

I also understand that Jim is doing some cool stuff with full body thrice a week these days, which would absolutely provide frequency.


Just do a 2 day a week program, not aware of any Thib ones but there are some 5/3/1 templates and Dan John articles you could look up especially 'Mass made simple'


As others said 5/3/1 would be a good program for this, there are a lot of options for training splits so just use whatever fits your schedule and you'd be most likely to enjoy for a period of time.

For maintenance if you keep running 5/3/1 cycles and reset every 6 months or so you will keep hitting you same weight/reps so you can track if you've lost any strength. On week 1 you hit X weight for Y reps, a few cycles later you will hit that same weight on week 2. For all 4 big lifts you'll know exactly where your at for all rep ranges 1-10, so if that starts getting harder or you miss reps you'll know you'll need to step it up a bit to keep maintaining without loss.

Regardless of 5/3/1 or whatever program you choose, I would structure the non-main lifts like some type of peaking program. For example slow weight increments each week for several weeks/months then repeat. Then most your workouts won't be too difficult and towards the end you get to re-evaluate your strength levels.


Thanks for all the responses. I think I'm going to implement a 3 day a week 5/3/1 full body program from the original book. If has a pretty good progression with 4 phases that gradually add volume and up the intensity. Might be just what I need.

It's not 6 days a week like The Best Damn Workout but it should be more feasible for me with my work schedule.


Speaking strictly from a bodybuilding standpoint:
A while back I asked Paul Carter about maintenance for a natural. He told me that 4-5 hard sets to failure/bodypart should be enough to maintain. And that gives you a lot of room to work with. Not to mention that -while frequency is king in building muscle- if you are strictly looking to maintain, hitting a muscle once a week is enough.