Training Max, Original 531 vs 531 Forever

I have all of Jim’s books, and have used 531 off and on over the past 4 years or so. I have read through 531 Forever several times now and think I have figured out something that was confusing me. Thought I’d run it past you all and see if I’ve got it right.

In the original 531, you would perform a rep max test, take 90%, and use it as a training max, increasing it 5/10 lbs (as appropriate) each cycle until you stalled. Then, set the TM back 3 months and repeat.

One of the things about this is that you are at something like a peak only about every 5 months or so, if I understand it right.

In 531 Forever, you set your TM at 85% of the tested or calculated 1RM, and then evaluate it periodically, either on the 5+, 3+, or 1+ days, or when you do the 7th week PR test after (for example) doing 2 leader and 1 anchor cycles. Then you calculate a new TM at 85% of this and repeat. The object seems to be to never have your TM be more than 85% of your 1RM at any point in time, whereas with the original 531 your TM would climb inexorably from 90% to 100%, at which point you would set things back 3 months.

If I understand this correctly, then you are not going up and down on a five-ish month cycle, but more or less moving forward continuously.

Do I understand this correctly?


So from what I understand is that you can still use the 90% TM if you choose. Jim recommends using 85% for longevity. He say’s if you use 90% you should be able to hit roughly 3 solid clean reps with no grinding with the TM. Using 85% would usually mean you wouldn’t have to reset your TM as often or so the theory is. The 7th week protocol is just to evaluate progress. You can use it to test a new 1RM, Rep out your current TM to test progress or take a legit deload week away from training. In forever I think he has it set up to keep track of your progress much better and to have the deload there as a tool more so than just a deload. Whether you go up or down or continuous is based on you and your progress.

Did you read all of Forever? Most are 85 but there are a lot that say 85-90 and a few say 80. Also the number of cycles month cycle thing depends on the person. You keep mentioning 5 but its actually 3-5. Advanced lifters are supposed to do 3 cycles, and a cycle is less than a month so including deloads 5 cycles is a little under 4 months.

This is very simply laid out in the Forever Book - so much that I don’t know how else to write it.

You do PROGRAMS. And every time you start a NEW PROGRAM, you begin with a correct TM. GENERALLY, each PROGRAM last 3, 5/3/1 cycles. SOMETIMES it is longer than 3 cycles, but GENERALLY, it is 3 cycles.

What this does is allow you to MAKE PROGRESS, AVOID STALLING and (this is the key part of why it is done) YOU USE THE CORRECT TRAINING MAX FOR THE GIVEN PROGRAM.

This is not very difficult to understand - do a 3 cycle PROGRAM. When you begin said 3 cycle PROGRAM, you begin with the correct TM for each lift.

Now let’s pretend you did 3 cycles and you are now finished. Now you use your head and the millions of proven programs I’ve written and start a new 3 cycle PROGRAM. And again, you use the correct TM for each lift.

It is literally that simple. And to make things even more simple - for the majority of the programs I’ve written and used PERSONALLY and tested ON ATHLETES - if you can’t hit your TM for 5 strong reps, your TM is too high.


Hi Folks,

Thanks for all your replies. I have read the Forever book (and in fact all of the books) multiple times, and it took me a while to get my head wrapped around the change in strategy for the training max.

I’ve got it now, thanks for your time.