Weak Link or Just Plain Weak?

Hey Tanner,

How do you tell the difference between someone who has a weak link holding back a main lift and someone who just needs to keep building strength? I feel like my core and upper back are my limiters, but giving them extra attention doesn’t seem to make a difference.

For context, I’m 43 and have been lifting for 5ish years, but my Big Four have been static for at least half that time. I started lifting following 531 and have followed Christian Thibaudeau programs the past couple of years. Nutrition and sleep are on track.

Thanks for any help.

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Hey @darrenx

I’m so sorry for the late reply. Most times, if you want to bring up a specific lift, you just need to train that specific lift more often. If you’ve only been lifting for 5 years but your big 4 have been static for half that time, that shouldn’t be the case.

I really like the 5/3/1 program for beginner lifters, but I’ve found it more effective if you add in more reps to get extra volume. Most likely what you need is just to get in more reps of all the main lifts, then you could add in some accessory lifts to specifically help that lift:

ie.
back squat > pause back squat
Deadlift > deficit deadlift or deadlift w/pause on way up and down
bench press >paused bench press or weighted dips
overhead press>pin press or overhead barbell skull crushers

I would also recommend…doing a hypertrophy block instead of 5/3/1 where you are doing 12’s, 10’s, 8’s

Let me know if you have other questions

This is great, Tanner, and worth the wait.

I think you’re right about the needed volume. I’m running Thib’s Clusters program and, though the quality of my heavy reps on the Big 4 have improved considerably, the numbers haven’t really budged. Except for hip thrusts, which have been the main accessory lift done for volume, which have gone from 235x8 to 315x9 in 11 weeks. So, looks like the added volume helped.

I’ve always gone to lift-specific splits, for right or wrong. What do you think of this set up for a 6-8 week hypertrophy block?

A. Main lift 4x6-8
B. Assistance 3x8-10
C. Assistance 3x8-10
D1, D2, D3. Supplemental circuit 2-3x8-12

And would you make any accommodations for my orangutan arms (6’4" height with 6’9" arm span)?

With 531, do you have experience with the 863 version? Would that fit the bill?

Thanks again for the advice.

Nothing wrong with lift specific splits, that’s my preferred way to train as well when I’m specifically trying to bring up one lift.

I think that training split looks fine. I’d perhaps hit more reps & sets of my main lift and maybe less assistance work ie. 5 or 6 sets of 6. But again quality of reps matter more than quantity.

It’s also worth mentioning that any program works, what matters is that you BELIEVE in the program you’re doing and train HARD in your workout. Also make sure you’re eating enough food and getting enough sleep. Take some creatine too. Those are all factors worth considering.

If I was 6’4, I would consider doing trap bar deadlift over straight bar possibly, or you could pull conventional from blocks. You could also change a squat to a leg press or hack squat if it’s better for your anthropometry.

I don’t have experience specifically with the 863 version, but I’ve had success with a similar style of program using 10/8/6

Thanks, Tanner. Upping the sets on the main lift sound good to me. And do you mean fewer sets on the two assistance exercises or drop an assistance exercise? I always want to do too much, especially when the blood’s pumping. In the middle of the workout, I doubt that the program has enough volume even if I trust it on paper. Or I doubt my intensity if I haven’t collapsed by the end of the set even if I know the whole “stimulation not annihilation” thing.

I don’t have access to a trap bar (I train in my townhouse strata’s barebone gym), but I’ve thought of trying a modified sumo stance to help stay more upright. I’ve read that snatch grip DLs from blocks are good for tall guys, so that’s in play, too.

Your 10/8/6 version sounds fun. Does it use the same 531 percentages?

Week 1
10@60%
10@70
10+@80% (aim for 11-12)
10@70%
10+@60% (aim for 12-15 for a burn out set)

Week 2
8@65%
8@75%
8+@85% (aim for 10-12 reps)
8@75%
8+@65% (aim for 10-15 for a burn out set)

Week 3
10@70%
8@80
6+@90% (aim for 6-8 reps)
8@80%
10+@65% (aim for 11-12 for a burn out set)

*percentages are based off of you training max (90% of your true 1-rep max)
*If you can’t hit your reps based on your training max, lower your training max to 80-85% of your true 1-rep max

Repeat that 3 week block 2-3x increasing your training max by 5-10lb each time depending on the lift and how the weights are feeling. Throw in a deload week between those 3-week mini blocks whenever needed. That should give you enough volume to elicit some size and strength gains

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That looks really fun, actually, especially after all the heavy singles from this Clusters program. Thanks for sharing your secret recipe.

In Wendler’s lingo, I take it the last two sets @ 70% and 60% would be the “assistance” work (like BBB or FSL) and then I’d do some “supplemental” work after that, like 50 reps of push, pull, and single leg or core. Or would the accessory work for weak links you mentioned (paused squats, pin press, etc) be the “supplemental work”?

Either way, this looks like it could do a lot of good. Thanks for going above and beyond on this.

Hi @darrenx,

Next week I’m going to deload and I’m planning to do a similar block.

@Tanner_Shuck we are waiting for you :grin:

I wouldnt necessarily call the last two sets @60 or 70% “assistance” work, I’d just call those sets necessary volume. I would consider the pause squats/pin press/deficit deadlifts all as accessory work personally but also very important if you’re trying to bring up a particular lift.

If you want to see exactly how I program it all, you’re welcome to try out a week of my straight up strength program. Try it for free and you can cancel anytime and not pay anything. It also includes an anabolic meal plan guide which is another thing that may really help you, again for free. I’ll drop the link below in case you want to learn more about the program:

[https://marketplace.trainheroic.com/workout-plan/team/true-strength2021-09-26%2010:46:42](https://Straight Up Strength Program)

This is great stuff. That’s more volume than I’m used to, which probably means it’s what I’ve been missing.
I’m heading off for my vacation, so I’ll dig into this when i get back and am ready for the volume.

And I’m really grateful for all the attention and guidance you’ve given me. I’ll report back after my first squat day to curse at you!

EDIT: Just did this as an “I don’t care, I’m on vacation” workout for overhead press. I followed your progression and added chinups between sets. You were right about being needing more assistance, so i did 3x10 Bradford Press and 50 each pushups and inverted rows. Finished with 100 bodyweight walking lunges. A really fun switch from clusters. This will be a fun program after my vacation, but you’ll hear me cussing on squat day even with an ocean between us.

Thanks again.

Sounds like we’ll be on a similar schedule. When i get started on this, I’ll report back here and we can compare notes.

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