T Nation

What Constitutes a Stall per Jim's Book?


Jim wrote “You won’t be able to hit the sets and reps you’re supposed to hit.” (Chapter on Stalling 5/3/1) I am easily still hitting all prescribed sets/reps. But, recently stopped breaking PRs – is that a Stall? Or, is a Stall when I can’t even make the prescribed reps (5/5/5, 3/3/3, 5/3/1)?
–55 years old and loving it!

5/3/1 Progress Stalling or Going Backwards

Failing to hit the prescribed reps. You can’t make PRs all the time, and sometimes you need to just keep doing the workouts as planned and the PRs will come.

Of course, Jim generally promotes a “5 Forward, 3 Back” progression (that is, after every fifth cycle, shift the TM back about 3 cycles), so resetting before you stall. Have you been on the program for long? When was the last time you reset the training max?


Thanks. I started only three cycles ago. In the 10th week of training, I missed making PRs in squat. But I was still in the high teens on rep counts so thought there was no reason to reset yet, but wasn’t sure. Your reply makes sense: if I can make the prescribed reps just keep going and think about resetting after 5 cycles before stalling.


We don’t really think of “stalls” anymore. What we do is program for the appropriate amount of cycles, have a long term approach and then use the correct TM, per lift, that fits the program.

We test to make sure the TM is correct between each program. SO…choose the correct TM for each program and lift.


“Programs” aren’t mentioned in 5/3/1 book, so I’m guessing that’s laid out in Beyond 5/3/1.


Very roughly, you can plan out a number of cycles, like how the BBB 3 Month Challenge is a multi-cycle but definite duration plan. In general, one would figure out what your workouts are going to be for, say, 5 cycles, set an appropriate TM and then go through those 5 cycles. After that, reset the TM for the next program (that is, the next planned block of cycles). As Jim indicated in his reply above, one might “test to make sure the TM is correct between each program.” Most commonly it seems the TM should be set to 85% of 1 rep max, but for some plans it may be better to do 80% or whatever. You might need to think about what TM will make sense for you and the cycles you plan out. I think the easiest way to test that that the TM is appropriate when you want it at 85% is to work up to a set of 5 reps at the proposed weight.

If you dig through what Jim says about “Leader” and “Anchor” cycles, I think you see he generally recommends leading with cycles that are higher volume but lower intensity, then ending with lower volume and higher intensity cycles. That is part of what you might do when planning out 5 cycles, as by having the first few cycles include higher volume supplementary lifts and not pushing for PRs, then for the last cycles cutting back on the supplementary work and pushing for PRs.

Simplest for now is probably to stay the course as you have planned and just reset after your 5th cycle. Between now and then you can consider finding or planning out a program consisting in a block of cycles (Jim has many recommended programs and lots of info on programming in the forums on his own site), or just keep at the program as you have it and just reset periodically (as with 5 forward, 3 back). Most important, of course, is that you keep at it and stick to the core principles (start light, progress slowly, etc.).


Wow. Appreciate the extra info!! That’ll really help doing this method for the long term.
–senior citizen going north of V!