T Nation

What Program to Do?

Hi Jim,

I need help please and try to keep it as short as possible.

Current situation regarding my body and mental health:

-30 yeras old, coming back to lifting after 5-6 year layoff through Crohn’s disease
-Lost 70 pounds, current weight 145 pounds, 6.2 tall (very skinny)
-I have nothing but bone on me, zero muscle mass, especially lower body
-no core/abs
-zero glutes
-no hamstrings
-desperate and I don’t know what to do and how to start all over again without hurting myself and my body

Current situation regarding my fitness

-I walk every day outside between 45 and 60 minutes
-can’t do one single push-up
-can’t do one single pull-up
-I can barely move the empty barbell
-can’t press overhead because of shoulder surgery 10 years ago and way too weak

What should I do to:

-build GPP from scratch
-get fit, mobile and flexible
-get strong as I could over a long period of time
-build proper muscle mass, especially in my legs that I can wear a jeans again (that’s my biggest issue, my lack in muscle mass in my lower body because I’m „really tall“)


-rack of kettlebells
-rack of dumbbells
-weight vest

I need a program or a suggestion from you please, to develop my lower back, abs and hamstrings and build GPP from scratch, before I touch a barbell again becuase I´m too weak to squat or bench with the bar only, it’s doable but very taxing. Where do I get such a program, where I can build muscle mass in my glutes, legs, a rock solid core and posteriour chain before starting a proper 531 template? And which template?

Every help, Tipp or recommendation is highly appreciated and it will mean a lot to me.

What should I do? please help me if you could and don’t mind and if you have time to read my post.

Also, if others guys here have some suggestions, please help me out, I’m very desperate

Thank you very much

If I were in your condition, I wouldn’t worry about a 531 program (or other t nation program). There really are no programs on here for strength training for those that can’t do a single push up or squat an empty bar.

Here’s what I would do if I were you (this will seem like unusual advice at first): Get the book Convict Conditioning and follow it. At first glance, you will say “how can I do one arm push ups if I can’t do a single normal push up?” Here’s why:

This book starts off on progressions with very simple things. Wall push ups, for example, would be a first step in the progression toward one arm push pushups. Inverted rows are a first step in the progression toward one arm pull ups.

I did this about 10 years ago, albeit I was able to start at a much different step than you will. Still, it doesn’t matter if you ever get to doing 1 arm push ups, 1 arm pull ups, pistol squats, etc… but you will progress to be far more proficient at them than you are now. Then, you can switch to a “program”.


This is way, WAY out of my jurisdiction. I’ve learned long ago I’m not qualified to answer certain things and this is one of them. I think you need to see specialists that deal with this disease and possibly an endocrinologist. I wouldn’t even know where to start and it would be absolutely irresponsible for me to give an answer.

This is much bigger than just “do some squats and eat beef”. There are very serious things going on with your body and you need to get them addressed properly. Whether or not you have access to them, I do not know. Regardless, I generally don’t even do the rehab on our athletes; that’s the Athletic Trainer’s job.

Good luck - remember to keep a strong attitude.


Hi Jim,

I can’t believe that you really respond to my post. I appreciate this very much and I also want to say thank you very much!!! That’s awesome and you can’t imagine how much this mean to me!!!

No, you’re wrong! Fortunately it finally is that simple and I should do some squats and eat more food. That’s the exact recommendation from all my doctors and the clinic who take care of me. I’m finally healed and now it’s time to get back on track but most important to get fit again and build some muscle. They said I should go to a health club and lift some weights to put on some muscle, but that’s the last thing I want to do. I want to train like the 531 principals like I did almost 10 years ago but I’m too weak to pick any template and start

Im also in contact with Casey Williams for quite some time because he also suffered from ulcerative colitis. Obviously he’s a different animal then me and his suggestion was to reach out to you, because you are the expert and you know how to build GPP, strength and size from scratch because you work with kids and total beginners. I’m in a similar situation but I’m obviously not a high school kid.

So what do you think, where and how should I start? What template or program do you recommend to get fit from scratch when someone is that weak like me?!

Like I mentioned above, I need muscle mass, especially in my legs!

What are your suggestions only in regards to lifting and to get back in shape, build GPP, get stronger and build muscle mass?

I hope you can help me out with some template recommendations or other tips how I can fight to get my life and my old body back.

Please let me know what I have to do to get proper advice from you. I have all your books, I’m also in the private forum and I’m familiar with your principles but if I should or have to pay for your advice, please let me know it. The most important thing to me is to get proper advice from a real expert that I can not hurt my body.

Thank you very much for your valuable time and help

I think Jim was pretty clear that, even if you are able to start working out again:

It’s great that you’re green-lighted to start some physical activity, but that doesn’t mean a coach like Jim or a program like 531 is the place to start. As I said, if you can’t do a single push up or empty bar squat, how can you possibly be ready to start a 531 program?

All that said, best of luck in getting yourself back physically. It’s a daunting task to come back from Crohn’s disease.

First of all much respect for the dedication to get in shape.

Second of all - get professional help specific to your needs.
Your Crohns team are almost certainly not into strength training.

Find a team that understand your goals and is willing to help you get there. Find someone that understand Crohn’s or just the effects it has on the body and strength training.
A good physio (and one that is into strength training) will be able to do this. People think all physio’s do is patch up athletes. Find a good one and they are SO much more.

yeah listen to them, you are a long way away from doing serious barbell training.

start out with something like the cross trainer cardio machine and steadily up the resistance. Swimming/pool work a good idea also as are tough hikes with and without weighted vest.

After say a month of that then do resistance machines in the gym and then another month add kettlebell swings bands etc etc

Load up on dense foods with preworkout meal

If these foods are allowed with your diet try this…

Again, this is WAY out of my area of expertise. You need to work with someone 1-on-1 AND you need to work with a nutritionist who understand Crohn’s disease and understands strength training. I literally have ZERO experience with this type of problem; yes, I do work with younger athletes but their challenges are vastly different than yours. I wouldn’t even know where to start.

You also need to make a total commitment to health; and part of that is taking care of your mind and body. I wish you the best of luck but you will not need it provided you take the necessary steps to get healthy.


Hi Jim,

I really appreciate that you still respond to my messages. It means a lot to me, thank you!

I´ll do this by myself because I´m tired that everybody is afraid of helping me or giving advice. In the health club they said I should do what feels comfortable and start slowly… anyway

I already started by doing the assistance circuit from your blog.

When I´m able to do 50 pushups, 25 pullups and 100 DB squats with 100pound and with a solid technique, slow and controlled, I´ll start with the barbell.

My question is with what 531 template/set, rep scheme should I start:

-Original 531
-Original 531 and 5´s progression
-Original 531, 5´s progression and 5x5 FSL
-or any other template or variation

I have all of your books and I´m on the private Forum too, so if you recommend any other template like the “new Triumvirate” or “Krypteia for Old men” etc. etc. thats ok!!! The only thing thats important is that I want to focus on one main lift per day!!

Regarding Conditioning/Warm up:

I also reached out to Dave Tate on Instagram and told him my story (short :slight_smile: )
He said I should condition myself first before lifting a barbell (thats why I started with the circuit).
He also said I should start with a warmup circuit to build the weak points like glutes hamstrings back lower back etc. and he mentioned his warm-up circuit:

BUT I learn one thing over the years from you and Dave: DONT MIX AND MATCH PROGRAMS!!! Thats the last thing I want to do!

Therefore I´m asking you if I can start by doing this warmup routine before any 531 Template when I start lifting with a barbell again? Or is this too much and don´t fit with 531? He said I should ask you because you are the creator of 531 and not he!

The circuit he texted me consist of:

Hanging Leg Raise

Reverse Hypers

Pull Down Abs

Face Pulls

Low Rows


*2-4 sets (whatever you need)

I hope you can help me out with my questions and the rest I´ll do by myself. I just need some advice which template I should start with and if I can do the warmup before any 531 template when I´m able to train properly again.

Thank you very much Jim. I appreciate your honest words and your help

You’re not going to get a different answer, man.

If you’re going outside Jim’s experience, which he just said you are, you won’t find out what impact something will have until you do it.

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I gave you very specific advice on my first response.

This is fine (the warm-up) - you can mix/match movements. I highly doubt you can do hanging leg raises, so I would use leg raises in its stead. You probably don’t have a RH or a GHR - you can do pull-throughs or band leg curls/leg curls, bodyweight RH/back raises in place. I would also recommend bodyweight movements such as squats, push-ups, fat man rows, sit-ups (yes, sit-ups), etc.

As for what template to do AFTER - it depends on a lot of things such as proficiency and strength. Since I’m not personally coaching you and I have no idea - just do 5’s PRO for main lift and 3 assistance movements after the main lift.

This goes far beyond templates as I think the issue of eating/total body health needs to be addressed. The focus needs to be on the big issues; once they get fixed, the template takes care of itself.


I will send the biggest thank you I can send to you for your effort, your time and your help. Now we are on the right track! You can´t imagine how much this means to me and how much impact your help will have, especially mentally when I know, I have advice from a real professional and I can follow his suggestions without hurting my body. Again, I appreciate this very much!

I knew that when someone can help me out, its you and no other person! Thats the reason why I´m so damn stubborn and why I´m bothering you from day to day. It´s obviously not my intention to this just for fun, it´s because I need some proper advice from a professional like you, with decades of experience.

That´s why Dave said I should try to reach out to you, because you are the one who works with people/kids that are weak like I am. I DONT NEED PERSONAL COACHING OR SPECIFIC ADVICE. I just need a roadmap how to get back in shape and I need general advice. No one in the industry knows this better than you he said.

should I do the bodyweight movements in the warm-up circuit in addition to all the other movements or as assistance movements after the main lift (when I´m able to do the main lifts again)? And should I do squats and pushups regardless if the main lift is an upper or lower body lift?

If you don´t mind, please tell me what exercises from which category you would do regarding my situation for a warm-up circuit on upper and lower body days or if I should do the same circuit regardless if its upper or lower body day? But I don´t want to force you!!!

And overall, it is definitely not too much, when I do Dave´s warm-up circuit, modified by you with your suggestions and movements, BEFOR any 531 template in the future when I´m ready to train with a barbell again. It´s not too much “junk volume” or unneccessary stuff?

Thank you very much for your help Jim! I´m really thankful for your help!!!

PS: Again, after all these years of suffering and fighting against my diseases I´m really unsecure and thats why I ask so much. It´s not because I want to bother you!!! I don´t want to train like an asshole and I don´t want to do too much stuff thats not necessary.

Don’t overdo nor overcomplicate your warm-up. 1-3 circuits of 3-9 movements is perfectly fine. You should get a light sweat and primed for training, not fatigued.

It is good with a general full body warm-up prior to barbell warm-up sets, but exactly what you do is the least important part of your training regime.

The circuit example you gave will work perfectly fine. If you do assistance circuits with bodyweight movements, it can be nice do the same for warm-up with much fewer repetitions and emphasis on control.

Other alternative can be Agile 8 plus Band Pull-Aparts or 3-5 minutes light “cardio” plus some bodyweight movements. Or maybe McGill Big 3 plus bodyweight squats, push-ups and fat man rows? The alternatives are endless, don’t overthink it and just do something.

Just stick with Dave’s warm-up for the time being. When you begin lifting, I would continue doing that before you lift as a warm-up.

Hi helmut.

I went from back yard calisthenics. Worked my self up to park calisthenics when I was strong enough not to embarrass my self. Once my core was strong enough to I did a 5x5 program. Then used those numbers to calculate my 5/3/1 program

Thank you very much Jim!

Like I said, I start with bodyweight movements and or Dave’s circuit until I can do proper pushups, pull-ups and DB squats again.

After that I will start with the OG 531 template and 5s Progression and Dave’s warmup routine beforehand

I hope that’s a solid plan.

Thank you very much for everything

Hi Marc,

why you don’t help me out? What are your thoughts, recommendations?

You’ve been asking the same question for two years and you’ve gotten tons of responses from me, jim, people on Jim’s private forum and nw on here. I’m not sure there is anything I could tell you that you haven’t already been told.

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