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What Templates Can I Use as a Beginner?


I recently bought the 5/3/1 2nd edition book, and was asking a BBB related question here. But I just read on the forum that BBB is only for intermediate+ lifters. I did not read this in the book. But this raises another question: Then what 5/3/1 templates are meant for me/beginners?

My stats:
-26 Y/o
-198 Lb bodyweight
-220 lbs Bench press
-250 lbs Squat
-310 lbs deadlift
-125 lbs press

I did a starting strength routine before but i’m starting to fail some of the lifts often, and I drink too much on the weekends to keep up a 2,5 lbs increase/workout.

Is 5/3/1 a good program for me at this stage of training and if so, what templates are suitable for me (because apparantly BBB is not for beginners).

Thanks in advance

If you’re located in the US, 5/3/1 Forever is a great source for all your needs (including beginner programs). Outside of US, shipping for the book is a bit expensive but still worth it imho. The original 5/3/1 template is solid on itself especially if you have some basics in strength training, can’t go wrong with that.

Don’t have the books with me but BBB calls for (to answer your previous questions):

-5’s Pro main work, that is, usual %s and sets, just every set is at 5 reps;
-5x10 supplemental work, 50-60% TM up to FSL (first main work % of the day, so 65-70-75% depending on the week);
-Assistance work done with (by memory) 25-50 reps of pushing, 25-50 reps of pulling, 25-50 reps of leg/core every workout day;
-about one year of consistent strength training with good grasp on the basics;

For free body exercises like chins and dips it’s suggested to keep them bodyweight, so you don’t have to calculate any number or else - just get the prescribed amount (25-50) done in whatever number of sets you need and work from there.
For rows, use a weight that is challenging without driving you into the ground. Rows are maybe the only assistance exercise I like to push a bit more than the rest.
It’s also recommended to avoid leg and lower back assistance work if you’re running BBB, sticking to abs work for the “core” category.

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You know 531 has a beginner program right?

You can search the forums and online. I think Jim actually has the beginner program posted on his website.

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You read on the forums that BBB is an intermediate program? The problem is “read on the forums”.

Since your have the 2nd edition in your hands, re-check to see if there is any such advice about BBB in there. I just re-read it myself. It says no such thing.

It should be noted that many posters in this forum have made the mistake of confusing the basic 5/3/1 BBB program with the BBB 12-Week Challenge in the T-Nation article (and Beyond book); it happens so often it is astounding. The Challenge is definitely not for beginners.

If BBB makes your heart a-flutter, and you can feed it and recover properly, then choose your TMs wisely and do it.


Welcome to the wonderful world of 5/3/1. Try not to get too confused with the program/methodology off the start. It has grown quite a bit over the years from the original program.

My advice to you is this:

Follow the original program for several cycles before moving on to other things. Rampantbadger suggested the Triumvirate and I would second that. Its a basic template that will let you see how the program works and show you results without too many variables involved.

This is somewhat true. Boring But Big is not for TRUE beginners. People with very limited experience with barbell training. It is more targeted to people in the beginner-intermediate range who have solid technique and built up enough work capacity to perform the lifts effectively. Those 5x10 sets may not seem that hard on paper, but they can be quite challenging especially in the later sets. Because of this people who have not had the proper development previously could have technical breakdowns and open themselves up to injury and/or not recovery properly. Once you have run 5/3/1 for a while and can maintain technical proficiency during the PR sets when your pushing yourself you will be ready to take on something like BBB.

I don’t mean to preach, but please consider that what you do outside the weight room is often more important than in it. Stress is cumulative and recovery is important to progress when it comes to strength training. Just because the progression seems slower on 5/3/1 doesn’t mean its necessarily less taxing on your body.

Finally, as your are new to 5/3/1 my last piece of advice to your is to MAKE SURE YOUR TRAINING MAX IS CORRECT. If this is off, everything else will be too.


Thanks for the replies! I calculated my training max from my 3x5 max from SS, would that be okay? I took the weight I can barely do for 3x5 and then applied the formula. Is that an acceptable method of will that give me a number that is too low? (Because yesterday i did 13 reps of my first deadlift workout (85%x5+ set).

And just to be clear, with “original program” you mean just the 5/3/1 sets with 1 assistance set per training?

No. Setting a low TM is a good thing. Especially when your a newer lifter.

This is a good indication that you are on the right track. Its likely as you progress you will get even more reps at higher weights during your 5’s weeks.

Original program is the 5/3/1 sets and reps. 2nd edition has a few different templates (Like the Triuvirate which was mentioned). Pick one and follow as written. Not sure what you meant by “1 assistance set”.

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Thanks! And with “original program” I meant the program the book states in the chapter “The 5/3/1 program”. There is has a schedule with for example under monday: Warm-up, Standing military press, Assistance Exercises. But I guess that ‘Assistance exercises’ just refers to the templates you can choose.

But I’ll go for the triumvirate one, that sounds good! One last question though, since the book is unclear about this: What weights should be used on the Triumvirate assistance exercises? The book does not specify this. Should I just pick a weight that challenges me or do I have to find my 1RM on for example the good morning and use around 50% of that (since most of the assistance work is 5x10+)?

Trial and error. Pick a weight you think you can do for 3 to 5 sets of 10 to 15 reps. If you struggle to get the reps, drop the weight by 5 or so. My goldilocks zone for assistance weight is this: if I’m really working to get the last rep or two on my next to last set, then maybe get close to grinding out (not a full-on grind, but really needing some extra focus) the last few reps of my last set, I’ve found the right weight. Then I log it for future reference.

Tldr: It’s an inexact science, be flexible.

Also, you don’t have to choose assistance exactly like the example, choose your own assistance exercises as you see fit.


My suggestion is to start a training notebook and record what you do session to session and how difficult it was. Then you can always see what works when. Assistance should almost never be a grind to complete.

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I have another question about the templates: Now I started using the Triumvirate template. Should I also use FSL set(s) (always) and Joker sets (on good days only), or is FSL another “template” just like triumvirate and should it not be combined together? On the forums around the internet everybody seems to have their own opinion about this and the book is not conclusive on this subject :confused:

If you’re doing the original triumvirate from the books, keep it simple and leave them out.

1 main lift per workout with a PR set, 2 assistance exercises. It works great without FSL and you definitely don’t have to worry about jokers. Just stick to that for a good 3-6+ cycles and see where you’re at after.

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At this stage never jokers. FSL occasionally if reeally want.

Main point of those limited excercises is that you really make them count. Plenty of higher volume/more complicated templates to move on to further down the line

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