More on 5/3/1

Posted: November 7, 2014 in training
Tags: , , , , , , ,

So I mentioned recently that I don’t really talk a lot about my training and workouts here except a few mentions of my programs.

But maybe I should. And by “should”, I mean it’s my blog, so why the heck not?

So on that topic:

I mentioned recently switching to 5/3/1 from Stronglifts.

For those not familiar let me start with a brief overview of how each program works. I’ll throw this in a different color so that you can easily skip past this if you already know about these prorams.

Stronglifts has two workouts, A and B, and  5 lifts. The lifts used in Stronglifts are the barbell squat, bench press, barbell row, overhead press, and deadlift. These are arranged into two workouts:

Workout A:

Squat

Bench Press

Barbell Row

Workout B:

Squat

Overhead Press

Deadlift

For each of these you do 5 working sets of 5 reps, each time you successfully do your 5×5 you add 5lbs to the weight you life nextime. Along with the 5 working sets they recommend a number or warmup sets. I was doing about 4 warmup sets for squats and then 2 warm up sets for the others usually. So it’s more than 5 sets if you count warmups. And stronglifts recommends doing these 3 times a week alternating A and B.

As you can see with stronglifts, you would be increasing weight very fast if you don’t stall at any weight.
As I mentioned, I decided to switch to 5/3/1/ because I was always exhausted after all those squats and was not progressing in any other lifts anymore.

5/3/1 has 4 workouts focusing on 4 lifts. The 4 lifts are the barbell squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press. So 5/3/1 does not include the barbell row as a primary lift. Each of the 4 workouts then is focused on one and only 1 primary lift.

Using this website as a guide for each lift you progress through 4 “waves”. For each it recommend 3 warmup sets. 40% x5reps, 50%x 5 reps, 60%x 3 reps.

After the warmup you do 3 working sets. For wave A you do 75% x 5, 80% x 5, 85% x 5, Wave B is 80% x 3, 85% x 3, 90% x 3, Wave C 75% x 5, 85% x 3, 95% x 1 and then Wave D is a deload wave at 60% x 5, 65% x 5, 70% x 5. 

So they weight is all based on percent of your 1 rep max. The website I linked has a calculation to estimate your 1 rep max if you’ve never tried to max out for 1 rep on a lift. 

But wait! Not that simple! You are actually supposed to consider 90% of that to be your 1 rep max for purposes of the program. So you calculate a 1 rep max, then take 90% of that, then take whichever percentage of that.

Oh, and after you complete the 4 waves you then add 5lbs for upper-body and 10lbs for lower body to your 1RM to repeat the 4 waves based on that

In addition to the 1 lift each workout, you can do some optional assistance work after.

As you can see 5/3/1 is not really as simple as stronglifts in terms of simplicity of the set up.

As I already mentioned the main reason I’m switching is because I like being able to focus on one primary lift each workout and not being exhausted from squats before all my upper body lifts.

So having just started with 5/3/1 here are some of my thoughts:

1. It’s more complicated! 

So I’ve read around several different sites explaining 5/3/1, I still f-ed up on my understanding of it the first workout.

2. It feels so much lighter and easier!

For the main lifts I’m doing fewer sets and lighter weights than I was used to with strong lifts. Which I’m trying to trust the prescribed progression of this and not feel like I’m just always going backward. I do still wonder if I should just use my actual calculated 1 rep max instead of taking 90% of it. I read that 90% was in part to counterbalance people who would overestimate their one rep max by using a previous max when they aren’t currently lifting that heavy, and people using really bad form to get their max weight. My numbers are either a 1 rep max I’ve done recently or calculated from recent weights I’ve done at higher reps.

And with 5/3/1 you are changing your weight each set and only doing 3 working sets.

3. Progress is prescribed at a lower rate.

And I think part of this is that my weights are way lower than what seems the expectation of where folks start 5/3/1 at. so adding 5 or 10lbs to the 1 RM and then calculating a percent of that seems a small increase compared to adding 5lbs (or 10 for deadlift) each time to the weight you lift. And with my 1RM numbers being small already. Plus this is a slight problem in that I don’t have fractional plates, so right now the smallest weight increase I can do is 5lbs (or I guess 2.5lb if I had an imbalanced bar). And why the heck are fractonal plates so friggin expensive? Amazon has a set totaling 5 lbs (set of 1/4 lb, 1/2 lb, 3/4 lb and 1 lb) for $60. $60 for 5 lbs? Am I the only one who thinks that sounds completely ridiculous? So right now I’m trying to think of another way I can add small amounts of weight to my bar that don’t involve spending $60 for 5 measly lbs.

4. I’m doing more assistance work than seems recommended. 

So reading around I see a lot of folks saying no more than 1-2 assistance exercises per workout.

I did 5 with my first, which was bench- also I’m out of order because I did 5×5 squats the day before I switched so I’m doing bench, deadlift, ohp, squat instead of squat, bench, deadlift, ohp.

I planned for 4 with deadlifts but stopped after 3.

I keep seeing that the important part is that assistance work doesn’t take away from the main lift. So my feeling is, if all my assistance work is after the main lift, it shouldn’t be making a different to my main lift. Basically how I’ve been planning it is start with major lift, the assistance work in prioritized in order, so whenever I get exhausted and can’t do more (or run out of time) I  stop.

Also right now some of my “assistance work” is just extra stuff I want to throw in, more than stuff they recommend. Like I want to keep doing barbell rows so now I am calling that “assistance work”. I also love hip thrusts for more glute work, so I’m going to call that “assistance work”. So I’m kind of just making stuff up and doing whatever for that.

5. I’m doing low weight, high rep and it feels so weird.

So another recommendation for assistance work is “big and boring”. doing 5 sets of 10 reps at a low weight. This is mostly recommended for use with the main lift. So after the prescribed sets, reps, and weights for the main lift, I then aim to do 5 sets of 10 reps at 40% weight. Since I didn’t really know what to do for weight, reps, and sets for the other assistance work, I’ve decided to adopt this for all the assistance work for now.

It feels really weird doing high rep, low weight :-\

Well, technically it says to increase this weight percentage overtime too to whatever works out as the max you can do for 8-10 rep. Still lower weight and higher rep than I’m used to though.

Which I may then be able to fit less assistance work once I’m doing more weights. Also less with lower body because that always takes more out of me than upper body lifts- which also maybe will change once I get my weights higher with upper body.

10579979_10105765889542954_4502642590116178037_n

Me doing hip thrusts after deadlifts.

So, there’s where my thoughts are on this right now.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. caronbot says:

    5/3/1 is fantastic. As soon as I finish my cut I’m going right back on it.

  2. G says:

    That sounds like a pain to figure out and program! But I hope it works for you. I haven’t gotten to the point in SL where I’m stalling yet (though it might be soon). I can’t bear to do all the warmup sets they recommend, either; I’ll do like a set of 5 squats with just the bar and then I figure I’m good. I could see the point if doing progressive sets and trying for a big final lift…

    • ebay313 says:

      It’s not really hard. It’s harder than stronglifts in that free information online is scattered about more. It’s based on a book you need to pay for though, so if I actually had that it might have been simpler. But after looking around a reading a few places it’s not super hard.
      It’s more complicated comparatively and hard to explain but not really difficult to figure out when you are doing it.
      I also started a “notebook” in one note to keep track of it all, so with that it isn’t too hard- just gotta do the math ahead of workouts and write out what I’m supposed to do in there.

      • G says:

        Ah, ok! I love my notebook too– not only does it keep me on track with what I’m supposed to be doing (which was useful with NRoL) but it also helps me to look back at my progress.

        • ebay313 says:

          Yeah, I wasn’t good at doing that with Stroglifts really. I track on fitocracy.com which is useful for some things but I like the notebook too. But stronglifts had it’s own app so I never felt the need to keep track of it separately.
          Idk, I like having a notebook (even if it’s electronic), for whatever reason.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s