Tag Archives: 531

Choosing a Workout Program

workout

The video below from Elliott Hulse at strengthcamp is an opinion I share about choosing a workout routine.

Cliffs:

Blindly select a workout program that works for numerous people. (I listed some below.)

Follow it for a year.

Learn to make adjustments to the program over time that benefit you.

Enjoy continued progress without wasting your time looking for the magic program or some miraculous new discovery when it comes to lifting weights.

Hold yourself accountable.

 

Example: I have consistently followed 5/3/1 for over two years now and have steady progress in all my main lifts. I have made tweaks to the program to accommodate my goals and work hard in the gym. The changes I make are made gradually over time. I keep the things that I feel improve me and get rid of what doesn’t seem to be helping. What doesn’t change is the general approach to training. I still read a lot about training from various authors/lifters, but I don’t let it affect me to the point where I go program hopping every month or two. I utilize the information to make minor positive changes to my training when I see fit. I still utilize the fundamentals of 5/3/1 (with principles of Jim Wendler’s new book Beyond 5/3/1).

 

Some programs that I believe are very solid in their approach are listed below. You could literally blindly choose from one of these, if you wanted. Or you can spend the time to read through them all and then choose one. Whichever method you choose, pick one program and run it for at least one year like Elliott Hulse mentions in his video.

Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 – If you choose this one, I strongly advise also reading Beyond 5/3/1.

Jonnie Candito’s Training Program – You can download this one for free, but I would suggest leaving him a donation if you have the cash to spare. It’s a solid program that he’s making available to everyone.

The Cube Method by Brandon Lilly

The Juggernaut Method by Chad Wesley Smith

Westside for Skinny Bastards by Joe DeFranco – Free PDF. This one is great for athletes.

 

Work hard and you will be successful with any of these. Instead of wasting time trying to find the ‘best’ way to train, just work your ass off with the principles of a proven program. That’s just my opinion though.

Tips for Increasing Lift Frequency

frequency

Let’s say you want to make your squat in particular stronger, because it’s lagging compared to the rest of your lifts. Increasing how often you squat can be a great way to get better at squatting. I assume this makes sense to most of you, but it might not be that easy. Below are a few things I think you should consider.

 

Adjust Volume and/or Intensity

When you increase training frequency of a particular lift, you are adding more stress to your routine and also increasing the demand for recovery as a result. This isn’t a bad thing, because you’re trying to force your body to adapt and grow stronger with your training, but it can be detrimental if you don’t adjust your training volume or intensity (percentage of one repetition maximum) to compensate for the increased frequency.

Adjusting Volume

In my opinion, there are two simple ways to manipulate training volume in your routine for a particular lift.

The easiest way would be to keep overall volume for the lift constant, but split it up. So if you’ve been squatting once per week and doing 20 sets, split that up into two workouts (10 sets per workout) and go from there. I’m not saying you should never increase overall volume again, but I would try to keep it constant for a bit as you get used to the increased frequency.

The second way of adjusting training volume would be to reduce assistance work, particularly direct assistance work. I.e. if you’ve been doing 10 sets of squats and 10 sets of leg press, drop the leg press for a while and add 10 sets of squats on another day instead. Squats will be more taxing than leg press, but overall your volume hasn’t changed so you should be able to adapt without going into complete zombie mode.

Adjusting Intensity

Intensity is the percentage of your one reptition maximum (1RM) you’re using. An easy way to manipulate this, when you’re increasing frequency on a lift, is to have light days and heavy days (and possibly medium days).

It’s not rocket science, but for a very simple working example, we’ll take percentages from Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 training program. I also recommend you read his new book Beyond 5/3/1, if you’re going to run 5/3/1 yourself. For this, I’m just using his percentages because I use the program myself and it goes well with the message I’m trying to get across.

Let’s say you’re on the 3 sets of 3 repetitions week of 5/3/1 (a little more goes into this, but I’m just giving you a simple example and don’t want to turn it into a clusterfuck), which puts your working sets at 3×80%, 3×85% and 3×90%. This would be your heavy day. If you increase the frequency of that lift and add another day, it would be a light day with deload percentages (i.e. work sets of 5×50%, 5×60% and 5×70%).

A light or medium day might also feature dynamic effort work. This is usually something like 5-8 sets of 1-3 repetitions done with 50-60% of your 1RM. Mainly for speed and explosiveness. (That’s very basic information. A lot more goes into dynamic effort work. You can read more about it here.)

Another way to have a day with lower intensity to get used to more frequency is to use a variation of the lift you’re increasing frequency for that doesn’t allow you to use as much weight. I.e. if you’re trying to increase frequency for the squat, you might use a front squat (or possibly an overhead squat depending on your specific goals) because it doesn’t allow you to use as much weight. I actually do exactly this myself for squat. I have a squat day and then I also do front squat as kind of a warmup lift on deadlift day. I like that setup a lot.

 

Take Preventative Measures to Avoid Excessive Soreness

I already wrote an article on delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and an article on active recovery, so I’m not going to go into any details on those here. With that being said, you should do what it takes to minimize how sore you are. Increasing training frequency, either for one lift or across the board, will inevitably lead to some added fatigue. This is normal and okay, just don’t let it get out of hand. If you find yourself feeling like a zombie for several weeks, it might be time to take a step back and re-evaluate what you’re doing. This is especially true if you notice a decline in strength.

Training stress by itself is usually something that can be managed with a lot of active recovery work and rest, but most people also have lives outside the gym and might not even have the time to commit to all the things needed to make high frequency training work. While I wouldn’t classify doing a lift twice a week as high frequency by any means, it can still have a negative effect on individual lifters. If we’re moving beyond twice per week and talking about doing a lift 3+ times per week with relatively heavy loads on the barbell, managing soreness can quickly turn into a job itself. At this point, you need to judge for yourself if the increased frequency benefits or hurts your overall progress.

 

Prioritize Your Training

Depending on what you’re currently doing and how much of a frequency increase you’re looking to achieve, there is a good chance you will need to alter your priorities a little bit within the context of your training program. This could mean dropping some assistance work that might not be extremely important in favor of having increased frequency on a more important movement.

It could also mean that you utilize less taxing movements for your assistance work than you were using before. I.e. if your main assistance movement on squat day is the barbell good morning, you might opt to switch that to a less taxing lower back and posterior chain exercise like a band good morning or a back extension. This will get the barbell off your back for your assistance work, while you increase the amount of time you’re spending with the barbell on your back to squat. A working example would be what Jim Wendler did with his 5/3/1 Frequency Project (described in detail in Beyond 5/3/1). As frequency is increased dramatically, specifically for the squat but also the deadlift, the demand placed on the lower back is higher and that’s why he basically forbids the use of barbell bent over rows while doing the Frequency Project. This way the lower back isn’t additionally stressed under a relatively heavy load with assistance work on top of the work done with the main lifts. He also limits the amount of reps performed with the barbell deadlift.

 

And that about wraps up my general recommendations for increasing training frequency for a particular lift. Remember that I’m not a doctor, so just take this as an opinion from a guy who lifts weights.

Back to School Training Advice

dorm

For those of you going back to school now, there might be less opportunities to get your training done. This is especially true for athletes. Below are a few quick tips to make it easier on yourself.

Reduce Training Frequency and/or Volume

This one is pretty straightforward. If you have less time to train often, then train with less frequency. Make sure you keep intensity high, so you continue to grow stronger and at the very least maintain your muscle mass. Programs like 5/3/1 (I’d also recommend reading Beyond 5/3/1, if you plan to run it) offer 2 or 3 day per week training templates, which can still be extremely effective. Sometimes it’s more about quality than quantity.

If you have some time to train daily, but it’s not enough to do all the volume you’re used to, prioritize your workouts. Figure out what exercises are most important (probably the compounds like squat, deadlift, row, pull up, bench press and overhead press) and for the rest of your training try to combine exercises (i.e. instead of doing dumbbell lateral raises and cable external rotations simply do a dumbbell L-Raise) or superset them (i.e. do a set of pullups between OHP sets).

Remember that the added school stress can create a situation where fatigue accumulates more quickly. This doesn’t mean you should stop training hard, but training smart would be a great idea as well now. Be efficient with your time. Do enough to make progress, but don’t hammer away with things that basically only help make you more tired and sore.

 

Improve Time-Efficiency with At-Home Workouts

Let’s say you have a limited amount of time per week to hit the gym, but you have some time during study breaks where you could squeeze in some quick workouts. An efficient way to set up your training program based on these requirements would be to hit all your big lifts at the gym, when you have access to the weights you need for those. Then just do the rest of your assistance work at home.

Even if you have limited space, you can probably rig up a door frame pull up bar and do some band exercises. A lot of body weight exercises are also possible. I’d recommend checking out Convict Conditioning and Convict Conditioning 2, because a dorm room is a lot like a prison cell.

An example: If you want to get better at pull ups, this would be a good opportunity to try a grease the groove program for that. You’d basically do a few pull ups during your study breaks to get better at them. Use bands to assist if you can’t do a few regular pullups with your body weight yet. Or add weight with a weighted vest.

Study breaks are also a very good opportunity to get some foam rolling and/or stretching done. Or do some yoga to relax and stretch. My active recovery article has some more basic information.

If you feel tired and need to wake the fuck up, try out Elliott Hulse’s bio-energizer routine. You might look like a nutjob doing some of the ‘drills’, but it does work.

Tools you might find helpful for at-home workouts: Door Frame Pull Up Bar | Jumpstretch Bands | Weighted Vest | TRX Suspension Trainer | Rumble RollerThe Grid Foam RollerRegular Cheap Foam RollerLacrosse Ball (for trigger point self myofascial release) | Yoga Kit for Beginners |

 

In Season Athletes: Train for Your Sport

If your season is starting and you’ve been lifting weights 4+ times per week, it’s time to reduce this and focus on your sport. Give 100% in practices and don’t hold back to reserve energy for lifting. If you get 1-2 lifting sessions in per week during the season, that’s fine. Simply do what your energy levels allow for. If you have free time outside of practice to train, make sure you prioritize recovery over lifting. Now is not the time to get stronger, you should prioritize this during the offseason. Now is the time to become better at your sport.

To get an example of what I’m talking about, check out the in-season training portion of Westside for Skinny Bastards from DeFranco.

 

Prepare Meals Ahead of Time

If you have access to a kitchen daily with the time to cook, this might not be a big deal… but that’s not the situation a lot of college students will find themselves in. So make it count when you do have time and access to a kitchen or you’ll probably end up eating a bunch of junk food. Cook your meals in bulk, separate them into tupperware containers and also make yourself healthy snacks that can be kept for a while (i.e. beef or turkey jerky, dried fruit, hard boiled eggs, or homemade protein bars). A food dehydrator can be very helpful! Excalibur is a bad motherfucker.

 

And that wraps this one up. Remember that I’m not a doctor, so this is just advice from a guy who lifts and has been pressed for time in the past himself. I hope it helps some people!

Beyond 5/3/1 Kindle Edition Available

If you haven’t grabbed yourself a copy of the new Jim Wendler book ‘Beyond 5/3/1‘, then now is definitely the time to do so. (I’m starting to feel like a door-to-door salesman.) Amazon just released the Kindle edition of the book, which only costs $9.99 (as opposed to $24.99 for the regular ebook and $29.99 for the paperback book). I posted the table of contents in a previous announcement about the paperback copy being available, but I’ll list it again right now.

5/3/1 is the training program I have used for almost two years now and it’s still giving me steady progress. The new techniques covered in the Beyond 5/3/1 book are things I’m already implementing in my workout routine, specifically the Joker Sets and First Set Last approaches, but also things like pyramids.

If you don’t have a Kindle, not to worry. There are free readers for Kindle books available: Kindle for PC | Kindle for Mac

 

beyond-531

 

Table of Contents for the new Beyond 5/3/1 book:

  • 5/3/1 Principles – 4
  • Importance of the Training Max – 6
  • 6 Week Training Cycles – 7
  • The Warm Up – 10
  • 5/3/1 Variations – 11
  • 5/3/1 Pyramid – 12
  • First Set Last – 12
  • First Set Last, Multiple Sets – 13
  • First Set Last, Rest Pause – 13
  • First Set Last, Pause Squats and Benches – 14
  • 5/3/1 Strength Phase – 15
  • 5/3/1 and Dynamic Work – 16
  • Boring But Big – 17
  • Boring But Big, Variation 1 – 19
  • Boring But Big, Variation 2 – 20
  • Boring But Big, 6 Week Challenge – 21
  • Boring But Big, 5×5 – 21
  • Boring But Big, 5×3 – 22
  • Boring But Big, 5×1 – 22
  • Boring But Big, 13 Week Challenge – 24
  • Boring But Big, 2 Days/Week – 24
  • Boring But Big, Rule of 50 – 25
  • 5/3/1 and the Fatherland – 26
  • 5/3/1 SVR – 30
  • The Rule of 10 – 30
  • Joker Sets – 31
  • Joker Supersets – 34
  • Beyond 5/3/1, Training Maximally – 35
  • Full Body Training – 43
  • Full Body, Power Clean – 44
  • Full Body, Power Clean 2 – 45
  • Full Body, Full Boring – 46
  • Spinal Tap Training – 46
  • Spinal Tap Training, 2 – 48
  • 5’s Progression (Beginner/Advanced) – 50
  • More on the Deload – 51
  • Full Body Deload – 52
  • High Intensity Deload – 53
  • 28 Weeks of Training – 53
  • Advanced 5/3/1 – 55
  • 2 Day/Week Training – 59
  • Hypertrophy Phase – 62
  • Strength Phase – 65
  • Assistance Work – 67
  • 2 Day/Week, New Template – 70
  • S.S.S., Singles, Speed, Size – 71
  • 12 Week S.S.S. Program – 74
  • Volume Work, 75/85 – 75
  • 5/3/1 Challenges – 80
  • Boring But Big Challenge – 82
  • Strength Challenge – 88
  • Prowler Challenge – 106
  • 100 Rep Challenge – 113
  • 5/3/1 Rest Pause Challenge – 118
  • 5/3/1 Frequency Project – 123
  • 5/3/1 Frequency Project – 128
  • The Big Question – 129
  • Final – 131

 

Beyond 5/3/1 Paperback Book

The new Beyond 5/3/1 book by Jim Wendler is now available as a paperback copy on Amazon. Make sure you grab one before they’re sold out.

beyond-531

This is by far Wendler’s best book yet. 5/3/1 is the program I personally run and this book adds a lot to that. I’m already implementing some of the techniques described in the new book in my own training. Below is a table of contents.

Table of Contents for Beyond 5/3/1:

  • 5/3/1 Principles – 4
  • Importance of the Training Max – 6
  • 6 Week Training Cycles – 7
  • The Warm Up – 10
  • 5/3/1 Variations – 11
  • 5/3/1 Pyramid – 12
  • First Set Last – 12
  • First Set Last, Multiple Sets – 13
  • First Set Last, Rest Pause – 13
  • First Set Last, Pause Squats and Benches – 14
  • 5/3/1 Strength Phase – 15
  • 5/3/1 and Dynamic Work – 16
  • Boring But Big – 17
  • Boring But Big, Variation 1 – 19
  • Boring But Big, Variation 2 – 20
  • Boring But Big, 6 Week Challenge – 21
  • Boring But Big, 5×5 – 21
  • Boring But Big, 5×3 – 22
  • Boring But Big, 5×1 – 22
  • Boring But Big, 13 Week Challenge – 24
  • Boring But Big, 2 Days/Week – 24
  • Boring But Big, Rule of 50 – 25
  • 5/3/1 and the Fatherland – 26
  • 5/3/1 SVR – 30
  • The Rule of 10 – 30
  • Joker Sets – 31
  • Joker Supersets – 34
  • Beyond 5/3/1, Training Maximally – 35
  • Full Body Training – 43
  • Full Body, Power Clean – 44
  • Full Body, Power Clean 2 – 45
  • Full Body, Full Boring – 46
  • Spinal Tap Training – 46
  • Spinal Tap Training, 2 – 48
  • 5’s Progression (Beginner/Advanced) – 50
  • More on the Deload – 51
  • Full Body Deload – 52
  • High Intensity Deload – 53
  • 28 Weeks of Training – 53
  • Advanced 5/3/1 – 55
  • 2 Day/Week Training – 59
  • Hypertrophy Phase – 62
  • Strength Phase – 65
  • Assistance Work – 67
  • 2 Day/Week, New Template – 70
  • S.S.S., Singles, Speed, Size – 71
  • 12 Week S.S.S. Program – 74
  • Volume Work, 75/85 – 75
  • 5/3/1 Challenges – 80
  • Boring But Big Challenge – 82
  • Strength Challenge – 88
  • Prowler Challenge – 106
  • 100 Rep Challenge – 113
  • 5/3/1 Rest Pause Challenge – 118
  • 5/3/1 Frequency Project – 123
  • 5/3/1 Frequency Project – 128
  • The Big Question – 129
  • Final – 131

Beyond 5/3/1 – New Book by Jim Wendler

If you’re a fan of Jim Wendler’s training program 5/3/1, you’ll be interested in this. He just released his new 5/3/1 ebook called ‘Beyond 5/3/1‘. Right now you can only get it on his web site here (for $24.99), but I’ll make another post once it’s available on Amazon. Lots of interesting new stuff in there. I still run a hybrid of 5/3/1 and The Cube Method myself, so it’s an interesting read for me to say the least.

beyond-531

 

A Couple Books to Read

Literally a couple. Two.

starting-strength

Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe. Read it. Even if you’re not planning to do the program, it will teach you the main lifts (deadlift, squat, overhead press and bench press). Read it. Read it now.

 

531

5/3/1 – The Simplest and Most Effective Training System for Raw Strength by Jim Wendler. This is the lifting program I’m currently using myself. There is also a version of the book specifically for powerlifting. Read that one, if you want to be a powerlifter (or strong like one).

 

The Kindle editions for both books are $9.99. Don’t have a Kindle? No problem. You can just download Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac for free. Then you can read the Kindle versions of both books on your computer.