Incorporating 5/3/1 into a succesful programme – Part 2

In the last instalment of this article series we looked at just what 5/3/1 was and we went over some of it’s merit’s.  In this article we will looks at some of the thing’s that I think can be improved and how to go about improving them.

  • No programmed top end lifting.  – There is a definite skill to putting up a 1-3 rep maxes.  Talk to any strength athlete or anyone who has went for an absolute personal best and they will tell you it’s a whole different ball game to getting deep into RM sets.  If the aim of the programme is to shift your top end there really whould be some top end lifting.
  • Lack of frequency – For some people squatting, deadlifting and benching once a week is enough but for things like the back squat a day in the week where you can forget about weight on the bar and concentrate on technique can help a lot of lifters get better simply by helping them to grease the groove as it where. 
  • A lack of specificity or purpose to the accessory work – whilst writing a “cookie cutter” programme for the masses in the form of an e-book it makes giving specific accessory work that will fit every one’s goals a very difficult task indeed.  Even with this in mind accessory work still makes up the majority of training volume for most people so it is always a good idea to have a plan for it even if it is just a general plan that is designed to fit the goals of the majority.
  • 5/3/1 for deadlifting – some people will respond to reps when deadlifting pretty well but I have a couple of reservations in using it for this lift given that the majority of people let the form break down in this lift (the real reason the deadlift is synonymous as being a very hard lift on the body is due to the position people get into and nothing to do with it being “draining on the cns” what ever the hell that means.)  For that reason alone I would prefer to include a progression for deadlifting that doesn’t involve rep outs at 10+ reps.
  • Overly easy down weeks – the planned deload on 5/3/1 is set to 60% which represents a massive drop off in intensity whilst still calling for a pretty sizeable drop off in volume.  Tapering off both intensity and volume is a pretty good way of de-training so instead of dropping both off you should really choose one or the other, for lifting weight it’s usually a good idea to keep intensity as high as tolerable (in season) and allowing a drop off in volume load to act as your deload.    

Modifying 5/3/1 to reach three separate goals.

    As an exercise in programme writing I will walk you through how to modify the 5/3/1 template to suit 3 different end goals namely.
    – Training to increase your top end strength (powerlifting/strongman as an example)
    – Training to increase your strength and power (general sports performance)
    – Training to get bigger (bodybuilding/general aesthetic goals) 
    Things to consider when modifying a template

    When you look at a programme or template and wish to modify it to suit your goals there are some gross topics that you need to consider –
    • What’s the progression – We covered this fairly in depth in the last instalment of this series all good programmes will have a underpinning progression method weither it be based on 3,6,9 week blocks/percentage lifting/simply trying to beat your last performance et al.  Each programme has it’s own method’s of reaching an overload.  If you are looking to edit and already existing template it is important to try and preserve this principal as to not negate the worth of the approach.
    • Frequency – Depending on your goals and the time you have on your hands how often you perform diffrent exercises will have it’s own merits and negatives.  You need to consider this when you modify the frequency of the lifts.  For instance benching 2-3x a week will improve you line and make you more skilled however if volume and intensity are not staggered sufficiently to negate the chances of a shoulder injury or picking up a niggle this is a real possibility.
    • Exercise Selection and Ordering – The exercises you choose need to be in the programme for a reason just blindly throwing in squat because it’s one of the “big three” will not best serve your goals.  You also need to order exercises so they don’t have a negative effect on your performance in later lifts for instance if your primary goal is power, doing an all out set of back squat is probably going to negatively effect your performance in power cleans whilst the opposite might not be true. 
    • Volume and Intensity – These are two huge topics but you need to be aware of them, when you have them both at high levels your ability to sustain the programme will be pretty minimal.  However for bodybuilding purposes you can have your volume up high all year round and can get your varied stimulus by varying intensity vis versa for strength purposes it is easily achievable to have intensity up high year round and vary your volume load.  When you have to perform in a separate activity and weight training is a supplement you can alter both variables to taper your performance for important comps. 

    I will take my time to walk you through the three modified templates in the three seperate instalments it should prove as a useful tutorial in programme writing.