Spring 2022 – Moving away from 5/3/1

If you enjoy reading about lifting weights, read on.

Below is me thinking out loud – raw thoughts as I reformulate.

I think 5/3/1 is getting to the point of beating me up. I want to chase heavier weights, but I need to be less rigid in how I get there. I also need to approach my assistance and supplemental lifts differently to support my road ahead (longevity).

I think about what got me to my strongest: I listened to my body, I did things with RPE. I worked up, I chilled out. 

I’m not saying to necessarily do this again now, but I am saying the rigidity of 5/3/1 is good, and it’s time to start deviating from it. I’ll always have 5/3/1 principles as my foundation.

Deadlift has deviated already due to the strained hamstring. I find low volume is good for me right now. Working up to heavyish singles is good strain. Singles, doubles, triples are probably in my future because I don’t want the exhaustion of higher reps and then I falter in technique and strain the hamstring again. I’m trying to BUILD that shit, so I don’t need to wreck it any further. RDLs have been good; may switch to stiff-legs for a spell to build hammies.

Squat. I’m happy I’ve been able to restart (back) squat – shoulder mobility issues since maybe 2019 prevented me from getting under the bar (it’s why I was using the SSB for so long back at Ignite). Recently a chiropractor poked a few things, some Graston… it did something, mobility has markedly improved. So while it’s been good to get back to squatting, the rest of me needs more warm-up. I need a different approach to squatting than 5/3/1. My body needs a little more finessing back into squats – 5/3/1 just isn’t the right rhythm of sets and reps and getting my aging body into the groove; 5/3/1 principles yes, rhythm no.

Bench seems good. I’ll probably keep bench as main lift doing 5/3/1 progression with the last/PR set being at like RPE 8. My current 5/3/1 progression is grooving well so as long as I keep it smart, it should still serve me to stay on that progression. No more BBB assistance tho – not sure what yet to replace it with. Pec minor dips have been productive; continuing dips in some way foh sho (again, improved shoulder).

Press is fine. I don’t see reason to change this either. Take a similar approach as bench. I want to keep pressing because I believe OHP-ing again contributed to the improvement of my shoulder.

Assistance work I think needs to change to be more bodybuilding-like, more hypertrophy. I’m thinking I may try something around novelty, because I would like to see about compressing my workout:

  • Week 1 – perform new movement, e.g. incline db flies
  • Week 2 – do same movement; weight a little more known/stable, thus expecting more reps than last week, better contractions
  • Week 3 – same movement, pushing more, expecting to crank out a few more since more adapted… 
  • Week 4 – same movement, add in intensity technique: drop set, iso holds, partials, whateva
  • Week 5 – back to the top, selecting new movement, e.g. flat db flies, cable flies, pec dec, etc.

It might even be a 3 week thing where it’s 1, 2, 4, repeat. It’s possible you do a deload week before you repeat. Whatever enables the most stimulus over time via novelty. That is, I want to be sore after ever workout, and the above is an illustrative pattern/progression on how I might achieve that state. Additionally, I want to maximize stimulus with fewer sets, lower volume.

Some rest periods will be 3 minutes, others 1 minute. I grant the longer rest periods, and I will use those as appropriate. There’s also the 1 minute turnarounds and how those contribute to “the pump”. Chase it.

It might look something like this:

  • 3 days per week
  • Lower, quad
    • Squat, doing my own feel-based work-up to a crisp heavy-ish single. Maybe drop to 80% of that for 1 set of reps at RPE 8; maybe.
    • Leg press (feet low), sets of 20; 3 min rest
    • Calf raises, 3 min rest
    • Curls (light), like 3-5 sets
    • Forearms?
    • treadmill
  • Upper, push emphasis
    • Bench, keep my 5/3/1 with the top set being RPE 8
    • Flies of some sort – above pattern, 1 min rest; 3 sets.
    • Seated DB press – 3 min rest; light work up, 3 work sets
    • Some sort of lateral raise – 1 min rest; 3 sets
    • Some sort of triceps pump work
    • Some sort of general back like pullups or rows, up to 5 work sets
    • treadmill
  • Lower, ham/glute
    • Deadlift, per above. No back-offs of these
    • Stiff-legs, sets of 8 probably. 3 min rest
    • Seated calf raises, 3 min rest
    • Triceps work (light)
    • Forearms?
    • Treadmill
  • Upper, pull emphasis
    • Press, keeping 5/3/1, top set RPE 8, etc.
    • Dips, bw only 3 sets of max reps
    • Row of some sort, probably barbell. Something heavy.
    • Pulldown of some sort
    • Facepulls for the burn
    • Curls (heavy) 5-8 sets, maybe 2 exercises
    • Treadmill

Something like that maybe. It’s a good start.

Hrm. The more I look at it, Pull day should be start with rows, and then press and dips are later. I’ll have to drop my weights down on press, but that’s fine. My shoulders might be happier with 5-8s, with occasional 3-2-1s. 🤔

Well, it’s a start.

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