My 5/3/1 Progression

My training has been royally screwed for the past couple of years with injuries and life stuff. It's not that I haven't been training, it's just that it's been difficult finding some consistency. The one constant has that my lifting has remained rooted in 5/3/1.

Fortunately through time, effort, and help I have been able to rehab my body to a really good point. I am probably right around my fifth mesocycle (mesocycle is a fancy word for a planned month of training). The bones of the training have been the same with the main exercises. I have just had to tweak a few of the assistance movements.

The best thing is that I have been making really good progressions with my main squat, bench, and deadlift movements. Due to the fact that I have not had a chance to test my maxes for a long time, nor did I think it was wise, my starting numbers were more or less estimated based on my 35 years of training.

Of course, I started out very low. I capped my amrap (as many reps as possible) sets at 20. That number is high, but I wanted to at least feel worked with the lighter weight. After the first month I felt good so I jumped the weight up. At that point, the amrap/max sets of 20 got a little challenging.

Perhaps it was not so much that the work was challenging, it was more that it was difficult to maintain focus on really clean reps all the way up to 20. So on the following mesocycle, I jumped my numbers up by right around 10 percent, another educated guess based on experience, and reset my amrap cap at 10.

The first training cycle on those numbers was very comfortable on the squat and deadlift. The bench was more challenging. I wasn't able to hit the 10 reps on heaviest, week 3 weights. That made the bench easy, just keep pressing forward and try to hit that ten.

For the squat and deadlift I have jumped up 10 lbs on each of the following two training cycles. The first went well, the second became challenging. I got the 10 reps, but I am choosing to keep the weight the same this time around. I got a pinch in my low back/hip on the right side during the deadlift due to a lapse in form on rep nine. A perfect example of why sets of 20 aren't a good idea for major movements.

So just because I hit the 10 reps it doesn't mean I can automatically jump up weight. I need to master it before I am ready to move up. I'd rather repeat a cycle of weight and make it cleaner before I progress. Otherwise, I'm just edging closer to injury as opposed to getting stronger.

It's funny, being friends with Jim and having read most of his books, I can't even remember how he recommends moving up anymore. The 10 reps just made sense to me. Not too low, not too high. 10 pound jumps on the squat and deadlift and 5 pounds on the bench.

When you have been under the bar as long as I have, you must manage your expectations. Progress comes much slower. You have to be patient. So if you have been around a while, this approach might be good for you as well.

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