Program audit - Hacking away the unessential - Help needed

Discussion in 'Barbell' started by Abraiz, Feb 13, 2018.

  1. Abraiz

    Abraiz Double-Digit Post Count

    Hi all.

    I am in a dilemma. I use 5/3/1. Main lift, 2 assistance/accessory lifts. I recently read (in parts) Tactical Barbell. Lots of stuff, but the main thing that I learned is to cut away the unessential so that you have time for essential things. Been thinking about it a lot. Here I will write out my routine and my goals. Help me sort out what is essential and what is not.

    My goals:

    Strength. Strength that I can use (functional ?). Along the way, I realized that my upper body needed more work. Thus, I added things like cable rows, lat pulldowns, etc. in my rest periods. Apart from the gym, I do Muay Thai. I also want to add running to my regimen with the goal of being able to run 3 miles under 30 minutes and/or 1.5 miles under 15 minutes.


    Bench Press

    5/3/1 sets
    SSL - 30 reps in whatever set/rep format
    Dumbbell bench press - 5x10
    Dumbbell pullover - 5x20
    Pullup hangs with a 10 kg weight held between feet for as many sets as it takes to get to 1 minute - working towards a pullup.

    Front Squat

    5/3/1 - sets

    SSL - 15 reps in whatever set/rep format
    Bulgarian Split Squats - 3x5
    Barbell curls - 50 in 3 sets, then move up in weight - Had to add this because of pain behind the elbow. This low weight/high rep seems to keep it in check.


    5/3/1 sets

    FSL - Bradford press - 15 reps
    Hammer curl and press with dumbbell - 1-2-3 clusters
    Pullup hangs with a 5 kg weight held between feet for as many sets as it takes to get to 1 minute.


    5/3/1 sets

    Snatch grip high pull (from hang) - usually done before deadlift - 4x8
    Deadlift - SSL - 30 reps
    One arm dumbbell row - 50 in 3 sets, then move up in weight.
    Pullup hangs without any weight for as many sets as it takes to get to 1 minute.

    This is my weekly routine. I arrived on this selection of exercises after a lot of trial and error. Usually, I do the front squat and the OHP on the same day. Sometimes, due to lack of time, do them on different days. Each workout takes me somewhere between 45 - 60 mins. The FS and OHP combined takes me somewhere around 90 mins. I don't want to "body-build." Strength is my primary concern. At the same time, I want to look like I lift.

    Any and all input appreciated. All I want to do is hack away the unessential stuff. For example, do I need the dumbbell bench press if I can do one arm pushup progressions in my Muay Thai sessions? I cannot seem to decide for myself and your advice, comments, criticism is much appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Pavel Macek

    Pavel Macek Strong, Powerful, Explosively Athletic Member of the Forum Senior Instructor

    Cut the assistance lifts, do just 5/3/1 program (program, not sets).
  3. Anna C

    Anna C Strong, Powerful, Explosively Athletic Member of the Forum Certified Instructor

    I agree, do a basic strength program as written, and focus on the big lifts. Do you have a coach? Technique is paramount!

    As for your running goal, it is modest -- you can make progress towards it by spending a slowly-increasing time WALKING, without interfering with your strength progress. I'd save the actual running until after a set period of your dedicated strength program. Running and everything else will be easier once you are stronger.
  4. MikeTheBear

    MikeTheBear Strong Member of the Forum

    I am going to base my answers on my personal biases as to some of these exercises so take this for what it's worth.

    Bench Press Day

    Dumbbell Bench Press: I never found these to be a benefit. Part of the reason is that I always found it awkward trying to lie down on a bench with heavy dumbbells and even more awkward trying to dump them on the floor when finished. If you have a training partner who can hand you the DBs and then take them back, then DB bench presses may make some sense.

    DB Pullover: My shoulders hurt just think about these; I never liked them and never thought they helped anything (told you there'd be lots of personal bias). I'd say you'd be better off adding rows here.

    Front Squat Day

    I like the addition of unilateral leg training which seems to be important for "functional strength." If you feel curls help your elbow then I won't argue with that. No changes on this day.

    OHP Day

    If the Bradford press works for you I won't argue. It seems to strain my shoulders in the behind the neck position. I would opt for DB presses which, unlike DB bench press, I do like.

    Deadlift Day

    That's a LOT of pulling. Move the rows to bench press day and dump the DB bench press. Doing snatch grip high pull and all those sets of deadlift would kill me. Then again, if you're doing these 4x8 you're probably not going really heavy. I would move these to front squat day and do no more than 5 reps per set. Focus solely on the deadlift on this day.

    Just my 2 cents.
  5. Geoff Chafe

    Geoff Chafe Strong, Powerful, Explosively Athletic Member of the Forum

    You want to get stronger and better at running?

    Just do North of Vag with running as your conditioning.
  6. Bill Been

    Bill Been Strong Member of the Forum

    The training variable for you to be concerned with is LOAD and the progression thereof, not exercises. You need to squat, deadlift, and alternate 2 kinds of presses- overhead and bench. The question you should be asking is "how do I progress the weight on all of these lifts simultaneously?"

    Your body does not generate a strength adaptation because you'd like for it to do so. It generates a strength adaptation when you require it to be stronger. The most exquisitely considered smorgasbord of exercises and their related assistance movements cannot hope to overcome missing progressive overload.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
  7. Groove Greaser

    Groove Greaser Triple-Digit Post Count

    I'm curious about what this is, but so scared to google that!
    kb02 and Bro Mo like this.
  8. Geoff Chafe

    Geoff Chafe Strong, Powerful, Explosively Athletic Member of the Forum

    A Wendler 5/3/1 program.
    Groove Greaser likes this.
  9. MikeTheBear

    MikeTheBear Strong Member of the Forum

    It's been some time since I read the original 5/3/1 book. Is North of Vag an actual program or more of a training philosophy?
  10. vegpedlr

    vegpedlr Triple-Digit Post Count

    A little of both. Three things: warm up with foam rolling and skipping rope, your choice of 5/3/1, and conditioning via hill sprints or sled pushing/pulling.
  11. Abraiz

    Abraiz Double-Digit Post Count

    Hi again.

    Thanks for my program audit. This is what I have taken from this discussion:

    Reduce my total workload, especially on the deadlift day. Apart from the main 5/3/1 sets, maybe 9-15 reps?

    Move the dumbbell rows to the bench day.

    I find dumbbell rows perfectly fine. In fact, they have added some noticeable heft to my upper body. My triceps, lats and upper chest have all benefited from it.

    Front squat day is okay.

    Conditioning should be stepped up, slowly but steadily.

    This is all, right? Am I missing something?

    Thanks once again.
  12. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Director of Community Engagement and Forum Admin Staff Member Senior Instructor

    10 minutes/mile pace is slow by most standards, which makes me ask if your body composition is in line with your athletic goals - IOW, are you carrying unwanted bodyfat? If so, consider making that, and not your training program, your first priority.

    The thread title suggests getting rid of what's not essential. Do Simple and Sinister, or do the Rite of Passage, or any of the many excellent, simple programs found in our blog, and run every other day. That's all that's essential. Looking at your program, I'd say you could keep the bench press and the deadlift, and call _everything_ else not essential save for some jogging and your MA practice.

  13. LoneRider

    LoneRider Triple-Digit Post Count

    @Abraiz, my recommendations as far as 5/3/1 and removing the unessentials is concerned is below.

    Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): Stick mostly with main lifts if you want to go with 5/3/1 as a strength program and use moderate volume bodyweight work for assistance.

    I ran 5/3/1 for a little under two years (November 2015-August 2017) and I started trimming things away as I went along. I had been running S&S for 2-3 sessions/week with 2x 5/3/1 sessions and achieved Simple back in October 2016. From then to about May 2017 I ran the RoP 3x/week with 2x 5/3/1 sessions a week.

    I had to be very astute with my training maxes and in fact only increased them by 2.5# for the press/push press and bench press (I used the latter since I did a lot of KB overhead press as an overhead grind) and 5# for the deadlift and squat.

    I used the template from 5/3/1 for Powerlifting which switches the 3x3 and 3x5 weeks to a 3/5/1 configuration. This allowed me to do up to 5 heavy singles on the 3x3 and 5/3/1 weeks (I normally just did 2-3x singles, rarely did I go anywhere near five). This one I found was quite a good, reasonable balance with the guidelines below:
    • On 3x3 weeks I'd go like hell for the PR set. If I got 8 or more clean, solid reps I'd then do my aforementioned handful of singles.
    • 3x5 week I would only do the recommended reps
    • 5/3/1 week was played by ear. I'd shoot for about 5-6 reps on the last set then do a few singles if I exceeded 5x reps on that week.
    I started with, what I thought, was a decent skeleton crew of assistance movements. As I progressed along from November 2015 thru to August 2017 I removed practically every 'accessory' lift from 5/3/1 with the exception of simple, easy calisthenics like pushups/situps/pullups and unweighted squats.

    I found kettlebell ballistics and a single easy run/foot march per week helps a good bit for endurance. The vast majority of your conditioning should come from what you do in Muay Thai...
  14. Abraiz

    Abraiz Double-Digit Post Count

    Mr. Friedes suggests cutting out everything.

    A really drastic change. I will make the change - with a stone on my heart - as they say in my mother tongue, Urdu. The fact is, it is becoming increasingly difficult to work out 3/4 times a week in the gym and practice Muay Thai. One or the other suffers.

    Fine, let us rehaul the whole thing. New routine:

    Bench Press - 5/3/1
    Push Press - 80% of the highest bench press weight of the day- 1-2-3 repeated 3 times (Glenn Pendlay said in an interview on that this is a serious move for athletes)
    Dumbbell pullover - to look like I lift

    Deadlift - 5/3/1
    Zercher squat - 3x3 at 50% of the highest deadlift weight of the day - (Pavel said here on StrongFirst blog that this is the best squatting move. Also, to get my fix of squatting. Actually, I had a meniscal tear scare once and squatting kind of fixed it.)
    Snatch grip high pull - I always do them as warmups before actual deadlifting.

    I tried this DL and ZS today and it was nice. Finished my workout soon enough and with enough energy to spare. Didn't feel totally exhausted when leaving the gym.

    Please note that there is no inherent progression in push press and zercher squat. The weight goes up and down with bench press and deadlift respectively. I don't have access to kettlebells, which is why I posted this in barbell section.

    With 3 days of Muay Thai a week, this gives me 2 days of rest. I can add in running on these days.

    All advice/suggestions/criticism appreciated. Thanks in advance.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2018
  15. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Director of Community Engagement and Forum Admin Staff Member Senior Instructor

    That is the issue in a nutshell. It's very important that, if your focus is your Muay Thai, that your strength and conditioning work doesn't take away from that.

    tangozero likes this.
  16. Bro Mo

    Bro Mo Strong Member of the Forum

    I saw this image the other day and it reminded of this thread. I think a good place to be is where the complexity line crosses the adaptation rate line.
    Jevgenij likes this.
  17. tangozero

    tangozero Double-Digit Post Count

    It looks like you're over-complicating things unnecessarily. If Muay Thai is the priority why not just use the 5/3/1 two day template as is? The "I'm not doing jack sh%t" approach has you doing the main lifts only. It should leave you with time to run or do a little extra conditioning after your lifting. If accessories are your thing add on a few extra supplemental lifts or better yet swings and snatches.

    Workout# 1 = Squat/Bench
    Workout#2 = Deadlift/Press
    Mark Limbaga and Geoff Chafe like this.

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