I am a beginner when it comes to strength and my numbers will reflect that, but I thought it would be fun to conduct a 531 program review for someone whose primary goal is to improve his physical performance for a different sport.
** Training history **
I am a beginner in strength sport, but I have been doing BJJ for 7 years and got a purple belt under Ralph Gracie two years ago. During that period I had frequent competition periods (averaged one session every 3 weeks). Over the years, I gathered from the slim day of 180 to about 220 people: I trained with barbells and compound movements during that time, but I did not pursue specific programs so gains in size and strength were almost unintended.
I have been one of the youngest in my weight category for years (very heavy, often combined with very heavy due to the general lack of big bois), and I hate weight reduction for tournaments. I am relatively strong for the BJJ fighter but I wanted to bridge the gap with the biggest competitors, so I chose to start raising. Investing in the gym in the garage was a big step to that.
If we look at Dr. Israetel (excellent video on the topic) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8Vhi7SuFe8), I am a BJJ fighter who uses the power of compression to improve my performance.
I am also a relatively technically professional in the main lifts: I am not a professional, but my wife is a personal trainer who lifted the can for a few years. I trained the form for two months before I started the program.
Looking back, I should have started with a newbie program, but I heard nothing but the good things about the 531 colleagues who tried it with BJJ so I jumped straight. Needed a program that meets the following needs:
1. Increase overall strength. Stenosis was not necessarily a problem: I'm not aiming for it, but it's not harmful because I approach the heaviest weight classes anyway.
2. Do not interfere with BJJ and judo: roll over 4 to 5 times a week and I did not want to increase the risk of injury or spend more time than mats.
3. Convenient within short time window (30 to 45 minutes) due to my work schedule.
4. Completed with minimal equipment behind iron rings and gymnastics, where I didn't have time to go to the commercial gym and go to sparring every day.
531 seemed to tick these boxes for me. I read both the original book and Beyond 531 before starting (waiting for the eBook 531 forever before I bring this book) and decided to go with the following:
* Four-day / week program for squat, bench press, deadlift, and OHP. I will raise Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday in the morning. BJJ and judo on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings with an optional open mat on Sunday. Saturday is a full day of rest.
* Always use the basic 531 protocol with the last group such as AMRAP.
* Subgroups were used for on-time savings: rows of iron with bench presses (same weights and reps, as much as possible), drag buttons for OHP, work for squat and deadlifts. I get extra work and mobility during my BJJ sessions as well.
* I went for two consecutive three-week sessions before each download. In total I did 4 courses and I am in my second deload.
* I used Joker and First Set Last for 3×8 for the first three tournaments (3×8 regardless of the week), but I decided to try Boring but Big in the last tournament. The latter was wrong, as I will explain soon.
** RECOVERY **
The Joker and FSL groups were higher in density but lower than the overall BBB size, but did not interfere with BJJ after the first week. I had more difficulty recovering from OHP and deadlifts than other elevators, but overall this did not affect my performance beyond simple fatigue or pain.
BBB was a completely different monster: I was moving during molasses in the last cycle, and invaded me with injuries several times because my body wasn't moving as I used to. I'm sure it's a great program on its own, but it will destroy the performance of everything else at all.
Mind that I was tired most evenings. You go back home, cook, and go out with my wife on the couch. Often I didn't have the energy to play with my dog beyond waving a blanket in his direction. However, I usually felt healed the next morning, although I don't always sleep well.
|| Weight (Start) ** AMRAP (Getting Started) 1RM Calculated Weight (End) ** AMRAP (end) 1RM Calculated Change
|: – |: – |: – |: – |: – |: – |: – |: – |
| Obese 214 8 271 | 270 10 | 360 89
| Seat 153 10 | 204 200 9 260 56
| Deadly leverage 187 10 | 249 260 6 312 | 63
| OHP | 96 10 | 128 130 5 152 24
The results speak for themselves. Overall I saw a 25 to 30% increase in most lifts. OHP stopped after my third cycle, so I think I either need to download for my fourth cycle or BBB doesn't work well on my shoulder. It seems to aggravate an old injury to my left shoulder.
** Final thoughts **
Overall I am very happy with the program. I have felt the Joker and FSL sets as the best accessory work for me, and I think high intensity but low volume and reps are the way to go if you combine a lift program with an intense sport like air conditioning. I saw improvements in my lift numbers as well as in my sparring: people were filling the air completely on a thigh throw, and I could even fight to move the silver in the gym instead of being forced to give the floor every time.
I'm going to get a one-week break from this and go to a more linear program right now: I mentally need a break from this now and I have upcoming business events that will dramatically interfere with cycles longer than one week. I will give the Candito linear program a short period of a few weeks because it seems closest to what I found to suit me.