The Biggest Problem with Fad Strength Training Routines like 5/3/1, Jailhouse, Insane, Cube, and Juggernaut

Posted on 12 Apr 2015 01:18


I get asked quite often why I don't I don't do fad routines like 5x5, 5/3/1, Jailhouse Training, Insane Training, Cube Training, Juggernaut, or any of these popular routines that are in right now.

In the LiftBig video talk below, I explain my reasons for this. It's a very good reason, so watch the video.

You may also want to read the article version of the talk below the video. There is some bonus information at the end.

One Huge Strength Training Error

The reason that I don't use them is that all of these routines have one big, huge error—a commonality which is across the board. The error is that they train each of the big bar lifts in the exact same manner. So, if you're doing 5/3/1, you're going to do 5/3/1 for bench press, 5/3/1 for squat, and 5/3/1 for deadlift. If find that very, very silly, because you're assuming that as a lifter your skill on the bench press is going to equal your skill on the deadlift and is going to equal your skill on the squat. That is just not how reality works.

Do The Big Lifters Really Train Like This?

In fact, it doesn't work like this, not only for you and me, but even for the main powerlifters who come up with these routines. Keep in mind, I'm not talking about prepping for a meet, or peaking. All I'm discussing is normal people. Because most of these books are for normal people. They are not just for guys who are competing. And, the main guys who have conceptualized these routines, they don't train themselves in the same manner.

They don't train their squat equally to their deadlift equally to their bench press. They all have certain strengths and they play to their strengths. And, you don't ever go into a meet playing to your weakness. In life you don't play to your weaknesses!

Even Absolute Beginners Are Better at Certain Lifts

So, it's very silly even for absolute beginners—people who've never trained before. These people as well have different strengths in all of these three lifts. So, you can very well have a beginner—a complete newbie—who's going to be inherently very good at the deadlift, and who is probably going to suck at the squat, and maybe be OK on the bench press.

Imagine putting someone like that on a routine which approaches all these three lifts in the exact same manner. It doesn't make sense. Every single routine should be customized to the individual to the individual needs of the trainee at that point. So, whether I'm a beginner or an intermediate trainee I'm going to have my weaknesses, and the law of individual differences does not only apply between you and me—between trainee to trainee. It also applies within a certain trainee's training routine, from lift to lift. Each lift must be approached differently.

Let's Be Honest!

You know what? I would like to see a coach come forward and be honest about his training and say, you know what guys (or trainee, or reader, or whoever), if you want to get strong, that's fine but we're not going to go balls to the wall on all three lifts, because we cannot balls to the wall on all three lifts. We will not half-ass it on all three lifts and average out some pathetic number and be mediocre. What we're going to do is choose. You as a trainee are going to choose between a pressing movement (if you want to do one), either incline bench press, or overhead press, or bench press, or whatever—choose a big pressing movement. Then, choose between the squat and the deadlift. Now, the two lifts that you choose, we're going to focus on for the next few months and we're going to hit them really hard and go balls the the wall. We're going to make you do a lot of volume, a lot of intensity (as in percentage of one rep max). We're going to train these lifts very hard and really push those numbers. At the same time, you're going to take any other lifts that you haven't chosen to focus on at this time, like squat or overhead press, and just maintain your maximum strength on them.

Putting One or Two Lifts Up Front and Maintaining Another Is Common

I've read books and articles about written on how to maintain lifts. Eric Troy has article on this as well. So these thing do exist. The knowledge is out there but nobody talks about it.

Yet, everybody is doing it. Powerlifters themselves are doing this all the time. They will be pushing and be very aggressive with one lift, while maintaining strength on another. but nobody talks about it. It's not popularized.

Regardless, this IS how it works.


So, I would like to see someone come forward and say that. And, to give trainees those options, to blast a couple of lifts for a block of time, an then bring it one back and switch the lifts. What you would be doing is addressing each lift specifically. You'd be addressing each weakness.

And by weakness, I'm not talking about what Westside talks about like "your weakness in the hole" or whatever. I am referring to your general weaknesses among the lifts, in an overall scale. You are playing to your strengths, and addressing your weaknesses.

Blown-Up Testimonials: Don't Believe Them!

Now, you have guys who have success stories—massive success stories that have been blown way out of proportion on all these commercialized routines. You've got guys who will say "man, I got 400lbs on my deadlift by using that routine." Here's the truth: Most of the guys who have done so very well on these routines are guys who have never lifted heavy consistently. It's not the routine specifically, but the fact that they finally stopped lifting too damned light, and inconsistently!

You take someone who has been lifting consistently, and has been lifting heavy for a year or two and can perform his 1RM on any day of the week, whether it is a good day, bad day, ugly day, or whatever…you take a guy with that skill level, which is where most people aim to be, and where they should be at the end of these routines but they're not…you take that guy and you tell him, I'm going to put you on 5/3/1 or Cube or Juggernaut or whatever, and I'm going to discount your current maxes (which you can do at any given time) by ten percent. So, we're going to take 90% of that and then just to be safe, we're going to 90% of that number as well. And then we're going to make you do this routine. Guess what? He's going to suck at it.

But, you're never going to hear about it. No one's going to talk about it because inherently, the fault is in me, it's never in my routine. That's the attitude that we have. The routine is perfect. A big strong powerlifter has talked about it. It's his routine. So, the routine can't be at fault. I suck, not the routine.

The thing is, every single routine should be custom designed for the trainee. And people should talk about how trainees can learn to train themselves. But nobody does that. They like to pretend it is impossible to teach people this. Only a coach can custom design a routine. If you don't have a coach, then you have to do a pre-written routine like the one's I've mentioned. Is is NOT impossible. It is just not as profitable! These routines seem like a quick and easy one stop shop. And that sells. But it doesn't WORK as advertised!

So, that is why I do not recommend any of these cookie-cutter routines to anybody, ever.

But, How Can Beginners Know What to Do?

But, there's a big problem. I talked about even beginners having different needs and different affinities for different lifts. Hell, even a seasoned trainee can sometimes have a hard time knowing how to approach each of their lifts, so how can an absolute beginner begin without a program? And, if all that's available are these programs that approach every lift the same, what choice do they have.

You see, the rub, the big mistake that the strength training world has made for years and years, is operating under the assumption that an absolute beginner needs a formal program! In fact, the drive has always been to construct progression models for beginners, and then intermediates, and advanced trainees. Mark Rippetoe is famous, in part for his claims about how novice trainees progress, and then intermediate, etc.

Turns out, it's bullshit. When you're an absolute beginner, you don't need to formally program the lift right of the bat. This is the time that Eric Troy calls the honeymoon period, but a lot of coaches have recognized this and have realized that a beginner needs a period of time where, instead of having a formal plan of "progression" they have a loose plan of practice. It just so happens, that practice, equals progression at the very beginning, when it is done correctly. And once this practice period is over, the trainee will know better where there strengths lay, what exercises they like the best, and what they want to focus one. As well, they will have a point from which to progress those chosen lifts. So, you see, it is not so confusing after all. You don't have to know everything right off the bat. More trainees fail to stick to strength training because they choose one of these routines, get to a certain point where they hit a wall, and then get completely discouraged. Don't be that trainee.

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