I'm halfway through week 3 of 5/3/1, and am thinking to make another attempt at an intermediate version, for many reasons, a few of which I'll put here.
The major thing I like about 5/3/1 is the set/rep/weight scheme itself. It provides variety, which makes it fun and interesting, and the chance to set a rep PR is something I really did not appreciate when I started.
I also like the 4 days/week, though strictly speaking that's not a requirement.
On the downside, as an early intermediate it seems a full week of deload is neither required nor advisable, and doing the major lifts once/week is, I'm convinced, a bad idea (for me at my training age). The only thing that kept me interested this far was putting the major lifts back in, so I do press on bench day, bench on press day, and squats on deadlift day. Only deads seem to really work well once/week.
So this has me reviewing why the first attempt did not work, and what I get is simple, especially when compared to how I'm doing 5/3/1:
1) Just got back from vacation, bad enough, but
2) Did not put in a deload to get back going, and
3) Was doing only 3 days/week, which meant
4) Was doing three heavy lifts/session. That was what got me.
So I simply took what I'm doing on 5/3/1 and realized a couple of things:
1) Not all lifts are equally taxing. If Dead, Bench, Squat and 30 Chins are a "1", then for me Press and Rows and 15 Chins are a "1/2", and deloads and Planks and Curls are a zero, in terms of how taxing they are.
2) Deloads do not all have to happen together. You can deload on one lift while hitting 1+ day on another, to keep some balance. You can also put the deload day in wherever you want. So long as every 4th session is a deload, it can be the 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th.
3) I've always done bench and row together, for no other reason than Stronglifts did it that way. Moving those around makes things a lot more flexible.
4) Lifestyle realities make Saturday and Sunday ideal for heavier days
So I came up with this 2 week cycle. Every main lift is done twice/week except deadlifts.
Week 1, Day 1 (Taxing 1.5): Press 5+, Bench Deload, 30 Chins
Week 1, Day 2 (Taxing 1.5): Dead 5+, Squat Deload, Row 5+
On every other cycle Deads are 1+
Week 1, Day 3 (Taxing 2.0): Bench 5+, Press 3+, 15 Chins
Week 1, Day 4 (Taxing 1.5): Squat 5+, Row 3+, Planks, Curls
Week 2, Day 1 (Taxing 2.5): Press 1+, Bench 3+, 30 chins (Heaviest day)
Week 2, Day 2 (Taxing 2.0): Dead 3+, Squat 3+, Rows Deload (2nd heaviest day)
On every other cycle Deads are a deload and this is actually the *lightest* day
Week 2, Day 3 (Taxing 1.5): Bench 1+, Press deload, 15 chins
Week 2, Day 4 (Taxing 1.5): Squat 1+, Row 1+, Planks, Curls
So the days are very well balanced for my own experience of their relative strain, 4 of 8 are the same relative strain, with 3 heavier days.
For what its worth I did the equivalent of the two heaviest days yesterday and today. Those are ok to do on the weekend but I would not want to do them after during the week after work. This is extremely close to how I'm doing 5/3/1 now, except for the obvious placing of deloads throughout the cycle and the compression of the 5/3/1 over 4 days in two weeks, and the absence of a full deload week.
It also occurs to me that special deload weeks can be put in with great flexibility as needed, perhaps after 4 weeks I might want one, or 6, or what I actually hope for, after 8 weeks.