Jim Wendler s 5/3/1 is arguably the simplest and most effective training system for raw strength. Jim Wendler has a no nonsense approach to strength training, and has over two decades of experience with strength training. His highly regarded 5/3/1 training system, simply delivers. This system is very easy to customize it to a lifter s personal demands.
The core of 5/3/1
Jim Wendler s 5/3/1 relies heavily on the basic principles of strength training. The main focus is performing basic Multi-Joint Lifts, the bench press, powerlift squat, deadlift and the standing front press are the primary lifts of this system. The reason is simple, these lifts have huge carryover to other stuff.
“This is not a fancy training program that requires special equipment or Master’s degree – all is required is your dedication to moving more weight than you had ever dreamed.” – Jim Wendler
Start light, progress slowly
Start light? Yes, start light! Starting light allows for more room to progress forward, and the longer you can progress the better. I often see lifters make reasonable progress for a while, and then they stall, stall and stall some more! The reason for the quick halt in progress is they started out too heavy, and progressed too fast (they got ahead of themselves). So it is time to leave the ego at home and start believing that progressing slowly is far more sustainable. You see, the body and it s structures simply need time to adapt to fluctuations in Volume and Intensity, if these are suddenly heavily increased for prolonged periods of time this will result in building up the recovery deficit until the body breaks down.
Break Personal Records
This is the best part of the system, because this challenges you to keep pushing yourself. The principle is very simple, if you track all your training sessions, you can check in advance of an upcoming training how many reps you performed the last time while you were handling the same weight or nearly the same weight for a particular exercise. Now if you set a goal in your mind of at least one rep more than the last time, this is your goal for that session, and you want to make sure you achieve. This is a very strong tool to get stronger, and push yourself beyond what you thought were your limitations! If you keep breaking rep records, you are getting stronger. Read the last sentence again. This was a huge game changer for me, when i just started powerlifting, my focus was on getting my 1RM up. While focusing so hard on the 1RM, It didn’t came to my mind that I didn’t have to focus on my 1RM, because I was breaking rep records and thus GETTING STRONGER!
“Don’t fall for that crap that people are peddling on the message boards, in magazines or on TV. Get your shit in order, and get your training in order. Start kicking ass, and take out the crap that doesn’t matter. Start doing and believing in the stuff that works, and do it today and forever.” – Jim Wendler
Before you start on 5/3/1 it is important that you find out what your current 1RM is for each of the core lifts – the powerlift squat, bench press, deadlift, and shoulder standing front press. 90% of these 1RM numbers will be used as the 100% numbers of 5/3/1. So if your 1RM on the squat currently is 100kg, you take 90% of that, which is 90kg as the base (read: the 1RM) for your calculations.
The basic 5/3/1 program has you training three to four days a week. The base of each workout is one of the core lifts.
Every training cycle lasts four weeks, with the following setxrep scheme for each core lift:
Week 1: 1×5@65%1RM, 1×5@75%1RM, 1×5+@85%1RM
Week 2: 1×3@70%1RM, 1×3@80%1RM, 1×3+@90%1RM
Week 3: 1×5@75%1RM, 1×3@85%1RM, 1×1+@95%1RM
Week 4: Deload
Where there stands 5+, 3+ or 1+ this means, you minimally perform these numbers, but preferably shoot for a big rep pr or new pr in each workout. After one cycle is done, you increase the core lifts with 2.5kg for the Upper Body (UB) lifts and 5kg for the Lower Body (LB) lifts. On Jim Wendler s website you can purchase 5/3/1 The Simplest and Most Effective Training System to Increase Raw Strength, within you will find detailed about weights and percentages.
What really sets apart 5/3/1 from other training systems is the simple and effective way to become unstoppable. Goals are accomplished every workout, sets and reps are clearly outlined, monthly progression, the final all out set with the prescribed reps as a minimum and the option to go all out and build real strength, muscle and character.
“Yes, that last set is the one that puts hair on your chest, but the system doesn’t work without the sets that precede it. I tried cutting those out but i got smaller and weaker. There might be only one really hard set, but the other sets are still quality work.” – Jim Wendler
There is a variety of assistance exercises included into 5/3/1 to grow muscle, balance out muscularity or prevent injury. It is important that assistance exercises are chosen with a strong reason and that they attribute to the training, the main lifts. This bears repeating. There are several different templates to chose from, examples are as follows:
Boring But Big –
After performing the main lift of the day, you perform 5 sets of 10 reps @ 50% of your current 1RM. This template will get you strong, muscular and unstoppable, oh yes you will also be tired and sore. This template is most commonly chosen, and this is my favourite 5/3/1 template.
I’m Not Doing Jack Shit –
This template is very simple, you get in, you perform your main lift of the day, you hit a new rep pr or pr on the last set, and you get out. While not recommended for prolonged periods,this is great when you have limited time.
“People laugh and call me lazy, while they twit around in their three-hour workout making zero progress. Sometimes, instead of what you do in the weight room, it’s what you don’t do that will lead to success.” – Jim Wendler
Sample Workout: Boring but Big
This article is just a mere introduction to Jim Wendler s outstanding training system. He has written multiple books, which can be purchased as hardcopy or ebooks on his website JimWendler.com. Jim Wendler has also written numerous quality articles about his 5/3/1 system, a good starting place is his own website JimWendler.com and this article Blood and Chalk: Jim Wendler Talks Big Weights