Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wendler's 5/3/1 Strength


Love the assistance work during 5/3/1.

Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 strength program is one of the more popular powerlifting and strength building programs out there.  Wendler claims it to be "the simplest and most effective training system to increase raw strength."
The 5/3/1 program focuses on the "four big lifts:" back squat, bench press, deadlift, and press.  It is pretty easy to follow.  Assuming you train 3-4 times/week, a training cycle is four weeks long, one day per lift plus supplemental exercises.  In a nut shell, the first week you do 3 sets of 5 reps (3x5), second week: 3x3, and third week 1x5, 1x3, 1x1, where the last sets are all out effort sets, for max reps.  The fourth week is a deload week where you do 3x5, at a light weight with no max reps on the last set.

I did it 4x a week, 1 lift per day.  Visually, a four-day 5/3/1 training cycle looks like this:


Week
 Mon
 Tue
 Thurs
Fri
1
Squat
75% x 5
80% x 5
85% x 5+
Bench
75% x 5
80% x 5
85% x 5+
Deadlift
75% x 5
80% x 5
85% x 5+
Press
75% x 5
80% x 5
85% x 5+
2
Squat
80% x 3
85% x 3
90% x 3+
Bench
80% x 3
85% x 3
90% x 3+
Deadlift
80% x 3
85% x 3
90% x 3+
Press
80% x 3
85% x 3
90% x 3+
3
Squat
75% x 5
85% x 3
95% x 1+
Bench
75% x 5
85% x 3
95% x 1+
Deadlift
75% x 5
85% x 3
95% x 1+
Press
75% x 5
85% x 3
95% x 1+
4
Deload
Squat
60% x 5
65% x 5
70% x 5
Bench
60% x 5
65% x 5
70% x 5
Deadlift
60% x 5
65% x 5
70% x 5
Press
60% x 5
65% x 5
70% x 5

The weight used to calculate these percentages is 90% of one's estimated one rep max.  So you start at a "max" that is 10% less than your actual max.  A great formula Wendler provides to estimate one's one-rep max, without actually loading a bar for a maximal attempt is this:


Weight x Reps x 0.0333 + Weight = Estimated 1RM

Again, the weight you would actually go off of is 90% of this estimated 1RM.  In addition, each day is supplemented with "assistance work" such as pull-ups, dips, pistols, good mornings, etc.  After one training cycle, add 5lb to your 1RM for press and bench press, and 10lb for squat and deadlift, and restart the cycle.

For your convenience, I have 5/3/1 Excel template you can use [xls | html].  All you have to do is plug in your "weight" and "reps" and it will automatically calculate all your weights for a training cycle.

I did 5/3/1 from November 28th to December 22nd, 2011.  These were our assistance exercises:
  • Back Squat: 5x10 Pistols (with barbell overhead), 5x25 GHD Sit-Ups, 7x1 heavy Sled Pulls
  • Bench Press: 5x10 Strict Pull-Ups, 5x15 Push-Ups (elevated and on rings)
  • Deadlift: 5x15 Romanian Deadlift, 5x20 Weighted Lunges, 7x1 heavy Prowler Pushes
  • Shoulder Press: 5x10 Strict Pull-Ups, 5x15 Ring Dips



I know I normally do a table, but this one would have been too big.  It's probably a little difficult to read the small print so my 5/3/1 results, along with my comments are also available in three formats: [html | pdf | xls].

5/3/1 is really flexible for those who do not have much time to spend at the gym or travel a lot.  Ideally, it is done 3-4 times a week, but it can also be done 1-2 times per week, without the deload week.  The nice thing about 5/3/1 is that it tells you exactly what to do, even how to warm up (40% x 5, 50% x 5, 60% x 3) so not much thinking involved.  In fact, once you have your numbers plugged in on the Excel template, the hardest part is actually accurately loading the bar with the correct weight!  The other neat thing about 5/3/1 is how accurate those estimated 1-rep maxes are after one cycle!

5/3/1 wasn't a good fit for me.  I know a common comment is that it starts off too light.  This is done on purpose and is part of the 5/3/1 philosophy, as stated in the manual.  I hear progress is slow, but if you keep at it, it is very rewarding.  I just was not patient enough.   Also, I did not feel like I was working as hard (or kicking my own ass as hard) as I did previously with 5x5 and 20-rep back squat.  I would speed through the warm up and first two sets.  The last set was where I really worked and after coming off of an intensive 5x5 cycle, I guess I was expecting more?  However, I love the idea of supplemental work!  Sometimes those felt harder than the 5/3/1 sets themselves, especially the prowler pushes and sled pulls!  This conditioning work gets me close to the pukie bin.

Some pictures:
3. Jim Wendler's 5/3/1

4. Started benching to get better at pushups and such.

5. First month started off too light.


Overall, I think 5/3/1 is a great strength program.  I know a lot of people who love it and had great success from it.  5/3/1 is cleverly designed.  It is super accommodating, flexible and trivial to follow, and you will see results if you give it time.  I love the idea of going all out on the last set and the supplemental work.  In fact, I've applied those principles to the strength program I am on now.  Look out for that post in about 12 weeks.

Other Strength Programs
: Tim Swords'Burgener 10x3Hatch5x5 | 20-rep Back Squat 

Other Weightlifting Programs: 4-Week Leg Strength Block 1
Related Posts: Sled Pulls & Prowler Pushes | 5x5 Deload Week Fun

10 comments:

  1. Awesome work Jes!
    Wow, I've been noticing a correlation between a lot of software/web developers and Crossfit! :) kudos!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi!

    I just found your blog googling around for 5/3/1 progress/results. Nice post!

    Just a quick question, and I hope I don't come of in the wrong way, English isn't my first language. I haven't done 5/3/1 and I'm a newb in the weightroom so just curious :)

    How can you not be satisfied with the results?

    If I am interpreting your chart correctly you list your previous PR at the top (like 83x4 for bench, 165x3 for squat), these then go to 80x12 and 155x9 on the last week before deload. Isn't that an enormous increase or am I missing something?

    I understand that it might not be fun or suit your style, but wasn't the results good from that perspective?

    Thanks and good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Luxiom,

      Thanks!

      I think I wasn't satisfied because I really only stuck to the program for one cycle. Most people see results if they stick to it longer (12 weeks/3 cycles). The program starts pretty light and that can be frustrating.

      If I kept at least at the same strength level, its good to me.

      Delete
  3. Great job Jes! You really amaze me with your determination, Keep it up! And for those who are looking and interested to hire a good and experienced personal trainer you can check the site of No Excuse Fitness Gym noexcusefitness.com or you may just call them on their number (949) 313-4034. Their trainers are really one of the best and you will not regret hiring them.

    ReplyDelete
  4. First of all. Awesome blog. So much great content (food, lifting, fitness, & spreadsheets, etc)

    As for 531, I think you were disappointed because, you only did one cycle and you under estimated your starting maxes. I can see your starting Squat Max is 181 (165x3) but on Week 3 you did 155 x 9 which is ~201. So either you made huge gains in 3 weeks (for which you should be proud) or you started way too light. But that's not bad, because one of Wendler's main points is starting light and progressing slowly. Then re-assessing your maxes every few months. That's why 531 is only effective when you run it for 4-8 cycles.

    Good Luck!

    ReplyDelete
  5. awesome work. Just came across this because I am looking to start a strength program and I think 5/3/1 is the one.

    With that being said, i was trying to click on the excel link and it didn't open. Is there anyway you could send over the excel spreadsheet by e-mail??

    thanks so much, ad great work!

    Brian

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Brian,

      I clicked on the link and was able to download the excel template: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?hl=en_US&hl=en_US&key=0AtgnOUvqzCJ6dEQtTVBzcXdsYVlxSURKS1k2dXljb1E&output=xls

      Please let me know if that works for you. If not, please provide me with your email and I'll email it to you

      Jes

      Delete
  6. Many women nowadays are get to cross-fit training because to wanted to develop that strength. For those people that are interested to hire a personal trainer you could visit our site at noexcusefitness.com or simply contact as through our telephone number (949) 313-4034.

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    ReplyDelete