A Summary of the 5/3/1 Training Program

What the heck is all this 5/3/1 stuff about, anyway? And why didn’t you make this post a while back? You know, like your first post? Good questions, all of them. And I’ll quickly address the last two first. Because I started this blog when I started doing the 5/3/1 Training Program. It wasn’t a pre-planned idea to keep a blog for this journey, but I decided it might be a good idea, that it might be useful – to me and others. I could have written this post and back-dated it, but that would defeat most of the purpose for even writing the thing to begin with. That’s why you’re getting a summary of the 5/3/1 Program now, seven weeks into it and after I completed Cycle 1.

The Nitty Gritty
Before getting into a lot of words about the program, here are the main elements of the 5/3/1:

Movements  – The four primary movements are:

  • Squat
  • Bench Press
  • Deadlift
  • Military Press

Along with the primary work, you do some accessory work during each session.

Waves - During each cycle, you will have four sessions for each primary movement, three progressively intense sessions and a final deloading session. This means at the end of a cycle, you will have completed 16 sessions. For an awesome overview, just go check out this post over at Muscle and Brawn.

But What is 5/3/1 and Where’d It Come From?
5/3/1 is a progressive strength and conditioning program designed by Jim Wendler Jim is a former powerlifter who did stuff like record a 1,000-lb squat, a 675-lb bench press, and a 700-lb deadlift. Seriously. No way around it, that is some heavy shit that dude was lifting. His conditioning was for shit and if it was outside the realm of his three competitive lifting movements, it turns out he was human. Well, a few years ago, Jim decided he was tired of being fat, poorly conditioned and strong only in very specialized lifts. He started putting together a program that would help him improve his conditioning, drop some unneeded fat, and increase his overall strength. Cool, no problem o.O

The product of his efforts is the 5/3/1 Training Program. In the simplest of terms, you progress through mini-cycles within bigger cycles, using four main lifts as your primary work. Along with those main lifts, you add accessory work. This accessory work is also referred to as assistance or secondary work. Though originally built on a week with four training sessions, it can easily be adapted to a two or three session week. Even the two session week can be done a couple different ways. And it’s really pretty plausible to do a 1-day a week version of 5/3/1. Regardless of how you schedule it out, you’re looking at four sessions per mini-cycle or wave, and there are three core waves per main cycle. The fourth wave is a reduced or deloaded week.The 5/3/1 Program is very straight forward, yet very easy to bend and mold to fit your specific goals.

Thoughts On the 5/3/1 … From the Interwebz
Not surprisingly, there is a lot of talk about Jim’s program. You don’t need a bunch of specialized equipment to get it done, it’s flexible, and it accomplishes the primary goal of increasing strength. Below is a collection of sites with thoughts, reviews, even long-running journals, all related to the 5/3/1:

Reviews and Overviews of the 5/3/1

5/3/1 Logs and Journals

  • No F’ing Around – A long-running 5/3/1 journal by brihead301 (this same person also made available a great 5/3/1 excel training log calculator)
  • Mark’s 5/3/1 Training Log – Another relatively long-time 5/3/1 training log (he’s currently in Cycle 4)
  • Famendoza’s 5/3/1 Training Log – Pretty extensive journal of his 5/3/1 training. Seems like he kept up the journal for 8 or 9 months
  • See Jane Lift – Okay. This lady, well, she just really seems to rock. It looks like she started 5/3/1 in late 2009, but she has been keeping this journal since mid-2007. That’s like 100 years in Interwebz time :D Anyway, I think she is using a different program now, but she’s captured a lot of awesome lifting experience (5/3/1 and other programs) in her training log
  • Soda’s 5/3/1 Journal – This guy has chronicled 14 cycles of 5/3/1. That’s freakin’ awesome. Unfortunately, due to a lower back injury, he hasn’t updated it much since mid-March 2011. Still, he’s got FOURTEEN cycles you can check out! Just ridiculous :)

T-Nation Articles

Jim’s also written a ton of great material that is freely available over at Elite FTS. A great piece to accompany the 5/3/1 Program guide itself is his 52 Most Common 5/3/1 Questions. Btw, along with the version you can buy at Amazon, you can also get an electronic copy of Jim’s book over at Elite FTS.

Caveat Non Emptor
Now, with this butt-load of material available out there, you’ve gotta be wondering, “Uhm, remind me why I am plunking down $25 bucks to buy is book?” And that’s a very fair question. The honest answer is you don’t have to. Just by checking out a couple of the links I provided, you could very capably come up with your own 5/3/1 training program. Hell, even if you just used stuff from free articles Jim’s posted, you could get it done. I guess the simplest reason to actually purchase the book is to support something you believe in and the author of the book. You could easily spend $25 bucks a week at Starbucks or GNC and think nothing of it. By all means, spend some time checking out some of the above links, get to know the program, see if it’s something you think might be useful for you. If you decide you like it, consider buying the book. That is an Amazon affiliate link for the book. If you don’t like that route, no worries, get the e-version of it from Elite FTS (not an affiliate link). Easy peasy.

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