Whether you‘re new to the lifting game or you’ve been going at it a while now, you’ve most likely heard of the 5/3/1 program or read the original book by Jim Wendler. In Wendler’s original book he outlines the 5/3/1 program concentrating on the 4 main lifts that are the back squat, the bench press, the deadlift and the strict press. If you are unfamiliar with the original program, it goes like this:
THE ORIGINAL PROGRAM
Begin by taking your 1 rep max and multiply it by 90%. This will be your training max. If you do not know your 1 rep max, use this calculation to help you derive your estimated 1 rep max:
Weight * Reps * .0333 + Weight
So, if you know your 5 rep max on the back squat is 300, formula goes like this:
* 300 lbs * 5 *.0333 + 300 lbs
* 1,500 * .0333 + 300 lbs
* 49.95 + 300 lbs
* 350 lbs
Take 90% of 350 lbs and you have a training max of 315 lbs. You will begin the program with this number. From this point, you’ll use this training max over the next 4 weeks. Training weeks look like this:
* Week 1 – 3 sets of 5 (65%, 75%, 85% AMRAP of training max) On the last set at 85% of your training max, instead of 5 reps you will attempt as many reps as possible leaving 1 to 2 reps in your tank.
* Week 2 – 3 sets of 3 (70%, 80%, 90% AMRAP of training max) On the last set at 90% of your training max, instead of 3 reps you will attempt as many reps as possible leaving 1 to 2 reps in your tank.
* Week 3 – 1 set of 5 reps at 75%, 1 set of 3 reps at 85%, 1 AMRAP set at 95% leaving 1 to 2 reps in your tank.
* Week 4 – Deload using 50-60% of your training max for 3 sets of 5 and no more. (I personally have never used the deload week. I only recommend it if your body feels like garbage and you need a break from heavy. In my personal opinion, there is not enough volume in the original program to warrant taking a week for deload once you’ve gotten into it for a few months.)
* After deload week you will increase your training max by 10 lbs for the lower body lifts (squat and deadlift) and increase upper body lifts (press) by 5 lbs. Begin the cycle over at Week 1.
WHY THIS PROGRAM WORKS
The moment I picked up this book, I knew it was to become an instant treasure in my library. Jim Wendler’s program was allowing me to attempt a PR on every day I picked up the barbell whether it was through a 1 rep max or a 10 rep max. The program is always giving out feelings of butterflies and excitement before picking up the barbell on the last set and either ends with a smile or a bit of disappointment after. No matter what though, I always finish my workout with something to strive for next time. Another PR to attempt and break. This is the beauty of 5/3/1.
So why does this program work? Because the program generates excitement. The excitement keeps you coming back. Coming back leads to progressive loads. And progressive loads lead to more PR’s. That’s why this program works. Those PR’s prove you are getting stronger, which is the whole point of lifting anyway. Nobody lifts weights so that they can become weaker.
If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Jim Wendler’s book and give it a good read. Very powerful information and the book goes into more detail than I have here. In another post, I’ll discuss Jim Wendler’s follow-up to 5/3/1 and why this book is better than the first.