Strategy of the Week: Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1


“Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 powerlifting system is rapidly growing into one of the most popular powerlifting and strength building training routines on the planet. Several years ago, most powerlifters I knew ran the Westside Barbell system. Westside was the gospel, and there was no other. But today, things have changed. A good portion of my friends are running Wendler’s 5/3/1, or a Westside/Wendler’s combination.”

— A Hardcore Look At Wendler’s 5/3/1 Powerlifting Routine*


5/3/1 is a great program for a variety of training purposes. It has produced winning performances in numerous powerlifting meets, improved on the field/court strength for legions of bat and ball athletes, and successfully prepared many combatants for the cage, ring, or mat. It’s made a lot of men jacked, and even made a lot of women fit and sexy.

5/3/1 is a great example of straightforward 4 week mesocycle, with a 3 progression in intensity followed by a recovery de-load. The program is of course based on the four foundational lifts of strength training: the standing press, the bench press, the powerlifting squat, and the conventional deadlift. This concept is not new, but some of Wendler’s own wrinkles to the programming are very innovative.

All the main lifts build up each week to one final “all-out” (AMRAP) set. These rep records are kept and supply you with goals and challenges to reach and overcome. Each week you can attempt to break your rep record for that intensity from a previous meso-cycle. These all-out sets provide you with immediate information about your progress, the effectiveness of the training and your recovery methods.

The first week of each mesocycle builds up to set with 85% of Tmax for 5 reps or more on each lift. Week two builds up to a set with 90% for 3 reps or more. The third week builds up to a set with 95% for 1 rep or more. Hence the name 5/3/1.

Wendler recommends being the program with the training max set at 90% of one rep maximum. Doing this stealthily periodizes the program. Beginning with the Tmax at 90% will make the first two or three mesocycles become hypertrophy/vegetative mesocycles by default. With each new mesocycle Wendler recommends adding 5 to 10 pounds to the Tmaxes, so little by little the program becomes more and more strength /neurological based. This ensures that quality muscle mass will be built which will later secure very high force potential when the program begins to become more neurological in nature.

When a miss eventually occurs on lift (meaning you are not able to complete the prescribed reps) Wendler recommends simply decreasing the Tmax by 10% and continuing. This again creates a naturally form of periodization, as the recycling of the Tmax happens automatically when your body needs it. This is training auto-regulation at it’s finest.

If quality muscle mass and high performance ability are two qualities you are interested in acquiring, 5/3/1 is an excellent strategy for you.

*For quoted article, please visit: Muscleandstrength | Home | Workout Routines | Strength Workouts


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