View Full Version : Wendler's 5/3/1

Howard Wilcox
04-12-2009, 07:29 PM
Hello folks,

About a month ago, I bought Wendler's 5/3/1 e-book. I knew I needed a plan to get my strength up since winging it wasn't really working. His book and CFSB came out about the same time so it was a good comparison.

A brief history:
I did a run of Starting Strength last year for about four months. It was awesome and gave me a base level of strength. I then switched to the conjugate method as much as I was able (didn't have a reverse-hyper for instance). This was useful for teaching me to go for 1-rep maxes. But the dynamic stuff wasn't as useful, at least the bench. Likewise, I needed to do the basic movements a lot instead of switching them up frequently (per most westside templates). It is entirely possible, if not probable that I could have been screwing it up. I would throw in various metcons during this time, but that wasn't really the focus.

All of that lasted until about June. Then we moved across the country and I started spending more time on metcons with a more random approach to strength work. It wasn't a pure MEBB but pretty close. Namely I would hit heavy work 2-3 times/week and hit metcons 3-2 times/week. This was pretty good but I kept stalling. It also became obvious that I needed to do certain things frequently, deadlifting and pressing for instance. It seems like if I don't lift heavy, frequently, I lose ability. But, the problem was that hitting PRs every time was becoming very difficult if not impossible.

I also tried the Texas Method in December and promptly ground to a halt in about three weeks. It probably would have worked in a standalone format, but with 2-3 metcons, it proved too much.

It also depleted me of motivation/energy to work on the olympic lifts, which are important to me. Since my technique is poor, I don't really burn out on them as I'm not lifting that much...but with the TM, there was little energy left to do much of anything.

So, I knew that I needed a plan of some sort and I was curious to compare CFSB and 5/3/1.

I read both and eventually decided to give 5/3/1 a shot for a number of reasons:

1. It had more pressing and I had some pressing goals that I want to achieve still (both overhead and bench).
2. It is easier to recover from since you aren't hitting a PR every time.
3. It seems as if it can last much longer since it is kind of a wave approach.
4. The assistance work can be used to work on a weak area or build work capacity (ala CFSB) or done in metcon format giving lots of flexibility (note: this is my own addition, he doesn't spend much time talking about metcon stuff, though he does discuss the prowler and hill sprints).
5. I know what my weights will be on any given workout allowing my mind to "relax" and focus on other stuff (technique, olympic work, metcon performances, etc) since I don't have to psych-up for a new PR effort. Assuming I can continue progress, I know what my workouts will be a year from now, weight-wise (on the big four, the other stuff is completely variable). If I have to reset, of course, this changes a bit.
6. In a similar vein to 2, it allows me to work on olympic stuff more (or gymnastics, etc) since I'm not as spent.

The essence of the program is continued progress in a wave format on the big four: squat, deadlift, overhead press, and bench press (he does talk about substitutions however). It's a four week cycle (with the fourth week being a deload week)...then the next cycle adds some weight and begins again. The first week does 5s, the second week does 3s, and the third week does 5/3/1 reps (all of the above at various percentages of 1RM). The unique thing is that on your last set you do as many reps as possible. For example, if you are on the second week and your third set is supposed to be 225x3...then that's the bare minimum. But you try and get as many as you can, so if you get 6, that is awesome. This is the first program that I've done with percentages. Yes, that makes it a little nerdy in a way, but I decided to do it anyway.

I'm not going to give too much detail since I think the book is easily worth the $20 it costs. I've been a fan of Wendler's writing style for a while now since he seems to combine independent thinking, common sense, and being a smartass into a useful and humorous style.

This program also doesn't assume specialized equipment like reverse-hypers, boards, chains, bands, etc...nor does it assume you'll be using suits. It just assumes you want to be strong and feel great (he explains all this and how he got to that desire)...in other words, it isn't really like other westside templates. Someone mentioned that it was similar to the BFS template and I went and read that book to see. Yes, there are some similarities though I think Wendler's is more elegant and simplified.

I'm about to start my first deload week and will likely knock out a few hard metcons. So far I'm enjoying it and even went through the trouble to create a spreadsheet with formulas for the first three months.

Here's the link for the e-book (wfs):

Please understand this is no downplaying of CFSB, but just a personal preference based on my mindset, interests, and abilities.

I've enjoyed the first cycle and I'm looking forward to the next and if I keep progressing according to plan, I'll easily hit my yearly goals.


Dave Van Skike
04-12-2009, 07:47 PM
howard, glad that's working for you. i too think wendler has his head screwed on pretty tight. nearly all of his articles are worth reading to those who haven't had chance..highly recommend...no BS and very open minded. love it when he tells people to train like a bodybuilder.

I've been using a variant on his 531 stuff for a month or so as well. it's very similar to what I've been doing over the last year.

what are were your starting numbers? where are you now, did you start super light as rx'ed..have you stalled at all yet?

Steven Low
04-12-2009, 08:18 PM
Looks good to me...

Any type of rep undulating will work for intermediate-advanced strength.

I think the first article I read manipulating the rep scheme daily/per week was with daily undulated periodization.

Dave Van Skike
04-12-2009, 08:28 PM
Looks good to me...

Any type of rep undulating will work for intermediate-advanced strength.

I think the first article I read manipulating the rep scheme daily/per week was with daily undulated periodization.

it's not nearly that complicated. I wrote the basics up on another thread but it's old school powerlifting.

a week of 5's
a week of 3's
a week on singles
deload. the difference is that way he starts you cacl'ing of a reduce 1rm and so you are going for max reps on the last set of each day....in fact you plan on rep PR's going into it.

the accessory work is very very basic,

the book is basically a pamphlet but he's writing is confidence inspiring and most important urges you to figure shit out for yourself...the old teach a man to fish thing.

Gavin Harrison
04-12-2009, 11:26 PM
I definitely second the recommendation for the book. Though I haven't personally used the method, there have been a lot (a LOT) of people claiming huge gains using it, and the book is very well written and laid out, as well as very motivational. I plan to use the program after I get my numbers on squat/bench/deadlift up to what I think are semi-acceptable numbers (300/200/400, probably), or my gains peter out, by using the powerlifting 5x5 thing pavel wrote a while ago.

The book also has a ton of different ideas for supplemental work to go along with the base program, and a good FAQ section. Also, the way the weakly schedule is made is similar to how a lot of higher level powerlifters train anyway, 1 bench day, 1 bench assistance day (Press), 1 squat and 1 deadlift day. I also like the idea of not focusing solely on reps <6 all the time, and planned deload weeks.

Howard Wilcox
04-13-2009, 05:26 AM
My starting numbers for 5/3/1 are (only 1cycle in so far, so haven't stalled):

PR --> 185
DL --> 365
BP --> 265
SQ --> 335

I reduced all that by 10% to begin calculations per the manual. I suspect the DL is more than that but I haven't pulled for a single since december but I hit 345 for 3 (or was it 5, can't remember) in the last month or so. My press has been dead for a while since I need to press often to make it go somewhere. The squat has been stagnant, but only because I've been playing with the front squat and high-bar back squat for a few months.

Of course, before starting strength, those numbers were probably half what they are now or thereabouts. But now it is time for the big push towards 200-300-400-500 if I can get it. One day I'll have some actual strength.


Troy Archie
04-13-2009, 08:33 AM
The link is broken.

Howard Wilcox
04-13-2009, 09:06 AM

Try this one:



Torsten Hauptmann
05-26-2009, 02:02 AM
is there an other shop which sells the book? the problem is that i do not have a credit card (which is common in the country i live in) and therefore can not pay....

David Stout
06-01-2009, 04:45 PM
is there an other shop which sells the book? the problem is that i do not have a credit card (which is common in the country i live in) and therefore can not pay....

While you're working that out check out this write up on it in the interim.

Written by Tim Donahey (sp?) who maintains the Starting Strength wiki -


PS - I also concur with prior comments that the ebook is easily worth the price!

Linus Hector
09-07-2009, 04:49 AM
What are your thoughts of doing this and short heavy metcons as the assitance work. Gant/CFfootball style, will it work for strength and maybe some mass as well as conditoning.

Paul McKirdy
09-07-2009, 04:18 PM
The 531 program includes conditioning work recommendations via hill running or prowler work, surely a metcon would suffice for prowler or sprinting up hill.

Derek Simonds
09-08-2009, 07:28 AM
We do short heavy Met-Cons with it no problem. I think they fit together nicely. I try to be aware of what exercise we are doing the next day for programming reasons. Other than that have at it.

Garrett Smith
09-08-2009, 08:54 AM
My incorporation of 5/3/1 goes like this:

Tuesday - OL, heavy single(s) snatch, 8-12 singles C&J "on the minute"
Wednesday - Gymnastics strength training
Thursday OR Friday - 5/3/1 back squats supersetted with box plyos
Saturday - Gymnastics strength training AND 5/3/1 front squats supersetted with jump rope
Sunday - 5/3/1 strict curl supersetted with 5/3/1 bench press, then 5/3/1 deadlifts supersetted with box plyos, then max set of TSC-style deadhang pullups, then some GS KB snatch sets for time [this is a long workout day]

Note that this arrangement is organized around the TSC in September (this month) and my PL meet in October. Once those are done, I will likely change things up based on the next goal.