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.