The Intelligent & Relentless Pursuit of Muscle™

5/3/1 Reloaded


Throughout history, human beings have constantly worked to improve themselves and their surroundings.

Look at locomotion, for example: For thousands of years, Paleoman, whether he was eating grains with his brontosaurus burgers or not, commuted to work on nothing but his two excessively hairy feet.

Imagine the envy ol' Paley would feel if he knew that in just a few thousand years we'd have not only domesticated crops, we'd have domesticated horses — which certainly beats the snot out of walking — eventually leading to comfy carriages, paved roads, and finally, being stuck in four-hour gridlock along the 405 behind two El Caminos belching out exhaust.

Yep, progress.

Since 5/3/1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System to Increase Raw Strength was released two short years ago, author Jim Wendler has been inundated with suggestions from well-meaning readers to modify or "improve" the system he described in Testosterone last year.

While the nature of the modifications may vary, Jim says in terms of their worth, the vast majority might as well have been written on toilet paper:

• "How the hell could a program work on one human and not on another?"

• "An effective program works because it's based on physiological principles. That's why it works it the first place."

• "But what about individualization and training specificity?"

So with two years removed and thousands of 5/3/1 guinea pigs training, logging, and blogging, is Jim Wendler saying that there are no improvements, or even modifications to be made? Did 5/3/1 skip the horse and buggy and just emerge at Bugatti?


Modification #1: I'm a competitive powerlifter. How do I tweak this for my goals?

3 x 5 reps

3 x 3 reps

3 x 5, 3, and 1 rep

Deload

3 x 3, plus a few singles

3 x 5  only perform requisite reps

3 x 5,3,1, plus a few singles

Deload


Modification #2: I'm a busy guy and hitting the gym four times a week is tough. Any lower frequency ideas that still yield gains?

Week 1:                 

Squats 5/3/1, leg press 5 x 10, stiff leg deads 5 x 10, abs

Bench press 5/3/1, dumbbell press 5 x 10, dumbbell row 5 x 10, biceps curls (yes, curls).

Include three days of hard conditioning (hill sprints) on nonconsecutive days.

Week 2:             

Deadlift 5/3/1, safety bar squat 5 x 10, good mornings 5 x 10, abs

Overhead press 5/3/1, chin-ups 5 x 10, dips 5 x 10, biceps curls (no, the joke isn't on you, biceps curls).

Include three days of hard conditioning (hill sprints) on nonconsecutive days.

With the reduced frequency, Wendler says there's no need to deload, and each training cycle now goes six weeks instead of the usual four.

And for those guys who think that this sounds like their mama's split, Wendler says look out.

Twice a week of lifting: Are you sure that's enough volume?


Modification #3: My shoulder hurts with all the heavy pressing. Can I dump the 5/3/1 shoulder pressing in exchange for something else?

Shoulder pain is a common thing, so it would make sense to just remove heavy shoulder pressing until (if?) it clears up, right?

Bad move, says Wendler. Although shoulder pain may be typical, the answer isn't to change any of the 5/3/1 lifts, but to change the assistance exercises instead.


Modification #4: Performing squats and deadlifts in the same week is just too much for me.

When pressed to expand on what could be taken as 'less than helpful' advice, Wendler says following the Monday-Wednesday-Friday-Monday rotation — thus allowing five days between lower body workouts — can be helpful, as is the new twice-a-week rotation already noted in Modification #2.


Modification #5: Sets of five-rep deadlifts are too much for me.

Wendler notes that even very strong individuals — guys whose five rep poundages exceed 500 pounds or more — should have no problem with the sets of five.


Modification #6: Are there any other lifts that I can apply the 5/3/1 loading scheme to?

The result?

Wendler cautions not to overdo this scheme — don't try to perform 5/3/1 with four different lifts per workout — but as long as they're major barbell lifts, don't be afraid to experiment with things like barbell rows, barbell curls, and power cleans.


Parting Shots and Kick Ass Advice

Powerlifting modifications, alternate frequencies, exercise substitution options — what's next on the radar Jim, different rep schemes for Republicans and Democrats?

Not likely.

According to Jim Wendler, these are the only rules that you need:

Every plan should have:

• Strength Component (the 5/3/1 lifts)     

• Hypertrophy Component (the assistance lifts)       

• Conditioning (sprinting, hill sprints, etc.)

So for example, if you wanted to get single-digit lean, you wouldn't dump low rep strength training altogether and just sprint every day. You might cut back somewhat, but if you were smart, you'd keep a bit of low rep work in there every week.

Ditto getting bigger or stronger — there's absolutely no reason to eliminate conditioning work completely just because you want to get as big as possible, nor should you dump hypertrophy work altogether if your goal is to deadlift a thousand pounds.

Jim likens this to the type of prioritizing virtually every adult performs every day.


Jim Wendler's new book, 5/3/1 for Powerlifting will be available soon.



Switching around week 1 and week 2 and including more heavy singles    can help the aspiring powerlifter.

Switching around week 1 and week 2 and including more heavy singles can help the aspiring powerlifter.

If your shoulder bugs you, cut back on the assistance pressing, not    the main shoulder pressing.

If your shoulder bugs you, cut back on the assistance pressing, not the main shoulder pressing.

Effort is crucial to succeeding at any program.

Effort is crucial to succeeding at any program.

Weak vs. week? Only the weak say they can't deadlift and squat    in the same week.

Weak vs. week? Only the weak say they can't deadlift and squat in the same week.

Hey Jim, how do I tweak 5/3/1 to specialize my flexor digitorum and    gracilis? They're areas I read I should work on.

Hey Jim, how do I tweak 5/3/1 to specialize my flexor digitorum and gracilis? They're areas I read I should work on.


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