Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1

With so many programs and routines set up for gaining strength, one can often get lost in the massive amount of information.  However, one name that should be examined closely is Jim Wendler.  His 5/3/1 program coincides with the Westside training program, but can be used as its own workout entirely.  The concept is nothing new; just simple lifts with complementary lifts thrown in. 
This is the basic layout:

  • Squat Day
  • Bench Press Day
  • Deadlift Day
  • Overhead Press Day

These 4 days cover all of your major muscle groups.  For each day, you will have a “core” lift.  This movement is a compound, multi-joint lift.  The use of various percentages of your 1MR and reps differ each week in a 4 week mesocycle. 

Here’s the breakdown of the rep and percentage scheme:

  • Week 1:  75% x 5, 80% x 5, 85% x 5
  • Week 2:  80% x 3, 85% x 3, 90% x 3
  • Week 3:  75% x 5, 85% x 3, 95% x 1
  • Deload:  60% x 5, 65% x 5, 70% x 5

Now let’s get to the exercises.  As mentioned before, you will have your main lift which you will follow the percentage scheme above. 
You can use a few examples of these appropriate lifts for each day:

  • Squat Day: Back squat, box squat, front squat, and any variation of stances
  • Bench Day:  Bench Press, Floor Press, 2 Board Press, Rack Press, Incline Press
  • Deadlift Day:  Standard Deadlift, Deficit Deadlifts, Rack Pulls, Dealifts with bands or chains
  • Overhead Press Day:  Military Press, Push Press, Rack Press, Dumbbell Overhead Press

To compliment every core lift, you will then have supplemental lifts. These exercises are designed to assist you after the core lift.  The best part of this workout is you can decide whether you want to do more of a strength workout or a bodybuilder style.

For strength, you would do perform your core lift at the 3 set scheme.  Then for the assistance work, you would perform the core again, but this time you will do 10 sets at 50% of your 1MR and one other movement. For example, for Squat day, I would do my Back Squat at 3 sets and my assistance work would then be 10 sets at 50% of my max, plus 10 sets of leg curls.

For a bodybuilding style routine, you can choose 4 exercises and have 4 sets with 10 -20 reps. Let’s take Bench day for instance; I would do my core lift of bench press, and then choose incline dumbbell press, flys, dips and cable triceps extension.  With this style, you will have lighter weight, but you will still have a sufficient amount of volume to make gains.

One important part of this program is to keep the workout under 60 minutes.  If you skip the chit chat and get through your workout quickly, you can get on with your day and see better results.  Like the old saying goes, it’s not about what you do in the gym; it’s what you don’t do in the gym.