Saturday, January 21, 2012

5/3/1: Simple Routine For Size and Strength







Just like any weight lifter, I'm always on the lookout for next best routine. When I look for a new routine, not only do I want one that will give me solid results in both size and strength but I also want to enjoy the work outs as well as fit them into my schedule conveniently. 5/3/1 meets all of these requirements and it is probably the reason it has gotten so popular lately.

Overview of 5/3/1

If you are used to doing a lot of volume, 5/3/1, created by Jim Wendler, will be a bit of a shock. This routine is centered around the big 4 exercises. These include the squat, bench press, military press, and deadlift. After those exercises, you perform a few accessory exercises. You work out 4 days per week and each work out starts with one of the big 4 exercises. You do 3 sets per exercise and the reps and weight varies depending on which week you are on. The overall principles are to start out light, progress slowly, focus on compound exercises, and break personal records every work out.

Program Layout

Like I already said, you will work out 4 days per week and each work out will start off with one of the big 4 exercises. The order of work outs should be deadlift day followed by bench day, squat day, and military press day. It doesn't matter which day you start your cycle with but the order should be the same. For example, you can start your week off with military press day and then follow it with deadlift day, bench day, and squat day. Each workout cycle lasts 4 weeks. On week 1 you do 3 sets of 5 reps for all of the main exercises. On week 2 you do 3 sets of 3 reps and on week 3 you do 1 set of 5 reps, 1 set of 3 reps, and 1 set of 1 rep. However, on the last set of each exercise you are supposed to go all out. Even though the routine says you should be doing a certain amount of reps, that only applies to the first two sets. For example, on week 1, you are supposed to do 3 sets of 5 reps but on your third set if you feel like you can do more, keep going until you can't perform another rep. The fourth week is a deload week and you do 3 sets of 5 reps on all 3 sets. Don't go all out on your last set.

To determine the weights you will be using for the big 4 exercises, you need to know your 1 rep max. If you don't know it exactly, just use an estimate or test it out before you begin the program. Do not set your max too high or else you will be defeating the purpose of the routine. Once you have your max, take 90% of that and use that new number as your max. Remember, starting out light is a key aspect of this program.

You will then take your 1 rep max (which is really 90% of your true 1 rep max) and use that number to derive the appropriate weights for each work out. The percentages for each week are as follows:

Week 1: First set is 65% of your 1 rep max, second set is 75%, third set is 85%. For example, if your max for bench press is 225 pounds, you first will take 90% of that which is 203 pounds. Then, you will take 65%, 75%, and 85% of 203 which is 132, 152 and 173 respectively. Since it's week 1, you will do those weights for 5 reps on the first two sets and at least 5 reps on your last set.

Week 2: First set is 70% of your 1 rep max, second set is 80%, third set is 90%. Using the same example as above, if your max for bench press is 225, you will be using 203 as your max. 70%, 80%, and 90% of 203 is 142, 162, and 183 respectively. Since it's week 2, you will do those weights for 3 reps on your first 2 sets and 3 or more reps on your final set.

Week 3: First set is 75% of your 1 rep max, second set is 85%, third set is 95%. Going back to the same bench press example above, if your max for bench press is 225, you will base the numbers off 203. 75%, 85%, and 95% of 203 is 152, 173, and 193 respectively. Since it's week 3, you will do 203 for 5 reps, 152 for 3 reps, and 193 for at least 1 rep but you will do as many as you can do.

Week 4: First set is 40% of your 1 rep max, second set is 50%, third set is 60%. Using the 225 pound bench press example, you will still be using 203 as your max. 40%, 50%, and 60% of 203 is 81, 102, and 122 respectively. Since it's week 4 which is your deload week, you will do 5 reps for all 3 sets. These weights will feel extremely light and the work out will almost feel like a waste. It's supposed to feel that way and it's an important part to ensure you continue progressing.

Progression

At the end of the 4 week cycle, you will add 10 pounds to your max for your lower body lifts (squat and deadlift) and 5 pounds to your max for your upper body lifts (bench press and military press). Keep in mind that you are adding this to the number you have been using for your max which is actually 90% of your true max. Going back to the 225 max bench press example, since you have been using 203 as your max, you will now use 208 pounds and perform the same calculations we did above using that new number.

Since you are beginning the routine by basing your numbers off of 90% of what your true max is, you should be able to get significantly more reps than the prescribed number for your final set for your first few cycles. You may be tempted to bump up your maxes quicker to "catch up" but you shouldn't do that. The key is to progress slowly. Leave your ego at the door.

Assistance Exercises

Assistance exercises are the exercises you will do after your perform your big 4 exercise for that particular work out. The goal of assistance exercises is to strengthen weak areas of the body, help increase the big 4 lifts, provide balance and symmetry to both your body and training, and help build muscle mass.

A common question people bring up is whether they should deload the assistance exercises on the deload week. The answer is yes. The purpose of a deload week is to take a step back let your body recover. If you push hard on the assistance exercises but deload the big 4 exercises, you are defeating the purpose.

As far as which exercises to do, you should choose compound movements. These include exercises such as dips, pull ups, push ups, dumbbell rows, barbell rows, t-bar rows, dumbbell bench press, incline dumbbell press, dumbbell shoulder press, barbell incline press, lunges, hack squats, leg press, good mornings, glute ham raises, sit ups and leg raises.

There are several options you can follow as far as the lay out of your assistance work.

Option 1: Boring But Big

In this option, after you do your big 4 exercise, you stick with that exercise for another 5 sets of 10 reps. It would look something like this:

Bench Day:

Bench Press: 5/3/1
Bench Press: 5 sets of 10 reps
Barbell Rows: 5 sets of 10 reps

Squat Day:

Squats: 5/3/1
Squats: 5 sets of 10 reps
Stiff Leg Deadlifts: 5 sets of 10 reps

Military Press Day:

Military Press: 5/3/1
Military Press: 5 sets of 10 reps
Pull ups: 5 sets of 10 reps

Deadlift Day:

Deadlifts: 5/3/1
Deadlifts: 5 sets of 10 reps
Hanging Leg Raises: 5 sets of 15 reps


Option 2: The Triumverate

In this option, you do a total of 3 exercises including the big 4 movement. You should be smart with your exercise selection to make sure you hit everything equally. It would look something like this:

Bench Day:

Bench Press: 5/3/1
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: 5 sets of 10 reps
Barbell Rows: 5 sets of 10 reps

Squat Day:

Squats: 5/3/1
Leg Press: 5 sets of 10 reps
Stiff Leg Deadlifts: 5 sets of 10 reps

Military Press Day:

Military Press: 5/3/1
Dips: 5 sets of 10 reps
Pull ups: 5 sets of 10 reps

Deadlift Day:

Deadlifts: 5/3/1
Good Mornings: 5 sets of 10 reps
Hanging Leg Raises: 5 sets of 15 reps


Option 3: Lazy Man

With this option, all you do is the big 4 exercise and then leave the gym. There is no accessory work. I wouldn't recommend this but if you are crunched for time, it's not the worst way to train.

Option 4: Periodization Bible by Dave Tate

This is my favorite option. With this method, you choose 2-4 assistance exercises depending on the day. Although the program doesn't involve any bicep or calf work, I added some in. It looks like this:

Bench Day:

Bench Press: 5/3/1
Barbell Rows: 5 sets of 10 reps
Incline Dummbell Press: 5 sets of 10 reps
Barbell Curls: 3 sets of 10 reps
Skull Crushers: 3 sets of 10 reps

Squat Day:

Squats: 5/3/1
Stiff Leg Deadlifts: 5 sets of 10 reps
Leg Press: 5 sets of 10 reps
Seated Calf Raises: 5 sets of 10-12 reps

Military Press Day:

Military Press: 5/3/1
Seated Dumbbell Press: 5 sets of 10 reps
Pull ups: 5 sets of 10 reps
Dips: 5 sets of 10 reps
Hammer Curls: 3 sets of 10 reps
Tricep Pushdowns: 3 sets of 10 reps

Deadlift Day:

Deadlifts: 5/3/1
Hack Squats: 5 sets of 10 reps
Standing Calf Raises: 5 sets of 10-12 reps
Hanging Leg Raises: 5 sets of 15 reps

Option 5: Bodyweight

With this option, you just do body weight exercises. This option is good for someone trying to remain athletic while increasing strength. The set up would look something like this:

Bench Day:

Bench Press: 5/3/1
Push Ups: 100 total reps
Pull Ups: 75-100 total reps

Squat Day:

Squats: 5/3/1
Body Weight Lunges: 100 total reps
Sit Ups: 100-200 total reps

Military Press Day:

Military Press: 5/3/1
Pull ups:75-100 total reps
Dips: 100 total reps

Deadlift Day:

Deadlifts: 5/3/1
Glute Ham Raises: 50 total reps
Hanging Leg Raises: 100 total reps

Final Thoughts

Overall, I really like the simplicity of this routine. It's very easy to fit into your schedule and I have made strength gains every work out. It can be a great routine for both size and strength with all of the assistance work variations available. The deload every 4 weeks seems a bit excessive but it really helps keep you motivated. Just knowing that after 3 weeks of hard lifting you will need to back off makes you push that much harder for those 3 weeks to get the most out of it.

To purchase the complete book written by Jim Wendler himself, check it out on Amazon.

9 comments:

Bicep Curls said...

I gotta ask, even if it's a stupid question. After the 4 week cycle, is it you go back to your normal routine or you recalculate your 1RM and then go from there all over again? Just trying to figure out how I assess whether my strength has been increasing or not, if I am not changing my 1 rep max after the cycle is over.

OoFaP said...

You add 5 or 10 pounds to your max depending on if it's an upper body or lower body lift and start over. You will know if you are getting stronger when you get the same amount of reps or more with more weight than you got your previous cycle.

The Dude said...

When you do assistance work using your boring but big method. How much do you decrease the weight when you do the big 4 exercise again for 5x10?

OoFaP said...

First, I'd just like to point out this isn't my routine. Jim Wendler created it.

To answer your question, lower the weight to whatever weight you need to hit 10 reps but stop a rep or 2 short of failure.

Danny Flexen said...

What are the rest times between sets?

Keith Schrimsher said...

However long it takes to recover and then use correct form. I'm 56 and most of the time its 3 to 4 minutes.

Keith Schrimsher
May 18, 2013

Lukas Engelhart said...

Do you think it would be a good idea to incorporate an additional day for bringing up lacking body parts? (in my case shoulders and arms). So that it would be a 5day routine? Or is that to much?
Thanks in advance and hope you see this comment since it's an old post

Riley said...

I don't think that would be a good idea. I've been running 5/3/1 for a little under a year. Follow the periodization bible, you lagging parts will get stronger with good training,recovery, and time

Riley said...

I don't think that would be a good idea. I've been running 5/3/1 for a little under a year. Follow the periodization bible, you lagging parts will get stronger with good training,recovery, and time

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