5/3/1 Powerlifting Program Review!

Overview

The 5/3/1 Powerlifting Program, otherwise known as Wendler’s 5/3/1 is a linear progression program that was created by none other than Jim Wendler himself. It works by progressively overloading the body with higher weight, and lower reps as the weeks go on. This program is seen as a very effective novice program and is considered one of the most popular workout regimes for people looking to get stronger. It also is quite a flexible program in that you can choose whether to train 3 or 4 days per week. The main premise according to Jim Wendler is to make slow, consistent gains and to beat rep records rather than setting new 1RM’s, which have a greater risk of injury. Basically, if you go from a 5×140 kg squat, to a 7×140 kg squat you have gotten stronger even if you haven’t set a new 1RM. If you are brand new to lifting, you may benefit from performing the lifts more frequently. But for anyone looking to make gradual strength gains with short and efficient training sessions, this program is good for you.

Brief History

Jim Wendler created 5/3/1 because he was sick of “having to think about what to do in the gym.” He wanted a simple, easy template to follow for his workouts which would allow him to work with the correct amount of reps and correct weights to use for each set, based off a percentage of his 1RM. He believed that starting lighter allows the intermediate lifter more room to progress, and the focus on long term benefits would be beneficial to more experienced lifters.

Basic Structure

The basic structure of the program is simple: 4 training sessions per week, 1 main lift for each session, followed by any assistance work that is required. It is either split into 3 days or 4 days per week and the lifter can choose which days they wish to rest on. The program is built on cycles, each one being 4 weeks long. The rep goals for each week are set up as follows:

Week 1: 3 Sets of 5 Reps

Week 2: 3 Sets of 3 Reps

Week 3: 3 Sets of 5 Reps, 1 Set of 3 Reps, 1 Set of 1 Rep

Week 4: Deload Week – 3 Sets of 5 Reps

Once the cycle is finished, you start the next one with slightly heavier weight.

To pick the weight for your first cycle, you take 90% of your 1RM of each lift and apply it to the table below. (To calculate your 1RM click here)

Week 1: Warmup sets, 75% x 5, 80% x 5, 85% x 5+

Week 2: Warmup sets, 80% x 3, 85% x 3, 90% x 3+

Week 3: Warmup sets, 75% x 5, 85% x 3, 95% x 1+

Week 4: Deload – 60% x 5, 65% x 5, 70% x 5

For Example: If your Bench 1RM is 120kg, then 90% of that is 108kg.

Applying 108kg to the above numbers and rounding to the nearest 2.5kg will look like this:

Week 1: Warmup sets, 80kg x 5, 87.5kg x 5, 92.5kg x 5+

Week 2: Warmup sets, 87.5kg x 3, 92.5kg x 3, 97.5 x 3+

Week 3: Warmup sets, 80kg x 5, 92.5kg x 3, 102.5kg x 1+

*These first 3 weeks, on your final set your goal is to go for AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible)

When performing an AMRAP set, ensure you have a good spotter, or are using safety arms in a power rack, because you may fail on the last rep. Being trapped under 100kg on the bench is NOT fun!

Week 4: Deload – 65kg x 5, 70kg x 5, 75kg x 5

If you work out these percentages for each lift then you are pretty much ready to get started with your program!

Main Exercises

The main exercises are as follows:

  • Back Squat
  • Bench Press
  • Deadlift
  • Overhead Press

You may recognise the Big 3 Powerlifting Lifts and it is quite obvious why they are included, assuming you wish to compete in powerlifting, these are the movements that you will be performing in competition. However you may be wondering why the Overhead Press is included. The overhead press, sometimes referred to as the ‘Military Press’ is an exercise that involved holding a barbell and pushing it from your chest to above your head. This utilises the front delts and triceps, as forces you to engage your core and force good breathing habits. It is one of my favourite exercises! I plan on doing an exercise spotlight about it soon so stay tuned for that.

It is also no coincidence that Bill Kazmaier, a former World’s Strongest Man, who had multiple bench press world records, also had an incredibly strong Overhead Press. There is a huge translation that comes over to your bench from doing overhead that can’t really be replicated by any other lifts. To me, overhead press is an invaluable movement that will make you an overall stronger lifter, while also making you look bad ass. There is something primal about being able to take a heavy weight and push it above your head that is very satisfying, you will not regret incorporating it into your regimen!

How to choose Assistance Exercises

The way that I usually choose my assistance exercises is by trying to ‘iron out’ the weaknesses that I feel are restricting me in my main lifts. For example, if I feel that I am struggling to lock out my bench or overhead press, I will dedicate my assistance exercises on those days to improve my triceps strength by utilising close grip bench press, weighted dips, heavy lock outs – either off a board or off a power rack.

Assistance exercises will differ from person to person but if you are looking for a few that will benefit you no matter what I would recommend the following:

Squat – Bulgarian split squats, lunges, glute ham raises

Deadlift – Back extensions, rows, deficit deadlifts, romanian deadlifts

Bench Press – Dips, close grip bench press, dumbbell bench press, cable flies

Overhead Press – Dumbbell overhead press, Z press (created by Zydrunas Savickas – the best log lifter in the world), dips

As well as the exercises above I would recommend doing a few sets of body weight pull ups every day, I would even recommend them as a good warm up exercise as it can help decompress the spine before deadlifts, as well as warm up the rotator cuffs and has actually been shown to increase the amount of synovial fluids in your shoulders which will make your pressing movements safer and pain free.

Feel free to be experimental with the assistance exercises, as this is the part of the workout where you are free to do what you like. Have fun finding what works for you, as this is an important part in becoming stronger.

Sample 4 Week Program

Below is a sample program with all the percentages laid out for you as well as some suggested assistance exercises. Ensure you are doing appropriate warm ups and prehab, as this will decrease the risk of injuries that take away from your gains.

First 4 Weeks: Use 90% of your 1RM and plug it into the percentages below.

After the first 4 weeks, add 2.5kg to your 1RM for upper body exercises, and 5kg to your 1RM for lower body exercises, and then use those numbers for the percentages below. Repeat this process every 4 weeks.

Week 1:

Monday: Squat Day

Warmup: 40% x 5, 50% x 5, 60% x 5

Working Sets: 65% x 5, 75% x 5, 85% x AMRAP

Assistance: 5 x 10 bulgarian split squats with dumbbells, 3 x 5 glute ham raises, 5 x 10 pull ups

Tuesday: Bench Day

Warmup: 40% x 5, 50% x 5, 60% x 5

Working Sets: 65% x 5, 75% x 5, 85% x AMRAP

Assistance: 3 sets of 50% x 10 close grip bench press, 3 x 10 weighted dips, 3 x 10 dumbbell flies

Thursday: Deadlift Day

Warmup: 40% x 5, 50% x 5, 60% x 5

Working Sets: 65% x 5, 75% x 5, 85% x AMRAP

Assistance: 3 sets of 60% x 8 deficit deadlifts with 3 reps of shrugs at the top, 3 x 12 back extensions, 5 x 10 pull ups

Saturday: Overhead Press Day

Warmup: 40% x 5, 50% x 5, 60% x 5

Working Sets: 65% x 5, 75% x 5, 85% x AMRAP

Assistance: 3 x 5 each arm heavy dumbbell Z press, 3 x 10 weighted dips, 3 x 12 standing reverse flies

Week 2:

Monday: Squat Day

Warmup: 40% x 5, 50% x 5, 60% x 5

Working Sets: 70% x 5, 80% x 5, 90% x AMRAP

Assistance: 5 x 10 bulgarian split squats with dumbbells, 3 x 20 each leg travelling lunges, 3 x 10 each leg cable hip abduction

Tuesday: Bench Day

Warmup: 40% x 5, 50% x 5, 60% x 5

Working Sets: 70% x 5, 80% x 5, 90% x AMRAP

Assistance: Floor press, 3 x 10 weighted dips, dumbbell pullovers

Thursday: Deadlift Day

Warmup: 40% x 5, 50% x 5, 60% x 5

Working Sets: 70% x 5, 80% x 5, 90% x AMRAP

Assistance: 3 sets of 60% x 8 deficit deadlifts with 3 reps of shrugs at the top, 3 x 5 glute ham raises, 3 x 12 reverse flies

Saturday: Overhead Press Day

Warmup: 40% x 5, 50% x 5, 60% x 5

Working Sets: 70% x 5, 80% x 5, 90% x AMRAP

Assistance: 5 x 10 Dumbbell shoulder press, 3 x 10 weighted dips

Week 3:

Monday: Squat Day

Warmup: 40% x 5, 50% x 5, 60% x 5

Working Sets: 75% x 5, 85% x 5, 95% x AMRAP

Assistance: 5 x 10 bulgarian split squats with dumbbells, 3 x 15 leg extension, 3 x 15 leg curl

Tuesday: Bench Day

Warmup: 40% x 5, 50% x 5, 60% x 5

Working Sets: 75% x 5, 85% x 5, 95% x AMRAP

Assistance: 5 x 10 Incline dumbbell press, 3 x 12 triceps extension, 3 x 10 weighted dips

Thursday: Deadlift Day

Warmup: 40% x 5, 50% x 5, 60% x 5

Working Sets: 75% x 5, 85% x 5, 95% x AMRAP

Assistance: 3 sets of 60% x 8 deficit deadlifts with 3 reps of shrugs at the top, 3 x 12 back extension, 3 x 12 Yates rows

Saturday: Overhead Press Day

Warmup: 40% x 5, 50% x 5, 60% x 5

Working Sets: 75% x 5, 85% x 5, 95% x AMRAP

Assistance: 3 x 5 barbell Z press, 3 x 10 weighted dips

Week 4 Deload:

Monday: Squat Day

Warmup: 30% x 5, 40% x 5, 50% x 5

Working Sets: 60% x 5, 65% x 5, 70% x 5

Assistance: 3 x 10 pull ups, 3 x 10 lunges

Tuesday: Bench Day

Warmup: 30% x 5, 40% x 5, 50% x 5

Working Sets: 60% x 5, 65% x 5, 70% x 5

Assistance: 3 x 10 pull ups, 3 x 10 weighted dips

Thursday: Deadlift Day

Warmup: 30% x 5, 40% x 5, 50% x 5

Working Sets: 60% x 5, 65% x 5, 70% x 5

Assistance: 3 x 10 pull ups, 3 x 10 barbell rows

Saturday: Overhead Press Day

Warmup: 30% x 5, 40% x 5, 50% x 5

Working Sets: 60% x 5, 65% x 5, 70% x 5

Assistance: 3 x 10 rows, 3 x 10  weighted dips

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s