Who is it for?
Anyone looking to increase their max strength &/or finding it hard to track their progress &/or wanting to incorporate rep phases within their training &/or coming to the end of a hypertrophy (muscle size) phase of training and wanting to focus on strength for a few weeks before returning back stronger to hypertrophy training.
I have not found many pre set training programs very effective for me or realistic to incorporate into my weekly routine. I usually revert back to my own programs & training methods that have worked well for me over the years. However, the 5-3-1 method (originally designed by Jim Wendler) looked good on paper so decided to give it a go to try and up my max lifts.
In the 12months prior to starting the 5-3-1 program I had hit PB’s on my main lifts increasing my max Bench from 130kg to 135kg and started to think I'd hitting my ‘genetic potential’ on this lift. My Deadlift had gone from 150kg to 170kg (which had/has a lot more room for improvement). Full range Front Squat was at 90kg & Strict Press 75kg.
After 16 weeks on a slightly adapted version of the 5-3-1 program my new PB’s were:
Bench 137.5kg (+2.5kg) also hitting new 3rmx of 122.5kg
· Deadliift 180kg (+10kg)
· Front Squat 110kg (+20kg)
· Strict Press 77.5kg (+2.5kg)
This may not seem like huge gains but when you have been weight training for over 8 years it is rare to see this amount of progress in so many areas over a 16 week period.
So what is the 5-3-1 method?
Below is my adapted version of the 5-3-1 summarizing how the program is structured. Each workout begins with a compound lift with weights and reps pre set based on % of your current 1rep Max. After week 4 you reset your max calculations slightly higher and restart the cycle. If you cannot complete the lifts successfully you have either set you max too high, or need to stay on the same weights for 2 cycles (8 weeks).
What changes did I make to the original 5-3-1 method?
I usually train using a very high volume of sets in an hour often hitting 30+ incorporating lots of supersets (e.g. Push/Pull), I found 5-3-1 prog too low volume for me personally so I usually put 4 assistance/extra exercises with each compound lift as opposed to the 2 in the original 5-3-1 prog.
I often managed to time my de-load with times when I was away and if not I added an extra 2 sets on the compound lift at 60% of max keeoping assistance work the same as usual.
It is important your form on these lifts is kept strict and done correctly, if you are not confident with them and would like some coaching helping you get stronger and avoid injury see my services and prices page for Personal Training details.
Author - Tom Peto
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