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The 5/3/1 method was made famous by weightlifter Jim Wendler. Jim was known for having a 1000-pound squat, 675-pound bench, and 700-pound deadlift. Having a total of 2375 pounds while competing in the 275 pound weight class makes you pretty elite. This a program that allows you to get out of your own way, take a step back, and make continuous strength gains month by month. With this program, the focus lies in 4 big, multi joint lifts. Bench, squat, deadlift, and overhead press are the main movements trained. Slow, continuous progress is the name of the game here, which is great as it will help keep you healthy and strong throughout the year. During the 5/3/1 method, your strength is consistently judged by your “rep max” and not just your 1 rep max. If your best bench press with 225 pounds goes from 6 reps to 11 reps, you have succeeded.


Each training cycle is 4 weeks, and you are expected to workout 4 days per week. Each day has uses on of the big 4 lifts as its goal. The weight you use is based on your working max, which is 90% of your 1 reps max. Each week we increase in weight until week 4, which is a de-load week. On the 3rd set each day, you have an AMRAP (as many reps as possible). This means if you are in week 1, benching 225 for 5, you go all out and see how many reps you can get above 5 on that last set. It's your last set so why hold back? This is where your real gains will be made.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Set 1

65% x 5

70% X 3

75% X 5

40% X 5

Set 2

75% X 5

80% X 3

85% X 3

50% X 5

Set 3

85% X 5+

90% X 3+

95% X 1+

60% X 5

Once you finish your 4 weeks of training, add 5 pounds to your 1RM for bench and overhead press, and 10 pounds to your 1RM for squat and deadlift and repeat the cycle with your new numbers. If you follow this program for 12 months, you should add 60 pounds to your bench and overhead press and 120 pounds to your deadlift and squat. If this doesn’t sound like much of an increase, ask an experienced lifter if it is a big increase. Beginner gains are easy, the gains after that are a grind.

Accessory exercises are a choice to you as too how much and what exercise to use. Just keep in mind that they are accessories and should not hamper your ability to recover. You can have as few as 2 accessory exercises or as many as 4 or 5, as long as your keep the main thing the main thing.

Chris Still

BS Exercise Science


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