I have been following a program to build strength for the past 3 weeks with interesting results. I have increased my poundages with 10 kilograms on all the major compound moves – the overhead press, deadlift, squat and the bench press. The thing I love the most of this program, called 5/3/1, is that it has built in progression. Created by Jim Wendler, a former football player and weightlifter, the program is based on using 90% of your maximum poundages you can lift on your compound exercises. Let’s assume you have calculated your estimated one rep max for the squat to be 150kg. Your training max would therefore be 90% of this: 150kg x 0.9 = 135kg.
Now do the following percentages from the 135kg:
- Week 1: Do 65% x 5 reps, 75% x 5 reps and 85% x 5 reps or more.
- Week 2: Do 70% x 3 reps, 80% x 3 reps and 90% x 3 or more reps.
- Week 3: Do 75% x 5 reps, 85% x 3 reps and 95% x 1 or more reps.
- Week 4: Do 40% x 5 reps, 50% x 5 reps and 60% x 5 reps. (This is a deload week).
For the first week, you work up to 3×5 on the squat, the second week you work up to 3×3, for the third you work up to 5/3/1reps. When you stall, you drop your maxes by 10% and start the cycle all over again. If you had a 100kg bench press at the beginning and you worked up to 110kg before your plateau you calculate 90% from the current max 110kg and start there.
Wendler knows a thing or two about training – he once squatted 1000 pounds (about 453kg) in competition. Google it – you’ll see. His simplistic yet effective system made a huge difference in how I approach my bench press, squat, overhead press and deadlift moves. I liked Wendler’s no-nonsense approach and while doing his program I discovered that I still had that drive, passion and fire to become stronger. Passion for me is what makes the world go around and no man should be without it.
Wendler calls his program the simplest and most effective training system for raw strength and that it most certainly is – my total average increase in weight in all the moves was 8.75% in 3 weeks.
With 5/3/1 I walked into the gym feeling motivated to succeed – it never turned into something boring and repetitive.
If we talk programs it is my belief that you should do whatever motivates you and keeps you motivated to continue with your training.
Apart from the compounds I did pull-ups, ab wheel rollouts, dips and curls for accessory work.
Jim’s 5/3/1 has obviously been tremendously successful for weightlifting. It showed me how to develop mental and physical strength – qualities I think many of us seek from the iron. Give 5/3/1 a shot if your goal is to make unbelievable strength gains in a short period of time or keep it in the back of your mind to try later when your current plan is no longer helping you to get stronger.