Workout Routines

Get Super Strong With 5/3/1 Training

Follow Jim Wendler’s classic plan to become the strongest version of you.

by
Heavy Barbell Deadlift
HadelProductions / Getty
HadelProductions / Getty
Duration 6 weeks
Exercises 4
Equipment Yes

Since it debuted in 2009, millions of satisfied strength disciples have pledged their allegiance to the church of Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 training protocol. There are four variations available on jimwendler.com, and they all share one fundamental principle: progression over time.

Wendler’s no-nonsense, bare-bones approach to strength development spurned personal bests in practitioners from Kansas to Kathmandu. For those who have heard about the system but were uncertain on how to do it, let us school you in the ways of 5/3/1.

WHAT IT IS

A program that centers on just four compound lifts: the bench press, back squat, deadlift, and overhead press. Wendler uses a periodized plan, in which you alternate volume and intensity based on a percentage scale to ensure safe and effective weekly progression. Wendler believes in small weight jumps with an emphasis on form to perfect the movement.

WHY IT WORKS

The secret sauce in Wendler’s program isn’t a secret at all. Rather, it’s just small, incremental progression and consistency. By using manageable weight, you’ll A) grease the groove with your lifts, making you better at them; and B) allow your body to adapt to handling big weight. While the accessory protocol isn’t fancy, performing a total of 50 reps with relatively heavy weight is a surefire way to add mass to your frame.

HOW TO DO IT

You’ll follow a three-week cycle, performing three sets of five reps in Week 1, three sets of three reps in Week 2, and three sets of five reps, then three reps, then one rep during Week 3. Each set and rep scheme will be accompanied with different percentages for you to base your sets on. After two three-week cycles, you’ll go back to Week 1 and try to set a rep record with the original weight on your last set. The same goes for Weeks 2 and 3.

After you find your new rep max, you’ll use a one-rep max calculator (which you can find online) to find your new max and start the cycle over. For the accessory protocol (listed in the schedule below as “First Set Last”), you’ll perform the same movement for five sets of 10 reps in Phase 1 and five sets of five reps in Phase 2. Load the bar with the amount of weight that you used for the first set of that specific day.

Below, find the weekly schedule for both phases. Once you complete the first three-week cycle, you'll switch percentages as indicated below. 

PERCENTAGES

*NOTE: All percentages are based on 90% of your true one-rep max. 

PHASE 1

  • Week 1: 65%–75%–85%
  • Week 2: 70%–80%–90%
  • Week 3: 75%–85%–95%

PHASE 2

  • Week 1: 65%–75%–85% AMRAP
  • Week 2: 70%–80%–90% AMRAP
  • Week 3: 75%–85%–95% AMRAP

*On the last set of Phase 2, perform as many reps as possible (AMRAP), hitting at least the prescribed reps for that day. 

The training cycle is broken down into a four-day schedule. The lifter should center his or her workout around the main exercises on each exercise day.

Week 1

Exercise Day 1

Barbell Bench Press You'll need: Barbell, Bench How to
Barbell Bench Press thumbnail
3 sets
5 reps
-- rest
*Plus first set last: 5 sets of 10 during Phase 1, 5 sets of 5 during Phase 2

Exercise Day 2

Barbell Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Deadlift thumbnail
3 sets
5 reps
-- rest
*Plus first set last: 5 sets of 10 during Phase 1, 5 sets of 5 during Phase 2

Exercise Day 3

Barbell Squat You'll need: Barbell How to
Man Barbell Squat thumbnail
3 sets
5 reps
-- rest
*Plus first set last: 5 sets of 10 during Phase 1, 5 sets of 5 during Phase 2

Exercise Day 4

Overhead Barbell Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Overhead Barbell Press thumbnail
3 sets
5 reps
-- rest
*Plus first set last: 5 sets of 10 during Phase 1, 5 sets of 5 during Phase 2

Week 2

Exercise Day 1

Barbell Bench Press You'll need: Barbell, Bench How to
Barbell Bench Press thumbnail
3 sets
3 reps
-- rest
*Plus first set last: 5 sets of 10 during Phase 1, 5 sets of 5 during Phase 2

Exercise Day 2

Barbell Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Deadlift thumbnail
3 sets
3 reps
-- rest
*Plus first set last: 5 sets of 10 during Phase 1, 5 sets of 5 during Phase 2

Exercise Day 3

Barbell Squat You'll need: Barbell How to
Man Barbell Squat thumbnail
3 sets
3 reps
-- rest
*Plus first set last: 5 sets of 10 during Phase 1, 5 sets of 5 during Phase 2

Exercise Day 4

Overhead Barbell Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Overhead Barbell Press thumbnail
3 sets
3 reps
-- rest
*Plus first set last: 5 sets of 10 during Phase 1, 5 sets of 5 during Phase 2

Week 3

Exercise Day 1

Barbell Bench Press You'll need: Barbell, Bench How to
Barbell Bench Press thumbnail
3 sets
5, 3, 1 reps
-- rest
*Plus first set last: 5 sets of 10 during Phase 1, 5 sets of 5 during Phase 2

Exercise Day 2

Barbell Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Deadlift thumbnail
3 sets
5, 3, 1 reps
-- rest
*Plus first set last: 5 sets of 10 during Phase 1, 5 sets of 5 during Phase 2

Exercise Day 3

Barbell Squat You'll need: Barbell How to
Man Barbell Squat thumbnail
3 sets
5, 3, 1 reps
-- rest
*Plus first set last: 5 sets of 10 during Phase 1, 5 sets of 5 during Phase 2

Exercise Day 4

Overhead Barbell Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Overhead Barbell Press thumbnail
3 sets
5, 3, 1 reps
-- rest
*Plus first set last: 5 sets of 10 during Phase 1, 5 sets of 5 during Phase 2
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