by Jim Wendler
The Origin of 5/3/1
[This is an excerpt from the book The 5-3-1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System for Raw Strength
In the summer of 2005, I was burned out from competitive powerlifting. I was tired of bench shirts, box squats, bands and being fat. Two years earlier, I’d written down three goals I wanted to accomplish. In my last meet, I’d done all three. Satisfied with reaching my goals, and dissatisfied with how I felt, I needed a change – but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted or how I was going to get there.
My first order of business was losing weight. I was about 280 pounds, and I wanted to be able to tie my shoes without turning red. I wanted to be able to walk down the street without losing my breath. Like many people, I played football in high school and college. I was in shape then, and could do just about anything. Fast forward five years, and I was at the bottom of the food chain. That feeling of being a fat-ass was awful. I was exactly what I despised.
I remember once watching a young woman walk for exercise when I was in college. She wasn’t overweight, and she didn’t look like she was suffering from any kind of physical ailment. I was mystified as to why this seemingly fit woman was simply walking. Why wasn’t she running? Why wasn’t she running with a sled? Why wasn’t she pushing a car, or pushing an SUV up and down the street?
I remember thinking to myself that if I ever reached a point in my life where I had to walk to get exercise, it might be time to clean out my ears with a gun.
Fortunately, I didn’t follow through with my plans. The point, however, is this: I was fat and out of shape. And even though I’d recently squatted 1000 pounds, I really wasn’t strong. I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t use this strength for anything other than waddling up to a monolift and squatting.
A few months later, I’d managed to lose about 25 pounds. Simply walking and not eating as much helped me out immensely. I was able to move again. I could run, sprint, jog, jump rope or do just about anything.
But damn was I weak.
I knew where I wanted to go. I simply wanted to deadlift and squat over 600 pounds again, and I wanted to bench press 405. That was it. And I wanted to do it without the aid of powerlifting gear like bench shirts and squat suits. I also wanted an easy plan to get there. I didn’t want to have to do a million different exercises. The bench press, parallel squat, deadlift and standing press have always been staples of any strong person’s repertoire, so I knew what exercises I wanted to do.
I needed a plan for all of this. I needed something very simple, and I didn’t want to have to think about it. I had recently become a father, and my priorities had changed. I still wanted to be strong, but I didn’t want to have to spend all my time thinking about it. I wanted to go in the weight room, have my work planned for me, and get out. No bullshit, no problem.
I’d started playing around with the concept of 5/3/1 months earlier, so I knew I was on to something, but I wasn’t sure how it would work. Because my bench, squat and deadlift goals were so straightforward, I gave myself 12 months to accomplish them. I worked backward from these numbers and ended up with beginning weights that were really light. I mean ridiculously light.
I had a plan, though, and I followed through. I figured once I finished each month of training, I’d be ready to move on to the next – and the next, and the next, until I finally reached my goal. Of course, this was wishful thinking – it doesn’t always work like this – but I needed a simple plan, and this was the best one I could come up with. Or the simplest, at least.
Sometimes, however, the simplest is the best. In my case, this proved to be true. I was breezing through my workouts, putting on some muscle, and having fun again. I began pushing my last set for as many reps as I could, setting personal records in the process.
Training was fun again. Gone were the three hour marathons of bench shirt training and sweating my ass off wearing tight polyester gear. I was in and out of the weight room in 30-45 minutes, and I was still getting stronger. After about three months of training, I got a wild hair up my ass and tried to pull a max deadlift. After my sets were over, I loaded up the bar and pulled for 3 reps what I thought I might be able to pull once. 610 x 3.
Now, this isn’t any kind of world – or even personal – record, but it was really, really good for me at the time, especially when you consider the fact that I was used to wearing a deadlift suit and briefs and had lost so much weight. Plus, the deadlift was always my worst lift. I can blame this on any number of things, but the bottom line is that I just wasn’t strong. Now, with this program, I could feel myself inching toward “strong” without having to be a blob of disgusting lard.
I began playing more and more with this program. I switched things up, experimented on friends and training partners and read some old books on training, and this is what I came up with. Hell, it may change even more with time, but the basics will always remain the same.
Jim Wendler is the author of 5/3/1: The Simplest and Most Efficient Training System for Raw Strength. He was a fullback at the University of Arizona, earning 3 letters and the admiration of his mother, who was his only fan. Not good enough to play in the NFL, Jim turned his sights to the world of powerlifting and squatted 1000, benched 675 and deadlifted 700, with a 2375 all-time best total. He has since removed the large build up of muck from his arteries and tries really hard to reclaim his youth and vigor. You can find his articles and ask him a question at EliteFTS - Powerlifting and Strength Training Products and Knowledge for Lifters, Athletes, Coaches, and Trainers.
Views 1543 Comments 6
|01-29-2010, 03:33 AM||#2|
Captain, Team 50'
Join Date: Jan 2010
Training Exp: 12
Training Type: Other
Fav Exercise: Hammer Low Pull
Fav Supp: Jack3d, Yok3d, ModernBCAA
I am an avid believer in the Wendler/Tate training and eating philosophy(ies)! I have followed the 5-3-1 myself and gotten great strength gains! I specifically followed the North of Vag routine found within the e-book, and loved every second of it!!!
Strongly suggest you folks read and consider this!
|04-08-2010, 07:19 PM||#3|
Join Date: Mar 2010
Training Exp: 2
Training Type: SFW!
Fav Exercise: Deadlift
Fav Supp: AAEFX K-OTIC
Just read everyword big doc!!!
|04-09-2010, 10:42 AM||#4|
Time to start over...
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Massachusetts, USA
Training Exp: 5
Training Type: Fullbody
Fav Exercise: Bench & Deads
Fav Supp: VPX Power Shock & PLCAR
This is my next routine for sure... I've already incorporated some of the 5/3/1 style into what I'm doing now. Probably going to run this through the Summer....
Mt Snow, VT - May 5, 2012 - Completed!
...i remain, he who remains to be...
|04-09-2010, 10:46 AM||#5|
Join Date: Nov 2009
It isn't that they cant see the solution.
It is that they cant see the problem.
No Bullshit no problems
My Blog- http://grim83.blogspot.com/
|04-09-2010, 02:27 PM||#6|
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: New York
I am a big Wendler fan too. When I saw "origin of 531" I couldn't help but think of some of Wendler's philsophical differences from Westside as big factors in coming up with the program.
For one thing, he thinks DE work does not contribute to strength gains. He tells people all the time to leave DE out of 531. You can find alot of these comments in the Q&A section at elitefts.com by searching Q&A for Jim Wendler.
In his book "The Max Effort Method" you can see some of his ideas about 531 coming together, particularly with respect to assistance work, which he is selective about. He says the advanced lifter doesn't need a huge arsenal of exercises...just the a few of the right ones. For example, "I want you to make a list of three deadlift variations and three squat variations that you think strengthen your lifts the most. Now, take those six exercises and throw out two of them (one squat and one deadlift)...I want you to take these four lifts and get really good at them. Cycle sets and reps and perfect your form" (67).
There is also a wave listed in the above book called the three-week method, in which one works up to: week 1, 85% max for 1x5; week 2, 90%max for 1x3, week 3, 90,95,100% max for 1x1 each. Looked mighty familiar to me when I saw it.
That passed the time, I was time, I devoured the world. Not now, any more. A man changes. As he gets on.--Samuel Beckett
Follow my progress: http://muscleandbrawn.com/forums/tra...-powerful.html
|04-09-2010, 03:12 PM||#7|
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Houston, TX
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