531 and other random musings

Jim Wendler's 5-3-1 Manual

One of the keys to my job is keeping up with all the current literature, research, DVD’s, etc.  Quite simply if I hear that something is good, I want to check it out.

A few weeks ago, I gave high praise to Dan John’s book Never Let Go.  If you’ve read anything by Dan John and enjoyed it, you’ll love this book.

Last week, I decided to pick up a copy of Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 manual.  I had heard great things, but in all honesty I didn’t know what to expect.

I’m almost speechless, but this manual is fantastic.  I can’t say enough good things about it, although I’m going to try.

I’ve experimented with a little bit of everything in my day – 5×5 training, conjugate method, some higher volume stuff bordering on Sheiko, and I’ve made progress with all of it.  But I always felt I made my best progress on something at or near 5×5.

This manual has some of the same feel of 5×5, but in a lot of ways I think it’s even better.  It’s beautiful in its simplicity.  I won’t ruin it for those of you who haven’t bought it, but there are numerous reasons I really like this manual:

– A heavy emphasis on building a base, and not your ego

– The fact that you can consistently progress upwards over time

– A strong emphasis on the core lifts

– Planned de-loads

– Ramping up to one or two key sets, thus sparing the joints to some degree

– I always liked this style program because I could have a very good idea of my maxes on each lift.  There’s no better “indicator” than using a repetition max of the lift in question!

It may not be for everyone, but I think this program is perfect for me in my current situation.  Let’s be honest, at this stage of the game I have a wife, a gym, a consulting business, plus commitments to friends, family, etc.  I have to get workouts in whenever I can, and with whomever I can.  Sometimes it’s 8 in the morning by myself, and sometimes it’s at 6 pm with an entire crew of meatheads.  I’ve made concerted efforts to auto-regulate and go by how things are feeling, but sometimes that’s easier said than done.

There’s optimal, and then there’s realistic.

In this case, the numbers are all laid out for you.  Go in, hit the prescribed numbers (along with some assistance work), and get out. It’s not fancy, but we all know it works.

Dan John has often talked about how people respond well to the one-lift-a-day program simply because it’s brutally simple.  You don’t have to think.  Just go in and train.  I feel 5-3-1 is cut from that same vein.

I can honestly say I’m a little pissed I have to go on vacation.  I can’t say I’ve been this excited to train in a long time.  I can even see using the basic 5-3-1 model in conjuncton with Mike Tuscherer’s Reactive Training work, but at this point in time I don’t even want to mess with that.  I like the idea of someone telling me what to do with regards to training for a while!

At this point in time, I’ve probably rambled enough.  You get it – I like the manual.  It’s a great piece of work and if you don’t own a copy, it’s a friggin’ steal at only 20 bucks at EliteFts.com.

Pick it up today – you won’t be sorry.


BTW – AJ Roberts just told me today is the last day to get 50% off his Up Your Bench program.  At the very least, head over to his site and check out the 30 biggest bench mistakes – chances are you’re making more than a few!


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  1. Mike,
    Right on with that post, a lot of good stuff in there. I did two cycles of 5/3/1 and loved it, with great gains.
    Good luck finding a bar, let alone weight at a hotel gym on vacation! You'll have to DL the eliptical instead. Enjoy the break!

  2. Mike,
    I am just starting the 3rd week with 5/3/1 and it is great. I am 40 and I work out with a partner that is 55. The program works well for both of us here in Afghanistan. We train at a small US Army base gym with limited equipment. You will love the simplicity but effectiveness of the program. Now all I need is a prowler so I don’t have to push a Humvee.

  3. hey mike, this is not training or nutrition related post. i seriously appreciate your clarity of thought and speech on building the superior athlete dvd set i brought long time back which i promptly handed over to my physio at my center (a lot of things you and cressey said just flew over my head). you are a wonderful human being and just to know that you are taking after 2 years on a vacation with your wife is very touching. treat her right. treat yourself right. dont worry, when you do get back to this world, not a lot would have changed. enjoy and god bless.

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