Wendler 5/3/1 Review

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, while bulking over the past 6 months I became a big fan of Thibaudeau’s HP Mass. Some of the main reasons for ceasing that particular program was that

1) It was really starting to intrude on living a balanced life. Finishing work at 5-5:30, then going to the gym for 2+ hours, 5 days a week, and doing the same basic lifts-  bench, squats, deadlifts and military presses became an exercises in dread and drudgery after a while.

2) There was no deloading phase built into the program, with Christian even eschewing deloading altogether. Any disciples of Thibaudeau’s work is aware of his training tenets of adding as much work as the body can handle without compromising the ‘finances of training’. While I agree that we could all do more work, and supplemental work is even beneficial from time to time, I believe that we shouldn’t be aiming to do more work, but instead do enough work to get the job done and no more. 

One program that I’ve discovered after (again) ignoring it for so long is Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program. The reason I glanced over it the first few thousand times it entered my field of vision is because it seemed like a program geared to powerlifers instead of bodybuilders. Bodybuilders and powerlifters have always been disdainful of one another’s activities, with physiques that represent both opposite ends of the spectrum. Bodybuilders train for ”show”, while powerlifters train for ”go”. Recently it seems that the boundaries between the two lifting methods (and physiques) for that matter are blurring.

Wendler’s program although aimed more at the powerlifting side of the equation of developing pure strength, with some small adjustments, also caters nicely to bodybuilders. Without going into too much detail, the specifics of the program can be found here,

I’ve gone through one phase of it now (each phase lasts 3 weeks with one week of sweet sweet deloading), and my strength despite the rigours of a contest diet is holding its ground and making some nice increases in some of the lifts. At the end of my first phase I was at

Front Squat – 130kg (286lb) x 6

Deadlift – 430lb x 6

Dips – Body Weight + 145lb x 2

Barbell Military Presses – 190 x 2

The only lift not to have a good increase is the military press which because I haven’t focussed on it for a while and I’m using a different rack setup might have effected how much I could lift. My assistance exercises have also seem some steady increases in all lifts and I’m not feeling any kind of exhaustion, injury niggles or mental fatigue. Overall, I’m sold on this for a while. 🙂


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