The 5/3/1 Philosophy

Weekly Programming Links:  Group ClassVenice Barbell Club

Monday, April 14, 2014


Monster Walk
Fire Hydrants
Banded Hip Extension


10 Air Squats
10 Wide Slow Mountain Climbers
10 Pike Situps
10 Air Squats
10 Lat Activations
10 Straddle Situps

Classic Strength

25 minutes to establish a 1RM Back Squat

Notes: This is to set your baseline for the 8 week strength cycle beginning next week.  Build up with warmup sets of 2-3 reps. Once you reach the 80-90% range, take 2 minutes rest then perform a “Walkout” (simply set up like you’re going to squat, walk out of the rack, and hold the weight on your back for 5 seconds – DO NOT attempt to squat – belts are recommended for this movement) with 5-10% more than your projected maximal Squat. If you are projecting 400#, walk out with approximately 425#. After your “Walkout”, rest 2 minutes then begin your near maximal and maximal attempts.


1000 meter row
45 pound Thruster, 50 reps
30 pull-ups
-15 min cap-

Notes: A great benchmark workout, similar to Helen last week, that tests your work capacity at lighter weights.

Cool Down

Couch Stretch, 1 min each
Lat Stretch, 1 min each
Pike Stretch, 1 min

Jacob and the Back Squat

This week we will be focusing on Running Technique.  Please note the programming changes for Venice and MRD on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Just like when Suver stopped by both boxes for rowing instruction, I will be stopping by both gyms to give a quick overview on POSE Running technique.

It is also Testing Week to set new baseline 1 Rep Max numbers in the four major lifts (Squat, Deadlift, Strict Press, and Bench Press) for our new strength cycle 5/3/1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System to Increase Raw Strength by Jim Wendler.  I am a huge fan of this protocol due mainly to the training philosophy below, which places a large emphasize on slow progress and long term gains.  The program is also extremely simple, making it very easy to follow and track progress, stay consistent, and (due to the lower volume in general) avoid injury.  

By the way, who else is excited to finally Bench and Deadlift???

The 5/3/1 philosophy is more important than the sets and reps. Whenever I feel like I’m getting sidetracked or want to try something different, I revisit these rules to make sure I’m doing things the right way. Even if you decide this program isn’t for you, these basic tenets have stood the test of time. Take these things to heart, and you’ll be greatly rewarded.

Emphasize Big, Multi-Joint Movements. This really isn’t any secret. Beginners have been told to do this for years, and advanced lifters swear by these movements. Multi-joint lifts are lifts that involve more than one muscle – i.e., not an isolation exercise like leg extensions – and allow you to build the most muscle. These lifts are the most efficient for building muscle and strength. Examples are the squat, deadlift, bench press and power clean.

Start Too Light. My coaches emphasized this to me when I was in high school, but unfortunately, I didn’t listen.

Hopefully you will. Starting too light allows for more time for you to progress forward. It’s easy for anyone – beginner or advanced – to want to get ahead of themselves. Your lifts will go up for a few months, but then they’ll stall – and stall, and stall some more. Lifters get frustrated and don’t understand that the way around this is to prolong the time it takes to get to the goal. You have to keep inching forward. This is a very hard pill to swallow for most lifters. They want to start heavy, and they want to start now. This is nothing more than ego, and nothing will destroy a lifter faster, or for longer, than ego.

Progress Slowly. This goes hand in hand with starting light. Slow progress might not get you the best rewards today, but it will tomorrow. The longer you can progress, even if it’s by one rep or 2.5 pounds the more it means that you’re actually making progress. People always scoff when I want their bench to go up by 20-25 pounds their first year. They want the program that will put 40 pounds on their bench in 8 weeks.

When they say this, I ask them how much their bench went up in the last year, and they hang their heads in shame. I can’t understand why someone wouldn’t want progress – even it’s just 5 pounds. It’s better than nothing. It’s progress. The game of lifting isn’t an 8-week pursuit. It doesn’t last as long as your latest program does. Rather, it’s a lifetime pursuit. If you understand this, then progressing slowly isn’t a big deal. In fact, this can be a huge weight lifted off your back. Now you can focus on getting those 5 extra pounds rather than 50. It’s always been one of my goals to standing press 300 pounds. In the summer of 2008, I did just that. When someone asked me what my next goal was, my response was simple: “305 pounds.” If you bench press 225 pounds and want to get 275, you have to bench 230 first.

Break Personal Records (PR’s). This is where the fun of this – and any – program begins and ends. This program allows you to break a wide variety of rep records throughout the entire year. Most people live and die by their 1-rep max. To me, this is foolish and shortsighted. If your squat goes from 225×6 to 225×9, you’ve gotten stronger. If you keep setting and breaking rep records, you’ll get stronger. Don’t get stuck just trying to increase your one rep max. If you keep breaking your rep records, it’ll go up. There’s also a simple way of comparing rep maxes that I’ll explain later. Breaking personal records is a great motivator, and it’s also a great way to add some excitement into your training.

When you do this, the sets and reps carry much more meaning. There’s something on the line. You’ll have greater focus and purpose in your training. You’ll no longer have to just do a set of 5 reps. You’ll focus on beating the number and beating the weight.

All of the above concerns are addressed in this program. Even if you don’t follow this particular program, I believe these things should be emphasized no matter what you’re doing or why you’re training.

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