Muscle for life

Get Strong Fast With the 5/3/1 Strength Training Program

Get Strong Fast With the 5/3/1 Strength Training Program

Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 strength training program is extremely popular for two good reasons: it’s simple and it works.


I used to have some funny ideas about strength training.

I thought it was just for getting stronger, not bigger.

I thought it was inherently dangerous and maybe even a recipe for injury.

And I thought that traditional bodybuilding workouts were better for building the muscular, proportionate physique I wanted.

Well, I was wrong.

Strength training is fantastic for building muscle, it doesn’t have to increase the risk of injury, and it’s far more effective for building an attractive physique than the high-rep, “pump” style of bodybuilding training.

You see, here’s a picture of me after about years of hopping from one bodybuilding program to another:

need to get strong fast

Not very impressive given the sheer amount of time and work I had put in.

Soon after this picture was taken, I decided to take a new approach, though.

I decided to focus a lot more on strength training and lot less on the crap I read about in bodybuilding magazines.

And the results? Well, here’s a shot of me about 2.5 years later:

how to get strong fast

(And yes, I learned how to diet along the way too!)

As you can imagine, I never looked back.

Through my books and blogs, I’ve since helped hundreds of thousands of people start their own strength training journeys and personal transformations.

And in this article, we’re going to break down one of the more popular programs, Jim Wender’s 5/3/1 routine, and see how it works.

This program is a great way to skyrocket your strength, break through weightlifting plateaus, and, as you’ll soon experience, have a blast hitting PRs and feeling like superman (or woman!) lifting huge weights. 🙂

Another great benefit of 5/3/1 and of most strength training programs is you don’t have to live in the gym to see results. 3 to 4 workouts per week that last 45 to 60 minutes is all it takes.

So, if I’ve whetted your appetite for some heavy lifting, good. Let’s get to it.

How to Calculate Your One-Rep Maxes

strength training to build muscle mass

Your “one-rep max,” or “1RM,” is the amount of weight that you can lift for one, and only one, rep with while maintaining proper form.

These are real, right now numbers—not past accomplishments or current wishes.

To follow the 5/3/1 program, you’ll need to know your 1RMs for your squat, deadlift, bench press, and military press.

Fortunately, you don’t have to find them through trial and error—you can simply calculate them based on how many reps you can perform with a lighter weight. The math is simple too.

To find your 1RM for a given lift, use an amount of weight that allows for about 4-6 reps, and use the following equation:

Weight x Reps x .0333 + Weight = Estimated 1RM

For example, if I can squat 335 for 5 reps, then the equation looks like this:

(355 x 5) = 1775 x .0333 = 59 + 355 = 414

Practically speaking, I would round that number either down to 410 or up to 415, but that’s the simplicity of it.

Now, manually calculating all your 1RMs can be quite tedious, so I have a nifty calculator for you to use…

Weight Lifted: lbs.  kgs.

Number of Reps:

95% 1RM90% 1RM85% 1RM80% 1RM75% 1RM70% 1RM65% 1RM60% 1RM
Estimated Reps and Weight Based on One-Rep Max
dos Remedios

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

How 5/3/1 Works

strength training to build muscle

5/3/1 is extremely popular because it’s easy to understand, it doesn’t require any special equipment, the workouts are relatively short, and it’s very effective.

Here’s how it works.

You train 3 to 4 times per week.

5/3/1 has you do one of four workouts on your training days:

1. Squat and assistance work.

2. Bench Press and assistance work.

3. Deadlift and assistance work.

4. Overhead Press and assistance work.

You perform each of these workouts once to complete what is called a “wave.”

Here’s how it’s commonly laid out:

Overhead PressDeadlift
Assistance WorkAssistance Work
Bench PressSquat
Assistance WorkAssistance Work

Each “mesocycle” (a fancy term for a training phase that lasts 2 to 6 weeks) of 5/3/1 consists of four waves.

That is, you will do each of the workouts 4 times to complete a mesocycle, at which point you will start over again from the beginning.

Here’s how the mesocycle works:


Note that 5/3/1 works with a percentage of 90% of your one-rep max, not a percentage of your 5-rep max like other strength programs.

Also, the sets with + sign indicate that you should get as many reps as you can.

As you see, there isn’t much to the core 5/3/1 workouts.

This low volume approach is one of the common critiques of the program, but I feel much of the criticism is unfounded.

It isn’t that 5/3/1 doesn’t work…it’s just not for everyone.



If you have years of strength training under your belt, 5/3/1 probably isn’t the right choice for you. But you probably wouldn’t be here if that were the case.

If you’re new to strength training, though, you can do great with this program.

This is especially true if you do the right assistance work in addition to the core lifts, which would give you something similar to my Bigger Leaner Stronger program.

BLS is a basic strength training program with additional assistance and isolation work necessary for building a proportionate physique.

Now, how many workouts you do each week will determine how many weeks each mesocycle lasts.

If you do 4 workouts per week, the mesocycle will last 4 weeks. If you do 3 workouts per week, it will last 5 weeks and 1 day (and you’ll see why in a minute).







Here’s how to program your workouts if you’re training 4 days per week:

1Overhead Press1
3Bench Press1
1Overhead Press2
3Bench Press2
1Overhead Press3
3Bench Press3
1Overhead Press4
3Bench Press4

And if you train 3 days per week, it takes 5 weeks and 1 day because you still have to do all 16 workouts to complete the mesocycle and you can’t double up exercises on a training day.

Here’s a simple way to program it:

2Bench Press1
1Overhead Press1
3Bench Press2
2Overhead Press2
1Bench Press3
3Overhead Press3
2Bench Press4
1Overhead Press4
2 Rest
3 Rest

As you can see, both the 4- and 3-day splits have you performing each of the workouts 4 times before restarting.

The Wendler 5/3/1 Warm-Up

get strong fast 3 exercises

You probably noticed earlier that workouts start with a warm-up routine.

Warming up properly is very important when you’re lifting heavy weights, so don’t skip this.

Here’s how the 5/3/1 warm-up works:

Warm-Up Set #1

40% of your 1RM x 5

Warm-Up Set #2

50% of your 1RM x 5

Warm-Up Set #3

60% of your 1RM x 3

You rest for 60 to 90 seconds in between each warm-up set.

Once you’ve performed these warm-up sets, you are ready to begin your heavy lifting.

How to Progress on the 5/3/1 Program

get strong workout

Slow, steady progression is the name of the game with 5/3/1, and Wendler keeps progression very simple.

You begin each new mesocycle by increasing your 1RM weights by 5 pounds for upper-body lifts, and 10 pounds for lower-body lifts.

Note that I said “your 1RM weights,” not your weights in the gym.

That is, you’re increasing the numbers that you’re using to calculate your 5/3/1 lifts, not the amounts of weight you’re actually lifting.

For example, let’s say you used the following 1RM numbers to calculate the mesocycle you just finished:

  • Deadlift: 400
  • Squat: 400
  • Military: 225
  • Bench Press: 300

For your next mesocycle, you would calculate your lifts using the following 1RM numbers:

  • Deadlift: 410
  • Squat: 410
  • Military: 230
  • Bench Press: 305

You keep on increasing weights this way until you get stuck, which Wendler says will happen.

What to Do When You Get Stuck









best way to get strong fast

When you finally do stall, Jim simply recommends that you drop your current 1RMs by 10%, re-calculate your working weights, and keep going.

For example, if, over the course of several months, you’ve increased your squat 1RM from 400 to 430 pounds and now you’re stuck, you simply recalculate your next mesocycle using 90% of 430 (390) instead of trying to move up to 440.

By following this “two steps forward, one step back” approach, you’re able to keep your weights moving up over time and avoid the dreaded long-term plateau.

5/3/1 Assistance Work

how to increase strength

“Assistance work” refers to exercises done other than the four the program is built around. How much assistance work you do is up to you, but it’s done for one or more of the following reasons:

If you’re familiar with my Bigger Leaner Stronger program, you’ll feel right at home with almost every assistance exercises that Wendler recommends:

  • Dips, weighted if possible
  • Chin-ups or pull-ups
  • Dumbbell Rows
  • Barbell Rows
  • Barbell Shrugs
  • Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Military Press
  • Lunges
  • Leg Press

In fact, Wendler’s recommendations are so similar to my list of “approved exercises” in Bigger Leaner Stronger that you can just use it as a guide.

In terms of programming your workouts, the most popular assistance routine is one Wendler calls “Boring But Big.”

It involves performing the sets and reps dictated by the program, followed by the same exercise for 5 sets of 10 reps, and by another assistance exercise for 5 sets of 10 reps.

For example, your Squat day might go like this:


3 sets of 5 reps (or whatever you’re currently doing for your wave)


5 sets of 10 reps


5 sets of 10 reps

In terms of how much weight you should use for the 10-rep sets, Wendler recommends that you start with light weights—40-50% of your 1RM—and gradually work up from there.

How high you ultimately go is up to you, but I would recommend working up to using an amount of weight that allows for at least 8, but no more than 10 reps.

Wendler gives several other assistance routines as well as advice on how to program them properly in his book, which I highly recommend you read if you’re going to do his program.
























It’s a great read, you’ll learn more about the ins and outs of the system, and you’ll support his work.

wendler 531

What About Supplements?

strong woman is drinking sports nutrition

I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s far less important than proper diet and training.

You see, supplements don’t build great physiques–dedication to proper training and nutrition does.

Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.

Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.

So, while workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.

The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.

As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.

Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.

That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements–the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.

I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.

For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to help you get the most out of your butt (and other) workouts.


Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat. It’s perhaps the most researched molecule in the world of sport supplements–the subject of hundreds of studies–and the consensus is very clear:

Supplementation with creatine helps…

You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven. In healthy subjects, creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- or long-term usage. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, however.

If you have healthy kidneys, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine. It’s safe, cheap, and effective.

In terms of specific products, I use my own, of course, which is called RECHARGE.


RECHARGE is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:

  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 2100 milligrams of L-carnitine L-tartrate
  • 10.8 milligrams of corosolic acid

This gives you the proven strength, size, and recovery benefits of creatine monohydrate plus the muscle repair and insulin sensitivity benefits of L-carnitine L-tartrate and corosolic acid.

Protein Powder

You don’t need protein supplements to gain muscle, but, considering how much protein you need to eat every day to maximize muscle growth, getting all your protein from whole food can be impractical.

That’s the main reason I created (and use) a whey protein supplement. (There’s also evidence that whey protein is particularly good for your post-workout nutrition.)


WHEY+ is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate that is made from milk sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland, which are known for their exceptionally high-quality dairy.

I can confidently say that this is the creamiest, tastiest, healthiest all-natural whey protein powder you can find.

Pre-Workout Drink

There’s no question that a pre-workout supplement can get you fired up to get to work in the gym. There are downsides and potential risks, however.

Many pre-workout drinks are stuffed full of ineffective ingredients and/or minuscule dosages of otherwise good ingredients, making them little more than a few cheap stimulants with some “pixie dust” sprinkled in to make for a pretty label and convincing ad copy.

Many others don’t even have stimulants going for them and are just complete duds.

Others still are downright dangerous, like USPLabs’ popular pre-workout “Jack3d,”which contained a powerful (and now banned) stimulant known as DMAA.

Even worse was the popular pre-workout supplement “Craze,” which contained a chemical similar to methamphetamine.

The reality is it’s very hard to find a pre-workout supplement that’s light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline.

And that’s why I made my own, and I called it PULSE.


What makes PULSE special, you ask?

  • Clinically effective dosages of 5 natural, performance-enhancing ingredients backed by peer-reviewed, well-designed, and well-executed research: caffeine, theanine, citrulline malate, beta-alanine, betaine, and ornithine.
  • No proprietary blends.
  • No other stimulants than caffeine.
  • No artificial sweeteners, flavors, or food dyes.
  • No unnecessary fillers, carbohydrate powders, or junk ingredients.

While everyone claims to have the best pre-workout supplement on the market, I can actually back up such claim with real science, and real numbers.


What do you think about Wendler’s 5/3/1 system for strength training program? Have anything else to add? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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Here's a little sneak peek of what you'll learn inside...

  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
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  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • An all-in-one training system that delivers MAXIMUM results for your efforts…spending no more than 3 to 6 hours in the gym every week…doing workouts that energize you, not wipe you out.
  • A no-BS guide to supplements that will save you hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars each year that you would’ve wasted on products that are nothing more than bunk science and marketing hype.
  • And a whole lot more!

The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body" without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

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Leave a Comment!
  • Rob

    Looks like a real good solid program, and fun.
    Quick question: where it says: “Here’s how it looks visually for a 4-day split:”

    In the box Friday appears twice. Is this a typo?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah it’s good stuff.

      Yup that was a typo. Fixed now. 🙂

  • Alan Cherney

    I was pretty shocked by his “How To Use Steroids” chapter. Had no idea that stuff was as mainstream as it is.

    • Michael Matthews

      I don’t see that in the second edition?

      • Alan Cherney

        I’m deleting this comment. It was removed in the 2nd edition. Don’t want to confuse people.

  • Ashley

    I just completed the 5/3/1 3 month challenge and saw some awesome results. I also just finished your book and have written a routine, that I will start after my Deload this week, that has the first exercise 5/3/1 and the rest BLS.

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome! That’s a great way to combine them. Let me know how it goes!

      • tdhowell

        I’ve been doing that as well. I incorporated the BBB with the BLS year long challenge and so far I’m sore, but it’s working well together.

        • Michael Matthews

          Awesome, glad to hear it’s going well!

  • Blake

    Little confused about progression.

    For wave 1 you must use 90% of your 1RM. Then in wave 2 you add 10lbs to lower body and 5lbs to upper body.

    Are you adding the above to the 90% 1RM or to your actual 1RM?

    • Michael Matthews

      Add to the 90% number.

  • JR

    I noticed the two steps forward, one step back concept in this article. When we start a new cycle of BLS, do you recommend dropping the starting weights to approx 90% of the prior working weights and build up from there to create some momentum or do you try to start at the prior working weights?

    • Michael Matthews

      Nope, just keep trucking with your weights where you left off. Sometimes your first week will come out a little lower, but that’s okay.

  • Nico Strobl

    Does it make sense to combine this with BLS? And if, what would be the best way? I worked a couple of months with Faleev’s routine and made incredible strength gains, but I missed the pump of a BLS arms’ day, for example…

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes, you can combine it. You just treat the 5/3/1 sets as your first 3 of your workout, and then do your 6-9 BLS sets afterward. It’s a good hybrid.

      • Nico Strobl

        Do you have experience with “Smolov” or “Sheiko”? Are these options worth considering? Or is Wendler best when combining it with BLS?

        • Michael Matthews

          No I don’t personally have experience with them, but I’ve heard good things about both. Was just talking about Sheiko with a competing powerlifter the other day. Seems like a solid program.

  • Andrew Schmidt

    Not sure why my post didn’t stick here. I’ll try again. I bought the Wendler book as you advised and was not impressed. Perhaps more accurately I was not motivated. I think the concept is great if I hit a plateau but I believe in what you posted not long ago, any gain even if it is an extra rep from your last workout is improvement. I totally believe that and it makes me want to go to the gym and attempt to outperform my last workout. Dropping down to 70% of my max in no way inspires me.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for sharing Andrew! I totally know what you mean. Wendler’s style is a bit gruff, and he probably wasn’t thinking much with motivating people haha.

      Yup that’s the way to look at it. It keeps the game fun and keeps you progressing. Sometimes I have to drop weight on the BLS program though for whatever reason. I then work back up and continue making gains.

      • Andrew Schmidt

        Mike, just wanted to say that in comparison your BLS programs has worked great for me. I’ve been using it for about 2.5 months now. I follow the workout plan exactly but don’t hit the diet perfectly, still, I’ve lost 20lbs of fat and have gained excellent muscle definition with a little size.

        • Michael Matthews

          Awesome Andrew, I’m really glad to hear it.

          The BLS program is just a solid routine. Its effectiveness is deceptive because it’s so simple, but the combination of 80-85% 1RM weights and moderate workout volumes (50 – 70) reps and compound lifting is just a recipe for fast muscle growth and strength gains.

  • Jrmoorejr

    First, I want to say how much respect I have for Mike Matthews. The BLS Program is phenomenal…been at it for around six months and the results have been great.

    I looked into and bought the 5/3/1 book after the article was posted and wanted to find a way to incorporate it into BLS. Overall, I don’t think it’s a better system than BLS. Unlike Matthews, Wendler only uses personal experience to back up claims and no scientific evidence.

    The assistance work is confusing. From what I gather, you choose 1-3 exercise you think you are lacking and do 5 sets of 10-20 reps. Wendler likes a push/pull like doing DB Rows on Bench Day. In BLS, there is the 6-9 Set Rule per Body part. So, you could be doing 13-18 sets in a workout plus 2 major muscle groups. Plus, the high rep sets don’t allow for optimal hypertrophy as this occurs at 75-85% of 1RM (according to the study included in BLS)

    The warm up is not enough being 3 sets of 5. I tried this on Back Day, and my lower back is screaming after Deadlifts. I prefer Mike’s 12,10,4,1 rep warmup and would recommend sticking to that.

    The only thing that I truly liked about this book was how Wendler approached plateaus. Basically, when you stall, recalculate your 1RM and do 90% of that. Two steps forward and one step back.

    So, all in all, I would recommend sticking with BLS.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks a ton. I really appreciate it.

      To Wendler’s defense, his program definitely works when it comes to increasing pure strength. It’s one of the few out there that has proven itself.

      I do agree that his implementation of assistance work is a bit sloppy, and more structure would be better.

      I also like the more extensive warm-up.

      Yes his handling for plateaus is good.

      I’m currently working on the follow-up book to BLS, which will include an advanced version of the BLS workout that will include some pure strength training. I think you’ll really like it…

  • Brett Rhino Wilson

    Hey Mike, I have long trained for strength alone (as size comes with it) and have predominately used the madcow 5×5 routine for this. I have had a lot of success in it, as well as my friends who I have recommended it to, but I am ready for something new. I have long considered the BBB 5/3/1 routine, what is your opinion of it on a cut?

    • Michael Matthews

      Nice. The madcow routine is good.

      5/3/1 on a cut has mixed reviews from what I know. Druggers really like it, but natties have had trouble with muscle loss if they do just the core routine and no assistance work.

      So if you’re going to do it, I recommend something like Boring But Big to ensure your workout volume is high enough to preserve the muscle you have.

      • HittinTheSlopes

        Using 531 on a cutting cycle? I had this same question and I haven’t been able to find solid information either way. On my next cut I am undecided on doing 531 or doing a reverse pyramid workout 3x a week that was successful during my first cut. If I do 531 I will probably come back and reply with my results.

        My diet – This has been based on the macros in Bigger Leaner Stronger that make sense to me. I have also been doing IF for about 10 months because I like it and it’s convenient.

        My first cut – During my first cut I made mistakes with my diet and skipped some workouts but I still managed the cut. My strength grew because barbell work was new to me and then became stagnant and then decreased slightly. I did achieve my goals after 10 weeks despite my ‘2 steps back’ from time to time. I did 0 cardio and I was in the gym for about 40 minutes 3 times per week.

        After my first cut and my first calculated bulk – Dropping to ~10% bf and having 4-6 abs showing daily for 10 days was great and I figured I’d bulk to gain more strength and (lean?) muscle mass. Who doesn’t want to be big and strong and look like a bad ass!? I started the 531 with BBB routine after reading the book but my abs are now fading and I’ve put on weight. With weight gain has come strength gain though. I’m a bit nervous because I’m 6’2″ and 210 and this is the weight I’m most comfortable at but I’ve been growing. I’ve increased 5 lbs since the cut. Diet is based on Bigger Leaner Stronger once again.

        About my bulk and my future – I have decided to continue on this path and see what happens. I hit my macros but it’s difficult for me to target of 3000 calories from estimated online calculators or get a surplus without eating a lot. I eat healthy and it’s affordable and convenient. On training days I end up increasing carbs and protein to reach 3k or have a slight increase. If I end up gaining 15 more pounds too quickly then something is wrong and I’ll figure it out. I’ve been documenting everything so that’s a good starting point. 531 is fun but I won’t be able to do it forever. I have turned my ‘under 3 hours a week’ gym time into about 6 hours now with the cardio and assistance work.

        My main goal is to be more ripped, have a 6 pack, and be near 207lbs with an estimated 10% bodyfat. After my cut I was there! So the next step is bulking or maintenance. If this bulk doesn’t work in my favor then I will do another cut (using 531 first) until I hit my target. From there I’ll do maintenance most likely and see what happens.

        So back to the question… will 531 work on a cut? I’ll probably find out in the next 12 months! And I anticipate losing strength which is just part of life.

        • Michael Matthews

          5/3/1 with assistance is fine on a cut. Just 5/3/1 core is undertraining IMO.

          Cool on your experience so far and great job on getting to the 10% range.

          Keep up the bulk until you hit the 15% range and then cut again. Rinse repeat until you have the size you want, then go to 7% and maintain, and you’ll love life. 😉

          Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Rich

    Hey Mike,

    I tried 5/3/1 for a while about a year ago and I did enjoy the simplicity of it. Ultimately, however, I found myself getting weaker. Having previously used Reverse pyramid training (a favourite of Martin Berkhan) I was used to pushing my max on a regular basis and progressing a few reps at a time, which may not seem like much but is actually very satisfying and a simple way to track progress. On 5/3/1, even on week 3 using 75/85/95% of 90% of my max, the weight was just too low and I found I wasn’t lifting heavily frequently enough. Worse still, I found myself adapting to these lower weights to the point where they started to become challenging! I stuck with it for about 6 months in total, finally deciding enough was enough. Following this I tested my strength using RPT again and found all of my lifts had dropped slightly. I had been running BBB along side it for assistance work and again, the simplicity was good but I made no noticeable gains. I’ve come to realise that I’m just not one of those gym buffs who can spend hours on end churning out reps. Needless to say I absolutely despised GVT! Gimme a heavy rest-pause set of DC any day!


    PS. Great site!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for commenting Rich! Feedback like this always helpful.

      I hated GVT too. You have to be on a ton of drugs to make good gains on that program.

      DC is good for advanced lifters.

      • Matt Ramadanovic

        I have been following this for about five months and notice the complete opposite (coming from RPT training). If you don’t mind my asking, how strong were you? I have found that until I was pressing 2x bodyweight+, deadlifting 2.5x bodyweight+, squatting 3x bodyweight+ and chinning with at least 125 pounds I was better off with RPT ….until one day I wasn’t. For instance, I made zero progress on overhead press for a few months until I switched to 5/3/1. It took a 3 months before I got back into new territory but within two months I was up 25 pounds (which is a lots on OHP when you are already pushing above bodyweight). The build up was welcome because my joints were beat up from going all out for so many months in a row on RPT. Basing things off 90% of your true max allows you to clean up your form and get full ROM. It is slow but steady. The three month challenge is kind of silly. From what I have seen it should be the one year challenge.

        • Michael Matthews

          Those are really impressive numbers Matt. Especially squatting 3x bodyweight. I don’t think I ever will want to attempt that (600 pound squat? Yikes).

          But I’m all for 5/3/1. It works, no question. Some people’s bodies do seem to respond better than others though.

          • Matt Ramadanovic

            I attended a bench seminar with Derek Poundstone a few months ago. I now realize that while my lifts are impressive at the old person gym where I train (healthtrax) thar be giants training elsewhere. . .

          • Michael Matthews

            Haha true, true. 😉

  • Liam

    mike, if i was to combine this with your BLS programme what would i do for the deloads as this has a deload every 4 weeks and yours after every 8? many thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question.

      If you were to combine 5/3/1 with BLS, I would deload once every 6 weeks. That is, 5 weeks of lifting, deload, repeat.

      One of the common complaints I hear about 5/3/1 is people feel like they’re UNDERTRAINING. This adjustment will help address that.

      • Nico Strobl

        But Mike, how does this affect the weight % of the different waves. The 5/3/1 consists of three weeks of lifting followed by one deload week. How do I fit two more weeks into the program – with how much weight am I working then?

        • Michael Matthews

          Hmm I’m not sure. I’ve only followed it as Wendler lays it out…

          • Nico Strobl

            So this means if I am combining BLS and 5/3/1, I am doing my deload wave of Wendler in the fourth week while at the same time working the rest of my workout, the BLS sets, with heavy weight? Right now I have 3 sets of Wendler on my big lifts and the rest of my exercises (6-9 sets) are done with BLS…

          • Michael Matthews

            Ah sorry the earlier messages in the threat wasn’t loading.

            Ah I would stick to Wendler’s mesocyles and just combine the 4-6 compound lifting with the 5-3-1 core lifts as you’re doing.

          • Nico Strobl

            No problem 🙂 Thank you!

          • Michael Matthews

            YW! Let me know how it goes.

  • morgan

    What is considered stalling on this program? I started this program on a fairly conservative 1rm, so typically my last sets”+” have always required reps between 10-15. I’m 5 mesocylces in and have been progressing well, but recently there have been some workouts where I have come up 1-2 reps short of my targeted reps for that day. Should wait until my reps start to fall off more or recalculate my 1rm now?

    • Michael Matthews

      I’m not too knowledgeable of the ins and outs of the program. Maybe Wendler has a forum that you could go ask your question on?

      • Ryan

        Late… but Wendler recommends taking 85% of your new training max in the lift you stalled in only. A matter of “Taking 3 steps forward and 1 step back”

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks Ryan.

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  • Ethan

    Question, I just started the program and although it hits triceps and biceps as secondary muscles it never really focuses on them as primaries..what do you suggest, doing them as assistant workouts?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes, I would recommend that or you’ll find that your arms fall behind your major groups in terms of visual development.

  • Radu

    hi mike do you consider 5×5 a good program ?!

  • Radu

    hi mike , do you consider 5×5 a good program ?

    • Michael Matthews

      Programs like Stronglifts and Starting Strength are good. Much better than a lot of the crap out there. They will get you bigger and stronger, no doubt about it.

      That said, they have one big drawback: certain parts of your physique lag in terms of development. The look you often see in guys that only do SL or SS is a really big lower body, and a disproportionately small upper body. This is often seen very clearly in the arms, shoulders, lats, and chest. Middle back development is usually decent due to all the deadlifting.

      I’ve had many guys come from SL/SS to BLS and really like how their upper body began to fill out and match their lower body development. This is because BLS is kind of a hybrid between the SL/SS approach, and the traditional bodybuilding approach.

      So in short, you can’t go wrong doing SL or SS, but there will be a point when you’ll want to focus more on lagging body parts to balance out your physique.

  • sj

    hi mike

    im nearly 6 months into your bls. progressing on all apart from the bb bicep curls which have stalled for several weeks now. could a 10% drop in weight as suggested here be a good approach and build the weight back up? any other thoughts?

    all the best


    • Michael Matthews

      Great! Glad to hear it. Let’s add a few extra sets to your weekly volume. Let’s do 3 sets at the end of your back workout, 8-10 reps for these.

      • Cerebralbore101

        Your book says high rep ranges are bad. Why are you suddenly recommending sets in the 8-10 rep range for isolation exercises? Shouldn’t we stick to the 4-6 range as your book recommends?

        • High rep ranges aren’t “bad”. In fact, you’ll see that there’s a second day of incline bench presses in the 8-10 rep range. It really just comes down to volume and preventing overtraining.

  • Larry

    Mike, why is it that doing a program like this is better than working to failure on each set in the low rep range? Why is it that easier percentages and not going to max low reps works better. Very confusing for me. Should I go to failure with 4-6 reps and then maybe some lower 2-3 rep sets or should I follow something like this. DO you understand the science of why his program works if you don’t really max out on each set?

    • Michael Matthews

      Remember this is a powerlifting routine. It’s quite different than BLS. It depends on your goals…

  • treders

    If you add 5 lbs to your 1 rep max and your in a gym where the smallest discs are 2.5 lbs you would basically not be adding any weight to the bar so there must be a mistake ie lets say I have a bench of 77 kgs on 5’s week I would be lifting 59kgs so in the gym you would round it off to 60kgs now by adding just 5lbs to the 1 rep max ie 2.5 kgs the new weight on 5’s week using the smallest weight discs in the gym are 60kgs so how does that work lol

    • Michael Matthews

      Sorry I don’t understand your question…

  • Joe Sixpack

    At 52 years old I don’t want to over train. After stumbling onto this from a bike forum it sounds pretty good to me. I have lost 40 pounds using better diet portion control and riding my mountain bike. I love riding but it doesn’t do much for the upper body. So I am in.
    I have always been in pretty good shape until I was promoted to the office. Ugh. Now its time for a rebuild… again.

  • SkY

    Fix “Warmup, 75% x 5, 80% x 5, 85% x 5”

  • Stephen

    I got 414 for your 1RM calculation, I cant seem to get 408.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm I lay out the formula step by step:

      (355 x 5) = 1775 x .0333 = 53 + 355

      • FuzzyMike

        Unless I’m misunderstanding, or I’ve forgotten how to use a calculator, 1775×0.0333 = 59.1075, which is probably how he got 414. Are we missing something?

        • Michael Matthews

          Whoa I went full potato. Fixed. Thanks. Haha.

      • FuzzyMike

        Now I think I see the possible issue. Using rounded numbers, I see that 53 is 90% of 59, and the next section does talk about using 90% of 1RM.

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  • Tom Wilkinson


    First off I must say this program looks great and I cannot wait to start this on Monday, change things up from/augment what I’m doing currently.

    I do have a question though regarding the accessory exercises. I am hoping to incorporate the 5/3/1 routine into my all body routine. Eg on deadlift day I would complement this with BB Row, DB bench, lat raises and dips. My question is: What rep range should I be looking at for these exercises?

    My aim is to build pure strength primarily over increasing size. Would it be worth my while keeping low rep high weight on these accessory exercises (such as 5×5) to avoid hyper trophy?



  • Tom Wilkinson


    First of all this program is great and I cannot wait to get in the gym and start incorporating this into what I am doing now as it’s similar, but this is giving me greater direction/focus.

    I do have a question regarding the accessory exercises however: I plan to incorporate this 5/3/1 program into my existing program which is 3x days a week of lifting in an all body routine. So, for example, on deadlift day I would have the accessory exercises as DB bench, BB row, lat raises and dips. From reading this website it seems as though the accessory exercises are essentially up to us, although ideally should specialise around the specific lift you are concentrating on that day.

    My question is this: what rep range should I be doing in these accessory exercises? My aim is to build strength over size therefore I would have thought keeping the rep range low such as 5×5 would reduce hypertrophy in this additional exercises, am I wrong?



    • Michael Matthews

      Good question. Personally I would do 3 sets in the 4-6 rep range and 3 in the 8-10 range. In terms of exercises, I recommend you stick to compounds unless you’re trying to fine tune your physique…

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  • berwin

    Great article, but if I am not mistaken, you counted the weights wrongly for Wave A:
    Should not the first set for deadlift be 0.75 x 360 = 270 and so on? Therefore it should be 270 x 5, 288 x 5, 306 x 5?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yikes not sure what happened there. Thanks. Fixed.

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  • Matt

    Why would one do 5/3/1 rather than the same routine but with straight sets and linear progression, adding a little weight each workout?

    Is it basically that you run a linear progression program, and then only switch to something like 5/3/1 in which you wave your reps, when you’re stalling and not recovering from linear progression?

    Would running 5/3/1 before you’ve exhausted gains from linear progression be a little like putting the cart before the horse, and lead to less than optimal gains?

    • Michael Matthews

      Linear progression models are more of a bodybuilding thing. Powerlifting puts a LOT more stress on the body and you have to manage your 3RM and heavier work carefully or you’ll overtrain or get hurt.

  • Rtrain67

    This article was well written and very informative. Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Glad you liked it!

  • Antwone Walters

    I made a free App for this on Android: http://www.TwonWendler531.com

    • Michael Matthews

      Cool! Thanks for sharing.

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  • Erin

    I haven’t read the book but I’ve seen Wendler in other places online say that the first week (or wave A) is 65%, 75%, 8%, and the second week (or wave B) is 70%, 80%, 90%. But here you have them as 75%, 80%, 85% for Wave A and then 80%, 85%, 90% for Wave B. Can you explain why there are two different layouts in terms of the % 1RM being used, depending where one looks?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm I got these numbers from his book, which I bought before writing the article. I’ll double check.

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  • The Other Scott

    The 1RM formula simplifies a lot if you specify a rep count. If you test at 4 reps, it becomes 1.13 x weight. 5 reps gives you 1.16 x weight (that’s one and a sixth), 6 reps gives you 1.2 x weight (one and a fifth). Much easier to calculate on the spot. My inner math nerd hates unsimplified equations. 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha nice. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • sean

    Do u have an article on the 5×5 program as well?
    In addition I bought both your books and am a huge fan but due to my current job im required to run 3-4 times a week I feel like im fighting a lose lose situation im not getting better at either runs or stronger .

    • Michael Matthews

      No I don’t but I will add it to the list. 🙂

      Thanks for the support! You can do fine running 3-4 times per week. How long are the runs?

  • David

    When starting the next meso cycle you state add 5 lbs to your max lifts for upper body and 10 lbs for lower body. Is this from the original max calculations or the maxes you calculate from your last heavy lift in the meso cycle?
    David Goodwin

    • Michael Matthews

      From the last heavy lift.

  • Ben

    I just came across this article. Do you have recommendations on how to incorporate BLS into Wendler programming? I have Wendlers books but would be very interested in incorporating BLS into the assistance work. I have really enjoyed your articles on the ultimate workouts for each muscle group.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup I replied to your other comment. 🙂

  • Michael Matthews

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment

    left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get

    awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you

    motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:


    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

    • Ben

      I’ll do that. I was just curious if you had programming suggestions for incorporating BLS into the assistance lifts for Wendler 5/3/1. If so I’d be interested in purchasing your book; I really enjoyed your ultimate workouts articles and your take on strength training.

      • Michael Matthews

        Yeah definitely. A lot of guys do it. They use 531 as the core and then supplement BLS for assistance work. It works well.

        • Ben

          Thanks. I just bought your book for Kindle. So following the Wendler system for the 4 big lifts, would you still recommend 3x(4-6) for each assistance exercise. Wendler seems to recommend 10-20 range, but I really like your explanations on rep ranges.

          • Michael Matthews

            Thanks Ben.

            What many 531 guys like to do is do a mixture of 4-6 and higher rep for assistance. Periodization works particularly well with advanced lifters.

  • mac

    movin wt is movin wt

  • mac

    still gotta put the work in steroids might improve a lift 75-100 lbs but dang a 600 bench is….well a 600 lb bench selah

  • mac

    so he ,for a lack of better terms, pc’d the second edition? jim… now now

  • mac

    great system 5/3/1 is period

    • Michael Matthews


  • Ronald

    Hi Guys, Just wanted to share this app for android users.



    I’m a 59 yr. old male who has been lifting most of my life. I never trained heavy but always had the desire to bench 300+. I met a very inexperienced and accomplished power lifter about a year ago who turned me on to the 5/3/1 program. At that time I was stuck at 275 x 1 rep. I switched to 5/3/1, followed it religiously, and reached a 320 bench on my 59th birthday. I am continuing to make incredible gains and can now bench 285×5 and 330×1. The program also helped my dead 430×1 and squat 365×5. I highly recommend this program to anyone that is trying to build strength.

  • jason

    Hey Mike, I just finished reading BLS and it was a great read. Loved the diet and nutrient stuff since that is where i am lacking. I just wanted to chime in on the discussion of whether people should do the BLS or 531. Honestly do one or the other. I have been doing 531 for the last 2 years and love it. Its easy and simple to follow. People get so worked up with accessory work and get really confused about it. You have to remember Wendler has a huge power-lifter back ground. Attacking weaknesses and improving the main lifts is the major player on deciding accessory work. Example: Bench press, sticking point is midway? Do 1-2 board presses.. its that simple. You just have to be honest with yourself and realize what part of the main lift you are actually sucking at. As Mike said you can use a lot of the accessory work from BLS but don’t try to mix and match programming. If you do, it wont be a true 531 program anymore. Its like trying to combine West Side with 531…. Principles just don’t match. Different plans for different goals. And lastly, Wendler and Mike always preach whatever your goals are, you got to be planning long term. Its a marathon not a sprint. Doing a 531 for 6-12 week doesn’t do it any justice. Stick with it for at least 6 months or so and then decide if its worth it. Slow progression is key. Alright enough said..

    • Thanks Jason!

      I totally agree on all points. Many people like doing pure strength work for a few months and then switching to a powerbuilding routine like BLS for a few months etc.

  • Jason Thillman

    Hi Mike, I was wondering: When you and others talk about your 1RM or PRs, are you including the weight of the bar or not? I’d like to know in order to assess my strength standards here: http://www.strstd.com. Thanks!

  • Peter

    5×10 after work sets eems like alot of volume..??no?

  • Raudi

    Hi Mike,

    I am curious to know what your thoughts are on the Smolov jr. Bench program.
    It has you doing bench four times a week, with progressive overload principles, over a period of 3 weeks followed by a deload. I am considering trying it out for after this summer, and still keeping in my squats and deadlifts, though less volume on them, and was wondering if you thought it would be too much volume for a natural lifter. Or whether it would be fine considering its only for 3 weeks.

    Kind regards
    / Raudi

    • I haven’t tried it but have heard good things in general about Smolov’s routines.

      • Raudi

        Cool, thx for the reply Mike! 🙂

      • Hugo

        Hello Michael , what would you recommend for size . Very interested in this 531, but I want some size.. I love the set up , but what reps and sets can I do for size ?
        Thank you !! Your amazing !!

        • Thanks Hugo!

          It sounds like Big But Boring would be a good choice for you.

  • Ratatulio

    Can i do all these workouts not once per week,but 3 time per week? Like a full body workout, because i think 1 week rest for all workouts will not give results! Thats is just impossible, because all olympic lifters and track athletes do like every body part 3 times per week.

  • jeroen

    when doing big fut big, what do you think of deadlifts 5×10 on squat day and on deadlift day 5×10 squat. and the same for bench en overhead press?

  • Rob

    Hi Mike – thanks for the great posts. bought BLS and am really liking it so far. i’ve been lifting for years, but my strength is not yet at the intermediate level (based on 1.2x bw for bench, 1.6x squat 2x deads). if strength is low, but i have exposed the muscles to stimulus (albeit shitty stimulus) can i expect newbie-type gains during the first year (~20 lbs) or would the prior exposure have some sort of dulling effect?

    also, is there a way to send you a private message?

    • NP!

      If you’re new to doing heavy, compound lifts will you experience some newbie gains, but it of course won’t be the same as someone entirely new to lifting.

      Feel free to email me at [email protected]

  • George

    when would you retest out ur 1RM, could u do it after the end of each cycle?

  • Jake

    For someone looking to bulk, would you recommend this program, or the 5-day split from your book? I am just getting back into the gym after being out for the past two years and have been doing your program from Bigger Leaner Stronger. thanks!

  • Ravi S

    For warm up sets. Do I squeeze the contraction at the top of the motion, or a simple full range would be sufficient?

  • WildWildEAST

    Hello Michael and thanks for the explanations.

    However, lets say I am a beginner and my strength is very low.
    Regarding my 1RM: I can bench press with 5x25Kg (55lbs?). That means : 25 x 5 x 0.333 + 25 = 66 kgs (146 lbs ) . How am i supposed to lift 75% of the 1RM which is 49.5kg?

    Or am I missing something?


    • YW!

      You want to multiply by .0333 not .333.

      Hope that clears it up!

    • Patrik

      5/3/1 is not a beginner program it is a program for advanced lifter who can not gain strength very quickly anymore. As a beginner you can increase the weight every workout session. You should try Starting Strength or Stronglifts 5×5 which are beginner programs focusing a lot on learning the compound lifts and furthermore you increase the weight lifted every session. Not once every fourth week as with 5/3/1..

    • Jeffrey Beats

      I think you made a mistake in ur math, it is x.0333
      So 55x5x .0333 + 55 = 64.15kg 1RM

  • Bobby Juncosa

    Hey Mike,

    Based on your books / podcasts (if I understand correctly), you would say that 50-70 reps would be ideal for hypertrophy when lifting in the 4-6 rep range and 80%-85% weight. Correct?

    I’ve been doing 5/3/1 for about 6 months, and have had good results. However, even at week 1, there are only about 15 reps in the “work set” range (far short of the 50-70 recommendation). Do the “down sets” from Boring But Big count towards the 50-70? I assumed those reps/sets were part of a concurrent periodization intended to focus more on the sarcoplasmic side of things. Basically, why is 531 so effective, if it seemingly doesn’t have enough work set reps? Wendler doesn’t exactly get into the science of his program…

    Your input would much appreciated. Also, it’d be awesome if you did a podcast deep dive into 531 and other programs like West Side.

    • Yeah exactly 50 to 70 heavy reps every 5 to 7 days.

      531 is a great program and yes the “down sets” count. They’re a bit higher rep but the volume is higher so there’s that.

      531 is primarily a strength program. It’s not IDEAL for maximizing muscle size/growth but it’s great for its purpose.

      • Bobby Juncosa

        Thanks Mike. I have no idea how you have time in your day to write articles, do podcasts, research, AND reply to everyone, but I appreciate it nonetheless!


    so started it
    but I failed on my last set for 85% on my days 1 week 1
    I only managed to get 4 reps
    so ,,,should re-try again that week? or move forward to week 2 ?

    • Check out the book for a more in-depth explanation of what to do for things like this.

  • Jdib

    Hey Mike,

    Just curious what your thoughts are on this one particular study that was done. It seems to go against most of your system (it adds cardio in-between resistance sets). I’m still in favor of your program but it definitely contradicts you (and 5/3/1 for that matter).

    IDK if I can post links but you can look it up from the info below.

    Davis, et. al. Concurrent training enhances athletes’ strength, muscle endurance, and other measures. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. September 2008;22(5):1487–1502.

  • ryan

    hey mike, just curious, since my shoulders hurt during a regular bench press, but dont hurt on an inclined press, is it ok to still do the 531 program with inclines rather than flat bench?

  • Alex

    Hey Mike, I’m definitely interested in getting stronger mostly because you told me so.. I wrote to you in the ultimate chest workout routine complaining I couldn’t feel my chest activate (or just any of my muscles for that matter… I’ve read your article about mind muscle connection too. And I want to implement that in my training because of obvious reasons since I’m really out of touch in terms of activating my muscles during a workout.

    but erm, how do I implement the mind muscle connection tips AND the strength training at the same time? I mean I wouldn’t really be doing the strength training program at all if I follow the tips for a better mind muscle connection right? So how do I start it off exactly? Should I workout a few weeks trying to feel the mind muscle connection and then go to the strength program?

    • Mind-muscle connection is really just focusing on the muscle group you’re training and activating the muscle fibers.

      It can be done with lighter or heavier weights…

      • Alex

        hmm okay.. So when I do the 5/3/1 – should I do some warm up sets before just to feel the muscle group before doing the big lifts?

  • Jake

    Hey Mike,
    Do you think this program will work well for increasing other compound multi joint lifts? Like running 5/3/1 with Incline Bench instead of flat bench, and weighted chin ups in place of deadlift?

    • Incline bench instead of flat would be okay but weighted chins in stead of deadlifts is a stretch, haha…

  • Mike, like the rest of the commenters, just want to say thanks for all of the helpful advice and excellent products at Legion! It’s hard to find supplements without junk added and I really appreciate what you have.

    This will sound dumb, but I’ve been training for years and basically spinning my wheels in the pursuit of strength. I’m 31, Male, 5’10 and 155lbs. Squat is around 245 x 5, DL is ~315 x 5 and bench and oh press are very low due to shoulder injury. I am a former marathoner and think I “need” to do conditioning every day, but I really want to be stronger/bigger. I’m running the 5/3/1 BBB 3 month challenge, but my issue is fear of too much fat gain and not eating enough/doing too much to support growth.

    Can you or anyone reading these offer advice from their own experience here? I know I should focus strictly on strength for a while and worry about the rest later. I cook all of my own food using lots of veggies, fish, eggs, and fats like avocado so clean eating isn’t an issue, just how much I eat is.

    If there are any mental strategies to get over this fear and just accept I need to rest more while still eating more of the healthy food I make, please share. Looking for motivation from others that might’ve been down this road at one point

    Again, thanks for everything and keep up the helpful posts!

    • My pleasure man! Happy to do what I do. 🙂

      Cool you’ve been training for a while and thanks for all the background info. Sorry about the shoulder.

      Awesome on the challenge you’re doing too.

      If your focus is on building strength and muscle, I recommend keeping the cardio volume down. Check this out:


      Great on all the foods you’re eating.

      Regarding your fear, the results will speak for themselves. You’ll be gaining strength and building muscle and if done properly, there will be minimal fat gain.

      To set up the diet properly, check this out:


      Let’s get started and see how it goes.

      My pleasure! Talk soon.

      • Thanks for the links, Mike, I’ve read these and they are very helpful. I know seeing results will be a huge motivating factor to keep going for sure. Any thoughts on if just doing the 5/3/1 BBB program is enough volume to stimulate growth? I always feel as if I should do more, but maybe that’s the problem…..

        • YW!

          You will get results following the 5/3/1 program. If you’d like a bit more volume or aren’t satisfied with the results, you should try a 5-day BLS split. 🙂

          • Actually, although it may not be necessary for strength gains, I find I feel better mentally if I do more volume. I’ve checked out your 5 and 4 day splits and would love to follow either one.

            I am a stay-at-home dad and train in my garage, so my issue is having to bring my 2 year old out there all the time. She usually does great and I love seeing her mimic my moves, but when it’s so cold, she will only stay happy so long.

            And, it seems no matter how much I read and hear from others about doing less and having a caloric surplus, I tend to feel I must exercise every day before really “earning” to eat more. You and your site has been extremely helpful, and I would love to talk more, but I know your time is valuable man. If you have any resources or more tips, I’m all ears….or eyes in this case. 🙂

          • Let’s do it then!

            Yeah I can imagine having to watch a 2 year old while trying to do your workout can be tough haha.

            I know the feeling man. Just remember, to properly bulk you need to be in a calorie surplus. So even if you exercises more, yes you’ll get to eat more but either way, you will end up in about the same amount of a surplus if you’re sticking to your meal plan.

            Happy to help. 🙂 Just to make sure you’re bulking right, check this out:


            Talk soon!

  • Jake

    Hey Mike, how do you feel about utilizing 5/3/1 while cutting in a caloric deficit? I’m really trying to hit the 8% range but in a few articles Jim states you must eat big on this program and not try to diet as it is very demanding on the body. Many experts say not to change your training regardless of your overall goals.

    • I think it can be great because it’s not overly stressful on the body (weekly volume is low).

  • Jesse

    I’m completing year one on BLS and have seen good results. My main lifts have stalled a couple months ago. At 1rm s260/b230/d290— (6′ 185lb male)– nutrition is good 50/30/20 / 200 cal surplus
    Would it benefit me to do 5/3/1 for 3-6 months and then come back to BLS since I am so far away from the strength standards in Beyond BLS?

  • Victoria Cruz

    My cross fit gym has announced we will be starting the Wendler 5-3-1 strength training program…it was just an announcement–no information on what the program is and how the clients will be affected by it.

    Your article explained it very well..so thank you. I have some concerns I think you can help with without going to the coaches–they mean well, but are out of the loop more than the clients.

    1) I am a beginner cross-fitter and have chosen this program for its versatile cross training. I am really enjoying the program and find that if I don’t get my 5AM fix, my day is shot and I feel unaccomplished.
    I’m 62 inches tall, 198 lbs, 32 years old with a two year old, 11 year old and a husband.
    I have lost 13 lbs to date (since start of Dec 2015) and feel so much stronger. I haven’t really taken my diet seriously–just a goal to stay away from fried/fast foods and have committed to cooking more at home for my family.

    What diet plan do you recommend for a beginner who has a family and a budget to consider?

    2) I find that my current gym program focuses on one body part per week–I don’t really like it because I am sore every week–not really sure if this is common.
    Wendler is for 5 weeks and 1 day. I’m sure my gym will start another training program when we finish this one.
    Will this program allow for easy transition into another training program for beginner’s like me?
    3) Since I just started towards a healthier lifestyle, I am not yet at a point where I can depend on myself to follow through with gym training without a solid program–which is why I pay to be part of a class.
    In your opinion, what is a good healthy timeframe to start thinking about going solo?
    If I wanted to learn more about women’s fitness what articles/books do you recommend if any? <–I would usually ask a female this question, but since Wendler doesn't discriminate, why would you?
    Thanks for your time and I look forward to your response(s)!!

  • SmooshBall

    Hey Mike!

    I’m going to start up with 531, but how do you plan assistance work with increase of weights and deload?

    Can you run with a 4/5 week cycle starting with low weight high rep, and increase weight /decrease reps over the next weeks before a deload. Then start over again with heavier than last “first week”

    I was thinking about a Upper/lower splitt assistance work after 531, any thoughts about that?

    • Yeah you can do that. The key is you want to see your strength going up over time on the assistance work.

  • Sylvain

    The program is good for a real beginner ?

    • Yep, it’s great.

    • Tho many do not recommend it for a beginner — simply because it only calls for upping the 1RM 5 (or 10) pounds every 4 weeks, whereas most beginners can add weight every workout, which in a program like SS is every 2 days, not 4 weeks. 531 is great but you’ll make more progressive overload progress on a program like SS or SL.

  • Dan

    Hi Mike, I’m giving this a shot, I’m an ‘intermediate’ lifter, been doing freeweights for about 3 years, but changing my routine based on a lot you’ve written. I started this week, and for some of my AMRAPs, I’m blowing away the expected number (9-10 in the first wave). I’m wondering should I tick up my 1RMs for the 2nd wave. e.g. just did 14 reps on bench this morning. Seems like I might have picked the wrong 1RM (tested them all last week…) Thanks!

    • Hey Dan!

      That’s nice. 🙂 Yeah it sounds like you need to adjust your 1RMs. As you probably know, all 1RM formulas are guesstimates and “your mileage may vary.”

      Thanks so much. Lemme know how you like it.

  • hemant kumar arya

    Wooow Awesome post. This is really helpfull. You made my day.
    Thank you sir 😀

  • Kenny Dildine

    So if I’m on phase 4 (the deload week), do my assist workouts change at all or do I stay at the same weight I’ve been doing?

  • Alex

    I have been doing this workout program for little over a month now and its incredible the results I can see physically and increase in weight im putting up.

  • Yulet Azizi

    Does it matter what order you do the workouts? (E.g if you’re doing 4 days a week you have to do overhead press first, then deadlift etc.)

    • Nah, you can change the order if it works better for you. I don’t recommend putting legs and back next to each or chest and shoulders next to each other, though. So, it doesn’t leave you with too many options!

  • ‫אריאל גולדברג‬‎

    mike, what is your opinion on matt ogus’ program 7/5/3 ? its basically the same program with a bit more volume and hypertrophy work

  • Mills Tuttle

    Mike, I am a 75 year old who wishes to develop a no assisted Power Lifting Exercise Program with Walking as an additional Exercise Program! I am 5’4” and weigh 189 lbs! Tell me the Tools I need and a Program to follow! I am not in good shape!

  • Jonathan Cornelius

    Can you use the BLS programme(4-6 reps) as accessory work instead of the higher rep ranges it asks you to do such as 5×10.

  • Andrew Wilson

    Hi Mike! Do you think it would be a good idea to mix your BLS program with 531? For instance I would follow the same program you wrote up going 5 days a week, except that on the main 4 lifts use the 531 scheme. The rest of the workout would be the same program you wrote in the book with the 4-6 rep scheme. What do you think? Thanks and I love your book!

    • You can, yes. Many people have used the core of 531 and then BLS principles for the assistance work. It works!

  • cmbezln

    Mike – I’m a little confused on your squat day assistance workout example. It looks like you’re advocating squats as an assistance to…squats? How is this considered an assistance workout if it’s the same as the core lift you’re doing that day? Wouldn’t you be super fatigued in doing the exact same workout as you did before but with higher reps?

    • Ryan

      Im pretty sure Jim says you can sub deadlifts for the after squat assistance work, as well as substitute squats for the after deadlift assistance work.

      • cmbezln

        Good to know, thanks Ryan

    • Yup–higher reps can help you in your heavier lifting.

      If you want another exercise, I would go from back to front squats.

  • Eri

    Hey Mike – Nice article and I’m pretty sure I am going to try this program soon. I still have a question: can I change the order of the workouts? The article says day 1 overheadpr, day 2 deadlift, day 3 benchpr and day 4 squat. I like to start my week with a leg day, would it be oke to do day 1 Squat, day 2 Benchpr, day 3 Deadlift and day 4 Overheadpr?

  • Ross Byrne

    hey mike just ive recently started your bbls and well my lifts are going up especially bench and overhead press i feel that my deadlift and squats arent progressing as much, i find myself in a 10kg window for deadlifts. i was wondering would you say keep going with the bbls ive just completed the first mesocycle or do you think i should try the 531 or “starting strength- mark rippetoe, until i get my weights up ? or just keep at the bbls?

  • Jose

    I have a question, since the rest in between are long, can we do calasthenics inbetween, like hiit

    • I’d discourage that. You’d be too beat to give the next set your maximal effort.

  • dave

    I tried 531 using the triumvirate model along with first set last and joker sets. I deloaded every 2 cycles as outlined in Beyond 531. I wasn’t able to make much progress.
    As the weight increased my reps on the “as many reps as possible” set decreased. This is to be expected to an extent, however plugging the numbers into the 1RM equation showed I wasn’t really making progress.
    A lot of people have reported great gains on this program. It was cool to be working with maximal weights. However, for me it seemed like the volume working at >80% 1RM was too low stimulate strength gains.

    • Lots of other variables to consider, but assuming diet and training had nothing to improve upon, some people could use more volume to see more gains.

  • sakib800

    Mike Look at this video now!!!

    I dont know if you have seen this yet, but how is this possible?! Can steroids make you stronger without making you bigger? I was looking at his website on how he did this and apparently he benches 3 days a week with around 96% of his 1RM.

    I need to know what you think on this

    heres his website, he explains his training days on the bottom –>


    • Very impressive.

      Yes, they can with the right training and dieting. And makes sense, if you’re focusing on one or just a few lifts, you should be performing them more than once a week. In my chest focused routine, you hit chest 3 times a week. Check it out:


      It really comes down to weekly volume per muscle and total volume. The more frequently you train a muscle, the less volume you can handle per session. However, the less muscles you’re training or focusing on, the more volume the individual muscles can handle weekly. Since you’re not hitting the other muscles, your total volume is down enabling the muscles that you are training to handle more volume.

  • Mark

    Hey mike, can you combine bls 5 day with 531 but just do 531 for the ohp,bench,squat and deadlift. Also any tips to get some strength back while cutting. This is my first cut, I’ve kept strength in the deadlift and bench but lost in ohp and squats is this normal. I’ve gone from 15 to 12 body fat in just over a month just wondering weather to reverse diet and get back bulking before I lose to much strength. Cheers for your help.

  • AH

    What is the strength week in the 1 year challenge, what is the principle behind it

    • Just a nice way to get some extra volume on the most important lifts and a good way to track progress on those lifts.

  • Victoria H Williamson

    Hi Mike, great article! I just wondered where the equation for predicting 1RM came from?


  • Alexander Cilek

    So for the waves is it 60 percent of the 90 percent of your 1 rep max? or is it just from the 1 rep max

    • Michael

      it is all based off of 90% 1RM. black iron beast has a good calculator to use for this.

    • It’s based on the 90% 1RM. 🙂

  • iuedwwer werwer

    I have a serious question? How is it that this program works? I have been working out for 2 years now and my current deadlift max is around 210kgs, and as an example i am used to the heavy training style. I will be linking a picture.


    And as you can see that is some heavy weights if my current max is 210kg.
    So my question is, how am i supposed to progress if i the 5/3/1 program tells me to lift “light” weights, or something i am not used to? I will be linking what my 5/3/1 program tells me to do below.


    And as an example, on week 3, it only gets as high as 180kgs. Which is what i dont understand at all, how am i supposed to progress while lifting only that much, when i am used to going heavy as fuck every time i train? Will i even feel fatigued after i am done with a workout?
    Another thing which is insane to me is how i am used to do 5×5 90kg on my bench sessions which then after that kills me. But according to my program i have to climb up from 65kg, 80kg, then 90, and that is only 3×5. Which seems easy as i am used to 5×5 90kg?

    please clear this out for me, would help out really much!

    • Hey there, the way to program works is by slowly increasing the weight you’re lifting over time. This the process of progressive overload, and it’s the main driver of building muscle and getting stronger. After every mesocycle, you increase the number for your 1RM, which affects all the percentages in the waves. Does that make sense? Keep in mind that the “5+” means you get as many reps as you can on that set.

  • Chris Young


    I’d like to start this with my son. He’s almost 16, plays football but needs to add size and strength. Do you suggest going 4 days in a row and then taking 3 off or just going every other day? Also, on off days is it ok to do footwork drills? Can single leg exercises help and if so can those be used as assistance exercises on leg days?


    • Hey Chris! Four days in a row is fine, but you can also put one rest day in the middle of the 4 days. No need to rest after each workout day. Football drills on rest days would be fine.

      Single-leg exercises are great. Lunges and Bulgarian split squats would be great for assistance work. 🙂

      This article would be worth reading:


      Lemme know how it goes with your son!

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