Workout Plan

The 5/3/1 Workout Program: Increase Your 1RM

bench sport club room

Are you a beginner or intermediate lifter struggling to increase your 1RM?

Then, the 5/3/1 workout program may be what you need to start hitting your strength goals!

Keep reading to learn more about the 5/3/1 workout program.

The 5/3/1 Method Training Cycle

The 5/3/1 workout program is a four-week training cycle that requires four training sessions per week. Each workout session centers on one core lift: bench press, squat, deadlift, or shoulder press. The rep scheme is as follows:

  • 1. Week one: For each workout, perform three sets of five reps (3×5) of one exercise. So, for example, on Monday, you could do 3×5 of bench presses, Wednesday 3×5 of squats, Friday 3×5 of shoulder presses, and Saturday 3×5 of deadlifts.
  •  2. Week two: For each workout, do three sets of three reps (3×3), focusing on one lifting exercise.
  •  3. Week three: For week three, you perform one set of five reps, one set of three reps, and one set of one rep of one exercise.
  •  4. Week four: For this week, the key is deloading. During deload week, you do 3×5 sets at a lighter weight than the previous week to give your muscles a chance to recover.

Each training cycle lasts 4 weeks. Then you can start back at the beginning using your new max.

5/3/1 Training cycle and volume
531 Workout Plan Volume

For the subsequent training cycles, lift a heavier weight than the week prior. Generally, you should add five pounds to your 1RM for any upper body lifts and ten pounds to your 1RM for any lower body lifts.

What Is the 5/3/1 Workout?

The 5/3/1 workout is a powerlifting program designed by Jim Wendler. The key concept is to slowly build strength through four barbell weightlifting exercises: the parallel squat, bench press, deadlift, and the shoulder press, also known as overhead press or military press. The goal of the 5/3/1 workout is to achieve a new one rep max (1RM).

You can find more powerlifting programs here.

How Much Weight to Lift in the 5/3/1 Method

A typical weightlifting program requires you to lift the same weight for every set that you’re doing, but the 5/3/1 method is slightly different.

First, determine your one rep max (1RM) to know how much weight you should be lifting. Then, using your training max, calculate 90 percent of your 1RM; you will use that base number to determine what weight you should be lifting each day. 

Plug that base number into the following template to assess your weight and number of reps for each training cycle:

Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4
Set 165% x 570% x 375% x 540% x 5
Set 275% x 580% x 385% x 350% x 5
Set 385% x 5+90% x 3+95% x 1+60% x 5

You can use this calculator to determine the weights.

5/3/1 Weight Calculator

5/3/1 Weight Calculator

Enter your one-rep max weight:

LiftVault also has 5/3/1 spreadsheets you can use.

4 Tips for Using the 5/3/1 Method

When doing the 5/3/1 program, keep these tips in mind to get the most out of your training cycles:

  1. Stick to the rules. Follow the 5/3/1 training method as written for maximum results. If you start changing reps and sets, it is no longer a 5/3/1 program.
  2.  Build-in assistance exercises. Adding an accessory lift or two after your main lift can be helpful for muscle hypertrophy, preventing injury, and creating a balanced physique. Some assistant lifts include lunges, pull-ups, chin-ups, leg presses, leg raises, or dumbbell workouts. Stick to lifts that activate just one muscle group. You can add five sets of ten to fifteen reps of each assistance exercise.
  3.  Start with lighter weights. Start with light weights to leave room to progress. The program aims to help lifters progress slowly to prevent injury.
  4.  Take rest days. Give your muscles plenty of time time to rest, and avoid training more than two days in a row.

Remember, You Aren't Doing As Many Reps as Possible

You will get stronger on this workout, but stick to the plan. It is meant to work a specific way and making it your own could just slow your progress.

Supplements for the 5/3/1 Program

Supplements will not get you the results, that comes from nutrition, training, and recovery. That said, they can help you with all three of these! Here are some supplements that we would recommend based on what area you need help in:

Why You Should Try Send It Pre Workout by UXO Supplements

The Benefits of the 5/3/1 Strength Training Program

When it comes to making real strides in the gym, it's all about finding the right program that helps you reach your goals and keeps you motivated and excited about your workouts. There's no shortage of fitness routines out there. Still, 5/3/1 has consistently stood the test of time and delivered impressive results for countless gym-goers.

Would you rather focus on just one lift? Try the Russian Squat Program.

Structured Progression for Real Gains

Let's dive right into why this program is a game-changer. First and foremost, it offers a structured and systematic approach to strength progression. Instead of endlessly slogging through workouts with little direction, you'll find a clear path to improvement.

Increasing your 1RM is the core principle of this program. You'll work with percentages of your one-rep max, systematically increasing the load over a cycle. This gradual approach is like building a sturdy staircase to your strength goals, step by step.

Customize Your Path to Success

One size rarely fits all in fitness, and this program understands that. Whether aiming to push your limits in raw strength, sculpt your physique, or enhance your conditioning, this program is versatile enough to cater to your aspirations. No need to force yourself into someone else's mold – make it your own.

For instance, if you're all about that raw strength, you can focus on the "Big Four" lifts – squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press. These are the program's foundation, and by mastering them, you're laying the groundwork for significant strength gains.

Efficiency Meets Simplicity

Your time is precious, and this program respects that. It's refreshingly straightforward.

You won't find overly complex exercises or excessive volume here. Just a targeted approach to increasing the four core lifts of the program. Say goodbye to those long, exhausting workouts that leave you drained and demotivated.

Instead, these workouts are efficient, effective, and enjoyable. You'll be in and out of the gym in no time, leaving you with more hours in the day to conquer whatever else life throws your way.

Track Your Triumphs

Remember the feeling of achievement when you see your progress? With this program, you won't just feel it – you'll see it in black and white. It encourages meticulous record-keeping of your performance on key lifts. This not only keeps you accountable but also serves as a powerful motivator.

Built-In Deload Weeks for Recovery

Ever heard the saying, "You don't grow in the gym; you grow when you rest"? This program embraces that wisdom. Every fourth week is a deload week, a designated period to dial back the intensity and volume. It's like hitting the reset button for your body.

Think of it as a strategic pause, allowing your muscles and nervous system to recover fully. It's not a break from progress but a vital component of long-term success.

Holistic Approach to Strength

While this program places the Big Four at its core, it doesn't neglect other aspects of your fitness journey. It incorporates assistance exercises that target weak points and provide a balanced development. Your body won't just get stronger; it'll get more balanced and capable.

In essence, this program isn't just about lifting heavy weights – it's about becoming a better, more capable version of yourself. It's about breaking barriers and exceeding your expectations.

Incorporating this program into your training routine could be the turning point in your fitness journey.

Do you only want to increase your strength for one specific lift? Try Smolov Jr.

How to Work Out Safely & Avoid Injury

lifter with elbow pain - avoiding injury with 5/3/1

If you don't currently lift and have a previous or pre-existing health condition, consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. 

Always use proper exercise techniques to ensure the safety and effectiveness of any exercise program. Still, you may need to modify each exercise to attain optimal results based on your individual needs. 

Always select a weight that gives you complete control of your body throughout the movement. When performing any exercise, pay close attention to your body, and stop immediately if you note pain or irregular discomfort.

To see continual progress and build strength, incorporate proper warm-ups, rest, and nutrition into your exercise program. Your results will ultimately be based on your ability to recover from your workouts. Rest for 24 to 48 hours before training the same muscle groups to allow sufficient recovery.

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In 2013 I attended TVCC with my studies focusing on nutrition and biology. After leaving TVCC I pursued a career in inbound marketing and have worked in many different industries including health and fitness, firearms, coaching, and many more. I spent 6 years training for powerlifting and 6 years after training for a bodybuilding show in Idaho, which sadly did not come to fruition.

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