Fitness Intermediate 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.

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).

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

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.

Supplements for the 5/3/1 Program

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

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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