The Jim Wendler Squat Program – The 5/3/1 Strength Training Program

The Jim Wendler Squat Program - The 5/3/1 Strength Training Program

If you’ve delved into the world of strength training, chances are you’ve encountered the renowned 5/3/1 program by Wendler. But what if we told you that there’s a dedicated approach to supercharging your squat strength within this time-tested regimen?

In this article, we’re diving deep into the intricacies of leveraging the 5/3/1 method to take your squat game to new heights. Join us as we unravel the secrets to effectively harnessing this program’s potential for your squatting journey.

First, let’s touch base on Wendler and 5/3/1 for anyone who needs to be brought up to speed.

About Jim Wendler

Jim Wendler is a notable figure in the world of strength training and powerlifting. He is best known for creating the 5/3/1 strength training program. This program has gained widespread popularity among lifters of various levels. It’s fair to say that this is due to its simplicity, flexibility, and effectiveness. Wendler’s approach focuses on gradual and sustainable progress. It emphasizes the development of strength and muscle over time rather than quick results.

Wendler’s background is rooted in his own experiences as a competitive powerlifter. He’s known for his down-to-earth and practical approach to training. His philosophy often emphasizes consistent hard work, dedication, and realistic goal-setting.

Wendler introduced the 5/3/1 program through his book “5/3/1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System for Raw Strength.” It revolves around the core principle of using progressive overload to drive strength gains. The program centers on the four main compound lifts: squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press. It operates on a four-week cycle, gradually increasing the weights lifted over time. The program’s name, refers to the set and rep scheme used in each cycle. The lifter performs multiple sets with different percentages of their one-rep max (1RM).

His work often emphasizes the importance of balancing training with recovery. He believes in sustainable progress over rapid gains.

About The Program

Here’s a brief breakdown of how the program works:

  1. Cycle Structure: Each cycle spans four weeks. During these weeks, you work on progressively lifting heavier weights in a controlled and manageable manner.
  2. Main Sets: In each workout, you perform a series of “main sets” for the primary lift of that day. The rep scheme varies based on the week of the cycle.
    • Week 1: 3 sets of 5 reps at different percentages of your 1RM.
    • Week 2: 3 sets of 3 reps at higher percentages.
    • Week 3: 1 set of 5 reps, 1 set of 3 reps, and 1 set of 1 or more reps at increasing intensities.
  3. Deload Week: Every fourth week is a deload week. During this week, you lift lighter weights to allow your body to recover and avoid burnout.
  4. Assistance Work: The program includes optional assistance exercises. These target specific muscle groups and address weaknesses.
  5. Flexible Template: The 5/3/1 program is highly customizable. You can adjust the assistance work and add variations to the main lifts. This allows you to tailor the program to your specific goals.

Using It For Squats

Now to the important part! You don’t have to follow the program to get great squat results. Instead, use it as a framework to update your existing routine.

For example: If you are following a body part training split, take out your existing leg-heavy movements. Squats or leg presses should come out. Now, take the methodology from the 5/3/1 strength program and apply it to just your leg training!

You Don’t Need The Full Program

Why would you do this rather than follow the full training cycle?

  1. If your primary goal is to get stronger or larger legs, to catch them up with other muscle groups.
  2. If your legs aren’t getting the same results as other muscle groups.
  3. Or you want to switch things up, just for your legs!

This popular strength training program is built for powerlifters. So starting this program might not be the best fit for your goals. However, if you want to add weight to your squat and your existing routine isn’t cutting it, this change might be just what the doctor ordered.

With that said, if you are a more advanced lifter, it might not be the best route to take!

Find Another Squat Training Program

Although this is a great powerlifting program for building full-body strength, it isn’t focused on squats. If you are looking for something that is specific to growing your squat and deadlift, a program like Smolov or Smolov Jr. might be a better fit!

These programs might not progress as fast, but as an advanced lifter, your body probably needs something more specific. It’s worth noting that these programs almost require you to stop your existing routine.

Important Note:

They produce a ton of stress on your body, so there are very specific requirements around what you can and can’t do. Plus, you’ll be squatting four times a week, doing at least 6 working sets. There won’t be much more you can do beyond maintenance for your other muscle groups.

True Beginners

If you are a beginner who is more interested in linear progression, Starting Strength or Stronglifts are what you should be looking into. They will provide much faster results for those with less training experience.

The Jim Wendler Squat Program

Okay, maybe it isn’t his full program. But using the 5/3/1 method for a squat program isn’t a bad route to take if you want to build muscle and increase your 1 rep max on squats.

If you are out looking for programs, remember to check our database of free training plans right here on Doug Grows!

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