Wendler 5/3/1 Cycle

We are going to start a “Wendler” style lifting cycle in the gym for the Front Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift. We will focus on other lifts as well, they wont be based on percentages for these next 5 weeks.

Why are we doing this?

If our squats go up, full cleans and snatches go up, and our assault biking improves. If our deadlifts go up, our power cleans, power snatches and rowing improves. If our bench press goes up, our strict press and capability of doing ring dips and burpees improves.

Strength training plays a huge role in everything else we do in the gym, which is why lifting weights is so important.

Who is Jim Wendler and what is 5/3/1?

First of all, there are many versions of his 5/3/1 program…we will be following the original version since we dont have desires to be powerlifters, nor do we want to dedicate our entire training sessions to solely lifting weights. The original version is the simplest and easiest for us to implement in classes for ALL abilities.

5/3/1 was the program Jim Wendler, a very popular and successful powerlifter, invented when he decided to move away from the sport.

That’s right; Jim Wendler invented 5/3/1 when he quit powerlifting.

In his own words, more or less, Wendler was tired of being a “fatass” who wasn’t good for anything other than squatting weights equivilent to a vw bug. He claims he was so out of shape that he actually lost his breath just walking around the block. So he wanted to come up with a program that took a more holistic approach to strength; he wanted to incorporate conditioning and mobility into his overall plan of attack. Does this sound like shit we already do on a daily basis in class?

So instead of lifting heavy shit once, he created a simple percentage based lifting program that was designed for someone looking to improve their overall conditioning in sports rather than focus explicitly on powerlifting performance…again, the difference of being able to move weight MANY times in a set versus just ONCE in a set.

So as a powerlifter, he created this program as an alternative to powerlifting. And yes, powerlifting is back squatting, deadlifting and bench pressing…instead of back squats, we are going to focus on the front squat…for a variety of reasons.

Front squats have better carryover for…full cleans, thrusters and wall balls...three movements we ALL need to improve on in the gym. Front squats are going to develop that core strength that a lot of us are lacking, which will directly transfer over to more shoulder to overhead PRs (strict press, push press…but specifically the push and split jerk) because the torso will be able to stay stronger under heavier loads. You guys are going to find that your torsos are going to be stronger on rowing and assault biking after doing front squats. If your front squat goes up, so does the back squat.

5/3/1: The Actual Program

As you can see, 5/3/1 is a program with a monthly cycle. There are four distinct weekly cylces: 3×5+ week, 3×3+ week, 5/3/1+ week, and a deload. The last set of each lift, there are + sets. We are not going to do this, we are going to stick to the 3x5, 3x3 or 5/3/1 because we dont need to go to failure in classes. Wendler originally designed this program with “+” sets mean you do as many reps as possible (AMRAP). You’re not supposed to go to failure on the AMRAP sets, but you are supposed to come within a rep or so of failure. Because we will be doing WODs AFTER these lifts, we will be doing enough volume and there is no need to go beyond the 5, 3 or 1 reps given.

After deload week we will re-test and if you guys like it. We can do another “Wendler” cycle with different movements. Again, I am going to need your feedback on this guys.

I like this cycle a lot because nearly ALL of you track your lifts in SugarWOD and there is a percentage calculator in there so your numbers are already calculated for you. But the REAL reason why I like it, is it gives you an exact progression of what weight and reps you guys should be doing for your warm up sets. A lot of us just throw weight on the bar for warm up sets and make too big of jumps and you ruin your whole lifting session. So this cycle is perfect for beginners and intermediates to learn and understand proper warm up progression for lifting weights AND it keeps my experience athletes progressing by increasing their overall strength too. So everyone wins!

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