Short Look at the Wendler Strength Program…
Wendler describes the core philosophy behind 5/3/1 as “the basic tenets of strength training that have stood the test of time.”
Basic multi-joint lifts: “The bench press, parallel squat, deadlift, and standing press have been the staples of any strong man’s repertoire. Those who ignore these lifts are generally the people who suck at them. If you get good at those, you’ll get good at other stuff, as they have such a huge carryover.”
Starting light: While it may seem counterintuitive to take weight off the bar when the goal is to add weight to it, Wendler asserts that starting lighter allows you more room to progress forward. “This is a very hard pill to swallow for most lifters,” he says. “They want to start heavy and they want to start now. This is nothing more than ego, and nothing will destroy a lifter faster, or for longer, than ego.”
Progress slowly: This ties in with starting light, and keeps lifters who want to get big and strong yesterday from sabotaging their own progress. “People want a program that will add 40 pounds to their bench in eight weeks,” Wendler explains. “When I ask how much their bench went up in the last year, they hang their heads in shame.”
Break personal records: 5/3/1 is set up to allow you to break a variety of repetition records throughout the year. Notice that it’s “rep records,” and not “one-rep max.” “Most people live and die by their one-rep max. To me, this is foolish and short sighted. If your squat goes from 225 x 6 to 225 x 9, you’ve gotten stronger.”
In 5/3/1, you’re expected to train three or four days a week. Each workout is centered around one core lift — the aforementioned parallel squat, bench press, deadlift, and standing shoulder press.