T Nation

5/3/1 Bodybuilding Bible


5/3/1 is an excellent program for adding strength to the lifts, and size within reason.

I fell in love with the constant progression, albeit slow is better than weeks of plateaus and frustration where you double guess your diet and program because of it.

I suggest everyone buys the book.

If you have already bought and read the book, or read any articles or posts about it here on T-Nation. You will have noticed that people strongly advocate following the program to the letter.

For bodybuilding purposes I just don't think it's optimal to do so. But the program being as good as it is for constant strength gains has real value in a bodybuilding program!

I hope for this thread to be a source of information for people interested in using the 5/3/1 program for bodybuilding and a place for those of us already doing 5/3/1 with a bodybuilding focus to share our progress.


The Frequency Approach.

An approach I have been using has been exceptionally useful for size gains is what I will call the frequency approach. I am a frequency guy, so doing 4x a week was never going to cut it for me. Never the less - I followed 5/3/1 BBB as described in the book for 3months and made some good strength gains, I failed to gain much more 'quality' size.

Before 5/3/1 I was training twice a day, six times a week and this was brilliant for size gains. I did burn out though and started doing 5/3/1 for the Winter as I've described above.

The frequency approach is basically the same as 5/3/1 on the main lifts. No difference there.

Week 1: You will be training 4x a week but you will complete twice the amount of work.

Day One:
Bench: 5/3/1
Inc Bench: Boring But Big - 5 sets of 10 - straight sets across.
Military Press: 5/3/1
Military Press: Boring But Big - 5 sets of 10 - straight sets across.

Day Two:
Deadlift: 5/3/1
Straight Leg DL: Boring But Big - 5 sets of 10 - straight sets across.
Squat: 5/3/1
Squat: Boring But Big - 5 sets of 10 - straight sets across.

Day Three: Rest Day

Day Four:
Inc Bench: 5/3/1
Bench: Boring But Big - 5 sets of 10 - straight sets across.
Military Press: 5/3/1
Military Press: Boring But Big - 5 sets of 10 - straight sets across.

Day Five:
Deadlift: 5/3/1
Straight Leg DL: Boring But Big - 5 sets of 10 - straight sets across.
Squat: 5/3/1
Squat: Boring But Big - 5 sets of 10 - straight sets across.

Week 2 & 3: Week two is where it gets different in a more major way. You will be doing 5/3/1 for the main four exercises but picking your own accessory lifts. Keep each exercise on its own day for these weeks.

Example week.
Day One:
Bench: 5/3/1
Close Grip Bench: 5 sets of 10 ramping.
DB Inc Flyes: 4 sets of 6 ramping or straight sets.
Skullcrushers: 3 sets of 8.

Day Two:
Military Press: 5/3/1
Rear Delt Raises: 5 sets of 10
Upright Rows: 4 sets of 6.
Lat Raises: 3 sets of 8.

Day Three: Rest

Day Four:
Deadlift: 5/3/1
Bent Over BB Rows: 5 sets of 10
Shrugs: 4 sets of 6
DB Rows: 3 sets of 8
Chin Ups: One set to failure

Day Five:
Squats: 5/3/1
Lunges: 5 sets of 10
Goblet Squats: 4 sets of 6
Ham Curls: 3 sets of 8

-- This will take you through 1 and 1/3 cycle of 5/3/1, in the same time the program would have you complete just one 'mesocycle' allowing you to hit your muscle more frequently, keep attacking your strength and hypertrophy goals at the same time.

You'll have noticed I didn't include the de-load week. Not really needed for bodybuilding in my opinion.

Adjust it to your own needs but keep it simple, work hard, eat right!


5/3/1 Bodybuilding for Beginners.

I see a lot of beginners who are confused with the overwhelming amount of information online, asking stuff such as 'Should I do Starting Strength? What about Madcows 5x5? Stronglifts?'

They miss the point, which is ok. They're beginners after all.

So what about 5/3/1 for beginners with bodybuilding goals? I think it's great! I think beginners would be better off doing it to something like Starting Strength. Especially if you want to do some actual bodybuilding.

I'm not here to turn this into a 5/3/1 versus SS thread though so these are some pros for doing 5/3/1 as a beginner.

  • Constant Progression due to the focus on strength
  • A good mix of low rep - high rep (if you choose Boring But Big assistance)
  • Teaches you that lifting is about progression and effort.
  • Variety. You don't get bored.

So if you are a beginner, give it a go!


In regards to the frequency approach. I wanted to let people know, I did my second day of pressing this week. I left Bench until after Overhead Press as I wanted to minimize my Delts and Triceps involvement a little.

I was programmed in to do 190 x 1+ which a few weeks ago I couldn't have managed for 1 rep at all. Today I did 5 very comfortable reps. My triceps and delts are both looking a lot better recently, I've started feeling my upper back during movements for the first time as well.

I've started taking long rests between the last 3 sets of my 5/3/1 exercises. It's making a huge difference, I tend to feel like an idiot sitting around for 3 minutes doing nothing, but it helps a lot. I still tend to only take 30 second rests between non 5/3/1 exercises, so it's not really too much of a problem.


I think i might just go and kill myself now


5/3/1 and Cardio.

Jim himself in the 5/3/1 book refers to it as conditioning. Most bodybuilders will always call it cardio.

So what should we do?

I actually like the prowler (wish I had one), hill-sprinting and carrying heavy shit for distances. Which is pretty much what Wendler recommends. However I still don't think you can beat long-distance cardio for overall cardiovascular health and generally if it worked for Arnold it's good enough for me.


If you say so...


I have been doing 5/3/1 for 2 years now.....and this thread makes my head hurt.

You are trying to micro analyze a program that was designed to be painfully simple.

Maybe stop overthinking.


I'm really not trying to over-think anything. There's no micro-analyzing. I haven't told people to do anything different. I simply shared what I'm doing and the hypertrophy progress seems to be faster while strength gains are no slower.

Why do people have a problem with that? Why come here if you don't want to share ideas?


Probably because every conceivable problem has been addressed on Jim's Q & A at ElitFTS....or in the book.

But carry on.


x2 its been beaten to death for years now


That would be a valid thing to say, if I considered what I was addressing a problem in the first place. I've read his book cover to cover many times. I've never had a problem that it couldn't address.

But if you have a problem in future, or you don't agree with what someones saying. Just refrain from posting. Because, I've noticed that more than half of what anyone posts round here is just negative stuff, that they've read some other person post and they feel the need to post it themselves.

At least I'm trying to post something useful. Use the information or don't but there's no need to start littering the thread.


hes not saying that at all pal, hes saying why start a thread talking about 5/3/1 addressing it, when everything possibly conceivable to do with the program has already been covered multiple times on the Q and A


Jim has published articles on how to use 5/3/1 for bodybuilding.


I've been thinking the same...


Tell me about it Brah..


I like the thread I've been using 531 for bodybuilding for awhile now and love it. I just do the lifts once a week and add in an arms days. Do you deload every three weeks?


You have been doing this for a couple of weeks and you are a master????


And you are giving advice on a full program???????????????????????????????????

3 months of 5/3/1 with BBB and you didn't see 'quality" mass?

You know nothing and are giving advice?????

Even JW says its not for beginner (yeah, it's in the book, guess you missed that).

Why do people complicate things so much, from such a simple and effective program that was proven over YEARS.


First post ever here, but I weighed in at my heaviest ever yesterday and pulled/pressed/squatted my June 1RMs for reps last cycle.

I don't want to imagine squatting/pulling heavy twice in four days, combined with Boring But Big on the same movement... I mean you say you're doing it, but how the fuck do you get out of bed on Day 6?

Assuming a 500lb squat, on 5/3/1 day you're squatting 430 for reps, then 350 for 50 (5x10). Then you do that again two days later?

Wouldn't it be easier and more beneficial to do 5/3/1 9 months then 5/3/1 + Boring But Big for the other 3? (This is more a question for the people in here that agree with me...)


It would be beneficial to perform the program the way it was written, and ignore everything you saw in this thread.