5/3/1 for a Beginner?

I have a, hopefully, fairly simple question. I want lose weight and preserve whatever muscle I may have. I don’t really expect to gain any muscle mass. My day to day schedule means I can only be in the gym Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Weekends and Wednesdays won’t work unfortunately.

I would like to do 5/3/1 because it fits in well with my schedule. I read, however, from Jim Wendler’s website that a 3 day full body routine is preferred for beginners. So finally my question: even if it’s not preferred, would one of the 4 day splits from the book suit a beginner if I started with lower weight or even an empty bar until my form is solid?


If your form isn’t solid, you aren’t ready to start ANY sort of program. Get that sorted out first. Once you have mastery of that, THEN start training. You don’t want to waste years of training by going splitting the focus on your training between skill mastery and size/strength development. You don’t need to be an expert, but at least have the fundamentals down.

Once that is established, the 4 day splits would work just fine, they just wouldn’t afford as many opportunities to train in terms of frequency as the full body work. Keep in mind that a big part of 5/3/1 is conditioning work. You could always do the 3 day lifting routine and use the 4th day to work on your conditioning.

Thanks, I’ve been reading about this stuff for a while but somehow I didn’t realise that practice and training were separate. Seems obvious once it’s pointed out. Ok so work on form first and foremost, got it. So how do i go about practicing to get my form solid so I can train? Even if you can point me in the right direction in terms of what to search for that would be great.

If i did a 3 day routine and a day focussed on conditioning how would that best be spread out over mon,tue,wed and fri? I was under the impression that a full day between sessions was the norm.

Waterbury has quite a few programs that would fit your schedule.

Also, instead of thinking “fat loss”, think “add muscles”.

The book “Starting Strength” goes over technique for all of the movements featured in 5/3/1. Jim Wendler personally recommended that in a recent blog post. Elitefts also has a “So you think you can” series on the 3 power lifts (So you think you can squat/bench/deadlift).

As for your second question, your available dates just changed on me. Are you training Mon, Tue, Thus, Fri or M, T, W, F?

EDIT: Dang it, I hate when they move threads from beginner to 5/3/1, as I don’t intend to speak for Jim in his own forum.

I would be training Mon, Tue, Thurs, Fri. I commute quite far to university and the time and cost on other days would be prohibitive. After summer it get’s simpler because I can get a place right next to campus and much closer to the gym. I can do conditioning at home though, plenty of hills and forest trails.

I’ll pick up a copy of starting strength, thanks for your help.

There are DOZENS of articles I’ve written and post on THIS FORUM that detail beginner ideas.

Here’s one I wrote: "The easiest way is to screw around a few weeks with the basic movements and after getting settled, find a TM: do a weight that you can do about 5 times and find your TM (using the formula from the book). After that: Do 5’s PRO with 5x5 of FSL for all lifts for a 6 week cycle. No rep maxes: this is to get your body back into shape. Do push-ups, chins/fat man rows, dips, sit-ups, ab wheel, back raises, dips (all bodyweight stuff) as accessory. For conditioning work, do only 20-30 minutes of cardio 3-4 times/week. Get your body/base built. Your TM should be 85% of your estimated rep max (not 90%).

This 6 week period will be pivotal to getting your body back into shape for training. Be smart, don’t bite off more than you can chew and be patient."

You are more than free to do whatever you want. Or you can follow the advice.

I’ll follow the advice. I appreciate you taking the time to respond.

I really don’t understand this beginner syndrome. There are thousands of question, articles and also testimonials on it. Before anyone gets upset I’m not having a go at the OP but in general.

What is it that beginners can’t do that makes the original 5/3/1 a recipe for nuclear holocaust? As if the program is so advanced and complicated that it’s been seen less than big foot.

Its the big moves, it’s a simple progression, you start light and move up… how does changing a few reps really make any difference in the long run? I started with Boring but Big and it was the perfect example. You do the main move, then you hammer in form with the 5x10 at a low weight. I really struggle sometimes to think that we have a nation of beginners all slamming out 5x5 on the big three, three times a week, I have seen it get ugly with newbies in the gym. Take one lift a day, and become really good at it, like stupid good at it…

I know I bang on about the original 5/3/1 book like war stories, but it was simple and effective, much like the title suggests and at times you know what? That’s all you had, there wasn’t a thousand and one templates or forums speaking about it and bastardising them.

Search google with “Beginner 531” and you’ll get tons of articles and questions.

Stop majorring in the minors.

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