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5/3/1 for New to Powerlifting?


I’m 24, female, overweight, and looking to do a small powerlifting competition in June. Its nothing crazy competitive and I’m not walking in expecting to kill the competition and win the match, but I would like to go compete to prove to myself I CAN get there. I have been back in the gym for a few months after an injury and sedentary job, and I’m looking for a good program to help me. I pulled the 5/3/1 program off of the forum and I plan on following it, but I wanted to know opinions of those who have been-there-done-that, to know if this program will suit my goals?


What are your goals? Lifting at a meet is a goal, but you could do that going 3/9 with token attempts. What total do you want to post? What is your strongest lift? What is your weakest? Are your lifts legal for your federation?

Don’t get me wrong, 5/3/1 is great and if you don’t care about anything other than posting a total pretty much any of its templates will work. It does help to know what you want to do though. It will guide your choices through the process.


I maxed out at 265 with my DL, That would definitely be my strongest, I have a feeling weakest is going to be bench. I am trying to test my 1RMs to start calculating my percentages. I don’t know my max for squats or bench yet, I’ve been training consistently for the past 3 months but I’m working on figuring out my progress right now. I know its pretty vague but my biggest goal is to go and not look stupid. Like I said, I’m not expecting to go in and win at my first competition, but I would like to go and have a competitive edge. I’ll be in the heavyweight division, my lifts are legal (coworker/powerlifter critiquing my performance), and I have 72 days til the competition. I am looking at 5/3/1 to have a structured program to make as much muscle gain as is possible in such a short amount of time, and then start dialing in on my openers and lifts and ‘clean up’ my performance.

I realize I am not well prepared. I am being invited to compete and represent my workplace in the competition, so I am trying to prepare myself as much as I can. I intend to use this as a learning/training experience and keep busting ass after going. Thanks for the help!!


I think 5/3/1 is fine for this, the only requirement is you know how to do the main lifts and have an established 1RM or close estimate for it to base your training max from. With 5/3/1 as the training max increases the reps drop a little so as you get closer to the competition you will be working in lower rep ranges which is good for meet prep. The only big change you need to make is on the last 5/3/1 cycle start hitting some heavy single reps, not necessarily a 1 rep max but closer to that area so you know where your at for the meet. Not an ideal power lifter approved meet prep but good enough for the first one especially if your set on doing 5/3/1.

Some recommendations I’ve seen is your meet opener should be your 3RM and your second lift should be what your confident you can hit at the gym on any day and the 3rd lift a PR. Obviously that is subject to change if the first lift doesn’t go as expected but its a start.


This is excellent advice. Be conservative and focus on going nine for nine. Don’t even think about where you place.



I assume you have lifted weights before?


Yes sir. I was an athlete in high school with a strict coach, and did an Assc. Degree in Exercise Science. Not an expert by any means but I am confident with my form. I was a certified personal trainer for a few years as well, but I specialized in weight loss and endurance activities, nothing involving competitive lifting.


Thank you, Mark, for the support!!


I really appreciate you taking time to reply, and I’m definitely taking your advice to mind. My biggest fear was walking in unprepared and looking foolish, but with you guys helping out I think I’ll have a fighting chance!


find what fed is doing meet, learn the rules for the lifts, since this is your first meet and you are just wanting to find out what your real maxes are and have fun.531 for power lifters has a great meet prep to follow 8 weeks long I follow this one when doing a meet. If you don’t have time to follow this then just go with openers what you can do 5 times, second attempt what you can do 3 times and for your 3rd go for it and hit a p.r. and again if this meet uses a dead lift bar that is going to change attempts you can go by how your feeling. Wish the best of luck to you and just go and have some fun bring food and drink can be a long day.


Try one of the full body templates like this below -will lean you out as well as solid strength gains…