T Nation

5/3/1 Joker Sets

I am sick and tired of the Madcow 5x5 after about a year on it. My strength went up a ton but now I need something new. The 5/3/1 new 1.1/1.2/1.3/1.4 looks pretty solid, except I don’t fully understand a “joker set”.

I own the first ebook by Wendler but I guess this is something new. Can anyone explain them in plain english? Thanks

[quote]sandcracker21 wrote:
I am sick and tired of the Madcow 5x5 after about a year on it. My strength went up a ton but now I need something new. The 5/3/1 new 1.1/1.2/1.3/1.4 looks pretty solid, except I don’t fully understand a “joker set”.

I own the first ebook by Wendler but I guess this is something new. Can anyone explain them in plain english? Thanks[/quote]

Joker sets is about to build your sets up after 5/3/1 sets. Increase about 5 to 10% for each set until you can’t do your requisite reps. Lets say you are on 5 reps week, then it will look like these:

Warm Up ++

Work sets: (Just example)
200x 5
250x 5
300x 5 +
Joker sets +++ (Increase 5-10% until you can’t do 5 reps - then you done, but on a Good day you can for example keep going and do 1 reps.)

Do you understand?

I am also curious as to what joker sets are as well but don?t quite understand how you explain it, My understanding is that you do your normal sets of 5/3/1 or 5 or 3 and then after your last + set you do more sets called ?jokers? where you add 10% each time till you cant hit 5, 3 or 1 depending on what day it is. Am I right? Because to me it seems that you would be so tired out after the plus sets that you wouldn?t have energy to keep adding weight in subsequent sets?

Cheers in advance!

[quote]TheLifterdude wrote:
Because to me it seems that you would be so tired out after the plus sets that you wouldn?t have energy to keep adding weight in subsequent sets?

[/quote]

Try it and see. I can normally get at least one more set in

[quote]TheLifterdude wrote:
I am also curious as to what joker sets are as well but don?t quite understand how you explain it, My understanding is that you do your normal sets of 5/3/1 or 5 or 3 and then after your last + set you do more sets called ?jokers? where you add 10% each time till you cant hit 5, 3 or 1 depending on what day it is. Am I right? Because to me it seems that you would be so tired out after the plus sets that you wouldn?t have energy to keep adding weight in subsequent sets?

Cheers in advance![/quote]

That’s right. Joker sets is up to you if you wanna do it. On a very good day you can go balls out, and on a bad day you can skip the joker sets. This is where the 90% training max comes in “auto-regulation”. And it allows you to have good and bad days.

From the book:
“Always push the last set of the 5/3/1 workout (not the Joker Sets) for a PR. I know people will get their panties in a bunch and say, â??But Iâ??ll be too tired to do Joker sets!â?? Really? Too tired? Are you afraid of fatigue? Make your training hard so that game day is easy.”

why don’t you buy Beyond? It will explain jokers, and a whole lot more,

[quote]tokon wrote:
why don’t you buy Beyond? It will explain jokers, and a whole lot more,[/quote]

I honestly have not read the programs JW wrote on T-Nation as I have enough material to work with in his book and website, so take this for what it’s worth. As the above poster mentioned, Joker sets are discussed in detail in his Beyond book and he has very specific programming for Jokers; it helps eliminate the guess work. I don’t know how that programming applies to his T-Nation program, but you should get the book. There is a ton of good info in it.

[quote]TheLifterdude wrote:
it seems that you would be so tired out after the plus sets that you wouldn?t have energy to keep adding weight in subsequent sets?

[/quote]

It does seem that way but instead of trying to think you way through it, just go lift something and apply jokers to see for yourself through practical application. Then come to a conclusion.

Okay thanks a lot for the replies!
I have now finally found out how they work and am keen to give them a go on deadlift day tomorrow.

Cheers

^^ let us know how it goes… still a little fuzzy to me.

If your top set is 200 on the “5” week and you get the minimum reps or greater AND you feel like you can push yourself, you would add 5-10% (of the 200 lbs) to the top set (200) and do another set of 5, if you get that, add another 5-10% of the top set and do another set of 5. So on and so forth until you cannot get the 5 reps.

e.g. First joker set would be 200 + 5-10%, so 210-220 lbs
Second set would be 220-230 lbs, third set would be 230-240 lbs. All done for 5 reps if this is the “5” week.

On the 3 week, add 5-10% per joker set and do sets of 3.

Same for the 1 week, add 5-10% of the top set and do a rep. If you get that rep, add and keep going until you cannot get the rep.

I only go for joker singles regardless of which week I’m in IF (big IF) I feel like I can get them. I just like singles better. I am doing Beyond 1.3 currently and after my PR set for squats using my training max, I added 10% and did a single, then I added another 10% and did a single. Then I quit and did the 5x5x75%.

Sorry for the rehash of an earlier post, but sometimes seeing actual numbers helps some people (like me)

1 Like

hey fellas got a question if someone can help. if you want to add a cycle of jokers for 3-6 weeks is it ok to lower the TM so one can get multiple sets of jokers? is the ok to do? or jim w doesn’t want that to be tht way. I read the book but it doesn’t say if you are already hitting close to your reps how can I adjust to hit jokers.

hope that is clear

appreciate any help thanks ps not a beginner :slight_smile:

[quote]bigtony200 wrote:
hey fellas got a question if someone can help. if you want to add a cycle of jokers for 3-6 weeks is it ok to lower the TM so one can get multiple sets of jokers? is the ok to do? or jim w doesn’t want that to be tht way. I read the book but it doesn’t say if you are already hitting close to your reps how can I adjust to hit jokers.

hope that is clear

appreciate any help thanks ps not a beginner :)[/quote]

Don’t do Jokers. Just don’t.

Jokers are for days where you feel like an absolute beast. You’ve gone balls to the wall for your work sets and still feel really jacked and good. Then do Jokers sets. They are absolutely NOT something you program in and expect to do. If that’s what you want there are programs for that type of maximal lifting.

If you don’t understand Jokers, don’t do them. No offense to anyone but the auto regulation of Jokers is pretty confusing.

I’ve been doing 5/3/1 for a couple years. I don’t do Jokers on a regular basis at all. In the last year I have done them, like, 3 times.

I have read a lot of what Jim has written and one thing that stands out is his regret that so many people don’t understand Joker sets.

1 Like

hi and thankyou for your response.

from what I understand from jim that can be used ever 6=12 weeks. it is not used all the time and I understand this. my question is if I can lower the TM to get a cycle of jokers sets in for 3-6 weeks. you don’t know my experience level so lets try to put forth information that is useful. jim didn’t just write the book so we couldn’t ask questions.

and I will repeat im not a beginner been doing wendler 5/3/1 3 years been training 14 years.

reason why Jim said tht is because beginners were abusing it were they were overtraining and not getting results.

I have used jokers before on and off using them as when they could be hit after getting a PR that is when they are supposed to be used and I understand this.

I need to know for them to fit into a cycle is it ok to lower the TM to hit a couple of them to get some additional volume and still hitting some new maxes

[quote]bigtony200 wrote:
reason why jim said tht is because beginners were abusing it were they were overtraining and not getting results.

I have used jokers before on and off using them as when they could be hit after getting a PR that is when they are supposed to be used and I understand this.

I need to know for them to fit into a cycle is it ok to lower the TM to hit a couple of them to get some additional volume and still hitting some new maxes
[/quote]

Why wouldn’t it be ok? You say you’ve been training 14 years, you should have some idea of what to expect, right?

I see the benefit of week 6 jokers if you’re using 5’s pro. I also see the benefit in meet prep when you are not going for rep maxes and hit one or two singles. And if you’re using Beyond and every session is a choose-your-own adventure as you go. I wouldn’t make it a frequent part of most plans though, but that’s just one man’s opinion. If it makes sense for your training and goals, try it and evaluate after a six-week block.

want to hit some jokers and maybe if i felt good would so a variation like the program was written.

just did a cycle 3 weeks of ssl+ and fsl+ plus means as many reps as possible. this was a hard workout. 3 weeks was enough and i know this. i felt i made some good progress and now time to move onto something else. my main set is always what i work for to get a pr.

but you cant do the same shit for every week you have to change things around.

6 weeks would be brutal.

anyways your right i do know what to do.

thanks broski

[quote]bigtony200 wrote:
hi and thankyou for your response.

from what I understand from jim that can be used ever 6=12 weeks. it is not used all the time and I understand this. my question is if I can lower the TM to get a cycle of jokers sets in for 3-6 weeks. you don’t know my experience level so lets try to put forth information that is useful. jim didn’t just write the book so we couldn’t ask questions.[/quote]

There is no point to lowering the TM just to do Jokers - you’d be doing about the same amount of work.

What I do with others is follow the 5 forward/3 back. With this scheme, in GENERAL (how many times do I have to write that? Answer: EVERY TIME):

Cycle/Program

  1. Base program
  2. Base program
  3. Challenge program
  4. Challenge program
  5. Go Nuts

This is a very generalized overview but it’s pretty simple to follow. You have a base program, a “challenge” program (Forever BBB, BBS, something similar) that pushes the work a bit and then you back off and hit some major PR’s. I assume you are interested in planning your training for long term; well, here you go. I just planned out 15 weeks for you. Add in Prowler and some Air Dyne and you are 10000000% set.

The most common way I’ve run 5/3/1 is to not go for extra reps on the third set, but keep increasing weight “joker” style until I hit a max for the rep number of that week.