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5/3/1 or Starting Strength for High School Boys?


Ok guys I need some expert advice. I have 2 high school boys (15,16yo) that are wanting to get stronger. Well actually they want to be swole and have 6 packs and bench press hotties at the beach (don’t we all tho)! They’re both student athletes, skinny but have muscle definition from playing multiple sports. I have a home gym (I’ll attach a picture) in which we will be training that has some pretty nice equipment but no cable machines or leg press etc… I really want to steer them towards the basic barbell lifts and help them become proficient in the movements, then stronger in the lifts. They have been in the gym lifting with teammates during offseasons which is why I’m thinking 5/3/1 instead of SS. I also have to be careful that I don’t force my own goals on them and overlook what will benefit them the most, which is why I’m asking for advice. Welcoming any advice.


SS can be done for a shorter amount of time, few months but 5/3/1 is a more long term program. Just do SS until they get bored then switch to 5/3/1 for longer term progression. If for any reason they can just get experience with both programs, usually people don’t go from 5/3/1 to SS. If they have a long lifting career they can at least add SS to the list of programs they tried and experience of how it worked for them.


Totally falling into the category of “internet smart guy writing something that sounds like a bastardization of what the program authors had in mind” but I think from a pure commonsense standpoint, a short run of the SS protocol with a relatively quick transition into a more sustainable 5/3/1 template is a good way to go about this. The early high-frequency of SS can get them primed and get a little weight on the bar; before they get into the vicious cycle of stall-deload-stall-deload-stall that seems to entrap SS-forever-beginners, shifting to the more sustainable and flexible 5/3/1 program seems like a good idea.

If/when I have boys that want to start lifting, I would/will probably have them run about 4 weeks of SS and then shift to Texas Method or a 5/3/1 template.

Also, your home gym is f’ing awesome.


Go to Jim’s website. He trains kids. A lot.

5/3/1 or his new program.


[quote=“mackison, post:1, topic:225889”]
overlook what will benefit them the most
skinny but have muscle definition[/quote]
They shouldn’t overlook food, along with whatever training plan. Do they know how to/are they allowed to cook for themselves? I’m a fan of having kids learn to boil eggs and cook stuff in a pan if they can.

Wendler did outline his approach to training kids with 5/3/1 here. Dan John (who has a ton of experience with high school athletes) has his Southwood Program that’s also a solid option. There’s really no “wrong” choice since all the programs teach the fundamentals, and any consistent well-designed program they do will be beneficial.

I do also always recommend younger lifters be able to run through this bodyweight plan before getting to weights.

If your kids are still in the off-season for everything, then any of the plans will be fine. If they’re in-season for a sport, 5/3/1 is more adaptable but Starting Strength would be more difficult to follow properly when doing a lot of practice/games.


Thanks @Chris_Colucci both of those were solid articles that I’d never read before. Food is very important and I stress that a lot to them, but getting them to eat to perform is a challenge itself. We are completing basketball season and will be moving straight into baseball (shit ton of games) so I think I’ll be following up on the 5/3/1 for kids that you posted. I know they’ll like “Viking Day” I’ll just need to see about getting a prowler.


Late to the party, but would like to weigh in. I have only read that training to failure is NG for trainees that are not done growing, so I would be cautious about failed reps if they stayed on SS for too long. I like the idea of SS to improve CNS quickly, but then switching to 5/3/1 when things start to get tough, before any failed reps.

But, I’m ignorant AF so just kicking out ideas to consider.


x2 -bullet proof strategy. Pretty much anything mentioned bar a prolonged run of SS


In addition to my original post and what others have said, the reason I don’t recommend 5/3/1 first is its based on training maxes of a 1RM or at least estimated 1RM. The program itself is super simple and even some of its variations don’t look too different than SS but they work best when you have spent time under the bar and your training max is a meaningful number, meaning newbie gains have trailed off and actually increasing your 1RM isn’t as easy as it used to be. The program doesn’t have much auto regulation and low weight increases so you want to have a good start going in otherwise you could be too far behind and be tempted to add more than the recommended weight and go against the principles of the program.


I also recommend logging in to Wendlers personal website. He has a lot of stuff about training kids.

Besides of that, I would say that SS for a month and then 5’s PRO + 5x5 FSL (a variation of 5/3/1) would be quite bulletproof plan to start with.


I dig the man cave! Plus I envy you bro…I have two teenage son but they don’t live with me. (long story). Charish what you have there. Good luck with your endeavors!!


@The_Myth better late than never man, thanks for showing up! We will not be training to failure intentionally, but you know young boys and ego…
@Aero51 quite unconventional, probably too advanced for these fellas. But hell I might try it myself!
@RampantBadger & @ActivitiesGuy solid advice guys, thanks!
@Rattus & @JFG I definitely will be logging in there, thanks for recommending.
@sufiandy you know that actually makes sense now that you pointed it out. We need to establish a solid foundation to build from first.
@isoldier thanks bud! It has been a work in progress for some time now but we enjoy it!


holy shit that’s one hell of a home gym


Go home, CHUMP


Oh no not you as well! Maybe I really am a chump after all… Maybe I’m not actually real! Jesus, that’s a sobering thought.


Thanks man! Bought most of it from Craigslist, built the deck myself, but I splurged on the rack from Rogue and a power bar from them. Recently picked up a SSB from Elitefts. I’m looking into a prowler and a reckable trap bar as next additions. I have a few strongman implements too- homemade yoke, big ass tire, drag sled.


I wouldn’t be scrimping on the rack either. That shit could save your life!

Looks pretty perfect to me, man; can’t really think of anything you’re missing. I mean obviously you could get like a GHR or something but you’ve definitely got all the essentials.


I’d say StartingStregth and take advantage of the linear progression then move over to 5/3/1.


Id suggest 5/3/1 based on what you said here… but it depends how productive those offseasons sessions have been.