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5/3/1 Training


Hey guys
I've been doing 5/3/1 for about 2 months and I feel like the weights I'm using are a bit too low. For example I'm doing 10 - 15 reps in my last set in every lift. I seem to be progressing fast in my lifts and added about 5 lbs to my own weight. I was wondering what would be the best course of action in adding more weights between cycles then prescribed in the program manual or should I stick with what I started with?

All advice appreciated :slightly_smiling:


I think Wendler just says to stick it out with the lighter weights. "You'll never get weaker from doing this [starting light]!!!" is the quote, I believe. From his FAQ of 5/3/1. You could always just retest your maxes and see what you've gained too.


Dude, I am on month 5 and thought the exact same thing. The cool thing is that after 5 months of those "easy weights" I just got a 60# PR on my deadlift. I have moved the lower body movements 10 per month and the upper body ones 5 then 10 then 5 and so on. So far I have never seen a program that helps me add weight to the bar like this. 5x5 is the only thing that came close back when I could only squat 135... but I think anything works at that point. Just my $0.02


I would re-test your max if you're getting 10-15 reps. I feel like conditioning becomes the limiting factor there and not strength, which seems to defeat the purpose.

also, I feel like the 1's week has more value in the program when you're repping in the 3-5 rep range, maybe 6-7 reps tops just because you're forced to strain a bit. 1's week should definitely feel heavy. I know the program is built on the premise of getting stronger by training at a max of 85% of your 1RM (95% of 90% of your 1RM), but for someone inexperienced, straining under a 1RM attempt is a much different endeavor than repping at 85% of your 1RM.

just my .02


It is supposed to be light. Carry on with the program, don't change a damn thing.


1 of two things.

You miscalculated your 1RM or you are impatient.

If you feel it's too light, just concentrate on form. The number one mistake of people adding too much weight too fast, is sacrificing form. For the squat, as the weight gets heavier, well, they are not 'ass to the grass" anymore.

Take this time to really get the form right. Parallel and/or below, stop on the chest, do an OHP, not a push press, etc.



Thanks guys for your help. I think I'll stick with the program as it is at least for the time being and if necessary add to the assistance work on the same muscle groups. Feel free to blow it out of the water if it doesn't make sense to you guys :slightly_smiling:


Don't waste a week testing your maxes. Believe it or not, your max is probably much closer to the 1RM that your work weight calculations are based off of than what the 5/3/1 e-book 1RM max prediction formula says. This is because the immensely high reps that you're working with skew the formula.

As an example, in cycle 4 for deadlift, I got 14x185, 12x195, and 13x205 for weeks 1, 2, and 3, respectively. The 1RM prediction formula in the 5/3/1 e-book estimated my deadlift 1RM at 290. The weights I was using at the time were calculated off of a 1RM of 240. When I tested my 1RM the week after cycle 4's deload, it was 250 - exactly what the calculations would have been based off of for cycle 5 anyways had I just did +10 like Wendler says to do.

Don't let the high reps fool you. Once you start putting weight on that bar, 15 clean reps vanish into 1 messy one a lot quicker than you'd like to think.

I want to say something like 'keep at it', or 'don't look back' but I don't feel like I have the authority to. So I'll just say, 'This program has been making me stronger than I thought possible for the past 23 weeks despite the high-rep PRs that I've been pulling'.


Stick with it. The numbers catch up to you very quick.


Agreed. 5/3/1 I find quickly turns from 13/10/6 to 5/3/1, especially if you are putting 10# on the bigger and 5# on the smaller lifts a month.

But... IMO, if you're nailing it to the wall every week, and you're new to lifting, maybe a 5x5 that calls for a 5-10# increase every session would be more in order, so that you can milk those gains like crazy and once that slows, move to the 5/3/1 which isn't a true beginners program. I think.


Thanks for the reply's. I think I'll stick with this for a while and see where it takes me. Wendler probably knows a itsy bitsy more about this then I do :-). My impatience is definitely a big part of this post.
I'm not a total beginner to training in general and I have trained sports at a competitive level but that was many years back :-). But the difference now is that I'm taking a well planned approach to my strength training and making huge changes to my diet. So hopefully it will return some good results.

About this forum. I've done a lot of research and this forum is by far the best one I've come across. A lot of info and you get quick responses to your questions and thoughts which is so important to us beginners. Great job guys :slight_smile:


I had read the FAQ, and some of peoples' complaints that at first, it feels light, so I was not surprised that my first "fives" day seemed too easy to make any gains.

Finishing my fourth month, I struggled to hit doubles on singles week. Stick with it; the tough stuff arrives quite quickly.

At this stage, I'm torn between re-testing this weekend or toughing it out until on singles week I can ONLY hit singles, and bumping back to 90% of that. Opinions?


Re-read the FAQ'S

The answers are there.

Eat more also.


Look, obviously if you're making gains there's no reason to complain, but if you get to the point where you're doing 15 reps on your three rep day, you need to increase the weight.

The problem with programs like 5/3/1 that only increase the weight every month is that is doesn't accommodate for newbie gains (which isn't a criticism of the program, since it's not meant for newbies.)

I've been on 5/3/1 for about 7 months now, and I've run into that problem quite a few times. Sometimes you find something in your technique that really just clicks and you blow your PR out of the water. For example, I did 335x13 on my 3 rep week in the deadlift and 240x8 on my 1 rep week on the bench. At that point, I'm not training in the rep ranges that I want. It's okay to increase the weight, but don't increase it to the degree that you're only getting 5 on your 5 week, 3 on your 3 week, etc.

TL;DR: Modify the weight with caution. In my experience, don't artificially inflate your training max to a weight that does not allow to to perform at 8-10 reps on your 5 week, 6-8 reps on your 3 week, or 3-5 reps on your 1 week (preferring the high said of all of those rep ranges.)

Just my $0.02


IMO, 5/3/1 is better for intermediates than beginners. Beginners can progress more quickly than intermediates... once you hit a certain strength level that requires non-linear progression, 5/3/1 makes more sense.

In your case I would eat big and add 5lbs to the bar each week until you can't hit your desired total reps (whether its 5x5 and 25 total reps, 8x3 and 24 reps, or whatever), then you stick with that weight till you hit your total, then up it 5 more lbs.

But either way you will progress... plenty of ways to skin a cat.