T Nation

Bodybuilding with 5/3/1 for the Big Lifts


Everyone agrees that 5/3/1 is is a very well thought-out system. Most would probably agree that with the right assistance work, it has the potential to work well for those of us with bodybuilding (powerbuilding) goals.

But quite a few have commented that the Wendler-recommended bodybuilding templates are less than optimal, and some of the smartest guys on the forum (e.g. C_C in particular) have set out (scattered in various threads) some better ways to set things up.

I'm starting this string in the hopes that it can be a kind of central collection point for sensible, effective ways to set up 5/3/1 for bodybuilders.

To kick things off, here is Wendler's template as set out in his latest interview with T-Nation:

Day 1: Shoulders and Biceps
Standing Military Press â?? 5/3/1
DB Military Press â?? 4 x12
Side Laterals/Rear Laterals â?? 4 x12
Barbell Curls â?? 4 x12
Preacher Curls â?? 4 x10

Day 2: Back
Deadlift â?? 5/3/1
Bent Over Rows â?? 4 x12
Chin ups â?? 4 x10 (or do Lat Pulldowns)
Good Mornings â?? 4 x10
Hanging Leg Raises â?? 4 x12

Day 3: Chest and Triceps
Bench Press â?? 5/3/1
Weighted Dips â?? 4 x10
DB Flyes â?? 4 x12
Triceps Pushdowns â?? 5 x 20
Push ups â?? 4 sets to failure

Day 4: Legs and Abs
Squat â?? 5/3/1
Leg Press â?? 5 x 15
Leg Curls â?? 5 x 15
Leg Extensions â?? 4 x12
Ab Wheel â?? 4 x12


Dude, some of us don't even know what that is. In fact, I would venture that the biggest guys you see probably don't know what that is in majority unless they are personal trainers.

My goal in the gym isn't to follow a template. It is to work the muscles efficiently to reach my own goals.

If it works for you, cool, but why try to make it fit if it doesn't?


Do each big lift as programmed and pick TWO of the accessory lifts that you posted for each lift, and hammer them out.

Try and fit all four days into one seven-day week.

Gains on your big lifts are what you should be worrying about...if you get stronger on them overtime, your accessory lifts will also increase and you will get bigger.


Getting stronger for more reps. While having a respectable amount of volume for every bodypart and remaining injury free. I do believe that's the goal for whatever template you are following, as long as you have these, you're golden.

With what you were doing before you were not getting stronger and bigger ? Why the sudden need of change ?




5/3/1 works great because it is simple.....if you look on the logs at EliteFTS...there are lots of BIG, STRONG, muscular guys doing the program.... because it works.

It is designed to be flexible and long term.....however you want to tailor it to your personal needs is totally up to you.

It was one of the top selling e-books on Amazon for a reason.


I do believe the point being made is that the power is NOT in what "template" you use. The power is in working the target muscle groups efficiently and it being "top selling" doesn't mean anything.

If these guys don't know WHY they are doing what they are, then they can hold themselves back much more than they progress.


I would echo what Professor X is saying here, but furthermore people only agree that 5/3/1 is a good setup because it's extremely simple and common. Wendler does not own the concept of essentially training "squat, bench, deadlift, military". I mean, a great majority of bodybuilders use some variation of that template just because it's a logical way to split things up (eg: legs, push, pull, shoulders has been a traditional bodybuilding routine for decades)

If you have to start making all these alterations and changes to a program that's already very simple, you aren't doing the program anymore. And that is FINE.

There is nothing revolutionary about this. As Professor X said, if you like the "5/3/1" percentages and reps, if you like the template, that's great... but don't try to make something fit into that just for the sake of it.


there are 3 weeks before overload

1 week with 3x5
2 week with 3x3
3 week with 5/3/1
4 week overload...

Wendler said that in each week, in last set we CAN do as many reps as possible... so it CAN hit muscles HARD and with POWER and out of any template rules.

5/3/1 is one of the simplest way of progression in strength, so it is easier to follow for any newbie, than doing things that he don't understand and that are mainly based on experience in the gym...

and Dave Tate isn't small dude (btw one of the authors of BBers assistance work for 5/3/1), Wendler isn't small dude, and C_C and MODOK also know their shit...

E: and I also have nice gains in this way...


This is what I was getting at....yet thinking outside of the box is clearly a skill lacking here and they see anything not praising it as an attack.

That is how fan boys think....and they will always make the least progress as a result.


The oracle have spoken!...


So, once again, why would someone

unless TWO was all they needed?

What if they need THREE?

What if they need ONE?

Who made sure everyone needs TWO?


edit: just saw this^^^^^

it's from the bodybuilding bible:
"> 2 to 4 exercises per muscle group, including both compound and isolation exercises. Large muscles usually get 2 compound and 1 or 2 isolation exercises and small ones usually get 1 or 2 compound exercises and 1 or 2 isolation exercises."

Just a suggestion based on my own experiences...he wanted advice and I offered it to him. Chances are, he'll try it out and add more or less based on how he feels...a jumping-off point, nothing more nothing less.


I get what you're saying. But what if some people just LIKE doing 5/3/1 or any other program?


Which ones? Don't you see the significance in making sure he understands that instead of acting like the Template is all that is important?

I don't recommend dumbell flyes...because I feel they are a subpar movement and can not load the target muscle group effectively. I would only do them at the end of a workout or as a warmup to get more blood in the area.

THAT is why, not because of a TEMPLATE.

Uh, yes because this is what most bodybuilders do for legs.

This is now wrong?

Since when?

Ok, cool. What are your stats?


Then they aren't bodybuilding. This is about the results made, not what template you subscribe to like a brand of jeans.

If you are doing shit just because you enjoy doing it regardless of the outcome, you just may be in the wrong forum.

Likewise, if you are doing shit and don't know why, don't expect to learn your own body and what it needs to grow optimally.


I like the template because it gives me results....it has increased my muscular bodyweight...it has made me stronger and better conditioned. Is that not bodybuilding??

Christ it's like if somebody has a different idea than training 1 bodypart a day 6 days a week then they are crazy.

Again, it's bodybuilding if it builds your body. Just because it's not your particular brand of Vodka does not mean it does not produce excellent results.

It's still a 4 or 5 day split....this is not some total body training system.


I've been doing "5/3/1" with good results (IMO) for the last 6 months. I like it because of the rep ranges, target loads and simplicity. The ONLY thing I really follow are the main lifts and how to progress with them.

As for accessory work, I do what I like, and it depends on the day. I always make sure to get the main lift in, but if I am feeling great, I will do 4 maybe 5. ..could be even 6 accessory lifts. Other days it could be 1, or none. I switch them up every 5-6 weeks or so to keep myself interested.

This is the only way that I have found that I can train and stay completely involved, due to the results I am seeing and the way I feel after a workout. I write down my numbers, but never walk into the gym saying, I NEED to get "x" lifts in today. I have a general idea, and if it happens, great. If not, I don't give a shit.

I don't follow any program 100%. I take what I need from what I have learned and make it fit my schedule/body. Unless you are a complete beginner, this is what everyone should do.


If 5/3/1 is so easy and everybody makes gains off of it, then why is it so hard for others to come up with a plan? I think most over-complicate things and get paralysis by analysis.




Answer that question first before we move on.

Trying to get people to know WHY they are doing what they are is causing some of you to take offense?


Why so weak minded?

Who insulted your program?

If the answer is "no one" then what is your problem?