T Nation

Lessons in 5/3/1


#1

I’ve been using 5/3/1 and its Wendler approved variations for several years now and have been very happy with the results. Below is a list of Best Practices I’ve developed over the years and I’d be very interested to hear what habits other, highly experienced 5/3/1ers have developed. Although it should go without saying, I’ll say it anyway: Where anything I say below differs from what Jim teaches or writes, Jim is right and I am wrong. With that said, I think Jim would find this mostly (and hopefully entirely) a validation of his teaching principles…

-I Train 4 days per week and limit myself to a maximum of 5 exercises per Training session. On squat/DL days this number tends toward 4. This forces me to choose the most efficient, bang for your buck assistance work and prevents me from wasting too much time in the gym.
-I generally follow a 5 forward, 3 back programming scheme. I think this is one more back than Jim recommends, but it doesn’t hurt me. The TM doesn’t matter nearly as much as most people think.
-I have found over time that I get the best results from 5 working sets. When my TM is low, or recently reset, I will usually accomplish the additional 2 work sets with Jokers. I do not skimp on the PR set. When I’m working medium I’ll often do one Joker, one FSL. As I near the edges of my capabilities I’ll usually pyramid up and then back down.
-Jokers build confidence.
-I generally get the best results when I’m able to exceed the minimum reps by 4-5 (roughly 10, 8, 5, respectively) or MORE.
-I rarely test my 1RM, maybe once per year, and instead measure progress by rep records at a given weight. I keep a log of these records.
-Although I use them sparingly, I’m not afraid of the occasional I’m Not Doing Jack Shit Training session.
-I put a premium on good food and especially on good sleep. My Training performance suffers noticeably when I don’t get enough sleep.
-One gram protein per pound of bodyweight per day is enough to build muscle and get stronger. Not saying you can’t get more, but if you do it should come from quality food rather than more protein shakes.
-I typically deload every 4th week. I understand Jim has shifted to a 6 week Training cycle, which makes sense for many people, but at 42 I don’t recover like I did when I was 22 and find deloading every 4th week keeps me fresher, both mentally and physically.
-My Go To supplements are Plazma, fish oil, creatine and protein, in that order.
-Active Recovery is better than Couch Potato Recovery.
-You’ll have good, bad and okay Training sessions. It’s a roller coaster. Consistent, dedicated Training over a period of years, rather than months, should be your mindset.