So I tried 5/3/1 last year. I didn’t try it for a cycle or a few weeks, or even a few months. I did 5/3/1 for the whole year of 2016. This is pretty impressive since my attention span sucks and I have never stuck to any program for longer than 12 weeks. Not only did 5/3/1 help me get stronger, it also helped me develop some personal discipline. I think 5/3/1 is probably the best program out there. It’s easy to follow, it’s simple, and it makes you stronger, both physically and mentally.
I love that programming 5/3/1 is so easy. I don’t have to worry about anything complicated. I setup an excel spreadsheet using the instructions in the book, and I haven’t had to do anything else. I just add 5 or 10 pounds every month, and or knock off a few pounds when it’s time to take a step or two back. That’s it. It’s too easy.
I also really love how I could make 5/3/1 work, regardless of any of the shit life threw at me. For much of the year I liked using the Boring But Big or Triumvirate templates. However, there were weeks where my basement flooded, my wife went out of town for work, or my kids brought home head lice from school three weeks in a row. With 5/3/1, I could always fall back on the I Ain’t Doing Jack Shit template. When life got really busy, I just went into the gym, did my Agile 8s and my main lift, and went back to the shit storm I was dealing with at home. This by no means 5/3/1 was easy to do those weeks, but rather, the Jack template helped me develop the mental toughness to get to the gym and do the work, even if my world was falling apart. On any other program I would probably have missed the week, ruined my progress, and have had to either start over or just quit and find a new program. Not 5/3/1.
I also like that 5/3/1 auto-regulates and keeps you in check. There were times throughout the year that I got stupid and thought I knew more than Jim, and I would try to tweak the program. Every time I did this it would catch up to me, and I would be humbled back into doing the program the right way. There were times I didn’t want to progress slowly; I wanted to make big jumps and bumped my training maxes to what I wanted them to be. I quickly learned that I can put whatever number I want down on paper, but my +set is going to tell the hard truth every day of the week. I made mistakes, I learned from some of them, and hopefully in the next year I will do a better job of sticking to the book and be rewarded with better gains for it.
So I ran the basic 5/3/1 from the original edition book. That means I ran a 3 week cycle and then deloaded. At some point through the year I found out about the Beyond book, and I picked that up. However, the original 5/3/1 was still working for me, and I tend to mess things up if I get too many options. I can guess that I might have made better gains if I had swapped to the Beyond structure of 2 cycles before a deload, but I did well enough this year that I’m not going to second guess it. I’ll make the change in 2017 and see how that works for me.
I guess it wouldn’t be a testimonial if I didn’t include my numbers. It’s odd, but I really don’t care about the numbers. All of my lifts have gone up, and I know I’m stronger. I know 5/3/1 works, and I know I’ll keep getting stronger using the program. The numbers just represent where I am now compared to last year, but I’m really just looking forward at this point.
Squat- 280x1 to 375x1, 245x3 to 245x20
Press- 160x1 to 220x1, 145x3 to 190x3
Bench- 275x1 to 315x1, 225x5 to 225x12
Deadlift- 300x1 to 465x1, 240x7 to 360x7
Body weight- 277 to 299
Body fat %- 33.7% to 26%
Age: 34/35 Height: 6’5”
So, if you noticed, yes, it’s sad that I started this program with my squat and bench at pretty much the same weight. I used to be that guy we all love to make fun of who did a bunch of bench presses and curls and then skipped leg day every week. 5/3/1 has helped me not be such an idiot, and I’m working on fixing myself.
If anyone is reading this thinking 5/3/1 might suck because my bench only went up 40 lbs this year, don’t worry about that. Because I had spent years doing bench while skipping everything else (rows included), I had some issues to work on. I spent a lot of time this year trying to get my row strength somewhat in line with my bench press. Plus, I had been benching with bad form, and my shoulders were kind of messed up. So, I backed off my bench down to 185, learned how to bench correctly, and then worked my way back up.
This is getting long enough, so I’ll end it here. 5/3/1 is a great program that just plain works. I’m very grateful to Jim for designing the program and continuing to improve it. I’m also grateful that I was able to give 5/3/1 a try and stick with it for the whole year. I’m definitely changed from doing 5/3/1 for a year, and it’s not just a matter of lifting more weight. I’m just a better person, I’m more disciplined, and I’m mentally tougher.
Thanks, and have a great 2017.