No Spotter. 5/3/1 Without Bench?

I workout alone and it makes it damn near impossible to run 5/3/1 for bench press. Is there a way to run 5/3/1 as pull/push/legs and just use OH press? I know it’s not the way 5/3/1 is designed but can’t get a reliable lifting partner.

You absolutely don’t need a training partner to run 5/3/1. The weights are submaximal and you should leave a rep in the tank. If you want to test your max bench, sign up for a bench or powerlifting meet.

That said, there are templates without bench (eg beach body)


If you do 5/3/1 as written correctly the I don’t see the reason why you’d ever need a spotter.

Maybe during the AMRAP set? But it appears Wendler has moved away from them in favor of 5s based on his new book.

You can run it without a partner.

If your training max is correct then you will never reach failure in a normal set.

Even with a ARAP (a + set) , its only taken to technical failure (the point form begins to break down) so although your form might not look pretty, you still can rack the weight.

Technical failure is usually a rep or 2 short of actual failure. The most noticeable feature of reaching technical failure would be a reduction in bar speed, so once you notice your bar speed has gone down to a crawl, you are at technical failure and the set is over, you can still rack the bar, you could still do a couple of even slower more grunty looking reps before actual failure occurs. However you should stop at technical failure!!!

This was a set I did of 5/3/1 SVR II

No spotter OR safety bars. It’s possible.


I’ve been benching for nearly 12 years, never had a spotter, never had issues. If you can’t bench without a spotter, you have no business benching in the first place because you don’t know/control your body properly and don’t know your limits. I can literally put any amount of weight on the bar and know I’ll get the exact number of reps before the set based on how I feel.

Also, it’s not hard to bail out of a failed bench solo… SMH.

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He advises leaving a rep or two in the tank on the plus sets unless something has changed. Generally, he also suggests capping the plus sets as well. I have never seen him recommend going to failure.

He has moved away from the Joker sets because people are too stupid to handle them, iirc.

Quote from page 30 of the original 5,3,1 book. “The last set of the day is the all out set. You’ll be going for as many reps as possible. “

Wendler does say he’s reluctant to tell anyone to work to failure. So he means as many reps as possible without going to failure.

You expressed frustration at the term AMRAP but that is the terminology that was originally used.

Well this is a silly argument.


Do you have a squat rack with safety bars? If so, you can set them so the bar doesn’t touch them when your back is arched but will catch them if you flatten out, preventing any problems.

This is what I do when I don’t have a spotter (for a hard set) or at least someone in the room (all other times). I may seem paranoid, but my brother had a sudden triceps tendon rupture while benching and the bar dropped right onto his chest and started rolling down to his throat (he couldn’t control it with only one useful hand). He had a spotter though and so it wasn’t fatal. If he had been by himself it could have ended very badly.

If you don’t have a squat rack then how about floor presses (might depend on how big you are)? Pushups with a weight vest?

Don’t use collars. That way you can dump the bar in a couple of seconds

Roll of shame guy no worries


I don’t see them used all that often in the new book, but then again I didn’t read every single program in detail so more than likely I missed a couple.

I call them AMRAP sets because that’s pretty much what they are in the first article he wrote about 5/3/1 on this site. 5/3/1: How to Build Pure Strength

The final set of your core lift in each workout is the one that produces mass and strength, so give it everything you have, and get as many reps as you can with that weight.[/quote]

Sounds like an AMRAP set to me.

It seems clear that his thought on this changed over the years and now they’re “as many clean reps as possible with 1-2 reps left in the tank”, but I don’t know how to shorten that so I just continue to refer to them as AMRAP sets. AMCRAP maybe? But that sounds wrong.

Anyways, ya, I agree with mr.v3lv3t. This is a silly argument.