T Nation

Royal Marines and 5/3/1


Hey Jim I am looking at rocking out a two day a week wendler program with four days of running. I am going to be consuming everything I see that is edible and want a program that will give me the most bang for my buck and will let me get stronger while also taking into consideration the fatigue that I will accumulate from 6-10 mile runs 4 days a week.

I don't want to create a frankenstein two day program and tell people I am doing a wendler variation and sully 5/3/1's well earned reputation.

I know quite a few people on the potential royal marines forum I just joined are asking each other for guidance on a wendler program, no one really seems to know how to customise the program for the specific demands of military bootcamp.


Obviously not Jim however I know a lot of people follow 5/3/1 who are in the RM.

How far along in the process are you? And why only 2 days per week? Is that all you can access the gym? If so fair enough. There's no need to run 6-10 miles, 4x per week to prepare for RT though. Keep in mind, you will rarely run these distances in RT and if you do it'll be weighted or at a slow, conversation pace. In the gym, it's sprinting everywhere and camp circuits up to 800m multiple times. In BFPT it's even shorter distances - 100m mostly and it's weighted. You'd get a lot more out of doing the standard 5/3/1 template, sprinting (lots of hills) and having a single tempo run per week but that's a different topic altogether I suppose.

When I was preparing for RT I followed 5/3/1 with BBB template but kept rest at a minimum on the BBB sets - roughly 1 minute. This worked really well on the squats as you can get a lot done in a short time period. Leg strength is absolutely crucial for RT, as is developing a physically robust body - something which excessive running can not provide. If you followed 4x per week programming, you could stick running on your off days from lifting, so long as the squats/deadlifts didn't interfere with it, and vice versa. Also, instead of BBB you could do a bodyweight assistance work program, including high rep press ups, abs work and pull ups. Add in an extra sprint session on a lifting day, plus some swimming after your lifting as a form of active recovery and you'd have quite a solid pre RT program.

I must stress though, I can only speak from my experience - when I was training for PRMC I kept strength work at the core of my training. High volume running really didn't come in to it. Short interval work - 100-200m, longer intervals from 400-1000m and then tempo runs ranging up to 10k were done too, but didn't get the arse kicked out of them. I was constantly doing pull ups and press ups at home to prepare for the gym tests too. What worked for me though, I appreciate might not work for everyone.

I know it's not the answer you were looking for, but if you want any advice on specific training for the tests leading to RT, or RT itself then shoot me a message. Training for PRMC will differ to training for RT slightly.


And sorry, just to add I read this...

"The main point is my upper back. It is pretty much none existent. I have zero muscle in the upper back that is noticeable. My rear shoulder is tiny and I can barely throw a ball half a soccer pitch because I lack any kind of explosive movement in either pulling or pushing movements.

I have not been back to jiujitsu in almost a year and I really want to go back but it feels like I will never learn and progress as long as people can just out strength me.

I am about 2 stone overweight at the moment and have not done any exercise in months, so I am looking at using the next 2 months to get into shape and I am determined to get back to training."

I re-iterate... Do not run up to 40 miles per week. Get that out of your head now. In your current state - I'd recommend putting off any physical tests for the RM and get your strength and physical robustness up to scratch. The running will come - by sprinting. If you lack athleticism, doing LSD type running will not help. If you lack strength - training twice a week in favour of doing more running, will not help. You will be carrying significant loads later in RT and doing PT piss wrapped in mud and water with all your assault order, carrying your oppos - some of whom will weight up to 100kg's + all their piss wrapped kit. You need strength. Don't mean to come off harsh, but the better lads are all strong and physically robust. You may be required to carry a GPMG later in the training with all the link etc. You want to be one of the lads who can manage that weight and help those weaker than you out. You don't want to be the lad who needs help putting his bergen on his back.


That is interesting dude. I have had family members in the forces and they all seem to be dead set on the run as much as you can mentality. I remember my brother joined up when I was little and He wasn't in shape or strong, he just ran so much he was incredibly fit.

The marines get ready tool reccomends long runs too.


I can fully understand your scepticism..

I am indeed serving in the RM and you're well off with the requirements for just about everything. There is no speed marching with that weight for 10 miles, nor is the 30 miler done with 120lbs... It's no longer a run, more a bimble across paths.

Every Marine does not run miles - they used to, back when people thought running miles was a good idea. They run mostly because it's easier to take a troop for a run than it is to organise a circuit and get the kit. However, I have ran with my current troop all of once in about 2 weeks.

Running sprints and running hills will help you in RT. I'm not saying you can't do RT without being strong, I'm saying it will be easier to do certain tasks with a strong foundation. I'm also saying running slow miles will not help you. It won't. Running 10 miles with no kit in comfortable trainers, fully rested, in good conditions, fueled by your own nice, home nutrition, at your own pace is different to running with kit, fatigued, at the pace of PTI, trying to keep step with the mong in front of you who seems to have the stride of a gazelle with a stomach full of food provided by the galley. I do not think running miles has a good transfer. It's easy. Do 10 hill sprints with little rest. Stick a weighted vest on it... You'll see which is more challenging, physically and mentally. You'll also see which you can recover from quicker and which will help your strength goals.

You're free to train how you like, I'm just trying to offer insight into what helped me and what a lot of people who are trained ranks do. Don't get me wrong, pre RT you require a different type of fitness than what you do when you've passed out but largely, a solid foundation of strength is key.

I also spent a fair bit of time in Hunter Coy and the PTI's there actually know what they're doing and the phys is a lot different to what is recommended on the RM website. For instance I had a strength program, Crossfit was programmed and I did a lot of rowing intervals, spinning intervals, tabata etc.

They recommend a certain type of phys in the careers office and online because telling you to do weights becomes a liability for them. People can't balance their training properly and they start doing BB routines that someone in their gym gave them and focus all their time on the wrong sort of phys. Generally with weights is also an association with supplements, which they cannot be seen to condone, because young impressionable people will get the wrong idea. It's easier to recommend bodyweight phys and running, even if it is outdated and not optimal - because for most people it will work OK. But that's it - OK... Not great.

I'm trying to tell you to open your eyes to a better type of training which will give you optimal results for the time you invest into it. I can give you some decent advice, beyond the scope of this thread if you care to message me.

EDIT: I do think there is place for long runs though - just not 4 per week. 1 every 10 days or so with varying distances is more than enough. Focus more on sprint intervals and distances up to 5k for your regular running. Fast paced, balls out running. If you do 6-10 miles, use it as a recovery run at a very steady pace just to get used to the boredom of long distance more than anything. Well... I say recovery but I don't think there's anything in a 10 mile run that helps recovery - swimming would be a better idea as it's what most people neglect prior to training.


Sent you a PM mate :slight_smile:



I have some approved SFAS workouts and 16 week train-ups if you want a copy.


Sprints have a carry over to aerobic endurance... slow runs have no carry over to sprints. You will have a good reserve from hill repeats.

if you have to do a certain amount of reps say with push ups or pull ups those should be in your assistance work. I like the BBB template where you do a total number of reps for a cycle if you need to build some strength endurance.

speed work
bench alt with press 531 or 351
bench or press 5's progression
Push ups max reps
chins - rep goal
external rotations or band pull aparts

tuesday light tempo run/ mobility

wed Sprints/ hills/ conditioning

thu mobility

speed work
squat or pull 531
squat or pull BBB for 50 total reps
abs/hypers/ maybe some light bb curls

sat mobility, maybe some hiking to lessen soreness

sunday sprints


speed work
upper: Med ball throws from knees, standing using a lot of body english, shot put. actual shot put work, upper body plyos, light push jerks, light speed bench - choose what suits you best 20-30 total reps

clean variations, snatch variations, short sprints, box jumps, box squats, speed pulls, long jumps, light jump squats - 30 total reps


I have took the advice I have received from the forum and scrapped the 40 miles a week idea. I am going to do more sprint/tabata/interval training and do a wendler program.

I weigh too much to do lots of chins and press ups so I am going to do alot of upper back work on the press days to build upper back strength and muscle. After a few months worth of cycles i will do the wendler bodyweight template.

My wendler cycle as shown above is going to be done on Mon/Wed/Fri/Sun and on Tue/Thurs/Sat I will do Interval work on a treadmill with a 30 sec on 60 seconds off on a run/jog interval for 20 minutes.


Still think there's a lot of isolation and unnecessary work for someone in their beginning stages of lifting. Why not just try the BBB template?

Session 1:
Press 5/3/1
Press 5x10
Pull ups
Finisher: rowing or sprint intervals

Session 2:
Deadlift 5/3/1
Deadlift 5x10
Heavy ab work

Session 3:
Bench press 5/3/1
Bench press 5x10 (elbows tucked in, closer grip - similar to RM press ups)
Pull ups
Finisher: rowing or sprint intervals

Session 4:
Squat 5/3/1
Squat 5x10
Finisher: Hill sprints, treadmill 1.5 miler best effort (again, to simulate BFT, gym test, PJFT)

Sessions to be done at home for building your work capacity and improving gym tests:
1. 5 pull ups, 10 press ups, 15 BW squats - 10-20 times through focussing on good form
2. Tabata... press ups, pull ups, squats, sit ups (do tabata press up for full 4 minutes then move on to pull ups...) - maybe include a 400m run in between each body weight movement - this would be good for simulating what the gym sessions are like in training.
3. Timed sets - 2 minutes press ups - rest - 2 minutes sit ups - rest - pull ups until failure. Repeat or just use to test where you're at.

Just keep things simple. If you've more time, just go to the gym to lift and do the sprinting as a separate session as long as it doesn't hinder your recovery. Figure out what you need to improve THE MOST and prioritise this.


Because I can't do pull-ups. Thats why I am doing alot of upper back work to try and get stronger in the upper back so I can do another wendler template soon involving pull-ups.

I literally have the smallest upper back in the world and if I did BBB the best I could do is negatives instead of full pull-ups, which I doubt is as effective as doing negatives and then a bunch of rowing stuff to really work the back. I will be scranning lots of protein and with a month or two should be on my way to being able to do either the bodyweight only or BBB template and seeing great progress.


I see, well there's a lot of alternatives to pull ups that you can and probably should include which would give you a better return than the cable work although I get you need to build your back.

Have you tried body weight inverted rows, jumping pull ups (with slow negative), band assisted/machine assisted pull ups, TRX rows, ring rows, partner assisted pull ups? The negatives are a good idea. What about barbell rows? I know that BB rows are suggested for a few 5x5 and 3x5 strength programs.

Also, not that there's any issue with starting out using 5/3/1 but have you considered other programs aimed specifically for beginners? Maybe trying to get a hold of Starting Strength. You may see quicker gains doing the big lifts, more regularly as beginners can exploit the newbie effect for quite some time, making good progress using a linear approach.

I'd also recommend getting a pull up bar for your house and every time you walk past it, do a pull up... or 2, 3... etc. This will be great for adding in volume which will get your body used to pull ups. Lads still do that now in the grots as trained ranks. You should really be able to muster at least 1 pull up or there is something wrong and you should consider learning to handle your own body before complicating things with resistance. If you CAN do 1 pull up, like I said, do that every time you pass the bar. At the end of the day you might have hit 20-30 pull ups without even realising it. Try and beat the number every week, or every day. Try and hit 1 more pull up per set every week and you'll soon get there.

And to add: doing the cable rowing work won't necessarily build your upper back. If you're a beginner, actually activating the right muscles when rowing is harder than you think and you'll probably end up using arms, shoulders, leg drive etc. Doing things like seated rows, if done right, will be a good retraction exercise however it works only a small, small part of your back and is only really good for BB'ing or prehab/balancing out pressing. Lat pull downs are good for when you hit failure on pull ups however they do not really mimic a pull up, it's a different movement. You can not beat doing pull ups in all honesty. You'd be better to spend your time doing actual progressions for pull ups than isolation work. Just something I googled in 2 secs... http://www.fitness666.com/2012/06/pull-up-progression.html


Well I thought the way I outlined it was a good way to progress. I would be doing pull-ups but only negatives at the start, then dumbbell row, then lat pulldown and fonally cable row.

I guess instead of that I could do it like this

press 5/3/1

band assisted pull-ups - 5 max sets
Negative pullups - 20 total
Upright pullups - 3 max sets

By the way thanks for that link, I never even though of those kind of lateral bodied pull-ups they are a brilliant idea. I could do those on the smith machine.


No problem, that's exactly where I use them, on the smith. Yeah, the pull ups are key. What you suggested is in my opinion more on the right lines for training for the RM.

Powerlifters and weightlifters use assistance work to help bring up their main lifts - we can use the assistance work in a strength program to work on elements that will be tested in training - such as pull ups, press ups, sit ups, climbing ropes etc. When you pass out of training, then is the time to think about re-evaluating your goals and adding in different assistance to suit those goals.

If you want to work the vanity muscles, which there's nothing wrong with - try and allocate a separate session to it that doesn't interfere with the main work load. I am training with a strength bias right now, however I'll often add a cheeky BB'ing session in with isolation work just because it's a fun change of pace and it's what my mates do.


Doing this for a month to lose weight and get my body functioning properly.

Yes it is a pathetic level of intensity but I have to start somewhere.

Please no one add telling me to do something else. I need to just focus and start my work now. This will be my starting point. I will be keeping a log on here. Cheers for all the help guys. I will probably resurrect the thread once I am doi g around 15 dead hang pull-ups, 70 pressups and 100 sit-ups so I have a base of strength and flexibility to start a program with added weight.


Fair enough, 15 dead hangs may take a bit longer than 30 days though if you're starting from scratch my friend.


As suggested try the band assisted pull up, being a bit of a fat fuck myself I can only really do a couple, recently picked up a few myself to help me out, I know its not the completely the same thing but its helping in the time where I have a bit of a gap between my strength and fat fucker appetite for beer and life.


Holy shit did my first form of cardio about 20 minutes ago and I thought I was going to die. My sides were fucking ready to explode. I was doing 10km for 1 minute and then 13km for 30 seconds. I got to like round 4 or 5 and I couldn't keep pressing the up and down thing without almost falling over, i kept hitting it at 13 and couldn't get it to lower, dropped the iPhone and then just did a few sprints. May have to start doing the intervals on something like a stationary bike or rower, something I don't have to click while sprinting and trying to maintain balance.

1 day down 30 more to go.


-The routine you posted is not a Wendler Program. The assistance work is supposed to carry over to the main lift. You have zero pressing accessory movements, and too many pulling movements. More exercises =/= better or faster gains.

-Contrary to what you said, you have NO upper back work. Rows, chins, and LAT pulls are primarily LAT exercises. Face pulls, high rows, and band pull aparts used to strengthen the upper back.

-It may not even be in your best interest to do intervals. I don't know how large you are, but if you have difficulty doing pushups and basic conditioning, sprints may not be the safest (and definitely not necessary) way to get in shape. Steady state or other GPP will work just as well until you build a higher work capacity.

-Focus one goal at a time, you seem to be all over the place. I feel the best advice for is always simply "read more, post less."