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Trouble Understanding 5/3/1/ Workouts


I’ve never been so confused about training till I started reading Jim Wendler’s Book. People seem to get great results with his stuff so I wanted to try it.

For some reason I simply can’t get my head around the workouts. I’m so lost. Even reading his templates for the week I have no idea what’s going on. Makes me super angry because I know it’s so simple!

Makes me want to just keep doing my own thing and hope I still make progress.

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Fake it till u make it.

Plug in the numbers and follow what’s written to the T without questioning. Eventually things will start making sense.

And meanwhile, read read read over and over and over again what’s written on the book(s).


Have the book open now as I type this. I’m so confused. I’m not even to the point where I could actually do the workout because I have no idea what goes where and when to do what :man_facepalming:

There are three parts to every workout: the main work, supplemental, and assistance work.

The main work can be done with either the 5/3/1 scheme or the 5’s PRO scheme. There are others but these are the two main ones. You can find the percentages and details in the book.

Supplemental work is done with the same lift as the main one or a different one (explained in the book). Every template has different supplemental work and explains reps, sets, and weight. Boring but big is an example of a supplemental template. FSL 5x5 is another example.

Assistance work can be done with basically any paradigm. He usually recommends 25-100 reps (divided between however many sets you want) of a push, pull, and core or leg exercise. You will find a list of exercises from each category in basically every book.

This defines the structure of a workout. Plug in the exercises and weights for each week and you have the program.

Still lost.

Is it really this complicated to put on mass? Can we not just eat a lot and move heavy things around?

Which part, in particular, are you lost on?

Yes you could.

But that wouldn’t be the same thing as training smart.

There are a million benefits to following 5/3/1 paradigm of progression. One of them being that it’s virtually guaranteed that you won’t stall before you have made considerable progress. If you just go in and wing it there are a whole host of possible complications. If you go in with the right TM and eat enough, you are guaranteed to make progress. Not so if you design your own program.

I really, really, enjoy and respect your posts/views on here, so I’m going to wait to reply to this till I have more specific questions and can articulate them in a way that will generate a better response than “did you even read the book?”


Just ask the questions =D

If you’re so lost then how do you expect to be able to have proper questions?

Is it the %?

Wel I have a 269 page book in front of me that supposedly has the answers :joy:

A lot of it comes from his super aggressive short hand templates he uses to show you the work week. Not being intimately familiar with all his super crazy jargon it intensifies the confusion.

Some of it is hard for my brain to wrap around because a lot of his work sets in my mind have always been warm up sets. The lower percentage reps and stuff leading up to a higher percentage reps is something I do every single day, but my mind calls them warm up sets.

Idk, it’s a lot to take in :joy:

Actually, I believe 5/3/1 Forever book assumes that you know the original 5/3/1 and have read and understood the program before.

I just double-checked this by reading the inroduction.

Yea I’ve got to order another book. Although this book does cover the original 5/3/1 in the first part of the book.

Na; I’d suggest you go read Wendler’s articles on T-Nation. They explain most things except his 5/3/1 Beyond programs I think

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I literally made sense of the program (minus the supplemental work) way before reading any of his books, by just reading his article “5/3/1: how to build pure strength” here on t nation. I’m convinced that article has anything you need to get you started (especially if you also have Forever).


Well I can back a car!

Haha just messing with you, I’ll check the article out. I normally catch on to everything and am a extremely quick learner blah blah… part of why this is so frustrating to me.

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If you can say 1 thing you are not understanding, it will help.

This is sorta like trying to learn a new language. If you just open a foreign book and try to read it, you will get overwhelmed and give up. But if you translate it word for word, you will get there.

But, that’s how I learned English! Lol

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I can only imagine trying to learn English using 5/3/1 Forever.


I did better–I learned English by looking up information about Pokémon when I was 13 lol


If it’s just the sets and reps that are confusing you, do a quick Google search for 5/3/1 calculator. The first result the comes up will give you full sets and reps for a massive amount of different 5/3/1 options. Jim doesn’t endorse it but I Don’t see that as a major drawback.

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