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Wendler 5/3/1 and War Room Strategies?


I am undertaking a body transformation program. My body fat is currently estimated to be in the mid/upper 20’s to low 30’s (7 pt skin fold caliper puts me at ~23%, but I think user error may be responsible for this reading).

I am taking a slow/steady approach. My first step was to modify my nutrition (I have JB’s Precision Nutrition plan). I also began an exercise routine. At first, I was more or less drifting (i.e., no real plan other than following the super hero program you authored, but doing it with no real concept of proper intensity)–this lasted about a month.

A friend of mine told me about Wendler’s 5/3/1 program (I bought the e-book) which I absolutely enjoy. I am currently half way through cycle two (or 2.5 months since I started my body transformation journey).

I am still setting personal records every workout which is extremely motivating (beginner gains, but still nice). I have since learned a little more about programming and strength training. I have lost about 15 lbs of scale weight in the process (not sure how much lean body mass I may have gained).

Current 5/3/1 (with Boring but Big assistance work) Schedule:

Monday: Squat
Tuesday: Bench

Thursday: Deadlift
Friday/Saturday: Military (the day depends on my schedule)


Having read your Destroying Fat: War Room Strategies for Maximizing Fat Loss article ( http://www.tmuscle.com/readArticle.do?id=1499282 ), I’d like to try a more multifaceted approach while still keeping 5/3/1 as a foundation.

My thought is to switch to one of the two day a week templates that Wendler outlines in his book. I would begin with something like:

Day 1: 5/3/1 Squat/Bench - Assistance work for each (e.g., 5x10 squat & 5x10 Bench both @ 40-60%)
Day 2:
Day 3:
Day 4: 5/3/1 Deadlift/Military - Assistance work for each
Day 5:
Day 6: Lactate-inducing lifting
Day 7:

As I begin to stall, I would add lactate-induced lifting once a week, then twice a week. I would then follow the same progression when it came to adding steady state (i.e. add once a week, then twice a week as stall). I would then add sprints last.

Day 1: 5/3/1 Squat/Bench - Assistance work for each (e.g., 5x10 squat & 5x10 Bench both @ 40-60%)
Day 2: Lactate-inducing lifting + 20-30 mins steady state cardio
Day 3:
Day 4: 5/3/1 Deadlift/Military - Assistance work for each (1 PM) + sprints (6-7 PM)
Day 5:
Day 6: Lactate-inducing lifting + 20-30 mins steady state cardio
Day 7:

Do you think this approach is correct or too conservative? My goal is to leave a little in tank for when/if I stall. The difficulty for me lies in making sure I balance this well.

I am a little concerned with the amount of assistance work outlined above. Do you think it may be too much when factoring in the lactate induced training?

How would you incorporate 5/3/1 into the strategies outlined in your Destroying Fat article or would you?

The lactate induced workout looks like this:

Circuit 1
3 times nonstop never letting go of barbell
each exercise 13-15 reps (weight tbd)
Hang Clean
Barbell Row
Back Squat
Shoulder Press
Good Morning

Rest 120 sec

Circuit 2
3 times nonstop
Reverse Lunge - Bodyweight X 9 reps per leg
Pushups - 17 reps
Romanian Deadlift - 85lbs X 17 reps
Forward Lunge - Bodyweight X 9 reps per leg
Reverse Grip Barbell Row 85lbs X 17 reps

How does this look? Any suggestions?

I appreciate any feedback you may have.


I’m not CT nor experienced with 5/3/1 but I will give my input.

I think a good starting point would be:

Day 1: 5/3/1 Squat/Bench - Assistance work for each (e.g., 5x10 squat & 5x10 Bench both @ 40-60%)
Day 2: Lactate-inducing lifting + 20 mins steady state cardio
Day 3:
Day 4: 5/3/1 Deadlift/Military - Assistance work for each
Day 5:
Day 6: Lactate-inducing lifting + 20 mins steady state cardio
Day 7:

From here you have a few progressions for when fat loss stalls.

  1. Increase steady state cardio to 30 mins on lactate days
  2. Add sprints in evening of Day 4
  3. Add Circuit C to lacate days

Your circuits look good. I’m curious as to what Day 1 and Day 4 look like in detail.

Precision Nutrition is good. I also recommend you check out this article by CT if you haven’t already.

Hey AC,

Thanks for the input. It looks like maybe my initial plan was a bit on the conservative side.

For days 1 & 4 (i.e. heavy days), let’s assume it is week one of a 531 cycle (i.e. 5 rep week).

Day 1
5 reps @ 65% 1RM
5 reps @ 75% 1RM
5+ reps @ 85% 1RM - On this set you go all out (i.e. 1 to 1.5 reps before failure).

Squat 5 x 10 @ 40%-60% of 1RM
Leg Curl

Same progression as above

Bench 5 x 10 @ 40%-60% of 1RM
DB Rows 5 x 10


Day 4

Same progression

Dead 5 x 10 @ 40%-60% of 1RM
Good morning 5 x 10

M Press:
Same progression

M Press 5 x 10 @ 40%-60% of 1RM
Chins 5 x 10

Heavy day workouts look like they will take between 90 and 120 mins depending if I have to wait for someone to finish curling my commercial gym’s only power rack.

I am still concerned about volume and recovery for lactate training. In rereading my original post, I can see that I did not provide enough information for any one to really chime in on.

Thanks again for taking the time to respond

I think at your level 90 - 120 minutes is too long. Granted it will take longer if you have to wait for the power rack but I think from the time you start your first work set to the end of you last work set should be not much longer than 60 minutes.

Is part of 5/3/1 to do the main exercise at 5x10 as an assistance exercise?

The 5x10’s are assistance excercises; meaning they are subordinate to the main heavy lifts. The purpose of the assistance work, as I understand it, is to support and facilitate gains on the heavy lifts (i.e. more volume, weak point training, etc). Assistance work should not detract from the main lifts. Wendler has a number of suggestions for assistance work. The one example I provided is taken from one of his more popular routines.

Assuming my time estimate is correct, I tend to agree with you on the length of the workout–particularly if its winds up closer to 120 mins. I have thought about splitting it between a lunch session and an evening session (after work). Lately, I have been able to fit my workout in during my lunch hour (I am fortunate in having a gym about 7 mins away from my office), but this has been doing one major lift and assistance work. I do feel pretty good when I am done. There always seems to gas left in the tank. Doubling it and keeping it within an hour is not going to be doable without cutting down on (or cutting out) the assistance work.

What are your thoughts on splitting it up?

Thanks again for your time and help. I definitely want to be smart about this.

Yes, I would split it into 2 sessions. One at lunch and one after work.


I have done, and am currently doing the 5/3/1. Love it. I too was thinking of a way to combine the twice a week program with CT’s “Warroom” article.

In my opinion, if you are eating enough protein, have a peri-workout shake and stretch (alot!), the BBB assistance template combined with the twice a week+ complexes would not be that hard to maintain for some time. The BBB template also is killer (for conditioning) if you cut down the rest periods.

Remember, as Jim said, the assistance movements are just that, assistance. If you need to, you could probably cut out a few sets of the 5x10 as you go into weeks 2 and 3 as well as lower the weight on the complexes (or completely remove them) during the deload weeks.

While I have not implemented lactate inducing training with 5/3/1 as you have outlined, I have trained heavy while doing barbell complexes on off days and have run into some wrist pain issues. Just a thought for you to consider.

Finally, if you are trying to increase your strength and shed fat, I would personally take the 4 day 5/3/1 template as far as it will take you. For the extra fat loss, I’d sprint hills once or twice a week. Jim also said in another thread on this site that he has a friend who simply did the 4 day template (with assistance work) and skipped rope in between each set and saw marked improvement in his body composition. I hope my disjointed post has helped or at least given you some more ideas to play with.

Thanks AC & Therizza…I appreciate the helpful comments. Skipping rope between sets sounds like a good idea. I know what you mean about BBB template and short rest periods. I carry a stop watch with me and been doing the BBB assistance work with 60 secs rest between sets. Squats and deads gas me pretty good.

I just finished week 3 of my 2nd cycle…still setting PRs with each workout.

Next week is my deload week. I really dislike deload week–it is my least favorite part of the program simply because I don’t feel satisfied after deload workouts. However, I understand that deloading is important. I have thought about deloading every other cycle (i.e. every 8th week), but I am progressing, so I will stick with the program as Jim laid out until I have a little more experience.

I am going to use the deload week to try out the lactate induced training and get a good feel for the timing. It will also give me an opportunity to see how my joints hold up–I wouldnt want any wrist/knee/shoulder issues that would interfere with my heavy lifting.

Keep us posted. I’m skipping this deload week myself and going right into my next cycle.