An Update on the 5-3-1 Weight Lifting Program

Our strength has gone up with the 5-3-1 program, and I’d recommend it for people who want to get stronger. My body doesn’t look much different, and the program doesn’t give me the same feeling of “vitality” as the P90X series or kettlebelling, but the charts don’t lie.

My wife and I have been doing the 5-3-1 weight lifting program from Jim Wendler for 11 months. We’ve committed to doing the 5-3-1 program as our primary workout routine for at least a year.

Emotional Impressions

I don’t feel strong. Other workouts like any of the P90/P90X series from Beach Body, kettlebells, or the Spartacus Workout have left me feeling stronger and more in shape. Maybe it’s the inclusion of cardio elements in these routines, perhaps it’s the explosive movements, but I feel better well after the workout is complete compared to the 5-3-1.

My range of motion has decreased dramatically. I’m in my early 40s. I sit in a chair most of the day. The 5-3-1 movements are very linear. Due to my age and a pre-existing injuries in my knee, groin, and shoulder, my technique is exceptionally important to me. These have all resulted in less mobility in my training, especially compared to the other workouts I’ve done in the past. While yoga and Pilates haven’t made me stronger like the 5-3-1 program, I felt less stiff and more dynamic.


On the other hand, my strength has gone up. I’m not proud of my overall numbers, but I am proud of the progress and our consistency. Here’s a chart showing where I started from, and where I am now:

Exercise Start Current Change
Military press 76 120 +58%
Squat 169 240 +42%
Dead lift 187 288 +54%
Bench press 140 185 +32%

What’s Next

For us, 5-3-1 has been a “slow and steady” program that has generated results. It’s been humbling in many ways — I doubt I’ll ever get close to what I was squatting in my 20s — but at this point any increase is better than what I was doing the day before.

It’s also been interesting to see where I’m struggling vs consistently improving. Even with the up-down cycle of 5-3-1, my deadlifts keep going up and up. The bench press, which has always been a problem lift for me, goes up and down way more dramatically.

We’ve got just under two months left of 5-3-1. At that point we’ll decide what to do next, but if I had to choose today I would take a 3 month mobility / explosive training break and then go back to 5-3-1.

What’s your experience been with 5-3-1?

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.
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2 Comments on "An Update on the 5-3-1 Weight Lifting Program"

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  1. Richard Raby says:

    I suggest you investigate an HST routine for a few cycles. It is effective and makes for a good change.

  2. Chris Williams says:

    I do a 1 set for 25 reps (heavy as you can good form) program once a week. Upper body.

    Bench 1 x 25
    Barbell Bent Row 1 x 25
    Lat Pulldown 1 x 25
    Standing Military Press 1 x 25
    Barbell Curl 1 x 25
    Tricep Pushdowns 1 x 25
    50 crunches
    50 leg raises on the floor

    5-3-1 on Squats and Deadlifts

    Once a week. Deadlifts on a separate day. Run 4 miles 3 times a week.

    I’m 49 and this program has worked great for me.

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