Get Strong and Stay Strong, in the The Land of 5/3/1

Every once in a while you come across a really cool program, and wonder, “why am I the only one doing this around here?” and “why haven’t you heard about this yet?” and that is exactly how I feel about Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program for raw strength.

Get Strong, Stay Strong

I can see how it’s probably far less intimidating to go with whatever everyone else is doing, like the latest bikini body in 30-days program, Zumba/Kickboxing class/Yoga class (all in one now!) ,  P-90X, or the latest Jillian Micheal’s DVD because your neighbor (I’m not your neighbor), BFF, co-worker, etc did it and so why can’t you?  You might be the same person who thinks a powerlifting program like 5/3/1 is only for powerlifters, but it isn’t.   The way this program is written (simple), everyone from the relative beginner to an experienced lifter can bust through a training plateau (we’ve all been there), set new personal records, and get a whole lot stronger… man or woman.

One single cycle lasts a brief 4 weeks, with the final week being a deload week, so technically, you can see measurable results in three weeks.   The program is built upon 4 basic strength training exercises that we’ve all seen:  the squat, bench press, the deadlift, and the overhead press.  Each workout is incredibly quick, with the main focus being to kick your own butt hard on the last set.  You know how when you get done with running 4 miles on the treadmill and say “boy am I glad that’s over?”  This program leaves you with a real sense of accomplishment, because on 5/3/1 you set a new record for your maximum number of reps with a certain weight on the final set.  You can end the workout right there, or as one of my favorite friends on the Body Building Revealed forum put it: “Rack the weight and scream victoriously. Punch shoulders, high fives, etc, optional.”  If you’ve got more time, the program allows for assistance work.

Some of my proudest moments on 5/3/1 include: bench pressing my own body weight, deadlifting  175 lbs for reps,  and hammering out 52 body weight pull-ups. Yeah, I should clarify that one.  On OHP day, the “triumvirate” option for assistance work calls for 5 sets of 10 reps of body weight chin-ups or pull-ups.  I had to break my work into more than 5 sets, and I easily could have stopped at failure around 5-7 reps. I didn’t though, and managed to get in more than 50 total reps for pull-ups by doing 10 sets. I’m proud of me, even though according to my three-year old, I look like a “little big pink dinosaur” when I do pull-ups.  Moral of the story: don’t do pull-ups in hot pink pants.

Yeah, the snow may be melting for some of us, and there are certain warm, spring-like days where you can’t turn your head without seeing another jogger pounding the pavement.   As nice as the sunlight is, it’s not as tempting as setting my back and shoulder blades into position under the weight of the barbell for squats and feeling a weight that could possibly crush me.  Nor is it as rewarding as knowing my dainty hands can pull a (relatively) heavy weight off the floor by dropping my hips and pushing the earth away for a heart pounding set of deadlifts, or “bench press a fitness model” (i.e., I benched my own body weight) for another proud moment on a “regular” old day at the gym.  You could endure another boring work out in which you make zero progress, or set your own personal record in an otherwise mundane and uneventful gym.

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