Sunday, June 20, 2010

Wendler 5-3-1. . . A Plan, not a Program

I have seen a pretty significant plateau in my lifts in the gym over the course of the last six weeks or so. I came to the realization that I am no longer a novice lifter and just trying to hit max lifts everyday is not going to work anymore. I decided that I needed to be a little bit more methodical, but not too methodical. The Wendler 5-3-1 approach is the optimal way for me to overcome my various strength training plateaus, while minimizing my tendency to overanalyze everything. It is a simple and effect progressive overload programming that he created to improve his raw lifts. Jim Wendler is a formed division 1 football player and 1000 pound squatter. Needless to say, I respect and often agree with anything that he has to say regarding strength training.

I am currently wrapping up my first week on the Wendler 5-3-1 cycle. Here is how he organizes the progressive overload in the four-cycle variant of his system (he also has 6, and 12 week cycle plans):

• 1st week 3x5 65, 70, 75 (or more reps)
• 2nd week 3x3 70, 75, 85 (or more reps)
• 3rd week 5,3,1 75, 85, 90(or more weight)
• 4th week (deload week) 3x5 35, 45, 55

I am refraining myself from calling the Wendler 5-3-1 a training “program,” because Jim hates that word. He prefers to call it a plan. He believes that the word “program” is a corollary to the commercial bullsh*#@ that we see on late night infomercials that simply does not work.

I took the liberty of altering the original Wendler 5-3-1 to suite my specific goals (pull-ups and dips for bench and military press) but I am confident that Wendler would be totally fine with my tweaks to his program as long as I stick to the plan that I laid out. I am curious to see how the Wendler 5-3-1 will affect my pull-up and dip strength. My goal is to add about 30lbs to both of these movements. It might take a few Wendler cycles, but I confident that I can add a significant amount of weight to these movements over time.

Wendler keeps it simple and when it comes to programming for strength and conditioning the simple plan usually outperforms a complex one. Wendler states that his plan is a compilation of some of "the basic tenets of strength training that have stood the test of time." He is also a big fan of the ego check, with which I am in total agreement. When discussing the overzealous mindset of the average underachieving weightlifter he says, "They want to start heavy and they want to start now. This is nothing more than ego, and nothing will destroy a lifter faster, or for longer, than ego."

I am going to go with the Jim Wendler flow and see how strong I can get. Now is a perfect time to use one of my favorite Dan John quotes, “The plan is to keep the plan the plan.”

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