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Running a 5/3/1 Lifting Routine

Earlier this year, I posted about how I was tweaking my workout to a 6 day program. That routine worked well for me, but then hockey started back up and I wasn’t able to keep up. A new routine was in order, and I chose to build one based on Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 BBB (Boring But Big) program.

I’ve been running it for a couple months and I’m seeing some decent progress. I’m approaching my pre-pandemic weights on bench, squats & deadlifts. I’ve also set a new PR on overhead press at 155 lbs. (I’m not entirely sure if this is 1:1 as I was doing standing overhead press, but now I have to do seated overhead press at home since my basement ceiling isn’t tall enough). That said, I never hit 155 standing so I’ll take it.

It’s definitely similar to how I was running my 6 day program, but it forces me to move up a little faster than I was in the past, which is good. It focuses on the 4 main lifts (overhead press, deadlift, bench press, & squats) and runs on 4 week cycles. It again uses my 1 rep max (1RM) to calculate my training max (TM) (90% of my 1RM) which then calculates the weights I lift.

For each of the main lifts, the sets are set up like.

Week 1:

  • 5 reps at 65% of my TM
  • 5 reps at 75% of my TM
  • 5+ reps at 85% of my TM
  • 5 sets of 10 reps at 50% of my TM

Week 2:

  • 3 reps at 70% of my TM
  • 3 reps at 80% of my TM
  • 3+ reps at 90% of my TM
  • 5 sets of 10 reps at 55% of my TM

Week 3:

  • 5 reps at 75% of my TM
  • 3 reps at 85% of my TM
  • 1+ reps at 95% of my TM
  • 5 set of 10 reps at 60% of my TM

Week 4:

Deload. I basically just do the lifts at 50-60% intensity to give my muscles a break.

I then up my 1RM for deadlifts & squats by 10 lbs., and the 1RM for overhead press and bench press by 5 lbs., rinse, and repeat.

The one thing I’ve been noticing on with squats and bench press is I feel like my brain is holding me back. There seems to be some kind of psychological component to it. Unlike the gym, I don’t have access to a spotter so there’s part of me that gets a little scared about the weights I’m lifting. I do have safety bars that will protect me for both lifts, but I always managed to lift heavier when I know someone is there to help if I start to go the wrong direction. Failure is a part of lifting and I have no shame in saying I’ve failed lifts on a multitude of occasions, but it’s still scary when you have 200+ lbs. on your back or over your chest.

But even with the psychogical aspect of the heavy weights, one of the reasons I like the program is how it has me moving up in weights. The progress is slow, but it’s steady. I’m obviously not setting PRs every week, or even every other week, but I see and feel progress while limiting the “scare” factor.

Anyway, here’s the routine I’m running.

Day 1 - Overhead Press

  1. Overhead Press
  2. Upright Row - 3 sets of 10-12
  3. Skullcrushers - 3 sets of 10-12
  4. Front Raise - 3 sets of 10-12
  5. Dumbbell Face Pulls - 3 sets of 15
  6. EZ Bar Curls - 3 sets of 10-12
  7. Pull Ups - As many as I can do

Day 2 - Deadlift

  1. Deadlifts
  2. Front Squat - 3 sets of 10-12
  3. Standing Barbell Calf Raises - 3 sets of 12-15
  4. Russian Twists
  5. Ab Wheel

Day 3 - Bench Press

  1. Bench Press
  2. Bent Over Barbell Row - 3 sets of 10-12
  3. Incline Bench Press - 3 sets of 10-12
  4. Hammer Curls - 3 sets of 12
  5. Single-Arm Dumbell Tricep Extensions - 3 sets of 12
  6. Dumbbell Face Pulls - 3 sets of 15
  7. Chin Ups - As many as I can do

Day 4 - Squat

  1. Squats
  2. Romanian Deadlifts - 3 sets of 10-12
  3. Standing Barbell Calf Raises - 3 sets of 12-15
  4. Dumbbell Side Bends - 3 sets of 15
  5. Ab Wheel

What’s your routine, any lifts you swear by?

Top comments (2)

dsv profile image

Ran 5\3\1 for about a year. Even read the book. I saw results but not in a balanced matter. Aditionally it left me with some muscle pain and muscles imbalances in the back and legs no matter how much I adapted it. It felt like I was doing a program without a foundation to build something on.

Later on, after reading "Better, Higher, Faster, Stronger" about how science sueprchages elite athletes, I found out about neuromuscular efficiency and how it's a strong asset when starting every lifting routine. Truth is, most people (including me) lack it. Good thing is it can be incorporated in trainings because it is a thing you need to train as well. Basically, it's a skill of your nervous system to know which muscles to contract and when for maximum efficiency. There's only so far technique and form can take you. From there it's only neuromuscular efficiency. Atheletes do have it. Amateurs maybe so and so. It's like the most overlooked factor by amateurs.

In the end, I signed up for Volt Athletics in 2019 and never looked back since. One leg deadlifts? Check. Equally training the upler and lower body? Check. Neuromuscular Efficiency targeting exercises? Check. Stretches, joint healt exercises and foam rolls? Check. Unload weeks? Check. Continuously adaptable training blocks that prevent injury? Check. An AI that suggests exercises and weights based on user inputted feedback? Check. I've never felt so balanced before Volt. 5\3\1 feels so 1980s when I think about it now. And no, they didn't pay me to talk about them, it's just the only wide available amateur program and the cheapest way to get really science based lifting programs.

lee profile image

Perfect timing, my son is about to start on something just like this for his lifting program, i’ll share it with him