Looking for a way to up your strength training? Then, it’s time to check out the 5/3/1 method of training.

What Is the 5/3/1 Method?

This method, created by powerlifter Jim Windler, is composed of a 4-day split plan using major compound lifts (any exercise that targets two or more joints to completely simulate an entire muscle group) with each set.
Your first task? Choose 4 major lifts that you want to improve upon. You can see a list of major lifts here.
Your next task. Find the max weight you can lift for each exercise.


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Every week, you should do three sets of each major lift you’ve chosen using a percentage of your max weight. Here is a breakdown of how 4 weeks of the 5/3/1 method would look:

Set #1 Set #2 Set #3*
Week 1 65% Max / 5 Reps 75% Max / 5 Reps 85% Max / 5 Reps
Week 2 70% Max / 3 Reps 80% Max / 3 Reps 90% Max / 3 Reps
Week 3 75% Max / 5 Reps 85% Max / 3 Reps 95% Max / 1 Rep
Week 4 55% Max / 5 Reps 65% Max 3 Reps 75% Max /  1 Rep

*On the third set each week, you can do more than the stated rep. Try to do as many reps as you can with the designated weight until failure.

5-3-1-method-training

You’ll notice that on the fourth week the weight is reduced. This is so the workouts are not as strenuous and allow your muscles to recover. At the end of the month, retest your max for each exercise. The plan is meant to help you gain a massive amount of strength in just weeks, when done correctly. With your new max weights, recalculate your percentages and follow the table above with your new numbers.

What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Stronger

Building strength involves a lot of heavy lifting. If you’re not sure how much weight you need to throw on the bar, start small, never start big! Everyone is different when it comes to heavy lifts, so work your way up. You always want to start with a few light warm-up reps to ready the muscles, then add the amount of weight that you will be able to lift with good form.

So here is your challenge, try the 5/3/1 method over the next month. Challenge your body and see what it can do in just 4 short weeks!

Heather Neff

Author Heather Neff

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