The 5/3/1 Philosophy for Beginners


Strength training is one of the most effective ways to improve your physical health and well-being. Whether you’re an athlete, a fitness enthusiast, or just starting out, a good strength training program can help you build muscle, burn fat, and improve your overall fitness levels. However, with so many different programs and approaches out there, it can be difficult to know where to start.

One program that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years is the 5/3/1 program. Developed by strength coach Jim Wendler, this program is known for its simplicity, flexibility, and effectiveness. It’s designed to help you make steady progress in your strength training, without burning out or getting injured. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the 5/3/1 philosophy and provide some tips and modifications for beginners who want to try it out.

When it comes to the 5/3/1 program, it’s best for beginners to stick with the basic program. Taking advice from other beginners on message boards is not recommended. However, one beginner modification that’s effective is to perform a full-body routine three days a week instead of just one main lift per workout.

The program should adhere to an intelligent progression system and be set up the same way, taking 80-85% of your max and working up slowly. All percentages are based on the training max. No reps on any barbell lift should be slow, grinding, or not done with excellent form. Assistance work is super important, and each day you should perform one exercise from each category: push, pull, and single leg/core.

The most important assistance movements are DB squats, DB rows, chins/pull-ups, push-ups, dips, back raises, ab wheel (any abdominal movement), and bodyweight squats. Before each workout, perform Defranco’s Agile 8, and 10-15 total box jumps or med ball throws prior to lifting. Some kind of running or conditioning should be done on Tues/Thurs/Sat/Sun.

Remember that the training max must be correct and if in doubt, err on the side of “too light”. Principles guide life AND training.


  • Squat – 5/3/1 sets/reps, 5×5 @ First Set Last (FSL)
  • Bench – 5/3/1 sets/reps, 5×5 @ FSL
  • Assistance work


  • Deadlift – 5/3/1 sets/reps, 5×5 @ FSL
  • Press – 5/3/1 sets/reps, 5×5 @ FSL
  • Assistance work


  • Bench – 5/3/1 sets/reps, 5×5 @ FSL
  • Squat – 5/3/1 sets/reps, 5×5 @ FSL
  • Assistance work

Perform 50-100 total reps of each exercise. If you are too weak to get all the reps (chin-ups/pull-ups for example), then simply choose a second movement to complete the total reps.

If you don’t understand some, most, or any of this, it’s probably because you haven’t read the book and don’t have the foundation to understand the variation. You can get the full program and explanation, which includes many variations to choose from, in both paperback or PDF, available for immediate download.


DO NOT run yourself into the ground with conditioning; follow the “5/3/1 50% Rule” when conditioning.

Read More:

  • Training 2 Days/Week
  • Football & Basketball: Coach’s 5/3/1 Experience
  • These Keep Me Going
  • Blood, Sweat and Football: A 5/3/1 Family


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