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5/3/1 – Relaunched.

After crawling through the wreckage of my life wrought by the Ladder Training I’ve been engaged in this past two weeks the time has come to begin the next phase of The Grand Plan.

Goal Setting.

There is no point just starting a new and random program without have both a cunning plan and a definite goal. In fact it’s best to start with the goal first as this will help shape the plan.

My goal is simple and achievable, both of which are imperative to have if you stand any chance at all in succeeding. I want to be 16 stone (about 100kg or 220lbs) by Christmas. This gives me the goal: 16 stone, a time scale to work to: 7 weeks and a realistic hope of doing it: about a stone/ 6kgs/ 14lbs to trim off.

Operation: Cunning Plan. 

What I need to do to be able to drop a reasonable amount of weight in a relatively short amount of time is to keep doing lots of hard conditioning style workouts. I’ve tried the softly, softly approach to fat burning and it doesn’t work for me. I need the exercise equivalent of  Napalm to stand any chance at all of shifting my persistent, stubborn lard. The problem, as always, is that by doing conditioning sessions exclusively I’ll just end up losing all my muscle as well. What I need is a plan that will allow me to maintain my strength, and therefore my muscle, and be flexible enough to free up enough time to destroy myself with sprints, kettlebells and pad-work.

Enter 5/3/1.

5/3/1 is the twisted brain child of a certain Jim Wendler – a no-nonsense former powerlifter who likes to find new ways to simplify training with weights. You can get more info about him and his training methods here: http://www.jimwendler.com/

I’d ask you all to buy his ebook and allow Jim to afford to pay for some new interesting body-art.

In essence what the program does is split your main strength lifts (squat, bench, overhead press, deadlift.) over four days (Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri – or similar). What you do then is 3 working sets of various rep schemes for 3 weeks and then you take a week off.


Week 1 – 3 sets of 5 reps

Week 2 – 3 sets of 3 reps

Week 3 – 1 set of 5 reps, 1 set of 3 reps and 1 set of 1 rep.

Week 4 – deload.

That’s about it really as far as program design is concerned. Where 5/3/1 is clever is that it gets you to start on weights that are basically too light for you and over the weeks and months you follow the program you keep adding weight until you get to and then beyond your current strength plateaus.

Working out your 1 rep max.

In 5/3/1 the weights you lift in each session are based on percentages of your 1 rep max. So before you get started you need to either get yourself under the bar and work out what you can lift in a maximum effort squat, bench, overhead and deadlift OR do what I’ve done and guess.

Really, it’s ok just to have a guess about what you can do in the four lifts as in a few cycles of 5/3/1 you’ll be at new and challenging weights anyway.

This is what I’ve plumped for in my lifts:

Squat – 160kg. (way lighter then my max squat but it pays to take the long view with this program.)

Bench – 140kg (as above)

Overhead – 90kg (as above)

Deadlift – 160kg (as above)

The reason I’ve gone so light in my lifts is twofold. First – I want to make sure I have plenty of energy for all the conditioning that I’ll be doing. Second – about once or twice a year I like to strip all my lifts down to the bare bones and relearn the technique at weights where I can concentrate on style and not worry about being stapled under the bar.

The humiliation of weight lowering doesn’t end there. What you do now is work off 90% of your 1 rep max weight to determine your starting point for all your lifts.

Squat – 90% of 160 = 144kg

Bench – 90% of 140kg = 126kg

Overhead – 90% of 90 = 81kg

Deadlift – 90% of 160 = 144kg


Well . . . things are going to get a little murkier, but not much, so be brave and press on.

My first week is going to look like this.

Squat – 3 sets of 5 reps at 65%, 75% and 85% of my 90% weight. (Take a deep breath).
Set1 – 93.6kg
Set 2 – 108kg.
Set 3 – 122.4kg.

Bench – 3 sets of 5 reps at 65%, 75%, 85%.
Set 1 – 81.9kg
Set 2 – 94.5kg
Set 3 – 107.1kg

Overhead – as above
Set 1 – 52.65kg
Set 2 – 60.75kg
Set 3 – 68.85kg

Deadlift – as above

Set 1 – 93.6kg
Set 2 – 108kg
Set 3 – 122.4kg

Obviously the actual weights I lift will be rounded up/down to what can realistically be put on the bar.

To work out a percentage simply multiply the starting weight with the percentage you want just with a decimal point in front of it. So – 65% of 144kg is 144  x  0 .65 = 93.6kg.

That’s the plan. All I have to do now is follow it.

Anticipation glands fully loaded and oozing excitement,
Dave carter.

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