Many people have used the 5/3/1 program with success-including myself. At first, I followed the program strictly:
I performed the proscribed sets and reps for my exercises. I progressed slowly but surely (very successfully, I might add). I combined my main lifts with the suggested accessory work. I performed the Boring But Big (BBB) routine after my sets.
Eventually, I felt the holes developing in my routine. I made changes to the routine to try and fill in the missing areas. I want to point out that many-if not most-of the “holes” in the routine were due to my physiology, age, conditioning, etc.-not the 5/3/1 program over all.
I start a Cycle with Military Press as my first workout. I do my warmup and working sets. I am now incorporating a heavy single@1RM after my work sets. Then I move on to my BBB routine. I have been working with 50-60%, sets across for a 5×10 lately. That has worked fine, but I used to get better workouts when I did strip down descending sets for a 5×10, so I will switch back to that on this next cycle.
After my Military Press workout is complete, I do a pulling workout. My back has been a problem for me in the last few years, and nothing has helped my thoracic and shoulder pain except for a focus on pulling.
My pulling workout is really row-oriented:
BB rows 3×10 (currently my top set is at 205)
Seated rows 3-4×10 (current top set at 210)
Kroc rows 1×20 (currently at 90)
And as much as it might not be the best day for it (following a shoulder/push workout), my shoulders and upper back have really improved pain-wise.
I have kept the deadlift workouts essentially the same as when I began. I don’t always do the BBB routine after my deadlift routine, because quite frankly, it’s tiring. But I try to always do some repetition. Like th eother exercises, I have begun performing a 1RM or near-1RM pull at the end of my work sets.
Since I find that my hamstring development is weak, I wanted to add some hamstring work after my deadlift. I perform 3-4 sets of heavy RDLs afterwards.
Since I have no training partner, straight bar bench press is difficult for me. I tend to do most of my work on the Hammer Strength bench press machine. I hate it, but it’s much more safe this way.
On Bench Press day, I do my work sets, and either a BBB workout (5×10), or I do 5 sets of rest-pause work with the same weight.
The hole in my bench work was triceps work, and at first I used triceps extensions big-setted with dips. I have begun using close-grip bench press and the JM press for triceps development. Not only are they better exercises for the triceps, but they get me on a bench doing work away from the Hammer Strength machine.
Like all of the preceding exercises, I perform the proscribed sets of work for the mesocycle. Then I hit a near-1RM single, and perform a few repetitive sets-I have gotten away from the BBB routine for my squats, since my back had been very pumped up for the last few months. For my new cycle, I will be performing a 5×10 strip-down work out.
After a few minutes of rest, I then perform some heavy Good Mornings to cap off my workout.
On my off days, I do cardio and abdominal work.
Wendler’s 5/3/1 Modifications
Wendler himself has published a recent article about modifications to the 5/3/1 program at EliteFTS. Click here to read over all of the various suggested changes to the 5/3/1, depending on your situation>