The 5-3-1 Method

Weightlifting is a great sport for athletes and fitness enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels. Not only is it great for bulking up building muscle, but when done right, it’s great for your posture, getting a better night’s sleep, and boosting your metabolism.

But for many newcomers, weightlifting can be a pretty intimidating exercise. Many people feel underprepared when it comes to starting with weights, and that doesn’t go away easily, even if you already have some experience under your belt.

The 5-3-1 Method

Worse still, is when you feel intimidated by weightlifting, you are an experienced weightlifter, and you’re just not making to gains that you think you should be. Nothing is more discouraging than feeling like you’re stuck in a rut and not progressing.

However, sometimes all it takes is just finding the right method for you, and those worries will just fade to the back of your mind as you power-lift yourself to a better you.

The problem with that, however, is finding one method in a sea of millions of regiments can be pretty overwhelming.

Enter: the 5-3-1 method.

What Is The 5-3-1 Method?

The 5-3-1 method, developed by Jim Wendler, is a program designed purely for building pure strength power weightlifting, based around four key weightlifting exercises:

  • Overhead press – A great lift if you’re trying to work your arms, shoulders, and chest.
  • Squats – Good exercise to strengthen the tendons, bones, and ligaments around the leg muscles, great for better lower-body flexibility.
  • Bench – Bench lifts are good for strengthening your core, shoulders, chest, and arms.
  • Deadlift – A good lift for your legs, core, and lower back.

The reason for these reps as part of your training in particular is because the benefits of these drills can be carried over to other exercises. In short, if you get good at these lifts, you’ll get good results with other lifts too.

The 5-3-1 is built around doing reps in cycles of 4 weeks, to build a good weekly rhythm. This way, you’ll also be starting to make a better routine for muscle building and powerlifting. You’ll be working out 3-4 days a week, 4 days ideally.

This routine does work with three, but you need to have completed the set of 4 lifts before you can move on the next sets of reps.

If you choose to train for three days a week, and because you need to have completed one main lift per training day, you’ll end up doing different main exercise reps on different days each week.

Again, this isn’t impossible, but if you want to start a good routine for your exercises, it’ll be easier to do the same exercises on the same day of the week, to build that familiarity. 

The key to starting here is knowing what your limits are before heading off on your first cycle. You shouldn’t do more than you’re capable of, otherwise, you’ll burn yourself out before even starting properly.

Ideally, because it is reps exercise you’re doing, you shouldn’t be doing your maximum anyway, as you’ll still be over-exerting yourself

The four-week cycle will look like this:

  • Week 1: 3 sets of 5 reps, one day for each lift.
  • Week 2: 3 sets of 3 reps, same as the previous week for each day.
  • Week 3: The big one, 1 set of 5 reps, 1 set of 3 reps, then 1 set of 1 rep.
  • Week 4: The deloading week, 3 sets of 5 reps. Remember, you’ll be starting another cycle after this week, so try not to overdo it.

Once you’ve finished week 4, congratulations! You’ve finished your first cycle! Going into your next one, you should be able to add a little to the intensity of your exercises. A few more reps, a little more weight, whatever form intensity might look like.

Benefits Of The 5-3-1 Method

Benefits Of The 5-3-1 Method.

The 5-3-1 method is a slow burn of an exercise routine, as it is focused mainly on slowly building your strength at a steady pace. It can take a while for the results to show, but if you’ve been following the method, they should start.

That’s another aspect of having this routine cycle: It’s as much proof to yourself that a routine health regime works for you!

The other great thing about a standardized method is that it can be personalized depending on an individual’s needs.

Again, there’s a reason that the 5-3-1 method is popular with trainers: it gives good but simple-to-understand instructions for a lot of different people, while allowing trainers to give some extra pointers for others who might need extra attention.

The original 5-3-1 training method was designed for building muscle in weightlifters, but with a little creativity and some trial-and-error, the cycle method works quite well.

For a training athlete, for example, a routine of reps might look like: clean, squat, bench, and chin-ups. Consult with your trainer or an expert before bringing your spin to this tried and true method.

Remember that intensity is relative, and what might work for someone else may not work for you or others. It’s a process of discovery.


So, if you’re still unsure about where to start with weightlifting or training in general, you should consider giving the 5-3-1 method.

It’s simple, there’s a lot of room for changing it to your needs, and it’s a good way of starting that workout routine you’ve been struggling to nail down.

Remember, exercise is a lot of things to a lot of different people: For some, it’s about showing that progression in your skills and strength.

For others, it’s about crafting a perfect routine and time away from other commitments, to focus on nothing but training your body and resting your mind.

For trainers, it’s about helping lots of people get into shape and helping them feel better about themselves and their skills, as well as finding new interests and people.

With the 5-3-1 method, it can be all 3. So what are you waiting for? Time to get those gains!