Tips on how to live the 5-3-1 philosophy

Tips on how to live the 5-3-1 philosophy

5-3-1 philosophy

It’s a very straightforward program.  You can certainly just plug numbers into the spreadsheet and follow the routine if you want to jump right in. Those who want a more detailed explanation can find it here. If you are interested in a better understanding of 5-3-1 as a training system, you should check out our 5-3-1 Primer.

Those who have questions about this routine are advised to check the Routine Campfire thread for it for answers.

Please note If you are considering starting 5-3-1 program


Squat, Deadlift, Overhead Press, and Bench Press are all weighted based on percentages of the Training Max (this is just one of many variations). The Training Max is initially set as a percentage of the Estimated 1 Rep Max, if you have never run 5/3/1 before. We will cover more details in the following sections.

There are technically no minimum requirements for this program. As long as you do not have estimated maxes of 75 pounds for the squat, overhead press, and bench press, following the program may be logistically tricky, since some of your training sets may not be heavier than 45 pounds – the weight of an unloaded barbell. Dumbbell variations of these three lifts are the best way to adapt to this.

Also, if you are estimating your deadlift 1 rep max below 230lbs, ensure that the bar height is the same as if it were loaded with standard 45lb plates on some days, when weights may fall below 135lb. The most common way to accomplish this is with bumper plates and blocks.

A Quick Look at the Program


The program is described here in its bare-bones form. The sections below provide more information on each topic.

During each lifting session you will do one or more of the following:


  • Warm up with jumps and throws. 
  • For your first lift of the day, perform eight sets. Your third set consists of AMRAPs (as many reps as possible). You can optionally do three more warm-ups.
  • For the second Main Lift, perform eight sets. Three of your sets are AMRAPs.
  • By doing the exercises in #4, you will be able to save time when you do your Main Lifts.


The Basics of 5-3-1 Max Training


5/3/1 programs rely heavily on training maximum (TM) percentages. The Training Max method is also another method of progressing to heavier weights. We will explore it further down.


Starting a training program involves the following steps:


  • Try to limit yourself to 3 to 5 repetitions with good bar speed on each of the major lifts (squat, bench press, overhead press, deadlift). 
  • By using a calculator such as this one, calculate your estimated One Rep Max (1RM) using this weight and the number of reps. 
  • To determine your starting Training Max, take 90% of your estimated 1RM. 

The only time that your TM and 1RM will be connected so directly is during this session. 5/3/1 believes in training sub-maximally over time and encouraging steady progress. Whenever using the Training Max, keep in mind that its purpose is to inform your workouts, not to measure your progress or strength.  


Warming up before your workout


Do 10-15 reps of each of the following exercises over two or three sets before doing any lifting. It should take between five and ten minutes.


Work as an assistant


Every day, perform 50 – 100 repetitions of one exercise from each category below. To accomplish this, you don’t need to use a lot of sets. To finish your workout faster, you can do the reps for each category in circuits. In the case of a bodyweight exercise that fails to produce 50 repetitions, you can select a second exercise to complete the set. You chose a weight that was too heavy if you could not complete 50 repetitions of a weighted exercise.