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Monday, January 12, 2015

Wendler Cycle - quick over view

We are back on our "power" lifts strength cycle and again using Wendler. The slight change in this cycle is that we will follow the 4 week progression for three rounds before we re-test our 1 rep max.

See below for a quick exert from Jim Wendler himself as to why, what and when.

In 5/3/1, you're expected to train three or four days a week. Each workout is centered around one core lift — the parallel squat, bench press, deadlift, and standing shoulder press.

Each training cycle lasts four weeks, with these set-rep goals for each major lift:
Week 1: 3 x 5
Week 2: 3 x 3
Week 3: 3 x 5, 3, 1
Week 4: deloading
 
Then you start the next cycle, using heavier weights on the core lifts. And that's where a seemingly simple system starts getting a little more complicated.

You aren't just picking a weight to lift five times or three times or one time per set. You're using a specific percentage of your one-rep max. And not your full 1RM. The calculations are based on 90% of it.

So if your 1RM in the bench press is 315 pounds, you use 285 (90%) as the base number for your training-weight calculations. Here's how it works:

 Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4
Set 1         65% x 570% x 375% x 540% x 5
Set 275% x 580% x 385% x 350% x 5
Set 385% x 5+90% x 3+95% x 1+60% x 5
 
When you see 5+, 3+, or 1+, that means you do the max reps you can manage with that weight, with the goal of setting a rep record in each workout.

Let's walk through the Week 1 workout for bench press. Using the example above, if your 1RM is 315, you calculate all your percentages from 90% of that max, or 285 pounds.

So you're using 185 (65% of 285) x 5, 215 x 5, and 240 or 245 x 5 or more. (In my 5/3/1 ebook, I provide detailed lists of weights and percentages so you don't have to carry a calculator with you to the gym.)

After you finish the first cycle, you add five pounds to your 1RM calculations for the two upper-body lifts and 10 pounds to your 1RM for the squat and deadlift.

These specific instructions for 1RM percentages and monthly progression are what set 5/3/1 apart from less useful systems. When I see a program that says three sets of eight reps? That's the stupidest fucking thing ever. If it doesn't have a specific percentage based on a specific max, it's useless. That's the hallmark of someone who doesn't understand basic programming.

With 5/3/1, you accomplish a goal every workout. Some programs have no progression from one day to the other.

Another unique feature is that final balls-out set in each workout. You don't have to go beyond the prescribed reps if you don't feel like it, but there are real benefits to doing so.

I've always thought of doing the prescribed reps as simply testing your strength. Anything over and above that builds strength, muscle, and character.

Yes, that last set is the one that puts hair on your chest, but the system doesn't work without the sets that precede it. I tried cutting those out but I got smaller and weaker. There might be only one really hard set, but the other sets are still quality work.

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