5/3/1 for a Beginner – Jim Wendler

5/3/1 for a Beginner



Generally, I tell everyone to just do the program as is, regardless of training age. Of course, if you're a trainer and are using the program with a novice athlete or someone new to training, simply use your experience to make whatever changes are required – though there shouldn't be many. Now if you're a beginner and are working out without any guidance whatsoever, it's probably best to just stick with the basic program. One of the worst things a young lifter can do is take advice from other beginners on message boards –  they usually have all the advice and none of the experience. Below is one beginner modification that's permissible, and effective.  It's a subtle, easy way to add in some extra work on the main lifts without  compromising the program or the philosophies it was built upon. You perform a full-body routine, three days a week. Full body strength routines are the best way for novice lifters to quickly get strong, provided the program is  non-retarded (i.e. adheres to an intelligent progression system). Instead of just one main lift per workout (using the 5/3/1 set-up), two main lifts are used for additional weekly exposures. Remember that the training max must be correct and if in doubt, err on the side of "too light". Principles guide life AND training.


Squat – 5/3/1 sets/reps, 5x5 @ First Set Last (FSL)

Bench – 5/3/1 sets/reps, 5x5 @ FSL

Assistance work


Deadlift – 5/3/1 sets/reps, 5x5 @ FSL

Press – 5/3/1 sets/reps, 5x5 @ FSL

Assistance work


Bench – 5/3/1 sets/reps, 5x5 @ FSL

Squat – 5/3/1 sets/reps, 5x5 @ FSL

Assistance work

The program is set up the same way – taking 90% of your max and working up  slowly. All percentages are based on that training max.


Assistance Work

Each day perform ONE exercise from each category. Perform 50-100 total reps (do whatever sets you want to perform - that doesn't matter) of each exercise.  If you are too weak to get all the reps (chin-ups/pull-ups for example) then simply choose a SECOND movement to complete the total reps.  This is incredibly simple to do.

The three categories to choose from are: push, pull and single leg/core.

Push: dips, push-ups, DB bench/incline/press, triceps extensions/pushdowns

Pull: chin-ups/pull-ups, inverted rows, rows (DB/machine/BB), face pulls, band pull-aparts, lat pulldown, curls

Single Leg/Core: any abdominal work, back raises, reverse hyperextensions, lunges, step-ups, Bulgarian one-leg squats, KB snatches, swings


  • Perform Defranco's Agile 8 prior to each workout and should be done every single day.
  • Perform 10-15 total box jumps or med ball throws PRIOR to lifting.
  • Tues/Thurs/Sat/Sun some kind of running or conditioning should be done. This will largely be based on your own goals, your current fitness level and what you have access to. DO NOT run yourself into the ground with conditioning; follow the "5/3/1 50% Rule" when conditioning.