12 months with 5/3/1: A Beginner's Insight by Paul Sutton
(Note from Jim Wendler: This was written by Paul Sutton and posted on the 5/3/1 Facebook page. I thought this was a great read and would offer insight from a different perspective. Thanks to Paul for letting me put this on the website.)
There has been a lot of nervous talk and unfounded suggestion about beginners and how 5/3/1 fits that purpose– well I’m here to share with you my 12 months of 5/3/1. This has taking me from ill informed beginner to novice chump with results, tips, a meet under his belt and a unquenchable thirst for unflavoured whey.
Firstly I’ll disband the myth that 5/3/1 isn’t for the beginner who stands out in a weights room more than that skinny ginger kid with the “shut up and squat” tank top as he curls in the squat rack. I started as a newbie, n00b, trainee, whatever you want to call it and these are the results I have seen in 12 months since starting.
Squat: 100kg up to 165kg with depth
Bench 60kg ‘touch and go’ up to 100kg with the pause.
Deadlift: 140kg grinded up to 225kg locked out.
OHP: 40kg badly pressed up to 65kg with strict form.
5/3/1 is perfect for beginners as it covers full-body compound moves, simplifies the guesswork associated with a progression and allows assistance work and templates that can be modified to fit the user. But, and these are the “buts” that I have found:
If you do not commit, you will not succeed. If you don’t follow the plan and play the game, you will lose and become disheartened. You have to put in the ground work. Rome wasn’t built in a day but amazon.com has express delivery. It will not happen overnight, it will not happen in a week. You will get frustrated that you can’t hit depth, pause on the chest, hold on to the bar long enough to lock the lift – and most of all, you will forget that you are not a professional and don’t have 5,10,20 years plus of lifting experience. But without committing to mastering these techniques and understanding that hard work is required; then you cannot even get the application form for your “awesome card”. You’ve read the rules, you’re ready to play the game but beware off...
You’re only as big as the weights you can lift. This is stressed in the book and the program. Take your actual max, what you can do to standard, an acceptable standard and chop 10% off it and forget about it. Now commit. Use that weight and respect it. You have that duty to respect the weights and exercises until you graduate. When your ego comes into the equation you will lose your commitment and become complacent. Who cares what other people can lift? You’re not them, you’re you, or someone else since the witness protection program changed your name; but hey ho! You don’t know their story on why they can bench 120kg plus for 20 and that is of no concern to you. If you implement commitment and avoid complacency in your training then you have the meat on the bones. All you need now is sauce, and that sauce is a massive BBQ flavoured helping of...
Consistency Is King. If you have committed to lifting 4 times per week, running hills 3 times per week and smashing chickens in half daily then you, my Jedi Padawan learner are on route to the destruction of the deathstar. But the dark side calls... “why do you squat like that?”, “why are you eating a whole cow?”, “why have you been sick at the top of that hill?” – calls the dark side. Do you not wish to get “6 minute abs?” How about “getting ripped with beer?” and “biceps so hard women will drop kids instantly?”. You must remain consistent with the program. Otherwise you’ll end up in a commercial gym, balancing on a Swiss ball reading ‘Men’s Health’, whilst eating a low-carb snicker and being deafened by a ‘livin la vida loca’ remix that’s accompanying a nearby Zumba workout.
Commit to the program, be consistent with your training and diet and never get complacent about your ability or the amount of work you need to put in.
I can say I have fallen foul of these three points within the 12 months.
- I decided that about 3 months in I loaded the bar with 145kg for a squat and got pinned, for all to see; because I was complacent as a learner and let my ego treat me like a bitch.
- I decided that I didn’t need to follow the same assistance template for a month and saw my lifts go down and stall; because I wasn’t consistent as a learner and thought I was the new eltiefts article writer on “weak point training 101”.
- I decided that 5/3/1 lacked substance because of simplicity when compared with “the next best program you’re not doing” when all the evidence of progression was written down in my training logs and stared back in the mirror; because I wasn’t committed as a learner to hard work and educating myself on the basics.
Either way, who the fuck am I to tell you, the weekend gym rat, the elite totaller, the personal trainer, the cross fit enthusiast on how to train? I’ll tell you I’m the guy that 12 months ago didn’t know squat, had never tried to bench with a pause, was scared because of mainstream culture to lift big – I can tell the beginner that if you follow 5/3/1, eat big, respect the weights and work hard; It’s the only program you’ll need to follow to get enrolled on the war against iron.
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