Program Review – 5/3/1 – Intermediate


Like most intermediate programs, it is no longer the same thing every week. It alternates intensity on the main lifts and throws in volume work afterwards. The program generally focuses on size and strength, only relying on power cleans for power work. Granted, the guy works with athletes, so perhaps he doesn’t actually mean for this to be a powerlifting program.

  • Week 1: 3×5 Main lift, going at 65% > 75% > 85% with last set being AMRAP.
  • Week 2: 3×3 Main lift, going 70% > 80% > 90% with last set being AMRAP
  • Week 3: 5/3/1 Main lift, going 75% > 85% > 95% with last set being AMRAP
  • Week 4: 3×5@60%, deload.
  • Various forms of volume work are incorporated afterwards: 5×10@50%, first set last for 3 sets, etc. They’re all pretty simple.

Programs at an intermediate level do not need to be incredibly specific, but this kind of looks like someone pulling an all nighter to finish an assignment that was given three months ago. Volume is prescribed every day at relatively the same level of intensity. Its use of progressive overload leaves much to be desired as its hypertrophy stimulus is better served outside of his 5×10 scheme and his strength stimulus can be easily matched by either doing simple linear progressive overload or something akin to the Texas Method. All in all, the guy admits to coming up with the program on a napkin. While he considers that a claim to genius, a bit of experience with well designed programs will say otherwise. All Wendler will expose one to is the existence of different rep schemes and different ways to pair them together. Deloading every 4th week isn’t a matter of safety, it means you designed fatigue management terribly.

Overall, the program gets a 3/10. There’s so many other options available on the internet, it’s unfortunate this one gets the time it does. Still salty I wasted my time on this program. If you want something a bit more intense and challenging but better built, check out Brian Alsruhe’s videos on how to design your own program. Here is his free “Powerbuilding” program, something Wendler tries to be, and how he sets up his linear progression programs here.

2 thoughts on “Program Review – 5/3/1 – Intermediate

  1. Yes, really like Brian Alsruhe’s approaches – probably he does more abs/conditioning than everyone might need (but then he is focused on strongman)


    1. I agree, I definitely didn’t do abs to the extent he did it haha. But I’m more interested in powerlifting which I’m pretty sure doesn’t need a ton of extra ab work. Strongman has so much moving around and stabilizing, I’m sure the ab work is worth every penny. Either way, his programming, executed well, will probably make most people into a monster.

      Liked by 1 person

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