Tag Archives: Goals

Today marked the end of my first Wendler 5/3/1 cycle.  4 weeks working on 4 different lifts: back squats, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press.

The main idea is that (following the programming) you perform each lift at a specific percentage of your max for a specified number of reps.  One cycle lasts for 16 workouts and takes about a month to complete.  The entire goal here is pure strength without worrying about anything else.  (Other work you do is on your own, and is not covered by the 5/3/1 system.  I do a lot of other fitness work.)

There’s no magic here.  Jim Wendler isn’t saying that you’ll add 100lbs to your squat in five months.  He’s saying you can do that in about a year.  As long as you stick with it and continue to put in the hard work you should see results.  In an interview with T-Nation Wendler had the following to say about the program: ” the reason I came up with 5/3/1 was that I wanted a program that eliminated stupid thoughts from my head and just let me go into the weight room and get shit done.”

I will pause here to say that I already had a solid lifting and strength base before starting.  Until January of this year I’d worked with a trainer  doing strength and conditioning work so my form is pretty good, I have strong body awareness, and I’ve had solid experience observing how to properly program workouts around a strength session.  If you are less familiar with things working with a coach is invaluable (even if it’s just a more experienced friend) and Wendler’s book has recommendations for assistance work and how to do the lifts properly.

So far it’s been doing just that for me.  I don’t get excited about programming strength work.  I’m far more interested in putting my energy into circuit training, skills work, and metabolic conditioning workouts.  I like getting strength results and I have strength goals, but the process doesn’t interest me.  5/3/1 has been perfect for that so far because it allows me to just get some heavy lifting in without agonizing over which lifts, for how many reps, at what percentage.

Beyond the simplicity I really like that at the end of each workout the last set is essentially listed as max reps.  So in the first week the workout would be:

5 reps at 65%
5 reps at 75%
5+ reps at 85%

That little + at the end of the third set is the real winner.  That’s when you push yourself to go beyond what’s comfortable and find out what you can really lift.  In the third week the last set is 1+ reps at 95%.  That’s 95% of your single rep max lift.  I was seriously excited when I busted out 9 bench press reps at 160lbs a couple weeks ago.  The last set of the workout is where you hit your goals and where you find your new max.  It’s not about increasing your single rep max, though that will happen, but it’s about increasing your overall strength which includes reps and weight.

Tomorrow marks the first day of the second round.  I’m adding 10 pounds to the training weight for squats and deadlifts, and 5 pounds to bench and overhead press.  That’s the standard.  (Wendler has a big focus on keeping ego in check when it comes to adding weight.)  So, in theory I should hit my deadlift goal of 340lbs (~2x bodyweight) somewhere in July as long as I stick with the system.

For now I’m sticking to the four main lifts, but the theory can be easily applied to any lifts.  The Olympic lifts come to mind first since I want to improve my snatch, clean, and overhead squat.  I can definitely see a cycle in the future where I sub out the overhead press for a clean and jerk for example.  Weighted dips or weighted pull-ups could make an appearance as well.  The four main lifts are primary because they have significant carryover benefit to other lifts, but they are not exhaustive.

There are lifting programs that advertise faster results, but I really appreciate the ability to just turn my brain off and just lift.  Strength is a goal, but not my primary goal so I’m very satisfied with steady progress.


Finals is a time for pushing oneself.  Taking everything you’ve learned in a course and going into put up or shut up mode.  My world history students had a 2 hour block of time to write two essays.  Many of them said it’s the longest single period of sustained work they’ve ever done, and while challenging, they felt that they had all the knowledge and skills necessary to complete it.  That’s the sign of a good final exam to me.  A significant challenge, yet still accessible to the vast majority of the class.

As a teacher I try to do my best modeling best practices for my colleagues and students.  If I ask my students to put in their best work at all times I’d better be doing the same to show them that hard work is a lifestyle, not something that is only true while you’re in school.  I push myself to be the best teacher, husband, athlete, friend, and cook that I know how to be.

In this spirit I’m taking the responsibility of promptly scoring my students final exams extremely seriously.  Not so seriously that I sacrifice everything else in my life, but seriously enough that when it’s work time I work with minimal breaks and reduced distractions.  No Facebook open while I’m grading.  No grading in front of the TV.  Turn the phone to silent for a while.  Modeling the behaviors I ask of my students even if they never know about it.

Finals were Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of this week and I’m proud to say that I’m already halfway finished with scoring them.  All the other extraneous late work, rewrites, and skill checks are taken care of, so it’s just two classes worth of essays left between me and finalized grades for first semester.  I’m pushing myself to maintain my high standards and have all my grades finalized by the end of the day Saturday.

Today’s workout is a good example too.  Before today I’d never truly failed a squat.  Today I had complete muscle failure trying to squat 260 pounds. I had to drop the weight.  I’d never failed because I told myself that to do heavy squats I need a spotter, or I need to work up to it for fear of injury.  Well, that’s why there are the adjustable rails on the squat rack.  They catch your weight.  Today’s “failed” squat at 260 pounds gives me more confidence to push myself than my successful (PR) squat at 255.  I know that when I push myself next time I can really do it.  Worst case I have to sit down and drop the weight.  The fear is gone.  I broke my own mental barrier.

To continue pushing myself I’m doing my own “Fitness Final”.  On Saturday I’m tackling the “filthy fifty” a workout I thought I needed to work up to, and wait to try until I “got a little better.”  The workout is 10 different exercises at 50 reps each.  I might not finish on Saturday.  I might fail, but I know that I can push myself as hard as I need to, then come back to the workout and beat my time.

Workout for 1 Feb:

Rings skills.  Ring support position, pull-ups, push-ups, dips, L-sits to inverted hang to inverted pike.

Back Squats:
1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1
225, 235, 245, 250, 255 (PR by 30#!), 260 (fail)


I’m going to get back on this horse.  If nothing else this can be a way to keep track of workouts, and provide some external accountability.  For January (read: manuary #2) I’ve been posting most of my workouts and other (somewhat) manly feats through Facebook.  The simple act of posting the workouts in a public way has caused me to think more deliberately about what exercises I’m doing, mixing up muscle groups, and enjoying the public recognition of my PRs.

I’m still going to use this blog for writing about education, and other thoughts, but I want to explicitly add the exercise component.  Today was a rest day.  First posted WOD will be tomorrow.

For now here are some Current PRs and Goals:

Deadlift:  295 | 340 (2x bodyweight)
Back Squat: 225 | 300
Bench Press: ?? | 225
Push-ups: 52 unbroken | 100
Pull-ups: ?? | 50 unbroken
Doubleunders: 22 (unbroken) | 50
Ring Muscle-ups: ?? | 10 (unbroken)
HSPU: 5 | 15
Ring Dips: 5 | 30
5k: 25min | 18min