Beyond 5/3/1: Simple Training for Extraordinary Results: A Book Review

beyond 5/3/1Someone suggested I adopt the 5/3/1 Strength Training Program which is ultimately what led me to buy and read the kindle edition of Jim Wendler’s book Beyond 5/3/1: Simple Training for Extraordinary Results.

To back up a bit, after the suggestion was made, I did some research and prepared myself as best I could, actually got started, but ultimately decided (sort of) to postpone using the program because I still was doing squats and deadlifts (as well as the overhead press and bench press) all wrong and I was continuing to injure myself.

However, after my first day with a personal trainer in my attempt to correct my deficits, I realized I would need to practice what I was learning between different training sessions. Hence, I continued to (sort of) follow week one of my beginning 5/3/1 program over and over again.

Stupidly between training session two and three (three comes up tomorrow morning), I re-injured my back again doing rack pulls too heavy and with poor form, so my re-entry into the world of 5/3/1 may be even further delayed.

In the meantime, a sore back doesn’t mean I can’t read, so I plunged into Wendler’s e-book on my Kindle Fire.

I can’t say the book isn’t filled with terrific ideas and programs for anyone from the novice to the professional competitor, but for a guy like me, it was a little (OK, more than a little) on the side of overload. There are so many variations to 5/3/1 and beyond that although they’re all based on the four basic lifts, Squat, Deadlift, Overhead Press, and Bench Press, I’ll never run out of different says to build both size and strength.

Well, that might be true if I was 21, or 31, or 41, or maybe even 51, but at 61, and with a lower right lumbar area that tweaks out on me on an all too regular basis, I don’t see how I’d be able to make use of all of the different programs Wendler lays out.

After a while, as I continued reading, I could feel my brain turn off. All I really need at this stage is something simple and straightforward to organize my weight sessions around.

The up side to all this is that, assuming I recover from my injuries, don’t injure myself again, and I’m able to advance, I’ll have a reference I can go back to again and again to refine my workout program and try new things.

Jim Wendler

The down side is that I’d have to be a testosterone driven gorilla to be able to do it all…a young testosterone driven gorilla.

After finishing Wendler’s book, I looked at a number of different reviews at Amazon, and several said the same thing: great information, but lacking organization.

I think that’s why my brain kept shutting down as I got past about the first two-fifths of the book. There was no way to construct a cohesive progression of workouts based on how Wendler presented his information. It’s apparent that he knows his stuff forward and backward, but I think he could have used more editorial assistance when writing.

My takeaway, particularly as someone with little to no experience with the 5/3/1, is to use the core program I already constructed based on numerous sources including Wendler, become proficient (if at all possible) and then re-evaluate my progress.

I was struck by how the program includes both hypertrophy and strength training aspects. It’s one of the big reasons I was originally attracted me to Hugh Jackman’s workout when he was preparing to act in his 2013 film The Wolverine. I adapted his original program for my own use and eventually, after three cycles, hit a functional deadend.

I realize now that a large part of that deadend was a lack of good form and the inability to create and maintain a neutral spine throughout my lifts. Even being able to lift relatively heavy weights produces limited results if you’re doing those lifts wrong. If I had decided to hire a personal trainer months ago, I might be a lot further along toward my strength building goals than I am right now.

A common thread running through the dizzying array of workout programs Wendler’s book presents, is that they are all aimed toward getting the people using these programs to grow big and get strong.

I suspect that beyond Wendler, that are a large number of strength training variations that, one way or another, address these same two basic targets.

wendlerDo I recommend Wendler’s book?

Yes. It contains enough essential info to orient a person toward the 5/3/1 and strength training. Just keep in mind that your experience with the book’s organization (or lack thereof) might be a lot like mine and some of those who chose to write reviews on Amazon.

If you want to find out more, visit

People laugh and call me lazy, while they twit around in their three-hour workout making zero progress. Sometimes, instead of what you do in the weight room, it’s what you don’t do that will lead to success.

Jim Wendler


2 thoughts on “Beyond 5/3/1: Simple Training for Extraordinary Results: A Book Review

  1. I turned 66 today so I knowI am getting old. I first lifted weights when I was 14 and did so for about two years. I lost my baby fat and got stronger probably due to both the training and raging hormones.I didn’t touch weights again until I was 38 and had some good years of training. I then took a long layoff due to life issues. I began lifting again last year and although my lifts are lower then before I feel I am getting in better condition. Most of the 531 is geared for younger guys,although there is a part called Mr. Grey Pubes that deal with older lifter. I would suggest a book by Brooks Kubik called Black Iron and Grey Hair. It has plent of programs designed for people in the higher age groups. I realize we can train hard and heavy but need more recovery time, just like the time to recover between lovemaking sessions.


    1. Actually, I’ve read Kubik’s book but that was before I was really interested in strength training. I’ll have to re-visit it to see if it makes more sense to me know.

      Lovemaking and lifting. Interesting comparison. Thanks, Jerry.

      Happy birthday.


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