Resources for Wendler’s 5/3/1 for Men Over 60?

wendler
Jim Wendler

Occasionally on the admin page for this blog, I notice that someone has searched for “5/3/1 for older men” or “Wendler 5/3/1 for seniors”. There’s an apparent interest in strength training for people over 50, 60 and beyond. Because I’m over 60 and I’ve adapted the 5/3/1 program for my own use, my blog posts come up in search results for the above-mentioned queries.

I don’t know if what I’ve written thus far has proved helpful to anyone. No one has left a comment one way or another. But since there seems to be a population of older lifters (or non-lifters) interested in Jim Wendler’s version of strength training, I decided to search for myself and see if there are any more authoritative sources. The results were disappointing.

I found something called “5/3/1 for Oldsters” at Reddit and based on the title alone, I thought I’d struck gold.

Unfortunately, the author believes he is an “oldster” because he’s reached the ripe old age of 30 years. How insufferably cute.

However, his general advice seems like it would be pretty sound for those of us who are twice this fellow’s age:

  • Slow, steady, patient progress
  • Sub-maximal weights at relatively low volumes
  • Never lift to exhaustion
  • Flexible schedule
  • Flexible assistance work and conditioning
  • Flexible session duration
  • Start light
  • Never skip deload week

I’m not saying there isn’t a difference physically between a 20-year-old and a 30-year-old, but having lived through those decades of my life and a lot more, I can assure you that there is a much bigger difference between being 30 and 40 and being 60+ years of age.

older weight trainerI skimmed through the 70 or more comments in the discussion but unless I missed something, the oldest person participating in this online exchange is 38.

The thread is a year old, so I tried to find more recent information since the author indicated he might write a series of articles on the topic, but the closest thing I found was the sub-reddit fitness30plus.

Well, Reddit tends to attract a younger crowd.

Next, I found an article called “5/3/1 and 40” at elitefts.com. Well, 40 is older than 30 so what the heck.

The article’s author Jesse Rosenberger states:

I began 5/3/1 in August 2008, so I’ve had a little over four years of experience with the program. In those four years, I’ve learned a lot about myself and what works for me in regards to training. I most certainly don’t claim to be an expert or an innovator. Obviously, I’m not an elite powerlifter either. But as my numbers clearly show, I’ve made great progress. I’m very proud of my accomplishments. I lift raw and I’m drug-free. More importantly, I’m still making progress, and I’m just days away from celebrating my fortieth birthday. Yeah, I’m playing the “age card” but just to demonstrate that getting stronger isn’t just something you can do in your twenties or early thirties.

I’d love to be 40 again. I was in great shape at 40, and I mostly was doing cardio work back then. If I knew at 40 what I know now, I would own 5/3/1 strength training.

If you’ve been following my journey, you know my lifts are really pretty modest. There are plenty of men and women who make me look sick. With that in mind, here’s what Rosenberger says about his progress:

So anyway, here are my numbers from August 2008 to August 2012:

  • Squat: 425 X 1 to 405 X 12 and 500 X 3
  • Bench: 365 X 1 to 425 X 1 and 250 X 20
  • Deadlift: 520 X 1 to 500 X 10

Yeah, in my dreams.

Some of the main points from Rosenberger’s article is that he sees more progress when he works out three days a week instead of four, and when he increases his reps from a range of 1 to 5, to a range of 5 to 15.

strong old man
photo credit: ML Sinibaldi/CORBIS

He also describes how he decided to keep some aspects of 5/3/1 and discard others. He provides a lot of details regarding his process and progress, so I encourage you to click on the link I provided above to find out more about it. That said, I found the Rosenberger article in most regards even less helpful than the one at Reddit.

The final source that came up was a write-up simply titled “Wendler’s 5/3/1” at Lift.net. There was a snippet of text in the Google search result about someone being 66 years old. Unfortunately, it had nothing to do with the article and was composed by someone making a responsive comment:

I am 66 years old and have wanted a program to better my strength. Starting tomorrow. I check back in a month or two!

That was written last June and the author never made a follow-up statement letting people know how he was doing.

I’ve tried variations on different search strings but no other relevant results were returned by Google.

I’d need a lot more experience at this before I considered myself any sort of authority on how to do 5/3/1 for men over 60. In spite of the interest, no one seems to be writing on the topic.

I periodically write blog posts on my “inspirations,” people who have overcome the odds and who have achieved a certain level of success as powerlifters, bodybuilders, or just folks who have lived a really long time and who are still active in the gym and elsewhere.

I mentioned the my latest inspiration “Cowboy” Gene Lawrence just yesterday.

I couldn’t do my fourth and final 5/3/1 workout on Thursday because my wife’s van was in the shop and she needed me to drive her to work by 5:30 a.m. I am usually at the gym during the weekdays between 5 and 6, so that punched a really big hole in my schedule. After dropping her off, by the time I could have gotten to the gym, I wouldn’t have had time for even a decent cardio session.

Jimmie Espinoza age 70
Photo credit: mysanantonio.com

So I hope that the van is quickly repaired and she’ll have reliable transportation for Friday (I’m writing this on Thursday). If not, then the overhead press and rack pulls will have to wait until Saturday, and then I’ll face the start of week three the very next day.

One thing Rosenberger did that I found valuable was that he condensed his four years of using 5/3/1 down to a consumable chunk of information for the reader, chronicled what worked and what didn’t, and told us why. I’m just in the middle of the first circuit of my 5/3/1 reboot, so I’ve got a long road ahead of me before I have that level of experience with the program (this assumes I’m going to stick with it rather than try other options).

So instead of a comprehensive resource for 5/3/1 candidates over 60, all I can offer right now is an ongoing stream of updates on my own process and progress, day by day, week by week. Who knows. If this goes on long enough, I might turn it all into a book.

A problem is a chance for you to do your best.

Duke Ellington

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3 thoughts on “Resources for Wendler’s 5/3/1 for Men Over 60?

    1. Thanks for that, Jerry. At the present, I still feel OK training four days a week, but that could change as the weights become more challenging, so this is a good alternative. I did notice the following:

      The one problem is that it takes longer to go through a training cycle (six weeks rather than four), but now that you‘re old and decrepit, those are the breaks.

      Cute. Wait til he’s “old and decrepit.”

      Like

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