Episode 164: 5/3/1 With Jim Wendler

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Kevin Larrabee (Twitter), Dr. Jonathan Fass,

and Jim Wendler

FitCast NEWS

Jim Wendler Interview

  • I love all your articles on Tmuscle and Elite fts. I’m 21 yrs old, 5’6 and 149 lbs at 13% body fat. I was a fat, weak, book smart kid without an ounce of muscle who never played a single sport my whole life. I lost a bunch of “weight” two years ago unhealthily. I started lifting weights last year and all my numbers were pathetically weak. I’m talking:
    Squat 60 lbs
    Deadlift 80 lbs
    Bench 45 lbs
    Press 30 lbs
    Yes I know, pathetic. I’ve stuck to basics and have worked on getting stronger on these lifts. Here’s my stats now:
    Squat 155
    Deadlift 230
    Bench 115
    Press 80
    I know those are all still really pathetic compared to what “strong” guys lift, put I’m pretty much stuck here. I can add more weight but to be honest my form deteriorates and I know that’s bad so I humble myself and lower the weight. I’ll have some good days where I progress slowly, but these are the numbers I’ve pretty much been stuck for a couple months. Am I too weak to try 5/3/1? Do you have any other tips for me to get stronger? I really want to get stronger in the press especially. My shoulders look like tangerines and I want grapefuits.

    p.s. aside from these lifts I also do body weight stuff like Chinups, dips, and rows if that makes any difference.
    Chinups 10
    Dips 11
    Rows 10
    Those are my maxes on those. Thank you very much your help. Keep up the good work my friend.

  • Jim,I am new to the sport of powerlifting and am going to compete in my first meet this February. My squat is not where I would like it to be, I’m pretty certain it’s because my technique sucks.  I feel most comfortable in a sumo stance in my deadlift, so I switched over to a wide stance in my squat for a few months (about 3 cycles of 5/3/1).  My hips would hurt in the bottom position (pinching in hip flexors).  Someone recommended that I not use a wide stance raw because it would wreck my hips, so I’ve brought my stance in narrower to just wider than shoulder width apart.  This took care of the hip pain, but I’m not moving as much weight either.
    • What is your recommendation for raw lifter’s squat stance?
    • Does a wide stance as seen a lot of the powerlifting videos only apply to geared lifters in squat suits?
    • Would you recommend different shoes (Olympic/Chucks/Wrestling) based on stance?
I know the answer is most likely “It depends…”, so hopefully my stats can help a little:
Height: 6’0″, Weight: 195
I have not done a 1RM test for a while so here are my current lifts; Squat: 315×3, Deadlift: 405×3, Bench: 235×5

Thanks in advance!

  • I’m wondering what Jim’s thoughts are on programming chinups into a routine when someone has a glaring strength deficiency in the lift. Glaring as in 1-2 reps before strength is shot and form breaks down.
    The routine I plan on starting calls for 4 weeks of higher reps (8-10) followed by 4 weeks of sets of 5, chins being the first lift of the day and done once per week. Right now I couldn’t do the 5’s much less 8’s or 10’s, so I’m curious how Jim would have someone lay out sets and reps and what movements he may have the person do instead of regular bodyweight chins until a better foundation of strength has been laid. Thanks….
  • Hey Jim, first off I just wanted to say I bought your 5/3/1 book right after Christmas and loved it! This may be a dumb question, but can 5/3/1 be applied to a fat loss program as well? I am 205 lbs, 6″1′ and I am trying to drop about 10 lbs. If it can be modified what would you change? Thanks and I can’t wait to hear your answer! -Xav Toronto, Canada
  • Hey Kevin, love the show and thanks for getting Jim on, it is about damn time! I have a question for Jim. I know you have a family, as do I. I have a 4-year-old son and 6-year old daughter. With the family and kids demanding a lot of my time I find it hard to get my ass in gear when it comes to nutrition. Do you have any tips or suggestions for sticking with a nutritional program that would facilitate getting stronger while staying relitively lean? Thanks for your help. -Allen B.
  • When Dave Tate was on a few months back he said you were the go to guy when it comes to putting together a home weight room. I find it harder and harder to get to a real weight room due to travel time and dealing with their bullshit rules. So, here is my question. In about 6 months I will have about $3,000-4,000 to spend towards equipment. What would you recommend I get? Right now all I have is some kettlebells, an iron gym pull up bar, a TRX, and and iPod speaker dock that sounds like a radio from 1940. I know I need a barbell, some weights, a bench and maybe a rack. But I don’t know any specifics. Thanks for your help.  -Pierce

  • YoGreat podcast, been listening since number 85. I have a question and two opinions. Will start with opinions I guess.

    1. How are you counting your calories for your destination abs diet? I found that with FitDay because my computer was not near my kitchen I was being strict enough in my counting that the fact that I could not note down what “snacks” I was taking stunted my weightloss. Having a notebook stashed in my kitchen cupboard has really helped, as every time I think about taking something I have to note it down immediately (also good for mental arithmetic). A more controversial approach I am taking is to weigh myself everyday. Whilst I appreciate that the frequency and the method, in so far determining body composition are not condoned have a form of accountability next to the total calorie intake is nice.

    2. Without trying to be ignorant/rude/untactful could you progress be hampered by the fact that your relationship with Leigh is different of what normally would be expected of a personal trainer to client relationship. This would feed back into the accountability. Having an extra re-feed day, did not seem to bother you that much on the podcast, yet it when dieting it would be akin to not training because you felt lazy. A trainer/coach would come down pretty hard although more of “You have to got to get your mind in gear” rather than “You mingy piece of sh*t”. I am not saying that having a friend to give you advice about dieting is a bad thing but perhaps choosing someone who is further outside your circle to be accountable to might be better.


    The definition of a supplement (eg whey, Nox, BCAA, gainer, creatine, Anablonda) is “a quantity added (e.g. to make up for a deficiency) “. If you are dieting is there a need for supplementation given that even with the bear minimum nutrient ratios (as per Leigh a few episodes back) that is possible to get the basic RDA as per FDA dialled in. A small caveat is that I am excluding multivitamins and fish oil (but only for people who dislike oily fish) from “supplement” -Fred

  • (For everyone)I thought you might find this interesting as there were some comments in episode #161 about biggest loser. Former “winner” Erik Chopin has another reality TV show about how he’s trying to lose weight after regaining almost 200 lbs!http://health.discovery.com/videos/health-promos-confessions-of-a-reality-show-loser.html
  • Hi, I have been listening to your podcast for some time and I was wondering about the effects of training on say 18-19 year olds in terms of weight training.
    I ask this because I have heard that within the first two years of training it is best to do 3 or so full body workouts per week – yet for intermediate trainees it is recommended to do split training.

    How long would each workout be if you have six split sessions per week, and what muscle groups should be targetted. Thanks, I am an 18 year old Aussie who has been training 2.5 years, 63kg and 5ft 8in – you guys have really helped with my training and have helped me towards my goals – and now I will be staring a human movement degree with a bachelor of nutrition and dietetics thanks to you guys.

    Cheers Keith Logan

  • Hey guys, i have a suggestion and a question. Both are about the doorway pullup bars.I have had one of those doorway pullup bars in between my room and bathroom for a while now. Last episode, you were talking about how yours feels unstable sometimes. I had that issue at first. What I did was go to the hardware store and buy some L brackets. They are really cheap, and I screwed them into my wall right above the door frame. I figured a couple holes are worth it, especially since I plan on using this thing for some time. It works really well. The bar sits on the L brackets instead of the door frame, and is much more sturdy. I have found this to be particularly worth it if you have a smaller or thinner door frame.

    I also have a question regarding pullups. Since I have this pullup bar in my room, I do about 10 pullups probably 4-5 times every day just because it is there and I have 30 seconds to kill. The max number of pullups I can do at once is something like 15. Usually if I am doing a set of pullups I will do 3 sets to failure, which is something like 15, 12, 8. I was wondering how doing these 3 sets of pullups to failure (3 sets with a minute or so in between) compares to the 4-5 sets of 10 throughout the day. Is doing pullups throughout the day an effective way to build strength, or would it be better to just focus on session? I was wondering if you could also talk about the EPOC effects of pullups or pushups throughout the day. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts. -Sal

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7 Responses

  1. AHA says:

    Link is incorrect.

  2. krispy1138 says:

    Re the doctor, doctor joke: The Marx Brothers did that joke in “A Day At the Races” in 1937, well before Airplane or Spies Like Us.

  3. Simco says:

    Great interview.

    Towards the end of Jim’s interview he briefly touched on a trainee in his gym who had made remarkable strength gains while maintaining a consistent body weight (160lbs) while still training consistently outside of weights.
    Is there any way this subject (not particularly this person) could be expanded? I think there are lots of people who may listen to this show who compete in weight-based sports that are scared of 1) having to move up a class if they lift too heavy yet want or need strength gains to stay competitive and 2) losing out on practice time due to weight training.

  4. Wendler rules! Good stuff. Long live Iron Monkey

    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson

  5. Indy says:

    Wow awesome interview with Jim. Great job fitcast crew.

  6. Dave P says:

    Anything with Wendler is great. 5/3/1 is epic in its stupid simplicity (in a nice way) and amazing effectiveness!

  7. Apav says:

    Great interview ! Can’t find the book, any suggestions?