Strength Gains with 5/3/1



I’m a hard gainer.  I’ve always been a pretty scrawny guy.  It took 7 years in college of pizza 5 nights a week (Burger King the other two nights) and a couple two liters of soda per day to get me moderately chubby.

In the summer of 2011 I found myself plateauing on my lifts, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and try out a strength program mixed in with my regular CrossFitting.  After doing a lot of reading and asking others for recommendations, I decided to begin with a Wendler 5/3/1 program.  It’s simple and according to the interwebs, very effective.  The program involves 3 weeks of build-up followed by 1 week to recovery.  My results are provided below.

 DateBack SquatBench PressDeadliftShoulder Press
Pre-Cycle5-20-111107016043
Post-Cycle 16-20-111157516050
Post-Cycle 28-1-111208016055

Unfortunately, my training schedule became a bit sporadic at the end of my 3rd cycle, so I have no data to report for it.  Based on the first two cycles though,  I saw a 28% increase in my shoulder press, a 14% increase in my bench, a 9% increase in my back squat and a constant deadlift.

Now let me discuss an important point that I believe hindered my progress…  I had no idea what the hell I was doing.  I hadn’t realized that 5/3/1 is meant to include supplemental work for each of the lift days until most of the way through my second cycle.  This is what I get for half-assing my upfront research.  Unfortunately, since the three cycles I performed that summer, I have not been able to complete another one.  Though since then, I have put members of my gym through the sequence with pretty fantastic results.  Stay tuned for future posts on this topic.