95 of 97 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2012
Like a few others, I did not purchase through Amazon, but I purchased the eBook through his site, but it should be the same thing.
For those that are questioning the difference between version 1 and version 2, there is a bit more detail, FAQ's, and I think another template or two. But honestly, if you have the first edition check out his website and also his free articles on tnation and you can see most if not all of the changes.
I wasted MANY years off and on in the gym getting nowhere. I read way too many articles and did things like worry about using a stop watch to time the length between sets, worry about time under tension, this loading scheme, that loading scheme. It was always information overload that lead to frustration and burnout and over thinking. A little over a year ago I started on 5/3/1. Here are a few reasons why I think it is good:
- Simplicity. Jim gives different templates in the book depending on your focus at the time. He takes most of the thinking out of it. Just plug in your numbers.
- The right exercises. The fact is a lot of people waste time in the gym doing arm curls and other isolation movements. I used to do them and got nowhere. 5/3/1 uses big boy exercises throughout. You can't help but make progress.
- Supplements. No BS here trying to sell snake oil or pimp some company. Basically he says to eat right and get plenty of rest. So often you see plugs for this supplement or that supplement. Maybe some fish oils, multi-vitamims or other cheap basics, but none of that 100$ bottle of powder that you have to use to get "big". Eat enough good food to make progress (you have to know your own body), get plenty of rest, and follow 5/3/1.
- Records - Jim talks about every time you hit the gym, with the exception of the deload week, to break records. Using the formula he gives you to figure out your 1RM and then also using your rep count from the previous cycle (I call a cycle the 4 weeks through before increasing your numbers and starting week 1 again). Using either one of these you challenge yourself to be better every day and makes lifting fun.
- Programming - You can take what Jim gives you and program an entire year if you want to. No more sitting around thinking about what you will do next week, next month, or whenever program X runs it's course. I like the fact that I don't have to think about programming anymore. Print out the 4 week chart towards the end of the book (I print out about six copies), pick an assistance template, and I'm done. All I have to do is show up, lift, eat and sleep.
How has it worked for me? At almost 37 years old my overhead press has gone up around 45 pounds, squat up around 60, deads up over 100, and my bench up about 15 (my bench sucks so that number is actually impressive for me). And I'm not a novice either who can add these type of lbs easily. At the time of typing I'm only on my second pass through 5/3/1. I can't wait to see what my numbers hit after I max out in another 3 to 6 months.
Even though I give it 5 stars - word of caution for any newbs - Even though I think I'm moderately experienced, I had to read through it front to back about three or four times to totally get it. Also, there are some exercises that may not be well known. Jump on you tube and search for that exercise, they are all out there. Understand the move from there and then learn to do it properly and safely at your own gym.
70 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2013
I love buying fitness books; I'm not an expert, never will be (I think I missed my true calling), but I was an overweight guy who lost 60+ pounds about ten years ago by following the programs in the magazines and the internet. I did succeed, but that was more dumb luck than knowledge. After about 18 months to 2 years, I stalled, and I didn't change my physique at all. At 190 pounds, I was weak. I could crank out some pushups, tons of situps, yes, but my first attempt with a real barbell in 2005 was a humbling attempt to bench 125 lbs. From them until 2012, well, I played with medicine balls, dumbbells, chinups, etc. in a sort of haphazard fashion.
This second edition has more programming options than the first edition. The first edition, however, has everything you need. The second edition addresses our (meaning us men) for many different options so that we can put our own personal stamp on our training program.
I have a whole bookcase of stuff--yes, many of them were cheaper, but only a few (Rippetoe, Dan John) are worth as much as Wendler's 5/3/1. If you love working out and love having a precise plan, Wendler's program is for you. If you would rather "wing-it," and work chest and biceps whenever you feel like it for whatever weight feels "right" until "failure," this book is not for you. Read on if curious; if not, you have my go-ahead to spend your hard-earned money. It is short and sweet: no science or explanations or sales-pitches, just the plan. My only negative remark for Jim: for $25 bucks for each black and white book, hire a proofreader who will ensure your product is professional (some formatting and punctuation issues/typos).
The programming in 5/3/1 is not revolutionary; this is not an insult, I've read enough of Wendler's internet articles/posts to tell you that he would agree. What is a revolutionary is the way you determine your poundage. Many workouts tell you to use a "weight that you can lift for X reps." Not here, every lift is planned based on a percentage of your working load (which is 10% less than your 1 rep max). You rotate through four workouts (there are other variations), with each workout focusing on a primary lift to build pure strength: squat, deadlift, bench, and press (overhead). On each lift, you follow a predetermined template; for example, during week one, assuming your press 1RM is 117 lbs, you take 10% less, 105 lbs. You warmup with 40% for 5 reps, 50% for 5 reps, and 60% for 3 reps. Then, it's 5 reps at 65% (70 lbs) and 75% (80 lbs). Now, the fun part: your final set is 5 or more at 85% (90 lbs). By the time you go to week 3, you are going for one or more reps at 95% (100 lbs in our example). Week 4 is a deload: no heavy lifting, no breaking goals or going for as many reps as possible. Then, you start a second round, but you add 5 or 10 lbs to your working load and do it all again.
Yes, you have to do some math. I created a spreadsheet, complete with the 1RM calculations, to calculate the prescribed weights for up to a 10 month period (or until you reset). I'm sure a quick Google search will help you find a template. In order to compare "rep maxes," Wendler recommends a formula to calculate your 1RM (the Epley formula), which gives a fair estimate of your 1RM based on your weight and load.
In my experience, lifting a "load that feels right" offers very little progress; you need to push past your comfort zone. It might sound simple, but following a predetermined chart removes the guesswork and forces you to "try" to lift a weight that you might not have tried until you were "sure you could lift it." Well, follow the program, and the pounds just keep going up--slow and steady.
After the primary lift on each day, you follow up with assistance exercises for mass building (the "sets of 10" you are accustomed to). Dumbbell stuff, chins, rows, lunges-all stuff to keep you well rounded and offer variety for those (like me) with a serious case of exercise ADD. Also, in contrast to many experts who want to build muscle and maximal strength--Wendler recommends "conditioning," hill sprints or similar hard activity to condition your body. I agree that conditioning should be a part of every well-rounded program. Human beings should be strong AND able to move (or walk a flight of steps).
Don't skip the "deload" week. I did--it felt too easy to follow a week of easy lifting. I paid for it. I never thought I could be "over-trained"; after all, I'm not an athlete, I'm a father with a job and a hobby that involves lifting my cheap barbell set in my cold garage. Anyway, I followed 5 evolutions (my own term) without de-loading. By the 6th cycle, my whole body hurt, and I was completely unable to beat my PRs (personal records). I was sore, my joints hurt, etc. I was too greedy. I needed to reset the weights back a few cycles and lift twice in 10 day period before things felt right again. Then, I started my second "season" (again, my own term) of 5/3/1.
As you can probably tell, I like writing reviews. So, you're probably wondering about my personal experience. Well, I have no intentions of competing (power lifting or bodybuilding), but I sure love competing against the barbell. My lifts have steadily increased over the six months or so that I have followed 5/3/1. My bench max is finally over my body-weight--all because I decided to keep "trying" at the heavier weights instead of just cranking out 'sets of ten.' Also, I am convinced that my improvements came because I made steady, slow progress and because of the periodized workouts (each week a slightly different rep/weight focus).
Speaking of body-weight, I'm up to the 224 mark from a low of 188 (in 2005 after losing a bunch). That
s six or eight inches on the pants, depending on which country manufactured my garments. I believe that most of my gains came on 5/3/1 during 2012. No complaints, other than some of my jeans just don't fit (the thighs are too tight to be comfortable), and my dress shirts and suit coats are noticeably tight. I had been wearing these clothes for years. I don't measure myself, and it's always hard to tell looking at yourself in the mirror, but the clothing tells the story. The last suit I bought was 2" larger in the chest and an "athletic" cut; the smaller coats are almost uncomfortable and certainly restrictive.
I finished with a full "season" of 5/3/1, then messed around with some other stuff for about 3 weeks. I finally decided to go back to 5/3/1, and, sure enough, I felt a "good" soreness/DOMS again and, after only two workouts, realized that I was absolutely starving during the workday. No, not scientific, but it is something to think about.
I do my conditioning on lower-body days with limited assistance work. For example, I do some deadlifts (I limit to 10 reps, since I beat myself up with these, which might be because I'm 6'4" and/or because I could use some coaching) and some squats (for reps) followed by conditioning. I work hard: sprints, high-effort jumping rope, box jumpers, heavy-bag work, or some combination of these.
I generally stick with the Boring but Big template with the "3-month challenge" twist. (Check out T-nation article for more details). Basically, I bench 5/3/1 style then press for 5 sets of 10 reps. Oh, and I grease-the-groove (Pavel's term) by doing 8 sets of chins/pullups between each set on the upper body days. I vary the assistance work occasionally but not often. I like consistency, which allows me to gauge my progress.
I also like the split--one upper body day, one lower body day (alternating), up to four times per week (three is okay two; other templates are suggested for two days per week). This way, I can workout two days in a row or every-other-day to accommodate my unpredictable work schedule. I like "full-body training," but I feel like (in my thirties), I just don't "recover" fast enough to do three full-body days each week.
As far as Wendler's writing style, you will enjoy his "honest" writing style. There is no pretension in his writing, just straightforward advice and a plan.
I hope my fellow Amazon shoppers found this review to be helpful!