a note on programming

I mentioned in a recent training log entry that I picked up Beyond 5 3 1. I loved running 5/3/1 before taking an extended break from lifting and had read 531 for Powerlifting and 531 for Football. 5 3 1 is a simple way to periodize your training and is flexible enough to give you a chance to do all the things you love to do and set your training up how you want to.

Beyond 5 3 1 reads like a man who is tired of answering common sense questions by email all the time. If you haven’t read it, I would do so. You can find it on Amazon, here.

I am not going to review the program or even review the book. This post is merely to document some things that I am planning on incorporating into my training from this book.

Here goes.

Joker Sets

First, the book covers something Wendler calls “Joker Sets.” The concept is simple; there are days when you just feel like a monster and you can smash your weights. The idea goes that once you’ve set a PR for your 531 lift, you can add some heavy sets afterwards until you think you’ve done all you can do.

Part of the appeal of this is my love of singles. My favorite part of Chaos and Pain is that you do a ridiculous amount of singles every day you lift. I see the concept as a way to include some extra movements in my workout without going crazy. Here’s some ideas for how I will use Joker sets if I want to:

  • Military Press. Military Press, Push Press, Jerk, BTN Push Press, and BTN Jerk.
  • Deadlift. Deadlift, Rack Pulls, Low Pull, High Pull, Power Clean, Muscle Snatch, and Hang Snatch.
  • Bench Press. Bench Press and Board Press
  • Squat. Back squat, front squat, walkouts/lockouts, and zercher squats

Particularly, I want to do this on Military Press days and Deadlift days if I am feeling good. I am thinking that this is a good way to overload my overhead work with jerk like movements and to help build a little explosiveness while doing some snatch drills.

Deload Options

One of the major improvements to the 531 program from Beyond 531 is a new take on deloading. While I like the concept of deloading, I don’t think it needs to be done as often as some programs build it in, especially when you are a novice lifter.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of a deload, it is essentially that you build fatigue and stress cumulatively through several weeks of hard work, then you take an easy week to recover, and then drop back into training.

The first piece I will be taking from 531 is the 6 week cycle for my upcoming training cycle. That means:

  • Week 1. 3×5
  • Week 2. 3×3
  • Week 3. 5x3x1
  • Week 4. 3×5
  • Week 5. 3×3
  • Week 6. 5x3x1
  • Week 7. Deload

Additionally, the book gives several options for loading during your deload weeks. The traditional approach is three sets of 5 reps at 40%, 50% and 60% of your training max. Beyond 531 gives you 5 options:

  • The traditional approach listed above for when you really need a deload
  • A slightly heavier version of the above for when you need a deload, but aren’t THAT in need of one
  • A heavier version using 3 triples for when you think you can and need to keep slightly heavier weights on the bar to hold onto your gains
  • Two lighter but higher rep versions to incorporate more volume into your training to help you recover

You’ll notice I am doing the 3×3 option for deloading right now and its feeling good.


Mobility training is downright confusing to me, so I appreciate that Wendler covers it in his book. Even though he says:

If I had to give myself an honest rating on where I fall on the “Are you a mobility expert?” scale, I would say I fall somewhere between Shitty and Awful.

That said, he at least puts out a few mobility workouts in straightforward language. I plan on using some of this moving forward. I think incorporating this kind of work will help me further on down the line.


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