Beyond 5/3/1 Joker sets revisited


Joker sets eh? This is a really cool addition to “Beyond“, which lets you go above the program on a good day. As mentioned elsewhere, my friend Jacob tells me the Norwegian powerlifters call it spinning.

This post details some guidelines for implementing the joker sets in your program. Since writing that post, I’ve played around a bit more with the joker sets. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • I prefer to do them on the 3+1 day. 1+ day is also an option, as long as you’re steering well clear of failure (at least for SQ/DL – less of an issue with the presses). The harder you go at it, the more rest you also need, and if you’re following the 6+1 week template suggested in beyond, it’s great to have a somewhat lighter week.
  • Don’t plan joker sets!!! This is important. Only do them when you KILL your topset for the day. No grinders on the jokers.
  • Do 1-3 sets max. I usually just add ~10% to my top set and do one joker set. Adding much less than that is silly and if you can add 10% twice, your training is based on a VERY low max.


What I’ve done is do conventional deadlifts as my regular 531-lift, though when doing joker sets, I switch to my stronger sumo stance. I feel the conventional deadlift is a better strength and mass builder though. Switching to sumo to get some heavier weights in works great for me. I obviously do some volume at lower percentages to work on sumo form as well.

This could be applied to shirted benches, wrapped squats or whatever really. Just remember to keep the goal, the goal. The 531 system is not about lifting heavy-ass-crazy-hardcore weights week in and week out. It’s about setting rep-records and being patient. It’s about knowing what you do works, and giving it time to work.



Hard work.

And love – don’t forget the love!


2 thoughts on “Beyond 5/3/1 Joker sets revisited

  1. Hey, recently discovered your blog and loving your writing. I’m following 5/3/1 myself and when Beyond 5/3/1 first came out I wanted to include joker sets but without doing too much that could derail the original progression. Before I even found this blog I came to the conclusion that joker sets would have to be limited in some way. What I’ve been doing so far (and I may tweak further) is like you, doing 1-3 sets only. On 5’s week I will jump up 10% and attempt a triple ONLY. I will then go up a further 5% and do another triple. I will never go over my current TM for these triples. On 3’s week I use a similar plan but doing doubles. On 5/3/1 week I will make just 5% increases for singles.

    • Thanks for the comment Rob.
      In a way I think your approach might be better than the one I outlined, however when you’re doing singles and doubles all the time, chances are that somebody is gonna go full retard. As you know, that’s not the point of joker sets. So you could say I was playing it a bit safe in my post.
      How long have you been using the Joker sets? Have you gotten good results from them?


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