Jim Wendler “Beyond 531” Joker sets for dummies

So you want to do the Joker sets from Beyond 5/3/1, but can’t figure out how to structure them? I’ve got a few tips for you.

While I do realize that the entire idea about the Joker sets was to add an auto-regulating element to the program, I also know that a very small percentage of the readers of the book will actually be able to use it in a productive way. So I’ve given it some thought, and come up with a couple of tips to help implement them. After all, when we think about “Joker” sets – we’re not associating them with this clownshoe are we?


1. Earning your Joker sets:

This one is simple – Wendler mentions it again and again. Always go hard on the 5/3/1-set. Joker sets are only supposed to be done on days where you feel “good”. Obviously, if you set a new PR, you’re having a good day. So rule number one is simple:

No PR – no Joker sets

If you can’t nut up and get a PR, you haven’t earned the right to move on up. Finish your workout and go home and eat, rest and come back stronger and more determined.

2. Staying inside of the general framework of the program

The 5/3/1 system is based on a three-week loading cycle, where you start off light(ish) on the 5+ week, go a bit heavier on the 3+ week and finally have a heavy week before starting over. To keep you (and me) from killing our progress by doing new 1-rep maxes each and every week, I suggest sticking to Joker sets of 5, 3 and 1 respectively. That means you work up in 5’s in week 1, 3’s in week 2 and singles in week 3. Rule two:

 Work up in 5s, 3s and 1s respectively.

 3. Don’t go to failure

This one should be easy, though I’ll mention it anyways. Don’t go to complete failure. Technical failure, is ok. This one is twice as important for the lower body lifts, where a death wish can take you far beyond good form and waaay into “L’Arc de Triomphe” territory.

Don’t go to failure (or beyond) – this goes for the 5/3/1 sets too.

The wrap up:

The Joker sets is a free pass to work up and lift heavy weights. We all want to do that. These three tips will keep you inside the general framework of the program, while allowing you to add some weight to the bar on the good days. At the end of the day – this is the Joker we want to be:


You can get the book Beyond 5/3/1 here, and read my review of it here.

2 thoughts on “Jim Wendler “Beyond 531” Joker sets for dummies

  1. Pingback: Joker Sets by Wendler (From Beyond 5/3/1) - LeanBulk Bodybuilding, Powerlifting, Supplements, and Diet

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