Wendler 531 Cycle three week one wrap-up

Deload done. My deloads need to be shorter – had ~10 days which is way too much.

Press: 6@77,5kg – this is bad. Bench was fine, though I managed to fail a rep in the pinky grip figure-8. Roll of shame. Duh.

Did backwork as a triset batwings->chins->BOR which was ok. As soon as I get my lower back 100% I need to do some heavy backwork instead of all this dicking around though.

Managed to close the level 3 progression from CC on pullups and pushups, as well as level 2 on squats. Still on level 1 for HSPU (headstands) and level 2 for bridges. This is fine though as the book actually suggest you wait with these two. Headstands are tough when you try to support as little as possible with the hands.

Squat: Wasn’t really expecting to move mountains, as my SI-joint is still off. Getting it fixed before DL-day though. 5@145kg with relative ease. 3×5@110kg paused as backoff.

Managed to close level 2 bridging, level 3 HLR and level 1 grip. Yay.

Cardio: Saturday morning hill sprints and bodyweight stuff. Got in some quality work on clutch holds and my squat progression. Did short sprints, sprints with flying start and played around with changing direction too. Worked up a good sweat. 🙂

Bench: kept bench at just an easy 5@100 and went a bit heavier on the figure-8s instead. Up to 5@117,5kg. Did batwings and weighted chins as support as well as some easy easy work on the BW progressions. Finally managed to crack 120s headstand, so that’s good.

Finished off with neck, gut and grip.

Deadlift: 5@167,5kg was easy. Ready to push it now. Support was really good as well.

I’ve reached the first “real” bridging” exercise, and it feels fantastic. So excited. Finished up with some abs and grip. 🙂

Wendler 531 Cycle two week two wrap-up

Press: Got 8 reps at 80! Yay. One more than last time. Took everything I had. Made me hop around and scream like a gorilla. GORILLABUILDING! <3

Support was 8 sets of bench (3 with figure 8), 3 sets of light presses, 8 sets of batwings, 6 sets of BOR and 3 sets of WG pullups. Finished off with a few sets of crosswalk overhead carries.

Cardio: sunday morning hills. Ran 2-3k with wife and kid, then they dropped me off at the hill and I got in 10-12 sprints while they ran some more. Hit a max HR of 178 and burned 590 kcals. Good, good.


Squat: 8 reps @150 felt good. Yay. Paused squats took some manning up. Sheesh they kill me, but then I killed them. 5x4x117,5kg. I realized being really tight in the upper back is good (yea I know, duh!).

Went for a 4x20m (3 turns) walk with 100kg on the back, and finished up with light farmer’s walk, GHR, BSS and front bridges. Great session.

Deadlift: 8×172,5kg weren’t that hard, but immediately after setting the weight down, I felt something in my lower back. Stopped the workout after that.

Did 5x2x135 sumo from a deficit and 3 rounds of patterning as warmup. Wore my HR monitor and ended at 696kcal in 1hr05 from my doorstep.


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!


Wendler 531 Cycle one week three wrap-up

Press: Got 5@82,5kg as planned. Not too hard. Backoff was 3x5x65, which was easy as well.

Support: Five singles at 112,5kg in the benchpress. Three triples with a purple band firgure-8 at the same weight. WG pullups with hold, forehead supported rows with hold.

Notes: Have implemented tons of holds and general tempo manipulation on back work, which is actually great as a bit of a change. Right now I’m just experimenting on pretty much everything, but after a cycle or two, I’ll mix it up a bit.

Squat: 5 reps @155kg as planned. Followed up with a quick single at 170kg. It wasn’t terribly good, but not exactly bad either.

5 sets of 3 reps at 122,5kg paused squats ranging from “decent” to “very good”. Yay.

Support was three sets of RDLs and three sets of BSSs – they’re always a pain. Finished up with sumo groin mob. Great day.

Benchpress: 8@107,5kg without pushing too hard. Decided not to stay with the 5 reps, since a) bench is set so low and b) upper body DOMS isn’t as bad as lower body DOMS (and you can’t really push yourself as far either). Three singles with a figure 8 band moving up to 127,5kg. Paused benches were 5 sets of 3 at 85kg. These were really good today, which is a good sign.

Did chins, DB rows and bat wings for the back. Gonna keep bat wings for some time and see where that takes me. Dan John sure loves them, so they gotta be good, eh?

Cardio: A 5k hill interval session with the lady and the kid. Good fun and a decent workout. Five really long hills pushing the kid.


Deadlift: 5@177,5kg – not hard and not easy, it just was. Worked up to a single at 220kg sumo deadlift, though I really shouldn’t have as I wasn’t having the best of days. Was a clean lift though and easy enough.

Support: This is where it got UGLY. Five sets of three block pulls with 3 second eccentric phase. Used a snatch grip this week as I was pulling from higher blocks. This murdered my back. Finished off with hack squats, abs and a 70-rep sets of leg extensions. Decent workout on an off-day. 🙂

Weekly round-up: this week was the last of the first three-week cycle. I’m moving straight on to another three-weeker, then deloading after six weeks total. The week was great in terms of training and life, and I’ve been adjusting my routine a bit throughout the first three weeks. I’ll keep tweaking here and there, but I feel I have a solid foundation with the main lifts+back off in place. Things are looking good. On a side note, I’ll be cleaning up the diet a bit after letting it slip for some time. Hoping to slowly crawl down towards the low 90ies and if all goes well, I could end up making a comeback in the sub-93 weightclass. Time will tell.

Wendler 531 Cycle one week two wrap-up

Another week in the books, here’s how it went down:

Press: Seven reps at 80kg wasn’t too bad (or good), but with massive DOMS from deadlifts (probably rack pulls, but who cares) the day before, I was ok with this. Real life forced me to train two days straight.

3 sets of 8 at 62,5kg as backoff. Good.

Bench was good and I also got to play around with a light band across the chest in a figure-8. Fun fun.

Back was fried, so the 6 sets of pendlay rows were shit. 5 sets of perfect WG pullups and some curls.

Standard thorough warmup with prehab, no mobility done.

Squat: Great session where I got to play with the joker sets a bit. Got the 8×145 in the program and went for a solid triple at 160. Felt great. Five sets of four reps of paused squat and RDLs, lunges and abs to end the session.

I’m really happy my squat is going well again, and my current programming seems pretty good. Yay. Only slight downside is that I’ve been getting massive three-day DOMS throughout this cycle. Oh well.

Bench: Easy 8×100 and decided to work up a bit 3x110kg and 3x120kg. Easy – technique was a bit off though. 5x4x77,5 paused bench was easy.

Support: A bit of pinkygrip bench with figure 8, strict paused pulldowns 5×10, strict BOR 5×10 and cheat T-bar rows 5×10, press 3×10 and tons of activation. Great fun.

Comment: program is obviously based on a low max which is fine. I need quality reps to improve technically..

Photo 30-08-13 15.45.15

Deadlift: Got the 8×167,5kg easily. Then switched to sumo and continued up to 3x190kg and 3x210kg. Fine. 🙂

Support: Rackpulls were easier than last week, and I decided to stick with fronts afterall. Three sets of ten. Finished up with some abs and sumo groin mob. Lovely.

Cardio: I haven’t been on my hill for ages, and what better cure than to do hill sprints on a sunday morning?  Cleared my mind and my lungs up. Great.

Wendler 531 Cycle one week one wrap-up

Squat: first session back after vacation. Kept it sensible and got 10×137,5kg, and followed up with three sets of five at 105kg in the paused squat. I’ve gone back to squatting with a medium/high bar as I did before my hip and then my knees started acting up. It felt great. Hopefully I can stick to this style for a long period of time without any setbacks. With proper focus on prehab I should be good to go.

Assistance: Three sets of Bulgarian split squats, RDLs, hyperextensions and abs. Sumo groin mob and V-stretch as cool-down.

Bonus info: This session left me with some of the most intense three-day DOMS I can remember. I also managed to get a minor pull in my right groin, which forced me to switch some days around.

Press: 10x75kg went up. Not much to say about that. Paused presses were silly. Going back to straight sets from next week.

Support: Three sets of chest supported rows, three sets of rows, three sets of chins, three sets of WG pullups, three sets of bench press and some curls. Everything easy.

No mobility work. Shame on me.

531-shirt 400

Bench press: Switched DL and BP around because of my right hamstring. I should be fine in a few days. Everything was easy on this day, as I’ve based the program on a ridiculously low max (125kg). 10x95kg bench press, 3x5x72,5kg paused bench.

Support: Six sets of weight WG pullups, six sets of chest supported rows. A ton of prehab. Five minutes of hard stretching afterwards.


Dynamic part went very well, positioning was good and speed was decent (for me).

Conventional deads were easy and stopped at ten reps (just like all the other main lifts)

Block pulls were very nice and absolutely smoked my back. Though the weight was low, the slow eccentrics were great. Really focused on depressing shoulder blades. Great.

Front squats were shit.

Comments on the week in general:

Everything has been great except for the minor injury, which seems to be fixed now. Will focus on groin mobility going forward.

I need to find a substitute for front squats, for when I don’t have access to SSB or hack squat.

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.