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Wendler 531: Is it worth your time ? [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Oct 27, 2016 2:08:55 AM

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Wendler 531: Is it worth your time ?

If you are fit, know how to handle a barbell and want to apply an aproach of half an hour a day to get strong beside your other sports commitments, I think Wednler 531^is one of the best options around.

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What is Wendler 531 ?

Wendler 531 is an intermediate lifting program designed by Jim Wendler. It uses a periodic approach of 4 week cycles to improve the three main lifts of powerlifting which are the deadlift, squat and bench press. A four week cycle breaks down into:
  • 5 repetition week
  • 3 repetition week
  • 1 repetition week
  • Recovery week
Hence the name Wendler 531. The basic principle is that you will work with higher weights as a percentage of your one repetition maximum from week 1 to week 3 at a lesser amount of repetitions per set. This achieves an effect of maximum variety with relatively low effort to expose your body too a lot of different stimuli over a four week period. The top set (heaviest set of the day) is an AMRAP set in which you do as many repetitions as possible. If you want to know more about the program read my Extensive review on the  program.
In the 5 rep week the top set is at least 5 repetitions and and then you go from there. Same applies for the 3 rep and 1 rep weak (at least 3 / 1 rep and then go from there)

What are your goals ?

The most important question to evaluate whether something is worth your while is to evaluate it against your goals. The main goals for lifters are in my opinion:
  • Speed
  • Strength
  • Build Muscle
  • Aesthetics
For speed and explosiveness the program might not be ideal. The west side method might be the better pick with its emphasis on chain and band work. 
Wendler 531 is definitely worth your time when you want strength gains in a short amount of time as an athlete. I personally think for that purpose it is one of the best programs around based on that you only have to spent half an hour on a session and that you work with relatively light weights therefore limiting injury risk. If you are new to the weight room, do Stronglifts beorehand.
For Wendler is also not the program to build muscle the fastest as you seldomly work in the repetition range of 8 - 12 repetitions which is recommended for hypertrophy. Here German Volume Training would be the better pick.
Aesthetics are achieved the easiest via your diet. Looking lean is all about bringing your body fat around or below 10%.


Please refer to my more detailed review of the program if you are interested as I have run it for eight months. Wendler is worth your time if you are familiar with the movements of the squat, deadlift and bench press and have 1 - 2 years experience in the lifting room under your belt. If you fulfill this criteria you will enjoy the variety of the program and that the injury risk is lower than with other powerlifting programs as you are dialing back to 90% of
your one rep max.

Further reading



Topics: Jim Wendler 5/3/1