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How to combine Jim Wendler 5/3/1 and the westside method

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Nov 29, 2015 2:37:41 AM


How to combine Jim Wendler 5/3/1 and the westside method

You can combine the two methods taking Jim Wendler's approach for max effort days and the westside approach for dynamic days. Be aware that this increases overall workload of the Jim Wendler program and optimises your max effort days for general strength development, rather than specific development for powerlifting.

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What is your goal ?

As so often it is important to know what you want to achieve before picking your according program. Both Jim Wendler 5/3/1 and westside are methods for experienced lifters who already know how to handle a barbell in a power rack. Combining the two principles would be advised for people who want to get strong really fast and also see that their squat, bench press and deadlift lack explosiveness and have some "sticky points". You should have run at least one weighlitfing program for beginners before diving into this.

What is the Jim Wendler 5/3/1 method ?

Jim Wendler was a powerlifter who also trained with the conjugated method / west side method under tutelage from Louie Simmons. After reaching his personal goals in powerlifting he found that the westside method was optimised for doing 9 lifts on a particular day with very limited range of motion. He felt fat and undynamic when compared to his former football days when he was younger.

Therefore he amended the westside method based on his own experience and developed the 5/3/1 method. In this lifting program you will always use a full range of motion, not work with bands and chains, and dial back to 90% of your one repetition maximum to ensure that you progress healthy for a long time.

The sessions and weeks in 5/3/1 are stacked. You have a week where you do sets of fives, following week sets of threes and third week a set of five, three and 1. This is where the name comes from and it assumes that you train four times a week. Otherwise your progress through one cycle prolongs accordingly. Last part of one cycle is a deload week.

You train the squat, bench press, deadlift and overhead press once a week with 6 sets per session. Three warm up sets & three work sets is the split. The last set is as many repetitions as possible with the prescribed weight. If you are interested to learn more about the calculations and progression of this program check out my Jim Wendler Calculator and Jim Wendler Top set Calculator

Advantages of this program are that you can do it in any gym without any extra equipment. All you need is a barbell and plates. Disadvantage is that the progression on Jim Wendler is quite slow compared to other available lifting templates like Stronglifts 5x5.

What is the westside method ?

The westside method works with dynamic days and Max effort days. The major difference between westside and Jim Wendler is that on max effort days Louie Simmons uses a lot of extras like boards, chains & bands to manipulate the load curve and range of motion. Also Box squats are used quite heavily in this method. 

The advantage is, that you can lift more for longer and always have a certain bodypart or part of the lift loaded even beyond your one repetition maximum. If you use chains for your squat and load it up to 5kg more than your one repetition maximum you will only have to move that weight at the highest position of the squat. When you descend the weight becomes lighter due links of the chain dropping to the ground and not weighing you down anymore. This is a good method to push your body beyond its limits constantly to achieve one repetition maximums for powerlifting meets.

On dynamic days you will move the weight as fast as possible usually attached to bands. This helps you to develop more explosiveness and agressiveness to fnish your lfits strong. 

The disadvantage of this method is that, if not combined with others, it seems to produce athletes with quite a limited range of motion that is only laid out for maxing out at powerlifting meets. If that is your goal, there is nothing more to wish for, but if not, where is the point. In addition the method also needs a lot of equipment which most poeple and gyms do not have (chains, bands, boards of various sizes). As long as you do not have your gym in your back yard, you will have to search a bit to find the right facilities which either has this equipment or allows you to bring it into the gym.

Why would you combine the two ?

You can combine the best of two worlds to create a program for the average joe who wants to be explosive and strong, but not limited in his range of motion like a powerlifter. The trade offs for achieving this are that you will not progress as fast to a One repetition maximum as with using the conjugated method only and you will be exposed to more risk of injury than you would with only using Jim Wendler 5/3/1. 

It also adds more challenge to your routine including bands, chains during a week of training.

To combine the two programs get the four sessions of Him Wendler 5/3/1 done in two days doing squat and bench on one day and deadlift and overhead press on the following. Rest for one day and than do dynamic squats with bands on the third and dynamic benching with bands on the fourth day of the week. Do this for three weeks working with 40%, 50%, 60% + bands on your dynamic days with 8 sets of 2 and the standard Jim Wendler program for max effort days. The fourth week is a deload week like in Jim Wendler without any dynamic work to recover. Switch the chains and the bands by cycle for the dynamic days. (Cycle 1 dynamic days bands, cycle 2 dynamic days chains etc.)

How can you cope with the workload ?

This remains to be seen for me ;). Currently it is a test I am running in my local gym based on what my personal trainer and I threw together. If you feel like the Jim Wendler program is not challenging enough for you, maybe consider to do this. What I personally do is that I max out my AMRAP sets at 10, 7 and 5 for the respective weeks and do not do any joker sets. I could push these sets to 12, 9 and 7 reps on good days, but facing the additional workload during the weeks with the dynamic work, i do not do that to avoid injury. 

Who would you recommend it to ?

Hideous bastards like me who love the challenge and want to progress from a 140kg to a 200kg squat, 140kg to 165kg bench press and 175kg to 235kg deadlift at same bodyweight within a year while staying mobile enough to cycle into a marathon running program to do a sub three hour marathon afterwards. So yes, if you are a bit crazy and you are disciplined, this is for you. If you are a flimsy little man/woman who is scared to step under the bar (I have been there, no insult meant, just face the truth), start slower on a different program. Work your way to being able to do pull ups, push ups and burpees and than look at that bar again. 

For how long would you do it ?

I perosnally think that anyone who is serious about their development should stay on a program for at least half a year to see results. Better even a year. Track your progress while doing this and see where you struggle. Amend accordingly.

What to watch out for ?

Take your time with getting used to the bands. They are hard on your joints and also a bit wierd to get used to. Remember that failing a rep under bands spells in jury as it will go flying due to the added tension of the bands. Make sure that your setup is solid, the bands are in a good condition and of same resistance (not always that obvious, better ask and double check whether you picked two bands which have the same attributes).

Same principles do apply to chains. Make sure that the cuffs are tightened and there is no slack. Pick the right length of chains for yourself, depending on your body measures. In both cases, put some thought into what chains and setup you pick you are going to pick, before just randomly throwing them on there. This might look cool, but can translate into serious harm.

For the Jim Wendler progression I recommend good trakcing methods in excel which you can get on my website. In addition always get a spot for weights that you have never moved for repetitions before. This will happen as you progress through the program and you might think, based on your calculated numbers, that the weight should be a walk in the park. In most instances it is, but better to be safe than sorry, as in fact, you have not moved those 120kg for the bench press for repetitions yet in your life, so you never know.


I am really excited to reprot and see how I will fare on this hybrid. So far it is a success and fun and I hope it stays that way. Please feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments below. This will help me and others who read this post to become better and think critically about their actions. 

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Topics: Jim Wendler 5/3/1, Powerlifting, Bodybuilding, Strongman