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Wendler 531 for mass [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Apr 27, 2016 10:00:00 AM

Stronglifts for mass


Wendler 531 for mass

531 works for mass while developing strength at the same time if combined with the boring but big challenge. In itself, it is a rep scheme optimized for strength gains in increments with muscle gains as a sideshow. So if you want to get on the sage and become the next Ronnie Coleman, maybe opt for something different in the gym. If you wonder why I picked that picture, think about lost in translation, context, and the importance of these for understanding each other. 

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What is Wendler?

The Wendler program is relatively well known amongst lifters and bodybuilders especially with an interest in strength. It is quite impressive how one guy who is quite outspoken can gain so much traction without a big media machine behind him. Please support Jim Wendler by buying his books Wendler 531 and beyond 531. I do not gain any commission from him, ran the program myself and I think he is fun to read.  

What is mass?

I am a bit crazy about definitions as readers of my blog might know. I think talking about them and what poeple actually mean when they say them makes for a more interesting read than the average "Here are your reps and do them" approach. 

Mass is interesting as it has many different meanings. In Greek, it meant barley cake (of all things) and now it can be

  1. A large body of no definite shape
  2. A large number of people and objects crowded together
  3. The majority of
  4. The celebration of the Christian Eucharist
  5. A musical setting of parts of the liturgy used in mass

In physics, it means "The quantity of matter which a body contains; as measured by its acceleration under a given force or by the force exerted on it by a gravitational field" (my personal favorite) or more generally weight.

I think Physics definition is one which lifters would be well advised to keep in mind. Rather than just thinking about how many plates are on the barbell also take into consideration the speed at which it moves and the mass of the lifter moving it. The Sinclair coefficient is also a good way of thinking about this.

In bodybuilding circles, mass is also used as a synonym for putting on weight to look bigger. You will find a multitude of products like mass gainers floating about. Keep in mind that you can build "mass", "weight" or muscle in a dirty and clean way. I have discussed this in my article about bulking before.

Options with Wendler

The core Wendler program is more suitable for hyperplasia and adaptation of the nervous system to provide strength gains rather than hypertrophy for muscle growth. Generally, the optimal repetition ranges for hypertrophy are somewhere between 8 - 12 repetitions per set, which the program does not prescribe. If you like more detail on this refer to my article which compares Stronglifts 5x5 and German Volume Training in which I discuss this in more depth.

The Wendler 531 program has two interesting accessory options which Jim Wendler introduces in the article 5/3/1: How to build pure strength on T Nation. First is the triumvirate which I personally would see more suitable for powerlifters who want to build strength without gaining a lot of mass. The second is the boring but big challenge, which is basically German Volume Training cut in half.


If mass is your main goal and comes before everything else, do GVT instead of Jim Wendler 531. The rep scheme is not laid out for maximum mass gains, but for general strength development.

Further reading



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