The 5/3/1 Philosophy for Beginners

January 10th, 2020 | 0 Comments | Blog

Usually, I tell everyone to just do the 5/3/1 program no matter what, no matter the age of training. Of course, if you’re a trainer and using the program with a new athlete or a newcomer to training, just use your experience to make any changes needed-even if it doesn’t need to be much.

Now if you’re a newbie and working without any guidance, it’s probably best to just stick to the basic program. One of the worst things a young lifter can do is take advice from other beginners on message boards – they usually have all the advice and no experience. Below is a recent change that is allowed, and effective. offers a tricky, easy way to add some extra work to the main elevators without compromising the program or the philosophies it builds on.

The 5/3/1 Body Protocol

  • You do a whole-body routine, three days a week.
  • Full-body vigorous routines are the best way for new lifters to get strong quickly if the program is not idiotic.
  • Instead of just one main lift per workout (using a 5/3/1 set-up), two main lifts were used for additional weekly exposures.
  • Keep in mind that the training max has to be right and if in doubt, mistake the “too light” side. Principles guide life AND training.

The program is set up the same way – get 90% of your max and work slowly. All percentages are based on the max of training. Each day does ONE exercise from each category listed below. Do 50-100 total reps with each exercise. If you are too weak to get all the reps (chin-ups/pull-ups for example) then just choose a SECOND move to complete the total reps. This is incredibly simple to do.
The three categories to choose from are: push, pull, and single-leg/core.

Push: dips, push-ups, DB bench/incline/press, triceps extensions/pushdowns
Pull: chin-ups/pull-ups, inverted rows, rows (DB/machine/BB), face pulls, band pull-aparts, lat pulldown, curls
Single Leg/Core: any abdominal work, back raises, reverse hyperextensions, lunges, step-ups, Bulgarian one-leg squats, KB snatches, swings


  • Perform Defranco’s Agile 8 before each workout and it should be done every day.
  • Perform a total of 10-15 box jumps or med ball throws before lifting.
  • Some kind of race or conditioning should be done on Tuesday / Thursday / Sat / Sun. This will be largely based on your own goals, your current fitness level, and what you have access to. DO NOT lie on the floor with conditioning; follow the “50% Rule 5/3/1” when conditioning.

If you don’t understand some, most or all of this is probably because you haven’t read the book and don’t have the basics to understand the variation. You can find the full 5/3/1 program here.

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