Jim Wendler 5/3/1 Assistance Work | The Ultimate Guide!


Are you curious about Jim Wendler 5/3/1 assistance work? 

Do you want to know how to program your assistance exercises on Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 training program?

Then you’ve come to the right place.

In this comprehensive guide, I will teach you exactly how to use 5/3/1 assistance work to take your training to the next level!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Westside Style
  • Part 2: The Triumvirate
  • Part 3: Boring But Big
  • Part 4: Beefcake
  • Part 5: I’m Not Doing Jack Shit

Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program is one of the most popular training programs in the world.

Millions of athletes around the world have used his routine to blast through training plateaus and get freaky strong.

Jim Wendler says the squat, bench press, overhead press, and deadlift are the most important exercises in his program. However, he also believes that the assistance exercises play an important role in your overall training program.

Jim Wendler says the best 5/3/1 assistance work templates include Westside style, the triumvirate, and boring but big beefcake.

All of these templates let you attack your weak muscle groups, while providing the right balance of volume and intensity to help you make consistent long-term progress.

But before we talk about these different assistance work templates, let’s quickly talk about the 5/3/1 program itself.

Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program is divided into 4 main training days:

The 5/3/1 Training Split

  • Day 1: Bench Press
  • Day 2: Squat
  • Day 3: Overhead Press
  • Day 4: Deadlift

On each of these days you are going to perform 3 working sets for the first main exercise.

For example, on your bench press day you will perform 3 working sets on that movement, and then perform your accessory exercises.

The 3 working sets are all based on percentages of your 1-rep max. Check it out:

5/3/1 Programming

  • Week #1: 3 sets of 5 reps @ 65%, 75%, 85%
  • Week #2: 3 sets of 3 reps @ 70%, 80%, 90%
  • Week #3: 3 sets of 5, 3, 1 reps @ 75%, 85%, 95%
  • Week #4: 3 sets of 5 reps @ 40%, 50%, 60%

Jim Wendler uses a “training max” rather than your actual 1-rep max.

Basically, he tells everyone to use 90% of their 1-rep max as their training max, and to base your training percentages off this training max.

You can check out the following article if you want to learn more about 5/3/1 programming:

Now let’s take a closer look at each of Jim Wendler’s favorite 5/3/1 assistance work templates.

Part 1: 5/3/1 Westside Style

Jim Wendler used to train with Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell powerlifting team.

Because of this, he is a big fan of the Westside style assistance work template.

Here is what it looks like:

Westside Style Assistance Work

  • Upper body: chest, triceps, back, shoulders
  • Lower body: hamstrings, lower back, abs

This is how the Westside Barbell powerlifting team usually organizes their assistance work.

On their upper body days, they perform one exercise each for their chest, triceps, upper back, and shoulders.

On their lower body days, they perform 1 exercise each for their hamstrings, lower back, and abs.

Jim says this is a great way to organize your assistance work, as you are targeting all of the critical powerlifting muscles.

Here are some sample 5/3/1 Westside style workouts that you can try. Check it out:

5/3/1 Bench Press Day

  • Exercise #1: Bench press, 3 sets of 1-5 reps
  • Exercise #2: Incline DB press, 3 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: Skull crushers, 3 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: Chest supported row, 3 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #5: Plate front raise, 3 sets of 8-15 reps

5/3/1 Squat Day

  • Exercise #1: Squat, 3 sets of 1-5 reps
  • Exercise #2: Glute ham raise, 3 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: Reverse hyperextension, 3 sets of 8-15 reps
  • Exercise #4: Cable abs, 3 sets of 8-15 reps

You can use similar assistance exercises for your overhead press and deadlift day, or you can mix things up and use different exercises using the same template.

The choice is up to you!

Part 2: 5/3/1 The Triumvirate

The triumvirate is one of the most popular assistance work options for anyone using Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 Training Program.

The idea is really simple: you focus on just 2 assistance exercise per workout.

Jim calls this the triumvirate, because you are performing 3 total exercises per workout: the primary exercise, and then the 2 assistance exercises. Check it out:

The Triumvirate Assistance Work

  • Upper body: chest, back
  • Lower body: quads, posterior chain

This is how Jim picks his assistance exercises when using the triumvirate template.

On his upper body day, he picks two assistance exercises: one for his chest, and one for his back.

For example, he might pick dips and chin ups, or dumbbell presses and rows.

On his lower body day he picks one exercise for his quads, and one for his posterior chain.

Here are some sample 5/3/1 Triumvirate workouts that you can try. Check it out:

5/3/1 Overhead Press Day

  • Exercise A1: Overhead press, 3 sets of 1-5 reps
  • Exercise B1: Dips, 3-5 sets of 5-15 reps
  • Exercise B2: Chin ups, 3-5 sets of 5-15 reps

5/3/1 Deadlift Day

  • Exercise A1: Deadlift, 3 sets of 1-5 reps
  • Exercise B1: Leg press, 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps
  • Exercise B2: Back extension, 3-5 sets of 5-15 reps

The Triumvirate is just a really solid way to train. Jim says you can’t go wrong with it!

Of course, if you are serious about getting better results, then you have to check out the Boring But Big template!

Part 3: 5/3/1 Boring But Big

Boring But Big is Jim Wendler’s all-time favorite way to perform assistance work on the 5/3/1 Training Program.

He says this template works better than all of the others! Check it out:

Boring But Big Template

  • Main lift: 3 sets of 1-5 reps
  • Main lift: 5 sets of 10 reps
  • Accessory lift: 5 sets of 10 reps

With the boring but big template, you are going to perform your 3 working sets on the main exercise, and then perform 5 sets of 10 reps on the same exercise using 50% of your training max.

You also perform 5 sets of 10 reps on one other accessory exercise.

For example, on the bench press day you might perform 5 sets of 10 rep on barbell rows or lat pulldowns to balance out all the bench press work.

Jim says this is the fastest way to build size and strength using his program, so I highly recommend you give it a shot!

Here are some sample workouts that you can try:

Boring But Big: Bench Press Day

  • Exercise A1: Bench press, 3 sets of 1-5 reps
  • Exercise B1: Bench press, 5 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise B2: Barbell row, 5 sets of 10 reps

Boring But Big: Squat Day

  • Exercise A1: Squat, 3 sets of 1-5 reps
  • Exercise B1: Squat, 5 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise C1: Inverse leg curl, 5 sets of 10 reps

Of course, there is an even more advanced version of Boring But Big that you can try.

Jim Wendler calls this version “BBB Beefcake.” Don’t laugh until you try it – BBB beefcake is brutal!

Part 4: 5/3/1 Boring But Big Beefcake

Boring But Big Beefcake is an advanced assistance work protocol that Jim Wendler has started using in recent years.

The basic idea is to perform some additional accessory work for the other half of your body at the end of your upper body or lower body workout.

For example, if you train the bench press or overhead press, then you would perform 2 additional exercises for your lower body at the end of your workout.

Beefcake Training Template

  • Main lift: 3 sets of 1-5 reps
  • Main lift: 5 sets of 10 reps
  • Accessory lift: 5 sets of 10 reps
  • Secondary accessory lift: 50 total reps
  • Secondary accessory lift: 50 total reps

Boring But Big Beefcake uses full body workouts, and Jim says this is an incredibly effective way to train.

Here are some sample BBB Beefcake workouts that you can try. Check it out:

Beefcake Overhead Press Day

  • Exercise A1: Overhead press, 3 sets of 1-5 reps
  • Exercise B1: Overhead press, 5 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise B2: Lat pulldown, 5 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise C1: Single-leg work, 25 total reps
  • Exercise C2: Abs, 50 total reps

Beefcake Deadlift Day

  • Exercise A1: Deadlift, 3 sets of 1-5 reps
  • Exercise B1: Deadlift, 5 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise C1: Leg press, 5 sets of 10 reps
  • Exercise D1: Push ups, 50 total reps
  • Exercise D2: Face pulls, 100 total reps

These workouts are absolutely brutal, but if you can survive them, you will be rewarded with some screaming fast size and strength gains!

Part 5: I’m Not Doing Jack Shit!

Last but not least, we have the “I’m not doing jack shit” training template!

Yes, this is one of the “official” 5/3/1 training templates put out there by Jim Wendler himself.

Sometimes Jim walks into the gym, realizes he just isn’t feeling great, and decides to only perform his primary exercise for the day.

In other words, he just skips all accessory work to give his body a break. For example:

Bench Press Workout: I’m Not Doing Jack Shit!

  • Exercise #1: Bench press, 3 sets of 1-5 reps

That’s it! Jim walks in the gym, does his 3 sets of bench press, and then leaves.

Here is what his squat workout would look like:

Squat Workout: I’m Not Doing Jack Shit!

  • Exercise #1: Squat, 3 sets of 1-5 reps

Again, same thing. Jim Wendler uses this template as a deload in case he is feeling beat up.

This is NOT something you should do every workout – just when you feel like you are having a hard time recovering.

Conclusion

Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 is one of the most versatile training programs in the world.

There are many different assistance work templates that you can use, depending on your experience level and recovery ability.

If you are looking to take your training to the next level, then I recommend you try the Boring But Big Beefcake template.

It is Jim Wendler’s all-time favorite assistance work template for serious lifters!

“The game of lifting isn’t an 8-week pursuit. Rather, it’s a lifetime pursuit.

If you understand this, then progressing slowly isn’t a big deal.

Now you can focus on getting those 5 extra pounds rather than 50.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

 
 

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

What's going on! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen, I'm the creator of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to take your training to the next level, then you've come to the right place... My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world!

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