5/3/1 BBB For Bodybuilding: Jim Wendler’s Program With Variations and Templates [Spreadsheets]

By Nader Qudimat ·
Updated Apr 9, 2021

This is a template that comes with multiple variations that'll cater to any level and mostly any goal. 

All of them have a few things in common and that's they use the 3 main lifts.

The best variations are collected here with their spreadsheets.

It can be run for however long you want, but it's broken down into 3 and 4 week cycles. 

Make sure you make a copy of the spreadsheet. For how to save spreadsheet instructions on mobile, click here, or desktop, here. 

Recommended

4.5/5

Yes, the 5/3/1 program is highly flexible and comes with multiple variations of it. 

Experience Level

5/5

Variations available for beginners, intermediate and advanced

Periodization

5/5

Follows a linear periodization.

Reps

5/5

Uses 1RM percentage.

Forget a strict program. 

The 5/3/1 program comes in so many variations that you'll feel like you're using more of a template. 

All the best spreadsheets are collected here.

They focus on the 3 main compound lifts and the original creator, Jim Wendler was the inspiration for programs like GZCL and nSuns. 

While you can use the program continuously throughout the year, it's comprised of 3 and 4 week cycles. 

Table of Contents

Must Read Books by Jim Wendler  

This is all the literature written by Jim Wendler. 

I, among many others, recommend reading these books by Jim Wendler if you wish to make the most out of your training.

5/3/1 Forever

Jim Wendler takes all of his principles and explains it in this comprehensive book. 

This book  is often recommended to read along with Starting Strength and Practical Programming for Strength Training. 

Beyond 5/3/1 

Beyond 5/3/1 is a little cheaper than Forever and introduces concepts like First Set last (FSL) and Joker sets that are a part of 5/3/1. 

It helps you fully comprehend the principles and philosophies behind 5/3/1. 

5/3/1 For Powerlifting 

This is a powerlifting angle to the 5/3/1 for Powerlifting program. The spreadsheet can be found below but you'll get the most by reading the book. 

5/3/1 BBB (Boring But Big) Spreadsheet

Wendler has designed this program to help you get the most out of your training time.

It's simple but extremely effective and because of it's hardcore simplicity, it brings top notch results.

The BBB variation uses the same 5/3/1 template.

It takes one main lift per workout, either bench, overhead press, deadlift, or squat, and follows with the traditional 5/3/1 rep scheme before decreasing weight and performing 5 sets of 10 reps for the same lift.   

It maximizes strength and size through the main lifts, with lots of sets and volume. 

Since the training max is increased by month, it's suited best for intermediate to advanced lifter as they can't make progress as fast as beginners. 

Wendler 5-3-1 BBB Spreadsheet

5/3/1 BBB Program Spreadsheet (variation)

This is another variation of the program above that is good to use only if it suits your preferences. 

Wendler 5/3/1 Spreadsheet

5/3/1 for Beginners Program Spreadsheet

The beginner version of the 5/3/1 program uses the same principles as the other variations but it focus more on slow and steady progression.

The spreadsheet calculates the working weights for the “First Set Last”.

First set last takes the weight of the first set that's done for 5 reps in your 5/3/1 set which is set at 65% to 75% of your training max, depending where you are in your training cycle and doing 5 sets of 5 with that weight. 

Progression is simple, after 3 weeks, you'll add 10lbs to the training max for deadlift and squats. 

For overhead press and bench press, it's 5lbs. 

After 2 cycles, which is 6 weeks, you'll take a deload week on the 7th week. 

While Jim may have altered his philosophy on deloading, it remains the same, take it easy and let your body recover. 

For warm ups, Jim Wendler suggests 10-15 box jumps or medicine ball throws before lifting. 

And he also recommends doing Defrancos Agile 8 daily, including as a warm up before training. 

On your off days, do some sort of cardio or conditioning but it should be light as it shouldn't interfere with your program.

5/3/1 For Beginners Program Spreadsheet

5/3/1 BBB for Bodybuilding

This is an altered version of the 5/3/1 that puts a couple of foundational principles into one program.

5/3/1 BBB For Bodybuilding

Power & Hypertrophy 5/3/1 Program Variation

I don't know where this spreadsheet came from but here it is anyway. 

Power and Hypertrophy 5/3/1 Program

5/3/1 Vanilla + 3/5/1 Powerlifting Specific Program Variation

There's two templates in this spreadsheet:

Normal (vanilla)

This is the main version, unaltered.

The other version is a powerlifting variation, 3/5/1. 

The powerlifting variation rotates between week 1 and 2 while using heavy unilateral exercises. 

It uses specific powerlifting exercises while maximizing recovery time as it doesn't use heavy lifting weeks.

5/3/1 Vanilla + 3/5/1 Powerlifting Specific Program Variation

NSuns Linear Progression Program Variation

The well respected Reddit user u/n-suns created this 5/3/1 variation. 

It's different than Jim Wendler's original program.

It aims to maximize progress, further than the original BBB program.

This is great for beginners and intermediate lifters who can take advantage of their quick recovery. 

You can check out the other nSuns program here. 

nSuns Linear Progression Variation

Warm Up

For warm up, it's a good idea to take 5-10 minutes to walk until you feel warm. 

Once you do that, perform a few light sets of the muscles you're about to workout. 

You should do at least 3-4 warm up sets before your actual workout, and then follow the program's workouts. 

You can do 1-2 warm up sets before a specific exercise. 

Jim Wendlers FAQ's

What Is The 5/3/1 Program?

The 5/3/1 program is a customizable template that can be used for any goal related to lifting. 

It's well liked because it allows the lifter to maximize progress through simplicity. 

Is 5/3/1 For Powerlifting or Hypertrophy?

It's for either because there are so many variations and it can be tailored to any lifting goal and any level. 

Does 5/3/1 Have Enough Volume?

This is a fair question but it comes down to the variation you use. 

The original program only has 3 working sets for each main lift when it was published on T-Nation in 2009. 

Wendler then added more volume to the program under a variation called Beyond 5/3/1, which uses “first set last”. 

The other variation is to use the Boring But Big spreadsheet that uses multiple things to increase volume.

Other Programs That 5/3/1 Influenced

The foundation of 5/3/1 is used on other popular programs like GZCL and nSuns.  

Signs of Burnout?

By paying attention to the signs that your body gives you, can prevent a burn out. 

Here are some overtraining signs to look out for:

  • Pain at joints like knees, elbows, shoulders, etc.
  • Soreness at distal portion of muscle.
  • Like feeling sore near joints.
  • Lack of proper sleep
  • Suddenly feeling sick or a cold coming on- immune system is compromised.
  • Loss of libido
  • Depression

If you ignore these signs and keep exercising, you will eventually hit a plateau and will increase chance of injury.

If you're already experiencing these symptoms, take it easy and avoid pushing yourself for at least a week or two.

5/3/1 Workout Program

This program is the favorite for many, including big name coaches and trainees. 

Because it's so flexible and customizable, it can be catered to anyone with any lifting goal at any level. 

We recommend this program even if you're just starting out as it's simple and there's a probably a variation just for you. 

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