Dissecting A Strength Training Session

Currently our Strength Tribe is following Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 strength system.

I like this program because it is simple…and it simply works!

We use it from time to time during phases of training where we are looking at progression

in both mean strength and hypertrophy qualities.

The formula for finding your estimated 1 Rep Max for 5/3/1 is:                                                                                                                       Weight Lifted x Reps x .0333 + Weight Lifted=Estimated 1 Rep Max                                                                                                                   Estimated 1 Rep Max (EST1RM) x .90=Training Max (TM)

In the case below I use my most current deadlift session.

W.S.: Working Sets                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                PWS: Pre Working Sets

Week 2

Dead Lift – Big Movement (EST1RM 565#/TM 505#) 

PWS: 40% x 5 (200#)

PWS: 50% x 5 (250#)

PWS: 60% x 3 (300#)

WS: 70% x 3 (350#)

WS: 80% x 3 (405#)

WS: 90% x 3 or AMAP (455#) x 7

BB RDL—5 x 10 (205#)

*Hanging Leg Raise— 5 x 10-15

*5 Sets Of  ‘Just Do Your Best…No Shitty Reps’                                                                                                                                 6, 4, 3, 2

Roman Chair Bent Knee Raise

10, 10, 10, 10


I use the trap bar for my deadlift work because I no longer compete in powerlifting

and I do have some significant spine disease and degeneration. I’m looking at the

‘long haul’…so the trap bar dead it is.

I completed 7 reps here. So to find my estimated 1 rep max I use the formula above:

455 x 7 x .0333 +455=561# EST 1RM


I like the barbell Romanian Dead Lift because it certainly fills in the gap for hamstrings to

come into play for hip extensor assistance as well as firing off

spinal erectors for thoracic and lumbar spine stability. Bret Contreras (PhD) has some solid research that

shows the RDL as a heavy hitter for hamstring recruitment as well as spinal erector recruitment.

Simply put…the RDL hits too much to be ignored.


In all of our training we like to balance, as best as we can, both sides of a joint.

In this case we are considering hip-centric work.

The deadlift hitting the posterior hip movement pattern and the toes-to-bar hitting the anterior hip.

Considering the challenge of solid multi-reps with the toes-to-bar exercise, we

would regress to a shortened lever, (straight leg to bent knee), and  the Roman Chair

Bent Knee Raise makes a lot of sense here.

To finish off this training day (deadlift/hip hinge centric), we consider a re-set type of

exercise like Pavel’s ‘The Pump’ to mitigate the stressor forces found common with the heavy

deadlift (hip hinge) pattern.

The third week of Wendler’s 5/3/1 system goes into a progression with load

sets of 75% TM x 5, 85% TM x 3, 95% TM x 1.

IF you are feeling your oats during week 3 it is suggested that you go all out and beyond your suggested x 1 rep with

95% TM AMAP (As Many As Possible).

Week 4 is your de-load week where you ‘play’ with sub max loads just to take the stress off the neural system and

muscle tissue while re-dialing in the BIG movement patters without the need to consider the challenge of moving

relatively big loads.

We then look at week one, week two and week three and look for the progression of loads for

the 2nd cycle of the 5/3/1 system. We take the AMAP sets from weeks 1-3 and find the average of these

loads from each week. We then plug that average into the weight x reps x .0333 + weight to

find our NEW estimated 1RM and TM then move forward into the 2nd cycle of the 5/3/1 system.

Week 1 WS: 85%TM x 5 AMAP                                                                                                                                                                                                            Week 2 W.S. 90%TM x 3 AMAP                                                                                                                                                                                                              Week 3 WS: 95%TM x 1 or AMAP

From above find the average which should be your NEW EST1RM and TM.

This is how you dial into a well structured strength program.

If results matter to you then you will find the need to start logging and plugging in

the # numbers. The simple and intelligent quote from Mark Reifkind is profound:

“Strength fixes almost everything”

I believe that everything relevant to reason time invested in the gym is surmised in that quote.

Lift Strong. Lift Smart. But Lift.