One of the first training programs I ever did was called 5/3/1. I had worked out and tried some different things, but Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 training program was my first exposure to something consistent. I ended up doing that for over a year, made good progress, learned alot, and had fun. Recently, Jim was talking with Dave Tate and Jim outlined his core principles of training. Here they are:
- Start too light
- Progress slowly
- Set personal records
- Use multi-joint lifts
I love these principles. They can be applied to anyone and are good mental shortcuts for what to do. All are self-explanatory: start with a conservative program. Figure out what you can do. Make slow and steady progress for a long time. Be patient. Along the way keep track of what you’re doing and try to improve on it. A 1 rep max isn’t the only way to track progress. Try to get better with sets of 3, 5, or 8. Do some different exercises. Challenge yourself. Use the lifts that work lots of muscle mass: squats, deadlifts, presses, and rows.
Balance is simply doing other things besides what you primarily do. If all you do is strength training, add in some sled pushes or bike sprints. Be able to do some cardio in addition to the strength you’ve built. If you’re a great runner but can’t squat, get under the bar and start. Whatever aspect of your development is lagging, bring it up.
These principles are your guide for all those times you’re confused: what should I do, what exercises, sets, reps? Usually, it’s not that big of a deal. Follow the principles, and start chipping away. Chances are once you get some real skin in the game, you’ll figure out what’s important.