Jim Wendler 531 Program – Full Look!

July 8, 2022 0 Comments


In this article I will be exploring the Jim Wendler 531 program. This program is designed to get you a lot stronger on the core movements. These are the squat, deadlift, bench press and overhead press. It is a focused program that cuts out a lot of “fluff and puff” exercises. 

By the end of this article you will have a full understanding of the 531 program and be able to implement this program into your training to get stronger.

Who Is Jim Wendler?

Jim Wendler is an elite level powerlifter who has previously totalled 2375lbs and has squatted 1000lb with equipment. He has trained at Westside Barbell and now writes articles for Elite FTS. Jim is immensely knowledgable when it comes to gaining strength in powerlifting movements. 

His simple “no bullshit” approach to lifting is refreshing and he is very well respected in the lifting community. 

jim wendler

What Is The 531 Program?

The program was developed by Jim Wendler to get people strong in the powerlifting movements. 531 is built around four week waves of training. Each week calls for three or four days of training. Ideally each day should be focused around one of the big four core movements – squat, press, bench and overhead press. 

In each session you should aim to have three other exercises including the core lift. You have full control over the accessory movements that you program in. The only thing that matters is to ensure your accessories are useful to strengthen weak areas and improve your core lifts. You don’t want to waste time throwing in junk volume that won’t get you anywhere. Jim Wendler is a big proponent of simplicity and cutting out unnecessary noise. 

How To Execute The Program

The 531 program is very simple to execute. The first step is to evaluate your one rep max (1RM) for each of the four core lifts. Then you will subtract 10% from your 1RM – the reason behind this is to ensure the 1RM numbers are realistic. Very often people over-estimate their 1RM numbers!

Each week you will perform three sets for one core lift in a progressive fashion. The idea with the last set is to go all out, this will serve to improve strength and also hypertrophy. The final week is a deload week, for each cycle you should add around 5lbs to your 1RM number and recalculate the percentages. The table below shows how the program works.

531 program

Who Should Use the 531 Program?

Jim Wendler’s 531 program is designed for intermediate lifters who want to improve their strength and also look better. Whilst Jim Wendler was very strong, he felt too big at 275lbs and wasn’t able to move around as well as he wanted. He created 531 to help improve strength and also aesthetics. 

Beginners should start with a simple routine like Starting Strength or StrongLifts 5×5. After they have moved into intermediate territory they should look to try Jim’s program.

Common Mistakes With 531

There are certain mistakes that many people make when performing the 531 program by Jim Wendler. One of these mistakes is customising the program. People try to incorporate elements of 531 with other programs, this is not the approach that is recommended. You will end up hindering your progress by doing this. Just stick to the program and you will see good results with a consistent approach.

Another common mistake is to overload the assistance work. This is not what the 531 program is about, the main focus should be on the core movements. When it comes to assistance exercises you have to be very selective and not go crazy with the volume. When it comes to your assistance work the focus should be on working the muscle. Don’t major in the minors as Jim Wendler would say.

It is also important to start at the right weights. Make sure the 1RM number that you input in for your first cycle is an actual realistic number that you can handle. It is crucial to ensure that you perform the core movements with good technique and work with weights that you can handle well. Otherwise you will end up spinning your wheels and increasing the likelihood of injuries. Without good technique you are simply performing exercises inefficiently. You will not make proper progress by doing this. 

Finally, you must be prepared for slow progress. Lifting is a long term game, it is not about going hell for leather for a short period of time. Many people want to see results instantly, but the reality is that it takes time to see real results. The objective should be to make lifting part of your identity and lifestyle – make a commitment for the long term and see it through!


Keys To Success With 531

There are certain things that you can do when following the 531 program to ensure the best chances of success. These are as follows:

  1. Be realistic about your 1RM at the start – this is the foundation of the training program as percentages are based on your 1RM.
  2. Your 3RM max should be around 90% of your 1RM, this is a good guage that you should use to inform your 1RM numbers.
  3. Perform the final all out set with 100% focus and give it everything you have got. This set will be responsible for a lot of your strength and size on this program.
  4. The deloading workout is about giving your muscles and CNS a rest. You shouldn’t be going all out in your deload workouts.
  5. For best results workout four times a week. Don’t train more than two days in a row.
  6. Don’t customise the program, simply stick to it and be consistent!



To conclude, in this article I have explored the Jim Wendler 531 program. This program is great for building strength and size. If you follow the program properly and avoid the common mistakes that I have outlined, you will achieve success. Jim Wendler is a very well respected lifter and has lots of knowledge in this area. 

I would advise intermediate lifters to give this program a try. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!


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