531 by Jim Wendler is a great book. It’s primarily for an intermediate weightlifter who has at least 6 months to 1 year of experience squatting, bench pressing, deadlifting and military pressing.
If you haven’t trained consistently for this long. I’d recommend starting with starting strength or bigger leaner stronger (here’s the female version thinner leaner stronger). When the gains are harder to come by, start 531.
But even if you’re new to lifting or have more experience, we can all take something away from reading 531.
Jim Wendler is definitely someone to listen to. He’s squatted 1000 pounds (453kg) and has deadlifted and bench pressed just as astonishing feats of strength.
He wrote the book 531 because he was sick of being fat and beaten up from all of the powerlifting he had done.
He wanted to make a program that was simple, basic and straightforward that he could do quickly.
In his words:
” I wanted to go in the weight room, have my work planned for me, and get out. No bullshit, no problem.”
The book is based on that program.
My Top 5 Takeaways From 531
1. “The game of lifting isn’t an 8-week pursuit. It doesn’t last as long as your latest program does. Rather it’s a lifetime pursuit.”
Jim hits the nail on the head here. It’s common to get started with a strength training program. And go as heavy as you can straight away to make as much progress as you can in the least amount of time.
Of course, you want to make quick progress, I do too. But with lifting, this approach can cause injury.
Start light, focus on good form and make the smallest jump in weight possible to keep the progress coming. If you go too hard too soon this will lead to burnout and injury.
Getting hurt is never good. When it comes to lifting. Focus on the long game.
2. “For more than 20 years, I’ve been walking into weight rooms, but I’ve never entered to train, exercise, work out or get a pump. I go into the weight room to get strong.”
The single best way to make progress when you’re in the gym is to get stronger at the main compound exercises like the:
- Barbell Squat.
- Barbell Bench press.
- Barbell/ Hex Bar Deadlift.
- Military Press.
- Barbell Row.
- Chin Up/ Pull Up.
If you make a deal with yourself to get stronger at these 6 exercises, the stronger you get the more you’ll see your body change in a good way. I guarantee it.
Focus on getting stronger, don’t focus on the pump, or how many seconds you’re lowering the weight for.
Not only is getting stronger fun, but it’s also motivating to see yourself progressing.
And if you can change your body you might just be able to change your life.
3. “Make time for it. Just get it done. Nobody ever got strong or got in shape by thinking about it. They did it.”
You can read all the fitness books and blog posts in the world but if you don’t take action you won’t get the results you want.
You won’t always be motivated to train. And that’s okay I don’t think anyone always is. I know that I’m certainly not. But the good news is that you don’t always need to be motivated. You just do it anyway.
And the stronger you get and the better you look, the more you’ll enjoy training. It’s a virtuous cycle.
But it all starts by taking action.
4. ” Don’t go crazy counting calories, grams of protein, etc. Just eat and learn how to approximate your portions. “
I like the gist of what Wendler is saying here. The message I get is don’t be neurotic with your nutrition. It gives you nothing but a headache.
What I find works well for me is to:
- Eat mainly nutritious foods (around 80% of my diet).
- Eat 20% of my diet from junk if that’s what I choose to do. Food like chocolate, ice cream etc.
- Have a calorie and protein target.
- Approximate my portion sizes.
I only deviate from this if I’m not getting any closer to my goals. Then I might start tracking my calories and protein properly. But mostly I just approximate portions.
5. “Training for strength is a marathon, not a sprint.”
The takeaway here is to not let your ego get in the way. Focus on getting stronger just a little bit at a time.
Eventually, those little wins add up and you gain a tremendous amount of strength. I think this advice is spot on because how many times have you been to the gym and have seen some guy lifting way too much weight just to half rep it?
If you’ve spent any amount of time in commercial gyms you’ll know what I mean.
Make sure you can control the weight you’re lifting.
When you treat strength training as a sprint often weight is increased at the expense of form.
Focus on progressive overload with good form and you can’t go wrong.
The Bottom Line On Why You Should Read 531 By Jim Wendler
531 is one of the best books on strength training that I’ve ever read. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot by reading it.
Thank you for reading.
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