Shrugged Collective

The power of commitment and 5/3/1

The most important thing you can do in the gym is make a commitment.

Your program matters a lot, sure. So does diet, mobility work, recovery, all that. But if you are not driven, consistent, and measured in your efforts with the barbell then you won’t get very far.

You cannot get strong without that commitment.

We recently received an amazing letter from our friend Warren. After making all of the classic training mistakes he applied himself and focused with great effect. His training now reflects 7 key principles that most really strong people abide by.

Let’s start there.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 10.46.41 AMPhoto credit: @supercleary


7 Principles to stick with…

  1. Set a clear and measurable goal.
  2. Choose a program that is progressive, reasonable, and appropriate for your level of development. Don’t agonize over your choice, the simplest programming is best.
  3. Work your ass off and follow your plan.
  4. Review your progress every 12 weeks, making adjustments as necessary. Not before!
  5. Avoid the critical mistake of pushing ahead of schedule. This will work in the short term, and completely fuck you in the end. Don’t make us say we told you so.
  6. Maintain focus. If you want to get strong, train as strong people train. If you need to Metcon, go really hard and fast! Skip the long stuff for now. You can come back to that once you’re strong.
  7. Keep going! With steps 1-6 in place, it’s just a matter of accumulating work. Lose yourself in the ritual. Chop wood, carry water. You will be a very strong person.

Check out what our friend Warren has to say below about the lessons he’s learned about making a true commitment in the gym.

This could be just what you need to hear.

Warren’s story

Hi Guys,

I hope this email finds the barbell shrugged boys well.

I just wanted to take a few minutes to say a huge thank you for having a profound impact on my training and helping me achieve goals that previously I would have thought impossible, squatting 180 kg, deadlifting 200+ kg, 100 kg snatch, multiple muscle ups, etc.

I’m a 6’4’’, 210lb, 33 year old male who had been a keen viewer of the show for about 6 months before you guys released episode 99 – Jim Wendler 5/3/1 – back in January. For me the timing couldn’t have been better, being that is was New Year’s time and I was searching for something to help me get fitter and stronger. 

This episode has been a game changer in terms of my training and the results I’ve seen.

After viewing the episode I decided to stick to this plan for the whole of 2014 and review my progress every 12 weeks. To start with I achieved good results in the first 6 weeks but that quickly stalled as I made the old mistake of pushing ahead too quickly. Another mistake I made was around the open where I attempted to do the open WOD’s around my 5/3/1 plan – epic failure!

I’m glad that I got these rookie mistakes and impatience out of the way early because since then my progress has been incredible, especially as I was on the brink of giving up.

In all it took 5 months to find a structure where I use the 5/3/1 principles to fit in 2 Olympic sessions, 2 strength sessions and a skills day which includes hitting the gym twice and playing basketball. With this structure in place I have added at least 30 kg on to all of my lifts with the potential of a further 10 – 20 kg if I did a true 1RM test. 

Because you never hit 1RM on 5/3/1 my maxes at the moment are 152.5 kg back squat x 5, 112.5 kg split jerk x 2, 190 kg deadlift x 4, 112.5 kg push press x 2, and 132.5 kg front squat.

In line with another episode you guys said that to metcon faster get stronger. Well, I can testify to that as well. Because of my new found strength I surpassed all expectations at a local competition called battle for the midlands. This competition was held in Northampton, UK in August. Across 5 events I posted pb’s in all events, did more muscle ups in a weekend than I ever have and to top it off I won my heat beating Mitchell Adams, a Europe regionals athlete in the snatch and box jump ladder. That weekend I finished 19th out of 42 in a very strong field compared to dead last in a weaker field 12 months earlier.

Recently I tried to qualify for the athlete games in Manchester but came up short because of my weakness in the gymnastics movements and illness. However, armed with the knowledge you guys have shared with the community and the lessons I have learned on this journey, I feel confident that I can address these issues and make 2015 my fittest year ever. I will compete in the open (taking a break from 5/3/1 this time) and aim to reach the final in the battle for the midlands.


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 Check out Jim’s book

 For people who ask how I have achieved so much I always say Barbell Shrugged and Jim Wendler.

Once again thank you!!

Kind Regards,

Warren Adams

Well done, Warren. This is amazing progress. Glad we could help.




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Chris Moore is a writer, recovering meathead, fledgling raconteur and rabid imbiber. He's also cohost and resident potty mouth on Barbell Shrugged, a weekly podcast devoted to Crossfit, strength, fitness and all things brash. His experience is drawn from over twenty-years spent training for and competing in American Football, Powerlifting, a bit of strongman and a dash of mixed martial arts. Also, it's possible that he's had one too many cups of coffee. A caffeine fever is a hell of a thing, you know?


  • I’m on my third cycle of the 5/3/1 program and my strength gains are way ahead of the program curve! For instance, my third round of the “3” cycle, I’m getting 8-9 reps. My very first week I did 165 for 8 reps on squat. I just did 195 for 8 reps last week. I want to jump ahead but I know I must trust the program and just keep riding it. I don’t know why we get in such a hurry to progress… I guess it’s just the instant gratification / lack of patience age we live in? I actually didn’t know you had Jim on the show, but I’m totally going back and listening to Episode 99 right now! Shameless self plug, but you can check out my progress on my website ifailedfran.com. Thanks for all you BS guys do!

  • I love 5/3/1. But I find my self again and again to stall in presses. In both shoulder and bench press my weak link is triceps.
    I have done 5/3/1 for over a year and I have gained a lot of strength in deadlift and squat. I have no switch the overhead press to push press to learn to be more comfortable with heavier load OH. I will do this for 12 weeks and then go back to strict presses. Any other ideas?

  • I have a question about metcons after 5/3/1. I’ve seen other articles that state to avoid long metcons and chippers but they never say why. Can someone elaborate as to why to avoid long metcons after 531? I’ve been doing crossfit + 531 as strength program for about 6 months with good results. Would results be better if I stuck to faster metcons?

    • If you’re going to Metcon after strength, it needs to be more like assistance strength work. Shorter duration, maybe a little heavier. If you go too long too often, you’re introducing a competing stress that could harm your strength progress. Focus in your training and you’ll get a better result.

  • I really love 5/3/1. We use its principles to structure strength work pre-metcon three days a week at my local box, and recommend it to everyone willing to put in the hard work and especially the patience.

    Do you have any advice on how to add some olympic weightlifting to it without ending up having a crushing ton on volume on the legs? I have read Jim himself suggesting a couple of sets on “leg days”, but I’m not sure if that is enough for someone actively trying to improve those lifts.

    Any tips appreciated, and, just to let you know Chris, the content here is solid gold, as usual. Cheers!

    • If you want to work it in, maybe drop any deadlifts and do your cleans and snatches instead. Work with a qualified coach to help you “fuse” the ideas.

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