Category: Tutorial

How to Set Up 5/3/1 in StrengthMark

I was asked by a StrengthMark user to put together a tutorial for how best to use StrengthMark on a 5/3/1 program.

If you’re not familiar with 5/3/1, it is a popular percentage-based strength training method centered around four compound lifts. A compound lift or exercise is one that involves more than one joint and muscle group.

The first 5/3/1 book is here. This training method has benefits for any athletes who need to get stronger, but has a lot of direct carryover to powerlifting. There is a 5/3/1 series of books by the creator of the program, Jim Wendler, and they’re well worth reading.


This is the general plan I would use for 5/3/1. I’ll go into detail on each step in the remainder of the article.

  1. Set up your one rep max for each lift in the program (e.g. squat, deadlift, bench, and overhead or military press).

  2. Program the first week of your chosen 5/3/1 assistance program.

  3. Create a template based on the week you programmed.

  4. Follow the first week in the gym, making adjustments as necessary.

  5. Schedule your first week, which will be used as the basis for the second week. Make adjustments so that it follows the program.

  6. Repeat steps 4 through 6 for the 5/3/1 week and the deload week.

  7. Use these templates for your next cycle.

Step 1: Set up your one rep max for each lift.

The four primary lifts in 5/3/1 are the military press, squat, bench press, and deadlift. For each of these, set up a one rep max. If you also want to target other compound lifts, such as the log press, then add them, too.

Step 2: Program the first week.

Following the basic 5/3/1 outline, you have a week of 5 rep work sets (65%, 75%, and 85% loads), one of 3 reps (70%, 80%, and 90%), a week of 5/3/1 reps (75%, 85%, and 90%), and finally a Deload week.

If you program just the first week of 5 rep work sets and then create a template based on that, it will be easy to program the remaining weeks.

Working Sets

Enter your first working set of deadlifts with 5 reps at 65%. Then hit the repeat button twice to set up the next two sets. At this point you’ll have three sets of 5 reps at 65%. Change the percentage on the last two sets to 75% and 85% respectively.

On the third work set, set the “Max Effort” switch to on. Max Effort in 5/3/1 serves two purposes:

  • Indicates to you that you need to hit as many reps as you can, falling short of failure.

  • When the set is done, it will be added to the pool of potential PRs for populating the Personal Records tab.

Now program your accessory work for your chosen 5/3/1 assistance program.

Step 3: Create a one week template.

  1. Tap the Templates tab, then tap the plus button to add a template.
  2. Enter the title, “5/3/1 5’s week.”
  3. [Optional] Set the description to “5@60%, 5@70%, and 5@80%.” Add any descriptive information about your assistance program.
  4. Tap the sessions row to pull up the calendar.
  5. Navigate to the first week in your program and change the start and stop dates so that the week is highlighted in green.
  6. Tap the back button to return to the template screen.
  7. Tap save to create the template.

Step 4: Follow the first week in the gym.

Take notes on thoughts you have about specific sets as actual notes and mark the sets as complete as you go.

Step 5: Schedule the first week template as the basis for your second week.

Leave the max values as they are for this cycle.

For the work sets, change the reps and percentages to 3@70%, 3@80%, and 3@90%. Make any prescribed changes to the assistance work. For the assistance work, if you want to make changes to the weight, here’s a good way to do that:

  • Make the weight change to the first set of the assistance exercise.
  • Delete the remaining sets for that exercise.
  • Repeat the first set to replace the deleted sets.

Repeat steps 3 through 5 for the remaining weeks. That is:

  • Create a template based on week 2
  • Perform the exercises for week 2 in the gym
  • Schedule week 2 as the basis for the 5/3/1 week (third week)
  • Adjust week 3’s working sets
  • Create a template based on week 3
  • Perform the exercises for week 3 in the gym
  • Schedule week 3 as the basis for the deload week
  • Adjust the deload week’s working sets

Step 7: Your next cycle.

When you reach the end of the first four week cycle, schedule the first week template again to start the next cycle. This time, you will adjust the one rep maxes according to the program so that you’re moving up in weight. That is, add a new working max for each lift. For instance, for deadlifts and squats you might add 10 pounds to your previous max, and bench press and overhead press, add 5 pounds. The next week you schedule will use these and scale correctly.