531 Momentum

Posted by Shaun LaFleur on



531 Momentum is an intermediate to advanced power-building routine that utilizes the 531 progression system to generate steady strength progress on the big compound movements, while including additional training volume and training frequency to make sure you're getting an adequate amount of stimulus to pack on size as well. If your strength is not yet at intermediate levels, I suggest running my Novice Momentum routine for at least three months before running this routine.

This routine has a healthy focus on auto-regulation, allowing you to perform this routine in any situation, whether you're cutting, bulking or somewhere in between. Auto-regulation is a key factor in proper fatigue and recovery management and is an invaluable tool for long term success.

This is not a cookie cutter routine like those found all over social media which provide zero justification for why things are designed the way they are while providing you with sub-optimal results. This routine requires that you read the guide below in order to give you a proper understanding of the key concepts included, allowing you to properly apply them and execute the routine optimally and be rewarded with great, steady progress.

Workout Schedule

  • Sunday: Rest
  • Monday: Upper Body Intensity (Bench 531)
  • Tuesday: Lower Body Intensity (Deadlift 531)
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Push (OHP 531)
  • Friday: Pull
  • Saturday: Legs (Squat 531)


The Routine

Upper Body (Bench 531)

  • Bench Press 531
  • Dumbbell Press 3x10-12
  • Weighted Chin Ups 3x6-8
  • Barbell Rows 3x8-10
  • Barbell Curls 4x10-12
  • Tricep Pushdowns 3x10-12
  • Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises 3x12-14
  • Reverse Flyes 3x12-14
  • Dumbbell Shrugs 3x12-14

    Lower Body (Deadlift 531)

    • Deadlift 531
    • Front Squat 3x8-10
    • Leg Extensions 3x12-14
    • Hamstring Curls 3x12-14
    • Cable Crunches 4x12-14
    • Calve Raises 4x15-17
    • Reverse Hyperextensions / Hyperextensions 3x12-14

      Push (Overhead Press 531)

      • Overhead Press 531
      • Close Grip Bench Press 3x8-10
      • Low to High Cable Flyes 3x10-12
      • Tricep Overhead Extensions 3x12-14
      • Cable Lateral Raises 3x12-14
      • Rear Delt Flyes 3x12-14


        • Pullups 3x10-12
        • Dumbbell Row 3x10-12
        • One Arm Lat Pulldowns 3x10-12
        • Dumbbell Curls 3x12-14
        • Cable Rope Hammer Curls 3x12-14
        • Snatch Grip Barbell Shrugs 3x12-14

          Legs (531 Squat)

          • Squat 531 
          • Romanian Deadlifts 3x8-10
          • Barbell Hip Thrusts 3x10-12
          • Leg Press or Dumbbell Lunges 3x12-14
          • Weighted Crunches 3x12-14
          • Calve Raises 3x15-17


          Routine Guide

          Understanding "531" and how it works

          531 is a progression system invented by Jim Wendler that utilizes steady progression using sub maximal loads. It is a tried and true system and will get you strong and muscular. Within 531 there are multiple options that can be tweaked to a lifters preferences, which also allows lifters to auto-regulate. Because of this, it is a very effective and flexible system that can be used in a variety of training scenarios.

          531 works on a ramping 3 week cycle, where your intensity levels increase over a three week period. Each week you will follow a set and rep scheme based on percentages of what is called your "Training Max" or "TM". Your training max is 90% of your true one rep max. It's a good idea to find your Training Max on each lift before beginning 531.

          The basic 531 protocol is as followed (Remember, percentages are based on your Training Max, not your actual 1 rep max):

          • Week 1Set 1: 65% x5, Set 2: 75% x5, Set 3: 85% x5+
          • Week 2: Set 1: 70% x3, Set 2: 80% x3, Set 3: 90% x3+
          • Week 3: Set 1: 75% x5, Set 2: 85% x3, Set 3: 95% x1+

          The "+" means to perform as many reps as you can. Each percentage is a percentage of your TM, so "65%" would mean you should use 65% of your TM for that set.

          After a three week cycle, you'd add 5-10 lbs pounds to your Training Maxes and then repeat the process once more. After the second run (6 weeks total), you'd take a deload. This means that each training cycle will last 6 weeks with a deload in between each cycle.


          Optional: Joker Sets

          Joker Sets are sets performed after the 3 sets prescribed in the basic 531 protocol. To perform Joker Sets, you first want to make sure you do not perform an AMRAP on the 3rd set of the basic 531 protocol, but instead stop at the prescribed reps (so for "5+" you'd stop at the 5th rep for example). Then, you'd add 5% to the bar and attempt to get the same amount of reps again. If you hit the required reps, you'd add another 5% and attempt to get the same amount of reps again. You would continue doing this until you fail to hit the prescribed reps. 

          Here is an example for a week one 531 setup using Joker Sets.

          • Set 1: 65% x5
          • Set 2: 75% x5
          • Set 3: 85% x5 (Stop at 5 reps instead of doing 5+)
          • Set 4: 90% x5 (Joker Set)
          • Set 5: 95% x4 (Joker Set - Stop here, you didn't get 5 reps)

          Since week three of 531 has you performing a percentage close to your TM for a single rep, Joker Sets on week three can quickly turn into maxing out. It's important to note that this can be very taxing on the body, and I'd advise some self regulating in this area. I'd personally suggest considering not doing Joker Sets on the third week and performing FSL Multiple Sets (explained below) instead. However, on the sixth week, which is the week right before a deload, I'd say go for the Joker Sets and maybe even the FSL Multiple Sets as well.


          Optional: FSL Multiple Sets

          FSL stands for "First Set Last" and "FSL Multiple Sets" refers to using the same weight that you used for the first set of a given 531 workout for multiple sets of 3-5x5-8 after the basic 531 sets. For example, week one you'd use 65% of your TM for 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps, because your first 531 set on week one is 65% of TM. As long as your set and rep scheme falls within these ranges, you're good to go; you can perform any variation of sets and reps, as long as you get in 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps. 

          This broad range of sets and reps allows you to auto-regulate the RIR of your sets so that you can get in additional quality volume without taxing your body too much. 

          FSL Multiple Sets can also be performed after Joker Sets on your normal 531 days, but I'd only recommend doing this if you are currently eating in a caloric surplus or have your recovery really dialed in, as this can end up being a lot of total volume. An example of how this would look if you performed 531 + Joker Sets + FSL Multiple Sets with a 3x8 setup:

          • Set 1: 65% x5
          • Set 2: 75% x5
          • Set 3: 85% x5
          • Set 4: 90% x5 (Joker Set)
          • Set 5: 95% x4 (Joker Set - Stop here, you didn't get 5 reps)
          • Set 6: 65% x8 (FSL)
          • Set 7: 65% x8 (FSL)
          • Set 8: 65% x8 (FSL)


          Allow your RIR to increase over the weeks

          RIR stands for "Reps in Reserve" and refers to how many reps you have left in you when you stop a set. For example, if I take a weight that I can lift 10 times, but I stop at 8 reps, that would be considered an RIR of 2. RIR is a great way to properly regulate the intensity of your set, allowing you to get in quality volume and manage your recovery. 

          In my article Should You Train To Failure?, I explain how the closer to failure you take a set, the more progress you can squeeze out of that set, but the more fatigue you will accumulate. 

          Long story short, training to failure will cause only a slight increase in hypertrophy, but much more fatigue, so the majority of your sets should be performed at an RIR of 3-2, with RIR 1 being the limit. A good method of progression is to slowly let RIR increase over the weeks through adding weight, sets and/or reps, peaking at an RIR of 1 or 0 right before a deload. Since in this routine you are going through two separate three week phases


          How to progress on your exercises

          The progression system used for non-531 lifts is a progression style based on adding repetitions each week for consecutive three-week cycles, which naturally results in increasing your intensity slowly over each cycle. After each three week cycle, load on the bar will increase and your repetitions will reset back down to initial levels. Below is an example of how to apply this system.

          Step One: Choose a rep range (or follow the one given in the routine) that consists of a range of 3 reps such as "6-8", "10-12" and so on.
          Step Two: Choose a load that allows you to hit the low end of the rep range (6 reps in "6-8" rep range, for example) with a difficulty of about 7/10, or for those familiar with the RIR/RPE scales, an RIR 4 / RPE 7.
          Step Three: Each week you will add one repetition, aiming to hit the top end of the rep range by week 3.
          Step Four: If you hit the top end of the rep range on week three, add weight to the bar for the next three-week cycle and start back at the low end of the rep range again, repeating the same process over the next three-week period. For lifts that are difficult to add load to, I suggest either using microplates to micro load or to increase the target rep range by one repetition (so 6-8 becomes 7-9).

            Here is an example of performing 3x6-8 on the bench press over two three week cycles.

            1. Week One: 3x6 @ 200 lbs
            2. Week Two: 3x7 @ 200 lbs
            3. Week Three: 3x8 @ 200 lbs
            4. Week Four: 3x6 @ 205 lbs
            5. Week Five: 3x7 @ 205 lbs
            6. Week Six: 3x8 @ 205 lbs


              Regulating Volume

              I typically recommend 3 sets as the "standard" or the "safe" volume level that will allow you to make steady progress without under or over training. For muscle groups that you want to optimize growth for, you can perform more total sets in order to maximize growth. For muscle groups that you feel grow easily or that you need to grow at maximal rates, you could use a lower set range.

              I typically suggest 4-5 sets per exercise for muscle groups you feel are a weak point and need to bring up and going as low as 2-4 sets per exercise for muscles that may be your strong points and don't require a lot of attention. If you plan on doing more volume than prescribed here, I recommend slowly increasing sets done over the weeks, rather than maintaining a very high amount of sets throughout the entire cycle, as this can lead to too much fatigue accumulation before you're able to complete a 531 cycle. Additionally, I recommend only doing more sets on the Push, Pull and Leg workout days, and leave the upper and lower days at the prescribed sets. This will be better for overall recovery.

              Another important tip is that you do not have to increase sets every single week. For example, rather than adding a set every single week, you could perform a "3-3-4" wave, which would mean on the first and second week you'd only perform 3 sets of an exercise and only add a set on the last week. 


              Exercise Selection Guidelines

              Each person is different and which exercises stimulate the targeted muscle group optimally will differ from person to person. Because of this, and because you want to perform a routine that is actually enjoyable, the majority of the movements can be replaced with movements that you prefer.

              However, you should replace them with similar movement patterns and avoid rotating movements too often. I typically suggest that if you're going to progress on a movement, that you do so for 3-6 weeks before rotating it with another movement or changing it's rep range. For 531 movements, give the movement a full 6 week cycle before cycling it out for a different movement.

              For 531 movements, if you replace the 4 main movements (Bench, OHP, Squat and Deadlift) I'd suggest sticking to those same four lifts, but only change it's variation. Below I will list movements and categorize them so that you know which other movements they can be replaced/rotated with.

              I suggest that you use "heavier" or harder movements on one day and "lighter" or easier movements on the second day. One example is doing pendlay rows as your horizontal row on one day and dumbbell rows on the second.

              Bench Press (531 Viable)
              • Conventional Bench Press
              • Close Grip Bench Press
              • Floor Press
              • Pin Press (1" or less off chest)
              • Etc
              Deadlift (531 Viable)
              • Conventional Deadlift
              • Sumo Deadlift
              • Trap Bar Deadlift
              • Jefferson Deadlift
              • Etc
                Squat (531 Viable)
                • High Bar Squat
                • Low Bar Squat
                • Box Squat
                • Front Squat
                • Etc
                Overhead Press (531 Viable)
                • Standing Barbell Overhead Press
                • Seated Barbell Overhead Press
                • Etc

                Vertical Pulls

                • Chin Ups
                • Pull Ups
                • Lat Pull Downs
                • One Arm Lat Pull Downs
                • Etc

                Horizontal Row

                • Pendlay Rows
                • Meadows Rows
                • Barbell Rows
                • Dumbbell Rows
                • Cable Rows
                • Etc


                Customization Options & Suggestions

                Rep ranges

                Rep ranges for non-531 lifts and lifts that are not prescribed a certain loading scheme can be customized to your liking, provided you follow a few basic guidelines. First, you should stay in the lower rep ranges on the intensity days, but go no lower than 6 reps. This is to help assist in building more overall strength on your lifts to speed up progression without going too heavy. For volume days, I'd say to go a little on the lighter side - anywhere between 8-30 reps will be effective. It's a good idea to work in a given rep range for 3-6 weeks before switching to a different rep range in order to allow yourself to progress easier.


                Focus on Weak Points

                The routine consists of a good deal of volume that could potentially become too much for some lifters, especially in the latter weeks of training when you are attempting to perform 5+ sets of each exercise. Because of this, I suggest that you focus on increasing sets  on only the exercises that target muscle groups that are your weaknesses. For muscles that are your strong points or are just not lagging behind that you don't wish to prioritize, it's not as important to utilize the higher end of the set ranges for movements targeting these areas. I suggest keeping the sets around 2-4 for movements that you don't want to prioritize while using 4-6 sets for movements that you do want to prioritize. 

                The basic idea is that it becomes difficult to recover when you are training every single muscle group near it's MRV (see my article Understanding Volume & Fatigue for an explanation of MRV or Maximum Recoverable Volume). Because of this, you should rotate the muscle groups that you want to focus on the most, while training other muscle groups with enough stimulus to progress, but not near their MRVs.

                Allowing Intensity To Increase

                Regardless of which periodization/progression method you decide to use on your assistance and accessory movements, I suggest allowing the intensity of your sets to creep up throughout the weeks leading up to a deload. I typically recommend that for the majority of your sets during a cycle to never allow your RIR fall to a 1 or below on anything except your last set of an exercise. However, it's okay if you allow your last couple of sets or so to creep up to an RIR of 1 or occasionally even an RIR of 0 during the final weeks leading up to a deload.

                This can sometimes allow you to overreach (essentially train in a way that you would be unable to recover from had you not planned a deload) and can be a beneficial tactic to utilize when you know you have deload coming up.

                I suggest only allowing this to happen on the last two weeks of training. Any sooner and your performance may begin to suffer on those final two weeks before a deload.

                Adjustments For Cutting or Strength Focus

                If you're not worried about building maximum amounts of muscle and your main focus is on strength or if you're currently at a reduced capacity to recover due to dieting/cutting, I'd recommend cutting down on the amount of sets and/or exercises performed after your 531 and secondary movements. You may also want to change the routine from Upper, Lower, Rest, Push, Pull, Legs to a typical Upper, Lower, Rest, Upper, Lower routine. Reducing overall volume should make it easier to combine into a 4 day upper/lower split. 

                Don't sweat reducing volume when cutting, studies suggest that maintaining muscle mass requires MUCH less volume than it takes to grow a muscle.


                Share this post

                ← Older Post Newer Post →

                • Hello guys. And Bye.

                  neversurrenderboys ;)

                  Davidmag on

                Leave a comment