Now that Jim Wendler has his new 5/3/1 Forever book out, I see lots of people asking about “which book to buy”. I’ve had some people ask me as well.
Jim’s written a lot of books over time, but here’s what’s currently in print and relevant to our discussion – in order.
5/3/1 2nd edition
(eBook) (hard copy) – This book provides the basic explanation of what 5/3/1 is about. This book is the one must-have and must-read to understand and know what 5/3/1 is about. Yeah, Jim wrote an article for T-Nation back in 2009 that gives you some basics, but you get a lot more out of the full book. If you can only buy 1 book, this is the one to buy.
And you can stop here if you want. 5/3/1 2nd edition is really the only book you truly NEED. But if you want more…
(eBook) (hard copy) – In Beyond, Jim discusses evolution of 5/3/1. Some new things come out here, like Joker Sets and First-Set-Last. If you want to understand and be conversant in “modern 5/3/1”, this book explains what you need to know.
I wouldn’t say this book is critical. If you’ve never tried 5/3/1 before, get the 2nd edition and run “vanilla” 5/3/1 for at least 6-12 months. Gain a little under-the-bar understanding of 5/3/1, then go beyond.
(hard copy) – The latest book, filled with so many variations it makes your head spin. It contains Jim’s most recent thinking and evolution of 5/3/1. What’s cool is that 5/3/1 may be 10 years old, but the foundational principles still hold and drive the methodology. Jim doesn’t take the time to rehash anything here. You have to be conversant in 5/3/1 to really understand this book. This is especially true because in earlier books he may spell a template totally out for you: just run what he gives. Here, you get an outline, and you have to fill in the blanks.
While I can understand wanting the latest and coolest thing, until you understand 5/3/1, under you’ve gone beyond, there’s no point in forever.
5/3/1 for Powerlifting
(eBook) (hard copy) – For the most part, you don’t need this book. If you’re just someone looking to get strong and sexy, the one key thing (the 3/5/1 variation) is easily gleaned from the other books and even some online searching and reading. There is a lot of good stuff in this book, but I’d say it’s only worth buying if you are powerlifting – be it for competition or just because you like to gym-bro-lift in that manner. Most of the material here is geared specifically towards powerlifting.
Do the work
I have no affiliation or relationship with Jim Wendler, other than being a guy that runs 5/3/1-based programs when he goes to the gym. I like it, and it’s given me good results. I’m just answering questions.
These are just my opinions. If you want to buy all the books, please do as I’m sure Jim will appreciate the money. If you do, you still should read them in the above order (2nd edition, Beyond, Forever) because the latter builds upon understanding the former.
And remember: 5/3/1 isn’t anything really new. The principles are time-tested, proven, and solid. Jim has just packaged it up in a nice, logical method.
If you’ve never tried 5/3/1 before? Just read and do what Jim says – it’s all spelled out in the 2nd edition. Follow “Boring But Big” for 6 months. No questions. Seriously. It’s not that questions are bad and there’s dogma here, it’s just that everything is revealed if you just get under the bar and do the work.
So, do the work.