How I Transformed My Strength in 5 Months

A progress report after 5 months of 5/3/1 strength training.

Benya Clark
5 min readMay 22


This is not the author, just a stock photo. Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash


For the past 5 months, I’ve been following the 5/3/1 for Beginners program. This is a barbell-focused strength training program designed around coach Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 system.

Although 5/3/1 is popular among intermediate and advanced lifters, I haven’t seen as many write-ups from beginners like myself. The program has worked incredibly well for me, so I’d like to share my thoughts and hopefully inspire other beginners to give it a try.

My Starting Stats:

After a lifetime of neglecting my physical health, I started exercising regularly in 2017. I’ve mostly stuck to running, but have occasionally dabbled in other exercises. I even gave 5/3/1 a try back in 2020, but didn’t manage to stick with it for more than a few weeks.

I started this program in December 2022 at age 35, and I’m now 36. Throughout the entire time that I’ve run this program, my body weight has been between 165 and 170 pounds (about 75–77 kg).

5/3/1 for Beginners focuses on 4 main lifts: Squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press. When I began, I tested myself on each of these lifts and used a calculator to estimate my 1 rep maxes. They were as follows:

Squat: 136.5 lbs (62 kg)
Bench: 116 lbs (52.5 kg)
Deadlift: 136.5 lbs (62 kg)
Press: 82.5 lbs (37.5 kg)

I know that to some people reading this, those numbers sound pathetically low, and to others, they sound impossibly high. I’d encourage you to remember that we’re all starting from different places, and what matters is how much progress we make, not how we compare to others.

My Method

My method was simple: I followed the 5/3/1 for Beginners plan that I found on Reddit, and I tried to follow it exactly. You can read the plan here, and find a convenient spreadsheet for tracking your workouts here.

This beginner plan has you work out three times a week. Monday and Friday are focused on squats and bench presses, while Wednesday is for deadlifts…



Benya Clark

I’m a lawyer turned writer from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, and more. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter at

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