Dear Young Jim Wendler,
You've been lifting for about six months now. I haven't been watching you, but I know what you've been doing. See, I'm you and you're me. I'm you more than 20 years from now. I've got the scar on my cheek to prove it.
This letter is for your benefit. I'm going to bestow some wisdom on you and it would be in your best interest to follow it.
First, don't cut your hair. Ever. Let that mop grow no matter what Dad says. You're going to lose it, so enjoy it while you can.
Second, I know you're obsessed about weight training and football so let me give you some advice. Here are the things I want you to implement in your training, no questions asked. I know you're a stubborn fool and hate to be told what to do, but please read and take heed.
I want you to follow the lifting schedule below. As for the sets and reps of the main lifts, I've attached the 5/3/1 Training Book. Follow it to a "T" – do not start too heavy (you're not impressing anyone, trust me) and don't overestimate your maxes.
You have four years of high school ahead of you so be patient. Your strength will come. You don't have to bench press 300 pounds tomorrow or next month! Just one rep more or five pounds better. I guarantee you'll be stronger than you could ever imagine if you follow the training and principles in this program. This is perfect for someone like you – someone that's a true Lifer and knows that you're in it for the long haul.
Remember in sixth and seventh grade when you ran cross country? And in the summer between the seventh and eighth grade you began lifting? What happened? You went from being slow to being the fastest kid in the school. It's amazing what happens when you strengthen your body.
Remember walking back from track practice amazed at your new speed? Remember looking up at the sky and thinking, "Making my body stronger made my body faster?" Don't worry, this secret is safe with us as few people seemed to have grasped it, "experts" included.
I listed some assistance work below the main work but you can do whatever you want. Or you can do nothing. The only assistance exercises that I think you need to do are the back extensions, sit-ups, dips and chins. Keep at these three no matter what you're doing and even during the in-season. You never had a problem picking out what to do or what not to do. Just make sure you have the same focus on the main exercise and the rest will take care of itself.
This is called The Process. When you focus on the process and the work, everything falls into place. Do your homework and pay attention in class and you'll get good grades. Train hard, smart, and run and you'll be ready to play football.
Training, school, and life are not terribly complicated. They're not easy, but like I said, they're not complicated either. You really have no excuse to not succeed at whatever you want.
Here's what I want you to be doing:
Squat - 5/3/1
Bench Press - 5/3/1
Dips, Chin-ups, Sit-ups, Neck - 25-50 total reps/each
Power Clean (or Hang Clean) - 5/3/1
Deadlift - 5/3/1
DB Incline Press, Curls, Back Extensions, Neck - 25-50 total reps/each
Front Squat - 5/3/1
Press - 5/3/1
Dips, DB rows, Ab Wheel, Neck - 25-50 total reps/each
*Note: Notice the pattern for assistance movements and adjust as needed.
Just so you know, all those people you train with in high school? None of them keep up with training. But don't stop writing them workouts they'll never use; it's great practice for later in life. Trust me.
Now during the football season, I want you to cut your training down to two days per week. You can continue to train three days per week during basketball and track season but let's recover a bit during football. The in-season training will now look like this:
- Bench Press
- Assistance work
- Assistance work
For assistance work, I recommend doing back extensions, sit-ups, chin-ups, and dips. If you have time and energy for more, go ahead and do whatever you want. Don't think that training only two days a week is too little. You're running seven days a week and wear pads and hit four days a week. This is very stressful on the body and you'll be surprised how strong you'll get when you train smart and train with purpose.
You probably won't believe this, but the trend today is either being ridiculously fat and awful, or skinny and weak! There's this new pride in the world and it revolves around being physically pathetic. I'm glad you take pride in your mind and your body. Like Dad says, "It's important to be strong here (as he points to his head) and strong here (as he points to his arms)." The two go hand in hand and help build one another.
The reality is that you're too skinny. I know you need – and want – to gain weight, so here's the secret:
- Eat the three meals/day that you're already eating. And eat as much as you can at these meals.
- After each meal, make this shake: Two cups of whole milk, three scoops of protein powder, a banana, and two tablespoons of peanut butter. And after you make this shake, drink it. Three times a day. Don't miss a day.
There's a famous actor in the future named Will Smith. In his speech to kids, he said (to paraphrase): "If you want to be successful, you need to do two things. You need to read and you need to run."
Now of course there's a deeper meaning to this than hitting the treadmill and reading John Grisham, but I'm here to teach you, not feed you. You're educated, so you figure it out. I trust Mrs. Screbneck gave you the tools to decipher that one.
Run. You already do it but don't stop. Run sprints. Run hills. Run miles. You don't need to run every day but it wouldn't hurt. You run tons of 40-yard sprints. Keep doing it. You run Sanders Hill – set up a tent and live there. It's one thing to be strong as a football player but if you can't move, you're worthless.
Let's face facts. You aren't the fastest person in the world. And you certainly aren't the biggest. So let's make sure you're in great shape. Let's make sure your legs are strong to grind out the extra yards or pull down a tackler.
Thank God you play both ways – the current trend in football is what's known as "platooning." This means more people – not necessarily the best ones – get to play. Or everyone is too out of shape to play both ways. It's like Dad says, "Put the best athletes on defense and make sure they can play offense too."
People ask what to do for agility work. That's what playing sports is for. You don't need that obnoxious agility ladder. You've been playing sports since you could walk. Basketball, wrestling, football, track, swimming, cross country... you think an agility ladder or some ridiculous drills are going to somehow mirror the work of a sports practice or the spirit of competition? I know you're smarter than that.
And please don't ask Dad for that sprinting parachute. Run the damn hill.
Don't be so anxious and don't worry. There are going to be a lot of times where you're going to feel helpless, powerless, and the future seems hopeless. Remember how we talked about The Process? Just focus on doing the Right Things the Correct Way.
People get too wrapped up in the goal and not the events that need to happen to reach that goal. The goal seems so big, so far away. And they get frustrated. And they quit. You do not quit. You never have. Mom and Dad made sure you didn't quit. This will serve you well in all areas of life.
Read more. Write more. Train more. Keep your head down and don't worry that your bank account is empty. Don't worry that you don't have a car or a computer – you can write on scrap papers found in the recycling bins in college hallways. The important thing is to write and read and train.
When you write, your thoughts become alive and take form. They become real. You know why no one writes the Great American Novel? Because they're too scared to put pen to paper.
When you read, your mind expands. Your dreams become bigger and your words become more colorful. When you train, your body becomes taut and hard. And when you train hard, your mind must overcome the physical pain to overcome and move on.
All these things go hand in hand. Never stop creating, moving forward, and kicking ass. Discard the negative and trust your heart.
And most of all, don't get married. At least not the first time.
**Tuesday, April 11, 2017: Jim Wendler will be on Reddit for an AMA. It will begin at 6pm EST.**
**5/3/1 Forever Books begin shipping on April 15th. Read this for more info.**