Building the Monolith Review: Did It Actually Work...

Building the Monolith. Jim Wendler

Note from Jim: This is a testimonial for the short, 6 week 5/3/1 program, Building the Monolith.  As with any program written by a professional, be sure to follow the exact program.  Building the Monolith also has a very loose diet recommendation and to my surprise, people had the more trouble with this than the training. This kind of eating/diet is kind of basic and maybe why there are so many questions regarding size and strength in the world is the fact that people eat like a bunch of fools.  If you want to get bigger and stronger, your actions better support it.  As always, stay consistent, give great effort and understand that training is NOT working out.

With that in mind, thank you for taking the time to write and send the review. And thank you for the following the actual workout. 


I finished Building the Monolith - every set and rep and bite of beef and egg. I've never posted a review of a program, but I feel strongly enough about this one that I felt like I should take the time to share it. I decided I definitely needed to share this after last week, when a couple buddies of mine were "worried" about how the program focused so much on squats and overhead press while not having much for bench press and deadlift. Yesterday, after six weeks on Monolith and a one week deload, I started the Rest-Pause program (3/5/1) and they saw me bench 220 x 10 (a new PR). They're starting Monolith when they finish the cycle they're on. I also told the two of them that the Monolith program will make your penis longer; one of them has really high hopes for his future, now.


I'm 5'9", 195 pounds. I've lifted all kinds of programs for twenty years now, so I'm not experiencing beginner gains or whatever. I've been all 5/3/1, a little bit of a Wendler homer, and pleased with every result I've gotten since I decided to go all in with 5/3/1 about 14 months ago. I'm an average guy: literature and writing professor, dad and husband. I'm definitely not someone who can do things most others aren't physically capable of doing.



This program is amazing. To hit the reps, you have to find something in you that just doesn't give a damn, but that's okay because, by the final week, you've stopped caring: you're hitting that 20th squat even if you burst into flame. The best part of the program is how simple it really is... it's one of the most straightforward roads to size gains that I've used. The only time my back has gotten noticeably bigger like this was following the six weeks of Spinal Tap II with deadlifts. The surprise of the program is how much stronger this made me across every lift. I hit a new squat PR two days ago and (as I mentioned) the bench press PR yesterday. The confidence this program gave me also surprised me; when I walked out of that gym after each workout, I felt like I'd just climbed Olympus without a safety belt and bitch slapped Zeus. The downside of the program is that I have had to buy some new clothes. They were already getting a little tight - button-ups and khakis are a must for my job but they're not always the best things to squeeze into - but the last six weeks made it clear that some money was going to be spent on replacing the tighter stuff. Even the downside has an upside: I've had college athletes asking me what I'm on. My wife really likes the new look.


First, this is just based on my experience as a normal guy who was pretty nervous about some of the guidelines. None of it contradicts the guidelines, but still, don't take what I say as expert opinion.
  • DON'T BE FOOLED. The first couple of weeks aren't that bad, if memory serves me. But it gets intense.
  • FOOD. I did everything Jim said, down to the diet. I probably won't eat eggs again until 2016. I was worried I would get fat, but the mirror doesn't reflect that. Find ways to change up how you eat your food... that's definitely the only way I managed to get down all the eggs.
  • FASTING. If you follow any of the fasting protocols, even the LeanGains stuff, you may as well forget it. I dislike breakfast so I rarely eat before noon, but I had to eat on this plan because stuffing yourself with a pound of beef at dinner isn't fun.
  • DO NOT DO JOKER SETS WITH THIS PROGRAM. I did once, with deadlifts, and I almost had to stop the program and take a week off. Jim happened to post something like "smart lifters work around aches" or something to that effect, so that's what I did, and I persevered. I even asked about them right after the workout and Jim said I shouldn't do them with this plan. My back agreed the next day.
  • LEARN TO STRETCH and commit to it. Foam rolling, too. We have a massage chair that a crazy, rich aunt of mine gave us a year ago, and I sat in it every night. I doubt I could have recovered without those elements.
  • 20-REP SQUATS. I did mine as the last exercise on the third day. That was sound advice from Jim.
  • DON'T GET CUTE. Don't try to superset the main movements. I know people who do this, and I did when I first started. Don't do it.
  • CONDITIONING. I followed that down to the letter, too. I don't have a prowler, so I did have to work around that. I won't say what I did, because it wasn't anything recommended here, but I didn't hurt myself, I didn't get fat, and I made the gains I hoped for.

Sorry this was long. Even if it doesn't get read, I felt like I owed it to the program and its creator to share my experience. If you're thinking about this but have had doubts, the only one you should be concerned about is whether you'll actually commit 100% to this.

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