the guest principal

Training Programme: The Guest Principal

My current routine is brutal. Savage, even. It was inspired by Jim Wendler’s Boring But Big challenge published on T-Nation and it’s a 3-day full-body workout with a focus on getting bigger & stronger.

Before We Get Started

Buy the 531 book. Please support the guy who designed 531, only for doughnuts like me to ruin it with our own interpretations. If you want to learn 531, buy the book and do 531. Don’t do this routine.

What is The Guest Principal?

Based loosely on Wendler’s Boring but Big, this program is designed for those who have a 3-day training week and hate spreading cycles over more than a 7 day period.

It’s also fucking hard going.

The main lifts are fine. It’s the accessory work (the 5×10 sets) that’ll sap the energy out of you.

I’ve named it The Guest Principal. Jim Wendler will probably think I’m a dick for the name and the programming. I’d be inclined to agree with him.

How Does it Work?

First you need to know your 1 rep maximum lift for the following exercises:

  • Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Bench press
  • Overhead press

From there, you’ll calculate 90% of your 1 rep maximum and use that to plan out your lifts for each session.

So for example, if your 1RM squat is 110kg, you’d use 99kg (or 100kg for simplicity’s sake) for programming your squats.

Your percentages would then look like this:

40% of 100kg = 40kg

50% of 100kg = 50kg

60% of 100kg = …you get the idea

Setup & Structure

Using the same percentage cycles to periodise the weight as 531, the end of each 4 week cycle sees your lifts go up by 2kg on bench and overhead press, and 5kg on squat and deadlift.

But here’s the kicker that I’ve carried over from Boring But Big: your 5×10 increases every 4 weeks too: you start month 1 at 50% of your 1RM, and Month 3 sees you at 70% of your 1RM.

However, you can drop the 70% in Month 3 back down to 60% if required.

After month 3, you should stick at 60% 1RM, mimicking Wendler’s approach in the core Boring But Big plan.

See the 531 Periodisation Guide below for how to structure your 531 lifts.

And please. Please read Jim’s explanation of 531 here and buy his book here before trying this.

The Routine


Squat (531)

Squat 5 sets x 10 reps (at 50%, 60% or 70% of 1RM depending on phase)

Bench 5 sets x 10 reps (at 50%, 60% or 70% of 1RM depending on phase)

Chins 5 sets x 10 reps (if you can’t manage chins or pullups, use lat pulldowns)


Deadlift (531)

Deadlift 5 sets x 10 reps (at 50%, 60% or 70% of 1RM depending on phase)

Press (531)

Press 5 sets x 10 reps (at 50%, 60% or 70% of 1RM depending on phase)

Reverse pec deck 3 sets x 10 reps


Bench (531)

Bench or Dips 5 sets x 10 reps (at 50%, 60% or 70% of 1RM depending on phase)

Squat 5 sets x 10 reps (at 50%, 60% or 70% of 1RM depending on phase)

Rows or Chins 5 sets x 10 reps

Curls 4 sets x 10 reps


531 Periodisation Guide

Week 1

Warm up

40%,50%,60% (5/5/3 reps)

Working Sets

65%,75%,85% (5 reps, 5 reps, 5 + AMRAP (As Many Reps as Possible)

Week 2

Warm up

40%,50%,60% (5/5/3 reps)

Working Sets

70%,80%,90% (3 reps, 3 reps, 3 + AMRAP)

Week 3

Warm up

40%,50%,60% (5/5/3 reps)

Working Sets

75%,85%,95% (5 reps, 3 reps, 1 + AMRAP)

Week 4 (deload)

Warm up

40%,50%,60% (5/5/5 reps)

Working Sets

None (the warm up is the work!)

Week 4 also sees the 5×10 decreased to 3×10. You’ll appreciate this in weeks 8 and 12.

A snapshot of deadlifts during week 2 using the 531 percentages, followed by 5 X 10 reps at 50% of my 1 rep max. 


  • Don’t eat too much before training. By the 4th set of 5×10 squats or deads, you’ll be fighting to hang on to your dinner
  • Don’t add more volume. I can’t stress that enough. Week 1 will be a piece of piss. Week 7 will have you on your knees. Week 11 will feel like the apocalypse has arrived. 
  • If you’re on a cut (in a caloric deficit) drop the secondary  assistance work to 3 x 10, e.g. On squat 531 day, bench press would be 3 x 10. 
  • You can also decrease the 5×10 volume in month 3 to 5×5 (unless you can handle that volume & weight. I burned out doing 5×10 at 70% 1RM)
  • Use the Big Lifts 2 app (iOS here, Android here) to track your progress using the Boring But Big template. It takes the work out of calculating your lifts

Calories & Diet

Training day = 3600

Rest day = 2400

Increasing calories on training days and decreasing on rest days, I usually consume around 2,000 calories post-training. I train between 7:30 to 8:30 pm so eat relatively little during the day, with lunch and evening meals coming in at around 500-550 calories each.

Macros will be dictated by your personal approach. I’m running at (carbs, protein, fats) 50-25-25 on training days, and 30-35-35 on rest days. Go with what works for you. I’m not a qualified dietician and recommend that if you’re looking for diet guidance in line with heavy training, Martin Berkhan’s Leangains is my suggestion.


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