Table of Contents
What Are Joker Sets?
Joker sets are a form of autoregulation within the 5/3/1 programming framework. They were originally introduced in Beyond 5/3/1 as a way to allow the athlete to lift heavier weight on days they were feeling especially strong and productive.
Joker Set Example
If weights are moving easily and an athlete decides to perform a joker set, this is accomplished by adding 5% to 10% to whatever the top set of the day is. The rep count is kept the same as that day’s top working set.
For example, let’s say that an athlete is on week 2 of a vanilla 5/3/1 cycle.
|Week 1||Week 2||Week 3|
|60% x 5||70% x 3||75% x 5|
|75% x 5||80% x 3||85% x 3|
|85% x 5+||90% x 3+||95% x 1+|
Let’s say the AMRAP at 90% x 3+ felt light, the bar moved quickly, and the reps were crisp. The athlete decides to add a joker set in.
Let’s say that the load for the AMRAP set was 100 kg. The joker set would add 5% for a new load of 105 kg at 3 reps. If those 3 reps also felt crisp and fast, the athlete could add an additional 5% and perform another set of 3 reps at 110 kg, and so on.
The following can end a series of joker sets:
- An athlete doesn’t complete all reps
- An athlete barely completes all reps
- Fatigue begins to set in
- Any other reason at all
Joker sets should be earned, not expected, and they should be the exception, not the rule. They’re an easy way to overcomplicate the 5/3/1 training protocol and should only be utilized when the athlete can handle them.
Calculating Percentage Increases for Joker Sets
Some users on Reddit recommend the following rules of thumb for joker sets:
- Only perform them for sets of 3’s week or 5/3/1 week. This boils down to “only perform them for sets of 3 or singles, never sets of 5.”
- Use 5% jumps when performing joker sets of 3 reps.
- Use 10% jumps when performing joker sets for singles.
Joker Set Resources
Below you’ll find some resources from around the internet that further describe joker sets and how they are used in the 5/3/1 program.
- 5/3/1 Joker Sets (T-Nation Forum)
- Beyond 5/3/1 Joker Sets (T-Nation Forum)
- /r/531Discussion on when to use Joker Sets (Reddit)
- Never on 5’s week, only on 3’s week or 5/3/1 week.
- More discussion on when to use joker sets on /r/531discussion (Reddit)
- When performing sets of 3, use 5% jumps
- When performing singles, use 10% jumps
Learn about other 5/3/1 terms in our 5/3/1 glossary.
5/3/1 Forever Book (Recommended Reading)
To best utilize the 5/3/1 training framework, the book is highly recommended. It’s a small investment for a lifetime of training knowledge.
The most up-to-date and complete collection of Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 programming framework. Contains dozens of templates to keep 5/3/1 fresh and adaptable.