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Let me guess:
You were researching the best powerlifting programs for beginners on Reddit and you came across nSuns 5/3/1.
I also assume you left with more questions than answers. Is nSuns right program for you? How do you do it? What are the best variations?
In this guide, we will:
Help you decide if nSuns 531 is right for your goals
Help you understand how the program works
Walk you different variations (4 day, 5 day, 6 day)
Help you pick the right accessories
Okay. Let’s go.
Table of Contents
Introduction to nSuns 5/3/1 Program
What is the nSuns 531 LP Powerlifting Program?
nSuns is one of Reddit’s most popular powerlifting programs / workouts. In fact, it’s so popular that it has its own dedicated subreddit (r/newsuns, r/nsuns)It was designed with 4 day, 5 day and 6 day options. With its high volume and linear periodization (LP) approach, lifters have been able to quickly put on significant strength to their bench, squat, deadlift, and overhead press.
Digitized nSuns on Boostcamp
Boostcamp partnered with Cody (aka nSuns) to build a nSuns app program to make it easier to bring to the gym than an excel spreadsheet. This nSuns 531 program guide is to accompany your journey.
Who created nSuns?
nSuns gained fame through Reddit forums as being one of the best intermediate strength training program for novice-intermediate level lifters. It was created Cody (aka u/nSuns) who is a powerlifter that gained niche internet fame for putting together excellent strength programs.
The concept of nSuns was inspired by the Jim Wendler 5/3/1 program, known for its simple yet effective progressions, and the Sheiko program, known for its high volume. Unlike the original 5/3/1 that increases weights on a monthly basis, progression on nSuns is condensed to a weekly basis.
Variations and customizations of Suns
Another feature of nSuns is its customizability. The trainee can pick from a 4 day, 5 day, or 6 day a week variation. nSuns also allows you to choose your own accessories to gain muscle and bring up lagging body parts. All the customizations are built into the Boostcamp platform.
For the right trainee, nSuns is the most effective powerlifting program to gain strength and hypertrophy. Read on to find out if it is right for you. Or if you are ready to get started, download the Boostcamp app here.
What you will gain from the Boostcamp nSuns program?
User-friendly app interface that is 10x easier to bring to the gym
Smart and automatic weight progression adjustments
Ability to track and measure your progress (PRs, volume, weight), across different programs
1 rep-max calculator with smart and automatic progression adjustments
Plate calculator, workout timer, and other tools
Recommended accessory exercises to choose from (or add your own)
In-app nSuns chat community to stay motivated, ask questions, and make friends
A free training app with no ads
Who is nSuns program for?
Late stage novice and early intermediate lifters looking to make weekly strength progress in the big four compound movements—squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press.
How do you know if you are a novice or intermediate lifter?
If you have less than 1-2 years of consistent training experience, and are not completely new to resistance training. If you are completely new to the gym, check out Greg Nuckols' Boostcamp Beginner Program or StrongLift 5x5
If you have recently completed a novice strength program where you progressed workout-by-workout, nSuns would be a logical step to make progress week-by-week for a intermermediate strength program
If you have decent training experience doing bodybuilding and/or compound lifts, but have not focused exclusively on a powerlifting-focused training program, then nSuns would help you make excellent strength progress on the compound lifts
What other factors to consider for nSuns?
You should be mentally prepared for high volume training (i.e. 8 to 9 sets per compound lift)
Your eating and recovery should be dialed-in to maximize recovery. While you can still run nSuns while cutting, you could find yourself stalling faster. Please read our article on tips for muscle recovery here.
Read the nSuns guide to learn how to setup variations, accessories, and progressions.
nSuns 531 Program Variations
Getting started on nSuns 531 program Boostcamp nSuns Download & Onboarding nSuns Pre-Progam Testing: Input Your Maxes
1RM and TM Calculator
Before starting the nSuns program, athletes need to input their current 1 Rep Max (1RM) for their 4 major lifts: squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press. The 1RM test determines the maximum weight at which you can perform 1 rep of an exercise. This will allow you to determine your Training Max (TM) for each exercise.
How to calculate 1 Rep Max on nSuns?
If you do not know your 1RM, but can gauge how much you can lift on the exercises for reps, use Boostcamp's built-in calculator to find out your estimated 1RM. Alternatively, you can go into the gym and actually test for your 1RM. If you do, ensure that the exercises are performed with good form (ego reps don't count!).
In general, the more conservative you are with your 1RM estimate starting weight, the more you allow your body to adapt to the volume and intensity of the program and make long-term strength gains.
What is TM in nSuns?
Your TM is calculated as 90% of your 1RM, which is the number used to calculate the prescribed training weights over the next week.
nSuns accessories: Enter During Workout Day
Jump to see the recommended nSuns accessories list here.
Your first week on nSuns 5/3/1 program
How to warmup for nSuns?
Make sure to warm up before your training session. In general, start with ~5 min of dynamic stretching and ~10 min of brisk walking to prepare your body for movement. After that, you can get into your exercise-specific warmup sets before your work sets.
The goal of warmup sets is to prime your body and mind for the exercise, not to pre-exhaust your muscles. Therefore, we recommend a reverse pyramid warmup scheme with lower weights and higher reps to start and then gradually increasing weights and lower reps.
For example, if your 1st work set of bench starts at 175x8, start with bar x8, 95x5, 135x3, 155x2. Another example, if your 1st working set of deadlifts start at 275x5, start with bar x8, 135x5, 185x3, 225x2, 250x1.
How to perform 1+ Set?
How much you increase your Training Max (TM) each week is based on how many reps you perform on your “1+ set” (highlighted below in orange), also known as your AMRAP set (As Many Reps As Possible). Important: while this set is meant to push you, it should still be performed with good form.
The progressions for the following week are based on how many reps you get:
If you get 0-1 reps, your TM stays the same
If you get 2-3 reps, your TM will increase by 5 lbs / 2.5 kg
If you get 4-5 reps, your TM will increase by 10 lbs / 5.0 kg
If you get more than 5 reps, your TM will increase by 15 lbs / 7.5 kg
If you find that the preset nSuns TM progressions are too aggressive or too fast, you can go into Boostcamp's Program Settings page and manually change this week's TMs or the TM Progression Scheme.
How many reps to do for 3+, 5+, 8+ sets?
nSuns often have an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) set at the end of an exercise. As the title suggest, aim to get more reps than the lowest minimum. It is okay to stop at RPE9 (1 rep shy of failure).
For x3+ rep sets, aim to do x3-6 reps
For x5+ rep sets, aim to do x5-8 reps
For x8+ rep sets, aim to do x8-12 reps
How to pick accessories on nSuns?
Each training day will show recommended accessory muscle parts to target
Consider choosing some single-joint isolation exercises(machine fly, dumbbell row, leg extension, leg curl, etc.) as you will be doing heavy volume on the compound exercises
You can also choose specific exercises to bring up your weak points. For example, if your triceps are a weak point, add more tricep extensions
Consider adding more back (vertical & horizontal pulls) and rear delt work as nSuns has a lot of push volume. Healthy shoulders go a long way!
nSuns Accessories - Recommended List
How much accessories work on nSuns?
Each training day will show recommended accessory muscle parts to target
Pick 1 to 3 accessory movements per body part based on your goals
How many sets for accessories? Generally pick between 2-4 sets per exercise at 8-12 reps per set
Boostcamp's tracker will automatically show you last week's input. For progressions, go by feel — If you feel good, shoot for either weight or rep, but there is no need to increase weekly
Generally speaking, aim for 8-9 RPE (i.e. stopping 1-2 reps shy of failure) per set
How much rest period between nSuns sets?
For building strength on nSuns, there is no need to time your rest periods between sets. Take as much time as you need to feel recovered to perform your next set. In general 2-5 min is a good cadence.
How long is a nSuns workout?
Given the high volume nature of the program, expect to be in the gym for 1-2 hours per session.
What tempo should I lift at for nSuns?
Perform the exercises with proper form and control. A great piece of advice I once heard is to lift heavy weights like they are light and light weights like they are heavy. No matter the weight on the bar, your form should be consistent. Perform the movement with control (not to be confused with slow) and power.
Should you go to failure on nSuns accessories?
Except for your 1+ set on the main compound movement, stay at RPE 8-9 (i.e., 1-2 reps shy of failure). While training to failure has its place in certain programs, given the high volume requirement of nSuns it is better to shy away from it to avoid burnout.
How to cooldown after a nSuns training session?
For cooldown after training, perform static stretches to better allow your muscles to loosen and recover. Check out coach Matt Hsu's Length & Strength mobility program on Boostcamp for a ~15 min guided stretching session 3x/week.
How to eat on nSuns? Diet on nSuns? Can you cut on nSuns?
A few hours before training, consider eating a high quality meal of mostly protein and carbs to fuel your session. Within a few hours after training, eat a nutritious meal of protein, fat, and carbs to refuel your body. Proper sleep is also critical. Remember: training breaks down your muscle and the rebuilding happens outside of the gym. While you can do nSuns on a cut, the high volume approach can be very taxing on your body. If you wish to do so, consider dropping your 1RMs to be more conservative.
How to Progress on nSuns 5/3/1 program
How to keep progressing?
You'll know that the program is working for you if you are able to consistently increase your strength on your main lifts. While you may be tempted to manually increase your TM by more than the automated progression, it is highly suggested that you stay conservative to ensure long term progress. As a novice-intermediate, a common misconception is that you must constantly be training at peak intensity or near maxes to make progress. However, keep in mind that even if you used the same weights for next week, your body is still adapting to the training stimulus.
nSuns 531: When to deload?
It is suggested to deload every 4-6 weeks. This timeframe can vary depending on various factors like 1) how conservative you are with your TM estimates, 2) your diet and sleep, 3) how much accessories volume, etc. As a general rule, if your body feels beat up and you're finding it hard to progress, consider taking a deload week.
nSuns 531: How to deload?
There are two primary ways to deload, either by lowering your weights or # of sets by ~30-50%. There is no need to completely stop training. In fact, research shows that your body may recover faster with some lighter weight training. Use this time to mentally prep for the next training cycle.
Troubleshooting on nSuns 531 program What if I stall on nSuns? What is stalling?
If you find that for several weeks you have stalled on gaining strength on your main lifts (i.e., just get 0-1 rep on your 1+ sets), then you have to troubleshoot:
Did you set your 1RM too high on nSuns?
If you stall 1-2 weeks after starting nSuns, then your 1RM estimates were too high. Consider dropping the weights by 10% and restarting the program.
Do you need to deload on nSuns?
If you have made consistent progress over several weeks before stalling, your body may just need a deload week. On your deload week, either lower your weights or # of sets by ~30-50%. There is no need to completely stop training.
Do you have TOO MANY accessories on nSuns?
If you have more than 2-4 accessories that you added per training session, consider decreasing the number of accessories or number of sets.
Alternatively, if you constantly train to failure (RPE 10) on accessories, consider stopping at RPE 8-9 (1-2 reps shy of failure).
If your accessories are primarily compound movements (like front squat, barbell row, RDL), consider switching to isolation movements that are less taxing. Remember that accessories are meant to be assistance, not main exercises.
How is your sleep and diet on nSuns?
Are you eating enough food? While you can do nSuns on a cut, the high volume approach can be very taxing on your body. If you wish to do so, consider dropping your 1RMs to be more conservative.
Are you sleeping well? If you are only getting 5-6 hours of sleep, it may not be enough for your body to recover from the volume. Consider sleeping and cutting off caffeine earlier. Check out our article on 3 most important tips for muscle recovery here.
Compilation of User Reviews on nSuns
Our TL;DR conclusion
Very effective for quickly increasing major lift numbers. However, volume and intensity are both very high so users need to be careful not to push too aggressively and take deload weeks or time off as necessary. We recommend this program for athletes in the advanced novice to intermediate stage, where it’s still possible to increase strength on a weekly basis.
What users are saying
Highly effective program for increasing major lift numbers (squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press (OHP), front squat, close grip deadlift)
Simple progression scheme (every week is the same main lift progressions, while accessories have user flexibility)
For those experienced intermediate to advanced level lifters who stopped lifting during COVID, it’s great for getting back into heavy lifting as the progressions can be quite fast (depending on 1+ sets)
Users train close to one rep max (1rm) every day which could be increase injury risk / CNS fatigue
Workout volume is very high and could be exhausting to sustain
Each session is long
Other excellent nSuns resources
nSuns Program Alternatives
nSuns is an overall excellent novice-intermediate level strength program, but there are other awesome alternative programs as well that can work just as well. The most important long-term success factor in the gym is consistency, and you can only be consistent by finding a program that best fits your goals.
One of the most popular powerbuilding (strength + muscle) novice-intermediate programs on Reddit
3-4 days a week, with every day starting with compound exercises, coupled with secondary movements and accessory exercises (pyramid structure)
Created by Cody Lefever (GZCL), Marine veteran and reknowned world-class strength coach
Available for free on Boostcamp App
THE unofficial official gym program to build significant strength and muscle
Follows 6-days a week PPL (Push, Pull, Legs) structure. It can also be done 3 days a week.
Fun program with compound movements and a mix of accessories to choose from
Available for free on Boostcamp App
Boostcamp is a free fitness app with training programs made by elite-level coaches. Our coaches include Greg Nuckols (Stronger by Science), Morit Summers (home workouts and training programs), Matt Hsu (Upright Health, mobility expert), John Henwood (Olympian, running program), and more to come.
Our mission at Boostcamp is to make fitness accessible to everyone. This means two things:
Free programs for all, not just those who can afford it. To that end, Boostcamp and our coaches rely on tips and optional services to fund new programs and product developments.
Digitizing programs so that they are easier to use. We hope to make great programs like nSuns into an automated, personalized, and easy-to-view digital format for those not familiar with spreadsheets.
You can find our other programs in partnership with amazing coaches like Greg Nuckols, Morit Summers, Matt Hsu, and John Henwood at www.boostcamp.app
Have any feedback? Let us know in the comments section.