While websites and forums aren’t exactly the first you’d look to find a training program, the popular site Reddit has dedicated forums on all things strength training.
A number of years ago, a user by the name of nSuns posted a powerlifting program that rapidly became hugely popular for its simplicity and effectiveness.
So popular was the program that there is now a “subreddit” dedicated to the program where users can view the program, ask questions and discuss all things nSuns.
This article will breakdown the nSuns program in detail and highlight why the program is so effective for strengthening.
The Formation of nSuns 531
While there are now many variations of the program, the original program is known as the nSuns 531 LP.
If you are an experienced powerlifter it is likely that you will have heard of both of these hugely popular programs before.
The Wender 531 is a very simple powerlifting program that was originally designed for the beginner.
The nSuns program uses two of the concepts from the Wendler program – they are the 531 approach and linear progression.
Firstly, you may be wondering what 531 refers to. This is simply the number of repetitions to be performed for all compound lifts – such as squats, deadlifts, and bench press.
Studies have indicated that for optimal strength development, low reps and heavy weight should be prioritized (1). This explains why sets of 5, 3 and 1 reps are used.
The 531 concept has been heavily popularized by powerlifting coach Jim Wendler and consequently, many powerlifting coaches swear by it.
Linear progression (LP) programs follow a particular structure and are very useful for beginners and have been found to be effective for increasing strength (2).
The idea behind linear progression is to gradually increase the load each week to stimulate the body to adapt and improve.
While there are a number of alterations to training that can be made to increase the intensity, the Wendler program simply asks participants to add more weight to the bar with each lift every month.
While the nSuns program does follow linear progression, there is a slight difference. nSuns requires you to progress the weight on a weekly rather than monthly basis.
Because the Wendler program is beginner-orientated, the volume is fairly low as beginners do not require a large training stimulus in order to make dramatic improvements in strength.
The Sheiko program, on the other hand, does use a high volume approach in an attempt to accelerate the rate of strength development.
To allow you to understand the extreme volume used in the program, the Sheiko program (and many program variations) require completing more than 200 lifts each week.
As a result of the high volumes associated with these types of programs, they were really designed for intermediate and advanced individuals as the volume would be far too great for beginners.
nSuns 531 Tools
Before you start with the nSuns 531, there are two calculations you need to be aware of – the first one is INOL.
Download the nSuns 531 Spreadsheet below:
Before you start with the nSuns 531, there are two calculations you need to be aware of – the first one is INOL (or Intensity Number Of Reps) and the second is TDEE (or Total Daily Energy Expenditure).
INOL is to be used to allow you to calculate the intensity of each exercise and ensure that it is at an appropriate level.
The INOL heat map that will allow you to calculate the stress associated with the exercise. It does this by assessing the intensity of the exercise and the number of reps completed.
The following INOL values will indicate whether you are working at the correct intensity for each exercise
- < 0.4 – too easy
- 0.4 – 1.0 – optimal range
- 0.7 – 0.8 – recommended starting point
- 1.0 – 2.0 – use occasionally, useful during loading phases
- > 2.0 – very difficult, overtraining risk
Meanwhile, TDEE estimates the number of calories that you expend each day based on your physical attributes and activity levels.
When it comes to building strength and size, it is essential that enough calories are consumed, otherwise, substantial improvements may not occur.
Before starting the nSuns program, it is imperative that some strength testing is done. This is important as the result will determine the loading for many key compound lifts.
If you have been strength training or powerlifting for quite some time, you’ll know about your one-rep max. This is the maximal amount of weight that can be lifted for one rep.
It is seen as the gold-standard test of strength. If you are at an intermediate or advanced stage you may wish to carry out some maximal one-rep max test.
If, however, you are a beginner, it is not recommended to complete maximal tests as the risk of injury may be increased.
Instead, it is possible to perform submaximal strength tests and still accurately assess your one-rep max (3).
Commonly used submaximal tests include a three, five, or ten-rep max. On completion of a sub max test, you can then use an online calculator to estimate your one-rep max.
As with the Wendler program, there are four key exercises that are to be tested – squat, deadlift, bench, and overhead press.
Having completed testing, you can then simply input your one-rep max results into the spreadsheet. The program should then automatically formulate.
Finally, in the program, your attention may be drawn to something known as your “training max” which is a value that the program has automatically generated based on your strength results.
Your training max is different from your one-rep max and once again, this is something used in Wendler’s 531 program.
Your training max is 90% of your one-rep max. The purpose of using a training max rather than your true one-rep max is to allow you to comfortably hit the prescribed number of reps.
By using a training max rather than your one-rep max, you can effectively load the muscles of the body while promoting exercise safety.
nSuns 531 Workouts
The original nSuns program has you working out five times per week. All of the workouts follow the same structure – two primary exercises followed up with accessory work.
The first primary exercise of each workout will be one of the lifts that were assessed in the strength test – squat, deadlift, bench, or overhead press.
The second primary exercise will be a variation of these moves – exercises such as the sumo deadlift, front squat, and close-grip & incline bench press.
By looking at how these exercises are programmed you will begin to see the influence of the Sheiko program. Both of these lifts are to be performed for nine and eight sets respectively.
In terms of rep range, for the first exercise, the reps following the 531 principle (with the exception of the bench on day one).
Be aware that the set of one is a maximal test where you should attempt to perform as many reps as possible and note the results.
For exercise two, the sets and reps are slightly higher and range anywhere between three to eight. Pay close attention to the loading scheme with these exercises.
Once these two primary exercises have been completed, you then move onto accessory work. There is a large degree of personalization and preference when it comes to accessories.
Instead of prescribing specific accessory exercises, the program provides a target area(s) to focus on – the chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, and abs.
Day one focuses on the chest, back & arms, day two on the legs & abs, day three on the shoulders & chest, day four on the back & abs, and finally, day five focus on the arms and any other necessary accessory work.
This approach gives you the opportunity to select specific exercises that will help you reach your goals most effectively.
Each accessory exercise is programmed using bodybuilding volume in an attempt to develop muscle size as well as strength. Therefore, the recommendation is to stick to 6-12 reps per set.
However, there is much flexibility with the accessories and the number of sets and reps can be tailored to match your needs and goals.
nSuns 531 Progressions
As highlighted, nSuns is a linear progression program that requires you to add weight to your training max on a weekly basis in order to make significant strength improvements.
It can be challenging to know how much weight to add to specific lifts. However, the nSuns program provides a useful progressions guide to ensure that loading is appropriate.
Changes in weight are determined based on how you perform in the 1+ set of the primary lifts. This set is a maximal lift where you are looking to perform as many reps as possible.
The progressions guide is as follows:
|Number of Additional Reps Completed:||Progression|
|2-3||+ 5 lbs|
|4-5||+ 5 – 10 lbs|
|5+||+ 10 – 15 lbs|
nSuns 531 Variants
The final thing to be aware of is that there are actually a number of nSuns programs – the 4-day LP, 5-day LP, 5-day row LP, and 6-day deadlift LP.
nSuns LP Complete Bundle Spreadsheet:
nSuns 5-Day Row Spreadsheet:
Although each version of the program follows the same structure, the exercises used in each program may slightly differ (specifically the squat, row, and deadlift focused LP’s).
Finally, there is also a variant known as CAP3 which differs from the conventional program in that it runs in 3-week cycles rather than 1-week cycles.
nSuns CAP3 Spreadsheet:
The program is a little more complex and has been designed for those who are at an advanced stage of training.
Other Powerlifting Programs
- The Starting Strength Linear Periodization Program
- The Greyskull Linear Periodization Program (GSLP) Good or Bad?
- The Juggernaut Method: Unstoppable Strength Training Program
- Madcow 5×5 Program: The Workout for Strength and Size
- The High Bar vs Low Bar Squat Debate
Q1) Where did the nSuns powerlifting program originate from?
A) The program was originally posted on Reddit by a user named nSuns. Much of the program is based on principles that were established by acclaimed strength coach, Jim Wendler.
Q2) How does nSuns program differ from Wendler’s 5/3/1?
A) While both programs follow linear progression, the nSuns program focuses on weekly progressions while the Wendler program uses monthly progressions.
Q3) Is the nSuns powerlifting program suitable for beginners?
A) Due to the high volume that is prescribed, nSuns powerlifting program may not be suitable for those who are learning how to lift safely and effectively. It is much more suited to those who are at an intermediate or advanced level.
Q4) Which nSuns version should I be using?
A) This is entirely dependent on your training preferences, needs, and goals. However, it is recommended to start with the 4 day LP program.
If you feel like your body is dealing with the high volume, you may then wish to progress onto the 5-day LP program.
The nSuns program is a straightforward yet physically challenging strength training program. The combination of linear progression, high volume, and heavy lifting proves to be highly effective in developing muscle size and strength.
1 – Schoenfeld, Brad J.; Contreras, Bret; Vigotsky, Andrew D.; Peterson, Mark (December 1, 2016). “Differential Effects of Heavy Versus Moderate Loads on Measures of Strength and Hypertrophy in Resistance-Trained Men”. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. 15 (4): 715–722. ISSN 1303-2968. PMC 5131226. PMID 27928218.
2 – Prestes, Jonato; De Lima, Cristiane; Frollini, Anelena B.; Donatto, Felipe F.; Conte, Marcelo (2009-01). “Comparison of linear and reverse linear periodization effects on maximal strength and body composition”. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 23 (1): 266–274. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181874bf3. ISSN 1533-4287. PMID 19057409.
3 – Eston, Roger; Evans, Harrison James Llewelyn (December 1, 2009). “The Validity of Submaximal Ratings of Perceived Exertion to Predict One Repetition Maximum”. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. 8 (4): 567–573. ISSN 1303-2968. PMC 3761544. PMID 24149599.