5×5 workout routines are extremely common amongst lifters and bodybuilders and are becoming more and more popular. 5×5 training is more commonly referred to as a strength routine rather than a hypertrophy (muscle building/size) routine due to the smaller amount of reps performed per set. This is not completely true. A 5×5 training routine will build strength and muscle mass as long as you are eating over your maintenance calorie level and taking in sufficient amounts of protein, carbs and healthy fats in order to grow and recover.5×5 stands for five sets of five reps so for every set you perform, your aiming to hit five complete repetitions using good form.
The 5×5 training routine was originally made famous by Bill Star who featured the 5×5 routine in his popular selling book: The Strongest Shall Survive. Although five sets of five may have already been used by many bodybuilders/lifters in their workout routines Bill Star made the 5×5 training method into a well know workout routine by promoting it through his teaching and books. The idea originated from the concept that 4-6 sets of 4-6 reps, while increasing the weight on each set was the most effective way to build strength. Bill Star took this idea and simplified it to five sets of five so that it was easy for everyone to remember and did his best to promote the routine.
It’s important that you realise Bill Stars 5×5 training routine and traditional 5×5 training routines are not the same! Bill Stars 5×5 routine is a set routine and you can read all about it here: Bill Stars 5×5. In this article we will be discussing general 5×5 training and how to use/set up a 5×5 training program. A traditional 5×5 training routine is completely customizable.
Traditional 5×5 routines are designed by the lifter, taking specific factors into account such as workout frequency, rest times and exercises used. Of course the main principles still apply to the program such as using compound exercises and performing 5 sets of 5 reps for each exercise. Before you set up your 5×5 routine you have a couple of things to think about.1. Do you use a full body 5×5 routine or an upper/lower body workout split?2. Once you have answered the above question, what exercises are you going to perform?3. How many exercises are you going to incorporate into your routine?5×5 Training Routines – Variations
If you need help designing a 5×5 program I will show you a quick example in a minute but before we get into that, let me explain to you the different variations of the 5×5 training routine. There are basically two main variations of the 5×5 routine in regards to the amount of weight you use. One way is to pyramid or ramp up the weight for every set. This is done by starting your first set with a light weight and working your way up to one top heavy set of 5 reps increasing the weight as you progress. That’s take the bench press as an example. Here’s how you would pyramid or ramp up the weight for your 5 sets of 5:
Set 1 – 30lbs x 5
Set 2 – 60lbs x 5
Set 3 – 90lbs x 5
Set 4 – 120lbs x 5
Set 5 – 150lbs x 5
Depending on your current level of strength, the difference in weight jumps for each set may differ. Try and space them out sensibly while eventually leading up to your top weight for 5 reps. Another way to perform your 5 sets of 5 is by using the same amount of weight throughout the whole 5 sets. If your doing this then you may need to lower the weight a little and find a comfortable weight that you can lift for 5 sets of 5 reps. You can then work your way up in weight for the following weeks. Taking the bench press as an example again, your five sets would look something like this:
Set 1 – 120lbs x 5
Set 2 – 120lbs x 5
Set 3 – 120lbs x 5
Set 4 – 120lbs x 5
Set 5 – 120lbs x 5
The above two examples are the two most common variations of the 5×5 training program. If you are pyramiding the weight up for each set, you also have another 5×5 variation available to you when the weight gets heavy. This slight variation of the 5×5 knocks off some of the reps you perform for your non-working sets while keeping your main heavy set at 5 reps. Another bench press example:
Set 1 – 60lbs x 5
Set 2 – 90lbs x 5
Set 3 – 120lbs x 3 ß Knocked off reps
Set 4 – 150lbs x 2 ß Knocked off reps
Set 5 – 180lbs x 5 ß Main set kept at 5 reps
One last variation I am going to show you is the 2×5 or 3×5 method. I know what your thinking, this is a 5×5 program, why would you perform 2 sets of 5 or 3 sets of 5? The idea behind this concept is that if your going to use the 2 sets of 5 method, you perform 3 warm-up sets and then 2 heavy sets of 5 with the same weight, technically still performing 5 sets of 5 reps. The same goes for the 3 sets of 5 rep method. Perform 2 warm up sets and then 3 heavy sets at the same weight.
The reason this variation is used on the 5×5 training program is that some lifters are simply no good at repeating sets with heavy weight. Whether its in our genetics or not, some lifters simply struggle repeating sets with a heavy weight. One set training technique or routine does not work for everyone. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses in life and weight training is no different.
Example 5×5 Training Routine
To create a simple 5×5 routine we need to base the routine off compound exercises and minimize isolation work. Whether you choose to perform a full body 5×5 routine or a 5×5 split routine, let me show you a quick example of both:
Full Body 5×5:
Barbell bench press
Bent over row
Accessory Work (Bicep Curls, Tricep Ext’s, Ab work, calf raises. 1-2 exercises 3 sets only)
Accessory Work (Ab work)
Barbell Flat/Incline bench press
Bent over row
Accessory Work (Bicep Curls, Tricep Ext’s, Ab work, calf raises. 1-2 exercises 3 sets only)5×5 Split Routine
Monday & Thursday
Barbell bench press
Bent over row
Barbell curl 2×5
Skull crusher or triceps pushdown 2×5
Tuesday And Friday
Seated calf raise 2×5
Ab Work 2×5
Be sure to give yourself enough rest between sets. Rest periods are completely up to the lifter and can be alternated between exercises or workout sessions if required. The best thing to do with a 5×5 routine is to rest until you know you are ready and fully focused to perform the next set. Ideally no more than 3 minutes between sets is a good number to shoot for.5×5 training routines are great for both the beginner and the more advanced lifter. A beginner will generally start off with less volume and may make quicker strength gains at first. More advanced lifters can add a little more volume into their routines but should be warned against overtraining and ensure they give muscle groups enough time to recover between workouts for optimal results.