From the beginner trainer to the seasoned pro, there are times when you just need to switch things up and get out of a stagnant training routine. With all the training principles out there to pick from, it’s often tough to decide which one will be the best for you.
The History of the 5×5 Training Routine
Looking to get bigger and stronger? Looking to bust through a training plateau? These are common issues that can often be addressed with the appropriate training program. Well, a routine that combines heavy lifting with a moderate amount of sets, utilizing low repetitions and very little rest time may be just what you’re looking for. The 5×5 routine has all of these elements and makes for a difficult and intense weight training session.
The 5×5 routine has been in existence for quite some time and has been used by many athletes, from world-class strongmen and Mr. Olympia champions, to amateur athletes interested in gaining strength and muscle mass.
Originally popularized by Mr. Universe Reg Park in the 1960’s, it was Arnold Schwarzenegger – himself a huge fan of Reg Park – that made this training principle famous after writing about it in his book, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.
This type of training is great for anyone looking to gain size and strength quickly by shocking their muscles into new growth. It’s extremely taxing on the body to train this way, as you’re using weights that range from 65% of your max up to 85% of your max.
What is the 5×5 Training Routine?
The 5×5 routine is actually very simple in its approach. All you do is pick an exercise, generally compound movements, and perform 5 sets of 5 repetitions. This is interspersed with 90 seconds of rest in between sets, and a full 3 minute break in between exercises. That’s it. Sounds easy right? Think again!
During those sets you want to be using weights that challenge you and tests your limits to the point of failure. Traditionally you would perform the first two sets at the lower end (65% and 75%) of your weight range, and perform your last 3 sets at the higher end (85%) of your maximum weight range. In this way you’re preparing the body with progressively heavier lifts versus risking injury by jumping right into the heaviest weight.
You can use the 5×5 routine for all body parts and can break your workouts into 3-day splits up to 6-day splits.
It’s a good idea to split your routine like this due to the intensity of the training, and the stress it puts on your body. Ensure you have plenty of time for recovery (i.e. you can sleep for a good 8 hours each night) and that you can adequately nourish your muscles throughout the day. In fact, if you’re not tracking your macros, you should consider doing this throughout the time that you use this training protocol. You’ll want to be sure you are at the very least at maintenance (or more likely in a surplus if you’re looking to build muscle) – you definitely do not want to be at a caloric deficit.
In the same frame of mind, a spotter is recommended to help you get the most out of this routine.
Full Body 5×5 Workout
The following are a few sample 5×5 training programs. Sample 1 is for beginner to intermediate lifters, while Sample 2 is for more advanced lifters.
Sample Training Program 1
This is a great full body workout that you can do three times a week.
- Flat Bench Press – 5×5
- Bent-Over Barbell Rows – 5×5
- Standing Military Press – 5×5
- Deadlifts – 5×5
- Weighted Chin-Ups – 5×5
- Barbell Squats – 5×5
- Dumbbell Rows – 5×5
- Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – 5×5
Sample Training Program 2
This is a more advanced 5×5 split that incorporates more volume and frequency. As such, the trainee will require adequate rest on off days (try and get at least 8 – 10 hours sleep per night) as well as excellent nutrition to help your body heal. Please ensure that you have at least 1 year of training experience, and were able to successfully complete Sample Training Program 1 for at least 4 weeks in a row with no problem.
Monday & Thursday
- Squats – 5 x5
- Bent-Over Rows – 3×6
- Barbell Curls – 3×6
- Calves (Trainees Choice, 10 – 12 rep range)
Wednesday & Friday
- Flat Bench Barbell Press – 5×5
- Deadlifts – 3×6
- Overhead Dumbbell Press – 5×5
- Single Arm Dumbbell Rows – 3×6
- Triceps Pushdowns/Skull Crushers – 3 x failure (10 – 12 rep range)
Who Should Use the 5×5 program?
Anyone interested in changing things up or looking to break through training plateaus should try this method. The best part about training in this style is that it can be used for just about any exercise and you can make your own changes to the training splits, the order of exercises and the weight being used.
Bodybuilders can benefit from the 5×5 program when you need to increase muscular size. Powerlifters and Olympic lifters use this method quite often and make it a basis of their training. Even recreational trainers should give it a try, for the challenge and also the rewards.
How would You Supplement a Routine like this?
Due to the amount of stress you will be putting on your body by training like this, you’re going to need to supplement your diet with the right products.
Considering the fact that the 5×5 routine is simplistic in concept, the fact that it is off the charts in terms of intensity ensures that it’ll provide you with the results you’re looking for. Have fun with it and try different exercises based on your perceived weak points. Remember, this is a program specifically designed to help stimulate overall muscular endurance and strength so you can bust through plateaus. I think it’s a great routine for everyone to at least try. Approach it with respect and enthusiasm and watch what happens.