The 5x5 workout program is a basic routine which was designed to help you get really strong! ...and build lean muscle.
5x5 is very simple to follow and it’s a safe routine for most individuals including men and women. A 5x5 program involves doing 5 sets of 5 reps for each exercise, 3 times per week.
And there are many variations of 5x5 with ‘StrongLifts 5x5’ likely being the most popular.
Now, there are only a few exercises used, which makes it a nice change from the average, more complex workout program.
It’s easier to track progress this way and compound movements are an excellent way to train for overall mass and strength.
Here’s an effective 5x5 workout guide created to give results…
All muscles are involved in a 5x5 workout routine. Each movement used is effective for working multiple muscle groups at once and not one muscle goes unstimulated.
Chest, legs, back, shoulders, arms, and core muscles are all heavily engaged during the compound movements.
Pressing movements work the chest, triceps, and shoulder. Pulling movements work the back (Rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, erector spine, and trapezius) and biceps.
The lower body exercises work the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.
And the deadlift is an exercise which will work the entire posterior chain of muscles.
THE 5X5 WORKOUT
5x5 is simple. You'll load up the barbell with 85% of your one-rep max and perform 5 sets of 5 reps, keeping your weight the same for all the sets. Increase weight at the beginning of every week.
And the 5x5 workout routine looks like this…
- Workout A- Squat, Bench Press, Barbell Row
- Workout B- Squat, Overhead Press, Deadlift
You'll alternate workout A and B but you should never workout two consecutive days. Give yourself at least one day between workouts and never do both A and B on the same day.
Each exercise will be performed in a 5x5 fashion except for the deadlift which you’ll do 1x5. The 5x5 set/rep scheme for the deadlift would be too much in combination with squatting 3 times per week.
Different 5x5 programs vary in how they're structured, but we're going to give a general breakdown of a routine similar to StrongLifts 5x5 with some changes.
SL 5x5 is continuous, as long as you keep making gains, then followed by a 3x5, 3x3, and 3x1 set/rep scheme.
Our version of the routine will entail a 9-week program of 5x5, followed by one week where you’ll do 3x5 to deload, and then two weeks at 3x3. You’ll then go back to 5x5 or train whichever way suits your goals.
Before each session, you'll warm-up with the bar for 2 sets and then work up to 50-60% or so of your one-rep maximum for another set prior to doing the main working sets.
Perform two sets of 5 reps with just the barbell to warm up, then slap on 25 to 45-pounds. Add weight until you reach your first 5x5 set.
If you train with just the bar or a small amount of weight then work your way up accordingly.
Grip the bar and dip your head under the barbell until the bar is resting on the middle of your traps.The barbell should be set up on a rack at a comfortable level you can unrack it from.
- Spread your feet out slightly wider than hip-width and point your feet slightly outward.
- Unrack the bar and walk backward so you can freely perform the movement.
- With your back straight and head up, squat down until your thighs are slightly lower than parallel to the ground.
- Drive back up by pressing through your heels.
- Lie on the flat bench and grip the barbell slightly wider than shoulder-width. Plant your feet flat on the floor.
- Tuck your elbows in so they’re at a 45-degree angle to your torso and arch your back.
- Unrack the barbell and lower it a few inches from your sternum while simultaneously arching your back.
- Press the barbell back up until your arms are extended, and contract your chest muscles.
You can start the movement with the barbell on the floor or elevated from a rack.
- With knees bent and back straight, grip the barbell with hands shoulder-width distance apart from each other.
- Lift the barbell off of the floor but remain in a bent-over position.
- Pull the barbell toward your lower ribcage and contract your back muscles.
- Slowly lower the bar down but avoid locking out your elbows.
BARBELL OVERHEAD PRESS
Start the movement with the barbell on a rack.
- Grip the barbell with hands at or slightly wider than shoulder-width.
- Walk into the barbell, dip down slightly, and lift the weight off of the rack. Keep your back straight, core tight, and chest upward.
- Take a step backward and place one foot forward for balance.
- Keep your wrists straight, elbows tucked in, and press the bar overhead but keep a slight bend in your elbows at the top.
- Lower the barbell until your upper arms are parallel to the ground.
Begin with the loaded barbell on the floor.
- With knees bent and back straight, grip the barbell with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width.
- Lift the bar off of the ground by pressing through your mid foot and heel. Thrust your hips forward as the bar is raised.
- Then, keep your core tight and shoulder blades pinned back while you lower the bar until it just touched the ground.
-Never train so heavy where you cannot achieve 5x5 on all exercises.
-If you were able to do all 5x5 with good form for at least 2 training sessions, increase weight the next week.
-Never jump into the working sets without doing warm-ups. This can cause injury and you won’t be able to train efficiently.
-Always keep your back straight and core tight during each exercise. Rounding your back can cause injury and long term structural problems.
-Always keep your arms tucked at a 45-degree angle to your torso during pressing exercises. This protects your shoulder joints.
-During squats and deadlifts, drive your body upward by pressing during through your heels and mid foot. Pushing through the ball of your foot will damage your knees due to excessive frontal pressure.
WEARING A BELT
A belt will help you keep your core tight and increase intra-abdominal pressure for better stability of the spine and lower back. One study showed a weightlifting belt increased intra-abdominal pressure beyond what the body is capable of with no training aid.
This will reduce the load on the spine but a belt is only recommended if training at or above 80% of your one-rep max.
The reason being is if you use a belt when not needed, your core muscles are going to weaken.
PERIODIZED 5X5 WORKOUT ROUTINE
Make sure to alternate workouts with a day of rest in between. A good schedule is Mon, Wed, and Fri or Tue, Thur, and Sat.
Remember to warm up sufficiently and rest a minimum of 90 seconds in between sets. As your workload progresses, vary your rest times based on the amount of struggle during your set, anywhere from 3-5 minutes.
Follow this routine for the next 9 weeks.
Overhead Press 5x5
Barbell Row 5x5
Barbell Row 5x5
Overhead Press 5x5
Overhead Press 5x5
Barbell Row 5x5
WHAT TO DO AFTER 5X5...
After the 9 weeks of progressive training, you'll move onto to a more intense routine where you'll push yourself to increase weight loads - volume will decrease so you don't overtrain your body.
3x5 and 3x3
This training strategy should be followed for weeks 10, 11, and 12. It'll really push your strength levels in a short period of time, but safely. Rest time should be no more than 3-5 minutes between sets.
For week 10, you'll deload to 3x5 instead of 5x5.
You'll perform the same routine above but you’ll only do 1x3 on the deadlift.
For weeks 11 and 12, follow the routine below.
Bench Press 3x3
Overhead Press 3x3
Barbell Row 3x3
After this 12-week program, it’s recommended to revert back to 5x5 if you don’t plan to continue training as heavy. Or you can change up to another strength program.
COMMON QUESTIONS + ANSWERS
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO SEE RESULTS?
After your initial strength is built, you should be seeing results within 1-2 weeks. Accountability is key in this routine, meaning...stick to the plan. Remember, if you get off track, skip a few workouts, or don't get enough recovery time, you may not see results as quick as you'd like.
Your Progress also depends on these factors…
Eating plenty of protein, carbohydrates, and fats are important for performing optimally and recovery. Protein repairs muscle tissue, and carbs are the only macronutrient to break down quickly enough to supply sufficient energy during high-intensity exercise.
Get good sleep every night for adequate recovery. Science has proven poor sleep to have a significant impact on strength levels.
Genetics are huge when it comes to any type of physical performance. Some people can make progress quicker, due to their bone structures and testosterone levels. But, everyone can still make impressive progress.
Training with full intensity and reaching your set/rep range will determine the rate at which you progress.
DOES 5X5 BUILD MUSCLES?
Yes! 5x5 will build muscle. Any form of resistance training will build muscle if enough resistance is used. But, 5x5 is not the only rep range you should use for achieving hypertrophy gains.
Mixing up the number of reps performed will yield the best results.
But, it’s not recommended to do any other training routine alongside this one because it wouldn’t allow you to hit the number of sets and reps as efficiently.
Wait until after the conclusion of the program to switch up your rep ranges.
ISN'T SQUATTING 3X A WEEK TOO MUCH?
Not if you’re careful to train with an appropriate weight, amount of resistance, and volume.
Sure, overtraining exists but not if you’re smart about how you train. And no beginner should attempt this program without having some training experience with the movements.
One study suggests frequent training spread out with more volume in each session to elicit better strength gains than low frequency and high volume training.
This also minimizes fatigue.
SHOULD I DO A DELOAD WEEK AFTER THE PROGRAM?
On the tenth week, you’ll deload with a 3x5 workout routine. After the deload week, you'll increase weight and drop down your routine to a 3x3.
The deload week will allow for recovery and progress leading into the last two weeks of the program.
Recovery is a necessary part of any routine but since you’ll have 4 days of rest per week, this one deload week is sufficient.
DO I NEED TO USE FREE WEIGHTS?
Yes, the 5x5 strength program requires the use of free weights. A serious strength training program should involve full trunk engagement, maximum stabilizer muscle recruitment, and movements which mimic real life functions. Free weights are the most functional and beneficial way to train for strength and performance.
Machines do not allow for full trunk engagement and stabilizer muscles are not used as much either. They lock you into a fixed position and there’s not much function other than strength benefits.
If you can’t use free weights, then wait until you can before you follow the 5x5 workout program.
Dumbbells aren’t a good idea either, since you’ll have to use less weight overall as they require more balance, and you cannot increase dumbbells in 5-pound increments.
The 5x5 workout is excellent for gaining lots of size and strength. This progressive program will allow you to improve strength and size, while challenging your mental and physical grit.
Follow this program exactly as described and you should have very little to no problems getting through it successfully.
If you have to take a step back to keep progressing, then do so. Listen to your body.
Nutrition, recovery, proper form, and intensity must be on point for 5x5 to work without compromise.