How To Make 5 x 5 Training Work For You

These days, everybody seems obsessed with their fitness goals and we couldn’t be happier about it. With one third of American adults dealing with serious issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease as the result of being overweight or obese, the increasing popularity of strength training is much more than a positive cultural phenomenon – it’s a life-saver in the most literal sense.

However, if you take a closer look at it, you’ll notice that people dive into the world of bodybuilding for many different reasons that range from improving their posture or recuperating from an injury to building a physique worthy of the Mr. Olympia title. And naturally, all of these different personal goals are, or should be, associated with different specific approaches to the complex art of building size, strength and flexibility.

If your goal is to substantially increase your lean muscle mass while burning off excess body fat, 5 x 5 training might be just the right thing for you. This tried and tested program was designed to increase strength and help you break training plateaus by hitting your muscles hard three times per week with 45-minute workouts, stimulating a great increase in strength and muscle mass as well. It has been used by athletes from all walks of life for decades now and its simplicity and effectiveness have maintained its popularity to this very day. In addition, this program is perfect for people with a very busy schedule who can’t make the time for five or six gym visits per week.

The 5 x 5 training method

As the name suggests, this method includes performing 5 sets of 5 reps per exercise. The exercises are usually compound lifts, since they promote greater gains by hitting more than one group of muscles at a time, compared to isolation movements. These are the compound exercises that should be the focus of your 5 x 5 training:

During each 5 x 5 workout, you need to perform 3 of the five exercises, with squats being mandatory for each session, with 5 sets of 5 reps for each exercise. That being said, deadlifts are an exception to the rule – to prevent completely exhausting yourself with multiple sets, perform only one set of deadlifts with five reps.

The 5 x 5 workouts

This program consists of two separate basic workouts:

Workout #1
  • Squats
  • Bench presses
  • Barbell rows
Workout #2
  • Squats
  • Overhead presses
  • Deadlifts

This is performed 3 times per week on non-consecutive days, followed by 2 rest days, as such:


Day 1 – Workout #1
Day 2 – rest
Day 3 – Workout #2
Day 4 – rest
Day 5 – Workout #1
Day 6 – rest
Day 7 – rest


Day 1 – Workout #2
Day 2 – rest
Day 3 – Workout #1
Day 4 – rest
Day 5 – Workout #2
Day 6 – rest
Day 7 – rest

Switch back to week 1 after you complete week 2.

Is training to failure necessary?

Unlike most bodybuilding routines that emphasize training to failure and thoroughly exhausting your muscles, the goal of the 5 x 5 program isn’t to make you train until you drop dead. Instead, the basic idea is increase your strength and muscle gains by gradually increasing the weight you’re working with. Begin light and asses your current level of strength, then slowly increase the weight by 2.5 kg for each following workout. Train hard and use proper form and you should be able to notice significant increases in strength and size within a few months.

And don’t forget – the most efficient techniques are usually the simplest ones, so instead of discarding this program because it looks too easy, give it a try and prepare to be fully amazed.

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