Today, there are literally hundreds of routines claiming they will increase strength and muscle mass. Choosing a routine which is “right” for you can be an overwhelming task. However, if you are looking to build strength and size, you cannot skip the 5×5 workout routine – a classic tool for this purpose. With minimal modifications, the 5×5 routine can be used for gaining muscle mass and strength for anybody from average Joes and beginners to advanced bodybuilders and powerlifters.
What is a 5×5 workout routine ?
The 5×5 routine is a strength/muscle mass gaining routine that involves doing 5 sets of 5 repetitions. The routine mainly uses compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, chin ups – exercises that are known to work multiple muscle groups and joints.
The 5×5 workout has 3 lifting days a week (usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday) with a day of rest between each weight-lifting day. As the routine is focused on building strength (and size), the rest days are crucial for recovery from the heavy weights and rebuilding the damaged muscles.
If you start using the 5×5 workout routine on a beginner level you can expect results that are achievable with a few years of training using classic bodybuilding programs. Even in experienced lifters, an increase on the three basic movements – squat, bench press and deadlift, is not unusual using this program.
5×5 workout exercises used
As mentioned before, the exercises used are compound lifts, since they promote greater gains by working 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:
5×5 workout routine guidelines
There are a few guidelines you need to follow if you expect the 5×5 workout routine to do its part:
1. This is a free weights workout. You shouldn’t replace any of the exercises with exercises you like better or are easier on your knees, back, and joints. Yes…replacing the squat with a leg press or the bench press with a machine version of the exercise is not an option.
2. Do NOT add more exercises to the routine. When performed right is hard enough as it is.
3. Do not get in a workout frenzy. Get your rest and take two days of rest when you finish one cycle. It is very easy to overtrain on the 5×5 workout routine.
4. Use proper technique and don’t overload the bar. It’s more important to lift properly and stretch all the way.Half reps with heavier weight take their own place and time in workout routines. The 5×5 workout is not one of those routines.
5. Take enough time to rest between sets. (3-5 minutes is what you should aim for)
6. Last but not least – you have to eat, and eat a lot. There is no way you can gain muscle on this or any other routine if you don’t eat enough calories. Depending on your weight you will eat 4000-6000 calories a day and 1 to 1-5 g of protein per pound of bodyweight. You should also consume enough essential fatty acids in your diet.
The 5×5 workout routine:
Monday (Heavy day)
1) Bench Press
3) Barbell Rows
– Bench Press – Pyramid to approximately 95% of your 5 rep max. You should start with the half of the weight that you want to end up with. Get enough rest between sets.
– Squats – do 1-2 warm-up sets and do 5 sets of 5 reps. Work weight should be about 90% of your max 5 rep for Squats. Get enough rest between the sets, especially before the last set.
– Barbell Rows – 1-2 warm-up sets and do 5 sets of 5 reps. Work weight should be about 90% of your max 5 rep for Barbell rows. Get enough rest between the sets.
Wednesday (light day)
1) Standing Military Press
– Military Press – After the 1 to 2 warm up sets do five sets of 5 reps with about 70% of your max 5 rep for Standing military Press. Rest 3 to 5 minutes between the sets.
– Deadlifts – After the 1 to 2 warm up sets do 5 sets of 5 repetitions. You should put about 70% of your max 5 rep for Dead lifts. Take 5 minutes of rest between the sets.
– Squats – Do 1-2 warm up sets and then do 5 sets of 5 reps with 70% of your 5 rep maximum. Make sure to rest at least 5 minutes in between sets.
– Pull-ups – 1-2 warm-up sets and do 5 sets of 5 repetitions. Use your body weight for this exercise and rest 3 – 5 minutes between the sets
Friday (Medium weights day)
1) Bench Press
3) Barbell Rows
1) Bench-Press 1-2 warm-up sets and do 5 sets of 5 repetitions. You should put about 75-80% of your max 5 rep for Bench-Press.
2) Squat – Pyramid to approximately 75-80% of your max 5 rep for Squats.You can start with the half of the weight that you want to end up with. Rest 3-5
minutes before the last set.
3) Barbell Rows – Pyramid to approximately 75-80% of your max 5 rep for Rows . Same as the squats you can start with the half of the weight that you want to end up with
If you eat right and use the 5×5 workout routine correctly you should be able to put 5 lbs on the bar every week or every other week, and with more weight on the bar and a good diet you should be able to put on some muscle mass on your frame. Take a week off or deload after your fifth week of training.
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 about 5lbs 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.