The 5×5 workout is one of the most popular styles of training among weightlifters and powerlifters.
If you have been involved in heavy lifting for some time we’d wager you’ve had time to train using the 5×5 workout scheme – but have you been using this style of training properly?
5×5 workouts are a style of training that is best suited to the early development of a strength athlete – but this does not mean it cannot be used for high performance strength training and weightlifting. In fact, many trainers will use a 5×5 rep and set scheme in order to develop mass and strength.
In this guide we will break down the most fundamental aspects of 5×5 training and help you to understand why and how you can use sets and reps to determine size and strength. Let’s get started.
What is a 5×5 Workout?
Perhaps you have stumbled across this article in your endless search for great workouts and high performance training – not to worry, that’s why we’re here. All strength training works with sets and reps.
Generally speaking, repetitions are the number of times you complete the same exercise within a workout, while sets determine the amount of times you take rest and continue your repetitions.
A 5×5 then is 5 sets of 5 reps. The easiest way to understand how a 5×5 works is to use an example.
Bench Press – 5×5
- Set #1 – 5 Reps @135 pounds
- Set #2 – 5 Reps @155 pounds
- Set #3 – 5 Reps @185 pounds
- Set #4 – 5 Reps @ 185 pounds
- Set #5 – 5 Reps @ 155 pounds
In this example you can see that after each set of 5 repetitions you take a small rest (usually 1.5-2 minutes), increase the weight and then proceed to another set.
Notice that the weight slowly increase and then plateaus. There are many different methods for weights during a 5×5 training scheme – some would say that you should keep the weight entirely consistent (always at 155 pounds) but this depends on your personal goals and your body.
A 5×5 workout is the simple training of completing 5 sets of 5 reps for any particular exercise.
Building Mass with 5×5 Workout Routine
Most people who step into a gym do so because they want to make changes. Some people want to lose weight and feel healthier, while others want to pack on weight, smash barbells around and develop a stronger physique.
For those that are interested in making barbell noise day in and day out, a 5×5 workout is for you!
Building mass with a 5×5 workout comes down to three main phases.
1. Understanding Hypertrophy
Hypertrophy = the increase in cell size.
In order to stimulate hypertrophy we either need to use a high resistance (heavy weights) or we need to keep the muscle under tension for a long period of time. When it comes to 5×5 training we really are not using a high volume (a lot of repetitions) so we cannot stimulate hypertrophy with time under tension – however, we can through high resistance.
Over time you will be able to gradually increase the weight of each exercise. In this way, you will be able to stimulate size and muscle development without entering into injury territory or having to complete numerous 1 Rep Max workouts in order to put on strength.
Continue reading to #3 “Intelligent and Progressive Weight Training” to find out how to pack on muscle and build strength using 5×5 workouts.
2. Hitting the Biggest, Baddest Exercises
5×5 workouts work because you are hitting the biggest exercises possible. It does not make any sense to come into the gym and train 5×5 on biceps curls – rather, take that same rep and set scheme and allocate it to the supinated chin up.
Traditionally, your 5×5 workout would look something like this…
|5×5 Workout #1 (Monday)|
|High Bar Barbell Squat||5||5|
|Flat Barbell Bench Press||5||5|
|Bent over Row||5||5|
|5×5 Workout #2 (Wednesday)|
|Overhead Barbell Press||5||5|
|Barbell Front Squat||5||5|
|5×5 Workout #3 (Friday)|
|Low Bar Barbell Squat||5||5|
|Incline Dumbbell Press||5||5|
3. Intelligent and Progressive Weight Training
The last and perhaps most important aspect of a 5×5 workout is your ability to create progressive training. There is no sense completing this workout for a week. If you are training to put on muscle mass you must consider that it will take several months of intelligent and progressive weight training.
Here’s how you can create progressive 5×5 workouts:
Record your Weights
This might seem like a no-brainer but it will really help you to see where and when you can increase the weight of each exercise.
Take Deloading Weeks
Every 3-4 weeks, or once per month it is always a smart idea to allow your body to take a good rest break. You do not nessessarily need to stop working out – but you should allow your body to complete easier workouts which will provide adequate time to recover.
Increase Weight on Set 3 and 4
You have 5 sets of each exercise. This means you have time during your workout to play around with the weights and find what is right for you. Any given set should be demanding, but you should never be training to failure. The best way to increase weights and build strength is to make sure that the bulk of your heavy lifts are occuring in sets 3 and 4.
Note the example shown above with Barbell Bench Press.
Considerations For A 5×5 Workout
No workout program is perfect, and the 5×5 is no exception to this rule. Understanding that you are only targeting the biggest muscle groups with compound movements means that you can miss out on intricate aspects of your training.
Before you jump into a 5×5 workout there are a few important considerations you should take note of.
1. Don’t Forget About Accessory Movements
Far to many people get involved in the fun of pushing big weights around that they forget about the actual necessity of training the smaller muscles that stabilize and protect your strength.
Be sure that you are allocating at least 1-2 days per week to accessory workouts. This way you can work on smaller muscles and movements like core strength and calf mobility.
2. Mass Always Comes From A Caloric Surplus
Weight training can help to “stimulate” growth, but without the increased number of calories you may not see any major differences on the scale. Be sure to eat a diverse array of foods and maintain a caloric surplus in order to put on mass and strength.
We’d also recommend checking out a few products that can help to promote mass development.
3. Brains Over Brawn
The most important concept to keep in mind (no pun intended) is that you should always maintain intelligent training over heavy training. Some of us can get a little carried away, perhaps even a little competitive with a workout buddy.
Your goals are your own goals – be smart and train with progressive strength and smart workouts, trust us, this will help you in the long run.
Our 5×5 Mass Building Review
The 5×5 weightlifting technique is one of the most well-rounded ways of developing strength and size – but it is so much more than that. The 5×5 is a style of training that will allow any athlete plenty of time under a barbell to become accustomed to proper weight training, optimal form through movements and a good understanding for progressive strength.
If you are in the market for a simple and effective way to pack on the pounds, a 5×5 workout is one of the best ways to accomplish this goal.
Want us to create our own unique 5×5 Mass Building Workout Program? Comment below your goals and you could be the winner of a FREE 5×5 Workout giveaway!
CSEP – CPT, Expert in Exercise Physiology
Gabriello is a writer and strength expert best known for his science-based and practical approach to Exercise Physiology, Nutrition and Strength. After serving in a directors position for The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology Gabriello moved towards writing to help more people understand the importance of living a healthy life. Gabriello’s writings have been published in several languages on some of the largest health and fitness websites helping people learn, grow and understand the complex components of optimizing human performance in a simplistic way.
Gabriello also takes on specialized, high-performance athletes who are in need of strength, mobility and conditioning programming to optimize their fitness through his Earned Fitness program.