Sometimes we all get into a rut or hit a plateau and find a routine to turn things around and jump-start the gains. And often when this happens, guys start looking for the newest “hot” routine they see in a magazine. But most of the time, the answer is not found in what is new and fashionable, but rather in what is tried and true. If it’s you, then you should definitely consider the 5×5 workout. It is a proven and easily adaptable routine that is ideal for both beginners and advanced trainers.
The 5×5 base is pretty simple: five reps and five sets of each exercise. You get a 90-second rest between sets and a three-minute rest between exercises if your goal is strength or a 90-second rest between exercises if your goal is to gain size. You can also choose something in the middle – the choice is yours and it depends entirely on what you hope to achieve.
Due to its intensity, weightlifters often use the 5×5 program to gain both size and strength. It is also an ideal training regimen for someone who has been lifting higher reps for a while before starting a serious weightlifting program.
The basic 5×5 program can be performed as a split or full-body routine. You can do a full body workout 2-3 times a week or you can alternate upper body one day and lower body the next or any other combination you like. Whatever you decide, you can maximize your results by concentrating on compound exercises, which use multiple muscle groups, rather than isolation exercises that only focus on a single muscle.
To get the most out of 5×5, you need to use the maximum weight you can lift. When you can do 5 sets of 5 with that weight, increase the weight by 5-10% until you can do 5 sets of 5 again, and so on. You can also increase the intensity by shortening your rest periods between sets and exercises.
Here are some sample workouts (note: because the 5×5 program is intense, always make sure to do several warm-up sets before starting). Remember that the 5×5 routine is very adaptable, so create combinations that work for you. However, in any case, keep your training for a maximum of one hour.
Full body workout:
This is a great full-body exercise that you can do three times a week:
Monday: Bench press, incline rows, squats, and deadlift;
Wednesday: weighted dips, weight chin-ups, deadlifts, and hanging leg raises (only 2 sets of 5 reps for leg raises);
Friday: incline bench press, front squat, glute / hamstring lift; renegade rowing (with dumbbells or kettlebells) and Saxon side bends;
Here are a couple of good 5×5 split routines to get you started:
Monday / Thursday: bench press, incline row, barbell curl, and tricep curls;
Wednesday / Friday: Barbell Squat, Glute / Hamstring Kick, Seated Calf Raise, Hanging Leg Raise;
Division Two – This is an advanced 6 days a week routine (alternative A / B):
Monday / Thursday (chest / back): A) Incline bench press, wide grip chin-ups (palms facing you), weighted rope crunches; B) Chest Dips, One Arm Dumbbell Row, Weighted Leg Raise;
Tuesday / Friday (shoulders / arms): A) Vertical row; close grip bench press, preacher curls; B) Rear deltoid row, tricep pushup, incline hammer pushup;
Wednesday / Saturday (legs): A) Squats, lying leg curls, calf raises; B) Leg press, stiff leg deadlift, calf press;
One of the things I love about the 5×5 is that it is highly adaptable to meet your particular lifting goals. Since 5×5 has been around for so long, it’s easy to find plenty of proven workouts for just about anyone – beginners, powerlifters, high-intensity trainers, and so much more. Due to its intensity, whether you are doing a full body workout, a split routine, or another modified version of the program, you should do the 5×5 program on a 12 week cycle. Work hard for 12 weeks and at the end of the cycle, take a week or two off from the gym to give your body a chance to recover.
Particularly when it comes to bodybuilding, the answers to what we seek are not necessarily found by looking for the latest and greatest, but by looking to the past, learning from the wisdom and experience of the greats who came before us. If you are looking to gain in both size and strength, and you think you are up to the challenge, then you might want to give the 5×5 workout a try, you won’t be disappointed.