5×5 Workout: Is 5-Exercise 5-Set 5-Rep Workout Any Good?

5×5 Workout

The 5×5 Strength Workout: Gains Over Time, No Matter Your Fitness Level. Selecting a workout plan can be overwhelming, especially with the abundance of options available online. If you’re in this dilemma, the 5×5 Workout also known as “Strong Lifts” 5×5, stands out as an effective and straightforward choice. This regimen is designed for those who are serious about gaining strength, muscle, and enhancing their athleticism.

Despite its apparent simplicity, the 5×5 Workout program is strategically crafted to push your limits. It’s more than just lifting weights; it’s about progressively challenging your body to achieve incredible gains in strength and muscle mass. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned athlete, the 5×5 Workout adapts to your fitness level, ensuring consistent progress over time.

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This program is great for both beginners and intermediate weightlifters. It will help them build a solid foundation of strength, muscle and movement knowledge to continue building on throughout their weight-training career.

This article will help you plan your training and start incorporating it into your fitness regimen.

What is 5×5 exercise?

A 5×5 workout consists of compound barbell exercises, such as squats or deadlifts. The weights are heavy and the repetitions per set are low. A 5×5 workout is usually composed of five sets of five repetitions.

You can build strength by increasing the weight each time you perform a compound movement. These workouts should only be done 3 times per week as rest days between workouts are essential for encouraging muscle growth.

These are the barbell movements:

  • barbell back squat
  • barbell bench press
  • barbell deadlift
  • barbell overhead press
  • barbell row

Combining these movements will work most of your large muscles.

5×5 Workout Structure

You will do three of these exercises in each workout.

Every workout includes barbell back squats. All other exercises are done on a weekly cycle and either twice or once per week depending on whether it’s week 1 or week 2.

Deadlifts are the only exception. You will only do one set of five deadlifts.

Heavy deadlifts can lead to overtraining because they are so demanding.

The core stabilizing exercises are also done last to avoid fatigue of the muscles needed for other movements.

Exercises for 5×5 workout

The limited number of exercises available can be confusing. Many workout programs include machine, dumbbell and isolation exercises.

These five barbell exercises are chosen because barbells allow for the maximum amount of weight to be lifted. This allows for the greatest strength and muscle development.

These barbell exercises also target the most important muscle groups in your body for functional performance, both in athletics and in everyday activities.

Researchers have found that barbell deadlifts, squats and other movements can improve athletic abilities such as jumping and sprinting.

All of these movements will require that you stabilize your torso in order to support the weight of the barbell as you perform the movements.

One of the best ways to strengthen your core is by stabilizing your spine when lifting heavy weights.

Weekly 5×5 Workout Program

The 5×5 workout program consists of 3 exercises using a 5×5 repetition and set scheme for each exercise, except the deadlift which is a 1×5 repetition set.

Workout A is performed on Monday, Friday and Wednesday. Workout B will be performed on Tuesday. Rest days are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

You can do each workout on any day, provided you follow the overall structure of workouts and rest days.

Two different weekly cycles are used to ensure that each exercise is performed in equal amounts over the course of an 8-12-week program.

Weekly 5×5 training schedule

Week One

Workout A is to be performed twice a week, Monday and Friday. Workout B is performed once on Wednesday.

  1. Workout A
    1. Barbell back squat — 5×5
    2. Barbell bench press — 5×5
    3. Barbell row – 5×5
  2. Workout B
    1. Barbell back squat — 5×5
    2. Barbell overhead press — 5×5
    3. Barbell deadlift — 1×5

Week 2

Workout A is to be performed twice a week, Monday and Friday. Workout B is performed once on Wednesday.

  1. Workout A
    1. Barbell back squat — 5×5
    2. Barbell overhead press — 5×5
    3. Barbell deadlift — 1×5
  2. Workout B
    1. Barbell back squat — 5×5
    2. Barbell bench press — 5×5
    3. Barbell row — 5×5

The structure for week 3 is the same as that of week 1, but with added weight. Week 4 will repeat the structure of week 2, adding weight.

You should perform the same number and repetitions of each movement in every cycle of 2 weeks. This will lead to a balanced strength in all areas.

Every workout begins with a squat

You may have noticed that the 5×5 workouts begin with a squat.

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This is for a number of reasons.

  • Functional importance The most beneficial exercise you can perform is squatting. Squats are essential for improving your performance and ensuring you can stand from a seat reliably as you age.
  • The body is under pressure. Core stabilization is required for squats. You cannot allow yourself to become fatigued when you have the barbell on your shoulders. The majority of other exercises do not require you to hold the same weight with the weight pressing down directly on your back. They also allow you to safely drop the weight in the event that you fail a repetition.

Overhead press is one of the few additional lifts where weight is lifted directly above you while stabilizing. The overhead press uses a fraction the weight of a back squat so your core is not as stressed.

What is the best weight for a 5-by-5 workout?

You should base your training program on 1 repetition maximum (1RM) for optimal gains. You should be able to lift approximately 85% of your 1-RM for 5 reps.

If you are a beginner in the gym, however, you will not know your 1RM. You also cannot test it safely due to your lack of experience.

Start each movement by using the bar alone, which is usually 45 pounds (20,4 kg).

Do 2 weeks of the program using only the barbell before adding weight.

Add weight

It may be tempting for you to add weight to your workouts as quickly as possible, but the best way to ensure long-term progress, avoid injury and make sure that you are making consistent progress is by increasing weight gradually and incrementally.

For every two-week cycle, you should increase the weight of your squats and deadlifts by 5-10% (or 10 pounds, whichever is lower), and for all upper body movements, 5-10% (or 5 pounds, whichever is lesser) or 5 pounds.

This conservative approach may appear slow but will lead to substantial gains over the long term when you commit to weight training.

If you start with the barbell and follow the described program, your squat will increase by 130 pounds (59 kg) in six months. The same amount can be achieved for your deadlift and bench press.

This level of improvement is impressive even if you don’t have a professional coach to guide you.

This gain puts you ahead of the game in terms of progression, as opposed to if you burnt out by trying too hard to increase your weight.

Plan your 5×5 workout with these tips

The 5×5 program is a simple one, but there are some things to consider when planning and troubleshooting.

These sections will assist you in planning the nuts-and-bolts of your program.

Warm-up Sets

Start each workout by doing 5 minutes of moderate cardio. This could be brisk walking, or moderate stair climbing. Your heart rate should reach around 100 beats a minute and you should start to sweat.

Warm up with at least two sets of increasing weights for each barbell exercise. This is your first 5×5 set.

You can skip warmup sets if you are just beginning to lift weights and you only use the bar.

Perform a single barbell warm-up set after adding your first additional weight.

Perform 2 warmup sets using 60% of your daily working weight and then 80% after you have completed your set with the bar.

Rest Periods

The length of time between sets depends on the intensity. In the beginning of your training, it is probably sufficient to rest less than 60 second between sets.

If you are increasing the weight, it is advisable to increase your rest time between sets from 90 to 120 seconds.

You may need to wait up to 5 minutes between squats and 3 minutes for upper body exercises once you reach your maximum weight.

Remember that the deadlift is always one heavy set done at the end.

Deloading weeks

After a few weeks in the gym, deloading means a week with a lower intensity of training. This will allow your nervous system and body to recover, while still maintaining the movements you’ve worked hard to develop.

Every fifth week, you should perform each exercise using 50% of the weight that was used in your previous session.

If you did squats in week 4 with 150 pounds, deload your weight to 75 pounds for all of your sets during week 5. You can then pick up the weight again at 150 pounds in week 6.

This structure will allow you to alternate your week 1 and 2 workouts. Over time, this will equalize the deloading weeks.

Tracking progress is important

Keep a log of all your workouts in the gym. This will help you to get the best results, and adjust your program.

Include your date, time and the number of repetitions and sets you performed. Also include any subjective observations, such as how you felt, or about sleep, on that particular day.

You can then look back and see patterns, such as a lack of sleep causing less progress. It can also keep you motivated when you don’t want to lift weights.

Troubleshooting for a plateau

When you are training, plateaus occur when there is no progress. Breaking plateaus can be a difficult task, as they can happen for many reasons.

Plateauing is usually caused by undertraining, excessive training, insufficient nutrition, or lifestyle factors like lack of sleep, excessive alcohol consumption, etc.

You may have reached a plateau if you are following your program exactly but still cannot reach your target weight.

You’re unlikely to be under-training given the high volume of a 5×5 training program.

You should first try a deloading week that is around 25% less than your previous weight or even a week off.

Avoid late nights and excessive alcohol. Eat enough healthy fats, carbs, and protein.

You may be able to blast through your plateau by starting the program over again after your rest week using 80% your previous working weight.

If you are still having trouble, try switching to another program to vary the stimuli or seeking the advice of a professional fitness trainer.

Troubleshooting injuries

Even though properly executed training reduces the risk of injury, it is still possible to get injured during a program.

If you have an injury, seek professional advice. Muscle soreness is normal, but never lift weights through joint pain. Stop lifting if the pain persists and ask for a referral to an experienced licensed physical therapist.

Muscles used during the 5×5 workout

Both prime movers as well as stabilizers are used in the 5×5 workout.

Prime movers include:

  • Quadriceps (and glutes), hamstrings, and quadriceps when doing squats or deadlifts
  • Overhead presses with deltoids and triceps
  • Bench presses for pectorals, deltoids and triceps
  • Barbell rows for rhomboids, lats and biceps

Stabilizer muscles prevent your spine and torso from moving when you are supporting a heavy load.

Imagine the stabilizing muscles serving the same function as the weight column and frame on a stacking machine.

This allows your prime movers push the weight optimally in the desired direction. This analogy helps to explain the benefits of weight machines versus barbell lifts.

The following are stabilisers for the torso:

  • Lumbar multifidus
  • transverse abdominis
  • Obliques, both internal and external
  • Quadratus Lumborum
  • Erector Spinae
  • Upper, middle and lower trapezius

These muscles work together to prevent your spine from rounding or arching under pressure.

The intervertebral disks can be seriously injured if your spine is under a heavy load.

The 5×5 program has many benefits

The 5×5 program has many benefits for maximizing your growth and development as a gymgoer.

Building Maximum Strength

You’ll lift very heavy weights compared to your strength and size.

The heavy training will teach your nervous system how to recruit every muscle fiber maximally, allowing you to produce more force over time with the same muscles fibers.

The same load is eventually a smaller percentage of 1RM, which leads to a substantial improvement in your overall strength.

Packing on lean muscle mass

Research suggests that even though 5 repetitions is less than the 8-12 repetitions range commonly used in muscle building, loads as low as 5 repetitions can lead to significant gains in strength and muscle tissue.

Revive your metabolism

It takes a lot of energy to lift heavy weights. Your metabolism needs to be revved up during and after the workout in order to repair the muscles and eliminate the waste products that are associated with hard work.

Maintaining muscle mass requires extra calories.

The 5×5 program will help you burn calories in a significant amount over time. This can help maintain or reduce your body fat with the same caloric intake.

Use the main lifts to practice

Barbell lifts can be extremely beneficial but they require time and practice to master. The 5×5 beginner program has a high number of repetitions per week, which means you will get a lot of practice.

You won’t lose your form because of the relatively low number of repetitions in each set.

The spacing of the exercises throughout the week ensures that you are revisiting the movements frequently and getting ample well-rested practice.

It is unrealistic to expect to master a musical instrument, or a skill by practicing just once per week. The same goes for barbell movements. Perfection is achieved by frequent, quality practice.

Athletic performance

Many athletic strength and conditioning programmes are based on barbell lifts. These exercises are performed by strength and conditioning coaches for the same reason you should.

Barbell lifts are incredibly useful for many sports and there is ample research to support their use in improving athletic performance.

Full Body Training

The 5×5 program is a great way to train your entire body without spending endless hours on the weight machines.

Your body will receive a full workout between the prime movers, stabilizers and other muscles.

Simple programming

You don’t have to do seven or more exercises in a single workout if you only perform three.

This makes it easier to keep track of your progress, since you only have a few numbers for each workout.

This also saves you from having to wait for the equipment.

You can do most of your exercise without moving to another part of the gym once you have staked out an area on a squat stand. If your gym is busy, you can save a lot of time by using squat racks.

Understanding Serious Strength Programs

Learning the principles behind effective programming, without gimmicks, is the final benefit.

You’ll notice significant gains after a 3-6 month program and come to believe that barbell exercises are the best way to improve.

You’ll then be able to evaluate the validity of popular programs and know whether an influencer or fitness coach is pushing a complicated, possibly ineffective, workout plan.

You will be able discuss these benefits confidently and with the strength and physique necessary to support your claims.

Bottom Line

The 5×5 barbell program is an effective and simple training method that’s suitable for both beginners and intermediate lifters.

The 5×5 workout focuses on barbell movements that are key to a full-body workout. It will improve your strength, muscle mass and athletic performance as well as many other benefits.

You’ll need to alter your program in order to continue improving as you progress through the lifting stages.

The 5×5 program can still help you improve your strength and knowledge during the first two years of lifting. At that point, you will have gained the necessary base strength to move on to more advanced training.

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