Tag Archives: 5×5

Why 5×5 has stood the test of time

Chances are you’ve heard of the classic 5×5 workout protocol.
Many of the greats have done it starting off with Reg Park, ranging all the way to Arnold in his early days and is still used by many lifters of today.
Now something to consider is that there is no one way to perform 5×5.
Having the freedom to change the overall loading protocol not only helps with progression it also allows people to stave off the inevitable boredom that they may end up encountering.
Here’s some examples:
5×5 – 4 warm ups, 1 working set
5×5 – 3 warm ups, 2 working sets
5×5 – 2 warm ups, 3 working sets
5×5 – all working sets as warm up work done separately
5×5 – Heavy – Light – Medium
5×5 – Wave loading
5×5 – CAT
5×5 – Max Effort – 3-5% fatigue drop each set
5×5 – RPE loading set to set – EG 8-9rpe
5×5 – EMOM
Essentially you can make any adjustments you feel necessary to allow you to progress.
A personal favourite of mine if the H-M-L loading, as you may have guessed from my previous writings.
Using this protocol I’d suggest picking one lift that is lagging behind and proceed to train it 3xpw using the protocol like this:
H: 4 warm up sets to 1 all out set of 5
M: 5 working sets at 80% of your all out 5 on H day
L: 2-3 working sets at 80% of your all out 5 on H day
M: 5 working sets at 80% of your all out 5 on H day
H: 4 warm up sets to 1 all out set of 5
Repeat the above
You’ll notice that this give you plenty of sessions between heavy days, 3 to be exact.
This will allow your body to recovery and adapt to the 80% of your old 5, when the time comes around for the next all out heavy day your aim it to perhaps add a little bit of weight or maybe even complete the same heavy 5 you did before but with better form/speed etc.
If you hit a weight repeat then you’d take 85% of that weight for the upcoming sessions before attempting the heavy 5 again.
Let’s say you again stick on that same 5 rep weight and the form is again more solid. The loading would be 90% for the upcoming sessions.
When this happens to be the case, after the next M day when you you 5x5x90% of your current 5RM, you’d hope to now see a new total weight on the bar.
Once you do you go back to the 80% of that top weight and repeat as necessary. If you hit a new weight each time you do the H day then stick at 80% of that for loading, only increase that % if you find you can’t add a tad more weight to the all out set of 5 on your H day.
5×5 is safe, it’s effective and it leave little to the imagination.
You’ll make stay progress on it for quite some time, especially if you play with the variations of it.
Take some time and plan out you training.
Remember this protocol is mostly for strength with hypertrophy as a happy side effect.
When it comes to the other lifts/body parts you’re not doing 5×5 on, 2-4×8-12 will be good as accessory work, well any rep range will do, just go for a total of around 5 reps on 1-3 extra movements.
Give it some thought.

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Pushing your sets all the way

Working out is easy, it’s training that’s hard.
When it comes to the mental aspect of lifting weights we’d all like to think that we’re putting in the effort we require and while some certainly do, most don’t.
You can tell by the results people achieve.
Let’s take for example the classic 5×5, if you look back at its inception the idea was to either do 3-4 warm up sets where you start working towards a top set for the day, some would even do 2 top sets after 3 progressively heavier warm ups, this would actually be quite hard.
To push a set of say 5 for everything you had, with good form of course, is quite draining and very few people will ever really do it. Most will lift a weight for 5 that they could have really don for 7, maybe 8 if they’re honest.
This is one reason a lot of us don’t get the progress we really want.
I’m guilty of this that’s for sure.
Now this isn’t to say that people don’t ‘work hard’, rather it’s just pointing out that many haven’t quite grasped the concept of really pushing a set to it’s limit. if they did they’d find training say 3 days per week is more than enough to make progress, rather than their standard 6 with back to back classes and AM/PM runs.
Good old fashioned honest hard graft isn’t pleasant, it’s tough, however it’s what produces results, especially when combined with solid nutrition and plenty of recovery.
Try doing 5×5 and having 3-4 of those sets being warm ups, then really go all out on the last set, you should feel sufficiently worked, you may have one more set of 5 at that weight, if you do then go for it, however if you get it right that one hard set of 5 will be enough.
The loading might look like this:
Done, move on to the next exercise and repeat the same process.
Just something to think about.

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Unconventional 5×5

Everyone knows and loves 5×5, with good reason too.

The 5×5 routine was one that Reg Park used with great success, not to mention Bill Starr and a great many others.

As with anything everyone has their own unique tweaks that put in to play on this basic but brilliant program, each of which work well, here are some examples:

  • 5×5 at set working weight
  • 5×5 – 2×5 warm up (60-80% of working weight) 3×5 at working weight
  • 5×5 – 4 warm up sets to 1 all out set of 5
  • 5×5 – Friday Max out day, working to 1×5 all out, Monday 5×5 at 80% Fridays weight, Wednesday 2×5 at 70-80% Fridays weight
  • Typically the main aim is to hit 25 heavy reps, 80-85% of 1RM is typical.

There are countless more methods and today I would like to give you one that I utilise using extended sets, this will help you improve maximal strength and trigger hypertrophy.

Extended Set 5×5 – Using a harder movement with sub-maximal loading followed by an easier one movement. All total reps add up to the classic 25.

  • 5×2/3

For example:

A1 Extended Set – Front Squat/Squat – 5×2, rack then change bar position, Squat x3 at same weight.

Back Off Set 5×5 – As above, harder vacation of the lift followed by an easier one.

  • 5×2 + 3×5


A1 – FS 5×2 – B1 Squat 3×5 starting at same weight and increasing as necessary.

High Rep Back Off Set 5×5

  • 5×2 + 15


A1 – 5×2 – B1 Squat 1×15 at the FS weight.

^^ Not classic 5×5 but the 25 rep goal is still hit.

There is nothing magical about these rep/set schemes, they’re just options for you to try.



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The Magic 5

Some say number are the secret to unlocking the universe, if this is indeed the case then I believe the secret for a great many things can be found stowed away in the number 5.

Let me explain why.

When I look back at many of the great lifters of yesteryear such as Reg Park, Steve Stanko, Dough Hepburn, Steve Reeves, Arthur Saxon and many others of that time period they had a common theme in their training.

What was the common theme?

In their early days they all believed in the power of building their strength in the 5RM range (they did use 10-20 for legs on some occasions, but 5 was a staple too). If you are to build your strength and increase your 5RM then all of your other maxes go up as well. This number seems to hold the mythical middle ground that allows for good progression in both strength and hypertrophy because of the amount of weight you can lift along with the ability to add sets easily.

Obviously it is not to say ht the other rep ranges aren’t without their merits, however pushing out solid 5’s seems to be where the most progress is often found for the majority of people. 5 is a good building number, for weight on the bar and volume (sets).

How can you apply this to your training? Easily it the answer. Here is an example:

*All % are based off of 1RM. All working sets are done after warm ups. AMRAP = as many reps as possible.

Week 1 – 1x5x80%, 1x5x77%, 1x5x75%, 1x5x72%, 1x5x70%+ Back Off Set AMRAP x60%

Week 2 – 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x77%, 1x5x75%, 1x5x72%+ Back Off Set AMRAP x60%

Week 3 – 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x77%, 1x5x75%+ Back Off Set AMRAP x60%

Week 4 – 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x77%+ Back Off Set AMRAP x60%

Week 5 – 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%+ Back Off Set AMRAP x60%

After this 5 weeks you would then incase the weight on your 5RM by either 2.5/5kg, perhaps 10kg if you’re some kind of super human and then workout your subsequent % for the other sets accordingly and start the process above again.

If we said in week one your 1RM was 100kg that would make the first 1×5 80kg and your last 1×5 70kg. After hitting 5x5x80kg you may increase the weight by 5kg and have the first set being 1x5x85kg and the next sets decreasing in weight (82.5,80,77.5) until the last 1×5 is at 75kg. Make sense?

The general idea is to build your strength, sets and overall volume on your 5’s and in doing so you will notice that everything else gets stronger. The AMRAP set is simply to further stimulate hypertrophy and you will be looking at hitting 15-20 reps unbroken not his set with your prescribed weight.

You could do this on a one body part per day routine, or a simple upper lower split, perhaps a pull-push-legs. It’s entirely up to you and what you can fit in your training schedule. I would personally advice doing the following:

Day 1 – Squat, Press, Pull Up, Ab Roll Out – 3x fail

Day 2 – Deadlift, Bench, Bent Over Row, Hanging Leg Raise – 3xfail

Day 3 – Light Cardio or Off

Day 4/5 repeat days 1/2

Day 6/7 – Light Cardio or Off.

Keep the Week 1 Guideline for both sessions, it will help as a double progression method, meaning you will have confidently hit your desired weights/targets twice before adding that next set of 5 at 80%.

Now go, lift, progress and get the results you deserve.




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5×5 Option No4

Afternoon Guys,

My last couple of posts have been aimed at giving you some different variations of the classic 5×5 that you can use to continue your progress (each good for at least 3 months training), today I will give you one more so that you will have a whole years worth of potential training methods you can apply to the good old 5×5.

In the past I have written about a great strength training system – 5,4,3,2,1 – this can also be a great progression for those working towards a new 5RM. In the original 5×5 you’re meant to warn up to your 5rm and do 5 sets with it. If you really dig to your 5rm I highly doubt you would manage 5×5 with it as it would be to demanding on your CNS leaving you pretty broken. Especially with the 3x power week nature of the program.

Now assuming you’ve been working on 5×5 for a while and have progressed to a point where you might get 2-3×5 out of your 5 buy you can’t seem to get more at your current weight, making a slight change and adding in 5,4,3,2,1 could be just what you need.

The method is simple, you warm up accordingly to your 5rm and do 1 set of 5 then rest. Your second set will be 4, then 3 and so on until you hit 1, that’s the end of your first session. When you come back for number 2 you work would add a 1 rep so your sets would look as follows: 5,5,4,3,2.

The simplicity of adding reps helps your body become better adapted to handle heavier weights, one you hit the 5×5 it’s time to add weight and start again with 5,4,3,2,1.

Your workouts might look like this:

Workout A

SQ 5,4,3,2,1
BP 5,4,3,2,1
Row 5,4,3,2,1

Workout B

SQ 5,5,4,3,2
DL 5,4,3,2,1
OHP 5,4,3,2,1

*Notice the squat has already gone up 1 rep. This is because you do it every time you’re in the gym, if you want to prevent compete burn out on the squat why not have workout B substitute back squat for front squat (FS), that was all your exercises will progress at the same rate.

Workout B

FS 5,4,3,2,1
DL 5,4,3,2,1
OHP 5,4,3,2,1

Boring as this may seem it’s a sure fire way to help you progress and progress.

Use it well.


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