September 26, 2023

In terms of coaching packages, there aren’t too many “plug and play” exercises that nearly assure outcomes. Extra precisely, there aren’t too many packages that promise and really ship on these outcomes. The 5×5 exercise does, and it has a 60+ yr monitor document of success with a path of robust, muscular, athletic our bodies to indicate for it.

5×5, or 5 units of 5 reps, was first popularized within the Sixties and has developed a popularity as some of the dependable routines within the lengthy historical past of weight coaching. Hit the gymnasium three days per week and do 5×5, eat loads, and also you nearly can’t fail.

Person in gym doing barbell deadlift
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There are a couple of exceptions and particulars, in fact, however the 5×5 exercise is mostly acknowledged as some of the reliable methods to construct measurement and energy almost concurrently. It’s the unique “powerbuilding” exercise. Right here’s what to find out about getting essentially the most out of this traditional mass-building program.

The 5×5 Exercise

Historical past of the the 5×5 Exercise

5×5 isn’t some flash-in-the-pan routine. It’s been delivering outcomes for many years, due partially to its simplicity and to its concentrate on some dependable coaching fundamentals — huge workouts and heavy weights. Right here’s a better have a look at a few of this program’s hallowed backstory.

Reg Park Constructed the Austrian Oak

Arnold Schwarzenegger might need the physique that launched 1,000,000 gymnasium memberships, however what in regards to the bodybuilder who was Arnold’s largest inspiration? Absolutely, the one who motivated the one who motivated generations of individuals to hit the gymnasium ought to get some recognition.

Reg Park is the traditional bodybuilder who impressed a younger Arnold to succeed in for the muscle-building stars. Park gained a number of bodybuilding competitions from the mid-Nineteen Forties into the Nineteen Seventies, together with three Mr. Universe titles. Park additionally gained a level of mainstream recognition starring because the legendary Hercules in a number of movies within the early Sixties.

Park’s highly effective, well-muscled body was a step up from the highest bodybuilders of the day. His strength-focused coaching mirrored his means to “present and go” and it allowed him to develop into the primary bodybuilder to bench press 500 pounds. This contrasted with his bodybuilding contemporaries who often focused on lifting moderate to light weights for relatively high repetitions.

Like some successful bodybuilders of his era, Park published a series of training catalogs and programs to guide hopeful gym-goers along the muscle-building path. One of his books, “Strength and Bulk Training for Weight Lifters and Body Builders,” was published in 1960. This appears to be one of the first widespread recommendation of a structured 5×5 workout, even though using five sets of five reps featured in some parts of “Training for Power,” written by Park in 1954.

In “Strength and Bulk Training for Weight Lifters and Body Builders,” Park advocated for three workouts each week. In each session, three fundamental exercises — the squat, bench press, and deadlift — are performed for five sets of five repetitions. Every training session featured a relatively minimalist approach:

  • Weighted Back Extension — 3 x 10
  • Squat — 5 x 5
  • Bench Press — 5 x 5
  • Deadlift — 5 x 5

The back extension was considered essential for strengthening and warming up the lower back. Park recommended a specific approach to each of the five sets. The first two sets were progressively heavier warm-up sets, for example, 135 pounds for five reps and 155 pounds for five reps. The three final sets for each exercise used the same weight, for example, 175 pounds for three sets of five reps.

Park also advised a whopping three to five-minute rest between each of those three working sets. This may sound like an eternity for lifters accustomed to fast-paced workouts, but such long rest intervals have been shown to allow optimal performance when lifting heavy weights. (1)

Park advised following the fundamental 5×5 exercise plan for 3 months earlier than progressing to both a “bodybuilder’s exercise,” that includes extra workouts like calf raises and barbell curls, or a “weightlifter’s exercise” which integrated lunges, energy cleans and different sport-specific actions.

Invoice Starr: The Strongest Shall Survive

There was once a widespread delusion amongst mainstream sports activities that “lifting weights creates unathletic, muscle-bound our bodies.” Whereas we now know that well-designed weight coaching packages can construct stronger, quicker, extra sturdy athletes, {many professional} athletes and coaches used to imagine this city legend whole-heartedly. Till Invoice Starr.

Invoice Starr was a aggressive weightlifter, editor of Energy and Well being journal from 1966 to 1972, and one of many first NFL energy and conditioning coaches as he labored with the Baltimore Colts starting in 1969. Notably, the Colts gained their first  Tremendous Bowl in 1971 whereas beneath the steerage of Starr’s weight room teaching, touchdown a big blow in opposition to the “muscle-bound delusion.”

Starr was additionally an advocate of easy and efficient fundamental, heavy lifting. In 1976, he wrote “The Strongest Shall Survive: Energy Coaching for Soccer.” The plan laid out a three-day-per week coaching plan centered round what Starr known as “The Large Three” — three workouts which construct muscle, energy, and explosive energy all through the whole physique.

These precedence workouts have been the bench press performed with a comparatively close-grip (fingers shoulder-width aside), the facility clear (which he known as “the athlete’s train” for it’s sensible carryover to the taking part in area), and the again squat descending as deep into the underside place as attainable.

This system additionally integrated leg extensions and leg curls to warm-up the quadriceps and hamstrings, respectively, in addition to sit-ups and leg raises to handle core energy. These workouts have been performed with fewer units and better repetitions to keep away from extra fatigue. As soon as per week, the overhead press was additionally advised instead of the bench press for athletes searching for much more higher physique energy and energy.

One cornerstone of Starr’s 5×5 program was a circuit-style method, the place every of the three main workouts have been carried out in a superset-style — one set of energy cleans, adopted by one set of the bench press, adopted by one set of squats. This was supposed to assist construct cardiovascular conditioning together with energy and energy.

Starr, not like Park, elevated the burden on every of the 5 units for each train. He additionally integrated diverse loading parameters on every day. Whereas the 5×5 format was stored fixed, the primary exercise of the week was “heavy” utilizing near-maximal weights. The second exercise was “gentle,” utilizing 80% of the weights moved within the earlier exercise. The third exercise of the week was thought of “medium” and known as for 90% of the hundreds used through the heavy exercise.

One of these “each day undulating periodization” allowed extra environment friendly restoration as a result of coaching depth was adjusted all through the week. It additionally inspired elevated energy output since comparatively lighter weights will be lifted with extra explosive energy. (2)

Learn how to Program the 5×5 Exercise

Organising a 5×5 exercise will be easy, however it’s not fairly so simple as simply performing 5 units of 5 reps on a couple of random workouts. Whereas the units and reps are one defining characteristic, an efficient 5×5 plan additionally requires a number of different programming components.

The Units and Reps: 5×5

Identical to you may’t do a kettlebell swing without a kettlebell, you can’t do a 5×5 workout without focusing on five sets of five. Whether it’s five progressively heavier sets, like Starr’s approach, or multiple sets with the same weight like Park recommended, aim for five total sets per exercise.

Use a load that achieves muscular fatigue within four to six repetitions while performing no more than five repetitions per set. If a load only allows you to complete only four reps before reaching muscular failure or compromising exercise technique, repeat the weight the following week. Basic strength adaptations should allow you to reach the five-rep mark.

Long-haired person in gym squatting with barbell
Credit: Denis Kornilov / Shutterstock

Any training with higher rep ranges should be kept to a bare minimum to maintain focus on the 5×5 portion of the workout. Limit additional sets/reps to one or two exercises per workout, at most.

Those exercises should either be single-joint movements such as curls or lateral raises or they should be less strenuous movements like dumbbell rows or split squats. These strategic choices will keep physical and CNS (central nervous system) stress to a relative minimum, allowing overall recovery.

Or, as Park showed the world, you can certainly perform only 5×5 movements in every workout without supplementing higher repetitions. This keeps the program rooted in its primary focus — emphasizing hard work by going “all in” for five sets of five repetitions.

Five-rep sets allow a heavy enough weight to trigger significant strength gains without the high degree of neuromuscular fatigue that can accompany one, two, or three-rep maximums. Performing five sets per movement allows the involved muscles to be put under significant total volume, which is necessary to stimulate muscle growth.

Three Full-Body Workouts Per Week

The nature of 5×5 workouts requires a single exercise per body part. Performing 5×5 for multiple exercises per body part — for example, training several bench press variations for 5×5 in each workout — would likely lead to overtraining by moving too much weight for too much volume with too few muscle groups.

Using multiple exercises per body part per session would also not allow an efficient weekly workout split since only one or two body parts could be trained in each workout. Because the 5×5 is the core programming concept, the workout forgoes multiple exercises per body part. Because a single exercise per body part is used in each session, more muscles can be trained in a given workout.

This is why a full-body approach is the only effective and efficient way to plan a 5×5 workout. Centering the training routine around three weekly full-body sessions, also creates “built-in” rest days to allow muscular growth and recovery. Three workouts mandates four non-training days.

Repeating these types of full-body workouts several times per week also allows a high frequency of training, which has been shown to be more beneficial for strength gains than training once per week. (3)

Multi-Joint Barbell Workout routines

Multi-joint (compound) barbell workouts are the popular actions to accommodate comparatively heavy units of 5. This can be a matter of effectivity, practicality (barbells are a lot less complicated to load heavy weight), and security.

Dumbbell workouts can develop into dangerously unwieldy when utilizing very heavy weights as a result of stabilizing muscle groups wanted to regulate every particular person dumbbell. Heavy body weight workouts, equally, can overload stabilizing muscle groups earlier than the goal physique half is sufficiently labored.

Specializing in multi-joint workouts, like squats, deadlifts, and presses reasonably than single-joint workouts like curls or extensions lets you recruit extra muscle groups with every carry. This creates higher coaching effectivity whereas additionally permitting you to maneuver extra general weight.

In every exercise, embrace a squat, a press (both overhead or a bench press variation), and a “pull” whether or not it’s a sort of deadlift or one thing that extra instantly recruits your again muscle groups like a barbell row.

Person in gym holding barbell preparing to exercise
Credit score: Dusan Petkovic / Shutterstock

This can guarantee comparatively balanced coaching of each your higher and decrease physique in addition to your “pushing muscle groups” (chest, shoulders, and triceps) and your “pulling muscle groups” (again and biceps). With correct train choice, your core will probably obtain ample stimulation while not having direct coaching.

Advantages of the 5×5 Exercise

The 5×5 exercise would’ve pale into obscurity a long time in the past if it didn’t ship real bodily advantages. The rationale it’s continued to be a staple program for generations is as a result of it may reliably add muscle and energy onto almost any lifter.

Muscular Dimension

Whether or not you’re seeking to be constructed like a powerhouse linebacker, a well-muscled bodybuilder, or one thing in between, the 5×5 exercise generally is a best choice. The calorie surplus wanted to get well from excessive frequency, heavy lifting coincides with the kind of calorie consumption wanted to help muscle progress.

In actual fact, one of many surest methods to short-change your outcomes with the 5×5 program is to not present inadequate gas for progress and restoration. One frequent mistake some lifters make is to attempt “consuming for fats loss” with a calorie deficit whereas utilizing a 5×5 coaching routine.

With out ample energy and sufficient high-quality protein, you run the chance of wasted time and power, and potential overtraining.

Complete-Physique Energy

Performing huge barbell workouts with heavy weights for comparatively low repetitions is a spot-on method to constructing uncooked energy. Utilizing a restricted variety of workouts in every exercise assist you to focus your coaching depth on essentially the most environment friendly actions.

Performing a comparatively restricted variety of units and repetitions retains your exercises centered on traditional onerous and heavy lifting which additionally yields centered outcomes.

muscular man pressing barbell overhead
Credit score: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock

One worthwhile “facet impact” of  the 5×5 exercise is that high-frequency publicity to the identical workouts can assist ingrain correct lifting method. Improved method can carry over to raised long-term positive aspects, higher coaching effectivity, and doubtlessly decrease the chance of damage.

Drawbacks of the 5×5 Exercise

Whereas the 5×5 program has a number of clear advantages, there are additionally a couple of opposing factors to think about. Any coaching routine may have its personal checklist of execs and cons; being round for a number of a long time doesn’t give the 5×5 exercise a free go.

Restricted Muscular Improvement

Regardless that the multi-joint barbell workouts do recruit various muscle groups throughout every exercise, sure physique elements will probably stay considerably undertrained resulting from particular train alternative or a person’s distinctive limb lengths.

For instance, performing the bench press as the first higher physique pushing train might depart your triceps and shoulders less-than-fully stimulated relying in your arm size and particular grip width. Performing the deadlift will work parts of your hamstrings, however gained’t effectively prepare the “leg flexion” side of hamstring perform which will be achieved by leg curls.

Comparatively smaller physique elements just like the higher again, shoulders, triceps, biceps, and calves obtain some activation as supporting muscle teams however aren’t instantly skilled with a traditional 5×5 exercise.

That is one purpose why this system is well-suited for newbie lifters seeking to set up a basic base of muscular measurement and energy — they don’t but have any vital weaknesses or discrepancies. Skilled lifters generally require extra exact coaching to focus on key developmental weaknesses, which aren’t successfully addressed by a 5×5 plan.

Restricted Cardiovascular Improvement

With its concentrate on heavy barbell lifting, and recovering from heavy barbell lifting, the 5×5 exercise doesn’t depart any actual room for vital cardiovascular coaching. Analysis has proven that cardio coaching (like operating on a treadmill or long-distance biking) can negatively affect explosive energy and energy, and should intervene with general energy and muscle positive aspects. (4)

long-haired person in gym straining lifting weights
Credit score: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Identical to the 5×5 exercise isn’t suitable with a calorie deficit, it’s additionally not relevant for these with cardio-based objectives akin to distance operating and plenty of basic sports activities. The important thing exception can be to particularly program 5×5 within the offseason when cardio coaching generally is a lesser precedence within the short-term.

Starr did discover an efficient shortcut round this impediment by coaching in a superset or circuit fashion. If sustaining some semblance of cardio health is a secondary purpose, contemplate planning your 5×5 exercise equally. That’s an efficient compromise, presuming you will have the obtainable tools to make use of three barbells in fast succession — a situation not going in lots of industrial gyms, however fairly attainable in a house gymnasium.

Potential Joint Points

Coaching completely with barbells will be extremely efficient, until you will have pre-existing joint points that preclude you from performing many barbell workouts. This will usually be associated to basic mobility points — being unable to soundly carry out a given train — or injury from sample overuse — the outcomes of performing a given train repeatedly over time.

Inventive train choice could possibly be a brief resolution in some circumstances, for instance, selecting a push press as a substitute of a strict overhead press. Nevertheless, for long-term joint well being and general progress, a extra conservative method is usually to keep away from problematic workouts (and implements, just like the barbell) altogether.

Pattern 5×5 Exercise Program

Prepare three days per week, with at the very least sooner or later of relaxation between every session. Should you’re hitting the 5×5 workouts as onerous as you ought to be, you’ll rapidly respect having a day of relaxation after every exercise and a day to mentally and bodily put together earlier than every session.

Every exercise features a comparatively restricted “accent” motion on the finish of every exercise to tack on some extra work for the chest, triceps, again, biceps, and hamstrings. Should you’re feeling excessively fatigued on a given day, the ultimate train is completely elective. What’s essential, nonetheless, is to not add much more workouts or quantity to the coaching plan.

Be happy to experiment (for weeks at a time, not a couple of exercises at a time), various between Park’s “three units with the identical weight” method in addition to Starr’s technique of accelerating the burden on each set.

Man holding barbell on chest performing bench press
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

You would possibly discover that you just get right into a “groove” by repeating the identical weight for a number of units or you may benefit from the dialed-in focus of step by step constructing as much as one very heavy set per train. In both case, once you’re capable of efficiently carry out 5 reps in your fifth set, improve the burden on all units.

Newbie lifters can be higher served repeating roughly the identical weight for every exercise, growing each time the ultimate set reaches 5 repetitions. Extra skilled lifters will probably profit from Starr’s “heavy, gentle, medium” — the primary exercise of the week units the usual, the second exercise is programmed with 75 to 80% of the weights, and the third exercise makes use of 85 to 90% of the primary exercise’s masses. Any required arithmetic will payoff with improved restoration between classes and extra highly effective efficiency throughout coaching.


Lure Bar Deadlift — 5 x 5

Overhead Press — 5 x 5

Entrance Squat — 5 x 5

Dips — 3 x 8-12


Lure Bar Deadlift — 5 x 5

Overhead Press — 5 x 5

Entrance Squat — 5 x 5

Chin-up — 3 x 8-12


Lure Bar Deadlift — 5 x 5

Overhead Press — 5 x 5

Entrance Squat — 5 x 5

Romanian Deadlift — 3 x 8-12

Easy, Efficient, Timeless Coaching

Like many recipes within the culinary world, nice energy coaching packages don’t must be overly difficult to ship an optimum finish end result. Mastering the fundamentals — whether or not it’s the proper omelet or easy, heavy barbell coaching — builds an efficient basis for freshmen. This pared down program may also be a dependable fallback for skilled lifters, beneath the appropriate circumstances, who want a short-term, basic function plan to refresh their measurement and energy positive aspects.

Often Requested Questions

Can I exploit non-barbell workouts for five×5?

The first idea of this system is to make use of one huge compound carry per physique half, limiting the session to 3 key workouts per session. The workouts should have the ability to be safely and effectively loaded to a four-to-six rep most, whereas recruiting as many muscle teams as attainable.
Many barbell workouts meet this standards. Nevertheless, the case may be made, for instance, to make use of the lure bar deadlift (as seen within the pattern exercise above) or the leg press. Sure machine workouts, like a machine chest press, T-bar row, or Smith machine squat, probably can’t be safely carried out with the required load.
Use your judgment however, when doubtful, attempt to preserve the concentrate on barbell lifts. There are many variations of fundamental motion patterns (squats, deadlifts, and presses) and also you probably don’t “want” to stray too far off-course.

Can I exploit 5×5 with barbell isolation workouts or single-leg workouts?

No. Any kind of five-rep isolation (single-joint) train, like a heavy barbell curl, triceps extension, or calf elevate, will get farther from the first focus of the 5×5 exercise — recruiting as many muscle teams as attainable per train. Except you’re thinking about doing cheat curls (which will be excessive danger and low reward) to recruit your again and hips into the motion, it’s greatest to keep away from programming isolation actions for five×5.
Single-leg workouts, just like the break up squat, or single-arm workouts, like dumbbell rows, will restrict the burden you should utilize relative to a two-leg or two-arm barbell train. The added time and power wanted to coach each side will even improve general fatigue.
Unilateral (single-leg/single-arm) workouts additionally improve general stress in your core musculature, particularly when shifting heavier weights. This will additional cut back concentrate on the goal muscle.


  1. de Salles, B. F., Simão, R., Miranda, F., Novaes, J.daS., Lemos, A., & Willardson, J. M. (2009). Relaxation interval between units in energy coaching. Sports activities medication (Auckland, N.Z.), 39(9), 765–777.
  2. Rhea, M. R., Ball, S. D., Phillips, W. T., & Burkett, L. N. (2002). A comparability of linear and each day undulating periodized packages with equated quantity and depth for energy. Journal of energy and conditioning analysis, 16(2), 250–255.
  3. Grgic, J., Schoenfeld, B. J., Davies, T. B., Lazinica, B., Krieger, J. W., & Pedisic, Z. (2018). Impact of Resistance Coaching Frequency on Positive factors in Muscular Energy: A Systematic Evaluate and Meta-Evaluation. Sports activities medication (Auckland, N.Z.), 48(5), 1207–1220.
  4. Schumann, M., Feuerbacher, J. F., Sünkeler, M., Freitag, N., Rønnestad, B. R., Doma, Okay., & Lundberg, T. R. (2022). Compatibility of Concurrent Cardio and Energy Coaching for Skeletal Muscle Dimension and Perform: An Up to date Systematic Evaluate and Meta-Evaluation. Sports activities medication (Auckland, N.Z.)52(3), 601–612.

Featured Picture: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock