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5x5 Training

 

The premise of the routine is progressive overload, meaning that every week you are putting increasing amounts of stress on the muscles, generally through small increases in the amount of weight used. The progressive overload forces the body to grow to adapt to the increasing amounts of stress, even though the body really isn't training to failure.

The routine consists of choosing a heavy compound exercise to use for each body part, these can include, squat, dead lifts, bench press, close grip bench, standing barbell curls, military press, etc. On top of the initial 5x5, you also choose 2 other exercises, and aim to do 2 sets on each, of 8-10 reps per set.

Here's a sample routine

Chest
Flat bench 5x5
incline dumbell press 2x8-10
incline flyes 2x8-10

The key for me when using this routine is to start light, at weights that you can easily nail your reps and concentrate on form. For example, say you can bench 225lbs for 8 reps, start with 195lbs on the bar. This should be easy, but if you keep your reps slow and in control, you will still get a good pump and have a good workout. Next week, bump up the weight by a SMALL increment, remember the key is to be able to keep adding weight, it's not a race to get to the massive poundages. If you add too quickly you will plateau in a hurry and the routine wont do jack for you. So you hit 5x5 on 195, next week its 200, the week after 205, etc. When you get to a point where you're starting to have trouble hitting your reps, add something extra to help, if you're natural, that's when I would throw in creatine and whatever else as this will help you keep adding weight. If you don't get all 5x5, then do not add more weight next week, stick with the same and the odds are you'll hit it next time you try.

This routine is very effective as it targets fast twitch muscle fibres(5x5) as well as slower twitch(8-10reps) all in the same workout. Generally when done correctly you can gain lots of size as well as some pretty incredible strength all at the same time. I'm only a bodybuilder and dont give a rat's ass about strength, but have hit lifts (ie, deadlift 550lbs for 5 reps) that would allow me to compete as a powerlifter.

Eventually no matter what you are doing or what you are on, the strength gains will come to an end. What I have found worked well for me was when I couldnt add more weight to the 5x5, I switched over to 5x3 instead, and was able to keep adding weight. The beauty there is that as you keep adding weight past where you were stuck on the 5x5, that weight you were stuck on will feel like a joke when you go back to it as you were just lifting more, albeit for less reps.

Here's an example I used when my squats went stale. I had been stuck on 405lbs for a while, but just couldn't get all my sets so that I could add more weight, so here's what I did.

week 1 410lbs 5x3reps
week 2 415lbs 5x3reps
week 3 420lbs 5x3 reps
week 4 425lbs 5x3 reps
week 5 430lbs 5x3reps
week 6 435lbs 5x3 reps----then back to 5x5
week 7 405lbs 5x5(now this felt really light after 435lbs)
week 8 410lbs 5x5

etc.......

But this time when I finally plateaued again, I was squatting 445lbs for 5's. Notice the weight increases were very small, percentage wise it was almost nothing, but see how it added up. When I first started the 5x5 routine back in the day, I was squatting 225lbs for 5x5, and since then the program has allowed me to put over 200lbs on my squat, and about 4" on my quads

I forgot to mention, I don't think this approach will work for calves as you need a higher rep range

No, not all 5x5 are to failure, the first couple you should have to work for and get a good pump from, but they wont be to complete failure or you wont have a chance of getting all your sets. What tends to happen with me is a set feels pretty close to failure, but after a rest of 3-4 minutes, I can hit the next set easily enough. I do take to 8-10 reps to failure though

when supersetting I wait that minute or so between every set, so a set for bis, wait 1-1 1/2 minutes, do a set for tris, and so on. On the 5x5 I rest 3-4 minutes for say squats, but on most others, including deads I superset with another exercise same as with arms. For the 8-10 ones, usually around 2 minutes, but I cut that lower and lower as I progress through the workout

I wear a watch so I keep the breaks consistent, this way I know that if I go up in weight or anything then it wasn't because I rested longer. Its during the 8-10 sets that I start cutting the rest times down

I've got my body split into 4 days, which leaves me with 3 rest days per week

Day 1 chest/calves
Chest- see earlier post
standing calve raises 5x15

Day 2 back/shoulders
military press 5x5
side laterals 3-5x8-10
deads 5x5
chins 2x8-10
shrugs 2x8-10
rows 2x8-10
bent over laterals 2x8-10

Day 3&4 rest

Day 5 bis/tris
close grip bench 5x5
standing barbell curls 5x5
weighted dips 2x8-10
incline dumbell curls 2x8-10
skull crushers 2x8-10
preacher curls 2x8-10

Day 6 legs
squats 5x5
leg press or hacks 2x8-10( I don't do any more exercises for quads as I don't need to)
stiff legged deads 2x8-10
leg curls 2x8-10
seated calve raises 5x15
abs - weighted static holds

Day 7 rest

It's pretty rare that I change the 5x5 exercises as there really aren't that many good mass building exercises. For tri I sometimes switch close grip with weighted dips (but frankly I don't want to add any more weight to my dips), maybe switch military press with dumbells, etc... But there is no substitute for deads and squats, and using a bar instead of dumbells on stuff like bench or curls give me more freedom to add whatever amount of weight that I want, instead of having to go up 5lb per side every time

Another Sample routine

Day 1 chest/calves
Flat bench 5x5
incline dumbell press 2x8-10
incline flyes 2x8-10
standing calve raises 5x15

Day 2 Back/Shoulders
military press 5x5
side laterals 3-5x8-10
deads 5x5
chins 2x8-10
shrugs 2x8-10
rows 2x8-10
bent over laterals 2x8-10

Day 3&4 rest

Day 5 Bis/Tris
close grip bench 5x5
standing barbell curls 5x5
weighted dips 2x8-10
incline dumbell curls 2x8-10
skull crushers 2x8-10
preacher curls 2x8-10

Day 6 Legs
squats 5x5
leg press or hacks 2x8-10( I don't do any more exercises for quads as I don't need to)
stiff legged deads 2x8-10
leg curls 2x8-10
seated calve raises 5x15
abs - weighted static holds

Day 7 rest