The 5×5 Exercise Defined: The Traditional Program for Measurement and Energy

Relating to coaching applications, there aren’t too many “plug and play” exercises that just about assure outcomes. Extra precisely, there aren’t too many applications that promise and really ship on these outcomes. The 5×5 exercise does, and it has a 60+ yr monitor file 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 fame as one of the vital dependable routines within the lengthy historical past of weight coaching. Hit the health club three days every week and do 5×5, eat plenty, and also you nearly can’t fail.

Credit score: antoniodiaz / Shutterstock

There are a couple of exceptions and particulars, after all, however the 5×5 exercise is mostly acknowledged as one of the vital reliable methods to build size and strength practically concurrently. It’s the unique “powerbuilding” exercise. Right here’s what to find out about getting probably the most out of this basic 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 partly to its simplicity and to its give attention to some dependable coaching fundamentals — huge workouts and heavy weights. Right here’s a more in-depth take a look at a few of this program’s hallowed backstory.

Reg Park Constructed the Austrian Oak

Arnold Schwarzenegger may need the physique that launched one million health club memberships, however what concerning the bodybuilder who was Arnold’s largest inspiration? Absolutely, the one who motivated the one who motivated generations of individuals to hit the health club ought to get some recognition.

Reg Park is the basic bodybuilder who impressed a younger Arnold to achieve for the muscle-building stars. Park gained a number of bodybuilding competitions from the mid-Nineteen Forties into the 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 potential to “present and go” and it allowed him to change into the primary bodybuilder to bench press 500 kilos. This contrasted together with his bodybuilding contemporaries who usually targeted on lifting average to gentle weights for comparatively excessive repetitions.

Like some profitable bodybuilders of his period, Park printed a collection of coaching catalogs and applications to information hopeful gym-goers alongside the muscle-building path. Certainly one of his books, “Energy and Bulk Coaching for Weight Lifters and Physique Builders,” was printed in 1960. This seems to be one of many first widespread advice of a structured 5×5 exercise, despite the fact that utilizing 5 units of 5 reps featured in some components of “Coaching for Energy,” written by Park in 1954.

In “Energy and Bulk Coaching for Weight Lifters and Physique Builders,” Park advocated for 3 exercises every week. In every session, three basic workouts — the squat, bench press, and deadlift — are carried out for 5 units of 5 repetitions. Each coaching session featured a comparatively minimalist strategy:

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

The again extension was thought of important for strengthening and warming up the decrease again. Park really useful a particular strategy to every of the 5 units. The primary two units have been progressively heavier warm-up units, for instance, 135 kilos for 5 reps and 155 kilos for 5 reps. The three last units for every train used the identical weight, for instance, 175 kilos for 3 units of 5 reps.

Park additionally suggested a whopping three to five-minute relaxation between every of these three working units. This will sound like an eternity for lifters accustomed to fast-paced exercises, however such lengthy relaxation intervals have been proven to permit optimum efficiency when lifting heavy weights. (1)

Park steered 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 fable amongst mainstream sports activities that “lifting weights creates unathletic, muscle-bound our bodies.” Whereas we now know that well-designed weight coaching applications can construct stronger, sooner, 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 below the steerage of Starr’s weight room teaching, touchdown a major blow towards the “muscle-bound fable.”

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 all the physique.

These precedence workouts have been the bench press finished with a comparatively close-grip (palms shoulder-width aside), the facility clear (which he known as “the athlete’s train” for it’s sensible carryover to the enjoying 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 deal with core energy. These workouts have been finished with fewer units and better repetitions to keep away from extra fatigue. As soon as every week, the overhead press was additionally steered instead of the bench press for athletes on the lookout for much more higher physique energy and energy.

One cornerstone of Starr’s 5×5 program was a circuit-style strategy, 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 load on every of the 5 units for each train. He additionally integrated diversified loading parameters on every day. Whereas the 5×5 format was saved 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 throughout the heavy exercise.

The sort of “day by 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, but it surely’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 function, an efficient 5×5 plan additionally requires a number of different programming elements.

The Units and Reps: 5×5

Identical to you’ll be able to’t do a kettlebell swing with out a kettlebell, you’ll be able to’t do a 5×5 exercise with out specializing in 5 units of 5. Whether or not it’s 5 progressively heavier units, like Starr’s strategy, or a number of units with the identical weight like Park really useful, purpose for 5 whole units per train.

Use a load that achieves muscular fatigue inside 4 to 6 repetitions whereas performing not more than 5 repetitions per set. If a load solely lets you full solely 4 reps earlier than reaching muscular failure or compromising train method, repeat the load the next week. Primary energy diversifications ought to assist you to attain the five-rep mark.

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

Any coaching with greater rep ranges must be saved to a naked minimal to keep up give attention to the 5×5 portion of the exercise. Restrict extra units/reps to at least one or two workouts per exercise, at most.

These workouts ought to both be single-joint actions reminiscent of curls or lateral raises or they need to be much less strenuous actions like dumbbell rows or split squats. These strategic selections will preserve bodily and CNS (central nervous system) stress to a relative minimal, permitting general restoration.

Or, as Park confirmed the world, you’ll be able to actually carry out solely 5×5 actions in each exercise with out supplementing greater repetitions. This retains this system rooted in its main focus — emphasizing arduous work by going “all in” for 5 units of 5 repetitions.

5-rep units enable a heavy sufficient weight to set off vital energy beneficial properties with out the excessive diploma of neuromuscular fatigue that may accompany one, two, or three-rep maximums. Performing 5 units per motion permits the concerned muscular tissues to be put below vital whole quantity, which is critical to stimulate muscle development.

Three Full-Physique Exercises Per Week

The character of 5×5 exercises requires a single train per physique half. Performing 5×5 for a number of workouts per physique half — for instance, coaching a number of bench press variations for five×5 in every exercise — would doubtless result in overtraining by shifting an excessive amount of weight for an excessive amount of quantity with too few muscle teams.

Utilizing a number of workouts per physique half per session would additionally not enable an environment friendly weekly workout split since just one or two physique components could possibly be skilled in every exercise. As a result of the 5×5 is the core programming idea, the exercise forgoes a number of workouts per physique half. As a result of a single train per physique half is utilized in every session, extra muscular tissues will be skilled in a given exercise.

This is the reason a full-body strategy is the one efficient and environment friendly approach to plan a 5×5 exercise. Centering the coaching routine round three weekly full-body classes, additionally creates “built-in” relaxation days to permit muscular development and restoration. Three exercises mandates 4 non-training days.

Repeating these kind of full-body exercises a number of instances per week additionally permits a excessive frequency of coaching, which has been proven to be extra helpful for energy beneficial properties than coaching as soon as 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 easier to load heavy weight), and security.

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

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

In every exercise, embody a squat, a press (both overhead or a bench press variation), and a “pull” whether or not it’s a kind of deadlift or one thing that extra straight recruits your again muscular tissues 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 muscular tissues” (chest, shoulders, and triceps) and your “pulling muscular tissues” (again and biceps). With correct train choice, your core will doubtless obtain adequate stimulation with no need direct coaching.

Advantages of the 5×5 Exercise

The 5×5 exercise would’ve light into obscurity many years 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 will possibly reliably add muscle and energy onto practically any lifter.

Muscular Measurement

Whether or not you’re trying 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 better from excessive frequency, heavy lifting coincides with the kind of calorie consumption wanted to help muscle development.

The truth is, one of many surest methods to short-change your outcomes with the 5×5 program is to not present inadequate gasoline for development and restoration. One widespread mistake some lifters make is to strive “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 vitality, and potential overtraining.

Complete-Physique Energy

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

Performing a comparatively restricted variety of units and repetitions retains your exercises targeted on basic arduous and heavy lifting which additionally yields targeted 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 may help ingrain correct lifting method. Improved method can carry over to higher long-term beneficial properties, higher coaching effectivity, and probably 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 can have its personal record of professionals and cons; being round for a number of many years doesn’t give the 5×5 exercise a free cross.

Restricted Muscular Improvement

Although the multi-joint barbell workouts do recruit plenty of muscular tissues throughout every exercise, sure physique components will doubtless stay considerably undertrained because of particular train alternative or a person’s distinctive limb lengths.

For instance, performing the bench press as the first higher physique pushing train could 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” facet of hamstring perform which will be achieved by leg curls.

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

That is one cause why this system is well-suited for newbie lifters trying to set up a basic base of muscular dimension 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 give attention to 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 working on a treadmill or long-distance biking) can negatively influence explosive energy and energy, and will intrude with general energy and muscle beneficial properties. (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 reminiscent of distance working and lots 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 aim, take into account planning your 5×5 exercise equally. That’s an efficient compromise, presuming you’ve the accessible tools to make use of three barbells in fast succession — a state of affairs unlikely in lots of business gyms, however fairly attainable in a house health club.

Potential Joint Points

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

Artistic train choice could possibly be a brief answer 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 strategy is usually to keep away from problematic workouts (and implements, just like the barbell) altogether.

Pattern 5×5 Exercise Program

Practice three days per week, with a minimum of in the future of relaxation between every session. In case you’re hitting the 5×5 workouts as arduous as try to be, you’ll shortly 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. In case you’re feeling excessively fatigued on a given day, the ultimate train is solely non-obligatory. What’s necessary, 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” strategy in addition to Starr’s methodology of accelerating the load on each set.

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

You may discover that you simply 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 regularly 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, enhance the load on all units.

Newbie lifters can be higher served repeating roughly the identical weight for every exercise, growing at any time when the ultimate set reaches 5 repetitions. Extra skilled lifters will doubtless 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 hundreds. Any required arithmetic will payoff with improved restoration between classes and extra highly effective efficiency throughout coaching.


Trap Bar Deadlift — 5 x 5

Overhead Press — 5 x 5

Front 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 applications don’t must be overly sophisticated to ship an optimum finish consequence. Mastering the fundamentals — whether or not it’s the proper omelet or easy, heavy barbell coaching — builds an efficient basis for learners. This pared down program can be a dependable fallback for knowledgeable lifters, below the correct situations, who want a short-term, basic function plan to refresh their dimension and energy beneficial properties.

Incessantly Requested Questions

Can I take advantage of 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 a few 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, doubtless can’t be safely carried out with the required load.
Use your judgment however, when doubtful, attempt to preserve the give attention to barbell lifts. There are many variations of fundamental motion patterns (squats, deadlifts, and presses) and also you doubtless don’t “want” to stray too far off-course.

Can I take advantage of 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 increase, will get farther from the first focus of the 5×5 exercise — recruiting as many muscle teams as attainable per train. Until 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 finest 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 load you should use relative to a two-leg or two-arm barbell train. The added time and vitality wanted to coach each side may even enhance general fatigue.
Unilateral (single-leg/single-arm) workouts additionally enhance general stress in your core musculature, particularly when shifting heavier weights. This will additional cut back give attention to 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 day by day undulating periodized applications 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 aspects in Muscular Energy: A Systematic Evaluation 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, Ok., & Lundberg, T. R. (2022). Compatibility of Concurrent Cardio and Energy Coaching for Skeletal Muscle Measurement and Operate: An Up to date Systematic Evaluation and Meta-Evaluation. Sports activities medication (Auckland, N.Z.)52(3), 601–612.

Featured Picture: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Trending Merchandise

Add to compare

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Register New Account
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Shopping cart