The 5×5 Exercise Defined: The Traditional Program for Dimension and Power

In terms of 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 document of success with a path of robust, muscular, athletic our bodies to point out for it.

5×5, or 5 units of 5 reps, was first popularized within the Nineteen 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 every week and do 5×5, eat plenty, and also you virtually can’t fail.

Credit score: antoniodiaz / Shutterstock

There are just a few exceptions and particulars, after all, however the 5×5 exercise is mostly acknowledged as some of the reliable methods to build size and strength practically concurrently. It’s the unique “powerbuilding” exercise. Right here’s what to learn about getting essentially 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 partially to its simplicity and to its give attention to 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 one million gymnasium memberships, however what concerning the bodybuilder who was Arnold’s greatest inspiration? Absolutely, the one that motivated the one that motivated generations of individuals to hit the gymnasium 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 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 Nineteen 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 grow to be the primary bodybuilder to bench press 500 kilos. This contrasted together with his bodybuilding contemporaries who typically targeted on lifting reasonable to mild weights for comparatively excessive repetitions.

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

In “Power 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 method:

  • 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 advisable a particular method to every of the 5 units. The primary two units had been progressively heavier warm-up units, for instance, 135 kilos for 5 reps and 155 kilos for 5 reps. The three closing 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 recommended 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 included lunges, energy cleans and different sport-specific actions.

Invoice Starr: The Strongest Shall Survive

There was 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 applications 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 Power 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 underneath the steerage of Starr’s weight room teaching, touchdown a big blow towards the “muscle-bound delusion.”

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

These precedence workouts had been the bench press accomplished with a comparatively close-grip (fingers shoulder-width aside), the facility clear (which he referred to 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 potential.

This system additionally included 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 had been accomplished with fewer units and better repetitions to keep away from extra fatigue. As soon as every week, the overhead press was additionally recommended rather than 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 major workouts had 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 meant 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 included assorted 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 “mild,” utilizing 80% of the weights moved within the earlier exercise. The third exercise of the week was thought of “medium” and referred to as for 90% of the masses used through 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 could be lifted with extra explosive energy. (2)

The right way to Program the 5×5 Exercise

Establishing a 5×5 exercise could be easy, nevertheless it’s not fairly so simple as simply performing 5 units of 5 reps on just a few 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 may’t do a kettlebell swing with no kettlebell, you may’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 method, or a number of units with the identical weight like Park advisable, goal 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 means that you can full solely 4 reps earlier than reaching muscular failure or compromising train method, repeat the load the next week. Fundamental energy variations ought to let you attain the five-rep mark.

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

Any coaching with greater rep ranges needs to be saved to a naked minimal to take care of give attention to the 5×5 portion of the exercise. Restrict extra units/reps to 1 or two workouts per exercise, at most.

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

Or, as Park confirmed the world, you may definitely carry out solely 5×5 actions in each exercise with out supplementing greater repetitions. This retains this system rooted in its major focus — emphasizing laborious work by going “all in” for 5 units of 5 repetitions.

5-rep units enable a heavy sufficient weight to set off important energy features 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 muscle mass to be put underneath important whole quantity, which is important to stimulate muscle progress.

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 seemingly 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 may very well 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 muscle mass could be skilled in a given exercise.

This is the reason a full-body method is the one efficient and environment friendly technique 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 progress and restoration. Three exercises mandates 4 non-training days.

Repeating all these full-body exercises a number of occasions per week additionally permits a excessive frequency of coaching, which has been proven to be extra helpful for energy features 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. It is a matter of effectivity, practicality (barbells are a lot less complicated to load heavy weight), and security.

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

Specializing in multi-joint workouts, like squats, deadlifts, and presses slightly than single-joint workouts like curls or extensions means that you can recruit extra muscle mass with every elevate. This creates better 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 instantly recruits your again muscle mass like a barbell row.

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

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

Advantages of the 5×5 Exercise

The 5×5 exercise would’ve pale 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 probably reliably add muscle and energy onto practically 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 is usually a best choice. The calorie surplus wanted to recuperate 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 gasoline 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 danger of wasted time and vitality, and potential overtraining.

Complete-Physique Power

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 let you focus your coaching depth on essentially the most environment friendly actions.

Performing a comparatively restricted variety of units and repetitions retains your exercises targeted on basic laborious and heavy lifting which additionally yields targeted outcomes.

muscular man pressing barbell overhead
Credit score: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock

One worthwhile “aspect 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 features, better coaching effectivity, and doubtlessly decrease the danger of harm.

Drawbacks of the 5×5 Exercise

Whereas the 5×5 program has a number of clear advantages, there are additionally just a few opposing factors to contemplate. Any coaching routine may have its personal listing of execs and cons; being round for a number of many years doesn’t give the 5×5 exercise a free go.

Restricted Muscular Improvement

Despite the fact that the multi-joint barbell workouts do recruit plenty of muscle mass throughout every exercise, sure physique components will seemingly stay considerably undertrained on account of 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 practice the “leg flexion” facet of hamstring perform which could 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 instantly skilled with a basic 5×5 exercise.

That is one cause why this system is well-suited for newbie lifters seeking to set up a common base of muscular measurement and energy — they don’t but have any important weaknesses or discrepancies. Skilled lifters typically 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 important cardiovascular coaching. Analysis has proven that cardio coaching (like working on a treadmill or long-distance biking) can negatively impression explosive energy and energy, and should intrude with general energy and muscle features. (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 comparable to distance working and lots of common sports activities. The important thing exception could be to particularly program 5×5 within the offseason when cardio coaching is usually a lesser precedence within the short-term.

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

Potential Joint Points

Coaching solely with barbells could be extremely efficient, until you have got pre-existing joint points that preclude you from performing many barbell workouts. This may typically be associated to common 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 may very well be a short lived resolution in some instances, for instance, selecting a push press as an alternative 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 no less than someday of relaxation between every session. For those who’re hitting the 5×5 workouts as laborious as you need 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. For those who’re feeling excessively fatigued on a given day, the ultimate train is fully elective. What’s essential, nevertheless, is to not add much more workouts or quantity to the coaching plan.

Be happy to experiment (for weeks at a time, not just a few exercises at a time), various between Park’s “three units with the identical weight” method 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 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 steadily constructing as much as one very heavy set per train. In both case, once you’re in a position to efficiently carry out 5 reps in your fifth set, enhance the load on all units.

Newbie lifters could be higher served repeating roughly the identical weight for every exercise, rising at any time when the ultimate set reaches 5 repetitions. Extra skilled lifters will seemingly profit from Starr’s “heavy, mild, 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 have to be overly difficult to ship an optimum finish consequence. Mastering the fundamentals — whether or not it’s the right omelet or easy, heavy barbell coaching — builds an efficient basis for novices. This pared down program can be a dependable fallback for skilled lifters, underneath the appropriate circumstances, who want a short-term, common goal plan to refresh their measurement and energy features.

Ceaselessly 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 elevate 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 potential.
Many barbell workouts meet this standards. Nevertheless, the case may be made, for instance, to make use of the entice 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, seemingly can’t be safely carried out with the required load.
Use your judgment however, when unsure, attempt to keep the give attention to barbell lifts. There are many variations of primary motion patterns (squats, deadlifts, and presses) and also you seemingly 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 sort 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 potential per train. Until you’re excited by doing cheat curls (which could be excessive threat 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 load you need to use relative to a two-leg or two-arm barbell train. The added time and vitality wanted to coach each side may also enhance general fatigue.
Unilateral (single-leg/single-arm) workouts additionally enhance general stress in your core musculature, particularly when shifting heavier weights. This may 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 drugs (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 Power: A Systematic Assessment and Meta-Evaluation. Sports activities drugs (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 Power Coaching for Skeletal Muscle Dimension and Operate: An Up to date Systematic Assessment and Meta-Evaluation. Sports activities drugs (Auckland, N.Z.)52(3), 601–612.

Featured Picture: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

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