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

On the subject of coaching packages, there aren’t too many “plug and play” exercises that just about assure outcomes. Extra precisely, there aren’t too many packages that promise and truly ship on these outcomes. The 5×5 exercise does, and it has a 60+ 12 months monitor document of success with a path of sturdy, muscular, athletic our bodies to indicate for it.

5×5, or 5 units of 5 reps, was first popularized within the Nineteen Sixties and has developed a popularity as one of the dependable routines within the lengthy historical past of weight coaching. Hit the gymnasium three days per 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, in fact, however the 5×5 exercise is mostly acknowledged as one of the reliable methods to build size and strength almost concurrently. It’s the unique “powerbuilding” exercise. Right here’s what to learn 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 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 concerning the bodybuilder who was Arnold’s largest inspiration? Certainly, the one who motivated the one who 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 received a number of bodybuilding competitions from the mid-Forties into the Seventies, together with three Mr. Universe titles. Park additionally gained a level of mainstream reputation 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 capability to “present and go” and it allowed him to grow to be the primary bodybuilder to bench press 500 kilos. This contrasted along with his bodybuilding contemporaries who typically centered on lifting reasonable to gentle weights for comparatively excessive repetitions.

Like some profitable bodybuilders of his period, Park printed a sequence of coaching catalogs and packages to information hopeful gym-goers alongside the muscle-building path. One in every of his books, “Power 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 “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 really useful a selected method 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 remaining 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 likely 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 urged 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 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, 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 Power and Well being journal from 1966 to 1972, and one of many first NFL power and conditioning coaches as he labored with the Baltimore Colts starting in 1969. Notably, the Colts received their first  Tremendous Bowl in 1971 whereas beneath the steerage of Starr’s weight room teaching, touchdown a big blow towards the “muscle-bound delusion.”

Starr was additionally an advocate of straightforward and efficient fundamental, 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 Huge Three” — three workouts which construct muscle, power, and explosive energy all through your entire physique.

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

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 power. These workouts have been executed with fewer units and better repetitions to keep away from extra fatigue. As soon as per week, the overhead press was additionally urged instead of the bench press for athletes in search of much more higher physique power and energy.

One cornerstone of Starr’s 5×5 program was a circuit-style method, the place every of the three major 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 meant to assist construct cardiovascular conditioning together with power and energy.

Starr, in contrast to Park, elevated the burden on every of the 5 units for each train. He additionally integrated assorted 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 throughout the heavy exercise.

This kind of “every 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 might be lifted with extra explosive energy. (2)

The right way to Program the 5×5 Exercise

Organising a 5×5 exercise might be easy, however 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 components.

The Units and Reps: 5×5

Similar to you’ll be able to’t do a kettlebell swing with no 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 method, or a number of units with the identical weight like Park really useful, purpose for 5 complete 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 permits you to full solely 4 reps earlier than reaching muscular failure or compromising train method, repeat the burden the next week. Fundamental power 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 larger rep ranges needs to be stored to a naked minimal to keep up concentrate on 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 hold 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 larger 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 power good points 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 beneath important complete quantity, which is important 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 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 might 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 might be skilled in a given exercise.

That is why a full-body method is the one efficient and environment friendly solution 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 most of 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 power good points than coaching as soon as per week. (3)

Multi-Joint Barbell Workouts

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 reasonably than single-joint workouts like curls or extensions permits you to recruit extra muscle mass with every carry. 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 sort of deadlift or one thing that extra immediately 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 with no need direct coaching.

Advantages of the 5×5 Exercise

The 5×5 exercise would’ve light into obscurity a long time in the past if it didn’t ship real bodily advantages. The explanation it’s continued to be a staple program for generations is as a result of it could possibly 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 better from excessive frequency, heavy lifting coincides with the kind of calorie consumption wanted to assist 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 gas for development 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 power. Utilizing a restricted variety of workouts in every exercise let you focus your coaching depth on probably the most environment friendly actions.

Performing a comparatively restricted variety of units and repetitions retains your exercises centered on basic laborious and heavy lifting which additionally yields centered 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 higher long-term good points, 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 think about. Any coaching routine could 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

Despite the fact that the multi-joint barbell workouts do recruit a lot of muscle mass throughout every exercise, sure physique components will seemingly 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 might go away 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 received’t effectively prepare the “leg flexion” side of hamstring perform which might 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 immediately skilled with a basic 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 dimension and power — 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 concentrate on heavy barbell lifting, and recovering from heavy barbell lifting, the 5×5 exercise doesn’t go away any actual room for important cardiovascular coaching. Analysis has proven that cardio coaching (like operating on a treadmill or long-distance biking) can negatively impression explosive power and energy, and will intrude with general power and muscle good points. (4)

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

Similar to the 5×5 exercise isn’t appropriate with a calorie deficit, it’s additionally not relevant for these with cardio-based targets reminiscent of 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 type. If sustaining some semblance of cardio health is a secondary purpose, take into account planning your 5×5 exercise equally. That’s an efficient compromise, presuming you have got the obtainable gear to make use of three barbells in fast succession — a state of affairs unlikely in lots of industrial gyms, however fairly doable in a house gymnasium.

Potential Joint Points

Coaching solely with barbells might be extremely efficient, except you have got pre-existing joint points that preclude you from performing many barbell workouts. This could typically 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.

Artistic train choice might be a brief answer in some circumstances, for instance, selecting a push press as an alternative of a strict overhead press. Nonetheless, 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 not less than sooner or later of relaxation between every session. In the event you’re hitting the 5×5 workouts as laborious as you have to be, you’ll rapidly admire 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 the event you’re feeling excessively fatigued on a given day, the ultimate train is completely optionally available. What’s necessary, 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 technique of accelerating the burden 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 regularly constructing as much as one very heavy set per train. In both case, whenever you’re capable of efficiently carry out 5 reps in your fifth set, enhance 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 seemingly 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.


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 power coaching packages don’t should 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 newbies. This pared down program will also be a dependable fallback for skilled lifters, beneath the fitting circumstances, who want a short-term, basic objective plan to refresh their dimension and power good points.

Incessantly 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 doable.
Many barbell workouts meet this standards. Nonetheless, the case is also 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, seemingly can’t be safely carried out with the required load.
Use your judgment however, when doubtful, attempt to keep the concentrate on barbell lifts. There are many variations of fundamental motion patterns (squats, deadlifts, and presses) and also you seemingly don’t “want” to stray too far off-course.

Can I exploit 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 elevate, will get farther from the first focus of the 5×5 exercise — recruiting as many muscle teams as doable per train. Until you’re all for doing cheat curls (which might 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 cut up squat, or single-arm workouts, like dumbbell rows, will restrict the burden 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 could 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 power 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 every day undulating periodized packages with equated quantity and depth for power. Journal of power 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 Evaluate 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, Ok., & Lundberg, T. R. (2022). Compatibility of Concurrent Cardio and Power Coaching for Skeletal Muscle Dimension and Operate: An Up to date Systematic Evaluate and Meta-Evaluation. Sports activities drugs (Auckland, N.Z.)52(3), 601–612.

Featured Picture: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

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