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5×5 Training For Size and Strength

Bodybuilding December 11, 2015

5x5 training

5×5 training has been in around in various forms for the best part of a century. It allows for trainees to progress in both size and at the same time. It can also be adapted to cater for those of all levels of training experience from the weight-training novice all the way up to elite athletes. For those who are looking for a time-efficient training protocol with a track record of producing results quickly, 5×5 should be near the top of the list.

The Origins of 5×5 Training

Although often associated to Bill Starr’s classic 1976 text, The Strongest Shall Survive, using five sets of five repetitions has actually been around for much longer. Peary Rader’s transformation from beanpole to muscle man was at the origin of the famous 20 rep squat routine. But he actually alternated periods of 20 reps with 5×5 to keep progressing. However it is probably true to say that Bill Starr really put 5×5 on the map as a solid training plan.

What is 5×5 Training?

5×5 involves doing five sets of five repetitions on a handful of basic barbell exercises. It is most often done three days a week, but there are many versions that involve training more or less often. There are too many possibilities to cite individually, but here are two common plans, one for beginners and one for intermediates.

5×5 Training For Beginners and Intermediates

The principal advantage for beginners is that it is possible to progress from workout to workout. This is known as linear progression. The more often the beginner trains, the more quickly he or she will add weight to the bar and thus get bigger and stronger. The plan outlined here is a modified version of the model presented in ’s classic Starting Strength.


  • Squats 5×5
  • Bench 5×5
  • Row 5×5
  • 2-3 sets of biceps and triceps if necessary


  • Deadlift 3×5
  • Standing military press 5×5
  • Chin 5×5
  • 2-3 sets of biceps and triceps if necessary


  • Squats 5×5
  • Bench 5×5
  • Row 5×5
  • 2-3 sets of biceps and triceps if necessary

For a complete novice the aim is to add a small amount of weight to the bar from workout to workout. This is the fastest way to progress for anyone starting out. Depending on strength levels, nutrition, lifestyle and other factors, this version of linear progression may work for anything from six weeks to six months or more. At some point, linear progress will become impossible and it is time to move on to an intermediate version of this problem.


  • Squats 5×5
  • Bench 5×5
  • Row 5×5
  • 2-3 sets of biceps and triceps if necessary


  • Squats 2×5 @ 80 percent of Monday’s weight
  • Bench 2×5 @80 percent of Monday’s weight
  • Chins 2×5


  • Squats workout up to 5 Rep Max
  • Bench press work up to 3 or 5 RM
  • Rows work up to 5RM
  • 2-3 sets of biceps and triceps if necessary

In this second model, linear progress is no longer possible. The aim is to progress from Monday to Monday and from Friday to Friday. The Monday workout creates a metabolic disturbance that lead to adaptation and the ability to increase the five rep max on Friday. The lighter session on Wednesday keeps neural efficiency high on the movement and improves recovery.

When a trainee arrives at the intermediate level, it may be necessary to adapt this workout depending on feedback. On Monday, for example, volume can be increased or decreased in order to continue progressing. Specific assistance work is also added in here to address weaknesses.

By following these two programmes, an untrained individual should be able to get much stronger rapidly. With the intermediate programme, progress can be maintained for many months and even several years by tweaking both exercise choice and volume. The only real reason to stray from this would be boredom because it is a solid plan for long-term progress.

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