Sometimes, we all get in a rut or hit a plateau and are looking for a routine to shake things up and kick-start the gains. And often, when this happens, guys start looking for the newest “hot” routine they see in a magazine. But more often than not, the answer is not found in what’s new and hot, but rather, it’s found in what is tried and true. If this might be you, then you definitely ought to consider the 5×5 workout. It’s a readily adaptable time-tested routine that is ideal for beginners and advanced trainers alike.
The foundation of 5×5 is pretty simple-five reps and five sets of each exercise. You get a 90-second rest between sets and a three minute break between exercises if your goal is strength or a 90-second break between exercises if your objective is gaining size. You can also choose something in the middle-the choice is yours and depends entirely on what you hope to achieve.
Because of its intensity, powerlifters often use the 5×5 program to realize gains in both size and strength. It’s also an ideal training regimen for someone who has been lifting higher reps for a while before starting a serious powerlifting program.
The basic 5×5 program can be done either as a split or full-body routine. You can do a full-body workout 2-3 times a week or, you can alternate upper body one day and lower body the next or any other combination that you’d like. Whatever you decide, you can maximize your results by focusing on compound exercises-which use multiple muscle groups-rather than isolation exercises that only focus in a single muscle.
To make the most of 5×5 you should use the maximum weight you can lift. When you’re able to do 5 sets of 5 with that weight, increase the weight by 5 – 10% until you can again do 5 sets of 5 and so on. You can also increase the intensity by shortening your rest periods between sets and exercises.
Here are some sample routines (note: because the 5×5 program is intense, always be sure to do several warm-up sets before getting started). Remember that the 5×5 routine is highly adaptable so come up with combinations that work for you. In any case though, keep your workout to a maximum of one-hour.
This is a great full-body workout you can do three times a week:
Monday: Bench press, bent-over rows, squat and deadlift;
Wednesday: Weighted dips, weighted chin-ups, deadlift and hanging leg raises (just 2 sets of 5 reps for the leg raises);
Friday: incline bench press, front squat, glute/hamstring raise; renegade row (with dumbbells or kettlebells), and saxon sidebends;
Here are a couple of good split 5×5 routines to get you started:
Monday/Thursday: Bench press, bent-over row, barbell curl and tricep push-downs;
Wednesday/Friday: Barbell squat, glute/hamstring kickback, seated calf-raise, hanging leg raises;
Split two: This is an advanced 6-day a week routine (alternate A/B):
Monday/Thursday (chest/back): A) Incline bench press, wide grip pull-up (palms facing you), weighted rope crunches; B) Chest dips, one-arm dumbbell rows, weighted lying leg raises;
Tuesday/Friday (shoulders/arms): A) Upright row; close-grip bench press, preacher curls; B) Rear delt rows, triceps pushdowns, incline hammer curls;
Wednesday/Saturday (legs): A) Squats, lying leg curls, calf raises; B) Leg press, stiff-legged deadlifts, calf press;
One of the things I love about 5×5 is that it is highly adaptable to meet your particular lifting goals. Since 5×5 has been around for so long, it’s easy to find plenty of proven routines for just about anyone-beginners, powerlifters, high-intensity trainers and lots more. Because of its intensity, whether you’re doing a full-body workout, a split routine or another modified version of the program, you should do the 5×5 program on a 12-week cycle. Work it hard for 12 weeks and at the end of the cycle take a week or two off from the gym to give your body a chance to recover.
Particularly when it comes to bodybuilding, the answers to what we seek are not necessarily found by looking for the latest and greatest but by looking to the past, learning from the wisdom and experience of the greats who came before us. If you’re looking to make gains in both size and strength, and you think you’re up to the challenge, then you might want to give the 5×5 workout a try-you won’t be disappointed.
Mike Westerdal is the President of Critical Bench, Inc. He earned his BS from Central CT State University and holds certification as a personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise. Westerdal also has experience coaching and playing professional football. His articles are published throughout the Web and in numerous weight lifting magazines. His personal best RAW bench press is 450 lbs. Mike can be contacted at his Web site www.criticalbench.com or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on increasing your bench press read about the Critical Bench Program here.