5×5: A Weight Training Program For Real Strength and Mass Gains

park5×5 training is an age-old weight training program. Its greatest benefit is that it is a great balance between gaining real strength and building serious muscle.

The first person of significance who actively promoted this type of training was Reg Park. That he invented this form of training is unlikely, but he was certainly the man who first famously built a herculean physique by training in this way exclusively.

Since then a number of notable strength athletes and trainers have promoted this minimal but intense form of training to construct huge slabs of muscle on their frames. This type of training is perfect for building relative and total strength and you should be able to move from a beginning to an intermediate level of lifter in a linear way without any periodization factored in.

 

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What is 5×5 exactly?

There isn’t a simpler program around. Essentially it is a full body progressive resistance workout that utilizes a few core compound exercises carried out for 5 sets of 5 reps. This program is traditionally done 3 times a week but can be equally effective done twice a week for true hardgainers. At the beginning stage, add 5lbs more to the bar each workout for every lift.

It is minimalism in action. It is the perfect program for iron game beginners to build significant strength before specializing in a lifting discipline.

It has also been successfully employed in high school and college gyms as a core strength program for football, wrestling, track & field and other general athletic endeavours.

Compound exercises that have been traditionally included in various core 5×5 programs are:

  • Back squat
  • Deadlift
  • Barbell Row
  • Bench Press
  • Press
  • Power clean

What are the important factors to remember in 5×5 training?

This is a simple form of training. But it is a full body workout and a few things need to be remembered, especially as the poundages increase on your lifts.

  • Forget your ego and start a 5×5 program with lighter loads (around 50% of your max). This will prepare your way for heavier loads and prevent you stalling sooner in your initial linear progression.
  • Rest between sets, especially when doing squats and deadlifts. Take 3-5 minutes between sets.
  • 5×5 is not about training to failure. This is why the rep/set range is so low. Always leave something in the tank.
  • Only train 2 or 3 times a week. If you want to add conditioning on off days then do so but ensure you have adequate recovery.
  • Do not add exercises especially isolation work. This is about building mass and strength. Wait until your strength is at an intermediate level before altering your workouts.
  • Eat sufficient quantities of nutritious food.
  • Make sure you are getting a good eight hours sleep a night.

So what are the most well known versions of the 5×5 weight training program?

If you have lifting experience it is probably best you have an idea on what your 5 rep maxes are and start your program at about 50-60% of that. If you don’t have any lifting experience; learn how to do these exercises safely from a coach and start with an unloaded bar.

Bill Starr’s 5×5

Bill Starr was one of the NFL’s first strength and conditioning coaches, a supreme strength writer and an Olympic and seasoned powerlifter who penned the strength classic: “''The Strongest Shall Survive” in 1976. This strength classic introduces the 5×5 program as means to improve athleticism.

Here is Bill’s Starr’s “Big 3” 5×5 routine:

Monday – Heavy Day (Heavy = 85% of max)
Powerclean – 5 sets of 5
Bench – 5 sets of 5
Squat – 5 sets of 5

 Wednesday – Light Day (Light = 65-75%)
Powerclean – 5 sets of 5
Benchpress – 5 sets of 5
Squat – 5 sets of 5

 Friday – Medium (Medium = 70-85%)
Powerclean – 5 sets of 5
Benchpress – 5 sets of 5
Squat – 5 sets of 5

Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength 5×5 program.

Mark Rippetoe is a national-level American strength training coach and author. His best known book “Starting Strength” is a must read for anyone looking to build old school muscle. It sits as a top five list in any strength library.  His 5×5 program is heavily influenced by Bill Starr’s teachings. Why? Because it works.

Rippetoe’s 5×5 workout for beginners:

Workout A
3×5 Squat
3×5 Bench Press
1×5 Deadlift

Workout B
3×5 Squat
3×5 Overhead Press
5×3 Power Clean

This workout is done on alternating days, 3 days a week. So Workout A should be done twice on week 1 and workout B twice on Week 2. Warm up sets should be done to ramp up to the workout above. The workouts listed are your top sets. For a good grounding in the fundamentals of Rip’s 5×5 training, it is highly advised that you buy a copy of Starting Strength.

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Stronglifts 5×5

The Stronglifts program was the first system that I tried and I can attest to its success. The best part about learning this program that you can find it online and it is for the most part free! The teachings of Medhi Hadim over at http://stronglifts.com/ are comprehensive. There are many wide-ranging instructional articles and videos to assist you every step of the way and it is all very easy to understand. Medhi includes intermediate and advanced programs for when your relative strength is ready to move to the next level. For now here is basic program:

Workout A

Squat 5×5

Bench Press 5×5

Barbell Rows 5×5

Workout B

Squat 5×5

Overhead Press 5×5

Deadlift 5×5

 

 

Reg Park’s 3 Step 5×5 Program

Reg Parks 5×5 workout scheme for bodybuilders is an advanced scheme and should not be tried until you at least have an intermediate level of strength. We are talking very high volume intense strength work at Steps 2 & 3 and unless you are at a reasonable level of experience and strength CNS problems will occur.

Reg Park's Three Step 5×5 Program

Step 1

45-degree back extension 3×10

Back squat 5×5

Bench press 5×5

Deadlift 5×5

Rest 3-5 minutes between the last 3 sets of each exercise.

Train three days per week for three months.

Step 2

45-degree back extension 3-4×10

Front squat 5×5

Back squat 5×5

Bench press 5×5

Standing barbell shoulder press 5×5

High pull 5×5

Deadlift 5×5

Standing barbell calf raise 5×25

Rest 2 minutes between sets.

Train three days per week for three months.

Step 3

45-degree back extension 4×10

Front squat 5×5

Back squat 5×5

Standing barbell shoulder press 5×5

Bench press 5×5

Bent-over barbell row 5×5

Deadlift 5×3

Behind-the-neck press 5×5

Barbell curl 5×5

Lying triceps extension 5×8

Standing barbell calf raise 5×20

Rest 2 minutes between sets.

Train three days per week for three months.

 

So what 5×5 program should I choose?

At a pinch, you could choose any of the first three 5×5 programs and it wouldn’t matter.

If you are training for sports, I would be inclined to go with the Starr or Rippetoe workouts as the inclusion of powercleans adds an athletic component. Stronglifts is a good starter program for people who would like to turn to bodybuilding and powerlifting later on.

But the fact of the matter is that they are all suitable for trainees wanting to gain substantial strength and mass and you could really choose any of these programs for whatever goal you are aiming for.