Tired of stagnation and slow, hard-earned progress?
Then you want to continue reading.
In this article, I’ll introduce a very intense but simple training system that has gained enormous popularity by virtue of its tremendous strength increase.
There are mainly two goals that almost everybody in the gym strives for. Building muscle and moving more weight.
Did you already hear about 5×5 training? Whether yes or not, this article will address everything you to need to know from the concept to a sample plan.
The 5×5 training plan is a high-intensity workout for anyone whose goal is to build strength and muscle mass. Properly applied, the muscles get maximally stimulated to achieve the best possible growth stimulus.
This program is interesting for anyone who likes to train hard and intensively and is willing to put the dedication, commitment and effort into work.
The concept of 5×5 training
Nowadays, the 5×5 training in its original form (initially designed for football) is hardly used anymore, at least not in the weight training field.
There are many interpretations of 5×5 training, but they are all based on the following principles:
- Focus on a heavy compound and basic exercises
- Intensive training with heavy weights
- Five sets of five reps per exercise
- Long (2-5min) breaks between sets
- Continuous weight increase (progression)
Overall, the 5×5 training plan is based on the simple method of performing 5 sets of 5 reps with constant weight. With the fifth rep in the fifth set being done, the muscle should have reached its limit.
5 heavy reps are challenging, take sufficient breaks in between the sets to maintain your performance.
Especially when exercising very intense, you can increase the break times up to 2-5 minutes.
This varies individually as needed. It does not make sense to abbreviate rest to one minute whereas your performance will decrease and suffer respectively.
As it is with all training programs and exercises, proper technique and clean execution must be considered and obeyed at all time. If the 5 reps in all 5 sets are carried out cleanly, the weight can be increased in the next workout session.
Afterwards, this procedure starts again with the newly determined weight until you manage 5 reps in 5 sets again.
With almost certainty, some of you may ask now: “5 reps? Is that even enough to build muscle mass?”
To put it simply, without going too deep about the optimal rep range for muscle growth, the following can be mentioned:
Considering 5 reps, you train approximately 85% of the 1 Rep Max (1RM). This refers to the maximum weight that you can carry for one single rep.
For more in-depth information, we have a full article about the optimal volume for hypertrophy.
At this intensity, all crucial muscle fibers are activated from the first rep on. At the same time, 5 reps are enough to cause fatigue of the muscle and stimulate growth as studies reveal.
The combination of strength and fatigue stimulus coupled with a continuous increase in weight (progressive tension overload) is an optimal way to get the best results out of both worlds.
Compared to higher rep ranges, fatigue is normally lower during a 5×5 set. Increasing fatigue is usually associated with decreasing performance. In general, 5 reps tend to reduce this problem.
While for advanced athletes other training programs may be an option, the 5×5 system is one of the best ways for beginners to build a solid foundation of strength and muscle mass.
Not to forget that natural strength and mass are not far apart from one another.
Let me illustrate that: have you ever seen some guy with a small chest that benches 150kg? Indeed, I assume not.
In order to ensure consistent performance, you need to supply your body with all essential nutrients. Nutrition is key to muscle growth, strength, and overall enduring performance.
At this point, I suggest reading our article about the basics of nutrition if you’re not yet familiar with the basics.
Compound exercises for 5×5 training
Basically, the 5×5 training system can be considered as a full-body workout. Especially as a beginner, the choice of exercises should be limited to so-called basic exercises.
These basic exercises train upper and lower body alike.
In particular, squats, deadlifts, and bench press promote the interaction of large and small muscle groups for the full development of strength and muscle mass.
The exercise selection should be limited to heavy compound exercises, primarily barbell exercises. These include the abovementioned exercises.
Likewise, exercises such as barbell rowing, dips and chin-ups can also be implemented. Isolation exercises are almost never used.
In addition, basic exercises have a positive effect on the heart muscle and thus strengthen the cardiovascular system.
The structure of 5×5 training
In general, the 5×5 training system for beginners, advanced and professionals is practiced on 3 days per week for 6-9 weeks.
This way we ensure to keep a day off between workouts, and furthermore, the rhythm of Monday, Wednesday and Friday leaves some latitude to shape the weekend as you like.
If done with the proper range of motion and clean execution, the muscles get fully stimulated without overloading the body too much.
The selection of the actual weight varies according to your individual training condition and level.
The 5×5 training for advanced athletes stands out due to heavier weights in all exercises.
As you may have already imagined, such a heavy training with basic exercises requires a lot from the central nervous system.
In order to avoid overloading, the training sessions are divided into different intensity levels. The weight used is determined by your 1RM.
The 1RM represents the one-repetition maximum, which is the maximum weight that you can move once.
For instance, if you can bench 100kg for one repetition, then you have a 1RM of 100kg. So, this means if you are supposed to train with 80% of your 1RM, that would be 80% of 100kg and therefore 80kg.
That’s actually quite simple, right?
Furthermore, the 5×5 training is split up into a heavy day, light day and medium day.
Heavy day: the first session of the week is usually a heavy day. On this day you train with the highest weight of the week, about 80-85% of your 1RM.
Light day: A heavy day is usually followed by a lighter workout, where you should train with 60-70% of your 1RM.
Medium day: You end your training week with a medium intensity workout followed by two rest days. Here you train with 70-80% intensity.
Example 5×5 program
Well, let’s get to the interesting part. What does a 5×5 training plan look like?
The simplest version provides for three training sessions per week. It can look like it follows:
- Monday: heavy
- Tuesday: rest
- Wednesday: light
- Thursday: rest
- Friday: medium
- Saturday: rest
- Sunday: rest
Training day 1: Benchpress / Squats / Bent over Rows
Training day 2: Squats / Pull-Ups / Military Press
Training day 3: Deadlifts/ Bench Press / Squats / Pull-Ups
- Monday: 5×5 with 80-85% of the maximum weight
- Wednesday: 5×5 with 60-70% of the maximum weight
- Friday: 5×5 with 70-80% of the maximum weight
In many programs people squat Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Accordingly, this program benefits due to high frequency and properly balanced intensity.
For example, there are hard, light and medium days.
In other words, proper periodization over several weeks because at this stage, nobody is able to exercise a muscle three times a week with 5×5 reps with high intensity.
We recommend a weekly increase in weight. To further enhance strength and stimulate muscle growth, the intensities for advanced athletes should be varied.
For example, training 3 days per week, the training starts on the first day with high intensity and high volume.
This is followed by a regeneration day with 65% of the maximum weight. On the third and last day of training, a medium load of the training weight is recommended.
But always remember, a healthy diet, sufficient sleep, and recovery is key for optimal results.
It’s no surprise if your performance decrease and progress stand out if you only sleep 5 hours on average.
The regeneration is of course in the foreground here. Especially, if you want to train mainly for physical strength, regeneration becomes the main thing to pay attention to. Check out our article about sleep to go more in-depth.
Three sessions per week will not be that much for some among yourselves, but trust me, they are extremely intense.
Those folks who do not rest and sleep enough will sooner or later get injured or end up suffering from decreasing performance.
Therefore, you should at least have one rest day after every workout, even two at the weekend.
In addition, you should fall short from training for a full week every eight weeks to give your body additional recovery time. This is a so-called ‘deload week‘.
If you’re not yet familiar with deloads, don’t worry. I’ve written a full article about deloads, just click the previous highlighted link.
Either you stay back from training for a whole week, or you reduce the used weights to 50-60% and do some light workouts, just to keep the execution process present in your mind.
The sequence of the individual training days can be changed, however, the order heavy, light, medium is recommended for best results and proper regeneration.
Always ensure having a two days break before the heavy session, so you’re most likely in charge of the best possible recovery.
Furthermore, a 5×5 training provides steady progression by increasing the weight of the exercises by 2.5 kg week by week (if necessary 1.25 kg for dips and pull-ups).
If that’s still too much, increase by the smallest weight possible. It is important that you achieve a significant performance improvement over time.
Benefits of 5×5 training
Progression for enhanced strength and muscle growth
If you managed to properly carry the weight for 5 reps in all 5 sets, the weight can be increased during the next training session.
With a continuous increase of the weights, considerable improvements regarding power and muscle mass are possible in a relatively short period of time.
But, having that said, always ensure appropriate recovery time between the workouts.
Variable and flexible training configuration
Depending on the training goal and your current level, the number of reps and sets can be varied based on the 5×5 plan.
For example, the system can be reduced to 3×3 for goals such as maximum strength, or increased to 3×10 reps for hypertrophy training for the best possible training results.
A minor risk for overloading
Essentially, you’re training with an intensity of 60-85% of your maximum power, in order to have all the power required to carry out 5 reps for 5 sets.
With increasing fatigue, exercise performance deteriorates and thereby increases the risk of improper execution.
Who should consider training 5×5?
From beginners, advanced and even up to weight training professionals, everybody finds the 5×5 training plan a training method that aims for muscle growth and improved strength. It combines the best of both worlds.
Especially beginners in strength training can build a solid foundation of power, strength and muscle mass by training according to the 5×5 program.
Typically, progress is made from workout to workout. Every time more weight comes on the bar.
The rate of increase is enormous, which corresponds to the adaptation potential of a beginner.
Weights tend to be low, allowing 3 times per week to apply the same amount of intensity and volume.
With these programs, the advanced state of strength level should be achievable.
In the advanced version, the total load becomes higher due to heavier weights in all exercises.
At the same time, a stronger stimulus is needed to trigger further progress.
Further advanced athletes approaching their genetic maximum require more sophisticated training systems.
Periodization of the training is a proven procedure. The system used in the 5×5 advanced consists of a volume phase (4 weeks) followed by either an intensity phase or a ‘deload’ phase.
The following infographic highlights the most important aspects that you should remember from this article!
A 5×5 training plan is basically suitable for anyone who primarily wants to get stronger and build muscle at the same time.
This principle is very simple to implement which is why you don’t need a coach or personal trainer who sets up a plan for you.
If you have difficulties or want to go more in-depth about 5×5 training, just write us an e-mail, contact us through our social media channels or leave a comment below.
Therefore, it is indeed suitable for everyone, whether bloody beginner or passionate professional.
In fact, it is often recommended even for beginners to quickly learn how to execute the basic exercises.
It should be said that this is not a typical bodybuilding program. If you have predominantly aesthetic goals, the 3-split training plan or 5-split training plan may be better for you.
I hope this article helped you to gain a good understanding of the 5×5 training system. If you have any further questions feel free to ask.
Did you already have experience with the 5×5 training? If yes what is your opinion on that? If not, do you consider trying it out?
Thanks for reading, guys.