5x5 Workout Routine: Strategies to Get Maximum Results from the 5x5 Training Program

The 5x5 training program is rapidly gaining popularity after if was successfully used by strength athletes to elicit very good increases in strength. In a nutshell, it is designed to work your muscles with a high degree of intensity, volume & frequency in a phased approach, and then allowing for adequate rest & recovery to prevent overtraining.

Many strength athletes noticed significant increases in lean muscle mass as well, which made the program gain popularity amongst bodybuilding circles. Its also known as the Bill Starr 5x5 routine because of the legendary mind behind it.

Note: Although the 5x5 workout routine can increase muscle mass, its not the most optimal way to build lean muscle and a balanced physique, since its more of a strength program...

Quick Tip: The fastest way to build lean muscle is to focus on a hypertrophy(muscle growth) specific, well-structured workout program that scientifically plans all of these things for you: 1) volume, 2) intensity, 3) frequency, 4) progression, 5) exercise selection, 6) periodization & MUCH more...

 Discover the Secrets to Developing a Perfectly Balanced, Ripped Physique (95% of Gym Rats Have No Clue About This)

The 5x5 program is recommended for intermediate lifters who atleast have some experience under their belt, because the intensity, volume & frequency are too high for a beginner, whose recovery mechanisms wouldn't be as well conditioned.

As with any good program, it uses a periodized approach, which means that the 5x5 workouts are progressive in nature and incorporate a prep phase for 4-6 weeks, a peak phase for 3 weeks and 1 week of deloading.

This phased/periodized approach effectively prepares your muscles, challenges them, and then allows for enough recovery.

The 1st Week - Choosing Your Weight

In the coming weeks there'll be a lot of stress placed on your body, so its a good idea to take it easy during the 1st week so your joints, muscles & bones have some time to adjust.

For each exercise (as described later), you'll need to do 5 sets of 5 reps, for a total of 25 reps. It is absolutely essential that all 5 sets x 5 reps are completed, since completion of all 25 reps will be the single greatest factor for success.

Therefore, you'll need to determine your 5-rep max for each exercise, so that you know the weight that you're trying to beat by the end of the program.

However, for the 1st week, choose a weight thats quite a bit lower than this 5-rep max. Remember that you HAVE to complete a total of 5 sets with that same weight, which will be impossible unless you choose something considerably lighter than your 5-rep max (10-20% lighter).

Increasing the Weight

So now after the 1st week, if you were able to complete all 5 sets with 5 repetitions with the chosen weight, then go ahead and bump the weight up by 5-10 lbs. The key here is to make sure to choose a weight that allows you to complete ALL 25 reps with proper form, so if your form is struggling, then the weight increase is probably too much.

You also have the option of keeping the same weight that you chose in Week 1 if you really struggled with it in the 1st week. Basically you continue to increase each week by 5-10 pounds, and by Week 4-6 there should be noticeable increases in strength & muscle as long as your nutrition is sound.

The Peak Phase

Here comes the most exciting phase! At this point, its time to really push yourself and move to a 3 Sets x 3 Reps setup by increasing the loads. Which means that now you're doing a 3x3 protocol to shoot strength, and hopefully muscle, through the roof!

This Peaking Phase should last no more than 3 weeks, and each week your goal is to increase the weight, completing 3 sets x 3 reps for each exercise, for a total of 9 reps. The key is to maximize the intensity by choosing a weight thats high enough, and making sure you pump out 3 quality reps each time.

Optionally, you can even go for single-rep maxes during the final week, but thats entirely optional and depending on how much of a strength focus you want to put on it.

Exercises & Sample Routine

So here are the main exercises that are commonly used and a sample 5x5 routine to follow:


    Olympic Squats: 5X5
    Bench Press: 5X5
    Barbell Rows: 5X5
Complementary exercises: weighted sit-ups and a tricep exercise (these exercises do not need to follow the 5x5 protocol and they are designed to aid in the major lifts and round out the physique. A couple of sets in the 5-8 reps range is enough)


    Olympic or Front Squats: 5X5 - if you're having difficulty recovering, it is okay to lower the weight on this exercise
    Military Press: 5X5
    Deadlifts: 5X5
    Pull-Ups: 5X5
Complementary exercises: A bicep and Abs Exercise


    Olympic Squats: 5X5 (back to same weight used on Monday)
    Bench Press: 5X5
    Barbell Row: 5X5
Complementary exercises: A Triceps and Abs Exercise

Keep in mind that pre and post workout nutrition can make a difference here, since these workouts are pretty intense and you'll need enough fuel to get through them, as well as enough fuel to recover from them.

Variations For Greater Size & Strength Increases

Decrease the rest periods in between sets: with the standard 5x5 workout, you'll be taking 3 minutes rest between each set. To change things up, you can increase the intensity by lowering your rest periods.

For example, keeping the weight the same, you can progress each week by simply changing the rest period from 3 minutes to 2 minutes 30 seconds, then 2 minutes, then 1 minute 30 seconds, and then all the way down to 1 minute rest only...

Once you reach the 1 minute mark, now you can increase the weight and start over with 3 minute rests, gradually moving down each week.

By decreasing rest times, there is a little more emphasis placed on hypertrophy(muscle growth), and its a great way to switch up your training and keep things interesting.

5x5 Cluster Training: if you wanna feel like the Incredible Hulk and be in beast-mode, use cluster training to develop jack hammer strength!

Essentially, its a rest-pause protocol combined with the standard 5x5 workout routine. So you would identify your 1-rep max, take 90% of this 1-rep max, and complete 1 repetion...pause 10 seconds...complete another repetition...pause 10 seconds...another rep...all the way to 5 reps.

Completing 5 reps in this fashion would equal 1 set. Basically, you're resting about 10 seconds between each rep, so each set should take you about 1 minute to complete.

Keep in mind that this is for advanced trainees only that have gone through several cycles of the basic 5x5 training.

Final Notes

To avoid injury, the main thing is to ensure proper form and a sensible progression in weight. All in all, this is a fun workout style that is likely to increase your strength to whole new levels, and probably add a good amount of muscle mass in the process.

However, if your goal is pack on as much muscle mass as possible in the shortest timeframe, then here's the workout system we recommend.

 Discover the Secrets to Developing a Perfectly Balanced, Ripped Physique (95% of Gym Rats Have No Clue About This)