Strength & Conditioning

Strength Training 5×5 Workout Program For Muscle Growth

strength training 5x5

The 5×5 workout program is one of the most superior strength training methods for building muscle and increasing strength.  

In a nutshell, it’s a 3 day a week full-body workout plan that focuses on three compound movements for 5 sets of 5 repetitions using heavy weights.

Compound Exercises involve more than one joint where you engage several major muscle groups across your entire body to complete the movement.  


These can include exercises like back squats, deadlifts, and the bench press.  

The key benefit of a 5×5 strength program is that lifting heavier weights for low reps reduces the chance of muscle fatigue.  

This allows you to concentrate on proper form ensuring that each rep is good quality and working the intended muscles.  

The History & Principles Behind Strength Training 5×5 Workouts

The 5×5 strength training program, which has been around for decades, gained prominence through Bill Starr’s 1976 book, “The Strongest Shall Survive: Strength Training for Football.”

However, it was bodybuilder Reg Park who is known to have popularized this technique in the 1960s. 

The 5×5 training method is straightforward: choose three compound lifts and perform five sets of five reps with heavy loads.

This approach usually centers around the main lifts of powerlifting; the squat, deadlift, and bench press, although it can apply to any compound lift.  

The overall goal of a 5×5 workout routine is to increase strength and muscle mass. 


When compared to isolation exercises, compound movements are far more technical and for this reason, it’s important to focus on proper form and technique, especially if you’re new to these types of exercises.  

With that in mind, starting weights should be lighter and should progressively increase in line with your strength gains.  

Rest and recovery are also an important part of this program with a 90-second rest period taken between sets.    

Also, workouts are done 3 times per week to ensure adequate time for the muscles to recuperate.  

How To Devise A 5×5 Strength Training Program

5×5 strength training isn’t just for fitness experts, it can be a great way for beginners to learn a solid foundation by perfecting full-body workouts.  

You can quickly make progress and reach your goals whether that’s increasing overall strength, muscle building, or working your way up to certain sports like powerlifting or bodybuilding.  

Here’s how to devise a 5×5 strength training workout.

Exercise Selection and Rotation

When selecting exercises for your 5×5 program, choose compound lifts that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously

Barbell lifts are the most effective, as they require the use of stabilizing muscles and engage a large number of muscle fibers while ensuring you can lift heavy.  

To help prevent any plateaus, it’s important to rotate the exercises every month or so.  

This keeps your muscles guessing, which can lead to greater muscle growth and strength gains.  

Remember to start with a weight that is challenging but manageable, and gradually increase the weight as you become stronger. 


Here’s an example of a 5×5 workout that you could try out.  

Workout A should be done twice per week and Workout B once per week.  

We’ve suggested Monday and Friday for Workout A with Workout B to be completed on a Wednesday.  

However, you can change these days to suit your own schedule.  

As long as you stick to alternating the workouts, performing the correct number of reps, and having at least a 1-day rest between training, this will be fine.  

Once you’ve completed weeks one and two, go back to week one and continue alternating.  

Week 1

ExerciseSets x Reps
Barbell Squats5 x 5
Bench Press5 x 5
Barbell Row5 x 5
ExerciseSets x Reps
Barbell Squat5 x 5
Overhead Press5 x 5
Deadlift5 x 5

Week 2

ExerciseSets x Reps
Barbell Squat5 x 5
Overhead Press5 x 5
Pendlay Row5 x 5
ExerciseSets x Reps
Barbell Squat5 x 5
Upright Row5 x 5
Deadlift5 x 5

Progressive Overload Strategy

The 5×5 program utilizes a progressive overload strategy to help you become stronger and when your strength increases so does your muscle size.  

To continue making strength gains, you need to progressively lift heavier weights.  

If you can complete the 5 reps with relative ease, you should add around 5 lbs to your squat and deadlift and 2.5 lbs to your bench press and overhead press.

This gradual increase in weight allows your body to adapt and get stronger over time.

By the end of the program, you should be able to lift much heavier weight than when you started.  

How To Adapt A 5×5 Strength Program 

Once you’ve cracked the beginner phase of the 5×5 program, you may want to start incorporating different adaptations and variations to continue progressing toward your goals. 

Here’s how you can do this: 

Intermediate and Advanced Modifications

While some suggest that more advanced or intermediate lifters can aim to increase the rep scheme of a 5×5 program by adding in more repetitions, this kind of defeats the purpose of this method of training.  

To gain strength, you need to lift big weights.  

Always progress by adding weight and not performing higher reps.  

Another modification you could make is to change up the exercises.

While the traditional 5×5 program focuses on squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, and barbell rows, you could try incorporating different exercises such as weighted pull-ups, dips, and pendlay rows. 

This will help to keep your workouts fresh and challenging.

Incorporating Accessory Work

If you’re accustomed to heavy lifts you may want to incorporate some accessory work at the end of the program.  

This could consist of isolation exercises that target a specific body part.

For example, if you want to build bigger biceps, you could add in some bicep barbell curls once you’ve completed your main lifts.

If you do add in some isolation movements, it’s a good idea to choose exercises that complement your main lifts.  

So, if you’re doing squats as your main lift, you could add in some leg curls or leg extensions to target your hamstrings and quads.  

As with the main program, stick to the 5 sets of 5 reps rule.  

Preventing Injury & Staying Safe When Doing A 5×5 Workout

When it comes to strength training, safety should always be your top priority.

Injuries can occur if proper form is not used or if you push yourself too hard. 

Here are a few tips to help you prevent injuries while doing the 5×5 workout program:

Proper form is essential when performing any exercise, especially compound lifts which are technically more challenging.

When doing the 5×5 workout program, make sure you focus on good form for each set and rep.

This helps to prevent injury and ensures you’re working the right muscle groups.  

Ask a personal trainer for tips on the right form if you’re not sure.  

Before starting the 5×5 type of training, it’s important to warm up your muscles.

This increases your blood flood and can improve your performance.

A good warm-up routine should include stretching exercises that target the muscles you’ll be recruiting during your workout.

You can also do a few minutes of cardio, even something like star jumps or burpees, to get your heart rate up.  

The lower back can be a common area for injury during heavy compound lifts.

To prevent lower back pain or injury, aside from using proper form, it’s also important to strengthen your core muscles, which can help support your lower back. 

Exercises such as planks and bridges can help to strengthen your core.

Finally, it’s important to listen to your body. If you feel pain or discomfort during an exercise, stop straight away.

Pushing through the pain is more than likely going to result in injury. 

Also, remember to give your body plenty of rest days so that muscles can recover in between workouts, and follow the program as intended.  

Doing any additional training on top of a 5×5 program can lead to overtraining.  

This is where your body doesn’t have enough time to repair damaged muscle tissue in between workouts.    

In worst cases, overtraining can put additional stress on your central nervous system, leading to weakened immunity, poor quality sleep, and hormonal imbalances.  

The impact of overtraining does depend on your training history, genetics, and overall health.  

One of the main benefits of the 5×5 strength training program is that you can easily track your progress over time.

By lifting the same weight for five sets of five reps, you can see how your strength and endurance improve from one training session to the next which can be a great motivator.  

So, be sure to keep a detailed log of your workouts noting things like the weight load you’ve lifted and whether you can comfortably complete the sets and reps.  

By keeping a progress log, you can identify plateaus in your training and adjust your program accordingly. A plateau is when you stop seeing progress in your lifts, despite consistent training.

This can be frustrating, but it’s a natural part of the training process.

When you hit a plateau, there are a few things you can do to break through it.

One option is to deload, which means dropping to a lighter weight for a few training sessions to give your body a chance to recover.

Another thing you can try is to switch up your barbell movements, such as swapping out the barbell squat for a front squat or a barbell bench press for an incline press.  

It’s also important to remember that progress isn’t always linear.

Some days you may feel stronger than others, and that’s okay.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t hit a new one-rep max every training session.

Instead, focus on consistent progress over time and celebrate the small victories along the way.

In summary, tracking your progress and identifying plateaus are important aspects of the 5×5 strength training program.

By keeping a detailed progress log and adjusting your program as needed, you can continue to see improvements in your strength and endurance over time.

How Heavy Should 5×5 Be

If you’re new to training, it can be difficult to know the best weight to choose for the 5×5 workout so that you can complete 5 sets of 5 reps.  

Ideally, the 5th rep of every set should be getting you close to failure.  

A sensible approach to take is to start out lifting just the weight of the barbell.  

This will allow you to perfect your form so that you can do the exercises correctly.  

This means you’ll be less prone to injury, and you’ll give your muscles a chance to become used to the specific movement patterns associated with more complicated compound exercises.  

If you complete the 5th rep and have more gas in the tank to perform a 6th rep, then the weight isn’t heavy enough.  

In which case, increasing the weight a little, around 2.5lbs to 5lbs should do it.

Use this as a guide to determine what weight is best for you during your first week of the program. 

If you’re an intermediate to advanced lifter you may know your 1 rep-max.  

If so, aim to lift around 85% of this during a 5×5 strength training program.  

Can You Do 5×5 Everyday?

While you may be physically able to complete a 5×5 workout every day it’s certainly not advisable as this can quickly lead to overtraining.  

As explained, overtraining can have several negative effects on your body including the following:

  • Muscle fatigue and microtrauma increasing the risk of overuse injuries.  
  • Improper recovery which can lead to muscle atrophy where your muscle tissue starts to break down. 
  • CNS fatigue where you start to lose strength, coordination, and mental alertness. 
  • Increased cortisol levels which can also lead to muscle breakdown. 
  • Decreased testosterone which may negatively impact your moods. 
  • Additional stress on your joints, tendons, and ligaments causing aches and pains. 

As the emphasis of this training method is centered around lifting heavy weights, you should only spend around 4 to 6 weeks on a 5×5 strength training program.  

If you continue past this duration, you’re likely to start putting too much stress on your joints, especially your knees, hips, shoulders, and elbows.  

This can then strain the ligaments and tendons that support these joints. 

Final Thoughts

The 5×5 program is a straightforward and efficient barbell training program ideal for those at the beginner through to advanced levels of strength training.  

It centers around essential barbell exercises, providing a comprehensive full-body workout that enhances strength, muscle development, and overall athletic performance, among various other advantages.

Remember to factor in our safety considerations to get the most out of this training method and see consistent improvements to your strength and size. 

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