5x5 mass and strength routine

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5x5 mass and strength routine

Postby JP » Fri Jan 30, 2004 3:27 pm

(credits for this routine goes to FrankieNY & JohnnyFive on another message board and the book Dinosaur Training)

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Note: you need at least 6 months of experience with weight training before taking up this routine! If you feel like you do not have enough experience, you could in theory start this routine but instead of 5x5 you would be better off using 3x8-10 as your set x rep scheme. Don't risk injury by jumping to heavy weights/low reps too soon!
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This is the routine which gave me the best results in muscle mass and great strength gains as well. Numerous people I have talked to have been singing the same praises. The routine is old school, and many versions of the same underlying idea exists, so this one is just one version of it.

The basic idea in 5x5 (5 sets of 5 reps) routine is to use basic compound movements for best muscle mass gains. This program is abbreviated training, suggestion is to train 3 times/week, for instance monday, wednesday and friday, maximising the amount of rest and recovery.

The biggest single thing which sets this routine apart from others is that it is based on continuous progression. Ideally, you need to be upping your used weight in your main exercises by 2.5kg(or 5lbs)/week. For instance you start your squatting with 5 sets of 5 reps with 80kg. If you make all 5 sets with good 5 reps, next week you'll increase the weight to 82.5kg and do 5 sets of 5 reps - all sets with the same weight.

The weight you use will always feel equally heavy, try how much 2.5kg/5lbs feels like? Nothing, right? This is how little you need to up your weight per week. But before you know it, you will be squatting monster weights. Personally I went from squatting 90kg to 135kg 5x5 with this routine progressing solidly from week to the next always getting my 5x5 without ever going to failure.

Do not worry if you can't progress in this kind of solid way with anything else than the main exercise of the day. It's understandable that when you keep pushing yourself with your main exercise the others might suffer a bit. But the same rule applies with the "assistance movements" as well: every time you manage solid 5x5, it's time to up the weights for next week.

If you happen to miss 5x5, and you make, for example, 4 reps with the fourth set and 3 in the last one, don't worry about it, we all have bad weeks. Just keep the weight the same for next weeks session and nail that 5x5! If you keep not getting 5x5 for couple weeks in a row, you have too much weight and you are better of either lowering the weight and get new momentum, or change your main exercise and go with that.

Here's the routine:

Day 1: Pull

Deadlifts
Bent-over barbell rows or pull-ups (can alter every week)
Narrow grip chins (perhaps on rowing days) or barbell curls

Day 2: Push

Bench press or Dips or Incline Bench Press
Barbell or dumbell shoulder press (standing preferred)
Tricep Dips or close grip benches

Day 3: Legs

Squats (or Front Squats)
Stiff-Legged deadlifts
Heavy abs
Calves (optional)

Sets x reps is 5x5 for all of these exercises, exept abs and calves if you find it hard to do them with heavy weights/low reps. As far as warm up sets go, there are two approaches, either treat first two as your warm ups and use 50% and then 75% of your 5 rep max weight in your warm ups. The second approach is to have two warm ups in addition to the five working sets. The latter has been reported by many to be more effective.

Good luck!
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yes

Postby i live in omaha » Fri Jan 30, 2004 9:47 pm

I do 5x5 on certain sets, but not all sets.

for example:
Bench press
Dumbell shoulder press
cable rows
Squats
laying down tricep extensions

I really like doing them for compound excercises like the ones listed above. for some reason i don't think my individual muscles are ready to be blasted away by doing 5x5 just quite yet, so i stick to higher reps, lower weights on things like bicep curls or calf-raises, with the exception of laying down tricep extensions.

I've only been on it for 3 weeks now, so i'll let y'all know how it works. I have heard from several people who speak very highly of this routine.
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Postby Pete » Sat Jan 31, 2004 7:45 pm

Dearest Joni :) ,
I do not believe you have mentioned all the exercises you do, young man :!: You haven't mentioned anything about the separate grip work you do for a start, you scoundrel :) .
Just because I've been a bit busy to get onto the board for a couple of days doesn't mean you can get a slap-dash about your training write-ups. Unless you think grip training isn't proper training of course :P
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Postby JP » Sun Feb 01, 2004 4:57 pm

omaha mate, good to hear that you've heard about this routine as well and how effective it can be.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "individual muscles" but it is true that heavy compound training does not give the trainer same kind of burning feeling than higher rep/lower weight isolation exercises do. Though that doesn't necessarily equal progress and sometimes can actually be exactly the opposite: the isolation repping is taking away precious recovery and energy resources.

The lack of isolation movements in this routine is very intentional. New trainers who are trying to gain muscle mass too often get stuck with movements and routines which are better left to people who already have the huge mass and need "polishing", in other words, not me! So basics right first, then more detailed work, if ever :)

[quote="Pete"]Dearest Joni :) ,
I do not believe you have mentioned all the exercises you do, young man :!: You haven't mentioned anything about the separate grip work you do for a start, you scoundrel :) .
Just because I've been a bit busy to get onto the board for a couple of days doesn't mean you can get a slap-dash about your training write-ups. Unless you think grip training isn't proper training of course :P


hehee, well, grip is proper training but since it can be left out as a separate issue, i chose to do so. Most trainers are not too keen to train their grips separately and since this is a mass program as well as strength program, it's better not to put people off with all the weird and wonderful grip training things :lol:
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Postby xJimx » Mon Feb 02, 2004 3:44 pm

I've wondered about the reps issue quite a bit myself. Since I started doing 'proper' weights 3 weeks ago, I've been doing 5x5 on heavy (by my standards!) weights, as opposed to 3 sets of between 8-12 when I was using machines. I'm pretty much sticking to compound exercises without much isolation work now, other than incline bicep curls.

I think I'm making good progress now. I'm managing 5x5 on chins now (and I'm getting closers on the dips too) plus I'm discovering muscles that I never knew existed in my chest and back! Also, my dodgy knees seem to be handling the deadlifting and squatting OK so far.

Over the last year, doing lots of reps on smaller weights, I didn't seem to make much progress in terms of strength or mass so I'm hoping that my new routine will pay off. Changing my routine has certainly given me renewed enthusiasm for dragging myself out of bed at 6am to hit the gym!
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Postby ironman d » Sun Apr 18, 2004 9:35 am

Even though i've just mentioned it in my introduction, i do the 5x5 routine for my main excercises. I've found that by squating using the 5x5 system i've managed to bulk up quite a bit & would recommend anyone to try if they wish to do the same.

I deadlift using the 5x5 system aswell & have found this really beneficial, although from now on I'm going to try single rep maxes for a bit cus the 5x5 on deadlift does hammer your lower back quite a bit, so much so that i was getting quite a bit of pain from it.

I'll be attempting to flat bench in the same way from this week, i'm just hoping it won't have a detrimental effect on my other excercises during the same workout, i.e. inline dumbells, dips with weights etc. When i've done it i'll post something here to say how it went.

Cheers, ironman d
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Grip/forearm

Postby Myrddin » Mon Apr 19, 2004 5:36 am

OK Joni so which day/s do you do grip/forearm? And how often per week?
Where would you put neck work?
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Re: Grip/forearm

Postby JP » Mon Apr 19, 2004 6:40 am

[quote="Myrddin"]OK Joni so which day/s do you do grip/forearm? And how often per week?
Where would you put neck work?


Thats down to you mate and how much work your grip can take. It varies so much and if you have done grip work for a while they can take suprising amounts of work.

I'd not do grip work on day before deadlifts though :)

Neck is pretty much the same. Some do it every other day while on this program, some just once/week.
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Postby Myrddin » Mon Apr 19, 2004 12:17 pm

Just want some clarification, you've got an efficient workout plan - I'd like to tailor mine to look more like yours.
Which days do YOU personally do your grip/forearm? Am I right in assuming you work each major muscle only once per week? Also, do you do sandbag work after each workout or only on specific days?

Thanks

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Postby JP » Mon Apr 19, 2004 12:34 pm

[quote="Myrddin"]Just want some clarification, you've got an efficient workout plan - I'd like to tailor mine to look more like yours.


yes, i wholeheartedly recommend that routine - i am not currently doing 5x5 routine myself though. I think the linear progression what it is based on is really good for beginners and a bit more experienced lifters alike. But when the weights start getting heavy there will be a time when perhaps other approaches start getting better.

the "million kilos of tofu" question is when do you know which approach is the best. I don't have a clue, i guess we all just have to try it out ourselves.

I think the weights you use are very high already and you might or might not benefit from 5x5 style program - but i would definitely recommend giving it a try.

[quote]
Which days do YOU personally do your grip/forearm?


personally, when ever i feel like my grip is ok to take some work, so sometimes it is once/week, sometimes 4, usually 2 times/week.

[quote]
Am I right in assuming you work each major muscle only once per week?

yes, this program works one leg, push and pull day per week.

[quote]
Also, do you do sandbag work after each workout or only on specific days?


sandbag work is really heavy and taxing so they have to be on their own day - at least for me! The light bag day is kinda like active recovery and more cardio work, but the heavy bag day is a killer...

You do loads of other things as well don't you Adam? Like martial arts etc?
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Postby Myrddin » Mon Apr 19, 2004 12:56 pm

If you don't do 5 x 5 now what do you do? Yes, I do martial arts as well. Like you I do a lot of grip/forearm work. I've been doing some strand cable work (using Ironmind's Fabled Cables set) to supplement my freeweight training - which has been fun to use. Problem is at the moment I'm getting overwhelmed by all the exercises I want to do: barbell work, bodyweight exercise, cables, sandbag, kettlebells.

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Re: 5x5 mass and strength routine

Postby Myrddin » Mon Apr 19, 2004 1:22 pm

HI JP,

I think I am going to adopt this program. A couple of remaining questions though 1. Are Abs done only once per week?
2. Can you clarify to me what a typical working set format is? For example, you mention that in the first set you can use 50% of your 5 rep max weight and then 75% for the second set - what percentages do you do for the remaining three sets?
[quote="JP"] As far as warm up sets go, there are two approaches, either treat first two as your warm ups and use 50% and then 75% of your 5 rep max weight in your warm ups. The second approach is to have two warm ups in addition to the five working sets. The latter has been reported by many to be more effective.

3. How are tricep dips different from normal dips?

Thanks heaps.
Last edited by Myrddin on Mon Apr 19, 2004 1:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby JP » Mon Apr 19, 2004 1:23 pm

i know man, that is EXACTLY the feeling i used to have, pretty much the whole year so far: grip work, all kinds of cool exercises like overhead squatting, front squatting etc.

Now i'm back to basics and want to really focus on my big three lifts: squat, bench and deadlift.

My routine is a squatting routine, i squat twice a week. All else is stripped down to bare minimum. I guess i could put my current routine up as well, or perhaps even start a journal - i did already, but stopped it after like two entries :)

[quote]
1. Are Abs done only once per week?

yes, they are just like any other muscle. Also, squats, deadlifts and even things like overhead pressing standing up will work your abs.

[quote]
2. Can you clarify to me what a typical working set format is?


two ways to go. Lets say that your current working weight for squats would be 100kg for 5x5, then you would do:

warmup 1: 5x50kg
warmup 2: 5x75kg
working set 1: 5x100kg
working set 2: 5x100kg
working set 3: 5x100kg
working set 4: 5x100kg
working set 5: 5x100kg

thats the better way to go IMO. The other way (like advocated in the Dinosaur Training book) is to include the two warmup sets in the magical 5 sets, so you would only do two working sets with 5x100kg.

The last two sets will be tough - the last one will be very tough indeed, you'll get it up only so and so. If you nail the whole 25 reps, the next week you would do the same with 102.5kg.

Funny thing about this routine is that every week feels the same: very, very heavy and hard work. next week you up the weight with 2.5kg and do it all again. And again. And again. Then you look back and whereas you used to, say, bench 5x5x75kg you are now doing 5x5x87.5kg. So you have become that much stronger and with a good diet you must have grown as well.

[quote]
3. How are tricep dips different from normal dips?

The tricep dips you stay upright and dip down. Dips for chest you lean forwards and pull your legs back to involve your chest more. Does that make sense?
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Postby Myrddin » Tue Apr 20, 2004 1:26 pm

Thanks for your help JP

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4x6 lol and plus 2's or forced reps

Postby prefab » Wed Apr 21, 2004 1:22 pm

I do something similar to this every other week for my primary power sets- I continue with 8 more sets of other exercises beyond these primary four sets-----squat, bench (4x5) and incline bench (4x6)which are alternated with leg press, bench (plus 2's starting at 2 rep max and dropping weight 20lbs each set)

It's a great alternate week to doing plus 2's which require a spotter/partner but give you incredible growth due to positive exhaustion and the couple of free negative reps you get. FYI my plus 2's example set is to attain at least the number of reps you completed in the preceding set--- start heavy go light do some warmup

set 1x2reps set2x4+2(assisted) set3x6+2(assisted) set4x10+2(assisted)

So adding reps anywhere on the chain is a gain especially on the early heavy reps--(power added--end of chain endurance added)--great way to track weekly progress
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