Build Strength with a 5x5 Workout

If done correctly, the 5x5 method is an easy way for athletes to reach their performance goals and see progress right away.

One of the most popular workout routines for athletes looking to build strength is a 5x5 workout, which is a simple but effective way for athletes to gain mass. The program is easy to follow—athletes perform lifts for 5 sets of 5 reps, generally only two to three times per week. This gives lifters ample time to recover and make progress.

The concept behind the 5x5 workout is not new. Lifters have been performing the 5x5 for decades, in both a powerlifting and bodybuilding sense to achieve their goals. Generally, there are five accepted lifts in the 5x5 workout:

  • Squats
  • Bench Press
  • Barbell Row
  • Overhead Press
  • Deadlift

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It is recommended that a single set of 5 reps be done for Deadlifts, as they are an extremely challenging exercise. The 5x5 method is commonly broken down to two different days:

Day 1: Squat, Bench Press, Barbell Row

Day 2: Squat, Overhead Press, Deadlift (1x5 only)

These two routines are separated by a day of rest. The 5x5 workout is recommended for seven to nine weeks, with the first four to six weeks as a lead-up phase and the final three weeks as a "peak" phase.

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In the lead-up phase, athletes focus on form and adding weight. This is known as periodization, in which athletes constantly challenge their bodies by increasing weight. This stimulus helps athletes avoid plateaus, but it's important to note that this program can lead to overtraining if athletes attempt too much too soon. A general rule of thumb is that lifters should choose a weight that will challenge them, but not burn them out so much that they cannot complete the lifts—and add weight from there.

The 5x5 method is a simple workout. Lifters of any experience level can start the program and see results. It also heavily focuses on standing exercises and heavy lifts. It leaves out many exercises and machines that may not be necessary for athletes. By boiling the workout down to a minimum amount of exercise, it saves time while getting results. These positives are seen as negatives by some lifters though. Advanced lifters may need other, more specialized, lifts to further advance their goals.

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Athletes, while excited about the lifts, may be tempted to neglect the recovery and nutrition aspects of the plan. Athletes can expect to increase their calories, because these five lifts are full-body movements and burn a lot of calories.

Recovery is also a priority for lifters using the 5x5 method. With only a few lifts, athletes may be tempted to add exercises to the program to increase its value. This is an admirable idea, but one athletes do not need to consider. Chances are, you will be too exhausted to want to add exercises anyway. If you are not exhausted at the end of the workout, you should reevaluate yourself and add weight accordingly to further challenge yourself.

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