The 5×5 workout program was popularised by the legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger and serves as a proven training method for building size and strength in powerlifters, as well as bodybuilders to this day.
It’s origins can be traced all the way back to the 1940’s. Arnold Schwarzenegger talks about the 5×5 workout program in his book, ”The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger says that he first learned about the 5×5 workout method from his bodybuilding idol Reg Park, who won Mr. Britain 1949 and Mr. Universe 1951. Over time it has become arguably the most famous workout for building strength and muscle mass.
Professional and amatuer lifters all swear by it and rightfully so. The 5×5 workout is designed to hit all of the major muscle groups hard, multiple times per week.
In his book The Education of a Bodybuilder (1977), Arnold Schwarzenegger said this about the 5×5 workout program:
From the beginning I was a big believer in the basic movements, because that was Reg Park’s preference. He would stay with the basic exercises – bench presses, chin-ups, squats, rowing, barbell curls, wrist curls, pullovers, leg extensions, calf raises. These were the movements that worked most directly on all body parts. I was following his example to the letter. And as it turned out, I could hardly have chosen more wisely. The basic exercises were creating for me a rugged foundation, a core of muscle I could later build upon for a winning body. Reg Park’s theory was that first you have to build the mass and then chisel it down to get the quality.
As the name suggests, the 5×5 workout routine involves doing 5 sets of 5 repetitions on basic compound exercises, such as bench press, barbell rows, squats among others. This workout is usually done 3 times per week, but there are many different workout setups where training can be done more or less often. The 5×5 program can be done as a full body workout or as a split routine.
Can it be done by beginners? Absolutely. However, you must make sure that your form is PERFECT on the big compound exercises used in this workout program to reduce the risk of injury.
RECOMMENDED: Learn Proper Squat Form To Get Stronger
The 5×5 workout is created around the principles of periodization. This means that the workout changes as you progress. You have to progressively increase the stimulus, which will result in triggering new muscle and strength gains.
Progressive overload is perfectly described in the story of an Ancient Greek wrestler and Olympic victor Milo of Croton. He has been described as having almost superhuman strength. According to the story, while training for the Olympic games he would lift a calf on his shoulder and carry it every day. As the calf grew, so did his strength and muscle.
The lesson here is that he started light and added more weight gradually, which kept making him stronger throughout his training.
Below you will find an example of a full body 5×5 workout program:
Time needed: 3 days.
5×5 Full Body Workout
Although, lifting heavy weights is the cornerstone of the 5×5 workout program, make sure that you don’t go too heavy too early. During your first 2 weeks it is recommended that you go with weights around 65% of your 1RM. This will allow your muscles to get accustomed to the new training demands and reduce the risk of injury.
If you prefer to train using an upper/lower body split, you might want to try this 5×5 workout program instead:
- Bench press
- Barbell rows
- Stiff leg deadlift
- Calf raise
- Incline Bench press
- Wide grip pull-up
Remember about periodization? Make sure that you apply progressive overload to your workout every 2 weeks by adding 2.5-5kg (5-10lbs) of weight to each exercise. This will tell your body that it is time to get stronger to meet the new training demands.
By the time you get to week 12 you should be comfortably hitting new 1RM’s. Keep in mind that nutrition is equally as important as training, if not more, so if you want to keep gaining new muscle you must up your calorie intake – especially your protein.
If you find that you are struggling with increasing your weight targets evert 2 weeks, just stick with the same weight for an extra week.
- You have implement progressive overload. Try to increase the weights by 5% every week or 10% every 2 weeks.
- Don’t start with heavy weights in the first week. You will be increasing the weight so you want to leave some room.
- Eat and rest well.
- You should deload or take a week off when you start feeling beat up. This can happen after 5 to 8 weeks of training.
This article first appeared on GYMNASIUMPOST.com on 18th May, 2020.