Introduction

In recent times, the 5×5 workout plan has received considerable recognition amongst those in the health and fitness world looking to add real strength and size to their physique.

Although this workout plan might appear new to you, in reality it’s quite the opposite; gaining recognition and popularity in the 1970s, this regime was utilised as a means of providing strength and conditioning benefits to American footballers. It was also highlighted in Bill Star’s famous book, aptly titled ‘The Strongest Shall Survive’, as a viable training method to achieve such results.

With the recent revival in this training protocol, today we take a closer look at the 5×5 workout plan, showing you how to adopt and implement this as your new training regime – especially as a means of developing both strength and size.

The Power Of Five

Before we start, let us initially consider the 5×5 section of the workout, as this is the foundation upon which this training plan is based. 5×5 makes reference to the number of repetitions per set and sets per exercise you are required to complete.

For each given exercise you are required to perform 5 repetitions per set and complete 5 sets before moving onto the next exercise. Your 5 repetition maximum should be calculated for each exercise prior to commencing the workout so that you have a valid starting point.

Although numerous variations regarding the exercises included exist, one of the most popular formats utilises only three exercises in total. Due to its overall popularity, this is the format we are going to consider and discuss throughout the article. These exercises can be considered compound: working over numerous joints and bringing into play the majority of your major muscle groups.

The following exercises are enlisted for the 5×5 workout plan: squats, power clean and bench press. You are only required to undertake three training sessions per week and this training protocol should be utilised for a period of six weeks at a time.

The 5×5 Workout Plan

For those of you who regularly undertake weight training, how many of you at this stage of the article are scratching your heads at the thought of the 5×5 workout plan? At first glance the program can appear inadequate, in that you are only required to perform three exercise variations for the entire six week period.

So what’s the rationale behind it? To answer this question, firstly you have to contemplate the chosen exercises in further detail.

Squats, power clean and bench press. These three exercises weren’t just randomly selected; they combine to ensure that every major muscle group within the body is targeted. Squatting primarily targets your legs and hips, whilst the power clean brings about total body explosive power and emphasises the back region. Last but by no means least you have the bench press, which works the chest, shoulders and arms. The core is also placed under continual stress throughout the entire training session.

Each week, you are required to enhance the weight utilised, meaning that during the six week training regime you will adopt six new incremental levels of strength. This ensures progression with reference to the resistance used and ultimately the strength gained.

During the course of a training week, each of the exercises is rotated and performed initially with maximal loads. The other exercises during this given training session are performed sub-maximally.

Ultimately, this means that for each given exercise there is a heavy day, medium day and light day during each training week. This allows for maximal recovery and gains whilst at the same time limiting some of the effects of over-training.

The 5×5 Exercises

Each of the three exercises will now be contemplated in further detail, including an exercise demonstration video and description. This will allow you, the athlete, to ensure each exercise is executed effectively and efficiently.

In no particular order, we start with squats:

1. Squats

Execution:

  1. From the rack, position the barbell on the back of your shoulders.
  2. Dismount the barbell from the rack and stand with feet shoulders width apart.
  3. Lower your body by bending at the knees and allowing your hips to drop back.
  4. Keep your back rigid and your knees facing forwards at all times.
  5. Continue to lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  6. Extend your knees and hips until you return to the start position. Repeat.

Video Example:

2. Power Clean

Execution:

  1. Stand over the barbell with feet positioned under the bar and hip width apart.
  2. Squat down and grip the barbell with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder width.
  3. Position your shoulders over the bar with arched rigidity and your arms straight.
  4. Lift the barbell by extending at the hips and knees.
  5. As the barbell contacts the thighs, jump upwards and extend your body.
  6. Shrug your shoulders and pull the barbell upwards, keeping it close to the body.
  7. Aggressively pull your body under the barbell, rotating your elbows around it.
  8. Catch the barbell on the shoulders before your knees bend lower than 90 degrees and stand.
  9. To lower the barbell, bend your knees slightly and lower it to the thigh region.
  10. Slowly lower the barbell whilst maintaining a rigid trunk and drop to finish. Repeat.

Video Example:

3. Bench Press

Execution:

  1. To commence, lie down supine on a flat bench.
  2. Dismount the barbell from the rack overhead and bring it over the upper chest region.
  3. A wide overhand grip should be utilised to achieve this position.
  4. Slowly lower the weight to your mid chest region, pausing just before you touch your chest.
  5. Press the barbell upwards until your arms are in an extended position.
  6. This is one repetition. Continue until the desired repetitions are achieved.

Video Example:

Training Week Example: 5×5 Workout Plan
  • Monday: Squats (heavy), power clean (medium) and bench press (light).
  • Wednesday: Power clean (heavy), bench press (medium) and squats (light).
  • Friday: Bench Press (heavy), squats (medium) and power clean (light).

*This is an example for illustration purposes only.

Final Word

So there you have the 5×5 workout plan and everything you need to know to successfully implement it into your current training regime. It’s a tried and tested method, which has achieved significant alterations in the strength and size of many athletes – most notably with American Footballers following its creation in the 1970s.

It’s simple yet effective, utilising only three exercises to target the entire body and guarantees six incremental enhancements in strength. It also offers structure to a training regime, allowing you to know exactly what is expected of you through a six week training period.

As with everything in life and more specifically health and fitness, this training regime isn’t for everyone. If your primary aim isn’t to develop pure strength and size then alternative training schedules should ultimately be adopted and will prove much more beneficial.

The 5×5 workout plan also requires you to lift for a maximum of five repetitions; as a result the resistance selected must be heavy enough to offer this challenge. If a lesser resistance is selected, results are unlikely to be achieved – therefore, this training regime places your entire body under immense stress and strain.

It is for that reason that novice beginners should not attempt the 5×5 workout plan until an appropriate level of exercise expertise and foundation strength has been achieved.

With all of the above in mind, including some of the key advantages and disadvantages of the 5×5 workout plan, what are your final thoughts on a training method that has managed to stand the test of time? Will you be implementing it into your new training regime or avoiding it at all costs?

Why not comment below with your thoughts and/or any previous experience of the training regime that is once again gripping the fitness nation…