One of the most popular workout programs to increase strength is the 5×5 workout, sometimes modified to the 5×5 stronglifts or the stronglifts 5×5 workout program.
The 5×5 strength training plan has had quite a lasting impact among strength workouts, and many strength athletes credit the 5×5 workout for propelling their weightlifting performance and strength to new levels.
But what is the 5×5 workout program? Who should consider stronglifts 5×5 training?
In this article, we will discuss what the 5×5 strength workout plan involves, how to do it, and what to expect out of the 5×5 stronglifts training program.
More specifically, we will cover the following:
- What Is the 5×5 Workout Program?
- How to Do the 5×5 Strength Program
- Who Should Follow the 5×5 Program?
Let’s dive in!
What Is the 5×5 Workout Program?
This program is a strength training workout plan that was popularized by Bill Starr.
The initial 5×5 workout was primarily designed to improve the strength and power of Olympic weightlifters, among other power athletes such as football players and combat athletes.
What many weightlifters appreciate most about these strength training workouts is that the program is all about prioritizing key compound exercises rather than including lots of accessory lifts and complicated training schema and techniques.
Owing to the program’s name, each 5×5 workout focuses on five sets of five reps of the compound movements included in the stronglifts 5×5.
Rather than changing the number of reps or sets to vary the training stimulus, the intensity, or the weight that you lift, will change.
Since the advent of Bill Starr’s original version of this program, there have been numerous modifications and iterations to best serve different groups of athletes.
With that said, even some of these more specialized iterations of the 5×5 strength program will center on performing five sets of five reps of multiple compound exercises.
Compound exercises are multi-joint exercises that utilize multiple muscle groups simultaneously.
In addition to the five sets and five reps schema of the 5×5 workout program, the workout plan also relies on a characteristic slow and steady progression.
Depending on your starting weight and the particular 5×5 exercise, you might increase by as little as 2.5 pounds from one week to the next.
There hasn’t necessarily been a research study that looks specifically at the effectiveness of the 5×5 strength program in its totality, but there was a study that compared the improvements in strength with the bench press following a protocol of performing either five sets of five reps at 80% of 1RM versus six sets of two reps using 87.5% of 1RM.
Results revealed that both groups saw improvement in bench press strength and performance and that the 5×5 training protocol is a safe and effective way to apply the principles of progressive overload while requiring a lower overall exertion level because of the relatively lighter load.
How to Do the 5×5 Strength Program
As mentioned, there are now many iterations of this workout program.
We will cover the original 5×5 training program as well as the 5×5 stronglifts workout.
Original 5×5 Workout
The original 5×5 workout program is a 3-day strength training program.
Although you can theoretically train on any three days of the week provided that you have at least one day off in between your training session, generally, people who are following the original 5×5 train on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Monday is a heavy day, Wednesday is a light day, and Friday falls somewhere in the middle.
The primary compound exercises in the 5×5 workout are the squat, bench press or bench press varieties, and power clean (or barbell row).
You will need to know your 1RM or have an estimation of your 1RM for each of the 5×5 exercises because all of the weight that you will use will be determined based on percentages of your 1RM for that lift.
The last step of each exercise is your top set, with your heaviest weight, and the previous four sets are used to gradually progress up to the top heavy set.
From week to week, you increase the load of your projected 1RM by 2.5 percent and then adjust your weights for each exercise accordingly.
For example, if you begin the 5×5 workout program with a measured or estimated 1RM for the back squat of 220 pounds (100 kg), you would use 220 x 1.025 = 225.5 pounds or 102.5 kg as your 1RM in week 2 to calculate your weights for your 5×5 workout exercises.
On the other hand, if you find that the loads are too heavy or that the program itself has become too taxing, or if you miss a repetition on a single exercise in the 5×5 workout, you are supposed to deload by dropping down the weight by about 10%.
Here is the 5×5 workout plan:
Monday (Heavy Lifting)
- Power Clean: 5 sets x 5 reps with your top set at 85% of your 1RM, each set building up to this by increasing the weight by 10%.
- Bench Press: For the first 8-12 weeks, 5 sets x 5 reps + 1 set x 5 reps with weight used on the third set; again, the top set is 85% of your 1RM, with the others increasing by 10% up to this weight. Then, progress to 5 sets x 10 reps + 1 set x 10 reps with weight used on the third set; again, the top set is 85% of your 1RM.
- Back Squats: Same as bench press, so 5 sets x 5 reps + 1 set x 5 reps with weight used on the third set for the first 8-12 weeks on the 5 x 5 program, with the top set being 85% of your 1RM. Then, progress to 5 sets x 10 reps + 1 set x 10 reps with weight used on the third set; again, the top set is 85% of your 1RM.
Wednesday (Light Lifting)
- Power Clean: 5 sets x 5 reps at 65% of your 1RM
- Incline Bench: 5 sets x 10 reps at 65% of your 1RM
- Back Squats: 5 sets x 5 reps at 65% of your 1RM
Friday (Medium Loads)
- Power Clean: 5 sets x 5 reps at 75% of your 1RM for the top set
- Overhead Press: 5 sets x 10 reps + 1 set x 10 reps with weight used on 3rd set working up to 75% of your 1RM
- Squats: 5 sets x 5 reps at 75% of your 1RM for the top set
When doing 5×5 weightlifting workouts, perform all of the sets of one exercise before moving on to the next exercise.
After the set is over, rerack the barbell and then rest for 90 seconds before beginning the next set.
StrongLifts 5×5 Workout Program
The StrongLifts 5×5 workout program is a specific iteration of the 5×5 training model.
Like the original workout, the 5×5 StrongLifts program consists of two workouts that are performed 3 days per week.
Workout A consists of the squat, bench press, and barbell row, while Workout B consists of the squat, overhead press, and deadlift.
Because you only do three workouts per week, you will do two sessions of Workout A and one session of Workout B one week, and then on alternate weeks, you will do two sessions of Workout B and one session of Workout A.
Essentially, every time you hit the gym, you alternate the workouts.
Start with just 50% of your 5RM weight if you are new to lifting, and build up from there.
Here is how to do the stronglifts workout program:
|StrongLifts 5×5 Week 1 (and odd weeks)|
|Monday: Workout A||Wednesday: Workout B||Friday: Workout A|
|Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps||Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps||Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps|
|Bench Press: 5 sets of 5 reps||Overhead Press: 5 sets of 5 reps||Bench Press: 5 sets of 5 reps|
|Barbell Row: 5 sets of 5 reps||Deadlift: 1 set of 5 reps||Barbell Row: 5 sets of 5 reps|
|StrongLifts 5×5 Week 2 (and even weeks)|
|Monday: Workout B||Wednesday: Workout A||Friday: Workout B|
|Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps||Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps||Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps|
|Overhead Press: 5 sets of 5 reps||Bench Press: 5 sets of 5 reps||Overhead Press: 5 sets of 5 reps|
|Deadlift: 1 set of 5 reps||Barbell Row: 5 sets of 5 reps||Deadlift: 1 set of 5 reps|
With the StrongLifts 5×5 workouts, do all of the sets of each exercise before moving on to the next exercise. Rest for 90 seconds in between each set, reracking the barbell while you wait.
Who Should Follow the 5×5 Program?
Any athlete looking to increase strength and power can generally be well served by trying this program.
However, the 5×5 is particularly beneficial for powerlifters and field sport athletes, such as football players and rugby players, who can use this program to increase strength during the off-season.
With that said, even if you are not a powerlifter or competitive field athlete, this workout program can be a great way to develop a strong foundation of strength.
Not only does the 5×5 training plan increase muscular strength, but it also does a fantastic job focusing on the foundational lifts that you really need to master for any effective strength training program.
Repeated exposure to these key compound exercises will help you develop the specific skills, movement patterns, and neuromuscular coordination to nail the execution of these foundational strength training exercises.
Moreover, as one of the hallmark attributes of this program is a very gradual progression, even beginners looking to build strength can safely try this method of training.
However, in these cases, starting with just the empty barbell can be a safer starting point. Focus on mastering the technique for each lift before adding more weight.
For more ideas on specific strength training programs, check out our guide to EMOM workouts here.