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  1. #1
    hanksb is offline New Member
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    Jul 2003

    check out this 5x5 workout

    just finished my first week of this 5x5 program, realy liking it, its very tiring though, anyone familar with it.

    This is a variation of Bill Starr's classic 5x5. Bill is without doubt one of the best strength coaches ever, serving at multiple universities, pro teams, and holding records in both PL and OL. His articles are frequently reprinted in Milo, have appeared in Ironman for years (they might still be in there periodically), and are generally all over the strength and conditioning world. His book on training for football, 'The Strongest Shall Survive', is a classic for coaches, players, and any strength athlete - you can pick it up at This dual factor variation of the program is used very frequently by one of the current top strength coaches who posts under the name Johnsmith182 at Meso. This program and variations are very much in common use all over the place even being common to elite athletes for part of the year (generally offseason which is less skill specific and more concerned with overall performance foundation) - this is not outdated in any way but merely what works. This program is very effective at increasing strength and lean body mass, so much so that it is avoided like the plague by athletes close to a weight class limit (to avoid gaining significant weight fairly severe dietary restriction is often required). I honestly don't know of a better program for adding lean body mass to an athlete. For those unused to this type of training natural gains of 10-20lbs are common as well as drastic increases in the core lifts. At the same time, it builds an excellent strength foundation for general athletics so it works wonderfully for an athlete as well as a BBer. This program and variations have been used by innumerable athletes for over 30 years with huge success - it just plain does not fail. It works every time and works well. It is also a very clear and easy illustration of dual factor theory the application of which will result in far better and more consistent gains for those who are inexperienced with it. So by running this program you get gains and learn, sort of a "teach a man to fish..."

    If you've just randomly come to this topic or been provided a link - there is a large source thread and table of contents further clarifying a lot of this here:

    Before beginning it is useful to know your 1 rep max (and use a table to figure your 5 rep max) or more ideally your real 5 rep max in each lift. You can base your 5x5 max off your 5 rep max just by cutting back a bit. If you don't know this - it might be useful to test your lifts first or start light and allow for some flexability in the weekly planning so you can make adjustments on the fly as you ramp the weights week to week to accross the board records in the final weeks of the volume phase. Don't overly stress on this - it's easier than it sounds and once you've run it once, subsequent cycles fall right into place.


    Volume Phase 4 weeks
    Deloading Period 1 week
    Intensity Phase 4 weeks

    Mon......Volume Phase...........................................De load/Intensity Phase
    Squat.......5x5................................... ..............................3x3
    Bench.......1x5................................... ..............................1x3
    Row.........1x5................................... ...............................1x3

    Wed......Volume Phase...........................................De load/Intensity Phase
    Squat.......5x5 with 15-20% less than Monday.................drop this lift
    Deadlift.....5x5.................................. ...............................3x3
    Military......5x5................................. ................................3x3
    Pullups.......5x5................................. ...............................3x3

    Fri.........Volume Phase...........................................De load/Intensity Phase
    Squat........1x5.................................. ..............................1x3
    Bench........5x5.................................. .............................3x3
    Row...........5x5................................. ..............................3x3

    *5x5 & 3x3 = warm up to working set weight
    **1x5 & 1x3 = pyramid weights through 5x5 or 3x3 with the final set being target set weight

    Volume Phase - Weeks 1-4:
    So 5x5 is 5 sets of 5 reps with working set weight (warm up to the target weight for the week and proceed through 5x5 with that weight). Where 1x5 is present you are pyramiding the weights upward each set to a target set weight for a single set of 5 (it's still 5x5 but each set gets heavier and your target set is the top set of 5). The exception is the Wednesday squat for 5x5 using somewhere between 10-20% less than the working weight on the Monday 5x5 workout (the Wed squat may increase less than the Monday squat over the ramping weeks - meaning it may start at 12% less and wind up at 22% less by the last record week if one needs some extra recovery). What you are doing is gradually increasing the target weights week to week so you wind up performing record lifts in the final two weeks of the volume phase (weeks 3/4 in this case). Keep in mind that you have separate targets for 5x5 and 1x5 even though they are the same lift (i.e. benchpress). The ramping is set separately for these and they are treated separately. It's a good idea to start conservatively as this gets fairly backbreaking and you'll be begging for week 5. The most common mistake is people starting too high. It's useful to start light and then be flexible either adding an extra week to the ramp up or moving your targets a bit as you feel your way. This is far easier in the intensity phase because you already have a reference - likewise the next time you run this workout, it'll be a no brainer. The main point in this phase is the volume. Lower the weight if need be but get the sets and reps in. If you fail on an exercise just carry the target weight forward into the next week. Some people who are very new to this might find it easier to run this phase for 6 weeks starting much lighter and building slowly. If your working weights for the deadlift are 2x bodyweight (meaning you are a 200lbs lifter and you'll be doing 400+ for 5x5 throughout the cycle) it's probably a good idea to do lower the volume on that lift to 3x5 in this phase.

    Deloading Week - Week 5:
    ***for the vast majority of people, they will likely be better served using the alternative deload/intensity listed below***
    On week 5 drop the Wednesday squat workout, begin using the Deloading/Intensity set/rep scheme (in parentheses), and keep the weight the same as your last week in the Volume Phase. In reality the whole intensity phase and this week are the same thing, I just break this week out because there is no weight progression so in reality after the volume phase the whole thing is deloading/intensity which for the purposes of this workout are synonymous. Also my 3x per week layout tends to get pretty aggressive so many find themselves fatigued again by the end so it kind of makes logical sense to break this period separately. Largely symantics.

    Intensity Phase - Week 6-9:
    ***for the vast majority of people, they will likely be better served using the alternative deload/intensity listed below***
    Everything is the same principal except that you use 3x3 and 1x3 setting records on week 8 and 9 (or the final 2 weeks of this phase). No Wednesday squatting. The important aspect of this phase is the weight increases. If you are burned out and you need an extra day here and there that's okay - this won't hurt you at all and unless you are feeling ripe it's beneficial. If you can't do all the work that's okay too. Just keep increasing the weight week to week. During this phase you'll be ramping the weights from your deloading week to your 3x3 and 1x3 records in the final 2 weeks. In this 3x per week pattern, start light once again and get a breather. Most people find themselves getting reloaded if they don't cut volume and take extra days. If you reload without getting an adequate deload first (that 1 week may not be enough) you will cripple your gains. Better to get 90% out of a training cycle than 10%. You'll learn a lot about your tolerance for volume loading and unloading here - there is no need to try to be a hero. Get some experience and the next time you run this you'll be spot on but you wind up feeling your way to a degree the first time.

    Post Cycle:
    Depending upon how you feel, it's probably a good idea to deload again before moving back into another volume phase if you ran the 3x per week like I outlined above. See the alternative schedule below and perform this light for 2 weeks working on speed/acceleration. If you ran the 2x alternate schedule below for your deload/intensity you can likely move straight back into another volume phase.

    Alternative Deload/Intensity:
    This is really the one that most people should be doing. If you don't handle the other correctly you can blow your program but I didn't want to switch it and confuse people.

    Week 5 and on switch to 3x3 and drop the Friday workout altogether. Week 5 weights are the same as the final week of volume. Over the next 2-3 weeks increase increase the weight workout to workout if you get all 9 reps. If you don't get all the reps, week the weight constant. You'll likely be able to move straight back into another volume phase after this is complete.

    Oly squats: 3x3
    Bench: 3x3
    Rows: 3x3

    Wednesday (or move this workout to Thursday if you'd like)
    Light Oly Squats (70% of monday): 3x3
    Deadlifts: 3x3
    Military Press: 3x3


    The Lifts:
    Squats - these should be full range olympic style squats. Use the full range of your body - that means as low as you can go which for almost everyone is past parallel. If the top of your thighs aren't at least parallel it's for shit. If you think this is bad for your knees going low, you and whoever told you that are relying on an old wives tale. Anyone who knows the human body will tell you that below parallel is MUCH safer on the knees whereas parallel and above put all the stress right on them and don't allow proper transfer of the load to the rest of your body (this is how your body was designed). Read the sticky in the PL forum on squats for a more in depth explanation.
    Deads - each rep is deweighted fully on the floor. No touch and go. This is called the 'dead'lift because the weight is 'dead' on the ground. You can touch and go warm ups but that's it.
    Military - standing overhead presses. Supporting weight overhead is a fundemental exercise and stimulates the whole body.
    Rows - 90 degrees and done dynamically (Accelerate the weight into your body - do not jerk it but constantly increase the pace like an oar through water).
    Common Sense - this program has you train very hard and build quickly to heavy weights. If any of these compound lifts are new to you (like dynamic rowing from the floor) it is unsafe to subject yourself to this kind of unaccustomed work. Compound exercises have a way of finding weak links in the body - heavy lifting has a way of stressing these weak links. What this means is that the chance of injury is greatly increased. Spend some time working with the lift(s) before beginning a program that pushes you this hard.
    The rest is self explanatory.

    Learning about Your Tolerances/Setting Up Your 2nd Training Cycle:
    This can be somewhat daunting to set your weights the first time you run this and for reasons already stated it's a lot better to be on the conservative side. Once you've been through this once, you'll learn alot about your tolerances and you'll have a set of very relevant records which you can sub right into the next training cycle. Your best 5x5 would become week 3 and then a margin above it - or ideally week 3 would exceed your best 5x5 by a margin and then week 4 above that (this makes for a tougher loading cycle and this is one of the things you'll learn whether or not to do for your current state of conditioning). The other lifts 1x5, 3x3, 1x3 are similarly adjusted based on previous records. Also, people's tolerances vary widely at every level. Even 2 top competitive lifters - they may lift exactly the same weight and be equally sized but one requires a massive amount of volume in training while another does not. No ego just what each needs to stimulate progress. As you go, you'll learn all about what you need, what you can handle, and what is too much. Eventually, you'll be able to tailor this program or an entire 6 month training cycle to your individual specs and requirements.

    Incorporating the Olympic Lifts:
    The above is basically setup for someone who doesn't know the OLs. Starr's original workout included Power Cleans and High Pulls. Instead of Bent Rows substitute Power Cleans. Rather than Deads substitute High Pulls.

    Substituting Exercises:
    Don't **** with this. Every BBer seems to have Attention Deficit Disorder and an overwhelming desire to customize everything. The bottom line is that these are all the most effective exercises and just about anything one does will result in less gains. As a rule those people who want to change it don't know enough to make proper alterations - those who do know enough, don't have much to change. The two guys who are responsible for this program are some of the best on the planet at bulking lifters and making people stronger. It's kind of like Sesame Street's Elmo offering neurosurgery advice at NYU. Anyway, it's absolutely essential not to screw with the squats, they are the foundation of this program. If you want to sub inclines or push presses for military that's okay. Do not sub machines - don't even think about it, hit yourself with a plate if you must. If you want to do arms choose a single bicept and tricept exercise and perform it at the end once per week for 3 sets of whatever - your arms will take a beating from all the pulling and pressing anyway. If you can't chin due to bodyweight, pulldowns are okay. Core work is always fine. Cardio is fine - interval training is the best for this I'll just throw out. If this is just too much mental strain, take solace in the fact that it's 9 weeks, you'll gain a ton of muscle and strength and then you can spend the next 4 weeks adding the minute detail to refine the gained mass (like most care anyway - I have yet to meet a guy on this board who will trade 20lbs of muscle for a bit of added detail somewhere). In a nutshell, put your trust in some of the better coaches on the planet and enjoy the results. If it doesn't look like a typical program to you, that's because most programs suck and almost require drugs or a total novice lifter to see gains. For a lifter with some experience, it is not enough to go in and work hard - you need a program that properly regulates volume and intensity (either that or you'll settle for very sub-optimal gains or simply use increased drug dosage to compensate for shitty training). Read the dual factor theory posts.

    If you don't know what this is, don't worry about it. Read up on Westside sometime - it's not integral to the program but incorporating work like this into your training cycles can be worthwhile no matter if you are a PL, general athlete looking for performance or BBer. For those that do and want to incorporate them, the 1x5 days are the days you would choose for these.

    New or Novice Lifters:
    A dual factor program is overkill. Read the single factor version and the link on Glenn Pendlay and Mark Ripptoe's squatting program. This will take care of you for a year or so. Mark consistently gets 30-40lbs on a new natural lifter in under 6 months.

    Advanced Lifters:
    As one learns about one's tolerances and progresses over time one will generally find that one is able to gradually accomodate more volume. What generally happens is that a lifter will remove the pyramid 1x5 workouts and swap them into a second 5x5 over time. In addition, an advanced lifter will start their ramps much closer to their record weights for a backbreaking loading period. As one's weights increase the volume can also be spread over 4 days rather than 3 to accomodate the fatigue from the heavier weights. These lifters might also compress the training cycle into 2-3 weeks of loading and 2 weeks of deloading. I'm just going to state, this stuff is for someone who has spent years doing this type of work. I only include this for completeness. The way I have it listed above will overload just about anyone besides an elite lifter and push them to their limit if they set their weight right. You apply more volume when you need it, not as an ego thing. This will destroy or drastically limit your gains. Don't do this unless you've run many dual factor training cycles and are absolutely sure you need it. I'm being overly cautious but most people on this board come from a BBing background where typical programs are the 3 day split variety hitting each muscle 1x per week. This base program itself is a whole different world of volume and the tweaks here can make it much more taxing and in every single case that I've seen where someone is even relatively new to this style of program - they should not be employed.

  2. #2
    MASTER's Avatar
    MASTER is offline "I Own You"
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    Jun 2004
    squats 3 times in 5 days, gimme a break, that workout is trash in my opinion!

  3. #3
    S.P.G's Avatar
    S.P.G is offline AR Workout Scientist
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    Mar 2005
    uk/ south east
    nice link to elitefitness.........

  4. #4
    hanksb is offline New Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    didnt notice the link my mistake, this is a good workout, most people who used it for the full 9 weeks gained 9-12 pounds in bodyweight, all natural to

  5. #5
    hanksb is offline New Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Quote Originally Posted by JamesC
    squats 3 times in 5 days, gimme a break, that workout is trash in my opinion!
    This is a variation of Bill Starr's classic 5x5. Bill is without doubt one of the best strength coaches ever, serving at multiple universities, pro teams, and holding records in both PL and OL

    i would say that if this program was written up by the guy above it would probally indicate it isnt trash at all

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