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5x5 Workout Program for Muscle-Building & Strength-Training

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: June 29, 2023

As a certified fitness trainer, I like using the 5x5 training program with my clients, both beginners and advanced, due to its simplicity, efficiency, and emphasis on the major compound workouts.

It has proven to be a no-frill muscle-building and strength-training workout that works.

In this article, I will detail my findings and expertise on the best 5x5 workout, how to design your 5x5 training regimen, and the benefits and tips for planning your 5x5 routine.

Quick Summary

  • The 5x5 program is characterized by a lack of flare, focusing instead on basic effort. Compound movements are prioritized for five sets of five repetitions (thus the program's name), and intensity is varied to create a new training response.
  • The original 5x5 format was mainly created to increase athletes' strength and power.
  • The premise behind the 5x5 exercise plan is that executing five sets of five reps could lift heavier loads than if you did more reps each set.

The Original 5x5 Program

A person doing a deadlift for a 5x5 workout program

The 5x5 workout is a basic and efficient training routine for increasing strength, muscle, and athleticism.

The original 5x5 divides your workout into three days: an intense day on Monday, a light day on Wednesday, and a medium day on Friday.

You'll concentrate on the squat, different presses, and the bar row (or power clean), with only a few more workouts outside the core lifts.

Because each exercise will be based on your one rep max (1RM) percentage, knowing your max for each major lift is essential.

The program instructs you to do a top set at a certain percentage of your 1RM for each exercise, utilizing the previous four sets to ramp up gradually.

Bill Starr's 5x5 may be advanced by raising the load of your predicted 1RM by 2.5% weekly.

If (or when) you miss a repeat on a single lift or discover that the program has gotten too difficult, deload by reducing the weight by 10% and continue.

Monday (Heavy Day):

  • Barbell Row or Power Clean: 5 sets of 5 repetitions, top set at 85% of 1RM
  • Bench Press: 5 sets of 10 repetitions, top set at 70% of 1RM
  • Squat: 5 sets of 10 repetitions, top set at 85% of 1RM

Wednesday (Light Day):

  • Barbell Row or Power Clean: 5 sets of 5 repetitions at 65% of your 1RM
  • Incline Bench Press: 5 sets of 10 repetitions at 65% of your 1RM
  • Squat: 5 sets of 5 repetitions at 65% of your 1RM

Friday (Medium Day):

  • Barbell Row or Power Clean: 5 sets of 5 repetitions at 70% of your 1RM
  • Incline Bench Press: 5 sets of 10 repetitions at 70% of your 1RM
  • Squat: 5 sets of 5 repetitions at 70% of your 1RM

Every exercise in a 5x5 routine is a compound barbell workout. These are the barbell back squats, bench press, row, overhead press, and deadlift.

The emphasis is on low repetitions with heavy weights. You'll increase your weight after each 2-week cycle.

However, you should not use the heaviest weights, as completing the sets will be hard.

"Choose a load that allows you to complete seven or eight repetitions. This is almost 80% of your maximum. So, let's assume you're reasonably sure you can squat 220 pounds for a single rep, and you want to perform a 5x5 exercise. Eighty percent of 220 equals 176 pounds, so load 176 for your first set."

- C. J. Murphy, Competitive Powerlifter & Strongman

Designing Your 5x5 Training Regimen

A person doing barbell workouts for a 5x5 training regime

The 5x5 is a set or rep system and progression that promotes modest and consistent strength development.

By adhering to the fundamental principles of this program, you may design your own 5x5 exercise that will ensure increases for several months to come.

If Bill Starr's original routine isn't to your liking, you may apply the basic formula for your program.

Here's how:

  • You'll train your entire body three times weekly, alternating between three compound motions per session, but not more than three exercises.
  • Instead of a heavy, light, and medium day, you'll follow a more simple pattern. For every five sets of five repetitions, use 70-80% of your 1RM.
  • Aim to add a small amount of weight (2.5 to 10 pounds) weekly. If you can't lift more, remain with the same load and try to add weight to only one or two sets.
  • Isolation exercises are not prohibited. However, if you're tired or sore, don't include them. You should only do these activities (triceps extensions, biceps curls, lateral raises, and so on) if you've got the time and strength after the core program is finished.

The 5x5 Workout Program

A buff male in the gym working out for a 5x5 program

The 5x5 requires 80% of your one rep max (1RM) in week one, then 2.5% in week two, and so on.

This approach can be followed for 8-12 weeks, but you will ultimately reach a point where you cannot achieve the 2.5% increase.

In this situation, the strategy is to maintain the weight for a week or two before increasing it the following week.

This program also includes bodyweight training. The body weight day will not employ a 5x5 rep pattern.

Instead, you'll utilize the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) for tracking your loads while adhering to the following guidelines.

  • Sets 1-4 will consist of as many repetitions as possible (AMRAP) exercises until you reach an RPE 8 (two reps in reverse). Then, on the fifth set, you will do maximum reps.
  • While you will do 5 sets of each activity, they will not be performed consecutively. Instead, you will alternate workouts.
  • Remember that this is not a circuit exercise. That is, you are not moving from one workout to the next. You will still relax in between sets. This allows you to increase your volume for muscular growth.
  • Chin-ups should be done between 4 and 12 reps, while dips should be done between 6 and 15.

Related: How the 5x5 Workout Can Benefit Over 50s

The Best 5x5 Workout Plan

A buff male in the gym doing a 5x5 workout plan


  • Barbell Back Squat: 4 sets of 5 repetitions with 1 set AMRAP
  • Barbell Bench Press: 4 sets of 5 repetitions with 1 set AMRAP
  • Barbell Bent Over Row: 4 sets of 5 repetitions, with 1 set AMRAP


  • Barbell Back Squats: 3 sets of 10 repetitions
  • Chin Ups: 4 sets of RPE8 and 1 set max
  • Lunges: 4 sets of RPE8 and 1 set max
  • Dips: 4 sets of RPE8 and 1 set max


  • Barbell Deadlift: 4 sets of 5 repetitions with 1 set AMRAP
  • Barbell Shoulder Press: 4 sets of 5 repetitions with 1 set AMRAP
  • Barbell Bent Over Row: 4 sets of 5 repetitions with 1 set AMRAP

Progression With 5x5 Workout

A person putting weights on a barbell

The 5x5 workout programs are easy to learn and implement.

As previously stated, this program follows a linear progression approach.

In other words, you utilize the same pattern in each session and only raise the weight when you get five repetitions throughout five sets.

For example, if you begin bench pressing with 140 pounds and get 5, 5, 5, 5, and 4 reps, you should continue with that weight until you have completed the progression criteria.

Adding 2.5kg (5 lbs) to the bar is an excellent idea. For instance, if you get five repetitions throughout five sets with 140 pounds on the bench press, train with 145 the next time.

Most people advocate increasing 5kg (10 lbs) to the deadlift, but you should employ your best judgment when adding extra weight.

If you achieve 5x5 with 310 pounds, for example, you may attempt 320 pounds the following week. If it is too heavy, add merely 5 pounds and aim for 5x5 with 315 pounds.

You may make even smaller increments of roughly 1kg (2 lbs) in the barbell bent over row and overhead press.

This is because improvement is more gradual on these workouts, and adding excessive weight can quickly destroy your proper form.

It is preferable to go slowly and progress linearly for longer. Linear periodization helps you to increase your strength and muscle mass [1].

A comprehensive study and meta-analysis indicated that linear and daily undulating periodization (DUP) were equal in muscle hypertrophy [2].

Linear programming, with hard work and consistency, may be a simple and excellent approach for you to grow stronger and gain muscle mass.

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Tips for an Effective 5x5 Workout Routine

A buff person in the gym doing a deadlift for a 5x5

Warming Up

In addition to the required warm-up regimen, we recommend performing some basic warm-up rounds for each activity.

Start with an empty bar and gradually raise the weight until you reach your maximum lifting weight.

Correctly warming up will increase your longevity and enable you to work out more effectively in the long run [3].

Rest Between Sets

The main objective of resting between sets is to give your muscles a little break to regain enough strength to complete the workout's repetitions.

This can vary depending on the person, but standard suggestions recommend resting between sets using heavier weights for 2 to 5 minutes.

When in doubt, rest a little more than usual. This leads to faster muscle growth and helps you to do better on each set [4].

Manage Your Volume

A person preparing a barbell for weight training

Within the 5x5 programming, there is a set amount of exercises per workout. This is by layout, as strength necessitates a certain level of concentration.

The capacity to recover is critical to your success. If you add too many more exercises, you will most likely be crushed by a wave of exhaustion from such high-frequency barbell lifts.

Therefore you should manage the volume of the workouts per session.

The 5x5 routine accounts for this by strictly restricting the additional workouts beyond the basic 5 sets 5 reps, sometimes utilizing only zero to 2 additional lifts for each session beyond the compound exercises for the day.

Pick Appropriate Weights for Your 5x5 Workout

You should ease into the 5x5 workout regimen since you're just starting.

Easing into this might vary in time and magnitude depending on how you've been training so far.

In general, we advise beginning modestly and developing from there. 

For instance, if you know your 1RM on the core lifts, start at roughly 50% of your 1RM.

If your best overhead press is 220 pounds, begin training sets with about 110 pounds.

This accomplishes two goals:

  • For starters, it helps you become used to routine and frequency.
  • Second, it allows you to build momentum and understand your direction.

Instead of plateauing after a few weeks because you had started with heavy weights, you can gradually raise to more weight in a few weeks. This is excellent for morale and motivation.

Benefits of a 5x5 Training Regimen

A person lifting a barbell for a 5x5 training regime

It Provides the Best Training Frequency

According to studies, working the muscles twice weekly is preferable to training them once weekly for hypertrophy [5].

Despite its modest training volume, the 5x5 strength training program provides a suitable frequency, ideal for individuals who wish to grow muscle and strength.

Although the standard program only requires you to perform five exercises, each one works for various muscle groups.

They give suitable stimulation to the major muscle groups in the body and provide a basic method for muscle growth.

Furthermore, because each action is performed with a barbell, the overloading capability is amazing, and you get to impose enormous mechanical stress, which is essential for muscle development [6].

It Is Perfect for Beginner and Intermediate Lifters

A gym coach helping a beginner lifter

A 5x5 exercise regimen concentrates on the fundamentals while removing any unnecessary stuff.

Not that this extra stuff is inherently bad, but many beginners might wind up concentrating on it too much.

You will also concentrate on the basic motions you employ in your workouts for years afterward.

It Aids in the Development of Neuromuscular Efficiency

The capacity to engage more muscle tissue to create force is called neuromuscular efficiency. Peak efficiency is task-specific, yet it also enhances other activities.

For instance, the more you perform back squats, the more effectively your muscles will recruit for that specific action.

The 5x5 strength training program is excellent for neuromuscular efficiency since it allows you to repeat particular movements multiple times each week [7].

For example, you get to squat 3 times each week, which helps you to develop your capacity to recruit motor systems for that specific movement pattern.

Therefore, you can observe consistent increases in squat performance without adding muscle mass.

It Concentrates on Compound Lifts

A professional weight lifter doing a deadlift

The 5x5 program is built around multi-joint, compound exercises.

The major lifts in any version will include barbell squats, rows, deadlifts, cleans, and different presses.

These exercises require a great deal of full-body coordination, and so strengthen numerous muscle groups at the same time.

Because there are no machines or isolation exercises, your complete body will be pushed to grow stronger by controlling the barbell lifts fully by hand.

"Compound exercises with multi-joint motions involving more than one muscle group can be particularly helpful in achieving advantages from all three types of fitness: cardiovascular, flexibility, and strength."

- Pete McCall, ACE Certified Personal Trainer

It Increases Maximum Strength

Because of the short repetitions, you'll be lifting weights that are heavy compared to your present strength capacity and body size.

This intense exercise instructs your nervous system to engage each muscle fiber fully, allowing you to create more power with the same muscle fibers over time.

This leads to significant gains in general strength, including 1RMs, and the capacity to easily move lesser weights because the same weight will eventually represent only a fraction of your 1RM [8].

It's Simple (Having a Specific Objective)

A person doing a deadlift in a gym

Training regimens come in different forms and sizes, with some being quite complex.

The beauty of the 5x5 workout plan is that you have defined training objectives, and it is simple to follow the programs.

Progress is straightforward, and you seldom have to wonder about any part of your training.

You cannot juggle many activities per workout with only three exercises every session.

Practically, this simplifies tracking your progress because you have fewer details to track for each session.

This also saves you the trouble of having to wait for equipment at the gym.

Once you've established a workout zone in a squat rack, you may complete the majority — if not all — of the exercise without moving to another section of the gym.

It Boosts Metabolism

Moving heavy loads demands a lot of energy.

As a result, your metabolism must be stimulated during and after the workout to heal your muscles and eliminate the waste products of working hard.

Furthermore, maintaining added muscle demands more calories.

As a result, the 5x5 program can help you burn a significant number of calories gradually, which can help you lose or maintain body fat even if you continue to consume the same number of calories [9].


Is 5x5 the Best for Building Muscle?

Yes, 5x5 is the best for building muscle. However, note that while trying to develop lean muscle mass or bulk, you should be in a calorie surplus to aid in protein synthesis.

Are 5x5 Workouts Effective?

Yes, 5x5 workouts are effective. The 5x5 concentrates on the primary movements for a full-body workout that will increase athletic performance, strength, and muscle mass.

How Long Should You Perform a 5x5 Program?

You should perform a 5x5 program for at least 4 weeks. If you complete all of your repetitions, you should set new rep maximums and see considerable gains in strength and muscle. If you're still making progress, keep going for another four weeks.

Supplementing Your 5x5 Workout

The 5x5 training regimen is a popular and efficient technique to develop general strength, build muscle mass, and enhance athletic performance.

You can develop a 5x5 exercise plan personalized to your objectives and needs by following the guidelines and principles given above.

However, remember that the program is only one component of a complete fitness regimen that should include appropriate diet, rest, and these best post-workout supplements for recovery.

Upon testing, the supplements proved effective by boosting our endurance and helping us overcome muscle fatigue.


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