If you have been in the muscle building game long enough, I’m sure you have heard of (or probably even tried): Heavy Duty, 20 Rep Breathing Squats, German Volume, or one of the many other oh-so-popular muscle building programs.
But there is one muscle building program that that seems to get talked about more than any other—the classic 5×5 routine. This routine involves performing 5 sets of 5 reps per exercise. Why is this routine so popular?
Well, it was originally popularized in the 1960’s by the great Reg Park. A three time Mr. Universe, Park was the first man to compete at a bodyweight above 225.
He was known for possessing superior strength to complement his massive size and awesome symmetry. Because of Park’s physical qualities, everyone wanted to emulate his routine…then, now and in the foreseeable future.
Is Park’s 5 X 5 routine the Holy Grail of muscle building? The answer is yes—and no. Let me explain. The potential of this routine is incredible. This has been proven time and time again over the past 50 years by some of the strongest and most jacked dudes in the business.
Reg Park became my Idol. I based my whole bodybuilding future on Reg. ” — Arnold Schwarzenegger
Unfortunately, there is also a long list of people who have experienced dismal results with the 5 X 5 routine. Does it all come down to genetics? Well, genetics do play a huge role in the results one would achieve on any routine. But in this case, there is more going on here.
In order to maximize its effectiveness, the 5×5 routine must be performed in a precise manner. Unfortunately, most of the literature out there talks vaguely about the routine, and fails miserably at addressing the myriad issues involved in executing it properly.
For example, what percentage of your 5RM should you use? How long should you rest between sets? What are the best exercises for this set/rep scheme? And the list goes on and on…
The good news is that I have tried every conceivable permutation of this routine over the years, and I can say with confidence that I have discovered what works and what doesn’t.
I learned a tremendous amount from my research, but there were two issues in particular that are so important that I feel the need to discuss them here. These points will literally make or break your routine. Here they are:
1) The 5×5 rep scheme works best for big, compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, presses and pulls. It does not work well with accessory exercises such as calf raises, ab movements and direct tricep work.
2) The percentage of your 5RM that you use plays a critical role in the results you can achieve. For instance, if you go too heavy, such as using your true 5RM (a mistake I have seen all too many trainees make), you will most certainly overtrain and get lackluster results in the process.
This is probably the number one reason people fail to make progress on this particular routine. I understand that the temptation is great to go as heavy as possible, but you have to remember that you are doing 5 sets of 5 reps—not one maximal set of 5 reps. There is a big difference.
I have discovered that the best way to gain maximal results from the 5 X 5 routine is to ramp the weight up, back off, and then ramp up again.
Here are the best percentages to use:
Set 1) 70% of your 5RM
Set 2) 75% of your 5RM
Set 3) 80% of your 5RM
Set 4) 75% of your 5RM
Set 5) 85% of your 5RM
Set 1) 75% of your 5RM
Set 2) 80% of your 5RM
Set 3) 85% of your 5RM
Set 4) 80% of your 5RM
Set 5) 90% of your 5RM
Set 1) 80% of your 5RM
Set 2) 85% of your 5RM
Set 3) 90% of your 5RM
Set 4) 85% of your 5RM
Set 5) 95% of your 5RM
Set 1) 85% of your 5RM
Set 2) 90% of your 5RM
Set 3) 95% of your 5RM
Set 4) 90% of your 5RM
Set 5) Test your 5RM. Look to break your old 5RM by 2.5-5 percent.
After your main exercise, (the 5×5 exercise) feel free to perform your assistance work. Just remember, in order to get optimal results, do NOT go to failure on your assistance exercises and do not let any workout exceed 16 total sets.
If you fail to ahhere to those simple rules, you will interfere with your bodies recovery abilities thus decreasing your results.
But your smart, so I know you’ll follow this to the letter 🙂 You got a great month of training ahead of you. Let’s get to it!