Bodybuilders, Increase Muscle Mass with a 5x5 program

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Introduction to the 5x5 program

The 5x5 strength building program has been around for many years. It is considered one of the classics of bodybuilding. While likely used much before, it was made popular in the 1960s by the book The Strongest Shall Survive: Strength Training for Football by Bill Starr. It remains one of the most used programs because it is so effective at building strength and muscle mass while it is also simple to roll out. The 5x5 program is designed to push past plateaus.

Basically, you workout with a core program of five exercises. You rotate through those exercises with a schedule of A and B days. The 5x5 program was devised with a hard workout on your muscles three times a week and enough time to promote recovery and rebuild muscles. It will increase your strength and improve your bodybuilding. If you want to build muscle mass, then you will also want to eat enough protein and calories to promote the muscle bulk.

Another benefit of the 5x5 program is that it provides periodization. Periodization is the systematic planning and changing  of athletic, fitness, or bodybuilding training. It is geared to produce the best possible performance. The 5x5 program continues to challenge your muscles and promotes increased strength training.

The StrongLifts 5x5 system is a great way to start with the 5x5 program. This article gives you variations for a more intermediate 5x5 program with two phases.

5x5 Phase 1: 4-6 Weeks Building it Up

The first thing you need to do is to establish your 5 rep max for each of the exercises (Squat, bench press, barbell row, standing military press, deadlift). This will give you a benchmark to beat in phase 1. You will also want to meticulously track your beginning point and your workout weights and successful completion of the 5x5 workouts.

Week one, start with a lower weight than your 5 rep max weight. Beginning bodybuilders should start at 50% of their 5 rep weight max. If you are currently lifting, then you can start higher than 50% of your max weight for each exercise. Start at about 75% of your weight max. The key is that you will need to be able to do 5 sets of 5 reps. You don’t want to max out during the workouts and you don’t want to be sore or cause injury. That will diminish the effectiveness of your strength training. Make sure that the weight limit that you start at is not so heavy that you cannot complete the 5 rep 5 sets for each exercise. The 5 sets of 5 reps are critical for this program to be effective.

Increase your weightlifting

Before you bump up your weights, you need to have successfully completed a week of the 5x5 workouts, start adding weight. There are two ways to do this. Under the StrongLifts 5x5 program, you increase your weight by 5 lbs for each exercise and each workout. So you increase your weightlifting by 15 lbs a week. Other methods advise only adding 5-10 lbs each week.

When you add the weight, you should be able to complete the 5 sets of 5 reps each at the new weight. If you can’t complete the 5x5 workout for that exercise, then repeat the same weight on the next round of workouts. If you try three times and cannot complete the additional weight with a 5x5 workout, then decrease the weight by 10% and try again. Each exercise should have its own weight amount. You will need to track your successful completion of the 5x5 for each weight and exercise so you can stay on track. This is also necessary when you need to start on a weight longer.

Around 4-6 weeks, you should be breaking into new max weights on your 5x5 workouts. However, this will be most likely only if you are eating enough calories to build new muscle. If you are eating at a deficit or trying to lose weight, you won’t break into new weight limits because your body won’t have the tools needed to build muscle.

5x5 Phase II: 2-3 Weeks. Pump it Up!

For the first two weeks of the 5x5 phase II, you will want to workout with a 3x3 approach. You will add more weights and work toward maxing out. Many bodybuilders will drop their squat workouts to only twice a week so their legs can recover from the heavier lifting.

One main difference between the peaking phase and the building phase is that during the peaking phase, your main focus is on increasing weights instead of always completing your 5x5 workouts. During the last week of the cycle, you continue to add weights and if needed to hit higher weights, may even take your workouts down to two workouts that week instead of three. The last workout, you may do one set with your max weights.

Not every bodybuilder chooses to do the lifting max in the last week. Some continue with the building phase for the entire year and continue to see new results. The main determiner between the variations on the program depends on the bodybuilder's goals. If the bodybuilder is trying to constantly make new increases and stay in lifting shape, then the first phase on a longer term basis is ideal. Or they may use phase II three times a year to intensify weight max. The shorter program of 7-9 weeks is ideal for other athletes that are training for a season or for competition. It brings new weight highs and improves the body’s strength in phenomenal ways.

Equipment: 

You will need a few basics for the 5x5 program. You will need a barbell, weights, a benchpress, pull up station and an ab station. Everything you need, and any substitutes or alterations can be found in our weightlifting section

5x5 Week One

Monday

Wednesday

Friday

Barbell Full Squats 5x5

Front Barbell Squat 5x5

Barbell Full Squats 5x5

Barbell Bench Press 5x5

Standing Military Press 5x5

Barbell Bench Press 5x5

Bent Over Barbell Row 5x5

Barbell Deadlift 5x5

Bent Over Barbell Rox 5x5

Sit Ups 5x5

Pull ups 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps

Bench Dips 2-3 sets 5-8 reps

Cable Lying Triceps Extension 5x5

Barbell Curl 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps

Ab Crunch Machine 2-3 sets of 5-9 reps

 

Crunches 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps

 

5x5 Week Two

Monday

Wednesday

Friday

Front Barbell Squat 5x5

Barbell Full Squats 5x5

Front Barbell Squat 5x5

Standing Military Press 5x5

Barbell Bench Press 5x5

Standing Military Press 5x5

Barbell Deadlift 5x5

Bent Over Barbell Row 5x5

Barbell Deadlift 5x5

Pull ups 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps

Sit Ups 5x5

Pull ups 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps

Barbell Curl 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps

Cable Lying Triceps Extension 5x5

Barbell Curl 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps

Crunches 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps

 

Ab Crunch Machine 2-3 sets of 5-9 reps