Many of us are not only trying to lose weight when we head to the gym, but also build muscle. However, there are a lot of strength training routines to choose from, so it can become a little overbearing. Not only that, but many of the strength workouts skip the beginner process and go straight into the bodybuilding techniques. A lot of us aren’t ready for that, so we need something simple that we can follow and incorporate into our weekly routines.
Thankfully, that’s where the 5×5 workout routine comes in. Mainly designed for beginners, it is a standard routine that can be used by people of all fitness levels. Many people now swear by the 5×5 routine to get themselves in shape, improve their strength and burn fat. Is it going to be the right plan for you, though? Let’s look at the details of the 5×5 workout and see what it’s all about.
Behind the 5×5 Workout
The basis of the 5×5 workout is an easy enough one to follow. There are five different exercises that incorporate free weights, and you choose from three of them for each workout. It’s also not an everyday routine, as you only have to repeat this workout three times per week. The five exercises that you can choose from are the bench press, deadlift, overhead press, squat and barbell row.
Once you have selected which three of those five workouts that you want to do, you do a total of five sets for each exercise, and each set is just five reps (hence the 5×5). All in all, getting through these workouts takes a total of 45 minutes. That’s just two hours and 15 minutes each week, which is not asking much to build strength.
The classic version of the 5×5 workout was created by Bill Starr, a strength and conditioning coach that once worked in football. Starr was an Olympian himself that taught many the values of strength training, and his routine became famous after the release of his book “The Strongest Shall Survive”, which is just as relevant now as ever. Though the original idea for the 5×5 workout was to build large amounts of muscle mass by loading weights into short sets, there have been many different variations throughout the years as it has become more popular. Now, you can get through a 5×5 workout without looking like an NFL linebacker.
What to Know About 5×5
If you are following the classic 5×5 program, the idea is to start with a weight that is most comfortable for you for each workout. Remember, you are going to be doing 25 total reps of each workout, so don’t overdo it at the start. Once you find the starting weight, you should be adding five more pounds to the weight you are lifting each time that you perform a workout. This means that if you start off with 100 pounds in squats, you should be able to do 260 at the end of the 12 week cycle if you pick them every week. That sounds ambitious, but it can be done.
For those that aren’t fans of the free weight exercises like bench presses and barbell rows, don’t worry. There are other workouts that include calf exercises, curls, pull-ups and more. You can even create your own plan that incorporates more bodyweight exercises like pushups and sit-ups if you are a beginner. There’s really no limit to what you can put into a 5×5 workout, but you should be challenging yourself.
Losing Weight With the 5×5 Workout
Since not all of us are looking to put on weight (even if it is healthy muscle weight), using those bodyweight workouts are a good idea to get slimmer without packing on muscle. Just know that building muscle burns fat, and lifting weights can be a massive calorie burner that boosts your metabolism to levels that you’ve never seen before.
If you are worried about getting too bulky, you can add cardio at the end of your 5×5 workout, and since you are only lifting three times per week, you can also do the cardio during your days off. You should still be eating enough so that you don’t lose muscle while on the 5×5 workout routine, as it can be common for those that lose weight.
Some people get discouraged when trying to lose weight on the 5×5 workout since the scale might not budge, and in a lot of cases, even goes up. As long as you are following the plan, though, your body fat will go down as your body gets more toned. In the end, the number on the scale doesn’t matter. Throughout the routine (that’s normally 12 weeks), you will notice your body getting stronger while also burning fat more efficiently, which will end up getting the results you want in the mirror even if the scale doesn’t agree.
5×5 Workout Schedule
So once you have made the decision to get started on the 5×5 workout program, it’s time to make your schedule. There should be one day per week where you are trying your hardest to do your best in terms of amount of weight lifted, one where you take it a bit easier and another where you are working about 70 percent of your maximum.
Here is what your schedule might look like while on the 5×5 routine:
- Squats (95 percent maximum weight)
- Overhead Press (95 percent maximum weight)
- Barbell Rows (95 percent maximum weight)
- Deadlift (70 percent maximum weight)
- Bench Press (70 percent maximum weight)
- Overhead Press (70 percent maximum weight)
- Squats (80 percent maximum weight)
- Bench Press (80 percent maximum weight)
- Deadlift (80 percent maximum weight)
Feel free to mix it up however you want, but the first day of the new week should be the week where you are trying your hardest. Once you have gotten your maximum weight up over the course of the first five weeks, you should take a week off to let your muscles recover. Also make sure to give yourself at least one day of rest in between each workout (but feel free to do a light workout such as jogging or cycling).
Before getting started with the program, though, you should find out what the maximum amount of weight you can lift for each exercise is. The week prior to starting the program, take a day or two to perform each exercise. Don’t do them all in order, though, as you might not get an accurate reading from being too tired. By the end of the program, you should see huge improvements in your personal bests. It might sound easy to only do three exercises of 75 total reps, but it is certainly a challenge.
Summing it Up
The 5×5 workout routine is a tried and true plan that has helped a lot of people put on muscle while building up the amount of weight they can lift in a hurry. However, it might not be the right plan for everyone. A healthy majority of people that go through the entire 12 week cycle often find themselves putting on a lot of muscle, which means a lot of weight. If that’s not your goal, you might want to find something more cardio friendly.
Some might also find themselves getting bored of doing the same five workouts without being able to do any other strength training exercises on their days off. So those that aren’t looking to double the amount of weight they can bench press or deadlift should focus on something more rounded such as one of the Avengers workouts that we have reviewed.
Lastly, this is a plan that typically requires a gym membership as the free weights that you normally find in a home gym don’t cooperate with the 5×5 workout and can be quite expensive on their own. Make sure that if you do sign yourself up for this program to also practice good technique and use a spotter at the gym. You’ll be lifting heavy loads that will test your limits, so having even the slightest hitch in your technique could result in injury.
Other than that, just make sure to stay safe and stick with the plan once you get started, and make sure that you are eating enough and eating healthy. Those that follow the plan eat a lot of protein while staying away from any processed foods and sugar, with no cheat days. It takes a lot of discipline, but if you can make it through, you are guaranteed to like the results that you see from the 5×5 workout.