I really like the 5×5 scheme for strength, quite simply, it straight up works. Progress always happens and when used well I’d defy anyone to not succeed with it.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a million and one ways to gain strength and they all work to a greater or lesser degree but for me, 5×5 is one of the best! At its most basic you do 5 sets of 5 reps and a load of around 80-90% of your 1 rep max and gradually push that weight higher. But as we all know, nothing is ever as straightforward as that!
Depending on your energy levels, recovery from your last session and a variety of other factors, your training session quality can be awesome, awful or anywhere in between the 2, and as such a little leeway in your training loads can help a lot.
Lets look at some of the ways to manipulate 5×5 and get you great results…
Feeling strong 5×5 – Great when you start on 5×5 and are conservative in your initial loading, generally I’ll use this when clients go onto 5×5 for the first time. Each set is a little heavier than the last and the next week, the starting load is the load for set 3 in the previous week. Depending on the starting point, this may last up to 4 weeks. Good for building strength and confidence under load.
Set 1 – 60kg
Set 2 – 62.5kg
Set 3 – 65kg
Set 4 – 67.5kg
Set 5 – 70kg
Set 1 – 65kg
Set 2 – 67.5kg
Set 3 – 70kg
Set 4 – 72.5kg
Set 5 – 75kg
Slow loading increases but good progress quite quickly.
Straight 5×5 – Load up the bar with around 85% of your max and crunch out 5 sets of 5 good reps. Increase the load a little next time, Repeat each session until you cant…
Testing your limits 5×5 – Increase the load if you feel good in the first couple of sets. For example, your training plan says deadlift at 150kg for 5×5, so your working sets might look like:
150 x5 – felt good,quick off the floor,
150×5 – Still quick off the floor, no issues
155×5 – felt good,
160×4 – slower off the floor, struggled on rep 4
150×5 – Back down and finished strong.
Overall a good increase on your planned 5×5 at 150 (overall volume up) Next time start at 155 and see what happens.
Build up to 5×5 – This is great for really going after bigger numbers, start with a set of 5, increase the load a little for a set of 4, then again for a set of 3, 2 and finally 1. Might look like this:
Set 1 – 100kg for 5 reps
Set 2 – 105 x 4
Set 3 – 110 x 3
Set 4 – 115 x 2
Set 5 – 120 x 1
Set 1 – 100kg for 5 reps
Set 2 – 105 x 5
Set 3 – 110 x 4
Set 4 – 115 x 3
Set 5 – 120 x 2
This at first doesn’t look like a big increase but when you look at the volume (reps x load) you see a big improvement – 1600 kgs moved in week 1 against 2050 kgs moved in week 2. I would be happy with a 25% increase each week if i could get it!
You continue until you hit 5 reps at each load and then bump the loading up a bit and repeat. It take some time and stalls may happen but you get stronger.
So 4 possible options on 5×5 but remember ,there are a lot more options in how you manipulate the loading to match your training strength on the day. Play around with it, be patient and consistent and watch your strength levels skyrocket!