5×5 Workout: The Ultimate Strength Training Routine

When looking to get stronger, you need to focus on lifting progressively heavier weights, typically on compound exercises, over a long period of time. One of the most popular methods to do this is the 5×5 workout.

5×5 workouts are effective strength routines that have you increase loading every week in a linear manner to increase strength. You perform 5 sets of 5 reps of a compound exercise (bench, squat, deadlift, overhead press, row) before performing 3-4 high-rep sets of accessory exercises that complement your main lift. 

Even though the 5×5 workout structure seems straightforward, it requires you to have the skills to train the compound lifts safely and with proper technique so you can progress each week.

There are many different types of 5×5 programs out there. In this article, we will discuss the 5×5 framework, which allows you to take the 5×5 principles of progressive overload for the development of strength using compound exercises and apply them as you see fit.

I’ll also offer you a sample 4-day 5×5 training routine to help you build strength in the squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press.

In teaching you how to implement 5×5 training into your training routine, you will be able to better customize your training to match your goals.

If you are looking to increase strength, let Fitbod help.  On average, a new Fitbod user who trains 3 times a week for about 45 minutes will see a 34% strength increase after 3 months. Try Fitbod for free.

What Is a 5×5 Workout?

A 5×5 workout is when you perform 5 sets of 5 reps with an exercise, generally a compound exercise, with moderate to heavy loads. You progressively overload each compound lift in a linear fashion (adding 2.5% or so each week), which will help you build strength and muscle.

Progressive overload is a scientific principle that states that the development of strength, muscle mass, or another physical attribute can be improved by incrementally increasing the stress on the tissues over time. This can be done by increasing loading, volume (sets and reps), time, or any other value that directly impacts the intensity of a workout.

A 5×5 program uses the progressive overload principle because it has you perform 5 sets of 5 reps with a given weight in week 1 of the program and increase the amount lifted by 2-3% each week for 4-6 weeks at a time.

How To Implement a 5×5 Training Routine

how to implement a 5x5 training routine

Below are six training variables you need to be familiar with if you plan to implement 5×5 workouts into your training routine. 

It is important to point out that it is not recommended to do 5×5 for every exercise in your program. Rather, choose one key movement each workout to do the 5×5 workout with, and then use the other exercises to support general muscle growth and fitness. 

To see how this would look in a training routine, be sure to look at the 4-Day Total Body 5×5 Training Routine near the end of this article.

Frequency: How Often Should You Do 5×5 Workouts?

You can train a 5×5 workout at least 4-5 days per week if you select the proper movements and lay them out in a routine that allows for recovery between sessions. 

For example, you could do 5×5 squats on Monday, 5×5 bench presses on Tuesday, 5×5 deadlifts on Thursday, and 5×5 overhead presses on Friday.

Note that a 5×5 workout can take upwards of 30 minutes for more advanced lifters who need to take time to warm up prior to starting their heavier 5×5 work sets. If you perform accessory movements after your 5×5 lift, the entire training session can take an hour or more.

As such, your schedule and how much time you have to dedicate to the gym each day can also affect how frequently you follow a 5×5 protocol.

Related Article: How Long Should a Workout Be? (Science-Backed)

Movements: What Movements Are Best to Do With 5×5 Workouts?

Compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, and rows are often the best movements for a 5×5 workout, as they are strength-building exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time. As mentioned, you will do one exercise per session that follows the 5×5 protocol. 

Seeing that the primary goal of a 5×5 workout is to build strength, it would make sense to use that protocol on compound exercises where you can train with heavy loads relative to your known 1-rep max (1RM). 

5×5 workouts are not ideal for isolation or machine-based exercises, as you typically do not want to train with very heavy loads in low rep ranges on machines for safety purposes.

Additionally, it’s best to use 5×5 workouts on exercises where you can train the most amount of muscle tissue and handle the most amounts of loading to develop strength.

You could also use 5×5 for power cleans or snatches. However, as I’ll discuss below, a 5×5 protocol works best when using 70-85% of your 1RM. Training the Olympic lifts for 5 reps at these percentages may not be the ideal way to increase your 1RM in these lifts.

The explosive lifts tend to be trained in the 1-3 rep range, so you don’t turn the set into more of a strength endurance workout.

Load Selection: How Heavy Should You Lift During 5×5 Workouts?

When implementing a 5×5 workout, you should use loads anywhere from 70-85% of your 1RM.

You’ll typically start with 70-75% of your 1RM in the first week and increase that percentage every week until you reach 85%. At that point, you would then need to re-evaluate your maxes and reset the charts using a new 1RM, which will move all the percentages up.

The reason for not going above 85% is that it is a very aggressive and maybe overzealous amount to use unless you’re later on in the program. This is usually a weight most lifters can get for only 6 reps, so training at this percentage is best done further along in the program right before you deload and reset your maxes for a new training cycle.

Related Article: How Often Should You Max Out Lifting Weights?

Weekly Progression: How Should You Progress Your 5×5 Workouts?

To progress your 5×5 workouts, you will increase the amount of weight you lift by 1-3% each week. As discussed above, you will continue this progression until you reach a load that is 85% of your maximum.

You will be able to increase the weight you lift most weeks on the program. However, you may find an increase of 1-3% is too tough or easy, depending on your level. Stronger lifters may even want to increase loads by 1-2% each week and run a longer duration 5×5 workout program, as an increase of 2-3% may be too aggressive week to week. 

For example, if a lifter has a 500-lb deadlift, increasing 2-3% is like adding 10-15 lbs to the bar every week. This may not be sustainable in the later weeks of the program.

Whether you are a beginner or a more advanced lifter, you want to increase the weight you use for the 5×5 protocol slowly, every week, for many weeks.

Rest: How Long Should You Rest Between Sets During 5×5 Workouts?

Most lifters should aim to rest for 3-5 minutes between sets. 

In the earlier phases of a 5×5 program, you may be able to get away with resting less than 3 minutes between sets since the loading is typically under 80%.

However, as you progress, you may need to rest as long as needed to be mentally and physically ready to attack the next set.

Related Article: How Long Should You Rest Between Sets?

Program Length: How Long Should You Do a 5×5 Training Routine?

Most 5×5 workouts will take 4-6 weeks to complete. However, you can also run a 5×5 program for up to 8-12 weeks if you slowly progress your loads each week and take monthly deloads to allow the body to recover.

For example, you could program a 4-week 5×5 program where you lift 75% of your 1 rep max in week one, 78% in week 2, 81% in week 3, and 84% in week 4. Since 85% is about the highest percentage you want to use in a 5×5 program, you would then deload for a week.

A deload is typically a week or a few days in which you significantly decrease the amount you lift to allow the body and nervous system to recover and repair itself after a few weeks of progressive training. This helps to increase performance and minimize injury.

After your deload week, you would reassess your new maximum by testing your 1RM on the lift or taking a projected rep max test. For a rep max test, you will lift a weight that you can get for 2-3 reps max and then put that number into a 1-rep max calculator to establish an estimated 1RM. 

You will then follow the 5×5 program for another 4 weeks using the same percentages listed above but apply them to your newly established 1RM.

Need a workout program? Try Fitbod for Free.

What Are the Benefits of a 5×5 Training Routine?

what are the benefits of a 5x5 training routine

Below are three of the biggest benefits of doing a 5×5 training routine.

Simple to Follow 

5×5 workouts are simple to follow, as you perform 5 sets of 5 reps of compound exercises and increase the loading every week for 4-6 weeks.

This program allows you to walk into the gym, warm up, load the bar up with weight, do the necessary reps, and move on. 

This is why this program is a very popular choice for intermediate lifters and even coaches who want to have large groups of lifters train strength in a systematic, easy-to-manage program.

Weekly Progressions

This program has built-in weekly progressions of increasing the loading by 1-3%. By having built-in load progressions every week, you take away the need to determine how much to lift in each session. 

Having the ability to predict the increases each week allows you to mentally and physically prepare for tougher workouts. 

By removing the decision of how much to lift, you can be certain that you will progress in your training as long as you follow the plan. This is ideal for lifters who lack the ability to understand how hard to push or those who typically do the same workouts every week without forcing load progressions. 

Manageable Volumes and Intensities

Managing the volume and intensity increase on a weekly basis is best done by sticking to a pre-set program. 

When lifters do not follow a program, they tend to be subject to their motivation on a certain day, which can mean not training hard on some days and training too hard on others. 

That inconsistency in training intensity can lead to progressing too quickly, overuse injuries, and stalled progress in the long term. This is why it is important to not lift above 85% of your maximum before you deload and retest your 1RM.

Related Article: How to Interpret Your Estimated Max with Fitbod

What Are the Drawbacks of a 5×5 Training Routine?

Below are three drawbacks to doing a 5×5 training routine.

You Need to Have a Recent 1-Rep Max

This program requires you to know your 1RM (or calculate your estimated 1RM using the method described above) so that you can take a percentage of that number and lift it in your workout. 

For some lifters who want to start a 5×5 program immediately, this can be an issue if they haven’t tested their maxes in a while. If this is the case, you will first need to take a week or so to test your rep maxes on the lifts you plan to do 5×5 workouts with, and then start the program the following week.

Requires Lifter to Have Good Technique

5×5 workouts assume that a lifter has the skill and experience to perform compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, presses, and rows with good technique under heavy loads. This skill set is required to perform the workouts safely and to progress every week.

This is why it is suggested that a lifter have at least 6 months of training experience using compound exercises and lifting 5-10 reps with good form under heavier loads. If a lifter fails to have the capacity to control loads, they will be at risk for injury when running a 5×5 workout program.

Heavier Loads May Not Be Best for Everyone

The 5×5 workout program is a strength-building program, which may or may not be what everyone needs. 

While increasing strength is a great training goal, training with heavy loads may not be ideal for certain goals or circumstances.

For example, lifters who want to maximize hypertrophy may not need to follow a 5×5 program, as it can be time-consuming and does not allow them to get enough training volume to maximize muscle growth.

This is why most bodybuilding routines have lifters train in the 6-8, 8-12, 12-15, and even 15-30 rep ranges. Lifting heavy can increase muscle mass, but it is much harder to deliver enough work to the muscle due to total body fatigue from heavier loads.

Beginners or those just returning from an injury are also not ideal candidates for a 5×5 program. When training 5×5 programs, a lifter should have no prior injuries that could impede progress and ensure they have the necessary skills and experience training heavy compound exercises.

Who Should Do a 5×5 Workout Routine?

who should do a 5x5 workout routine

Below are a few groups of people who would benefit from using a 5×5 workout routine on a regular basis.

Non-Beginner Lifters Who Want to Develop Basic Strength 

Lifters who have learned how to perform compound exercises with good form and control could use the 5×5 workout routine to help them increase their strength in those lifts. 

While training in the 8-10, 10-15, or 15-20 rep range on compound exercises has its benefits, it’s essential to train with heavier loads (usually between 2-5 reps) to build strength.

Lifters who want to continually progress month after month will need to get stronger. 5×5 workout routines are ideally done after a lifter has trained in the 6-8 and 8-12 rep ranges for some time and has been introduced to heavier loads. 

This will ensure they have prepared their body and mind for heavier training and will know how to move heavier loads under control safely to minimize injury risks.

Sport Athletes

The 5×5 workout routine is a good foundational strength-building program for sports athletes, especially when done with heavier compound exercises. 

5×5 training protocols are effective because they progressively overload the individual over the course of many workouts, allowing them to gain strength and at least some muscle mass while increasing their capacity to promote force throughout the body. 

In doing so, they will get stronger in the lifts and have the ability to train that new muscle tissue to help them run faster, jump higher, and be more explosive using power movements like plyometrics, sprinting, and the Olympic lifts.

Powerlifters, Weightlifters, and Any Strength Athletes in a Base Phase

Powerlifters, weightlifters, and other lifters looking to increase strength over the long term can benefit from adding 5×5 workout protocols within their training to help them develop a good baseline of strength to transition into heavier, more demanding sport-specific training.

In an earlier article, we discussed how a base phase is one of the first training periods (mesocycle) within a longer-term training program (macrocycle). Powerlifters can use 5×5 protocols on the main competition lifts (bench press, squat, deadlift) at the beginning of a new cycle to develop that baseline of strength.

As mentioned earlier, weightlifters will not want to use 5×5 protocols on the Olympic lifts. However, they may want to perform 5×5 routines on back squats, front squats, presses, and pulls. 

Ideally, you would take 4-6 weeks and select one exercise per day and do 5×5 with that, as doing 5×5 with everything will be too intense for almost any lifter and could lead to injury or overtraining.

Who Should NOT Do a 5×5 Workout Routine?

While the 5×5 workout routine is an effective strength training protocol, it is not something everyone should use.

Beginners (No Training Experience)

If you are a beginner, a 5×5 workout routine is not the ideal program for you. It requires a fundamental level of understanding of how to perform compound barbell exercises properly. 

By not having a solid foundation of training prior to starting a 5×5 program, you could set yourself up for injury. Injuries can happen due to poor form, loss of control under heavy loads, and the general inability of your connective tissues to withstand weekly linear progressions (systematically increasing loading every week).

It’s best to participate in a beginner workout program that helps you learn the compound lifts and address muscle imbalances (including isolation and machine exercises) first for 8-12 weeks before embarking on a 5×5 workout routine.

Lifters Getting Back in the Gym After Many Months (or Years) Off

Despite having a good basis for muscular development and training experience, it is not recommended that lifters returning to the gym after a long break do a 5×5 workout routine. This is true whether you took a few months off from a formal workout program or are returning from an injury.

By jumping back into a 5×5 workout routine, you do not allow your muscles and connective tissues to adapt to the generally heavier loads relative to your top-end maxes, which could result in overuse or more serious injury.

Instead, you should initially participate in a 4-8 week routine that integrates compound and isolation exercises to recondition your body for higher-stress workouts.

Lifters Primarily Wanting Maximal Muscle Hypertrophy 

If you are looking to gain the most amount of muscle tissue, you generally want to train in the moderate to high-rep range so that you can perform enough training volume (total reps and sets performed) to stimulate maximal muscle growth.

While it is certainly possible to gain muscle mass doing a 5×5 program, you may be better off doing compound exercises in the 6-8 or 8-12 rep range and then adding in your isolation and machine exercises to do more moderate (10-15) and higher-rep (15-30) work.

Related Article: 10 Tips to Maximize Muscle Growth FAST

Sample 5×5 Strength Training Routines

Below is a 4-day 5×5 workout routine you can do to increase your bench, squat, deadlift, and overhead press strength. You can run the below routines individually or do each once per week with a full 24-hours rest between workouts 2-3 for a 5×5 total body workout program.

Each workout below starts with a 5×5 routine on a compound exercise. Then, you will perform 4-5 other exercises in the moderate to high-rep ranges to help increase lean muscle mass and address any muscle imbalances you may have that otherwise would not be addressed by doing only a 5×5 routine.

To progress this weekly, add 2.5% to the 5×5 protocol in weeks 2-4. For example, in week 2, you will perform 5×5 with 77.5% of your 1 rep max. In week 3, you will perform 5×5 with 80% of your 1-rep max, and so forth until week 6. In week 6, you will deload to allow your muscles to recover and perform 5×5 with 65% of your 1 rep max.

You can progress the other exercises by either performing more reps while staying within the prescribed rep range with the same weight or performing the same number of reps with slightly more weight while staying within the prescribed rep range. 

Note, all the exercises listed below can be found in the Fitbod app. The workouts below are samples you can use to create your own workouts in the Fitbod app.

5×5 Back Squat Strength Routine

  • Barbell Back Squat: 5 sets of 5 reps, at 75% of your 1 rep max. Rest 2-4 minutes between sets.
  • Barbell Good Morning: 3 sets of 8-10 reps. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
  • Leg Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
  • Lying Hamstring Curl: 3 sets of 12-15 reps. Rest 60-90 seconds between sets.
  • Seated Calf Raise: 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps. Rest 60-90 seconds between sets.

5×5 Bench Press Strength Routine

  • Barbell Bench Press: 5 sets of 5 reps, at 75% of your 1 rep max. Rest 2-4 minutes between sets.
  • Pull-Up or Machine-Assisted Pull-Up: 3 sets of 8-10 reps. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
  • Barbell Bent-Over Row: 3 sets of 12-15 reps. Rest 60-90 seconds between sets.
  • Barbell Bicep Curl: 3 sets of 8-10 reps. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
  • Cable Triceps Pushdown: 3 sets of 8-10 reps. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.

5×5 Deadlift Strength Routine

  • Barbell Deadlift: 5 sets of 5 reps, at 75% of your 1 rep max. Rest 2-4 minutes between sets.
  • Barbell Hip Thrust: 3 sets of 8-10 reps. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
  • Dumbbell Walking Lunge: 3 sets of 8-10 reps. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
  • Leg Extension: 3 sets of 12-15 reps. Rest 60-90 seconds between sets.
  • Standing Calf Raise: 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps. Rest 60-90 seconds between sets.

5×5 Overhead Press Strength Routine

  • Barbell Overhead Press: 5 sets of 5 reps, at 75% of your 1 rep max. Rest 2-4 minutes between sets.
  • Dumbbell Row: 3 sets of 8-10 reps. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
  • Dumbbell Incline Chest Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
  • Lat Pulldown: 3 sets of 12-15 reps. Rest 60-90 seconds between sets.
  • Cable Bicep Curl: 3 sets of 12-15 reps. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
  • Cable Face Pull: 3 sets of 12-14 reps. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.

Looking for a workout program? Try using the Fitbod App, which will design your program based on your logged training data and goals. The workouts will adapt automatically to your levels of recovery and rate of progress. With over 600 movements and exercises videos, you can be sure to perform the movements correctly for optimal results. Take the guesswork out of your workouts. Try Fitbod for free.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the 5×5 Workout Effective?

The 5×5 workout routine is a very effective general strength-building protocol as it has you perform compound exercises with moderate to heavy weights. The amount lifted is increased weekly, helping you develop strength at a consistent pace under the principle of progressive overload.

How Long Should a 5×5 Workout Take?

Doing your main lift for 5 sets of 5 should take 20-30 minutes total, depending on your level. This takes into account lighter warm-up sets and 2-3 minute rest periods. If you do accessory exercises after your 5×5 lift, the whole workout can take an hour or longer, depending on how much extra work you do.

Furthermore, more experienced, stronger lifters may find it takes them longer due to longer recovery periods between sets.

Does 5×5 Build Muscle Or Strength?

5×5 workout routines are primarily done for strength. However, they can also build some muscle as they deliver a decent amount of volume. That said, the volume may still be too low if your goal is to maximize muscle growth.

To ensure you are also building muscle on a 5×5 program, be sure to add in moderate (10-15) and higher-rep (15-20) exercises afterward.

What Results Can I Expect From 5×5?

After running a 5×5 workout program for 6-8 weeks, you can expect to improve your 3-5 rep max (the amount you can lift for 3-5 reps) on the exercises you used the 5×5 routine on. You may also notice sizable muscle growth if you incorporate other moderate to higher rep exercises in the program.

About The Author

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.