Below is a recent 5×5 squat workout I did with a few sets of leg presses. The 5×5 is a classic old school but effective program. On my 5×5 squat day, I will often do 2-3 sets of leg press afterward for 3×6. Hamstring work will be done in another workout.
Although the 5×5 is an excellent stand alone program, it can also be incorporated into other programs as I have with my Hybrid program where it’s introduced at specific intervals within a program, that alters volume, loading, reps, etc. For example, BBR member Sumi outlines some of the variations that can be used in her new section following the Hybrid Program.
There are also some great stand-alone 5X5 programs out there people may want to look into and try for say a 10-12 week block to get beyond a plateau. I find one common area of confusion of the 5X5 is loading. After warming up, all sets in the 5X5 are in the 80-85% 1RM range. Taking appropriate rest between sets to allow you to complete all 5 sets using that loading – using acceptable form – is the essential component of the 5X5.
As for form, I think Coach Staley gives good advice in his article “Top Ten Stealth Strategies for Maximizing Your Strength Training Results” when he advises “Terminate the training component when the quality of the performance erodes by 10% or more”
That advice is really for intermediate – advanced lifters who know the difference between good form and bad, and will then know where their form has degraded enough to know when to stop and to gauge appropriate loading for a given exercise/set.
Beginners – early intermediate lifters should aim for perfect form on their exercises until they have the experience to know where and when going slightly outside perfect form is acceptable and productive, and that takes time and training to master. Fact is, many never do, but that’s another issue.
Obviously, exercises chosen for 5X5 are going to be your compound multi joint best “bang for the buck” movements that work large numbers of muscles simultaneously such as: squats (front, or back!), deadlifts, bench presses (and their variations), various types of pull-ups, etc.
One does not do a 5×5 program of leg extensions, concentration curls, and one arm side laterals…. 😎
Try a classic old school 5X5 program for a change of pace.
Will Brink is the owner of the Brinkzone Blog. Will has over 30 years experience as a respected author, columnist and consultant, to the supplement, fitness, bodybuilding, and weight loss industry and has been extensively published. Will graduated from Harvard University with a concentration in the natural sciences, and is a consultant to major supplement, dairy, and pharmaceutical companies.
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