“5 X 5 Powerlifting Workout”
By Ian Smalley
For many that are new to the sport of Powerlifting the training can be a little confusing and get more and more complex as time goes on. The 5x5 program is older than dirt and a great way to simplify the process and make gains in strength and size. Most trainees who get into powerlifting have had some gym experience doing higher volume bodybuilding to add inches on their biceps, but to no avail…take heart newbies, the 5x5 routine won’t let you down. There are many variations of the 5x5 so I will lay out a couple of them.
1. The 3 day a week 5x5- This will look like something like this:
Monday: Squat - 5 sets of 5 with the same weight
2. accessory movements also done for 5 sets of 5
Wednesday: Bench – 5 x5, 2 accessory movements for triceps/chest for 5x5
Friday: Deadlift- 5x5, 2 accessory movements for back or hamstrings for 5x5
…This is pretty basic but a balanced approach that drops your total volume down, but the intensity can be controlled by the length of time in between sets. If you take 5 minutes between sets you will have a much different experience than if you take 1 minute between sets. Generally this program will begin with 70% of your max for the movement, then as each week goes by add 5 to 10 lbs to the lift.
How much weight you add each week will determine the length of time the program will work for
you. For example, if you added 10lbs a week to the squat, then an 8 week cycle would work, where as if you added 5 lbs per week you could extend the cycle to 12 weeks.
New powerlifters can also make great strides staying with the primary movement for the entire cycle to develop technique andmuscle memory, while intermediate to advanced lifters trying to break through a plateau would do well to rotate to a different related movement in a three week wave before returning to the original movement, for example:
Week 1- full raw squat, 5x5
Week 2- raw front squat, 5x5
Week 3- raw narrow stance high bar squat, 5x5
Week 4- repeat
2. The 3 day a week 5x5, full body circuit. -This variation of the 5x5 is one geared primarily to lifters
who are brand new to lifting in general. It involves the same Mon/Wed/Fri split, only each of thethree primary lifts is done each workout, with no accessory movements.
Monday/Wednesday/Friday: Squat – 5x5, Bench- 5x5, Deadlift, 5x5
In this example the exercises are altered slightly from session to session to create variance. So Mondayyou would do your squats with a regular stance, Wednesday with a wider stance, and Friday with a narrow stance…or in the bench Monday would be close grip, Wednesday wide grip, and Friday regular. Pay special attention to the rate at which you increase the weight each week. Try and keep the rate of increase the same for each variation of the lift, even if you’re starting weight is different. For example, you may do 225 for 5x5 on Week 1 for your regular grip bench, but only 185 for 5x5 for your close grip. Try to add 5 lbs to each,week over week.
Whether you are new to powerlifting or are just tired of lugging chains around and calculating percentages for every single workout, give 5x5 a try and you’ll be surprised what this old school training program will do for your gains.