Old School Strength Training: The 5x5 Workout Method

Old School Strength Training: The 5x5 Workout Method

Ready to get strong? 

The 5x5 workout method has been around probably as long as barbell training and periodization.

And it will get you strong.

At first blush, the 5x5 method will seem like it's not enough volume to get you the results you're looking for, but that would be a mistake.

Don't let the simplicity of the program, or the brevity of the workouts, fool you.

Keep It Simple

The 5x5 method is probably the simplest workout you can imagine.

You perform 5 sets of 5 reps per lift. You train three times per week.

The workouts are heavily focused on compound lifts. You don't have a lot of time, so you need to choose movements that give you the most bang for your buck.

Isolation movements are generally not used, except when needing to bring up a lagging body part.

The other four days of the week are up to you. Depending on your goals, you might choose to rest (if you're trying to put on a bunch of muscle), or you could do cardio or energy systems work (if you're trying to get lean).

Whatever path you choose for those days, you will still prioritize three days of lifting per week, and 5 sets of 5 reps per movement.

Sample 5x5 Workout

Let's put this into practice. In this sample 5x5 workout, we are assuming you will be lifting on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.


  • Squat
  • Bench Press
  • Barbell Row


  • Overhead Press
  • Chin Up or Pull Up
  • Deadlift (3 sets of 5 reps)


  • Front Squat
  • Incline Bench
  • Cable Row

Yes, you will be squatting twice per week, which is going to necessitate a lot of rest, hence only lifting 3 days per week.

You will also notice slightly less volume on the deadlifts. Since we are squatting fairly frequently, we want to reduce the load on the central nervous system, so we reduce that volume.

Choosing Weights on the 5x5 Program

There's a few different methods when it comes to choosing your weights. I am going to explain the simplest and most linear method here.

In week one, start with 60% of your 5 rep max on a given lift. If you are able to squat 200 pounds 5 times, your working weight for week 1 will be 120 pounds.

Each week, add 5 - 10 pounds to lower body movements, and 5 pounds to upper body movements.

In truth, it doesn't really matter if you start even lower at say 50%. What matters is the progressive overload week over week.


After some time (6 weeks is generally a good time frame), it's a good idea to take some time off of the 5x5 program to let your body restore.

This doesn't mean taking the week off!

It simply means using more restorative movements and workouts and giving your body a break from the 5x5. You want to work in more than work out. Here's an example of what a deload week could look like:


  • Meditation
  • Breath Work
  • Rest


  • Swim
  • Sauna


  • Stretch/Yoga


  • Turkish Get Ups
  • Row


  • Breath Work
  • Contrast Shower


  • Pull Ups, Push Ups, Air Squats
  • Stretch


  • Rest
  • Hike

All of these activities should be done at a recreational pace.

Give the 5x5 Workout A Shot

If you've never tried the 5x5 workout, now would be a great time.

It provides a simple structure to your training and is especially nice if you don't have a ton of time to spend in the gym.

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