I get a lot of mail asking me about this from clients and friends. Let me be clear, I don't use 5 x 5. It's too much volume for me. Maybe in my 20s I could've done it, and I know a lot of you are in your 20s, so that's why I'm writing this.
Of all the programs that I get asked about, this one is definitely the most popular. Just remember, unless you're 17 this is going to be a slog. So please, please, for the love of God, go slow. Below is an example of how to slowly build up to 5 x 5
Firstly, what is 5 x 5?
To put it as simply as possible, perform five sets of five repetitions of any particular exercise. You have to complete five sets, so there is probably going to be some adjustments in weight. If you are aiming for five repetitions, you should always pick a weight that you could do six repetitions of. I always like to leave a round in the chamber.
When I was younger, I would've done this in ascending weight
5 x 65%; 5×75%; 5×80%; 5×85%; 5×85%
Now, however, I believe this would leave me a puddle of gelatinous tissue pooled on the floor of the power cage. I just have no interest in doing that to myself.
I might be able to make some modifications so that I could do it. And they might look something like this:
One – Figure out my training maximum (90% of my single repetition maximum – roughly).
Two – Work with values not higher than 75% of my training maximum.
Three – If I was feeling particularly adventurous, and felt like going to little higher than 75% of my training maximum, I could adjust the numbers and periodize a weekly approach.
Might look something like this:
65% x5 ; 75% x 5; 65% X5; 75% X5; 65% X5
75% X5; 65% X5; 75% X5; 65% X5; 75% X5 (notice how the intensity just went up a little bit?)
75% X5; 75% X5; 75% X5; 75% X5
65% X5; 75% X5; 85% X5; 75% X5; 65% X5
I just want to say thanks for reading this! I'd love to have you come in and I'll explain to you why us older guys would, generally speaking, not be into 5 x 5. We could discuss some alternatives for you and get you on your way to strength.
PPPS I know at least a few of you who are reading this are older than me and can chew through more volume than this – good for you. Stop bragging.