If becoming stronger is a primary goal, you may not need to lift excruciatingly heavy weights or perform an endless number of repetitions in the gym. 5×5 training can effectively help people of all body types develop both upper and lower body strength in less time than they thought imaginable. This type of workout is ideal if you need to build strength quickly or are trying to break through a plateau-here’s now.
5×5 training was first introduced by former Mr. Universe Reg Park back in the 1950s. It involves performing five sets of five repetitions each of a particular exercise rather than the standard two to three sets of 8-12 reps. As you become stronger, add more weight or increase the amount of resistance in each exercise rather than performing more reps or sets. This type of regimen provides a rigorous workout for your muscles with plenty of time in between for recovery, which is when growth occurs.
Classic 5×5 training programs incorporate what is known as periodization, which is the implementation of training phases. For example, during a nine-week program, you might have six weeks of prep work in the beginning followed by a peak phase of half that time. During those first six weeks, you are gradually increasing the amount of weight you lift, but during the peak phase, you are challenging yourself by lifting the maximum weight possible. According to fitness professional Shannon Clark, an initial 4-6 week phase may be all that is needed if you are strength training for sports.
The majority of exercises in a 5×5 training program are compound movements that target more than one muscle group. A few of these exercises include squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, and barbell rows. These exercises target many of the larger muscle groups of your body to give you greater power and strength. At the same time, they target smaller areas such as the calves, abdominals, and biceps to give you better definition and tone. You may also include exercises for minor muscle groups; however, most people find that doing so is often not necessary.
Some routines allow you to switch up the exercises so you are constantly challenging your muscles. For example, the Stronglift 5×5 training program is built around the five key exercises mentioned above: the squat, deadlift, bench press, barbell row, and overhead press. You will perform squats along with three out of the four other exercises during each workout, and can mix them up as you see fit. Rather than training to muscle failure, you will also add slightly more weight during each session.
Another advantage of 5×5 training is the fact that it allows you to quickly gauge your progress. Each time you are able to add more weight or increase the amount of resistance, you will automatically feel stronger and more self-confident. As such, this type of workout is also perfect for anyone who has a hard time staying motivated.