5 x 5 System

Back in the '70's my old coach Bill Starr introduced a power routine. Back in the day, when he competed, you would take a look at him and see raw power. Every aspect of his physique seemed perfect for lifting heavy poundages. He would later develop training routines for athletes, primarily football players, as a strength and conditioning coach. The first program I can recall involved what was called the big 3. They were the bench press, squat and power clean.

In essence you would work these lifts 3 days a week. A Heavy Day, Light Day and a Medium Day. You would also do 5x5 on the first day, the 4x5 on the second training day, then 4x5 and a triple on your medium day. Also on your last workout day of the week you could throw in 3x8 for your bis and tris.

Later on he expanded his program to a 5x5 System. Basically you take your current 5 rep maxes and work up to them by increasing the weight over 3 to 4 weeks. This is getting your body acclimated to what's ahead. After you reach your 5 rep max, you continue adding weight each week extending yourself until you eventually stall. You're bound to reach a point when you miss reps, at that point keep the weight constant and don't move the weight up until you've succeeded with all 5x5.

This program is meant to get you big and strong. The exercises are the same as the initial big three. But you add a pressing movement. He began this program with a military press, but an incline could be substituted.

Your primary goal is to increase your max by 2.5% weekly. While some people think the progress is very slow, think about pushing yourself for just 4 weeks and achieving personal records. That's adding 10% onto your max.

As I said before, your bound to top out. When that happens you can vary your routine slightly by doing lockouts on the rack or doing sets of front squats. However, keep in mind, this is a proven strength building program. These exercises should not be shuffeled around because you think leg presses will work just as well.

Lets talk a little about the poundages used. You will begin your 5x5's with your warm-up set. This is used mainly not only to flush the blood in the area, but it helps to get you in the groove for the lift. Try and keep your jumps in weight somewhere between 10-15% per set. Let me give you an example. Say your first set is 135 for 5,then you would jump to 185,225,275, then top out on your max of 315 for 5. One key when you start this workout program. Do not set your top weight too early. Be a little more conservative at the beginning and allow yourself to increase and see some improvement instead of zero results.

You should set up you're program on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday basis. Using Mondays as your heavy day for 5x5. Whatever your top triple was on Friday,use that weight for your max 5x5 on the next Monday. Wednesdays you'll be squatting but only doing 4x5 making your last set of 5 the same weight as your 3rd set on Monday. So you'll be doing the same exercises Monday and Friday, but on Wednesday instead of doing Benches and Power Cleans or High Pulls, you will add your overhead movement.

As you progress with this program, you'll find yourself not only getting stronger, but adding some weight. Which means you need to eat more. Remember you will have an easier time getting stronger if you're adding bodyweight. Not that I'm saying you eat at the buffet line everyday, but you need to increase your food intake.

Well there you have it. Although it may sound confusing, once you put it on paper, everything will come together. Hopefully this routine will work for you like it has for countless athletes. Thank you Bill Starr...