how to grow muscle
Source: CrossFit Inc

How to Build Muscle and Strength: The 5 x 5 Program

Time to take your training to the next level.

With this series on how to build muscle and strength, you will learn which program is right for you, what to eat and how to reach your athletic goals. 

The first vital point is nutrition. Without a solid nutritional base you will not see results, no matter how hard you train. 

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HOW TO BUILD MUSCLE AND STRENGTH: THE 5 x 5 PROGRAM

The 5 x 5 program is a common method to help people build strength, muscle and mass. You work your full body every session, with a rep range of 5 x 5 for all compound exercises. This is then followed by accessory exercises to finish each workout. 

Bench Pressing how to build muscle

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This program increases testosterone levels and stimulates muscle fibres constantly, leading to solid muscle growth and improvements in strength.

Alternate between workout A and B three times a week with at least one day off between sessions. Add weight in incremental amounts each week, provided that you were able to complete the prescribed sets the previous time you completed that particular workout. For example, when benching in workout A, only increase the weight if you successfully lifted that weight for 5 sets of 5 reps the last time you completed workout A.

Rest periods

Rest for 60 – 120 seconds between sets of the 5 x 5 compound lifts.

Rest for 30 – 45 seconds between sets of the accessory exercises.

WORKOUT A

Core compound lifts

  • Back squat 5 x 5 
  • Bench press 5 x 5
  • Bent over row 5 x 5

Accessory lifts

  • Pull ups 2 x 8
  • Side lateral dumbbell raises 2 x 8
  • Sit ups 2 x 15

WORKOUT B

Core compound lifts

  • Front squat 5 x 5
  • Strict press 5 x 5
  • Deadlift 5 x 5 

Accessory lifts

  • Barbell curl 2 x 8
  • Seated triceps press 2 x 8

Notes

The accessory exercises are exactly that, accessory exercises. The most important part is always the 5 x 5 compound lifts. There are many slightly different versions of this program but they all follow the same basic principles of progression and structure. 

It is advisable to add recovery and mobility work into your rest days, as this will help to improve your movement when you step back in the box, alongside helping you to recover much more efficiently. 

4 Steps to Efficient Recovery After Training

The routine above is one variation of the 5 x 5 training method. There are many different versions, but remember that the core barbell exercises, performed in sets of 5 x 5 reps are the heart of this program. 

The program is intensive, so don’t go more than 6 weeks without a deload week. This will give you time to recover, and hit the program again with renewed vigour and motivation. 

STARTING WEIGHTS

It is good to start lighter and progress upwards. You don’t want to be failing any sets.

As a rough guide think about working up to 5 sets of 5 reps at 80% of your 1rm for the final week before deload. If you don’t know your 1rm, test it for each exercise before you start the program. 

That works out to about 90% of your desired 90% intensity. I have experimented with this myself, and it appears to be accurate. Your first reps will feel easier than they should be, but your last ones will be done at what seems like 100%.

Alternately, start light and jump up proportionately each workout. For example, if you find that you are getting towards failure with the bench press then progress that slowly, but if you are finding the deadlifts very easy then add weight in larger incremental jumps from one workout to the next. 

Do you have any experience with this program? What advice would you offer? Let us know in the comments section below.