5X5 is probably the most famous strength training program that ever existed, and for good reason; it works.
It has gained the reputation of the best program for both strength and mass for a beginner.
The name 5×5 is somewhat misleading. Most people think the program refers to 5 sets of 5 repetitions, and that’s what seems 5.
However, despite some more recent programs that indeed call for 5 sets of, the original 5×5 was popularized by Bill Starr in his book “The Strongest Shall Survive: Strength Training for Football”.
Bill’s original routine was a ramp up scheme, meaning you’d warmup until a top set of 5 repetitions. As you got stronger, as long as your technique was solid, you’d add 5lbs to the bar.
This is where 5×5 came from, but what most people know 5×5 for is the StrongLifts version.
The version of 5×5 is the following:
Bench press: 5×5
Barbell Row: 5×5
Overhead Press: 5×5
This is performed 3 times per week on non-consecutive days, followed by 2 rest days, as such:
day1 – A
day2 – rest
day3 – B
day4 – rest
day5 – A
day6 – rest
day6 – rest
Then in the following week you switch Day A with Day B. Each week or two you add 5lbs to your deadlift and 2-4lbs to your squat and bench.
If you fail a rep, you try it again next session, If you fail it again for a total of 3 failed workouts in a row, lower the weight by 10% for that exercise only and build back up.
And that’s StrongLifts 5×5 in a nutshell. Simple but effective.
Despite being such a good program, there are a few common critiques of the 5X5. Let us analyze them and gauge their legitimacy.