The Classic 5x5 - Why It Works

Let’s face it:


We could all do with a bit more strength. Being able to lift weights most people find impossible is a great feeling that brings pride.


Only there is a problem:


Getting stronger is easier said than done. Sure, there are plenty of programs, routines, and guidelines. But few seem to work well and too many seem to focus on too many objectives simultaneously.


The classic 5x5 program is one of the few proven ways to get stronger. Today, we’ll find out exactly why that is. Let’s see...


What Is a 5x5 Program?


The 5x5 program is one of the simplest ways to set up your training. The goal is to do only a handful of exercises and follow a linear progression model. Meaning, once you manage to get five reps across five sets with a given weight, bump the resistance for your next session. 


The classic 5x5 program has you do five movements: bench, squat, deadlift, overhead press, and barbell row. If you get 5x5, add 2.5kg for the next workout. It’s best to add less weight for the overhead press and row because you will otherwise run into a wall quicker.


The five movements are typically spread across two workouts - A and B. You also have to do three workouts per week, which means that you alternate between A and B each week.


What Makes 5x5 So Effective For Strength Gains?


  1. Clear Progression Model


The biggest reason why 5x5 works is because of its simplicity. The program focuses on a few core elements and has you work on them several times per week. All you need to do is follow one simple rule:


Do five reps across five sets and add a bit more weight for your next workout. While simple, it works and leads to tremendous improvements over the long run.


  1. Training frequency


Another reason why 5x5 works is because of its high training frequency. Research finds that more frequent exposure to training can lead to better strength gains, which is precisely what the 5x5 program does (1).


You have three workouts per week, which allows you to train the core lifts frequently and develop neuromuscular efficiency and the skill you need.


  1. Adequate intensity


The goal of 5x5 is to do sets of five relatively-challenging repetitions. Meaning, you’re training with a high enough intensity, which the literature finds most effective for strength gains (2).


Of course, this makes sense when you think about it:


Pushing your body to overcome heavier loads naturally builds more strength. In contrast, training with lighter weights is better suited for volume accumulation and muscle gain (2).


  1. No fluff


The final strength-related benefit of the 5x5 program is the lack of fluff. You only have to focus on a few core lifts and do them over and over again. This stops you from wasting energy on things that don’t contribute to your strength.


You don’t have to worry about doing bicep curls, tricep extension, and countless other activities that require energy and prolong your recovery between workouts.


Also to consider:


Perpetually training strength may lead to a plateau so be sure to switch up your training every now and then with a hypertrophy based program.