Me, do a 5X5 workout? What do you think I am? Some kid in high school? To that, the best answer would be; “The more things change, the more they stay the same…”While Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr’s quote gets thrown about with almost a callous disregard, its words continue to hold their meaning. In the world of training and fitness, this is no different. Methods of training, like the 5x5 workout have been around for decades for one simple reason; they work, and will continue to work regardless of experience and usually regardless of age. This workout has unfairly been attributed to high school football and P.E. coaches because of its simplicity, something desired by the aforementioned folks. And the workout can work for the adult trainer with years of training, as both a primary workout, and an excellent back up plan when they can’t do their normal routines.
- Combining the 5x5 workout with the deadlift is tops when pressed for time. The reason behind this is the sheer amount of muscle that is used to do the deadlift. If you’re going heavy enough that you can hardly finish sets of 5 reps, there is no shortage of intensity involved, either. No other exercise hits the quads, hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, traps, rhomboids, lats, serratus, and forearms with one rep. That’s almost a whole body workout, and done with only five sets.
- Stack the one arm dumbbell incline bench press with the deadlift, do both as a 5x5 workout, and you have a true full body workout. The benefits of the deadlift have already been outlined, but grab a heavy dumbbell, hop on an incline bench set to about thirty degrees, and finish off what the deadlift might miss. The incline will do a number on the deltoids, triceps, and the pecs get hit hard. Doing them one arm at a time will force your abs to work overtime to hold you steady on the bench as well. And you can use the free hand to help hoist the dumbbell into position and minimize possible injury.
- If sheer strength is the goal, the 5x5 workout has no equal. Doing sets of 5 allows you to handle the heaviest of weights, and it is heavy lifting that triggers the response in the muscles to get stronger. Take the power exercises, that being squats, deadlift, and the bench press. Do workouts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, doing just one of the exercises, and maybe toss in some extra work for the muscles not hit directly by those movements, like some curls for the biceps, and some core work. With enough work, protein, and rest, strength will increase rapidly, as recovery time is maximized.
- Taking the 5x5 workout to the next level would be what is known as the Superset. For the uninformed, this is doing two exercises back to back, without any rest between the two. Typically, they are done using opposing muscles, like bench press for the chest, and rows for the back. Leg presses with stiff leg deadlifts is a great one for the legs. Even curls for the biceps, and triceps dumbbell presses would make for a good superset. The whole key is to go with four to six exercises that can be split up evenly among opposing muscle groups, use a weight that five reps is a struggle, and pound out five sets each.
- Regardless of the routine or exercise, use compound movement as much as possible and with excellent form. The reason for this is handling a weight that taxes you at five reps like the 5x5 workout does is very close to the max amount you can lift. Such heavy weight must be moved carefully and under full control on both the lift and lowering the weight. Doing compound exercises naturally uses more muscles for a more effective workout and is less likely to cause injury when done correctly. Use isolation movements only to hit anything that gets missed.