5X5 Training System

Maximize Muscle With The 5x5 Training System

If you’re in the market for a new workout, consider something old. The 5x5 Training System is a classic workout. The British bodybuilder Reg Park popularized it.

Best known for playing Hercules in five movies, Park won Mr. Universe in 1958 and 1965. At 6' 1", Park had 20-inch arms, and his training methods made him as strong as he looked, credited with being the first bodybuilder to bench press 500 pounds.

The 5X5 Workout

The basic goal of the workout is to perform 5 sets of 5 reps of an exercise, with the first 2 sets being warm-up sets. You increase the load only when you can complete all 25 reps. Although you can use this set/rep protocol with any exercise, it is usually reserved for primary exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. In Park’s original workouts, he would use 5x5 for these core exercises and then use much higher reps for exercises such as calf raises, back extensions, and triceps extensions.

To perform the 5X5 workout, start your first set at 60 percent of your working weight. For the second go up to 80 percent. As an example, let’s assume your best result in the bench press for 5 reps is 200 pounds; 200 pounds will be your working weight.

Start with a warm-up set of 5 at 120 followed. Then perform your second set of 5 at 160. Now put 200 pounds on the bar and try to do 3 sets of 5 reps, resting 3-5 minutes between sets.

Park’s system does not include supersets, most likely so that the trainee could focus on putting the maximum effort into each set.

Reg Park was Arnold’s idol, and online you can find an outtake from the movie Pumping Iron that has Arnold visiting him in his home in South Africa. Kaya Park, Reg Park’s grandson, said that Arnold used the following 5x5 program. It consists of two alternating workouts, Workout A and Workout B, with at least one day of rest between training sessions.

Workout A

Back Squat 5X5

Pull-up or Chin-up 5X5

Bench Press or Dips 5X5

Forearm or Grip Work 2X10

Calf Exercise 2x15-20

Workout B

Front Squat 5x5

Barbell Row 5x5

Standing Military Press 5x5

Deadlift* 5x5

Forearm or Grip Work 2x10

Calf Exercise 2x15-20

*Only the last set of the deadlift is used with a heavy working weight, with the first 2 sets being with 60 percent and then 80 percent for 5 reps of the working weight.

5X5 Rest Intervals

Park varied his rest periods depending upon the goal. For example, he might prescribe 3 to 5 minutes rest between sets for a foundation program focusing on just a few basic exercises such as squats and bench presses. For a workout designed for bodybuilding, he might prescribe 2 minutes rest between sets. Tempo prescriptions were not used at this time, but as a general guideline use 4010 for lower body exercises and 3010 for upper body exercises.

Final Words

The 5x5 Training System is designed to develop a physique that is as strong as it looks. You should consider trying some variation of the 5x5 method if you want to pack on slabs of quality muscle. For a bodybuilder it’s great to be big, but it’s better to be big and strong!


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