By: J.V. Askem

The 5X5 training approach has been around for decades and has proven to be effective for many types of strength athletes. Originally popularized by bodybuilding legend Reg Park in the 1950's, I've found that the 5X5 can also be effective when used on compound assistance exercises for Olympic lifters. It's also effective for short cycles, 3 to 5 weeks, for Power lifting movements.


1. Light weight for speed: 5 sets of 5 reps with no more than 60 seconds rest between sets. 60% to 65% of your 1 RM. is recommended. NOTE: It's important that you move the weight a fast as possible with 100% effort on each rep. Maximum bar velocity is important to get the optimum use of your fast twitch muscle fibers.

2. Medium weight: 5 to 6 sets of 5 to 6 reps. Work up over the first 2 to 3 sets, then do 2 to 3 sets of with the same work weight. 75% to 85% is recommended.

3. Heaviest weight: 5 to 6 sets working up to limit "all-out" set of 3 to 5 reps on the last set. 85% to 95% is recommended.

I've used all three of these approaches to the 5X5 principle for many years and have found them to be ideal for trainees to train compound movements. However, I don't recommend this for "multiple compound" movements (Olympic lifts)

Try doing the same compound movement twice in one week with one of each from the 3 choices above.

FOR A CYCLE: Try doing one "light/speed" workout and then on another day do one "medium" workout. Do this for two weeks. Then on the third week do a "light to medium" workout one day and on second workout go for that "limit set" of 3 to 5 reps.

Let's assume you're training the Squat and your 1RM is 300 lb..

If you're doing a light/ speed workout, you would use 180 lb. to 195 lb.. Start with a light weight, let's say 135 lb., and do 10 to 12 reps for a warm up. Increase your speed progressively faster and faster on the last 4 to 5 reps.

Now put your 60% to 65% (180 to 195) on the bar and do 5 sets of 5 reps with no more than 60 seconds rest between sets, and do each rep like there was 300 lb. on the bar.

If you're doing a "medium" weight workout use 75% to 85%. That's 225 to 255. Start with 135 for 10 to 12 reps. Then go 185X5, 225X5, and finish with 255 for 2 to 3 sets. Or if you're not feeling 100% that day, just do the 225 for 3 sets of 5.

On a "heavy" workout day, you would use between 255 and 285 lb.. To progress up do something like 135X10 reps, 185X5, 225X5, 255X5, 280X5. If you can get that 280 for 5, then try 290 to 300 and try to get at least a triple. If you can get 290 for 3 reps or better, you can pretty much estimate a higher 1RM. without actually doing that 1RM.

This is a good way to train both front and back squats, as well as most pressing movements, Bench, Incline, and Seated Presses.

All the best with your training. JVA