How to get Big and Strong
Reg Park‘s 5×5 Program
The Original Strength and Size Routine
One of the most productive and forgotten methods of training for gaining strength and size, and for the compound movements, is the 5×5 system or five sets of five reps. Many weight lifters and bodybuilders have used this method of training for about 60 years to gain strength and build size.
The Late Great Reg Park popularized this method and was known to use the 5×5 system with great results.
The 5×5 system is described in Brooks Cubic’s book “Dinosaur Training.” Mr. Cubic uses this method of training to gain strength and break through strength sticking points. Many of you who are getting started in train along with those who are already experienced, the 5×5 system will help you gain muscle and strength. The compound movements that work well with the 5×5 system are the following:
2) Leg Press
3) Shoulder press
4) Bench press
6) Barbell Rows
7) Chin Up
8) Push up
Shoulders:Military Press, Hang Clean and Press, Arnold Press
Arms:Close-Grip Chin-Up (w/palms facing toward your face), Dips, Close-Grip Pushup, Twisting Dumbbell Curl
Legs:Barbell Squat, Deadlift, Lunges
Back:Chin-Up, Pull-Down, Deadlift, Row
Chest:Push-Up, Dips, Bench Press
With all of the thousands of training regimens to choose from the 5×5 program remains as one of the most effective programs for packing on size and strength. It has just the right amount of intensity and volume to build strength and size without inducing burnout and over-training.
We’re going to take a look at one of the very first 5×5 routines to be published, originally written in 1960 by Reg Park in his manual Strength & Bulk Training for Weight Lifters and Body Builders. The late Reg Park was a three-time Mr. Universe winner and he was one of the first bodybuilders to really push the size envelope by competing at a massive 225 pounds in the 1950s and ’60s. Keep I mind that Reg Park was Arnold idol when he was getting started in bodybuilding.
What is the 5X5 system?
The 5X5 refers to a program made up of 5 sets of 5 repetitions. As I noted above, Reg Park came up with this by simplifying data showing that 4-6 sets of 4-6 reps was about optimal for strength gains. Five sets are actually a good repetition range for a number of reasons, I’d note that these concepts are discussed in Victor Prides excellent book “Body of a Spartan.”
Sets of 5 are actually in the range that I commonly train at for hypertrophy. Generally speaking a maximum set of 5 will be about 85% of maximum and a lifter will use a bit less if they are doing more than one set. That’s a weight that provides sufficient tension to get maximal muscle fiber recruitment; 5 reps also allows for sufficient work to be done with that particular weight. High tension plus metabolic work is a winning combination for both strength and size; especially combined with load progression over time.
Since the metabolic fatigue from a 5 rep set tends to be fairly low (compared to higher repetitions sets), technique is often much more stable compared to higher rep sets. When fatigue starts to hit on higher rep sets, lifters without stable technique often get sloppy. Stopping at 5 rep range avoids that.
The lifts, such as back and front squats, bench and overhead press, power cleans, etc. can usually be worked for 5X5 if the lifter gives themselves time to get used to the volume. I would note that it would be uncommon these days for Olympic lifters to do sets of 5 in the power cleans or any other competition (or competition related) movement. However, for athletes using powercleans for basic strength/power, sets of 5 can be completely appropriate. Here is how Reg Park planned his routine:
45-degree back extension 3×10
Back squat 5×5
Bench press 5×5
Rest 3-5 minutes between the last 3 sets of each exercise.
As you can see, the program Reg recommended was simple but result producing.
Here is how to implement the 5×5 systems.
Let’s use leg training day as our example.
First start with a warm up of leg extensions for 2 sets of 8-10 reps. Next move to squats and perform set one for 8 reps and set two for 4-8 reps. After those two sets are done you are ready to begin your 5sets of 5 reps on the squats. Also, remember that the weight you have chosen for the 5×5 squats remains the same. For example, after performing the first two warm up sets of squats described above, you will load the weight up to lets say 225 pounds. Now you will perform your 5 sets of 5 reps with 225 pounds. After that is completed, you now move on to the leg press machine. On the leg press machine you will do the same thing like you did on the squats. You will perform 5×5 on the leg press. Once that is completed you will move onto leg extensions and perform 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps. The reason for the higher reps in the leg extensions is that leg extensions are a pumping exercise where as squats and leg presses are your compound strength movements. You are getting the best of both worlds in terms of strength and muscle development. You can do the same on chest day. You will warm up the chest with peck deck flys and then move onto the bench press. Perform one set of 10 reps with 135. Next, move onto another set of 4 to 8 reps on the bench press. Once that is completed, you can pick a weight and perform the 5×5 system on your bench presses.
Remember to perform all of your 5×5 on you compound movements.
You will notice that you will become very strong on you compound movements and you will gain loads of muscle size as well.
Let us know how it works for you.
Until Next Time
3 thoughts on “How to get Big and Strong”
This is very good, Im going to start using this program!!
A very well thought out program. I will start to do more chin ups as my workout regime is similar to the exercise you mentioned. Great post. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Adam.