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Reg Park’s 5×5 Program

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5X5 is one of the most powerful strength training programs ever developed. It’s very difficult to tell the origin of the 5X5 training routine, but it is said that, the first person to write about the 5X5 training concept was Mark Berry. Mark Berry was an American national weightlifting champion, and the first ever Olympic weightlifting coach for US. He was the US Olympic weightlifting coach at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics and the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

But the Reg Park was the name associated most extensively with the 5X5 program. His most famous book was the 1960 publication Strength & Bulk Training for Weight Lifters & Body Builders. In this book he prescribed the 5X5 training program.

Many years later Canadian weightlifter Doug Hepburn, who won a gold in the 1953 Olympics, was a very strong proponent of the 5X5 training, and could Squat 760lb, Bench Press 580lb and Deadlift 705lb.

Later, Olympian and Olympic Team Coach, Bill Starr, in 1976, in his book “The Strongest Shall Survive: Strength Training for Football”, prescribed the 5X5 routine, which was designed targeting football training. He focussed on the Squat, Bench Press and Power Clean for 5 sets of 5 reps. Starr was the Olympic Coach for the Baltimore Colts when they won the Superbowl in 1970, the strength coach of several universities including Hawaii, Maryland and John Hopkin, and national record holder in Powerlifting and Olympic lifting. Starr called his training strategy “The Big Three”.

REG PARK 5X5 PROGRAM – BASICS

The basic 5X5 program of Reg Park is based on the goal that you are supposed to perform 5 sets of 5 reps, out of which 2 sets would be warmups sets, and the load is to be increased only when all 25 total reps could be completed. Though, today there are many variations of this program, but the old school athletes, focussed on basic heavy compound lifts like squats, pullups, rows, presses and deadlifts.

Reg Park initially used the 5X5 for the basic lifts and then used higher reps for some other less complex movements, like calf raises, forearms and hyperextensions.

The weight used by Reg was quite heavy, and that’s actually how the workout is supposed to be performed. He used his 60% of his 5RM (Rep Max), and then increase it to 80% in his second set. For e.g. if you are lifting 120kgs for 5 reps in squats, then 60% of 120kg would be your first set, and 80% of 120kg would be second. The last three sets would be with 100% of 5RM weight. The rest between each set being 3-5 mins.

When you could complete the last 3X5 with a given weight, increase the weight by 5-10lbs. Reg was also strongly against failure during a workout, as acc. to Reg it encouraged a negative mindset when attempting other heavy, near-maximal lifts.

This workout won’t end in 60min. It may take 120min or even more to complete. Its unlike the high intensity workouts we usually perform. It takes time.

The 5X5 routine is an extremely effective routine for gaining strength and size, and it has been tested over decades.

5X5 program gives you tremendous advantages:

  • Increased strength
  • Increased power
  • Increase in lean muscle mass
  • Reduction in fat
  • Better flexibility and joint mobility
  • A feeling of getting really strong, not just show strong
  • You’ll save time as the workout is just 3 days/week
  • All the muscle groups are targeted in all the workouts
  • One of the best programs to use the Principle of Progressive Overload
  • Uses free weights extensively, so better engagement of the stabilizer muscles.
  • Failure is not the aim of the workout. Soreness will of course be there, but never to an extent of a bodybuilding workout. You would train as fresh as you can in every workout.
  • It’s an amazing program for all beginners, intermediate and even seasoned advance lifters.

Note 1: 5X5 is not a bodybuilding program. Of course you will experience excellent hypertrophy. But unlike other hypertrophy specific training programs, the main aim of this program is to build strength.

Note 2: Don’t rush through the program. If done the way it is to be done, you cannot rush through the 5X5 program. The rest between sets is very much needed for both physical and more importantly central nervous system fatigue.

Note 3: Don’t be afraid of lifting heavy. That’s the entire challenge and aim of the program. Form is extremely important, but most people have a sort of an obsessive compulsive disorder about form, and that’s why they never progress in terms of strength. There is nothing called perfect form. Maintain a good form and add weight.

THE 5X5 PROGRAM

But Reg Park had actually 3 phases to his program. Phase 1 is for beginners, who are new to lifting and for them the basic three i.e. squat, bench and deadlift, remain the main lifts.

They would train under this plan for 3 alternate days/week for 3 months.

Rest is 3-5min between last 3 sets of each exercise.

PHASE 1 WORKOUT (BEGINNER)

HYPEREXTENSION: 3X10 (weight to be added progressively)

BACK SQUAT: 5X5

BENCH PRESS: 5X5

DEADLIFT: 5X5

PHASE 2 WORKOUT (INTERMEDIATE)

Phase 2 training could be called as the intermediate training method, which had more volume in terms of number of exercises. Reg also advised to reduce the rest between sets from 3 to 2 min to help improve endurance.

This phase also lasted for 3 months, and the frequency was 3 alternate days/week.

HYPEREXTENSION: 3X10 (weight to be added progressively)

FRONT SQUAT: 5X5

BACK SQUAT: 5X5

BENCH PRESS: 5X5

BARBELL SHOULDER PRESS: 5X5

RACK PULL: 5X5

DEADLIFT: 5X5

STANDING CALF RAISES: 5X25

PHASE 3 WORKOUT (ADVANCE)

Phase 3 training is the advance training in which yet more exercises are added exercise for biceps and triceps. Reg also advised to reduce the rest between sets from 3 to 2 min to help improve endurance.

The frequency is alternate 3 days/week.

HYPEREXTENSION: 3X10 (weight to be added progressively)

FRONT SQUAT: 5X5

BACK SQUAT: 5X5

BENCH PRESS: 5X5

OVERHEAD PRESS: 5X5

BENT OVER ROW: 5X5

DEADLIFT: 5X5

BEHIND THE NECK PRESS: 5X5

BARBELL CURL: 5X5

SKULLCRUSHERS: 5X8

STANDING CALF RAISES: 5X25

IMPORTANT POINTS TO BE CONSIDERED IN 5X5

NOTE 1: After each Phase, Reg allows the lifter to test for his 1RM. To do that, Reg recommends to perform 2 warmup sets (1X5, 1X3), followed by 3 progressively heavier attempts at 1RM. So the workout would be 1X5, 1X3 & 3X1, for each lift. Once this is done, then there is a break of 4 days from training, before commencement of next phase.

NOTE 2: Reg recommended plenty of good quality sleep (min. 8hrs every night) and high protein meals, both natural and supplemental, throughout the day.

NOTE 3: As your strength increases, so will your warm-up requirements. Sometimes two sets aren’t enough to get warmed up to lift your 5RM. So don’t be afraid to add a set or two more for warm-ups and use the final 3 sets as main sets, i.e. 3X5.

NOTE 4: The most important thing is progression. To progress the simplest method is the 1-2% rule, i.e. every week increase the weight by just 1-2% of the total weight. For e.g. if you are squatting 120kgs for 5 reps, then increase the weight by 1.2-2.4kgs. This seems like a little increment but imagine, an increment of 4.8-9.6kgs/month, and a massive 57.6-115.2kgs/year. Sometimes the progress may not be as it looks, but that’s fine, as long as you are pushing hard and progressing slowly, you are on the right track.

NOTE 5: A common question about 5X5 program is that whether it’s for beginners? Acc. to the recommendations, it is. But, there is difference in the definition of whom you address as a beginner. An absolute beginner is someone who is hardly able to perform a basic body weight squat properly. 5X5 is not for those people. I would suggest a good progressive training experience of at least 3 months should be there under your belt before you move on to 5X5 program.

NOTE 6: You will be tempted. Yes, it’s not easy to give stick to a plan, especially as simple looking as the 5X5 or the 10X10 GVT (German Volume Training). A lot of people performing GVT based on my video and ebook, asked me for more variations, added cardiovascular workouts, change in frequency etc. BUT, remember, the program must be followed the way it is intended to be done, and the way it was originally designed. Otherwise, you are doing a variation, not the program itself. With 5X5 too people ask for more variety, higher frequency in terms of days/week etc. But, as I said, do it the way it is supposed to be done, not the way you feel you want to do it. That’s the real challenge.

3 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for sharing such an amazing workout. This workout which is very challenging and it is yet very motivating to start.

  2. great program. i have done this a number of times myself in the past. reg also had a great physique even by today’s standards. great classic look.

  3. Sir, All the 8 exercises mentioned in intermediate prog. have to be performed in a single session or they have to be divided between workout A and and workout B.

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