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The 5×5 Method…

The 5×5 Method…

I just have to shake my head at the new enthusiastic crop of strength coaches that come out of school full of excitement and ready to start athletes on a perfectly modeled and text book regulated periodization plan. Hell, like them I understood why they came out of school like this because it’s exactly what they were taught.

Don’t get me wrong a properly applied periodization plan is an effective plan for building a strong athletic body ready for most any physical task. However as we all know real life just flat out can get in the way of stuff which is why we’ve got to be more nimble in our approach if we expect to be effective strength coaches.

The 5×5 Method…

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One of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mentors back in the day was successful in bringing the 5×5 method into the light. Reg Park was the 3 time Mr. Universe champion and produced a 500 lb. bench press before steroids were really even in the picture. He did this in the early days of bodybuilding largely utilizing this method. So what is this 5×5 method all about?

Well as a strength coach I can tell you up front that the beginning stages of any program involves planning. Periodization has generally been the model of planning that us strength coaches have used for developing pre-season strength programs for athletes to get into shape leading up to their respective sport seasons.

However, the problem with periodization often times is that real life doesn’t want it to work quite the way we put it down on paper! Damn it man that’s frustrating!  I alluded to this in the beginning of this post with regard to the rookie strength coaches coming out of college and not yet having the field experience to be aware of this. The truth is that real life just simply gets in the way. 

Look, the fact is that a complete periodization plan is rarely carried out a 100% of the way it was intended for most average gym goers. Unless you happen to be working with a collegiate or professional team it’s usually not the case. The point is that a plan including walking you through every phase without interruption must involve a unique scenario.

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The fact is that most day to day individuals and even high school athletes are on different schedules. They may have work schedules, school schedules, family schedules, and other things to get in the way of following through on a week to week periodization plan. Things like elevated stress, lack of sleep, sickness, and too many episodes of The Walking Dead may also contribute to the follow through of a plan, or lack thereof. By the way I love that show!

As I said before life gets in the way. You are probably thinking Well coach what about high school athletes? Well even high school athletes in many cases are multi-sport athletes and one sport season is generally crossing over into another causing disruption in their schedule for getting in the weight room in many cases. The point here is that the cycle is not as continuous as you may think. 

This is why the 5×5 model provides a good ingredient to include into your planned training if you happen to be a strength coach or athlete in general. You are covering a respectable amount of  intensity and volume with the 5×5 that can be scaled to suit your needs. Based upon where you might be in the planning stages of your strength and conditioning program will determine how you can scale this.

The 5×5 Method: Auto-regulatory And Instinctive Training…

Another model of training that can be scaled for athletes is through auto-regulatory training. Essentially this means lifting as much weight as you possibly can for a given rep count. From here you are also setting the bar for lifting at that rep count for the following week.

So on the flip side instinctive training means that you just simply lift a certain weight in regards to rep count based upon how you may feel that day. In other words, if you hit 300 lbs on the deadlift for 5 reps the week before then with the autoregulatory model you would start back with that weight this week. However, with instinctive training if you didn’t feel comfortable with that weight this week you may back off to say 285 or 290 lbs.

So why am I covering all of these models?

The 5×5 Method: The Takeaway

Well the fact is that the 5×5 method is a great rep range for you to implement and to scale. You can use it to apply both methods. In other words, with the 5×5 method if you want to go heavier you are there with the volume. Therefore, you can apply the auto-regulation or instinctive scale within the scope of the 5×5 method.

If you are an advanced athlete then you can include more of a combination of periodization and auto-regulatory method with the 5×5. The point is that either approach can be scaled here. Your planned training can be determined by this, or where you may feel you need to be working!

Now go out and ramp it up son!

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Make sure you leave your questions and comments in the comment box below this article.

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I'm a Certified Strength And Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and author. I have had over 17 years experience in MMA fitness, strength and conditoning, and athletic performance for most every sport. As an author and specialist I've written close to a million words on fitness and strength. I'm also a Muay Thai practictioner and enjoy helping others to reach their peak potential through fitness and performance.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. I did 5×5 tonight. Works great with multi-joint movements such as deadlifts. Great article! Now I’m going to take some Advil for the soreness…

    1. HaHa, hey bro you don’t need no stinking Advil! 🙂 5×5 is great. I know you know that I implement this strategy for myself a great deal. Strength comes with a health dose of both intensity and volume in my book. Quality movement at quality intensity is a recipe for power! I know you killed your 5×5 Bark! Thanks for your feedback.

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