Why a 5×5 Gym Program Should Be Your First Program

beginners guide to strength training: 5 by 5 program for success: post by tenacious thinker image of a woman deadlifting

If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you’re considering changing your gym program or starting a new one. Maybe you’re just starting to get into lifting, or you’ve been hearing the benefits of lifting, or maybe you’ve found your strength gains starting to plateau. In any of these situations, and in many others, a 5×5 program is a good place to start. If you’ve never heard of it, or are unconvinced, here’s what you need to know:

What is a 5×5 Gym Program?

A 5×5 (read “five by five”) program is a program meant for building strength by focusing on incrementally increasing the weight you lift. In gym programs, you have sets and reps. Reps, or repetitions, are the number of times you do an exercise in a set. You usually rest in between sets. If you were to do 3 sets of 8 (3×8) for squats, you would do 8 squats, 3 times. So, simply put, a 5×5 gym program is one where you do 5 sets of 5 reps for every exercise.

Another feature of a 5×5 program is the type of exercise you do.

There are two types of exercises you can do at the gym: compound and isolation. Compound movements use multiple muscles, while isolation muscles work specific muscles (you could say they isolate the muscles you’re working). In a 5×5 program, you focus on compound movements, as they’re the best way to increase strength and muscle quickly in all your muscles, this is because compound movements work multiple muscles at the same time as in the squat working your quadriceps, glutes, and calves.

Why do you need a gym program at all?

If you’re thinking this is all over complicated and you would rather just go to the gym and do what you’re feeling, it’s worth considering the benefits of following a program:

  • Having a set structure makes it easier to be consistent; this is obvious when you see how often students struggle to transition between high-school and university.
  • Another benefit is that you can easily see and track your progress as the program inherently keeps track of how much you’re lifting.
  • A third benefit is that your workouts will likely be more effective due to being planned out in advance.

Advantages of a 5×5 program

Now that you’re convinced you should follow a gym program, allow me to explain why you should try a 5×5 program.

  • A 5×5 program is incredibly easy to follow as there are only a few exercises in each workout, and the only changes from week to week are increasing the weight.
  • The focus of the program on compound exercises that work all body parts, along with the incremental increase in weight from week to week, is the reason a 5×5 program guarantees almost consistent strength gains through the beginning of the program.

Disadvantages of a 5×5 program

One concern with a 5×5 program is that all the exercises are barbell movements, and if done incorrectly they can cause imbalances between the left and right sides of the body, to prevent this, it’s important to ensure you always practice proper form and even asking a more experienced person for advice.

Who should use a 5×5 program?

Simply put, I believe everyone can benefit from a 5×5 program. If I had to be specific, I would highly recommend this program to anyone who has less than 2 years of lifting experience, to anyone who is trying to increase their strength, and to anyone who wants to take advantage of beginner gains in order to pack on muscle quickly.

How to start a 5×5 gym program

There are many 5×5 programs you can choose to follow. The one I followed when I first started lifting was Strong Lifts which has a really convenient app that is easy to use at the gym.

Additional resources

If you’re a beginner at the gym you’re probably confused about exactly what you need to be doing and there is a lot of information out there and what I’ve found to be insanely helpful are YouTube channels be careful with these because some of them provide a slew of misinformation. A simple but often very helpful measure is to get information from multiple sources as long as you’re always making sure you’re not in an echo chamber.

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