If there is a secret to the success of a 5 x 5 training scheme it is found within notions of simplicity and focused application rather than the set and rep scheme. Just as 6 x 6 and 10 x 10 plans can be effective like my preferred ascending and descending pyramid scheme from my youth, each approach has its merit and the success lays in proper application and compliance.
Proper preparation are the seeds to success
A 5 x 5 program has proven to be tremendously successful due to its repetitive nature of high-intensity training and technical ease of compliance. Within said approach there is no debating of bar velocity which is often a concern in dynamic training where percentages are quite low in comparison to strength limit. This approach is not only relatively simple in compliance but combines the perfect balance of demanding repetitions where optimal movement efficiency and pattering is most likely. Other rep ranges, whether those that involve significantly lighter or heavier loads, are the domain of the more experienced as they can maintain posture under greater duress or bar speed.
Success does not come without sacrifice
Yet if there is a one peculiar aspect of a 5 x 5, it would be that the back to basics approach is a double-edged sword where simplicity can lead to quick assimilation due to a lack of training variation. This problem cannot be ignored but, fortunately, it is easy to avoid with modest shifts of tempo and mechanical approaches such as grip width, pause reps or super-setting. By doing so, the classic 5 x 5 approach will continue to be a highly effective approach and suitable for every goal or level of training maturity.
Modern 5 x 5 Bench Press Routine
Each movement is performed with 85% of your one-rep max. Grip width in first set is one hand width outside of shoulders and each subsequent set should slightly vary. Given training loads are at 85%, you may require a few sets to move towards work range.
Quite naturally, the following routine can be performed as is or each movement can be performed as complete workouts, spreading the routine over five training sessions. This routine includes a unique mix (or angle) and approach of the strength curve.
Bench Press (hands one hand width outside of shoulders) 1 x 5
A1) Bench Press 1 x 5
A2) Dumbbell Flys 1 x 5
B1) Bench Press 1 x 5
B2) Clap Push-up 1 x 5
C1) Pause Bench Press 1 x 5
C2) Plyo Box Push-Up (starting position from floor to box with height of box is based upon personal strength) 1 x 5
D1) Concentric Bench (or Floor Press) 1 x 5
D2) Drop Push-Up * 1 x 5
* Starting position is from top of box, which is set just beyond grip width. With a slight push off, the individual drops to floor and hold. Return to start to complete desired reps. Height of box is based upon personal strength
Prepared by John Davies
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