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Advanced 5 x 5 Workouts for Muscle and Strength Gains

June 7, 2018

deadlifts low reps

One of the best programs for getting strong, fast is the 5 x 5 workout. It’s almost as good as compound interest…gains on top of gains! (eh, I’m famous for bad puns)

This method has been used for decades by top powerlifters and strength training athletes. Even some bodybuilders will use 5×5 in their offseason to make strength gains.

But you may be wondering:

  • Can you build muscle size with 5 x 5? 
  • Can you get ripped with 5 x 5?
  • What about hypertrophy?

Many will separate strength training from hypertrophy. And I get it, but…

I’ve found a way to integrate the Best of Both Worlds (that’s a cool Van Halen song from the 5150 album!)  where you can get stronger and build muscle size using the 5 x 5 training method.
**Speaking of music, have you heard Heavy Metal Workout?

In fact, in this post, I’m going to give you 3 different advanced 5 x 5 workout plans below. Here’s everything you’ll learn:


What Is The 5 x 5 Workout?

basic 5 x 5 workout

If you’re already familiar with 5 x 5, you can skip this part and go to the Advanced 5 x 5 Workouts. But if you’re new to 5 x 5, I want to give you the basics of how it works.

It’s one of (if not the most) effective ways to get strong. Why? Because you’re solely focusing on your core compound exercises.

Here’s a rundown of a basic 5 x 5 workout program:

  • 5 x 5 means doing 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Based on 5 compound exercises: Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, Rows, Overhead Press
  • There are only 2 workouts you will be doing
  • A typical  5 x 5 workout schedule is 3 days week (preferably a day of rest between workouts)

Basic 5 x 5 Workout

Below is a basic 5 x 5 workout. There are only 2 workouts, and you’ll be doing the same workout every other workout. So you’ll see Workout A and Workout B below.

**In some 5 x 5 programs, you will only do 5 x 1 for deadlifts. 

Workout A

Workout ASets x Reps
Squats5 x 5 
Barbell Rows5 x 5 
Bench Press5 x 5

Workout B

Workout BSets x Reps
Squats5 x 5 
Overhead Press5 x 5 
Deadlifts5 x 5

Here’s what your schedule would look like based on a Monday – Wednesday – Friday training schedule:

  • Monday: Workout A
  • Wednesday: Workout B
  • Friday: Workout A

The following week would be the opposite…

  • Monday: Workout B
  • Wednesday: Workout A
  • Friday: Workout B

Advanced 5 x 5 Workout Plans (3 Plans)

advanced 5 x 5 workout

The problem with the basic 5 x 5 workout is there’s no focus on hypertrophy (aka building muscle size and getting that pump). That’s ok because I’m about to solve that for you.

I’m going to give you 3 workout plans you can follow. They’re all what I consider advanced 5 x 5 workouts.  

In short, the 5 x 5 method will be used on your core compound exercises. But you’re also going to be integrating more exercises that focus on specific muscle development. 

There are 2 simple goals with these workouts: 

  1. Get strong
  2. Gain muscle size

My suggestion is to follow the below workout schedule, which will make this a full 12-week workout program.

  • Weeks 1 -4: Advanced 5×5 Workout 1
  • Weeks 5-8: Advanced 5×5 Workout 2
  • Weeks 9-12: Advanced 5×5 Workout 3

Now for the 3 workout plans…

Advanced 5×5 Workout 1: Strength and Hypertrophy

5 x 5 strength and hypertrophy workout

This first advanced 5 x 5 workout plan is based on strength and hypertrophy. The workout schedule is similar to the basic 5×5 workout. Think ‘strong and jacked!’ 

The two major differences are:

  1. You’ll be doing a few more exercises catered to building muscle size
  2. For the hypertrophy part of the workouts, you will be supersetting two exercises (going from one exercise to another with no rest between that set = a superset)
  3. You’re going to be in the gym longer, so I suggest drinking BCAAs during these workouts (read about my favorite BCAA supplement here)

Similar to the basic 5 x 5 workout, you’ll have 2 workouts that you’ll alternate (noted as A and B below).  So a Monday – Wednesday – Friday schedule will look like…

  • Monday: Workout A
  • Wednesday: Workout B
  • Friday: Workout A

The following Monday you would start with Workout B and continue alternating accordingly.

Strength and Hypertrophy Workouts

Workout A

ExercisesSets x Reps
Squats5 x 5 
Barbell Rows5 x 5 
Bench Press5 x 5
Leg Extension – superset with below3 x 8
Leg Curls3 x 8
Dumbbell Curls – superset with below3 x 10
Rope Pressdowns3 x 10

Workout B

ExercisesSets x Reps
Squats5 x 5 
Overhead Press5 x 5 
Deadlifts5 x 5
Seated Rows – superset with below3 x 8
Dumbbell Flyes3 x 8
Pull-ups – superset with below3 x 10
Dips3 x 10

Advanced 5×5 Workout 2: Bodybuilding Focused

advanced 5 x 5 bodybuilding workout

In this workout plan, you’re going to truly merge the 5 x 5 strength part with bodybuilding workout. If you’re like me, you want that extra volume and walk away with that pump (like so pumped you can’t fit through the door…lol!)

In fact, this is the perfect type of workout for building mass. And here’s why: 

  • You’re building strength at the beginning of the workout with your compound exercises
  • You’re following that up with more training volume (sets and reps) to build muscle
  • You’ll be doing some isolation exercise to bring out those striations and definition
  • Each workout focuses on a specific muscle group

This is a ‘get huge, get strong, and get jacked‘ workout! 

In this workout plan, you’ll be training 4 days a week. Here’s a schedule you can use:

  • Monday: Workout 1 – Back
  • TuesdayWorkout 2 – Check and Biceps
  • Thursday: Workout 3 – Legs
  • Friday: Workout 4 – Shoulders and Triceps

You can arrange to cater to your schedule, but make sure you throw in a rest day after two workout days.  

Workouts 1 and 3 (in the case above, Monday and Thursday) will be a little more taxing on your central nervous system as you’re doing 5×5 for 2 compound lifts. So make sure you eat well the day before if you train early mornings, and that day if you’re training in the evenings. 

Lastly, you’re only doing the 5×5 method for each compound lift once a week except for deadlifts. I have you doing deadlifts on back and leg day (this is a common workout for me!). You can change this around if you want to focus on another compound lift. 

Bodybuilding Focused Workouts

Workout 1: Back

ExercisesSets x Reps
Barbell Rows5 x 5 
Deadlifts5 x 5 
Dumbbell Rows3 x 8
Seated Rows3 x 8
Lat Pulldowns3 x 10

Workout 2: Chest and Biceps

ExercisesSets x Reps
Bench Press5 x 5 
Incline Bench Press4 x 6
Dumbbell Press3 x 8
Incline Dumbbell Flyes3 x 8
Barbell (or EZ Bar) Curls3 x 10
Dumbbell Hammer Curls3 x 10

Workout 3: Legs

ExercisesSets x Reps
Squats5 x 5 
Deadlifts5 x 5 
Leg Press4 x 12
Leg Extensions3 x 12
Leg Curls3 x 12
Stiff-leg Deadlifts3 x 12

Workout 4: Shoulders and Triceps

ExercisesSets x Reps
Overhead Press5 x 5 
Seated Dumbbell Press4 x 6
Lateral Raises3 x 8
Bent-over Raises3 x 8
Skull-crushers3 x 10
Rope Pressdowns3 x 10

**If you’re interested in more bodybuilding workouts, then check out my 8 Week Bodybuilding Workout Plan post.

Advanced 5×5 Workout 3: Strength and Conditioning

advanced 5 x 5 workout strength and conditioning

This will probably be the most unique and challenging workout plan you’ve ever tried. I’ll admit I was a bit intimidated by it when I first tried (like ‘pull the covers over my head so the ghosts don’t exist’ intimidated!).  

But since, it’s become one of my favorite types of workouts, and you’re going to see why once you try it! 

Of course, 5×5 will be part of the program but in an unnatural way. You’re going to think I’m crazy here but you’re going to be supersetting heavy compound exercises

I know I know…you’re thinking WTF??

Stay with me. Because the strength and muscle gains are going to be accompanied by getting your body in extreme condition! And you’re going to amaze yourself by learning what you’re truly capable of. 

You’ll be training 4 days a week and your workout schedule will look like this:

  • Monday: Lower Body and Core
  •  Tuesday: Upper Body
  • Thursday: Lower Body and Core
  • Friday: Upper Body

What’s So Special About Workout 3? 

Have you ever heard the terms agonist-antagonist muscles? If so, then skip ahead to the workouts below. If not, let me explain…

The best way to describe an agonist-antagonist workout is by combining push-pull. An example is doing a set of barbell rows then supersetting that with a set of bench press. 

  • Barbell rows: 5 x 5
  • – superset with
  • Bench Press: 5 x 5

Let me further explain. 1 set of barbell rows followed by 1 set of bench press equals 1 superset. At that point, you can rest before doing another superset. You’ll do 5 sets of 5 reps (5 supersets, and 5 reps of each exercise during each superset)

Your lower body days will be a little different as you’ll be super setting with an abdominal exercise with your compound lower body/leg exercises (the reps for abs will be increased)

I assure you that you can do this! Is it easy? Hell no! But it’s totally worth the gains you’ll get from it! 

**If you want to learn more about agonist-antagonist training, I have an entire post (with full workout program) dedicated to it called Lean and Strong Workout Program Using Agonist-Antagonist Supersets​​​.

Strength and Conditioning Workouts

Workout 1: Lower Body

ExercisesSets x Reps
Squats  – superset with below5 x 5 
Leg/Knee Raises5 x 10
Leg Press  – superset with below4 x 12
Crunches or Decline Sit-ups4 x 12
Leg Extensions  – superset with below4 x 12
Leg Curls4 x 12

Workout 2: Upper Body

ExercisesSets x Reps
Barbell Rows – superset with below5 x 5 
Bench Press5 x 5 
Seated Rows – superset with below4 x 8
Incline Bench Press4 x 8
Barbell Curls – superset with below4 x 10
Skull-crushers4 x 10

Workout 3: Lower Body

ExercisesSets x Reps
Deadlifts  – superset with below5 x 5 
Leg/Knee Raises5 x 10 
Front Squats – superset with below4 x 12
Crunches or Decline Sit-ups4 x 12
Leg Extensions4 x 12
Good Mornings – superset with below4 x 12

Workout 4: Upper Body

ExercisesSets x Reps
Overhead Press – superset with below5 x 5 
Barbell Rows5 x 5 
Seated Dumbbell Press – superset with below4 x 8
Lat Pulldowns4 x 8
Close-grip Bench Press – superset with below4 x 10
Preacher Curls4 x 10

What About Abs, Calves, and Cardio?

You may have noticed that there are no ab exercises in the first 2 workout plans. You really don’t need to train abs directly. 

Why? Because your abs are getting more than enough work doing the compound lifts. 

Ab exercises are only included in the third workout plan because it’s part of the superset program, serving as the antagonist movement (‘antagonist movement’ – that sounds like some sort of revolution!). 

As far as calves go, you can throw 5-7 sets of calve twice a week and get good results. But you may also find that your squats and deadlifts are helping your calves grow.

Cardio…just take a walk 3-4 times a week. Unless you’re holding a butt-load of body fat, you really won’t need cardio on these advanced 5 x 5 programs. 

5 x 5 Workout Meals and Supplements

Each of the 5 x 5 workouts are tough! You cannot do these effectively without eating enough of the right types of foods. 

Supplements will also play a small role in your muscle and strength gains, and more importantly, in your ability to recover. So I’m going to briefly cover both.

5 x 5 Meal Plan

Vegan Thai curry with tofu homemade meal

‘Just eat, bro!’ I’ve always loved that…but you know what? In some cases, it works.

I’m not saying fill your stomach with junk food. But I’d rather see you eat a whole pizza than skip a meal (ok, so that was a bit extreme). Look, it’s a simple formula…

Lifting heavy + food = Gains

So here’s a sample 5 x 5 workout diet plan you use to build your own nutrition plan:

Meal 1

  • whole eggs (cage-free)
  • bagel
  • oatmeal with blueberries

Meal 2

  • whey protein
  • milk or almond milk
  • banana
  • frozen dark berries
  • natural peanut butter

Meal 3

  • Protein source
  • Brown or jasmine rice
  • sweet potato
  • spinach or any green vegetables

Meal 4

  • Protein source
  • cheese
  • bread (you can go with whole wheat or the Ezekiel bread if budget allows)

Meal 5

  • Protein source
  • pasta (whole wheat)
  • serving of vegetables

Meal 6

  • whey or casein protein powder
  • almond milk
  • natural peanut butter

**If you need help with planning your meals, check out the post below that best suites your goals:

Meal Plans for Mass Gains
Meal Plans for Lean Muscle

5 x 5 Supplements

5 x 5 supplements for mass and strength

Most of the time I’ll tell you that supplements aren’t necessary. And you can still make mass and strength gains on this program with the above 5 x 5 diet. But I am going to recommend a few basic supplements that will help you make more gains.

  • Whey protein – This is part of the meal plan above; protein powder makes it more convenient to stay on your meal schedule
  • Creatine Monohydrate – Don’t buy the fancy creatines; just stick with the old school creatine monohydrate pre and post-workout. 
  • BCAAs – I mentioned these earlier and taking BCAAs during your workouts will give you more muscle energy and prevent the breakdown of protein
  • Multivitamin – Many buy expensive fancy supplements only to leave out the most important of them all…don’t forget to take your vitamins!

These are my tried and true basic 4 supplements. You can read more basic about them in my post: Mass Building Supplement Stack

**Optional: Taking a testosterone booster isn’t a bad idea when you’re training hard and heavy. The right one will give you that extra edge. 

Go with a natural test booster (not a prohormone, or whatever they’re calling them these days…those are harsh on your liver and can cause other problems).

You can read more about my recommended natural testosterone booster here:

Jason’s Recommended Test Booster

Workout Tips and Guidelines

workout tips

Let’s go over some basic workout tips and guidelines that will help you make every workout more effective. These are things we sometimes forget (myself included)

  • Don’t train more than 2 days without a rest day during the advanced 5×5 workouts. If you must train on that third day, then do something light, like arms or calves or abs. 
  • These types of workouts are very tough and taxing on your central nervous system. So you need a break between workouts to recover and grow.
  • You will be alternating workouts A and B
  • Each workout will have a 5×5 part and a hypertrophy part (which is performed at the end of the workout).
  • You will be lifting heavy weights in this program. Be prepared.
  • Because of the above, you will need to stretch your muscles thoroughly after each workout.
  • You will need to make sure you eat an adequate amount of food (preferably healthy foods) during this program for results.
  • You will not have time to chit-chat in the gym. It’s going to be work-mode once you step through the door.
  • Each workout should take about an hour and a half.
  • You should do some sort of cardio or conditioning on your off days.

Combining Hypertrophy with Strength Training

Again, many choose to separate strength training and hypertrophy workouts. It goes back to the powerlifting vs bodybuilding argument.

Here’s the thing. If your sole purpose is strength gains and you truly don’t care about how you look, then don’t bother with training for hypertrophy. 

However, I would argue that no one wants to be strong and fat. So even if you’re not a bodybuilder and are ok with not being super ripped, you should still consider some hypertrophy training (like the first or third workout plans above)

Some will still say you can’t build and shape your muscles if you’re training for strength. And you can’t get stronger if your goal is to develop your muscles.

I don’t necessarily agree with either of those philosophies. And I think the 3 advanced 5 x 5 workouts here prove that you can build both muscle size and strength, at the same time. 

**If you’re ready to take your gains to the next level then check out my 12 Week Hardcore Muscle Building Program.

Train with Passion,


About the author

Jason Stallworth

Hi, I'm Jason Stallworth and I created The Muscle Program in 2010 for the purpose of helping you build muscle. I know first-hand how weight training and being in the gym has shaped my life in more way than one. And here is where I share that experience with you so that you can continue pushing yourself and becoming the best version of yourself each day!