Effective 5 x 5 Training

For individuals who have never trained using weights before the prospect of starting can be quite intimidating, and more so in a gym environment. Not knowing what exercises to do for what muscle group or not knowing how long to train and how often tend to be common reasons why people will never even start. Or if they start, they end up taking the long way round, not achieving optimal results but expanding extra effort. This guide provides gym exercises for beginners; it can also be useful for intermediate gym users alike, with an easy-to-follow plan. This guide can be a useful tool to get you started.

5 X 5 Training

This guide is an introduction to a style of weight training known as 5 x 5. 5 sets by 5 reps of heavy loading. There are preferences and ongoing debates comparing this way of working out to the more reps with lighter weights type of training. We won’t go into it here but have chosen to share this guide based solely on the fact that from a lean point of view, 5 x 5 give you a bigger bang for your bucks from a time efficient point of view. This kind of training if done correctly without compromising form will help improve your strength and can help build muscle. It uses compound exercises, which means you work more than one muscle group simultaneously allowing you to build muscle, and burn more calories compared to working individual muscle groups. 5 x 5 training is a very productive use of the time whether you venture out into the gym or for a home workout. It makes this type of training a lean choice of workout reducing your time spent on exercise. Part 4 of the Being Lean (link to buy book page) book explains the benefits of compound exercises in more detail.

We recommend that this type of training is split in to 2 weeks (week A and week B) and repeated over at least an 8-week period. You will train three days a week and each session is made up of 3 exercises in which you will complete 5 sets of each exercise with 5 reps in each set. Try and get a rest day in between each session e.g., train Monday, Wednesday, andFriday.

For the more advanced, the principle of progression says that you must progressively or gradually increase the workload. This overloading can be achieved through FIIT.

  • Frequency – how often you train
  • Intensity – how hard you train
  • Time – how long you train
  • Type – the kind of training you do

This means add more weight, increase the number of reps, lengthen the amount of time of the workout, or try more difficult exercises. But from a lean perspective where we are trying to spend less time training, more effort is the way to go i.e., go heavier.

For those more ambitious souls reading this guide, whenever you complete the same exercise in the next session, youshould add 2.5kg on, provided you’ve completed 5 reps comfortably the first time around for that particular exercise. Forexample, if you start your first session by squatting 20kg comfortably and successfully, then the next session you should attempt squatting 22.5kg. If you struggle to complete 5 reps on each set of a particular weight, start on the same weight inthe next session. Below is a template that you can follow.

Note that weights stated above and below are just examples. Make sure you start with an appropriate weight that suits your ability. From a Lean point of view, you will be introducing waste into the process otherwise. To achieve results, you should reach fatigue or failure, but you need to maintain form throughout every rep and set. So, what are the correct weights to use? Keep a lookout for an article on this subject on our Blog (link to blog pg).


What is more important: Technique or Weight?

Learning to lift weights using the correct technique is essential when starting out or committing yourself to a training programme. Incorrect technique can lead to injury and can affect your progress, as you might not be engaging the correct muscles for a particular exercise. If you are a complete beginner, a good idea might be to take one session to practice the technique of these exercises e.g. having no weight on the bar. Also, seek out advice from a trainer at your gym. It is incredibly important to lift a weight that you are comfortable with first. A good guide to this is finding a weight initially that you struggle to get the last (5th) repetition done. Technique and form must always come first. Lean always advocate quality above quantity.

What if you miss a workout?

This can be easily done as we have other things going on besides training. If this happens either just accept it and move on or try to complete your session another day in the week.

Can you incorporate other exercises in to this guide?

Of course, this is a simple easy to follow guide covering exercises that will help improve strength and build muscle over time, if you feel you want to incorporate other muscle groups in to this over 8 weeks then use the same principle with your added exercise.

Are there supplements I can take to help me with my training?

There are hundreds of supplements on the market that claim to help your progress in the gym; the majority of them are usually a waste of money. A good protein powder from a reputable website or company will be just fine to aid your muscle recovery. Youcould look at investing in BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids) which also help with muscle recovery and can be used alongsideprotein. Otherwise, just ensure you are getting enough protein in your daily diet from food.