5X5 Routine

For the past six-eight months I have been working on a 5×5 program primarily focused on gaining strength and mass. The primary driver for this adventure was to basically get stronger, and actually start to see some kind of measurable results. Don’t get me wrong, I have been making progress in the gym, but it has been very slow, and any amount of time taken away to rest has put me back too much. I felt like it was just a circular yo-yo affect without any real progress being made. I wasn’t gaining weight, and I wasn’t losing either. Muscle and fat mass percentages were just fluctuating up and down with an average of a flat line movement. My diet and program needed a significant change if I was going to start making any measurable progress.

Image Courtesy of SealFit.com

I have tried many different programs over the course of my life, and probably the one program that had the most significant change in my body composition was the Seal Fit program. A Marine friend of mine bought a book and enlisted three more, including me, to start a morning routine. We dubbed ourselves The 0600 Crew because we would meet at the YMCA down the road from our place of work. We did this for nearly a year just working our way through the book and then just repeating making minor changes for progression. Sometimes we would take turns designing a morning routine. After some of those your dick would absolutely be dragging the ground. Reminded me a lot of those really intense PT sessions with our CO who was former Spec-Ops. There were days I hated that man, but would follow him to hell to fight the devil. Needless to say, I had become very lean, but a semi-modest increase in overall strength. My low weight was 199, 16% body fat, and about 40% muscle on a 6’2″ frame. I think if I had the sense to have the right diet with enough calories then I would have been a fucking monster ready to take on the Jihad myself. Fast forward…fuck, ten years…I’m starting to get old and salty now.

Now we enter the current realm of training. I have since moved to a new state and have a good job as a Fed with an onsite gym…major selling point for the job offer. I didn’t have to pay gym memberships and I had a full gym with classes at my disposal. I can even go over my lunch break and take a shower before going back to my desk. The only drawback is the three personal trainers we had on staff are not longer here, so my Agency had taken away the straight bar and squat rack. This stoked fears with non-gym goer management that someone could get hurt. I see the concern, but let’s be honest, those 120 lbs women would struggle to get a 225 lbs or higher barbell off the chest of some dumb ass who didn’t know WTF he was doing. Whatever. I’m getting by and use different machines. My particular machine of choice is the Smith Machine. I know, I know, every one who does any kind of strength training are screaming at me saying “the Smith Machine is for pussies”. I agree it ‘s not as effective as doing the actual free weight exercises, but it’s the best I have, and it provides me with something I need…Stability in my shoulders. I have tendinitis in my shoulders, and any movement outside of a small range variable causes pain for me. I can load up on the weight and still ensure I have stability. I will supplement that with accessory work using dumbbells and a curl bar (only bar they let us have). Watch a few YouTube videos of Strongmen and other elite athletes, and you’ll quickly see they use the Smith and other machines as well. Check your ego at the door, because it’s all about progress.

Smith Machine always get a bad wrap…

Speaking of progress. From about 2015 to 2018 I had a major lapse in training and diet regimen. Simply put, I basically fell off the wagon. I went from my low of 199, up to 245, then back down to 215, and everywhere in between. I was a mess. Starting in 2018 I began using a series of routines in the gym. They were decent routines and got me back into rhythm of working out. Some weights, some cardio, and ranged from 3-5 days a week for about 4-5 weeks at a time. It was good. I was beginning to stabilize my weight. However, as briefly mentioned before, there was not real progress being made in either direction. It was like an infinite plateau. After watching a few strongmen competitions I quickly realized I needed a new goal. My new goal was to be strong. Yeah, sure, I could drop a ton of weight and look more lean, but then I would be weak and lanky looking for my height. After seeing some of these beasts weigh 300-400 lbs AND be lean, then I knew I had found my calling. I don’t expect to be an elite athlete, but if I can reach that “old man strength” status as I age, then it will be worth it. Additionally, I have a special needs child that requires total care. My child can walk right now, but as the years progress that ability will fade, and I will MUST have the ability to lift them in any state. Hence, the real motivation behind my drive.

How do I do it? Simple, a 5×5 program focused on heavy compound lifts at 5 reps for 5 sets. You will do the basic bench, dead-lift, squat, and overhead press, but you will also do a lot of heavy accessory work as well mixing machines and free weights for optimal strength gains. The 5×5 program is a common staple among strength athletes training regimen in some form. I tend to modify mine on occasion, but only for accessory work. You should be doing the compound lifts each week. Those include the chest press, overhead press, dead lifts, and squats, but your machine and dumbbell work can vary provided you are working the smaller muscles.

I’m sure you’re asking how you can do this program as well. I’m about to tell you. The program is broken down into four days a week with a mixture of push, pull, and legs.

Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4
BenchSquatClose-Grip BenchDeadlift
ShrugBent Over RowMachine Ab CrunchSeated V-Bar Cable row
Full Hanging Leg RaiseChin-UpUpright RowFront Squat
Incline Bench Good MorningTricep DipSeated Dumbbell Curl
Tricep PushdownWide-Grip Lat Pull-downSeated Military PressOne-Arm Dumbbell Row

I will build out a spreadsheet for you to track your progress with, and give you some options with changing out equivalent exercises. I will post a link here and on the Workout Routines pages. Also, with doing these heavy lifts you will need to be eating a lot to keep up with it.

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