Five 5×5 Variations

5×5 is a training program that was designed by Bill Starr many, many years ago that has yielded great results for countless weight room warriors. The concept is simple; perform 5 sets of 5 reps on your major strength movements, whether it’s your pressing, squatting or favorite deadlift variation.5x5

The Typical 5×5

This is probably the most popular method and the method that most people use whether they realize it or not. When using the pyramid variation, you simply start at a weight and increase the weight every set so that your final set is the heaviest work set. For example, when squatting a typical progression may look a little something like this;

  • 135 x 5
  • 185 x 5
  • 225 x 5
  • 275 x 5
  • 315 x 5

Essentially this variation of 5×5 is four warm up sets followed by one heavy work set. Though it isn’t my favorite variation of 5×5, it’s a variation nonetheless.

The Opposite of the Typical 5×5

This variation is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of working your way up to your heaviest set, you warm up properly, perform your heaviest set and then work your way back down in weight for the following sets.

  • 315 x 5
  • 275 x 5
  • 225 x 5
  • 185 x 5
  • 135 x 5

The Pyramid


This may be my favorite variation of 5×5. In the pyramid variation your first two sets are relatively heavy sets that work towards your third set which will be your heaviest set. Then, after your third set you work your way back down in weight on the final two sets. Using our squatting workout as an example, this variation might look something like this;

  • Warm Up Sets as Needed
  • 225 x 5
  • 275 x 5
  • 315 x 5
  • 275 x 5
  • 225 x 5

I like this variation because you lift some relatively heavy weights for all 5 sets and you get in some quality work after performing your heaviest set.

The Wave


Here’s a really cool variation of 5×5. Instead of progressively working your way up in weight, down in weight, or using the pyramid approach, you essentially pyramid throughout the 5 sets. Confused? Don’t be, it would look a little something like this;

  • Warm Up Sets as Needed
  • 275 x 5
  • 295 x 5
  • 255 x 5
  • 315 x 5
  • 275 x 5

In this variation, the weight moves up and down each set, but all sets are real, legit work sets. Without a doubt, this has to be one of my favorite variations of 5×5.

The Straight Set

As the name suggests, this variation is performed by choosing one weight and sticking with it throughout the entire 5 sets of 5. This variation can be very effective but it won’t allow you to use your 5 rep max as you will never be able to complete 5 sets of 5 with your 5RM – but I’m okay with that. Here’s what this variation might look like on paper;

  • Warm Up Sets as Needed
  • 275 x 5 x 5

This is most certainly one of my favorite variations and it might be the most simple. You warm up, which would probably look like the weights in the Typical Variation, and then get after it with 5 sets at a weight a little bit lighter than your 5 rep max.

I am sure that there are millions of other variations of 5×5 out there but these are just a couple that I have fooled around with in the past. This type of programming is very simple yet very effective and can add a little spice to your training as well as add a little challenge compared to the typical 3 sets of 8 reps type of workout.

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