If you’re ready to transform your body and build muscle faster, the “5×5 workout” is absolutely worth checking out. It seems like numbered workouts are all the rage among fitness enthusiasts on TikTok, and this one lives up to the hype.

The appeal lies in its simplicity and efficiency; the 5×5 workout calls for performing a specific set and rep scheme (five sets of five reps) while utilizing heavy weights.

“The general idea behind 5×5 training is that the weight you use is heavy enough to help you get stronger quickly, but done at a high enough volume to help you build plenty of muscle,” explains Domenic Angelino, CPT from Trainer Academy.

Variations of this training scheme have been around for quite some time. “[However,] this particular set and rep scheme was not very popular until the early 21st century [when a] version of 5×5 training called Strong Lifts 5×5 started to catch on and spread throughout the internet pretty quickly,” Angelino adds.

Now, let’s dive into exactly how the 5×5 workout works and how it can help boost your muscle and strength gains.

Here’s how to successfully perform the 5×5 workout:

fit, muscular woman doing barbell deadlift exercisefit, muscular woman doing barbell deadlift exercise

The general concept behind the 5×5 workout calls for you to perform three main barbell exercises on every training day. It’s important to map out your weekly workouts so that you’re not training on three days in a row.

In addition, there are different 5×5 training variants. The Strong Lifts variant, in particular, is among the most popular and switches between two workouts.

“[Strong Lifts is] made up of Workout A and Workout B. On Workout A, you perform 5×5 Squat, 5×5 Bench Press, and 5×5 Barbell Row. On Workout B, you perform 5×5 Squat, 5×5 Overhead Press, and 1×5 Deadlift, with four warm-up sets ramping up to the one real Deadlift set,” explains Angelino. “The deadlift is performed for one set because it is a complex movement that can be risky to perform while fatigued. This is especially the case for someone who is a beginner.”

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To perform Strong Lifts, you’ll simply swap between Workouts A and B every time you hit the gym. So, for one week, you will do Workout A on the first training day, Workout B on the second, and Workout A again on the third. The next week will begin with Workout B on the first training day, and so on.

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Keep in mind that the conventional barbell deadlift, which is a staple in this regimen, can put excess stress on your lumbar spine due to the bar’s positioning. “If you deadlift in an unsafe way, it can really compromise your lumbar spine and cause serious injury,” Angelino cautions. “The Strong Lifts program is specifically designed for beginners, so the deadlift is set up to have a lower overall training volume. If someone were more familiar with training, [increasing the volume here would be safer].”

Progressing in the 5×5 workout can vary. However, typically, if you’re able to ace all reps of an exercise for two consecutive weeks, Angelino says you can increase the weight for that exercise by around 2.5% to 5% during week #3.

In addition, 5×5 workouts can be tiring, so a crucial part of the process is implementing a de-load week every eight to 12 weeks. “Reduce the weight you use by 50% during your de-load week, and reduce the number of training sessions to two sessions total,” Angelino recommends. “This will help you recover so that you avoid burning out. It might sound counterintuitive, but taking a step back will set you up for far more success down the line.”

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How can the 5×5 workout help you build bigger muscles?

fit man doing barbell overhead press during muscle-building workoutfit man doing barbell overhead press during muscle-building workout

The 5×5 workout successfully revs up the training volume so that you can work with heavy weights.

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“It does this by increasing the number of sets you perform rather than reps,” explains Angelino. “Five sets of five reps equal 25 total reps of work. Compare this to three sets of eight reps, which people commonly prescribe for hypertrophy. Three sets of eight reps equal 24 total reps of work, which is pretty similar to the amount of work you do per exercise in a 5×5 routine.”

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In addition, the weight you work with during sets of five reps is heavier than what you’d lift when performing a set of eight reps. “You’ll actually prioritize training Type II muscle fibers, which are the fast twitch kind. These muscle fibers are larger than the type you’d prioritize when you train with lighter weight. This means they can help you get bigger faster,” Angelino explains.

Another reason 5×5 training is effective for quick muscle growth and strength is repetition. The method requires just a few exercises, but you perform them often.

“You get better at doing the new movement as it becomes more familiar, which increases your movement economy and makes it easier for you to lift the weight effectively,” explains Angelino.

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