5 x 5 means 5 sets of 5 repetitions of a given exercise. It is probably the most common used structure for building strength as the low rep range and higher number of sets allow you to get comfortable not only using heavier weights, but progressing them.
- Select a weight where you can perform approximately 7 repetitions.
- Approach each set performing no more than 5 repetitions.
- Do not attempt a repetition unless you are 100% sure you will be successful (save your energy for the following sets)
- Rest between 1 and 2 minutes between sets. You want your breathing to regulate and to approach the next set feeling as strong as you reasonably can.
If you set the weight correctly, you shouldn’t quite complete all sets with all 5 repetitions. On the final few sets, you will only be able to get sets of 4 or 3. For example:
Set 1 : 5 reps
Set 2 : 5 reps
Set 3 : 4 reps
Set 4 : 3 reps
Set 5 : 3 reps
Your aim is to progress so that you can complete all 5 sets with 5 reps. You can turn this into a session by session goal of adding a minimum of one rep to the cumulative number of reps achieved the last time you performed the exercise. Consider that the above example set consists of 20 reps total, 21 (or 5,5,4,4,3) would be success! Build that cumulative number to 25 (5,5,5,5,5) and you will be in a position to increase the weight. The frequency/rate to which you do this will vary based off your experience.
BEFORE YOU INCREASE THE WEIGHT
Once you have achieved 5 sets of 5 clean reps you may require a reload of the exercise.
A reload is a brief reduction in weight in order to allow your body to adapt to the stresses you have put on it over a period of progressive lifting. You would be looking to use 80% of the weight you used for your 5 x 5 and instead perform 5 sets of 4 reps. Once you have had a deload of the exercise, you will be ready to build on your previous 5 x 5 by adding an extra 2.5-5 kgs.
Lets say you are following 5 x 5 Deadlifts with your 7RM - 100kg.
- 5,5,5,5,5,5 - GOAL ACHIEVED!
You would then reduce the weight to 80kg
You could then increase to 105kg and attempt to hit 5 x 5 again - Simple