The 5X5 strength training routine is a classic program and a favorite routine of the legendary Reg Park, three-time winner of the Mr. Universe bodybuilding title. The 5X5 program provides you with a high-volume workout, which promotes muscle pump and endurance, while maintaining low-reps for each set -- the key to building strength and size.
The 5X5 program consists of doing each exercise for five sets, five reps each set. You get the best of both worlds with this program: high volume, since you're doing a total of 25 repetitions, but low reps on each set, which the National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends for increasing strength. The amount of time you rest between sets depends on your training goal. If you are training for strength, rest two to three minutes between exercises. If you are training for size, rest 60 to 90 seconds between sets.
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You use compound exercises with the 5X5 program, not isolation exercises, even when using dumbbells. Compound exercises involve more than one joint movement and work more than one muscle. Isolation exercises target one muscle. You use more weight on compound exercises. Consider a bench chest press compared to chest flyes. When designing your 5X5 routine with dumbbells, select exercises such dumbbell squats and lunges, overhead presses, dumbbell chest presses, bent-over dumbbell rows and deadlifts.
Design a Program
You can perform either a split or full-body routine with the 5X5 design, targeting all the major muscles in one workout for a full-body routine. For a split routine, focus on one part of your body at each workout, such as the upper body on Monday alternating the lower body on Wednesday. Start each 5X5 group with two warm-up sets. Complete one warm-up set with about 50 percent of your working weight and a second warm-up set with about 75 percent of your working weight, then move to your five working sets.
This full-body 5X5 program targets all of the major muscles in one dumbbell workout. Use weights that fatigue your muscles on each set. If you can easily complete five sets of five reps, increase the weight by 5 to 10 percent. Do dumbbell squats with an overhead press, incline dumbbell chest presses, dumbbell stiff-leg deadlifts and dumbbell bent-over rows.