T Nation

3-Day BB Split Incorporating 5x5


First off I'm 6'2 tall, about 205lbs (over 15% bf), squat 353 (deep), dead 400 and bench 265 pounds.

I did Madcow's 5x5 this summer and loved it. I got 44 pounds (20 kg) improvements in all of main lifts (squat, dead, bench) and 22 pound (10 kg) improvements on rows and military presses. But the down side to my progression was that my lower back got over trained with all of the compounds in every workout.

I saw a physical therapist and she told me that I have to reduce the volume of heavy compounds so I don't permanently fuck up my lower back.

So I was thinking that I would switch to a 3-day split and incorporating 5x5 in it.

WO 1
Chest and back
bench 5x5 (ramping weight)
chins 5x5 (ramping weight)

accessory work (3 sets for reps?):
dumbbell presses

WO 2
Lower body
squats power lifting style 5x5 (ramping weight)
dead lifts 5x5 (ramping weight)

accessory work (3 sets for reps?):

WO 3
Shoulders and arms
dumbbell shoulder presses 5x5 (ramping weight)
dips for tri's 5x5 or maybe bench lock outs in smith machine? (ramping weight)
barbell curls 5x5 (ramping weight)

accessory work (3 sets for reps?):
side laterals
face pulls
Tate presses
barbell scott curls

This way I would only have one workout per week that puts strain on lower back.

Suggestions and critique are welcome. :slightly_smiling:


What are your goals? I suspect you'd like to compete in powerlifting, but if not, I'd radically change your program - in almost any other direction.


Doing squats and deadlifts on the same day will put alot of pressure on your lower back. If you have lower back problems you might think about doing them on different days.


During the summer my goal was to build up strength and I am still 44 pounds from where I would like to be next summer with my main lifts.

No I'm not going to compete in any form, but I want to reach my goal of being big and strong someday.

Should I consider switching to a full bodybuilding style 3-day split and then switch back to a strength oriented program after my back is better?


Yeah they are on the same day, but because my sets are ramped I would be doing 1 heavy set each per workout. Only the last set of the 5x5 is really heavy.


I say try it out, you never know how it'll work until you give it a shot.

You already seem to realize the importance of getting stronger, have some experience ramping up your weights and know how to utilize the 5x5 protocol. Hopefully you're also eating like you're lifting. So give your program a shot.

If you encounter problems with it, then tweak it from there until you find a solution that works for you.

Good luck.


Day 1:

Day 2:
flat press, overhead press, front+ side raises, triceps

Day 3:
squat, quads, hammys, cavles


I've learned it the hard way that strength is everything if I want to progress. I've lost a lot of time and effort trying to over analyze everything while at the same time forgotten to lift the damn weights.

I still need to get a whole lot stronger to even qualify as big to the general eye. I hope to be about 225 pounds and relatively lean (10 - 13% bf) within the next 3 years. Basically strength-wise that means that I have to bench my squat, at least.

During summer I was eating a bit too much, but at the moment I've gotten my diet dialed down pretty good and I'm gaining weight nice and steady.

I'll try the setup that I mentioned for a while and see how my back feels. When I get my back feeling better hopefully before Christmas, I'll switch it up to a WS4SB setup.


I've found that doing 5x5 your side delt's get fairly overlooked, which is why I do a bit of side raises once or twice a week.

You could always bench & Deadlift on the same day, since it wouldn't be so taxing on your lower back. Perhaps, a wider (snatch) grip for deadlifts, on a platform, for example, to get you more width than thickness ?


I would not, myself anyways, do such low reps for isolation movements like side laterals. I see all deltoid movements except shoulder presses as accessory movements to help keep my shoulders healthy so I can continue to press heavy weight (well at least heavy for me).

They way I think is, a big deadlift equals a big physique. I see the deadlift as well as the back squat to be a whole body movement, not just for back and legs. But switching up grip width ie. snatch grip deads would bring something new to normal deadlifting workout.


In my opinon, with regards to what I've done, this is what worked for me. It helped build a base...

WO 1 - On Mon.
Bent-over BB,or DB Rows to mix it up-5x8
Cable Rows,or pullovers-5x10-15
T-Bar Rows-5x8

WO 2 - On Wed.
Incline Press-5x5
Flat Press-5x5
Decline Press-5x5
DB Flyes,5x8
-Mix these up with different angles also.
for instance one week Inlcine flyes,
next week flat bench flyes, etc..

WO 3 - On Fri.
Back Squats- 5x5
Leg press,or Hack Squats (switch em up)-5x5
Leg curls-5x5-8 they need more work than you
Calf Raises-5x15-25

This is a basic routine for adding mass as most of us on this site knows, you should be doing 15-20 sets for the above on any given workout.

Now you can add isolation movements if you like but you stated you want to get "big and strong" so this is what i would recommed.

It gives your body time to recover from the heavy lifting your body will be doing.

Oh one last thing try this for about 3 months then switch it up.


3 days a week wont get you anywhere no matter what you goal is.


For the near future this could a nice change in volume for me, but at the moment my lower back can't handle it.

Just a few questions though. Are the sets 5x5 ramped or same weight for all? And why is there no direct shoulder work?


That's absurd. Maybe not from a size standpoint, but I reached a lean and fairly strong 185lbs at 5'9" doing 3 days a week. It may not be optimal for some, but 3 days a week is perfect for others.


Hmmm...I don't know about that Dylanj.

These guys would disagree with you:

They don't do 5x5 per se, but all of them attribute substantial mass gain to training 3 days per week (DC 2 way split).


This would help your lower back some, simply because there is a layoff between working with DL's and Squats, not saying i know everything about your phsical condition...As far as 5x5's they are geared towards pyraimiding up in weight, you should barely be getting the last set up if used properly....

I won't comment on the 3 workouts per week, i think it is self evident for lots of people this will work IF used properly.


Oh and as far as shoulder work, your delts Will be hit with incline benching, and all the bent over rows...this program IS intended for overall mass...


Wow this makes no sense to me. If your back is so bad that a week off doesn't take away all the pain, or you need a therapist then there is something wrong other than exercise volume.

Maybe exercise selection, technique, running, posture outside of the gym, or other factors that you are not looking at. If deadlifting and squatting caused the problem, then continueing to just deadlift and squat will maintain the problem. You can get stronger in those exercises without directly doing them. A month or two of good mornings, or pull throughs will build what is likely the weak links in your quest for strength. That is not an exact recommendation but just an example of what you can do. If you have a lower back problem then common sense would say you couldn't do either with heavy ass weights, but upping the reps and using a light weight will provide a recovery period for your main lifts while allowing your core muscles to build strength.

All I'm saying is you need a different approach.


Right. It is not necessary to train every movement in the 5X5 protocol. There is nothing wrong with adding in a few isolation movements using 3X8 or some other scheme while keeping the money lifts in the 5X5. Myself I have added isolation work to the advanced 5X5 for bicep, tricep, deltoids, calves etc. using a 3X8 scheme and had good results.

Normally you would ramp your weights to your highest set on Monday and do all five sets at one weight on Friday after a warmup. If you can make your full 5 sets on Friday you increase the weight and ramp to that on Monday. The same would happen during the 3X3 phase of the 5X5. Keep pushing like this until you can no longer make gains on most of your money lifts. Then take a week off.

Then maybe a week or two of recovery work in the moderate - high rep ranges 8 - 15 for example before resetting the 5X5 cycle. This is optional but in my experience this was a good thing to allow my joints to heal up for the next push. I would maintain my 5s and 3s weights with single sets during this recovery phase.


TBF...if your progressing each workout and eating enough it will work!

Everything works!

  • Phoenix THeory