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5 x 5 Training vs. Hypertrophy Training


I was doing a little math, and something concerns me about the 5x5 approach versus hypertrophy training.

Take, for example, incline bench press. If I was doing 4 sets / 10 reps / 175 pounds, that equates to a total weight lifted of 7000 pounds. Under the 5x5 protocol, I would have to lift 280 pounds for 5 sets of 5 to equal the total amount of 7000 pounds achieved through hypertrophy training. That would be impossible for me to do.

Likewise, I was squatting 280 x 4 x 10 for a total amount of weight lifted of 11,200 pounds. That means my squat would have to jump to almost 450 pounds for 5 sets of 5 reps! That's pretty impossible (at least for me).

Anyway, I'm sure you get the idea. Is my thinking and approach to the 5x5 regimen wrong? I have been focusing on increasing the total weight lifted every time I hit a particular body part, but it seems like the 5x5 routine would set me back in terms of the "total stress" I'm putting my muscles under.

If my thinking is off base, please let me know. I'd also appreciate any other suggestions you may have for me regarding this issue.

Total pounds lifted in varying rep ranges isn’t a valid comparison. If it was, than an extreme example would be lifting 1 pound 7000 times. Overload is more complex than just total pounds lifted. You have to consider the % of 1RM when looking at overload and stress to muscle. Higher % of 1 RM will overload muscle much quicker than more reps of lower % 1RM. Volume vs Poundage is not a linear comparison.

you are only focusing on volume (reps x weight x sets, where as 5 x 5 is more strength orientated program as such you should worry about your intensity instead (reps x weights x sets divided by total reps), the higher the intensity the more fibres recruited which leads to strength gains (and possibly hypertophy in the long run), considering volume and intensity are opossite ends of a continuum (you can train long or heavy not both) it is natural for strength programs to have lower total volume. if you want all possible means of porgression you should also think about your workout density (reps x weight x sets x rep cadence in seconds looked at as a percentage of your total workout time) which you can increase by cutting down your rest time between sets, there is a good article by staley called doing it by the numbers which explains all of this better than I can but I can not remember where it came from. overall you should worry about the intensity if your aims are strength based and the volume and density if your aims are more hypertrophy and work capacity based.

I think the way it works is that you lift your 5RM 5 times, you’re getting your body used to lifting heavier weights. For me, I do the 5x5 a couple of weeks and then my body has adjusted and the weight I did at 5x5 now becomes manageable for the 4x10.

The 5x5 program is not a hypertrophy specific program. It’s a classic powerlifting approach and the outcomes are as follows:

1) Increased strength (at a much greater rate than with hypertrophy training)

2) Increased muscle tone and definition. Heavier weights put a greater amount of tension of the working muscles. (Muscle tone is simply resting tension on a given muscle)

3) Maximize the effects of hypertrophy training once resumed. After completing a 5x5 program; your muscles will be "primed" for great gains. When you resume a higher volume, higher rep range program; your muscle will react beautifully, as they have not been accustomed to this type of training for some time.

When you shift modes of training, you shift goals. Your mode of training needs to be customed tailored to your goals and diet. If your goal is to get lean while looking full, hard, and ripped; then the 5x5 program is a great way to achieve this. It is not very taxing on glycogen stores, and it greatly increases the amount of tension placed on the working muscles. A hypertrophy program combined with a calorically restricted diet will likely leave you lean, but also flat and soft. It is not the optimal type of training to conduct while on a cutting phase.

Another benefit of 5x5 is that if you were previously conducting a higher volume, higher rep range type of training (which seems to be the case from your post) then your muscle will be quite shocked by the lower rep range. You may end up even putting on a few pounds of lean mass despite the calorie restriction. Even if calories are not high enough to promote growth; you will still be able to retain more lean mass using this approach.

All in all, the training will not "set you back," but it will bump you forward in a variety of ways. Don't worry about trying to lift the same total poundage as you did while training for hypertrophy; your goals have changed, thus your workout regimen needs to change. It's like comparing apples and oranges. Two totally different things, with two completely different objectives.

One last thing. I have seen individuals do the 5x5 program with 2 exercises per body part for a total of ~50 reps. Obviously this allows for a greater tonnage to be lifted. This particular approach is fine provided that calories are moderatly restricted, but it is quite time consuming. I would not recommend doing this with severe caloric restrictions; and to be honest, I don't believe that it is even neccesary with more moderate-type diets.

Honestly, I don’t have anything more to add. Listen to these guys. They know their stuff. Using a 5x5 strength program will be a great way to transition and maintain gais after mag-10 and prime your body for further hypertrophy in your next hypertrophy stage.

Thank you all for these well-informed responses. It definitely set my mind at ease with regard to 5x5 training.

As far as diet, I'm using the Mag-10 plan for success (even though I'm no longer using Mag-10), the only difference being an increase in 500 calories per day on my "on" weeks. I'm not necessarily "cutting", per se.

I'll be sure to let you all know how my progress goes.