T Nation

5x5 and the Over-40 Set


After turning 40 last October, I went through a period of lifting where NOTHING seemed to go right. Injuries appeared out of nowhere (lower back, shoulder, "golfer's elbow") even though my training practices never changed. It was then that I realized that my youth was slowly slipping away. Well, I decided to replace it with a bit of wisdom and focus on strict form under a training routine I'd never tried.

Enter 5x5 and a little creatine.

Started at 5'10" and 174 pounds. Relatively lean with strength levels that prior to injury, were respectable.

Pre-injury lifts:

Bench - 260
Squat - 315
Deadlifts - 335

First thing I did was let my injuries heal, did some rehabilitation exercises and got some sleep (tough to do with a 1-year old little girl who is teething). Took about 2-3 weeks.

Second thing I did was to research 5x5 and find a pre-written routine that had all the basic movements. Found a good one that put emphasis on back, shoulders and calves, (the 1st and 3rd being two of my perpetual weak points). Started with some basic weight that I knew I could do for 5x5 (checked my ego at the door) and focused on strict form. Increased the weight 5 pounds a week for a month and found my youthful strength returning. My weighted pull-ups went up to my bodyweight with 60 pounds suspended from a dipping belt for 5x5. Shoulders went to 165 pounds for 5x5. Calves went to 3 plates on the seated calf machine for 5x5.

Third thing I did was to retool the routine to put emphasis on chest, biceps and traps to see if I could finally develop them into the size and shape I'd always wanted. I'm on week 4 of my second run through the routine, and so far so good. Bench is now at a respectable 240 at 5x5 (with the weight feeling "light"). Biceps are at 110 at 5x5. Traps are 225 at 5x5.

Weight has gone from 174 to 188 in 7.5 weeks. Some fat, as I'm now wearing size 33" pants from size 31"/32" (depending on the brand). However, my shirts are MUCH tighter across the chest, back, shoulders and arms - it's a wonderful feeling. I'm going to continue until I hit somewhere around 194-195 (probably another month or so, based on the previous growth trend), then start to cut. Hope to lose around a pound a week over a 10 week period, leaving me somewhere around 184-185 by spring.


Great lifts!

I had golfers and tennis elbow both sides. Took a year or so to heal up, but I kept lifting and used the support straps.

Good luck with your new program!


Thanks. What kind of support straps are you referring to? A year or so to heal? Wow!

I've found that just being conscious of avoiding any kind of movement that causes pain in my elbow(s) is the best way to let it heal. If it hurts, then my form must be wrong.

Woke up this morning with some pain in my left shoulder, but hopefully a few ibuprofen and a day's rest will help.

Rather than immediately go through a 3rd 4-week 5x5 routine (focusing on squats and deadlifts), I'm thinking of taking a week off to let my joints and muscles recover fully. Maybe some light weights (50%) and low-impact cardio (walking) just to keep the blood pumping would help things.

Age has forced me to listen to my body a bit more....


Sting, I'm a fan of 5x5 although I only use it on the big compound movements and I use the same weight and do it for 5 "work" sets after warm ups. I start with a weight I can get all my reps on comfortably and then add 10 lbs or so a week until it runs its course and I can't add any more. It's not a program I would want to stay on but I haven't found anything better at increasing "work capacity" before moving onto doubles and singles.

Also I've suffered with elbow tendonitis recently and I've found the only way to deal with it is to avoid all the exercises that irritate it. For me it was chins and dips so I basically trained just lower body for several months. Oh, and I ate anti-inflammatories like they were M&Ms. Just about better now but I still get flare ups occasionally. Best to sort it out early, or Null's right, you could be stuck with it for years!


I usually warm up for a couple of sets at around 40-50% of my work set weight. However, you're probably right about limiting its use to compound movements, as well as for a limited period of time. It's tough on the joints, especially for guys like us.

As I mentioned, perhaps a week of rest will help with all of my nagging injuries and joint pain. However, that assumes I'll get some sleep too, which if you ask my 14-month old teething daughter, it's not something she wants daddy to have these days... :slightly_smiling:


I would like a good recommendation for a good tennis elbow strap. I have been dealing with mine for about 6 months now.

"Great lifts!

I had golfers and tennis elbow both sides. Took a year or so to heal up, but I kept lifting and used the support straps.

Good luck with your new program! "


Me too!
I have bought 3 different kinds.
One wouldn't fit around my forearm.
One was stretchy, which wasn't bad when the tendons weren't hurting... Lost both of those.
The one I have left, is not stretchy, but falling apart (sewed it twice)... and a bit short to go around forearm, but does make it...

Looked in 2 drugstores, 1 medical supply place, Target and Wally World, nothing long enough. I was about to post or go online as I don't want the pain to return. It really puts a damper on lifting.

Oh, I'm on lots of fish oil (10 grams a day) and tendonitis seemed to go away a bit after I started that practice. Stands to reason it being anti-inflamatory, but can't really say.

There was a study in MD that said NSAIDs impaired tendon/ligament strength... So your mileage may vary with Doctor;s advice for long term NSAID use reduce tendon issue... Especially since another study showed their anti-inflamatory was both non-specific, and only with short term exposure...