T Nation

5x5 Full Body And Biceps

The scenario is that I’m doing Bill Starr 5X5 type full body training 3X a week right now. I’ve been going for about 3 weeks, and so far I’ve been adding 5 pounds to my 5th set each week as I had hoped for. We’ll see how long I can sustain this before I plateau, but so far so good.

The split isn’t the Strongest Shall Survive, but is as such:

M: Squat, Dead, Bench, Incline Dumbell (15 reps),(grip, abs - my addition)

W: Lunge, Good Morning, Overhead Press, Chin (many as possible), (grip, abs)

F: Squat, Row, Incline, Tricep Extension (12 reps), (grip, abs)

In my personal experience, when I don’t do a lot of direct arm work, my arms shrink slightly.

I’ve tried throwing a couple of sets of fairly non-taxing barbell curls on days 1 and/or 3 here, but already after only 3 weeks and while all of my compound lifts are going up, my grip (pinch, leverage, and crushing) is improving noticably, my abs are stronger (I’m doing evil wheel roll-outs from on my feet, so progress is easy to measure), and my scale weight has increased, I swear I’ve lost 1/8" off my flexed bicep circumference.

Last year I did one cycle of Chad’s ABBH and I lost a little bit of arm circumference as well.

Since all my numbers are going up, I figure I’m on the right track, but dammit I am at least a little vain and don’t want my measurable arm size to lag.

What would you tweak to keep those arms growing?


I’ll probably catch a ton of hell for this, but here’s my recommendation. Drop the specific arm exercises from Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then, every other week add a fourth training day of only arm exercises.

I would drop the incline dumbell from Monday and add 5x5 of the bicep curl. Or, you could 2x6 with the bicep curl on 1 and 3. Like you, I do better with direct arm work. In the past, I have confused inflamation from excesive arm work as an increase in muscular size. If you work hard on moving more weight in good form with the basics like curls, you will get growth.

Just a thought on the arm size loss. Could be just a loss of fat from the arm, or perhaps fluid as you ramp into hard training.

Also on fullbody workouts I think it is good to get some specific arm work, but emphasise some. Usually you get plenty of work for the arms from the other exercises, so just a couple of sets is fine to finish them off (and make them ready to work harder for the big exercises). But you have to know when they have had enough.

A fourth day specializing in arms on alternate weeks. That’s an interesting approach.

The incline dumbell work on the 1st day is just 2 high rep sets. I’d hesitate to replace 2 high rep sets with a whole other 5X5 movement on a day that I’ve already done 5X5 for the three big exercises, that feels like too much strain on the body given just how demanding that day already is.

Maybe a 5X5 of straight barbell curls on the 2nd day would be a good addition. That day’s the least demanding so adding some more low rep work wouldn’t be riculously taxing.