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5x5: Increasing Reps or Weight?


I'm curious how others would go about beating the logbook in a 5x5 routine.

I have found through my own training that if I'm at a certain weight that I know I can't add 5 or 10 lbs to and still get 5x5, that my strength goes up faster if I work up to 5x6, rather than add the weight and then only get it up for 2 of the 5 sets.

This seems to be true for all of my movements...I was wondering if others find it better to do a couple sets with the added weight and then move back down to the previous session's weight.

This being said....I'm currently experiencing MY best gains ever in strength and decent size to boot.

I designed a simple ABA/BAB split for 5x5 with all major movements covered

Day A is incline DB press, deadlifts, standing BB military press, and standing BB curl
Day B is pullups, leg press, DB rows, and CGBP

I absolutely love it and I am beating my logbook every single session while still keeping very lean for the summer.


I liked doing the 5x5 the opposite way of you. Increasing the weight and not making the 5 reps. I NEVER moved down the weight even if I couldn't get the reps. I've changed to ramping over a month ago and I do the same there. If I can get more than 6 reps I raise the weight. That's whats been working for me.


I do the opposite - when I can't add to the bar and hit 5x5, I add it anyway but switch to 6x4, on the next workout I add the weight again and switch to 8x3. Then I go back to 5x5 and try to use the weight from 6x4 workout.


If you are doing 5x6, then it isn't 5x5 anymore. There are a ton of ways you can do it, but all that matters is you are progressing. If you get 5x5 all with the same weight, then you SHOULD go up in weight the next time. You may get 5,5,4,3,3. You then stick with this until you get 5x5. If this isn't working and you aren't able to progress, then either lengthen the rest breaks, do some rest pause, or switch things up more with the set rep scheme (something like 8x3, or 6x4)


I would think that for most compound exercises, adding 5 lbs would be a smaller jump than going from 5 to 6 reps on each set.


are u ramping your weights? ie. going 5x50,5x60,5x70,5x80,5x90*.

*the last being your working set that your always trying to beat. you can go up 5-10lbs a week by ramping. if ur doing 5x5 look up "madcows 5x5" for the progressions. dont have to do the workout but is good to see the progression you should be aiming for.

i train each muscle twice a week and so far i tend to, if im aiming for 8 reps, get about 5 or 6 on the monday. then on the thursday i get the full 8 reps, so i up the weight, then monday 5-6 reps, thursday 8 reps, up the weight etc.


I tried ramping to one all out work set for a few sessions and came to an important decision and that is: I'm not strong enough to make ramping sets worth it (yet). Sure my all out work set was taxing, but my warm up sets were a joke.

After realizing this I started my ABA 5x5 split and my strength is going up nicely...even while not eating for strength at the moment.

I am beating my logbook EVERY session. In one month I've put between 20 to 35 lbs on all my lifts.

I'm trying to maximize my strength gains and so I posed the question of adding weight in this thread. If I'm doing 90lb BB curls for 5x5(told you I wasn't strong yet) and my next goal is 95 for 5x5....I think I can get there faster if I work up to 90 for 5x6 and then jump to 95 rather than 95 for 2 sets then 90 for 3 sets and working up from there but I'm interested in hearing others results.

Granted, I think I HAVE reached the point where I'm figuring out what works FOR ME rather than blindly following the internet herd and so until my gains stall, I think I'll continue on my present course.


What's your point? The warm-up/ramping sets aren't supposed to be ball busting sets. They're designed to get your muscle's and nervous system ready for the top set.

How are people still not getting this?

And you'll get to 95 even faster if you don't do straight sets at all and instead ramp up to one top set. What's so special about doing 5 sets of 5 reps anyhow? If you can do 5 sets of 5 reps with a weight, then it is well below what you can actually do for 5 reps.

Which of the two do you think is going to get you to maximizing your biceps size faster?

Option A:
week 1- 90lbs 5x5
week 2- 90lbs 3x6 2x5
week 3- 90lbs 4x6 1x5
week 4- 90lbs 5x6
week 5- 95lbs 4x5 1x6
week 6- 95lbs 5x5
week 7- 95lbs 3x6 2x5
week 8- 95lbs 4x6 1x5

Option B:
week 1- 90lbs x 5 (easily)
week 2- 95lbs x 5 (fairly easily)
week 3- 100lbs x 5 (tough, but doable)
week 4- 105 x 5 (very hard)
week 5- 110 x 4
week 6- 110 x 5
week 7- 115 x 3
week 8- 115 x 4

So, you theoretically either add 25 lbs to your bicep curl, or you add 5. Doesn't take a mathematician to figure that one out.

Do whatever you want man, it's your time. Some of us are just trying to help you not end up wasting a bunch of it only to realize later down the road that you could be further along than you are if you'd have just modeled what the big guys do.

Good luck.


I'd like to add to this if i may and explain the difference between these approaches and why you may use them.

Example A results in 18545 pounds of volume
Example B results in 12800 pounds of volume

Example A would be good if you were going for a volume approach. This is the theory behind GVT.
Example B would be good if you were going for more of an intensity approach. It is the theory for strength training.

Going from A to B to A to B is a good example of volume to intensity.


Just looking at the total volume doesn't tell the whole story though.

Let's say we have 3 different workouts

workout 1:
10 lbs is lifted 500 times= 5,000 lbs of volume

workout 2:
50 lbs is lifted 100 times= 5,000 lbs of volume

workout 3:
100 lbs is lifted 50 times= 5,000 lbs of volume

All three workouts have the same amount of total volume, but I've yet to see anyone, anyone who got impressively big by sticking to using a 10 lb barbell.

Is anyone really going to suggest that the person doing 100 reps (10x10) of alternating DB curls with 25 lb DB's (1,250 total lbs volume) is going to have bigger biceps than someone doing 8 reps of alternating DB curls with 100 lb DB's (800 total lbs volume)?


Of course not. That's why percentage's of 1rm are so important. If 100LB was the weight you used for 8 reps then that would equate to 70 - 86% of 1rm depending on muscle fibre type, but for this example let's say 77% for mixed type.

4 x 8 @ 77% of 1rm = 3200 LB's

Using 4x10 you would use 71% of 1rm for a mixed type which would be 92LBs

4 x 10 @ 71% of 1rm = 3692 LBS

4 x 12 @ 67% of 1rm = 4180 LBs

4 x 15 @ 61% of 1rm = 4758 LBS

And the lower sets

4 x 6 @ 83% of 1rm = 2589Lbs

4 x 4 @ 87% of 1rm = 1809Lbs

4 x 2 @ 95% of 1rm = 988Lbs

4 x 1 @ 100% of 1rm = 520Lbs

This study of volume is what scientists/coaches/bodybuilders noticed through experience or studies that reps in the 8 - 15 rep range on the strength continuum were deemed most beneficial for developing muscle.

Lower reps with heavier % of 1rm when done for the same amount of sets were not seen to have the same muscular growth and more of a neural adaptation so the volume was deemed too low even though the weight was higher.

And then there is obvioulsy a diminishing return as the weight becomes too light past a certain point to cause enough micro trauma to stimulate growth.

So there is too little, optimal and too much volume required for growth/size/hypertrophy.

The key is finding out what works best for you.

Edit : Percentages used from Thibaudeau's black book of training secrets. 2003


You don't need to waste you time with all of these %'s of 1RM though and you don't need to do multiple sets at the same weight (i.e. 4x10) to cause a training stimulus.

My point was that it's the weight being used (and yes, for moderate reps) that's important, not some super special set/rep scheme or total volume.

There isn't going to be much (if any) noticeable difference between someone's bicep when they can curl 90 lbers for 6 as when they can curl 90 lbers for 10. But there is going to be a huge difference between when they can curl the 50 lbers for 6 and the 100 lbers for 6.

My point is to stop worrying about things like total volume, or %'s of 1 RM, or set/rep schemes and start worrying about what actually matters-

1) getting considerably stronger within a moderate rep range (5-20 reps)

2) eating enough to actually build muscle

Use whatever method gets you to these goals the fastest. And here's a hint, look at what the successful people who have come before you actually do. As Dr. Hyght/Tony Robbins said in his most recent article "success leaves clues".


I love me some sentoguy (no homo) but the point being raised here to counter what sento is saying is part of my confusion.

Yes, if you progress to one top set, you will get "stronger" faster and that top set will typically be of a higher weight than the last set of a straight-set approach. The problem I see with that is that it's merely repetition of DC principles, which are typically used successfully by advanced guys. Generally, that approach will not permit enough volume to maximize growth though, and you'd be better of progressing by doing, say, 225x5x5 than doing lesser sets, then a 235x5 top set.

I did DC for a while and I also felt like RP led to more joint pain (esp things like BB curl)- there is a fine line between adequately stimulating muscle growth and putting too much strain on joints and the CNS, IMHO.

There has been a real (over)emphasis lately on "strength for reps"- yes, load is one parameter that should be pushed, but it seems like people want to avoid the fact that volume is critical as well (as is frequency).

I guess I just don't feel like saving up for that one, all-out intense set that is 10 lbs heavier really results in more growth/stimulation than if I did more work sets with more overall load and "approached" failure on my last 2-3 of those sets.


It's not that I don't get it. I understand that ramping can be and probably IS the best method for improving strength. I read through the now epic "ramping threads" I've read through almost the entire first DC thread.

I decided even that I would start trying the ramping method. What I found though is that with such a low top end set,(max 1rm bench is only 235 for instance) I don't need ANY warmups, save for CGBP's or anything with lots of elbow bending like dips, but that's only so my elbows don't get mad at me.

My entire workout would be over in 20 minutes or less and I would have done next to no volume. That's why I figured I needed something with more volume while still focusing on strength like 5x5 or 10x3.

And it's NOT easy for me to get 5 sets of 5. I keep my weight up by taking longer breaks in between sets. I will continue to keep an open mind though and will definitely revisit the ramping method.


1.what more do you people think about that? I do it obviously in the same way & it obviously works great but I need more opinions.

  1. OP asked about increase reps, is this shit or not? U know, hit 5x5 next 5x6... (the same weight) and then 5x5 with next bar... or maybe it's the same thing, just add to the bar and that's all?


To truely make it effective for bodybuilding purposes you would need to do 7 x 4 in the same amount of time and weight as your stalled 5x5 to make it a progression. 28 reps at said weight in said time as aposed to 25 reps at said weight in said time. That's straight escalating density right there.

There's so many ways to train. Working a 5 x 5 up to 5 x 8 wether ramped or not then going back to 5 x 5 with new weight would be fine imo.

And Sento i don't disagree with you I was just explaining volume training in a little more depth as this thread was about volume. Increasing reps of a given weight IS increasing volume. When you put the weight up and go back to the start you've auto regulated your training volume.

wk 1 : 100 x 5 reps = 500
wk 2 : 100 x 6 = 600
wk 3 : 100 x 7 = 700
wk 4 : 100 x 8 = 800
put the weight up go back to 5
wk 1 : 110 x 5 = 550
wk 2 : 110 x 6 = 660
wk 3 : 110 x 7 = 770
wk 4 : 110 x 8 = 880

Hypertrophy is a function of volume. But nothing works without adequate nutrition. And i agree bodybuilding has never focused much on % of 1rm and probably doesn't have to :slight_smile:

I'm Audi.


Having started my training in the late seventies and early eighties , I was raised with volume and "feel" the weight to get the needed intensity and stimulation to the muscle. Well since reading T-Nation, I have tried more weight with less reps and I increased strength but I felt like I lost fullness of the muscle.

So, now I have decided that I just don"t eat enough and I am going to do both methods of training. I have chosen 3 exercises for 10x3 and the rest are fast paced sets of 10 reps. I"ll have to see what happens. I know that is not a new method or anything, but I guess change is hard.




Check out Prof X's thread. He's been training this way since pretty much day 1 and it's seemed to work quite well for him, hasn't it?

I don't know where everyone gets this idea that there needs to be some arbitrary amount of volume in order to stimulate growth. The only things you need are:

1) progressive resistance

2) for the muscle fibers to be stimulated

3) for the muscle fibers to be fatigued

4) adequate calories to allow for supercompensation/synthesis of new muscle tissue

Yes, using high amounts of volume can meet all of the demands of the above, but for many people it will result in relatively slow strength increases (some can progress well on it, and heck for them I say go for it). And it's no coincidence that you won't find too many guys with 18+ inch arms still stuck at curling the 35's. On the other end of the spectrum, how many people with 15" arms has anyone seen curling the 90's for reps? And unless you can provide a video of it, I don't believe it.

So again, what's more important? The total volume, or the weights being used?

That's why we cruise. You absolutely are walking that thin line between intensity and overtraining while on DC, and you need to know your body to know when to back off and what it can and cannot handle. That's one of the key reasons it's only suggested that advanced guys/gals do it.

I think that frequency has been emphasized a bit recently as well, what with the BBB threads popping up lately as well as MODOK's thread in the T-Cell.

As far as volume goes, some guys make good gains on it (Bauer, Waylander, bwhitwell), but the majority of really big guys (pros) don't focus on it. They make sure that they are physically and mentally prepared for their top weight with their "ramping" sets (which I'll agree do add to the total volume used and are essential for their performance) and then rep out with that weight.

So, I'm not saying that it's a completely useless concept, just that one should be primarily concerned with strength for reps.

Again, ever seen a person with 15" biceps doing 6-8 reps of alternating DB curls with the 90's? I'd bet you haven't. Ever see a person with 15" biceps doing 5x5 (and actually reaching failure on the last rep of the last set) with a set of 30's? I'll bet you have. Which has more volume?

In other words, it's highly possible to do lots of volume for biceps but not have impressive arms to show for it. It's impossible to use shit heavy weights for reps on biceps exercises and not have impressive biceps to show for it. Which of the two (volume or load) is therefore mandatory, and which is optional?

It probably doesn't make all that much difference on an individual workout basis. But over the course of a couple years, the difference is pretty noticeable. And you've got to look at this bodybuilding thing from a long term perspective as well as a short term one.

How often are you adding weight to the bar using a method like david is suggesting? 5 lbs every month, maybe? So, over the course of a year you might add 60 lbs to the bar, which would seem like (and might be depending on your beginning strength levels) good progress.

On a "ramping" scheme though, you'd be adding weight every week. So, more like 10-20 (depending on a lot of factors) lbs a month. So, over the course of a year you might add anywhere from 120-240 lbs to a lift. Now, obviously this would depend on the lift. You aren't adding 240 lbs to a BB curl of course, but you possibly could to something like leg presses.

So, it's probably safe to say that you would plateau on something like a BB curl quicker with this method. Which would be just fine as you'd then switch to another good biceps exercise and get as strong as possible on that. So, it might take you 4-5 months go gain the same amount of strength as it would in a year on the other method. You could then use the other 7-8 months to repeat the process with other biceps exercises, or go back to BB curls after a few months and again blast through previous PR's, maybe adding another 20-30 lbs.

But hey, I'm not holding a gun up to anyone's head and demanding that they train this way. Everyone is free to train however they want. Personally I'm a big fan of modeling, which is why I choose to train the way I do. What's probably even more important than strength gains is that you believe in whatever method you choose, stick to it, are consistent, and put all of your effort into it.


When I do 5x5, I bump the weights once I can get all 25 reps with no problems at the current weight. If I can't get all 5x5 with the new weight, I just add sets until I get all 25 reps. So as I bump the weight, my first workout after might be 5, 5, 5, 4, 3, 3. So, I keep the volume up. Usually, I'm able to get all 25 reps in 5 sets within a few weeks of bumping the weight up.