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5x5 Programming Question


For the last five or six weeks I have been doing Bill Starr's 5x5 program. I feel like shit because my bench is currently just under my squat, and my squat form needs some work. My back is taking a lot of the load.

Current stats:

Squat: 260*5 - Sloppy
Bench: 255*5
BB Row: 215*5
DL: 325*5 - Reasonably sloppy
Military 145*5

I am considering deloading my squats and focusing on my form. What I'd like to know is that is there anything potentially wrong with switching bench with military; I'd be doing OHP 2x a week and benching once. I do weighted pull ups 1-2x a week currently. I'm also considering throwing front squats in on Wednesday.

Any advice or comments would be appreciated!




Which 5x5 version are you following? I'm assuming it's Madcow's, if you're using a bench/press/bench format.
Regardless, I don't see anything inherently wrong in switching the two lifts - as long as it fits your goals. It seems like your squat and deadlift need to catch up (proportionately) to your bench, so focusing on a 'lighter' lift like the press might enable you to put more energy into said lifts.
Also - the press is a great lift, and while not necessarily bench-specific, will keep most of your pressing muscles quite strong for when you want to get back to more frequent benching.


Yes, I believe Madcow's 5x5 and Bill Starr's 5x5 are synonymous.

"your squat and deadlift need to catch up (proportionately) to your bench, so focusing on a 'lighter' lift like the press might enable you to put more energy into said lifts."

Yes, that was my logic also.

I have been ramping my squat sets up to 260, would there be merit in going 225 for 3-5 straight sets and focusing on form?


I just finished a run of Madcow 5x5 intermediate where I substituted OHP for flat bench. On Wednesday/Back Off day, I did DB benches for the back off movement. I set a 20lb press PR, off my all time best which was problem down to a shoulder injury before the program.

I tested bench the other day too, 225 for reps and I set a PR on that as well. I haven't benched in awhile though and the OH pressing probably helped my tricep strength, so I doubt it will hurt your bench.

Instead of back off back squats, I substituted front squats at the the prescribed back off weight and supersetted them w/ pullups. I thought it was a good compliment to deadlifts, and I enjoyed wednesdays.

I would consider subbing out the bb rows for the heavy pullups, instead of doing both.

I just finished coming up w/ my next program, and instead of ramping 5x5 on Monday, I'm going to do 5x5 sets across at a slightly lower weight. Then Friday, I'm still working up to a heavy 3. The problem I had my last time through was stalling out after week 6, where Monday is really a PR set of 5 if you based the program off your actual max. I think stepping back poundages a bit and doing sets across would be more useful to me based on where I'm at, then the intensity of a heavy set of 5, but I could be wrong.

I would consider this more true if you are really not sure on form. At that point in the program, all I was concerned about was finishing the set, not how safe or sound my form was. A more moderate approach might be smart until the motor patterns and confidence is ingrained.

Have fun w/ it and good luck.

Oh, and I added power cleans to the workouts on Mon and Fri as well.


Thanks for the response, I was considering using the weighted pullups instead of the row. It makes more sense to have a vertical pull w/ a vertical press.

How does this look?:


A) Back squats 5x5 (straight sets)
B) Cleans 5*5 (ramp)
C) Military 5*5 (ramp)
D1) Weighted pullups 5*5
D2) Weighted situps 3*5


A) Front squats 5*5(back off day)
B) Bench (straight sets)
C) Conventional DL (ramp)
D1) Weighted wide dips 5*5
D2) Gluteham raises
20 minutes cardio: bodyweight trap bar carry


A) Back squat 4*5/1*3/1*8
B) Cleans 4*5/1*3/1*8
C) Military 4*5/1*3/1*8
D) Weighted pullups 5*5
E1) BB Curl 3*8
E2) Supine tricep extension 3*8


If this is your back off day, you might consider lowering the volume on your front squats. Especially because of the difficult/asphyxiating nature of the exercise.


For the cleans, I usually do them first thing when I was fresh and explosive and worked up to 3-5 sets of 2-3 reps at working weight, trying to go off Prilepin's table. I rarely train sets higher than 3 w/ the movement, and never over 5.

Thats just how I do it though, and I think 5x5 ramped would be interesting, but I probably wouldn't do Fridays final set of 8. I guess it would probably come down to if you are training the clean as a lift in itself, or using it more as assistance work for the deadlift.

I would try to get more heavy ab work in on Friday too. I neglected it last time through and regret it.

The other thing was getting access to microloading for the press. I got some links of chain from home depot and a cheap carabiner and made .5lb 'plates' out of them. It really helped me make constant progress in the movement, as the increments are pretty small.

I'm curious to how you are setting up the working weights for the pullups. Did you calculate a 1RM and training weights from that, or are you going to just try and add weight every workout?


Yeah, I've been considering getting some microplates. It would be in my best interest now I'm focused on the press. As far as pullups, I've made steady progress from 30-45lbs over the last six weeks. Haven't calculated a 1RM though.


Since you're doing madcow's, why don't you do the program as written, at least with squats? Are you following it now and have stalled? If so, then yeah, just reset the lifts back 3-4 weeks and go at it again. I saw your video of you doing squats, and it doesn't look like you have any form problems that are going to cause injury. I'd just keep going if your progressing (adding weight each week).

I got strong as shit on that program. I blew past 260x5 doing the linear version the first time, exactly as written. Your bench might not progress too well, as it's clear that you've got a far higher training age on that lift than the squat and deadlift, so maybe focusing on MP wouldn't be a bad idea.

Do you have a training log?