T Nation

New 5 x 5 Exercise Selection

Hi Coach,
what combinations of the big exercises do you find cover most bases? Or are too taxing etc?

And would you stick to 3 + a couple of low stress accessories or 4 lifts?
Thanks in advance

The way I work with athletes is that we start with a skeleton program. The skeleton program is normally 3 exercises with which we try to cover the most bases possible.

The selection depends on the sport and the athlete (body structure, competency, etc.).

For example it could be:

Power clean
Back squat
Bench press


Power snatch from the hang
Front squat
Incline bench press


Front squat
Bench press

you get the idea…

I normally have the athlete perform 2, maybe 3 weeks with the skeleton program and evaluate if we can add a 4th exercise and if we need it. (i.e. are they recovering properly and are they lacking in something).

If the athlete can tolerate a new exercise and need it we will add a 4th movement. This 4th movement is not trained like the 3 others as far as loading schemes is concerned (mostly 3-4 sets of anywhere between 4 and 8 reps) and can actually change day to day.

For example we could…

Add a chest-supported row on day 1, a glute ham raise on day 2 and a pull-up on day 3 (depending on needs).

We normally use that extended program for 2-3 weeks to assess if the athlete is tolerating it well and if we need to add minor exercises to fill in some gaps.

At that point we can add 1-2 minor movements (isolation or machine work for 2-3 sets).

I would say that most athletes I work with end up using 4 exercises. A few stay with the skeleton program (mostly types 1A) and a few work up to 5-6 exercises.