T Nation

Periodization vs. 5x5


Hey guys,

So I’ve been going back and forth with several programs and am having trouble. I started off with 5x5 and had great gains. After a while, I read up on periodization and purchased a program that incorporated 1-6 rep range for 3 weeks, 8-12 for 3 weeks and then 10-15 the last 3 weeks. Theoretically, from what I’ve read, this is the best programming approach.

However, I’ve gone through two rounds of the periodization programming and seem to lose strength on it. It takes me 3-4 weeks to get to where I was previously in regards to my squats, deadlifts etc. So, I went back to 5x5 and I’m continuing to make progress again.

Any advice as to why my periodization program wasn’t maximizing gains for me/was I doing something wrong? Am i missing out on potential strength gains by doing 5x5?


You did end up periodizing even when going back to 5×5(according to the internet definition).


My main point is that I’ve experienced greater gains not periodizing and just doing straight 5x5 continually


If you are lifting heavier weights during this current run of 5×5 than the last time you did 5×5 before doing the new prigram, then it worked.


Then, you are doing it wrong.

And Dt’s point stands.

What exactly are the workouts you are comparing?


We’ll probably need a bit more info than you have provided.


Thanks for the reply guys.

5x5 was strong lifts (squat 3x a week: workout A has deadlift and overhead press. Workout B has row and bench press)

Periodization workout alternated between 3 phases. Phase 1 would lift heavy (I just did 5x5 for that, phase 2 would be 8-12 reps 1-1:30 rest period and phase 3 would be 10-15 reps max 1 minute rest period). A sample workout was something like the following:
Workout A:
Incline bench
Rear Delt flyes
Lateral Raise
Calf Raises
Sit ups

Workout B
Barbell Deadlifts
Leg Curls
Barbell Shrugs
Flat Dumbbell Chest Press
Dumbbell Pullover
Bodyweight Chin-Ups
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Tricep Pressdowns
Calf Raises

When I got back to phase 1 (where I was just doing 5x5), I struggled to squat 200 pounds when I was doing up to 240 lbs 6 weeks prior. Then took me about 3-4 weeks to work back up to 240.

So I guess the question is why the loss of strength?


What program did you buy? Either it’s rubbish or you ran it sub optimally. The latter is more likely.

Periodization is simply manipulating volume and intensity to get a training stimulus that drives adaptions.

At its simplest you go from high volume low intensity to low volume high intensity to enable sustainable adaptions vs keeping either variable constant and increasing the other.

Need more info e.g.

e.g. You’ve gone from doing 15 working sets per week fo Squats on Stronglifts to… how many/week? If your volume has decreased to continue to overload you need an increase in intensity to stimulate adaption. How was intensity manipulated in your program?

Recovery/Fatigue Management
The gains process goes stimulus recovery adaption SRA. Without proper recovery one cannot expect to make maximal adaptions/gains. The best program in the world will fail if recovery/fatigue management is not on point: Not eating enough and/or not getting enough quality sleep will certainly fuck with your gains. On the flip side doing too much and exceeding your recovery abilities will lead to poor adaptions e.g. too much volume


Hey, thanks so much for this super detailed reply. What you’re saying makes a ton of sense.

In terms of hypertrophy work within 5x5, how would you manipulate the program?

Would I just make it 5x10 and lower the weight then?


You don’t.

You change program to suit your needs.

And why is it that we asked for a program and you give us a list of exercises?


The program is entitled MAPS anabolic. Its more of a template than a strict program. There are 3 phases-one which focuses on lifting heavy, second is hypertrophy and then the third is another form of hypertrophy that usually has you doing supersets and exercises in the 10-15 rep range with lower rest periods.

So I guess all I’m trying to ask if how I could incorporate the 5x5 exercises into that sort of structure effectively.


Well, there are differing theories on this, but simplistically, you are correct.

Stress, Recovery, Adaptation is the simplest definition of periodization, especially when applied to workout (Stress), days off (Recovery), and adding weight or reps (Adaptation).

However, the OP’s program of three phases is a different type of periodization, one more suited to an intermediate or advanced trainee. And therein may lie the problem.

I surmise the goals are not met by the program design.


The best thing you can do is get this thinking out of your head. No seriously. Do it now.

I know it’s confusing with all the crap to get through on the net, but if you start believing there is a ‘best’ program, you are as thick as the rest of the sheep out there. You start to believe it, than you look at more studies and threads that support your opinion, than you start preaching it in a close minded, religious zealot kind of way.

We don’t want sheep around here. So get that thought out of your head.

What should you replace that thought with?

‘many programs out there will produce results depending on how utilise them and how they work for YOU.’

Albeit not all programs are created equal, but there are no ‘best’ or ‘optimal’ or ‘secret weapons’ out there, just hard work and time.

Is it out of your head yet??


Stick to whats working until you stall then give a program off this site like this below a try…