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Preferred Method for 5x5


There are various ways of incorporating 5x5 training, two of the more popular versions are straight sets across ie using the same weight for all working sets and ramping ie adding weight to each set with the top set being the heaviest.

I know that different things have to be taken into account ie for me personally im 50 in a few months so recovery isn’t what it used to be but still in general what have people found to be the most productive in regards to gaining strength ?


Ramping for building strength, straight sets for peaking it.


I’m 50.

Squatting 3 times a week kills my knees.

Full body three times a week with Peri workout nutrition is the way for me. No, I don’t squat three times a week. I follow Waterbury’s WO these days.


Thanks for the input much appreciated would you be able to expand on that at all ?


I personally only squat once a week which suits me, gone are the days of squatting multiple times a week :slight_smile:


The straight sets across approach is what we observe in Bill Starr’s program for football players that Mark Rippetoe in turn published as “Starting Strength” and many other authors co-opted. It is a means of training the body to become proficient at training a movement under a heavy stress, with the end result being the ability to move greater weights as a result of improved neural efficiency and proficiency at the movement.

Ramped sets, as we observed in “The Keys to Progress” and Reg Park’s 5x5 (among others) includes an element of auto-regulation to it, as each workout one is to work up to the heaviest set of 5 they can handle for THAT workout, versus the above, where the weights and progression are pre-determined. This allows one to train with the natural peaks and valleys that come with the development of strength, capitalizing on good days and making due with bad ones. As a result, it results in less accumulated fatigue and crashing compared to the above. It serves well to build up one’s strength, rather than allowing one to be able to realize strength that has already been built.


Thanks for taking the time to go into more detail form me it’s good to hear someone else’s thoughts on this especially from someone experienced like yourself :slight_smile:


When I was doing Waterbury style total body training I did the same load across all sets, but you vary the set/rep pattern through the week, e.g.5x5, 8x3, 4x10, and it worked well. You also set the load around the 8RM mark. Now using a upper/lower split, which is much more strength focussed using multiple low rep sessions per week, and I use the ramping method. Otherwise I doubt it would work.


You have me confused are you saying that if you were not using the ramping method that what your doing now wouldn’t work without it ?


Why are you considering 5x5 then?

Now, I’m confused…


I’m not confused by 5x5 training I was confused to the above post ie I don’t know if he meant that ramping 5x5 was working for him or not perhaps I didn’t make myself very clear.


Ramping is cool, you get to handle increasingly heavier weights! It’s really fun.

My personal issue with ramping, is that at some point, (I don’t know, 4-6 weeks in) I stop “ramping” and just start picking weights, which are more like strategic warm ups, that will allow me to get a new 5 rep max on that top set. After awhile, this cuts out a lot of the useful volume from the 1st four sets, and has me doing top sets that are too heavy.

Also, once you get over three plates, you have to start adding more sets. 6x5, 7x5, it can get to be a mess.

Sets across is useful. You do a bunch of clean, strong reps with a moderate weight. You get 5 “first reps” to practice your technique. Great advice (stolen from Reed) is to use about 65%. My problem with the sets across was that after awhile, adding 10 pounds here and there, the weights end up kind of heavy, and the last reps of the last sets start to get sloppy. Then the whole thing turns into a grind.

Years ago, I tried to ramp to a top set of 5 on Monday, then do 5x5 with 80% of that weight on Wednesday and 5x5 with 90% on Friday. This worked great for about 3 weeks, then it wore me down pretty fast.

Last month, I tried out Wendler’s 5’s Progression. You do 3 ramped sets of 5, then some back off sets of 5. The heavy weights are waved week to week, and the back offs are based on that progression. The whole set up gives you the benefits of ramping, and sets across. It also gives you a frame work to progress the weights, without grinding yourself away. All the guess work is gone. It’s really great. I totally recommend checking it out. Even if you don’t want to use Wendler’s whole program, his 5’s progression could work for big lifts in any routine.


Sorry, I should have clarified: I found that when I was doing total body training, I did circuits usually of 3 movements, e.g. pull up, push press, and deadlift. I followed Waterbury’s advice to select a weight that was approximately an 8RM and maintain the same load across all sets. You may start off with 5 reps but by set 3, 4, etc, you were dropping reps. The goal was to try and achieve more reps in subsequent sessions. The upshot is doing the 5x5 this way with short rest intervals means total load is moderate, while the overall metabolic load is greater (which is excellent for trying to maintain/gain some strength while losing fat/enhancing conditioning - which was my main goal).

Currently I train using an upper/lower split, with a greater emphasis on strength. The big lifts are done straight with moderate rest intervals. The above is clearly sub-optimum here and this goal lends itself much more to a ramping method, where you are dropping far less (if any reps) while still maintaining explosiveness in the lift as well as greater total load.


Thanks for getting back to me that makes a lot more sense now, your input is much appreciated :slightly_smiling:


I have the book beyond 531 by Wendler i’ll have to have a re-read thanks for reminding me.