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Should I Quit Doing ICF 5x5? Goal is Mass


Hi, new here looking for guidance.
Stats: 5ft 11, 166lb. Around 17-20% bf (not sure may post pics)

Back story:

Started bulking around November last year. I jumped right into Lyle Mcdonalds generic bulk routine and did that for about 4 months. I gained about 8lb in that time.
I was then advised to do a 5x5/3x5 based routine to get my lifts up. Because it will take long to gain mass if i cant lift much weight. So i jumped into ICF 5x5 and have been doing that ever since. (3 months).
My current lifts are:

Deadlift: 242lb 1x5. I feel i could add 5-10lb per workout on these for a while
Bench press: 165lb 5x5
BB row: 149lb 5x5
Overheard BB press: 110lb 3x5, 2x3
Squat: 187lb 5x5

I'm not enjoying the program really, due to the lack of energy i get towards the end of the routine. Doing 5x5 on squats alone can take 20 minutes, followed by bench press and rows which both take about the same time. Then as ICF 5x5 routine says, i do shrugs for 3x8, good mornings, biceps, triceps and abs. The whole session can be from 1:30-2 hours. It isnt fun.
My one and only goal is to build muscle and in the next year or so, i want to be 8-12bf% with more mass than i do now.

I am only doing 5x5 because i was told that you need to lift heavy to benefit from a hypertrophy routine. You never see a jacked guy benching 165lb for example, or squatting 190lb.
I'm also unsure if i should cut right now, based on my stats.
Long thread, but any guidance would be appreciated thank you


move on to madcow or 5/3/1


You have got it backwards. It is not the amount of weight lifted that builds muscle. It is the progression in weight lifted that does that. Heavy is relative.

In other words, you DON'T train to get stronger BEFORE training for hypertrophy. You train to get stronger WHILE training for hypertrophy.


Oh i understand, but there are better routines that prioritize mass building and others which promote strength building isnt there?
If ICF 5x5 is for hypertrophy, why does it suggest waiting up to 5 minutes in between sets thus doubling the total time per session compared to other hypertrophy based routines.


My priority is mass not strength


I would try a 5/3/1 program focusing on size, as well as strength. Your goal might be mass, but you also need to work on your strength levels still. Maybe work on at least getting your bench to 225, deadlift 315, overhead press 135, and squat 285.



If you do that Lyle Macdonald program and push yourself hard on the compound exercises while in a caloric excess, you will get bigger and stronger. You get what I mean? You do not have to do a 5x5 program that you don't like just because it's supposedly geared towards "building strength". Especially not one that keeps you in the gym for 2hrs just so it can be marketed as a 3 day per week fullbody program.

There is no optimal program for either goal. But there is an optimal standard of effort required. If you can't get stronger even on a bro split, that is what is lacking.


Why do i need to work to those numbers first in order to gain size later?


I found that bench press and squats started to lag on Mcdonalds routine, though everything else improved. Why would that be?


You will gain size while getting there. If you don't know how to push yourself and eat for constant strength gains at your level, you will not progress. If you can't even achieve these numbers, this may not be the sport for you.


ICF 5 x 5 does have a shit ton of sets and exercises for each session. I think you will be satisfied with Lyyle McDonald's Generic Bulking Program.


Ive decided im going to finish up this week on ICF and move to Fierce 5

But sub front squats and RDL with deadlifts and leg curls.
Does this routine look good? Seems a lot more manageable


Because total volume and intensity (% of 1RM) are more important than cumulative fatigue, especially for beginners.

Based on your comments above I can tell you're not doing this program correctly. You say 5 sets of heavy squats takes you just 20 minutes and you're squatting just 187 for 5x5 after months of training. That's not a lot. You could be squatting 100 lbs more by now. I'm training a friend who is your exact same bodyweight, probably higher BF % (skinny-fat), no athletic background, and today he squatted 210 for 3x5. He has been lifting for less than 3 months total -- has done maybe 25 squat workouts in his whole life and started at 85 lbs.

You need to eat more food and rest longer between sets such that you are setting new PRs every workout, IF you keep doing a linear progression 5x5 routine. There are other good programs you could do, but whatever you do you need to understand the training principles of that program and train correctly.

As others have said, it's not that you have to hit certain numbers, it's that the process of getting your squat from 185x5 to 315x5 and your bench from 165x5 to 225x5 has the potential to induce a lot of hypertrophy (if you're eating right). And is probably the fastest route to mass gain.


Check out Big Beyond Belief.


I do hit new PRs every workout on squat. Ive only done ICf for 3 months, and one of those months i went on a mini cut and a holiday so more like 2 months of eating right and bulking.
I add 2.5KG to squat per workout. On Lyle Mcdonalds routine i only squat once a week so progress was very slow. But when i started i was squatting 40kg total.
I understand the advice though and will take it on board. However im really not enjoying ICF and i came across Fierce 5 which is similar but 3x5 as opposed to 5x5 which i think will allow faster weight progression.
Once i hit the numbers you stated or very close to, ill switch to a upper lower or PPL routine


I quit doing SS 5x5 program and switched to Greyskull LP. Part of the problem was doing 5x5 was taking too long, especially since I was resting up to 5 minutes for heavier lifts. With Greyskull you do 3x5, but the last rep you go tell failure. I think it's a nice compromise and I'm enjoying so far.


Sounds similar to Fierce 5 then.


Well obviously jumping around to every program you've ever heard of isn't working for you.


Switching to 3x5 is a good idea, especially for squats, but I don't particularly like the setup of "Fierce 5" -- no reason to alternate Front Squats when you squat 187x5. I would do Greyskull or just reduce volume of ICF, something like this:

Workout A:

Squat 3x5
Bench 3x5
Barbell Row 3x5
Curls: 3x8

Workout B:

Squat: 3x5
Press: 3x5
Deadlift: 1x5
Chinups 3x10


You can sub front squats for deadlifts. So the routine for Fierce 5 id be doing is

Rev flies
Curls and calf raise

Mil press
Leg curl
Lat pulldown
Abs and curls