T Nation

Starting weight for 5x5

I understand that in 5x5 you use the same weight for each set, and when you are able to do 5 reps every set, you increase the weight. If you cannot do at least 14 reps in total, the weight is too heavy.

What I’m not too clear on is where in that range I should aim to start … ie should I start with a weight light enough to almost get 5x5, or one which I can just scrapes into the 14 rep minimum? ie should it be something like 5 5 4 4 3 OR 5 4 3 2 1 (If the latter … I would imagine it would take a LONG time before I’d manage 5 reps on all 5 sets)

I don’t think it really matters where you start, because as soon as you reach the 5x5, you’ll increase the weights anyway. If you start low, you’ll increase it sooner. If you start high, it’ll just take longer.


I had some great success with a 5x5 program. The interesting thing I discovered is that when I increased the weight, I had to increase it A LOT to get back down to about 14 reps. No measly 10% increase. I had to increase by 20-30% to get the reps back down. (Of course, I was a pathetic weakling at the time. Your results might vary.)

You answered your own question. You must be able to get at least the 14 reps. If not, you went too heavy. So start with something you can get 14-22 reps and work on doing the full 5x5. If you’re just starting out, then pick a “lighter” weight so you’re not going all out right away. When I use 5x5, I usually pick a weight that I can do 5,5,5,4,4 for the first week. Then I work on getting all sets of 5 and increase the weight afterward. If you haven’t been lifting heavy, this will help get your body ready to do the work.

My first workout I normally use a 6-7RM load, and I’ll usually get 5x5 with that load selection; this gives me a good feel for the program and an optimal starting point. The next session I’ll bump the weight up 5-10 lbs depending on the exercise, which will probably yield something like 5,4,4,4,3.

I dont know anyone who can do 5 reps on their first set, but then only crank out a single on their last while using the same weight; if this is happening, you simply aren't resting long enough; 3 mins should be the minimum to facilitate maximal neuromuscular recovery. Never use a weight that you cant complete 5 reps with during your first set. By starting with at least a 5RM load, most will achieve 19-25 reps for the series, which I believe to be optimal.