Bust Your Rut With The 5 X 5

Sampy demonstrating the uninspired lift

Feeling dull, bored and generally uninspired at the gym lately?  Muscle gains resembling the bar graph equivalent of a flapjack?  Plateaued, stalled and otherwise *yawn* monotonized?  Yep, it’s a word – says so in the Urban Dictionary.

Well, have I got the restorative elixir for you!  5 x 5 – as in 5 sets of 5 reps.  It’s genius in its simplicity, and you probably know by now that I am a big fan of easy.  The layout of the program that is – not the workouts!

wapnerI usually perform 4 set of 8 reps, and I do that a lot.  I’m not only simple, but I like routine – I’ll make a great old person or savant one day (is Wapner even still with us these days)?  Anyway.  If you’ve ever watched late night fitness infomercials (a guilty pleasure of mine) you may have been alerted to the fact that our bodies are highly adaptive, and are always striving toward homeostasis.  It’s this need for the body to always be in balance that makes things difficult for us gym-goers, and conjures up the perceived need for all those interesting workout videos and exercise gadgets.

The minute we push ourselves physically our body goes “well, that was kinda tough, but let me work some internal magic so when we do that session again it’ll be easier.”  And the process repeats itself until what started out as a great workout becomes monotonized (yes I just had to use it again!)  Biological technicality ain’t my bag so that’s about all I have to say on the why of 5 x 5, except that changing things up has always proven beneficial for me personally.

SO.  Now that I’m able to train my shoulders and chest again I’d like to work on de-weenie-ing my upper body a bit and assign some unexpected work to the ‘ole bod.  The 5 x 5 is intended to help you increase strength and mass by promoting heavier lifts through fewer reps.  For example, yesterday I was able to increase my split squat by about 40%.  I was probably not lifting heavy enough on these because the going rate for this program is 10-20%.  However, you get the point – lift more by repping less and get yourself some gains.

weightplateThere are numerous 5 x 5 programs out there, and true to my form I’ll be just adapting what I’m already doing to absorb the basic protocol for the next 6 weeks or so.  Most 5 x 5s call for compound exercises sprinkled with a few isolation exercises to round out the program.  Check.  Some also promote only 3 days a week of full body lifting, but I like my splits so I’ll keep those the same, just changing them to 5 x 5 from 4 x 8.  However, due to the extra load of lifting heavier, I may reduce the total number of exercises per workout, but still hit each body part twice per week.  Stay tuned for that update and any alterations to the diet, which will remain the same unless I see a reason to change it as I progress.

That’s the gist, kind readers, and after I complete the 6 weeks I’ll expect to return to my 4 x 8s in a stronger and more powerful way.  Onward!

Got any mix-it-up tips?