Bill Starr’s 5 x 5 Training

Bill Starr 5x5

Perhaps the most influential book ever written on the subject of strength training for sports is Bill Starr’s “The Strongest Shall Survive: Strength Training for Football” written in 1976. Since then, seemingly endless variations of Starr’s original 5×5 routine have sprouted up all over the Net and for good reason – it is possibly the most perfect strength routine ever devised.

His routine focused on bench presses, squats and power cleans, done on a Monday – Wednesday – Friday rotation with heavy, medium and light days. Bill Starr popularized the “5×5″ routine – each exercise was done following a protocol of five sets of five reps. Starr’s 5×5 routine uses the three exercises which Starr referred to as “the big three”, quoting Starr:

These are 3 basic exercises used by weightlifters to increase their strength….the football player (and you can insert Martial Artist, Fighter, whatever there) must work for overall body strength as opposed to specific strengthening exercises….In other words the athlete should be building total leg strength rather than just stronger hamstrings. He should be seeking overall strength in his shoulder girdle rather than just stronger deltoids….the program is fast, simple and, most importantly, effective. It requires very little space and a minimum of equipment….”

 

Bill Starr’s 5X5 Routine In Its Original Form

Monday – Heavy

Power cleans – 5 sets of 5
Bench – 5 sets of 5 1×10 weight from 3rd set
(add 10 rep sets after 8-12 weeks on program)
Squats – 5 sets of 5 1×10 weight from 3rd set
(set 1 35% of target set 2 70% of target set 3 80% of target set 4 90% of target set 5 target)

 

Wednesday – Light

Power cleans – 5 sets of 5
Incline Bench – 5 sets of 5 1×10 weight from 3rd set
Squats – 5 sets of 5
(1×10 weight from 3rd set set 5 use weight from 3rd set of Monday)

 

Friday – Medium

Power cleans – 5 sets of 5
Overhead press – 5 sets of 5 1×10 weight from 3rd set
Squats – 5 sets of 5
(1×10 weight from 3rd set set 5 use weight from 3rd set of Monday set 5 use weight 4th set of Monday)

 

The Bill Starr Power Routine

Monday – Heavy Day

Squat – 5 sets of 5
Bench – 5 sets of 5
Powerclean – 5 sets of 5
Weighted hyperextensions – 2 sets
Weighted sit-ups – 4 sets

 

Wednesday – Light Day

Squat – 4 sets of 5
Incline Bench – 4 sets of 5
High Pulls – 4 sets of 5
Sit-ups – 3 sets

 

Friday – Medium

Squat – 4 sets of 5, 1 triple, 1 set of 8
Bench – 4 sets of 5, 1 triple, 1 set of 8
Powercleans – 4 sets of 5, 1 triple
Weighted Dips – 3 sets of 5-8
Triceps and Biceps – 3 sets of 8 each

 

Bill Starr’s Beginner 5×5

Monday (Heavy Day – 85%)

Back Squats 5 x 5 Ramping weight to top set of 5 reps across 5 sets
Bench Press 5 x 5 Ramping weight to top set of 5 reps across 5 sets
Deadlifts 5 x 5 Ramping weight to top set of 5 reps across 5 sets

 

Wednesday (Light Day – 65-70%)

Back Squats 5 x 5 using 60% of Monday’s weight
Bench Press 5 x 5 using 60% of Monday’s weight
Pullups 5 x 5 Ramping weight to top set of 5 reps across 5 sets

 

Friday (Medium Day – 70-85%)

Back Squats 5 x 5 using 80% of Monday’s weight
Bench Press 5 x 5 using 80% of Monday’s weight
Rows 5 x 5 Ramping weight to top set of 5 reps across 5 sets

 

The Bill Starr Strength Factor Routine

Monday (Heavy Day)

Back Squats 5 x 5 ramping to limit
Bench Press 5 x 5 ramping to limit
Deadlifts 5 x 5 ramping to limit or Bent-Over Rows: 5 x 5 ramping to limit
Incline Dumbbell Press 2 x 20
Calf Raises 3 x 30

 

Wednesday (Light Day)

Back Squats 5 x 5 using 50 lbs less than Monday or Lunges: 4 x 6 ramping to limit
Good Mornings 4 x 10 or Stiff-Leg Deadlifts: 4 x 10
Standing Overhead Press 5 x 5 ramping to limit
Dips When you can do 20 reps, start adding weight and drop the reps back to 8
Curls 3 x 15

 

Friday (Medium Day)

Back Squats 5 x 5 using 20 lbs less than Monday
Incline Bench Press 5 x 5 ramping to limit
Shrugs 5 x 5 ramping to limit or Clean High Pulls 5 x 5 ramping to limit
Straight Arm Pullovers 2 x 20
Chins: 4 sets to failure

 

Bill Starr’s “Big 3″ Program

Monday – Heavy Day

Powerclean – 5 sets of 5
Bench – 5 sets of 5
Squat – 5 sets of 5

 

Wednesday – Light Day

Powerclean – 5 sets of 5
Benchpress – 5 sets of 5
Squat – 5 sets of 5

 

Friday – Medium

Powerclean – 5 sets of 5
Benchpress – 5 sets of 5
Squat – 5 sets of 5

 

Beyond Bill Starr: Madcow and Mark Rippetoe

By far of all of the variations of coach Starr’s original routines, the two of them that are the most used and advanced in term of principles are those ones by “Madcow” and coach Mark Rippetoe. Madcow’ variation isn’t one routine, it features several based on the trainer’s needs and uses deloading phases, dual factor training, and hypertrophy phases.

 

Mark Rippetoe’s “Starting Strength” Novice 5×5 Routine:

Workout A

Squat – 3×5
Bench Press – 3×5
Deadlift – 1×5

 

Workout B

Squat – 3×5
Overhead Press – 3×5
Power Clean – 3×5

All the sets shown (3×5) are all working or “live” sets, not counting warmups sets. Additional supplementary exercises can be added, but very sparingly. In the case of arms, the biceps/triceps already get enough growth stimulation from heavy presses, rows and chins. Abdominal work can be used as a cool-down. Grip work can be added to the end as needed too. Workouts A and B alternate on 3 non-consecutive days per week. Proof of concept that coach Rippetoe’s novice routine works isn’t only found by the five star rating that “Starting Strength” receives regularly on Amazon.com, but also in numerous threads like this one on the Net.

More proof that these variants work on the vast majority of the population can be found on the excellent “StrongLifts” website which features its own variant of Bill Starr’s 5×5. (note: the site also has a vibrant community found on their forums)

 

Mark Rippetoe’s Practical Programming Novice Program

Monday

Squat – 3×5
Bench press / Press (Alternating) – 3×5
Chin-ups 3 sets to failure or add weight if completing more than 15 reps

 

Wednesday

Squat – 3×5
Press / Bench Press (Alternating) – 3×5
Deadlift – 3×5

 

Friday

3×5 Squat – 3×5
Bench Press / Press (Alternating) – 3×5
Pull-ups 3 sets to failure
(add weight if completing more than 15 reps)

 

Mark Rippetoe’s The Advanced Novice Program

Week A

Day 1

Squat – 3×5
Bench press – 3×5
Chin-ups – 3 sets
(weight added so failure occurs at 5 to 7 reps)

 

Day 2

Front Squat – 3×5 OR Light Squat 2×5 (80% 5RM)
Press – 3×5
Deadlift 1×5

 

Day 3

Squat – 3×5
Bench press – 3×5
Pull-ups – 3 sets to failure, unweighted

 

Week B

Day 1

Squat – 3×5
Press – 3×5
Chin-ups – 3 sets to failure, unweighted

 

Day 2

Front Squat – 3×5 OR Light Squat 2×5 (80% 5RM)
Bench press – 3×5
Power clean – 5×3

 

Day 3

Squat – 3×5
Press – 3×5
Pull-ups – 3 sets, weight added so failure occurs at 5 to 7 reps

 

Madcow Intermediate 5×5

Monday – Heavy Day

Squat – 5 sets of 5
Bench – 5 sets of 5
Barbell Row or Powerclean – 5 sets of 5
Weighted hyperextensions – 2 sets
Weighted sit-ups – 4 sets

 

Wednesday – Light Day

Squat – 4 sets of 5
Incline Bench or Standing Press – 4 sets of 5
Deadlift – 4 sets of 5
Sit-ups – 3 sets

 

Friday – Medium

Squat – 4 sets of 5, 1 triple, 1 set of 8
Bench – 4 sets of 5, 1 triple, 1 set of 8
Barbell Row or Powerclean – 4 sets of 5, 1 triple, 1 set of 8 for rows
Weighted Dips – 3 sets of 5-8
Triceps Extension and Biceps Curl – 3 sets of 8 each

 

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