Bill Starr 5x5

Perhaps the most critically acclaimed and enduring book ever written on the subject of weight training is Bill Starr’s “The Strongest Shall Survive: Strength Training for Football” written in 1976. Seemingly endless variations of Starr’s original routine have sprouted up all over the Net and for good reason – it is possibly the most perfect 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 is where the “5×5″ routine came from; 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
3×5 Squat
3×5 Bench Press
1×5 Deadlift

 

Workout B
3×5 Squat
3×5 Overhead Press
5×3 Power Clean

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

 

Wednesday
3×5 Squat
3×5 Press / Bench Press (Alternating)
1×5 Deadlift

 

Friday
3×5 Squat
3×5 Bench Press / Press (Alternating)
Pull-ups: 3 sets to failure or 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

 

reg_park

Recently there has been a renaissance in the “full body” training routines, thanks in large part to people like Ken Leistner, Stuart McRobert, Ellington Darden as well as the rebirth of the classic Bill Starr 5×5 routine, thanks to Glen Pendlay, Mark Rippetoe and websites like Madcow’s and Stronglifts. These routines which are intense and use only compound exercises are about as old school as you can get. This is the way that the legends of the golden era of bodybuilding in the 1950s used to train. People like Reg Park, Steve Reeves, Armand Tanny, Vince Gironda and John Grimek all used these sorts of 3 day a week, full body routines to get huge. Any of these guys would likely be found to have more aesthetic physiques than the average growth hormone fuelled pro bodybuilders today by the vast majority of the general public. Add to that, they all had functional muscle and were athletic. How many bodybuilders today could handle a ground ball?

The fact that legenday football trainer Bill Starr’s “The Strong Shall Survive” and John McCallum’s “The Complete Keys to Progress” are still bestsellers today speaks for itself. These two books, for example contained routines that have been modified and reinterpreted somewhat by many, but the core ideas and structure behind them still prove to be true: full body workouts are the most efficient way to gain a lot of muscle really quick, full body workouts burn the most fuel and are best for getting that lean and athletic look, while gaining muscle. They are also the most natural way to train, as your body works as a whole, not in some sort of segmented kinetic isolation.

How to go about setting up a full body routine?

When setting up your full body routine, there are some things that you have to consider and your training recovery abilities are perhaps the most important. If you are a fairly new trainer, with less than a year or so under your belt, or are a young trainer – say under 25 years old, then your recovery ability and consequently the volume and frequency of your workouts can be higher than an older trainer (like me at 46) who has trained for 20 years. An older trainer say, over 40 might be able to use more resistance in their exercises, but this will necessitate larger amounts of time in between training sessions as greater resistance creates a greater aggregate stress on the body’s recovery ability. Think of your body is a well of energy, the same amount of energy used to power you through a workout is the same source of energy used to recover from the workout. If you run the well dry with too many training sessions with not enough rest in between them, then its a reasonable assertion that you are short changing yourself in terms of muscle gains. The key variables to consider in any training routine (split of full body) are 1) volume, 2) frequency and 3) intensity. The key variables in the supercompensation phase of muscle growth are 1) diet and 2) rest. Take stock of your age, the experience you have in training and the amount of stress in your life at any given time as well and adjust your training accordingly.

For younger trainers and beginners:

the following routine is to be done 3 days a week, one on, one off, weekends off: Monday/Wednesday/Friday:

1) Squats – 2×10-12
2) Pullovers – 2×10-12
3) Overhead Barbell Presses – 2×8
4) Chinups or Pullups – 2×8
5) Dips – 2×8
6) Barbell Curls – 2×8
7) Barbell or Dumbbell Shrugs – 2×8
8) Stiff-Legged Deadlifts – 2×12

 

For older trainers:
Since older trainers and more experienced trainers need more rest, the following full body routine is an “A/B split” comprised of 2 full body workouts to be done one on, two off: mon-thurs-sun-wed-sat-tues-fri, etc etc..There is also some overlap in the routine so some of the muscle groups still get hit twice a week too from different angles:

Day One
1.Deadlift (or variation) 3×5
2.Leg Press 3×8
3.Chin 3x fail
4.BB Overhead Press 3×5
5.Dips (weighted if possible) 3×5

 

Day Two
1.Squat 3×5
2.Bench Press 3×5
3.Rowing movement 3×5
4.Dumbbell Overhead Press 3×5
5.Curls 3×8

Both of these programs are as efficient as you can get to balanced, practical full body training.