5x5 Bench Press Program

Click Here for the #1 Bench Press ProgramIf you are unfamiliar with the term 5x5, it refers to performing 5 sets of 5 repetitions of a given exercise. Weight training set and rep schemes are always written as "sets x reps".

The "5x5" is one of the most infamous weight training rep-schemes, popularized by Bill Starr in his The Strongest Shall Survive. Since then, 5x5 has taken a life of its own and has been applied to various strength training pursuits. In this article, I will discuss some of the best ways you can use the 5x5 scheme in your own 5x5 bench press program.

How you set up the amount of days you want to lift per week is up to you, but I will give you two options: 3 days per week or 4 days per week.

Note: This 5x5 bench press program is geared towards increasing your bench press, so not surprisingly, bench pressing will be a common theme of this workout!

How to Perform Your 5x5

The main key in this 5x5 bench press program is how you perform your 5 sets of 5 reps. Your first 2 sets should be "warm-up" sets, and should be 20-40 pounds less than you use on the last 3 sets of the 5x5. Your last 3 sets should be hard and heavy.

Additionally, you should be able to perform all sets of the 5x5 successfully, and on the last set, you can do as many reps as you can. Once you hit 7 reps on the last set, move up 5-10 pounds next time you perform that 5x5.

5x5 Bench Press Program for 3 Days Per Week

If you only have 3 days a week to lift weights, I recommend splitting your workouts up in 2 days per week of upper body weights and 1 day per week of lower body weights, preferably on a Monday / Wednesday / Friday schedule.

About notation: The lettering refers to the order in which exercises are done. You perform all sets and all reps of exercises labeled as "A" before moving onto exercises labeled "B".

If two exercises share the same letter (i.e. A1 and A2), that means you alternate between the two exercises. Perform one set of A1, then one set of A2, and go back and forth between the two until all the exercises are complete.

Monday - Upper Body

A) Incline Barbell (BB) Bench Press - 5 sets of 5 reps

B) Flat BB Bench Press - 5 sets of 8-10 reps

C) Seated Row or Chest-Supported Row - 4 sets of 8-10 reps

D) Wide Grip Lat Pull-down - 4 sets of 10-12 reps

E1) Dumbbell (DB) Alternating Curls - 4 sets of 8-10 reps

E2) Rear Delt Flies - 4 sets of 10-15 reps
 

Wednesday - Lower Body

A) Front Squat, Back Squat, or Reverse Lunge (depending on comfort) - 5x5

B) Stiff-legged Deadlifts - 4 sets of 10 reps

C) Leg Press - 3 sets of 15-25 reps (should be hard)

Optional: Abs or Accessory work, not limited to: Arms, Forearms, Traps, Calves, Rear Delts

Keep your workout within an hour time-frame. The leg training portion should take around 40 minutes as you will want to take plenty of rest between sets. Add in any extra "cosmetic" work that you like on this day. You can squeeze in 3 sets of 10 of 2-3 of these body parts quite easily in the remaining 20 minutes.

Example:

D1) Plank - 3 sets of 45 seconds

D2) Tricep Push-down - 3 sets of 8-12 reps

D3) DB Shrugs - 3 sets of 10-15 reps


Friday - Upper Body

A) Flat BB Bench Press - 5 sets of 5 reps

B) Chin-ups - 4 sets of 6-10 reps (lat pull-down if too weak for chin-ups)

C) Bent-over DB Row - 4 sets of 8-10 reps

D1) External Rotations - 4 sets of 12-15 reps

D2) Tricep Push-Down - 4 sets of 8-12 reps


I recommend doing the Incline / Flat Bench Press day on Monday as it gives you a full 3 days to rest before you have to bench again. Since this is a very high volume day for benching, you will need a lot of time to recover.


5x5 Bench Press Program for 4 Days Per Week

If we have 4 days a week to lift, I recommend doing one of two things: either train legs twice per week (strength oriented) or make your third day a "cosmetic" day (for those who want to increase their bench but are generally bodybuilding-oriented), where you hit everything we did not do during the week, such as your traps, calves, arms, shoulders, forearms, and so on.

The fourth day gives us a chance to do more pressing and rowing on days where it counts, and lets us add in more accessory work on other days.

Here is a sample workout template, based on building strength:

Monday - Upper Body

A) Incline Barbell (BB) Bench Press - 5 sets of 5 reps

B) Flat BB Bench Press - 5 sets of 8-10 reps

C) Seated Row or Chest-Supported Row - 4 sets of 8-10 reps

D) Wide Grip Lat Pull-down - 4 sets of 10-12 reps

E) Rear Delt Flies - 4 sets of 10-15 reps
 

Tuesday - Lower Body

A) Front Squat, Back Squat, or Bulgarian Split-Squat (depending on comfort) - 5x5

B) Stiff-legged Deadlifts - 4 sets of 10 reps

C) Leg Press - 3 sets of 15-25 reps (should be hard)

D1) DB Alternating Curl - 3 sets of 8-12 reps

D2) Triceps Push-down - 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Optional: Abs or Accessory work, not limited to: Extra arm work, Forearms, Traps, Calves, Rear Delts

Keep your workout within an hour time-frame. The leg training portion should take around 40 minutes as you will want to take plenty of rest between sets. Add in any extra "cosmetic" work that you like on this day. You can squeeze in 3 sets of 10 of 2-3 of these body parts quite easily in the remaining 20 minutes.


Thursday - Upper Body

A) Flat BB Bench Press - 5 sets of 5 reps

B) Chin-ups - 4 sets of 6-10 reps (lat pull-down if too weak for chin-ups)

C) Bent-over DB Row - 4 sets of 8-10 reps

D) External Rotations - 4 sets of 12-15 reps

 

Saturday - Lower Body

A) Trap-Bar Deadlift - 5 sets of 5 reps

B) DB Walking Lunge - 4 sets of 10 reps

C1) Single-Leg Leg Extension - 3 sets of 10-15 reps

C2) Single-Leg Hip Extension - 3 sets of 10-15 reps

D1) EZ-Bar Reverse Curl - 3 sets of 8-10 reps

D2) DB Lying Triceps Extension (Skullcrushers) - 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Optional: Abs or Accessory work, not limited to: Arms, Forearms, Traps, Calves, Rear Delts


By training legs twice per week, you will get a much larger whole-body training effect, and squatting and deadlifting is great for building back strength which will assist in holding a firm arch when benching. This does indeed have a nice carryover to your bench press and helps add muscle to your frame.

Alternatively, you could ditch the second day of leg weight training and work on any other body part you feel is a weak-point for you. This helps individualize the program while still focusing on increasing your bench press.


Conclusion

The 5x5 bench press program is an time-tested, effective way to increase your bench press. Just make sure you are taking the time to do all of the exercises, including the less exciting exercises like external rotations and rear delt flies.

Combine that with a good muscle building diet and you are well on your way to increasing your max bench press! 

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