The purpose of 5 x 5 training is to increase strength and muscle mass. According to strength coach Charles Poliquin, author of "The Poliquin Principles," performing sets of five repetitions is the best method for developing strength and power. Many 5 x 5 workouts exist, such as Bill Starr's original 5 x 5 routine, which revolves around power cleans, squats, bench presses and overhead presses. Alternatively, construct your own 5 x 5 workout that will lead to muscle growth, increased strength and improved performance.
Base your workout around multi-joint compound exercises, advises Christian Thibaudeau, author of "High-Threshold Muscle Building," as these are the best muscle and strength builders. Because compound exercises involve the movement of two or more joints, you can use more weight when doing them. By contrast, single-joint isolation movements aren't well-suited to heavy training, as they put too much strain on your joints. Perform squat and deadlift variations for your lower body along with bench presses, dumbbell presses and rows for your upper body.
Five reps per set are fewer than traditional bodybuilding routines, which generally prescribe sets of eight to 12 reps, so to make the most of a 5 x 5 workout you need to use a heavier weight. Poliquin advises performing all of your sets with between 75 and 90 percent of your single-rep max -- the maximum amount of weight you can lift for one repetition. Do two lighter warm-up sets for each exercise before moving into your heavy sets of five.
The 5 x 5 routine works best with a full-body training schedule or an upper-lower split. For the full-body option, train on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Choose four to five compound exercises that hit all your major muscle groups -- quadriceps, hamstrings, chest, back and shoulders, and do five sets of five for each. Alternatively, train your upper body on Monday and Thursday and your lower body on Tuesday and Saturday. For your lower-body sessions, do one set each of quadriceps, hamstrings and calf exercises. For your upper-sessions, do one chest, one shoulder and two back exercises.
To keep increasing your strength levels and ensure muscle growth, constantly lift heavier weights or perform more repetitions. While a 5 x 5 workout should ideally involve performing five sets of five on every exercise, it doesn't matter if you don't hit those numbers exactly. For example, in week one, you may only manage three sets of five, a set of four and a set of three on your squats. In week two, aim to do all five sets for five reps. In week three, if you increase the weight, you may not be able to do five sets of five again, so aim to increase the weight in your next workout.