The clearest exercise instruction I’ve ever gotten is from Pavel Tsatsouline. 3-5 exercises for the whole body, 3-5 days between exercise sessions, 3-5 minutes between sets, 3-5 reps. 3-5 sets. What made it even more clear was a YouTube video from Elliot Hulse. Something like, Do these four exercises and be really fucking strong: squat, deadlift, chin, dip.

But to me what Elliot is saying is to train movements, with those exercises basically being push/pull for the legs and upper body. But within those movements, there is a ton of variety in terms of exercises. And that’s what makes 5×5 really fun.

What I like to do is 3-5 exercises, 3-5 sets as a circuit, 2 days per week. This is really quick and you will get strong. But, you have to pick the right exercises. Let’s walk through a few different exercise sessions to get a feel for it.

First, create a program:

  1. Goblet squats
  2. Floor press
  3. Curl and press
  4. Tbar row
  5. Swing

Do it 2 days per week. After a while change the second day of the week slightly. So, something like:

  1. Pistol
  2. Floor press
  3. Chin up
  4. Military press

Then, throw in a finisher. Do something like double cleans for near-max reps (build up to this, obviously).

Every fourth week, do nothing but stretching and more restorative stuff, like baby crawling.

After 2-3 months, change some more exercises. Maybe you’re sick of the curl and press. Take it out. Create a slightly different program:

  1. Deadlift
  2. Military press
  3. Pull up
  4. Ab wheel

For the second training session, do something like:

  1. Kung fu stances
  2. Hand to hand swings
  3. Military press
  4. Renegade row
  5. Finisher: punch and kick the bag

Note there is a less of a focus on legs here. So, you could add in some isometric stretching for your legs.

Change your approach as the seasons change. For the winter, maybe you want to eat more and train heavier. So something like:

  1. Deadlift
  2. Barbell military press
  3. Weighted pull up
  4. Squat

Would be good. Then on the other day you could do:

  1. Weighted dips
  2. Tbar rows
  3. Goblet squat
  4. Heavy double cleans

Keep in mind always: every fourth week, back off and stretch and do more restorative stuff.

Because of the variety, because of the back off week, and because of the set/rep protocol, this is really effective and straightforward. Give it a try, after a few months, let me know the results.

Some other posts on 5×5