Why a 5x5 Gym Program Should Be Your First Program

If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you’re considering changing your gym program or starting a new one. Maybe you’re just starting to get into lifting, or you’ve been hearing the benefits of lifting, or maybe you’ve found your strength gains starting to plateau. In any of these situations, and in many others, a 5x5 program is a good place to start. If you’ve never heard of it, or are unconvinced, here’s what you need to know:

What is a 5x5 Gym Program?

A 5x5 (read “five by five”) program is a program meant for building strength by focusing on incrementally increasing the weight you lift. In gym programs, you have sets and reps. Reps, or repetitions, are the number of times you do an exercise in a set. You usually rest in between sets. If you were to do 3 sets of 8 (3x8) for squats, you would do 8 squats, 3 times. So, simply put, a 5x5 gym program is one where you do 5 sets of 5 reps for every exercise.

Another feature of a 5x5 program is the type of exercise you do.

There are two types of exercises you can do at the gym: compound and isolation. Compound movements use multiple muscles, while isolation muscles work specific muscles (you could say they isolate the muscles you’re working). In a 5x5 program, you focus on compound movements, as they’re the best way to increase strength and muscle quickly in all your muscles, this is because compound movements work multiple muscles at the same time as in the squat working your quadriceps glutes and calves.

Why do you need a gym program at all?

If you’re thinking this is all over complicated and you would rather just go to the gym and do what you’re feeling, it’s worth considering the benefits of following a program:

  • Having a set structure makes it easier to be consistent; this is obvious when you see how often students struggle to transition between high-school and university.

  • Another benefit is that you can easily see and track your progress as the program inherently keeps track of how much you’re lifting.

  • A third benefit is that your workouts will likely be more effective due to being planned out in advance.

Advantages of a 5x5 program

Now that you’re convinced you should follow a gym program, allow me to explain why you should try a 5x5 program.

  • A 5x5 program is incredibly easy to follow as there are only a few exercises in each workout, and the only changes from week to week are increasing the weight.

  • The focus of the program on compound exercises that work all body parts, along with the incremental increase in weight from week to week, is the reason a 5x5 program guarantees almost consistent strength gains through the beginning of the program.

Disadvantages of a 5x5 program

One concern with a 5x5 program is that all the exercises are barbell movements, and if done incorrectly they can cause imbalances between the left and right sides of the body, to prevent this, it's important to ensure you always practice proper form and even asking a more experienced person for advice.

Who should use a 5x5 program?

Simply put, I believe everyone can benefit from a 5x5 program. If I had to be specific, I would highly recommend this program to anyone who has less than 2 years of lifting experience, to anyone who is trying to increase their strength, and to anyone who wants to take advantage of beginner gains in order to pack on muscle quickly.

How to start a 5x5 gym program

There are many 5x5 programs you can choose to follow. The one I followed when I first started lifting was Strong Lifts which has a really convenient app that is easy to use at the gym.

Additional resources

If you’re a beginner at the gym you’re probably confused about exactly what you need to be doing and there is a lot of information out there and what I’ve found to be insanely helpful are YouTube channels be careful with these because some of them provide a slew of misinformation. A simple but often very helpful measure is to get information from multiple sources as long as you’re always making sure you’re not in an echo chamber.


Hello hi! You can call me Elisha. I founded Tenacious Thinker to create a center for helpful information and actionable plans to help everyone change their lives. I believe focusing on our wellness is crucial as we journey through life. This means taking care of our mental and physical wellbeing, cultivating social relationships, and finding a sense of meaning.

I believe that we can all find purpose and meaning by dedicating ourselves to living more sustainably and improving our communities. I believe all these areas overlap, and as I learn more I hope to document all my discoveries. I believe in drawing ideas from science, literature, and media to draw new understandings.

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