5×3 Training Method For Increasing Strength

Low rep training is a proven and effective method of increasing strength. Most advanced strength athletes rely on singles, doubles and triples as the bread and butter of their workout routines.

This training method is perfect for the intermediate to late intermediate lifter who wants to delve into heavy triples, but who may not be ready for heavy singles quite yet. If you’ve been seeing regular gains on higher rep schemes, 5x5s or on programs like Wendler’s 531, this will probably serve you well.

  • Training Level: Intermediate
  • Primary Goal: Increase Strength
  • Progression: 5×3 to 5×5

5×3 Training Method

Start with a weight that easily allows you to perform 5 sets x 3 reps. Resist the urge to push things your first workout or two. Lifting isn’t a sprint. It is always wise to ease into a new training protocol for a few sessions before hitting the gas pedal.

Perform 5 sets x 3 reps with this weight. During your second workout, push for up to 5 reps per set, and no more. If you hit 5 reps for any set, stop the set.

When you can perform 5 sets x 5 reps with a given weight, add weight the next time you perform this exercises. Easy.

I also advise to never push a set of failure. Stop each set when you feel like you may fail on the next rep, or when your form starts to go south. Live to fight another day rather than pushing your luck.

5×3 – Notes and FAQ

Can I use a 5×3 with more than one lift at the same time?

Absolutely. You can run this with bench press, squats and deadlift if you’d like. Many intermediate lifters may find that 25 reps on heavy reps per week is too much, so the 5×3 may not be optimal on deadlifts for everyone. Mileage may vary.

The 5×3 would also work well with many overhead press variations.

What split or strength program could I use a 5×3 with?

Any non-fullbody, really. Most strength programs feature 3-4 training days per week. You could use a 5×3 instead of  the Wendler’s 531 sets, and follow it with any assistance program. You could also use it for the classic 3 day per week powerlifting program – bench, squats and deadlifts.

When can I deload?

My advice is this…if you feel run down, schedule a deload week. In the mean time, run the program full speed ahead. Listen to your body, and save deloads for periods when you feel battered or beaten down.

You may not need frequent deloads. I didn’t deload for 2 decades. This wasn’t always the wisest decision, but I lived.

But don’t be a tough guy. A light week every 8-10 week isn’t going to kill anyone. It will probably be beneficial.

It might also be wise to deload after you hit a 5×5, if it’s take more than 3 weeks to do so.

How much weight do I add?

Add 5 pounds the following week. You can try for 10 on squats and deadlift if you’d like, but I don’t advise it – especially not for intermediate lifters. 5 pounds can feel like a huge difference at times.

5 pounds increments might not seen like a lot, but they will allow for smooth – and most likely the most rapid progression. It will be easier to try and hit a 5×5 the next week with only an additional 5 pounds on the bar.

What if I stall?

If you hit a 3-4 week skid where you are making absolutely zero progress – and I mean ZERO progress – then take a deload week. Eat like a freak, and start up the next week with a weight that is 10% lighter.

Remember, if you’re adding one rep per week, that’s not a stall. If you’re adding “only” one rep every 2 weeks that’s not a stall.

Make sure you keep realistic expectations. All progress as an intermediate to late intermediate is good progress.

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Steve Shaw

Steve Shaw | Writer

Steve Shaw is the original founder of Muscle and Brawn, an experienced powerlifter with over 31 years experience pumping iron. During competition he’s recorded a 602.5lb squat, 672.5lb deadlift and a 382.5lb bench press.

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