Sunday, January 28, 2018

Train The PJ Way: Top 5 Lifts for the 5x5 Workout

It's the weekend, and its time for a list worth reading!

No slide shows here. The only ads you'll see are for stuff that works. Not that 'one simple trick' stuff.

No tricks here. Just workouts that work.

Today's list is the Top 5 Lifts for the 5x5 workout plan.

For serious people, this may be no surprise list, because these lifts are hard and hard means its worth doing for building true strength.

If you wanted a list full of dumbbell curls and leg raises, this ain't it.

Top 5 Lifts for the 5x5 Workout:

1. Deadlifts - Nothing beats lifting a heavy weight from the floor for getting your whole body to fire up and be ready for a big demand on it. Your legs, core, and upper body have to work together to make this lift happen smoothly. You also find out in a hurry where your weak links are. 

2. Bench Press: Perhaps the most widely popular lift used from newbies to pros, the BP has been a standard of its own in gyms across the world. "Whaddya Bench?" is perhaps the most widely asked question in a gym, next to "when is my membership due again?" The Bench Press remains a "Big 3" for a reason. You gotta be strong to really do it well.

3. Squats - The barbell Squat is another big lift that is widely focused on by serious lifters.  It is a truly foundational movement in sports and in most daily activities. Don't neglect this exercise.

4. Power Cleans - Some claim this exercise, along with #5, is a true test of ultimate strength and power production from the human body. A lot of coordinated movements have to take place in order for Power Cleans to happen right.  Since its a complicated movement, break it down in parts first, such as doing front squats to get used to the catch of it, hang cleans to get down the 'clean' portion, and then full cleans to put it all together.

5. Snatches - Another big test of power in what you can do is the Barbell Snatch. A bit more complicated than the Power Clean, its a combination of deadlift and a violent yank to above your head in a true test of upper body strength and core stability. Don't walk into this one lightly, practice the parts of it first and then work on putting it all together.  Holding an overhead squat is perhaps your first step in learning the pieces of this movement.  Hang snatches would be the next progression, and then to a full body action to get it done. Take your time and get an instructor to help you learn #4 and #5 on this list. 

Honorable Mentions:

Bent Over Rows: a great core and upper back exercise, makes a good exercise to help balance out the Bench Press.

Good Mornings: a great exercise to help strengthen the lower back and glutes, assisting in strengthening the weaker links in the chain.

One Arm Side Presses with Dumbbells - this is an old strongman exercise that should make a comeback, if it isn't already.  A popular lift in kettlebell circles, the dumbbell version is a great core and upper body exercise to try.  This hits your body with a side to side and twisting action, instead of linear pulls and pushes with the other exercises.

The above choices for five exercises in the 5x5 plan can take a long time to do and due to the compound actions involved, serious and experienced lifters even need to take caution. A 3-exercise plan of Deadlifts or Squats, Bench Press, and Power Cleans would be plenty to do in a 5x5 plan as a workout on its own. 

A good way to balance out 4 exercises in the 5x5 workout plan is to super-set two exercises with shorter rests between sets.

An example would be:
Deadlifts for 5 reps, rest 2 minutes
Power Cleans for 5 reps, rest 2 minutes
Repeat this pattern for 4 more times.  This give you 4 minutes and change for rest between each lift's demands, and alternating the exercises gives you a lighter/heavier transition.

A super-set format of two exercises would take around 20 minutes to do. Pairing up another set of exercises makes for a great 45 minute workout, with 4 exercises being done. After a Deadlift/PC pairing, I would pair up Bench Press and Bent Over Rows in the same format:
Bench Press, rest 2 minutes
Bent Over Rows, rest 2 minutes
Repeat 4 more times

If you had time, finish it off with 5 sets of 5 light DB Side Presses. 

All in all, these exercises are a good choice if you're looking at a serious 5x5 plan to follow, with a great classic workout that has been developing muscle and big time levels of strength for decades.

For more classic routines, look to "Just The Workouts" at

Train The PJ Way
PJ Wimpleton
Coach Rick Karboviak

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