Here's another example of the 5x5, as per Bill Starr:
The Bill Starr Power Routine
When I was a freshman in college, Bill Starr gave me this routine to follow. It was designed for off-season football and general strength training. In the first 16 weeks I was on it, I added about 35 pounds of bodyweight, and took my total from a paltry 600 to over 950. Of course, I was also on the dorm’s prepaid meal plan, and ate like it was going out of style. Plus, I only had four classes that semester, so I spent lots of time sleeping.
Monday – Heavy Day
Squat – 5 sets of 5
Bench – 5 sets of 5
Powercleans – 5 sets of 5
2 sets of weighted hypers
4 sets of weighted Sit-ups
Wednesday – Light Day
Squat – 4 sets of 5
Incline Bench – 4 sets of 5
High Pulls – 4 sets of 5
Sit-ups – 3 sets
Friday - Medium
Squat – 4 sets of 5, 1 triple, back-off
Bench – 4 sets of 5, 1 triple, back-off
Powercleans – 4 sets of 5, 1 triple
Weighted Dips – 3 sets of 5-8
Triceps and Biceps – 3 sets of 8 each
* On Monday, the weight for each lift is increased on each set of 5, from a light warm-up to an all out set of 5. For squats, something like 135x5, 185x5, 225x5, 275x5, 315x5. The weight should be increased evenly from your first to last set. If you are working up to bigger weights, say above 500, you can add a sixth set of 5 just to avoid making large jumps between sets. I’ll explain how to choose the top weight in a second…
* On light day, Squat the first 3 sets of 5 just as you did on Monday, and then do a fourth set of 5 with the weight used on the third set. An extra fifth set at this same weight can be added. Incline bench is done using the same scheme, working up to 2-3 sets of 5, but with about 70-80% of the weight flat bench, to accommodate the leverage difference of the incline. High Pulls are done by feel, but usually pretty heavy.
* On Friday, the first four sets are the same as they were on Monday. The fifth set, done for three reps, should be a jump of about 2.5% over what you did for your fifth set on Monday. As you become more experienced with the system, you can experiment with the weight you use on this triple. This should NOT be a PR triple attempt every week. In fact, the goal is to come back the following Monday and get the same weight for 5 reps that you got for 3 reps the Friday before. To avoid missing reps, pick weights carefully. Take it easy the first few weeks, and don’t over do it. After the big triple, drop back to the weight you used for your 3rd set and try to get eight reps.
* Deadlifts, or Speed Deadlifts can be substituted with Powercleans if you so desire. Powercleans are pretty popular among football players for working on explosiveness. They are not as specific for the powerlifter, but they can add strength to your traps and shoulders as well as thicken up your back. They can also improve speed-strength.
* I always trained with three to five guys on a single bar. The rest time between sets was helpful for making an all out assault on that top set. I also used no gear except a belt, which we used only for squats and powercleans. Some guys used grip straps on powercleans or high pulls when attempting heavy 5’s and 3’s.
* The dips, bi’s and tri’s are what Bill called “Beach Work,” in that they tend to have a bigger cosmetic effect than squats or deads. The scheme for these varied by need and based on what I thought my weaknesses were. I went very heavy on the dips, for sets of 5, to help build up my triceps. Other guys did closegrips, or even added in some rowing movements for the lats. No matter what you pick, try and move quickly though this stuff, like one minute rests max.
* Some research shows that full body workouts tend to stimulate more hormone production than isolation workouts.
* Focus on the big three can help with developing good exercise technique for the beginner, and the weekly goal setting from Friday to Monday helps keep you motivated.
* The program is relatively simple, and easy to follow. If you can figure out how to pick your weights, then this can be a very effective program. By starting out with less than max poundage, you can work on form, and build good habits as you increase the weight. You also choose weight week-to-week by feel, instead of calculating reps and sets way in advance.
* Not a lot of exercise variety.
* Some people find training the Big three more than once per week to be too taxing, but the total volume is actually not that high because there is not much focus on assistance exercises.
* This method is good for muscle growth and strength, but may not be as effective if you are trying to lose weight, or maintain a weight class.
* Beginners that are still learning how to squat and bench effectively. If you are new to free weights or to lifting in general, this is a good way to spend a lot of time with real iron learning the basics, because you can start off slowly and train each core lift more frequently.
* Lifters trying to gain both size and strength, who want to add to their core of muscle mass. If you stick with this for more than 12 weeks, you will make muscle gains if you keep up with food and rest.
Veni, veni, venias - ne me mori facias!