Increase Your Lean Muscle Mass Through Lower Volume Bodybuilding Training

The first plateau breaking method that I introduced in this site was my favorite 10 sets of 10 reps bodybuilding training method. However, like all routines, if used for too long the body adapts and then bodybuilding progress comes to a screeching halt. Today, I want to discuss another popular method for breaking plateaus called the 5 Sets of 5 Reps Method. This method has also been used in bodybuilding circles for years for the purposes of breaking through plateaus and accumulating new lean muscle mass. The inventor of this method, according to what I have read from various sources, was no other than former Mr. Universe Reg Park who was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding idol and inspiration. Reg used this method quite successfully back in the fifties and sixties.

The way that the 5 sets of 5 reps method works is by improving the connection between the central nervous system and the muscles. In order for muscles to contract the brain has to send them a signal to do so. For this signal to reach the muscles, it has to travel through the central nervous system. When you train with heavy loads that only allow you to perform around 5 repetitions, for instance, you are training the body to become more efficient at recruiting more muscle fibers in order to move the weight. This is what is called improving your neural connections and this is the way in which strength increases. The perfect time to implement this method of training is following a high volume phase like the 10 sets of 10 reps. Why is it important to train for strength after a high volume phase? Because this sort of training offers the following benefits:

 1. The testosterone levels go through the roof in response to the longer rest in between sets and the heavier weights.

 2. Hypertrophy (muscle growth) occurs by the body increasing the actual diameter of the myofiber (the muscle fiber size) through increased protein synthesis. In other words, the actual protein content of the cell increases as well as the thickness of the muscle filaments. However, in this phase, strength gains come first and hypertrophy later.

 3. Since your body’s recuperation abilities were built up to the maximum by the previous phase and the volume has gone down dramatically, these extra recuperation abilities are used to increase strength and build more muscle mass. The reason the body does this is in order to be prepared for another stressful period like the one it just went through.

Not unlike the 10×10 method, the goal of the 5×5 routine involves doing 5 sets of 5 reps, using the same weight. At first, you won’t be able to do 5 repetitions for all 5 sets but once you do, then it is time to increase the weight. The perfect weight to select is one that allows you to perform 5 reps for the first set and perhaps even the second. The third, fourth and fifth you may fall back to 4 reps and on the last one perhaps all you can do is 3 reps.

Is there a need for more exercises once you do the one for 5 sets of 5? I like to do an additional exercise using the 5×5 method to ensure that the muscle has been stimulated from a couple of different angles.

Now let’s take a look at my recommended 5 sets of 5 reps program.

Day 1 Chest & Back (Monday/Thursday)

Modified Compound Triset #1:
(Rest 60 seconds after the 1st set of exercise 1 and then do the first set of exercise 2. Then rest 60 seconds and go to exercise #3. After 60 seconds of more rest start again with exercise #1. Continue this pattern until all three exercises are done for the prescribed amount of sets. That way you rest 3 minutes in between sets of the same exercise but save time).

Incline Bench Press 5 sets x 5 reps (60 second rest)
Wide Grip Pull-up To Front (Palms facing you) 5 sets x 5 reps (60 second rest)
Weighted Rope Crunches 5 sets x 5 reps (60 second rest)

Modified Compound Triset #2:
Chest Dips 5 sets x 5 reps (60 second rest)
One Arm Dumbbell Rows 5 sets x 5 reps (60 second rest)
Lying Leg Raises (with small weight in between feet) 5 sets x 5 reps (60 second rest)

Day 2 Shoulders & Arms (Tuesday/Friday)

Modified Compound Triset #1:
Upright Rows 5 sets x 5 reps (60 second rest)
Close Grip Bench Press 5 sets x 5 reps (60 second rest)
Preacher Curls 5 sets x 5 reps (90 second rest)

Modified Compound Triset #2:
Rear Delt Rows 5 sets x 5 reps (60 second rest)
Triceps Pushdowns 5 sets x 5 reps (60 second rest)
Incline Hammer Curls 5 sets x 5 reps (60 second rest)

Day 3 Legs (Wednesday/Saturday)

Modified Compound Triset #1:
Squats (alternate one set medium and next set wide stance) 5 sets x 5 reps (60 second rest)
Lying Leg Curls 5 sets x 5 reps (60 second rest)
Calf Raises 5 sets x 5 reps (60 second rest)

Modified Compound Triset #2:
Leg Press 5 sets x 5 reps (60 second rest)
Stiff Legged Deadlifts 5 sets x 5 reps (60 second rest)
Calf Press 5 sets x 5 reps (60 second rest)
The longest these routines will take you is 60 minutes if you keep to the prescribed rest periods.

Bodybuilding Diet Advice
In order to benefit most from this routine, remember that you have to nourish yourself! Weight training provides the spark for muscle growth while food provides the raw materials required for making bodybuilding gains. For more information on which type of diet to follow, please take a look at my Bulking Up Rules for the Natural Bodybuilder article.

Bodybuilding Supplements
A good supplementation program is imperative in order to recover and make the best possible gains from such a demanding bodybuilding program. Please take a look at my Bodybuilding Supplementation Basics article, my Creatine Monohydrate Basics article, and my Preserve Lean Mass With Glutamine article.

Word on Rest and Recovery
Don’t forget that muscles grow when you rest, not while you are at the gym. Therefore, make sure that you get your 8 hours of sleep or at the very least 7 hours each night and make up any lost sleep over the weekends. Not meeting your sleep requirements on a consistent basis leads to sleep depravation, a condition which besides creating constantly low energy levels, promotes a hormonal environment that increases the muscle destroying (and fat depositing) hormone cortisol and lowers your muscle producing hormone testosterone.

Conclusion
Well, here you have a great companion to the 10 sets of 10 reps program or any other high volume program that you have been following. If you are ready to change your high volume workout routine for a lower volume one, give this program a try and provided that your nutrition, supplementation and rest are in order, then it will not fail to give you the bodybuilding gains that you are looking for.

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