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Bill Starr's Advanced 5x5 Workout


HISTORY:
This program and variants have been making the rounds on the internet for a few years.
Variations have been made for specific lifters, its been rehashed and re-explained by
various people ranging from your standard guy who had a lot of success with it all the way
to some fairly high level coaches in multiple sports using it on their athletes or using it to
illustrate periodization. This is a tweaked version more accessible to the variety of people
using a program like this for the first time. All that said the real origins stretch back fairly
far but for practical application there are three primary sources who are responsible for its
popularity over the most recent 30 years: Bill Starr, Glenn Pendlay, and Mark Rippetoe.
USAGE:
This program is very effective at increasing strength and lean body mass. It focuses on
the core lifts that drive full body hypertrophy and getting those lifts up as quickly as
possible. There is little isolation work and what is generally used is targeted and specific.
The idea is you do a few things and get systematically better at them over time, dont try
to do everything all at once. Focus on what matters most and remove all the garbage so
you can do it a lot and get really good.
People have had a lot of success using something like this while cutting. I have seen a
number of reports of people keeping body weight constant, losing body fat, and increasing
in most relevant measurements (chest, thigh, arms) so that says something. If you are
close to a weight class limit youll need to be very careful. All that said, this program will
make you strong but if you want to put on muscle there absolutely must be caloric
excess.

This program has gotten results for 30 years and still continues to get excellent results
from bodybuilders, strength athletes, or those looking for better performance. There is
more to training than simply going into the gym, getting under a bar, and working hard
hoping to come back better. So by running this program one gets gains and learns at the
same time.
This program should be tailored to the experience level of the trainee. This version is
presented for the experienced lifter whos familiar with the core lifts and is beginning
periodization. For most people unfamiliar with this style of training, which is a lot more
taxing than doing a bunch of isolation work, its a good starting point. Some might find
that they can be more aggressive with the weights and load harder, some might need
more volume, some might find themselves doing really well in the volume phase and
realizing that a single factor program with more emphasis on frequency and the core lifts
is what might work best as significant strength increase during the initial phase would be
a good indicator that linear progress is still available but programming must be improved
(i.e. you dont need periodization, you need a good training program).
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DESCRIPTION:
If youre going to time to a program, please take 10-15 minutes to actually read this page
and understand it.
Before beginning it is useful to know your real 5 rep max in each lift. You can base your
55 max off your 5 rep max just by cutting back a bit. If you dont know this it might be
useful to test your lifts first or start light so you can make adjustments on the fly as you
ramp the weights.
LOADING

DELOADING AND INTENSIFICATION


Option 1: Deload and
Peak 33
OR

Volume Phase

Option 2: Pure
Deload

Weeks 1-4

Weeks 5-9

Weeks 5-6 or
Extended

Monday

Monday

Monday

Squat

55

33

33

Bench

15

13

33

Row

15

13

33

Wednesday

Wednesday

Wednesday or
Thursday

Squat

55 (10-20% < than


Monday)

Drop This Lift

33 with 70% of
Monday

Deadlift

55

33

33

Military or
Incline

55

33

33

Pull-ups or
Chins

55

33

33

Friday

Friday

Squat

15

13

Bench

55

33

Row

55

33
Clarifying Examples

(numbers are random do not read anything


into this)
Set 1 Set 2 Set 3 Set 4 Set 5
55 Straight
= Sets
3155 3155 3155 3155 3155
33 Straight
= Sets
3153 3153 3153
15 Ramped
= Sets
2255 2555 2755 2955 3155
13 Ramped
= Sets
2753 2953 3153
Volume/Loading Phase Weeks 1-4:
55 is 5 sets of 5 reps with working set weight (warm up to the target weight for the week
and proceed through 55 with that weight).
15 is ramping the weights upward each set to a target set weight for a single set of 5
(its still 55 but each set gets heavier and your target set is the top set of 5). The
exception is the Wednesday squat for 55 using somewhere between 10-20% less than
the working weight on the Monday 55 workout.
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the working weight on the Monday 55 workout.
What you are doing is gradually increasing the target weights week to week so you wind
up performing record lifts in the final two weeks of the volume phase (weeks 3/4 in this
case). If you miss a weight, hold it constant for the next week by carrying it forward.
Keep in mind that you have separate targets for 55 and 15 even though they are the
same lift. The ramping is set separately for these and they are treated separately. Its a
good idea to start conservatively as this gets fairly backbreaking and youll be begging for
week 5.
The most common mistake is people starting too high. Its useful to start light and then be
flexible either adding an extra week to the ramp up or moving your targets a bit as you feel
your way. This is far easier in the intensity phase because you already have a reference
likewise the next time you run this workout, itll be a no brainer.

The main point in this phase is the volume. Lower the weight if need be but get the sets
and reps in. If you fail on an exercise just carry the target weight forward into the next
week. Some people who are new to this might find it easier to run this phase for 6 weeks
starting much lighter and building slowly. If your working weights for the deadlift are 2x
bodyweight its probably a good idea to do lower the volume on that lift to 35 in this
phase.
The easiest way to set this up the first time is to put current personal records (PRs) in
week 3. Your 5 rep max (RM) can be calculated and just drop off a given percentage for
your 55RM (try 7.5% maybe) you get a week 3 figure for those lifts. Now back down to
week 1. A conservative number to start with might be 80% of your Week 3 PR lift then
split the difference for Week 2.
If you are really strong and jumps are large, you might need more weeks to ramp up.
What you dont want to do is start too high, you can always tack on another week but if
you start too high you blow the progression.
Week 4 lifts are a margin above week 3, maybe 5%. Plan it out but be flexible, adjust
where need be so that you culminate with the 2 final weeks. If that means starting lighter
and running for 6 weeks thats fine. If that means you thought 4 weeks was fine but you
were unexpectedly stronger (or got stronger during this phase) and need to add an extra
week to avoid a big jump, thats okay too.
Your first time through youll feel pretty beat up after the last week, thats okay. If you are
beat up entering the 2nd to last week, thats something to watch. Sometimes youll
encounter a performance deficit and not be able to set PRs (very common for advanced
athletes loading hard). You dont want to push it too hard and overdo it.
OPTION 1 Deload and Peak 33:
This option provides for deloading in the middle weeks and working toward new PRs in the
final weeks. This makes it a bit harder to handle, especially for first timers. You might
need a light week or two before moving back into another loading period.
Deloading Week 5:
On week 5 drop the Wednesday squat workout, begin using the Deloading/Intensity
set/rep scheme, and keep the weight the same as your last week in the Volume Phase.
In reality the whole intensity phase and this week are the same thing, I just break this
week out because there is no weight progression so in reality after the volume phase the
whole thing is deloading/intensity which for the purposes of this workout are synonymous.
Also my 3x per week layout tends to get pretty aggressive as many find themselves
fatigued again by the end so it kind of makes logical sense to break this period
separately. Largely semantics.
Intensification Phase Week 6-9:
Everything is the same principal except that you use 33 and 13 setting records on
week 8 and 9. No Wednesday squatting. Its important that you recover before getting into
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week 8 and 9. No Wednesday squatting. Its important that you recover before getting into
the heavy weight PRs again so if you have to keep Week 6 light, go ahead.
The important aspect of this phase is the weight increases. If you are burned out and you
need an extra day here and there thats okay. If you cant do all the work thats okay too.
Just keep increasing the weight week to week. It might also help to keep the first week in
this phase just incrementally higher than the Deloading Week to provide for extra recovery
if needed.
During this phase youll be ramping the weights from your deloading week to your 33 and
13 records in the final 2 weeks. In this 3x per week pattern, start light once again and
get a breather. Taking extra days or cutting out volume isnt encouraged but if you need
extra recovery do it and then adjust your future training plans accordingly.
If you dont get an adequate deload first (that 1 week may not be enough) you will cripple
your gains. Better to get 90% out of a training cycle than 10%. Youll learn a lot about
your tolerance for volume loading and unloading here there is no need to try to be a
hero. Get some experience and the next time you run this youll be spot on but you wind
up feeling your way to a degree the first time.
Post Cycle:
Depending upon how you feel, its probably a good idea to deload again before moving
back into another volume phase if you ran the 3x per week outlined as above. See the
alternative schedule below and perform this light for 2 weeks working on
speed/acceleration. If you ran the 2x alternate schedule below for your deload/intensity
you can likely move straight back into another volume phase.
OPTION 2 Pure Deload:
This is designed to get you recovered without too much hassle or worry. Frequency is
dropped to 2x per week and the Friday workout is dropped. The Wednesday workout can
be moved to Thursday if desired. This phase can be run as long as needed to recover.
Maybe thats 1-2 weeks for some people to build enough steam to jump back into a
loading phase. Maybe thats 4-5 weeks if someone feels they are really getting a lot out of
it.
Week 5 and on switch to 33 and drop the Friday workout altogether. Week 5 weights are
the same as the final week of loading. Over the following weeks increase the weight
workout to workout if you get all 9 reps. If you dont get all the reps, keep the weight
constant.
Youll likely be able to move straight back into another volume phase after this is
complete. As for the increases week to week, probably best to use a percentage but to
make it easy for first timers maybe add 5lbs to benches and rows then 10lbs to squats
and deads.
OTHER PERTINENT INFORMATION
Time Between Sets:
Use a natural rep speed and take what you need between sets. Dont be lazy but dont
rush. You cant be doing rapid fire sets of big compound lifts. Maybe on the lightest warmups you take a minute but most sets will be 2-5 minute range with 2 being between fairly
easy sets and 5 being after a heavy set in preparation for another very serious major effort
that drains you.
Diet:
If youre trying to gain muscle, caloric excess must be present. More people, particularly
bodybuilders, go wrong here. If caloric excess is present and training stinks, you will get
fatter. Theres nothing any program can do if you wont eat.
For the purposes of gaining muscle or getting big and strong its better to eat McDonalds
and KFC all day long than not eat enough.

Learning about Your Tolerances/Setting Up Your 2nd Training Cycle:


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Learning about Your Tolerances/Setting Up Your 2nd Training Cycle:
It can be daunting to set your weights the first time you run this. Remember, its better to
be on the conservative side. Once youve been through this, youll learn a lot about your
tolerances and youll have a set of very relevant records which you can sub right into the
next training cycle.
If you are really loading hard, performance will decline towards the end so setting records
and actually getting the lifts may not be possible.
The other lifts 15, 33, 13 are similarly adjusted based on previous records.
Also, peoples tolerances vary widely at every level. As you go, youll learn all about what
you need, what you can handle, and what is too much. Eventually, youll be able to tailor
this program or an entire 6 month training cycle to your individual specs and
requirements.
Substituting Exercises:
These are all the most effective exercises so dont mess with them. The two guys
responsible for this program are some of the best on the planet at bulking lifters and
making people stronger.
Its absolutely essential not to screw with the squats, they are the foundation of this
program. If you want to sub inclines or push presses for military thats okay. Do not sub
machines. If you cant chin due to bodyweight, pulldowns are okay.
Core work is always fine.
Cardio is fine.
For a lifter with some experience, it is not enough to go in and work hard you need a
program that properly regulates volume and intensity.
Advanced Lifters:
As you learn about tolerances and progress over time, youll find youre able to gradually
accommodate more volume. Some might find it more advantageous from a recovery
standpoint to do all their 55 work on Monday and save the 15 for Friday. In terms of this
generic template what generally happens is that a lifter will remove the pyramid 15
workouts and swap them into a second 55 over time.
An advanced lifter might start their ramps much closer to their record weights. As your
weights increase the volume can also be spread over 4 days rather than 3 to
accommodate the fatigue from the heavier weights.
These lifters might also compress the training cycle into 2-3 weeks of loading and 1-2
weeks of deloading once they are geared up and training hard. This routine is for someone
who has spent some time doing this type of work and will overload just about anyone
besides an accomplished seasoned lifter. You apply more volume when you need it, not
as an ego thing. This will destroy or drastically limit your gains. Dont do this unless
youve run many dual factor training cycles and are absolutely sure you need it.
SAMPLE TEMPLATE
Heres a downloadable Excel file that calculates your relevant lifts and plots out what this
program might look like over 9 weeks. It makes a lot of assumptions that might not be
right or near optimal for any given lifter. Understand that this is just a reference for what it
might look like.

TWO VERY IMPORTANT POINTS


1. When running this for the first time, be realistic with your expectations and make
changes as needed to bring you up and time things correctly.
2. After you have run this even once, dont rely on the spreadsheet. You will do better with
your experience, a pencil, and your brain.
Download File Current Version 0.3
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Download File Current Version 0.3
Some of the assumptions for those interested:
Current records are in week 3
Previous weeks 1 and 2 sets are calculated as a percentage of week 3
Week 4 is a given percentage (5%) above 3
New max lifts are calculated from week 4 performance and applied to week 8
Week 5 weights are constant from week 4
Weeks 6 and 7 weights are even increments between week 5 and 8
Week 9 is a given percentage (2.5%) above 8
Ramped sets of 5 are calculated as a given percentage of the top set for the day

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