5×5 stands for 5 repetitions per set for five sets. That makes a total of 25 repetitions per exercise. The 5×5 workouts were popularized by the famous strength coach and strength author Bill Starr who is known for his book: ‘The Strongest Shall Survive‘.
Today there are many versions of different 5×5 routines such as StrongLifts 5×5, Madcow 5×5, The Texas Method 5×5, Starting Strength 3×5…etc.
5×5 workouts can be very effective because they’re built around basic exercises such as squats, bench presses and deadlifts. Since there are few distractions the lifter is able to progress faster and people doing those routines often report good results. However, this does not mean that 5×5 workouts are the only way to train. Regardless of what the authors of those routines say – there are many ways to get results and 5×5 is just one option.
You will get bigger and stronger but you have to realize that as a natural bodybuilder you will never be on the cover of a magazine. This fact cannot be changed regardless of the routine or diet you follow.
Many ‘authors’ of strength routines such as Mark Rippetoe (Starting Strength) and Mehdi (StrongLifts) would like you to think that you can grow “like a weed” on their programs and dietary plans but it won’t happen. Quite often people try to bulk heavily when doing 5×5 routines in order to boost their lifts and the end results are grotesque.
It’s mainly due to marketing and ignorance. One of the common trends to sell you a 5×5 workout is to use Reg Park and Arnold Schwarzenegger as examples of muscular people who’ve built their foundation on a diet of 5×5 workouts. While this may look nice and ‘Hollywoodesque‘ neither of those guys was a natural bodybuilder and they were going to get similar muscular development even if they were to put effort in a different routine.
There’s nothing special about the StrongLifts workout. You do basic exercises, add weight and repeat until you can no longer do it. It’s an effective workout to learn how to do the basic exercises but once the weight gets heavy, you will see that doing 5×5 squats three times a week as the program requires will get pretty damn rough. In general, you can get the same results doing any other routine that requires you to do solid exercises and progress. There are no magic bullets and Stronglifts 5×5 workouts are not an exception.
5×5 workouts are a good way to train but many people are falsely attributing miracle qualities to them.