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Bill Starr - Glenn Pendlay 5x5

Periodized Version for Advanced Lifters


Intro to Periodization
INTRODUCTION:
Okay, this is a simple program - the problem is that people have very little experience
setting something like this up so we now have a giant document and all kinds of crap to answer
the questions that most often arise (even some of the most inane ones). This is simple, effective,
and very direct training. You will see how simple it is after you do it once but people seem to do
a lot better with a surplus of information than a deficit so this is a very comprehensive piece that
should answer just about everything.

HISTORY:
This program and variants have been making the rounds on the internet for a few years
now. 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. Its been cut/pasted into articles, internet forums, interviews, etc Heck I've put it
out there a lot and tried to give credit to every source I could locate as I was able but still my
name wound up getting attached to it even though I was pretty clear that this was not a program I
designed. This version here is one that I've tweaked a bit in an effort to make it more accessible
to the variety of people using a program like this for the first time (i.e. trying to set it up to be as
tolerable as possible). 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.
Bill Starr: This is a variation of Bill Starr's classic 5x5. Bill is without doubt one of the
best strength coaches ever, serving at multiple universities, pro teams including the Super Bowl
1970 Colts, and holding records in both PL and OL. His articles are frequently reprinted in Milo,
have appeared in Ironman for years (they might still be in there periodically), and are generally
all over the strength and conditioning world. His book on training for football, 'The Strongest
Shall Survive', is a classic for coaches, players, and any strength athlete - pick it up at Ironmind.
Glenn Pendlay: An accomplished powerlifter and Olympic weightlifter in his own right
and a fantastic strength coach, Glenn has found his real calling training and developing others.
He founded and serves as the head coach for Wichita Falls Weightlifting which he has quickly
turned into one of the best teams in the nation. He is also the coach of the MSU weightlifting
team, head coach of a Regional Olympic Development Center. Coming to OL relatively late he
still managed to snatch 170 kilos (375lbs), cleaned 210kilos (463lbs), push pressed 200 kilos
(440lbs), and military pressed within a few pounds of 400 on multiple occasions. You can learn
more about him in his interview (link is dead).
Mark Rippetoe: Owner of Wichita Falls Athletic Club, co-author of Starting Strength, is
well known for his outrageous success in adding muscular bodyweight to new lifters (30-40lbs in
4-6 months being fairly typical). He has trained countless lifters over the years.

USAGE:
This program and variations are very much in common use all over the place even being
common to elite athletes in various sports. 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, not the typical shotgun array of lets do everything and the kitchen sink that serves
mainly to dilute a programs effectiveness. Solve problems as they arise, do not waste time trying
to preempt every possible future issue one can imagine. Most people who havent trained like
this tend to be pretty amazed that the body grows very proportionately all on its own from a
small assortment of compound lifts. 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 bodyweight 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. Read my piece on
caloric excess if you havent already, more people screw this up than anything else. 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. It is a very good method of getting big
and strong. In addition, specific to bodybuilding it breaks a lot of the typical voodoo myths
running around like training a muscle 1x per week is required for recovery or that isolation
work is required or one will develop all out of proportion. This program is about simple training
and results. However, there is a ton of science behind it and one would do well to familiarize
themselves with dual factor theory and the properly used concepts of volume, frequency,
intensity, and workload. 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, sort of a "teach a man to fish..."
This program is not ideally done as a cookie-cutter but should be tailored to the
experience level of the trainee. It is setup here for an experienced lifter who is completely
familiar with the core lifts and is beginning periodization (i.e. with experience making week to
week record progress becomes less and less a reality for all lifters over time so this would be a
balanced version to use) . 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 don't need periodization,
you need a good training program). Anyway, its a progression not a static cookie cutter although
we have to start somewhere which is why Ive drawn it up the way I have. Ive tried my best to
cover that as have others but still people get attached. As a lifter progressed workload will be
expanded and obviously you cant just keep hammering the same thing again and again. They
have a book coming out with Lon Kilgore called Practical Periodization (available early 2006)
that is intended to cover multiyear training plans and development.

CORE DESCRIPTION:
CAUTION - READ THIS: if you are going to devote hours and hours over weeks and weeks to
a program, please take 10-15 minutes to actually read this page and understand it. That's a
retarded method of saving time. Also, you will find it hugely useful to read the Training Primer
I put together. You will understand so much more about training in general if you read it.
Honestly, save yourself years of learning and spend 10-15 minutes reading that page. Hell just
print it out and leave it in the bathroom. Within a couple days, you'll have it finished and you
will be so much further ahead than so many others.
Before beginning it is useful to know your 1 rep maxes or more ideally your real 5 rep max
in each lift (there is a table and calculator in the TOC). You can base your 5x5 max off your 5 rep
max just by cutting back a bit. If you don't know this - it might be useful to test your lifts first or
start light and allow for some flexibility in the weekly planning so you can make adjustments on
the fly as you ramp the weights week to week to across the board records in the final weeks of
the volume phase. Don't overly stress on this - it's easier than it sounds and once you've run it
once, subsequent cycles fall right into place.

LOADING

Squat
Bench
Row

Squat
Deadlift
Military or Incline
Pull-ups or Chins

Squat
Bench
Row

DELOADING AND INTENSIFICATION


OR

Volume Phase
Weeks 1-4

Option 1: Deload and Peak 3x3


Weeks 5-9

Monday

Monday

Monday

5x5

3x3

3x3

1x5

1x3

3x3

1x5

1x3

3x3

Wednesday

Wednesday

Wednesday or Thursday

5x5 (10-20% < than Monday)

Drop This Lift

3x3 with 70% of Monday

5x5

3x3

3x3

5x5

3x3

3x3

5x5

3x3

3x3

Friday

Friday

1x5

1x3

5x5

3x3

5x5

3x3

Clarifying Examples

Option 2: Pure Deload


Weeks 5-6 or Extended

(numbers are random - do not read anything into this)

5x5 =
3x3 =
1x5 =
1x3 =

Straight Sets
Straight Sets
Ramped Sets
Ramped Sets

Set 1
315x5
315x3
225x5
275x3

Set 2
315x5
315x3
255x5
295x3

Set 3
315x5
315x3
275x5
315x3

Set 4
315x5

Set 5
315x5

295x5

315x5

Volume/Loading Phase - Weeks 1-4:


So 5x5 is 5 sets of 5 reps with working set weight (warm up to the target weight for the
week and proceed through 5x5 with that weight). Where 1x5 is present you are ramping the
weights upward each set to a target set weight for a single set of 5 (it's still 5x5 but each set gets
heavier and your target set is the top set of 5). The exception is the Wednesday squat for 5x5
using somewhere between 10-20% less than the working weight on the Monday 5x5 workout
(the Wed squat may increase less than the Monday squat over the ramping weeks - meaning it
may start at 12% less and wind up at 22% less by the last record week if one needs some extra
recovery). 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 (you should
not be missing until weeks 3/4 though). Keep in mind that you have separate targets for 5x5 and
1x5 even though they are the same lift (i.e. bench press). The ramping is set separately for these
and they are treated separately. It's a good idea to start conservatively as this gets fairly
backbreaking and you'll be begging for week 5. The most common mistake is people starting too
high. It's 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, it'll 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 (meaning you are a
200lbs lifter and you'll be doing 400+ for 5x5 throughout the cycle) it's probably a good idea to
do lower the volume on that lift to 3x5 in this phase.
The easiest way to set this up the first time is to put current PRs in week 3 (with more
experience and relevant lifts you might have new PR goals in both weeks 3 and 4). Your 5RM
can be calculated and just drop off a given percentage for your 5x5RM (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 don't want to do is start
too high, you can always tack on another week but if you start too high you blow the
progression. Anyway, week 4 lifts are a margin above week 3, maybe 5%. It's important to plan it
out and then play it by ear as you go, adjust where need be so that you culminate with the 2 final
weeks. If that means starting lighter and running for 6 weeks that's 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, that's okay too - just be very conscious of

fatigue level. Your first time through you'll feel pretty beat up after the last week, that's okay. If
you are beat up entering the 2nd to last week, that's something to watch. You want to 'overreach'
which is before overtraining. Sometimes you'll encounter a performance deficit and not be able
to set PRs (very common for advanced athletes loading hard), without experience though you
don't want to push it too hard and overdo it - takes too damn long to recover from.

OPTION 1 - Deload and Peak 3x3:


This option provides for deloading in the middle weeks and working toward new PRs in
the final weeks (think of it as almost 2 loading phases as the 2nd will likely fatigue you by the
time you are done). This makes it a bit harder to handle particularly for first timers. In addition,
trainees might need a light week or two before moving back into another loading period.
Deloading Week - 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 3x3 and 1x3 setting records on week
8 and 9 (or the final 2 weeks of this phase). No Wednesday squatting. It's 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 that's okay - this won't hurt you at all and unless you are feeling
ripe it might well be beneficial. If you can't do all the work that's 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 you'll be ramping the weights from your deloading week to your 3x3 and 1x3 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%. You'll 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 you'll be spot on
but you wind up feeling your way to a degree the first time.
Post Cycle:
Depending upon how you feel, it's probably a good idea to deload again before moving
back into another volume phase if you ran the 3x per week like I outlined 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:

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 or until one wants to do
something else. Maybe that's 1-2 weeks for some people to build enough steam to jump back into
a loading phase. Maybe that's 4-5 weeks if someone feels they are really getting a lot out of it.
Week 5 and on switch to 3x3 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 don't get all the reps, keep the weight constant. You'll 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


The Lifts:
Squats - these should be full range Olympic style squats. Use the full range of your body - that
means as low as you can go which for almost everyone is past parallel. If the top of your thighs
aren't at least parallel it's for shit. If you think this is bad for your knees going low, you and
whoever told you that are relying on an old wives tale. Anyone who knows the human body will
tell you that below parallel is MUCH safer on the knees whereas parallel and above put all the
sheer right on them and doesnt allow proper transfer of the load to the rest of your body (this is
how your body was designed). Read the Squat article from Arioch linked in the TOC for a
complete description and references on the mechanics of the squat and depth.
Deads - each rep is deweighted fully on the floor. No touch and go. This is called the 'dead'lift
because the weight is 'dead' on the ground. You can touch and go warm ups but that's it.
Military - standing overhead presses. Supporting weight overhead is a fundamental exercise and
stimulates the whole body. Push presses are a fine substitute.
Rows - 90 degrees and done dynamically (Accelerate the weight into your body - do not jerk it
but constantly increase the pace like an oar through water). There is a TOC topic on rows, a good
read that also illustrates a version done from the floor.
Common Sense - this program has you train very hard and build quickly to heavy weights. If any
of these compound lifts are new to you (like dynamic rowing from the floor or deadlifting) it is
unsafe to subject yourself to this kind of unaccustomed work. Compound exercises have a way
of finding weak links in the body - heavy lifting has a way of stressing these weak links. What
this means is that the chance of injury is greatly increased. Spend some time working with the
lift(s) before beginning a program that pushes you this hard.
The rest is self explanatory.
Time Between Sets:
Don't over think this. Use a natural rep speed, take what you need between sets. Don't be lazy but
don't rush. You can't 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. I can see exceeding the 5 minute limit by a tad when really pushing near failure in the PR
weeks when you are uncertain of getting your reps on your last set. Just use your brain and don't
micromanage.
Diet:

Depends on whether you are trying to gain muscle or what. I will say that for gaining muscle,
caloric excess must be present. Read the caloric excess topic in the table of contents. More
people, particularly bodybuilders, go wrong here. If caloric excess is present and training stinks,
you will get fatter. The few guys who have come back with no weight gain got very strong and
gained no net weight - guess what - they were already fairly lean (i.e. no excess in their diet
otherwise they'd have been fatter) and they didn't gain fat or muscle (no caloric excess during
training). There's nothing any program can do if you won't eat. For the purposes of gaining
muscle or getting big and strong it's better to eat McDonalds and KFC all day long than not eat
enough Zen clean ultra pure food which might be healthier but if not enough there's simply
nothing to use to grow. So caloric excess is a requirement, you don't need to eat like a slob but it
will work infinitely better than not eating enough healthy food for this purpose. Lots of people
have gotten big and strong on diets that were bad, if you choose to eat squeaky clean, kudos to
you but it is not critical to putting on muscle (it might be critical to a long high quality life
though). If you need a more in depth explanation, look here.
Learning about Your Tolerances/Setting Up Your 2nd Training Cycle:
This can be somewhat daunting to set your weights the first time you run this and for reasons
already stated it's a lot better to be on the conservative side. I dont provide percentages because
this is very individual and I want people to pay attention to their bodies and learn stated
percentages have a way of short circuiting the learning mechanism even in the face of common
sense. Once you've been through this once, you'll learn a lot about your tolerances and you'll
have a set of very relevant records which you can sub right into the next training cycle. Your best
5x5 would become week 3 and then week 4 a margin above it (this is conservative) - or ideally
week 3 would exceed your best 5x5 by a margin and then week 4 above that (this makes for a
tougher loading cycle and this is one of the things you'll learn whether or not to do for your
current state of conditioning). In addition, if you are really loading hard, performance will
decline towards the end so setting records and actually getting the lifts may not be possible (and
thats okay because the juice comes on the other end). The other lifts 1x5, 3x3, 1x3 are similarly
adjusted based on previous records. Also, people's tolerances vary widely at every level. Take 2
top competitive lifters - they may lift exactly the same weight, have similar training history, and
be equally sized but one requires a massive amount of volume in training while another does not.
No ego just what each needs to stimulate progress. As you go, you'll learn all about what you
need, what you can handle, and what is too much. Eventually, you'll be able to tailor this
program or an entire 6 month training cycle to your individual specs and requirements.
Obviously reading the Training Theory topics in the TOC is going to really assist in providing
you a framework in how to quantify and design your programs.
Incorporating the Olympic Lifts:
The above is basically setup for someone who doesn't know the OLs. Starr's original workout
included Power Cleans and High Pulls. Instead of Bent Rows substitute Power Cleans. Rather
than Deads substitute High Pulls. Thats a quick and dirty way of handling this without much
disruption.

Substituting Exercises:

Don't fuck with this. Every bodybuilder seems to have Attention Deficit Disorder and an
overwhelming desire to customize everything. The bottom line is that these are all the most
effective exercises and just about anything one does will result in less gains. As a rule those
people who want to change it don't know enough to make proper alterations - those who do know
enough, don't have much to change. The two guys who are responsible for this program are some
of the best on the planet at bulking lifters and making people stronger. It's kind of like Sesame
Street's Elmo offering neurosurgery advice at NYU. Anyway, it's 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 that's okay. Do not sub machines - don't even think about it, hit yourself
with a plate if you must. If you want to do arms choose a single biceps and triceps exercise and
perform them at the end once per week for 3 sets of whatever - your arms will take a beating
from all the pulling and pressing anyway. If you can't chin due to bodyweight, pulldowns are
okay. Core work is always fine. Cardio is fine - interval training is the best for this I'll just throw
out. If this is just too much mental strain, take solace in the fact that it's 9 weeks, you'll gain a ton
of muscle and strength and then you can spend the next 4 weeks adding the minute detail to
refine the gained mass (like most care anyway - I have yet to meet a guy on this board who will
trade 20lbs of muscle for a bit of added detail somewhere). In a nutshell, put your trust in some
of the better coaches on the planet and enjoy the results. If it doesn't look like a typical program
to you, that's because most programs suck and almost require drugs or a total novice lifter to see
gains. 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 (either that or you'll settle for very
suboptimal gains or simply use increased drug dosage to compensate for shitty training). Read
the dual factor and training theory topics in the TOC.
Bands/Chains/Speed/DE:
If you don't know what this is, don't worry about it. Read up on Westside sometime - it's not
integral to the program but incorporating work like this into your training cycles can be
worthwhile no matter if you are a PL, general athlete looking for performance or bodybuilder.
For those that do and want to incorporate them, the 1x5 days are the days you would choose for
these in the generic layout.
New or Novice Lifters:
A dual factor program is unnecessary. This is more work than you need and slower progression.
Why add weight once every 4-8 weeks if you can string together new personal records for weeks
at a time back to back. I really recommend Rippetoe's Starting Strength for beginners or novices.
It's so critical to learn the lifts correctly and get started on a good program (i.e. not what one
typically finds on bodybuilding sites).
Advanced Lifters:
As one learns about one's tolerances and progresses over time one will generally find that one is
able to gradually accommodate more volume. Some might find it more advantageous from a
recovery standpoint to do all their 5x5 work on Monday and save the 1x5 for Friday. In terms of
this generic template what generally happens is that a lifter will remove the pyramid 1x5
workouts and swap them into a second 5x5 over time. In addition, an advanced lifter might start
their ramps much closer to their record weights (that said, this same lifter might need a longer
period of acclimation before being able to handle record weights so a lot depends on the

individual and the current state of the athlete). As one's weights increase the volume can also be
spread over 4 days rather than 3 to accommodate the fatigue from the heavier weights
especially the Wednesday deadlift. 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
would be within the context of a longer training plan like a planned out Macrocycle give a read
to Planning Your Training Cycle and the Training Theory section of the TOC). I'm just going to
state, this stuff is for someone who has spent some time doing this type of work. I only include
this for completeness because it is needed to illustrate progression and if I put an advanced
version down you can bet everyone would be doing it, burning out, making zero progress, and
Id be wrong and this program would be bad. The way I have it listed above will overload
just about anyone besides an accomplished seasoned lifter and push them to their limit if they set
their weight right. You apply more volume when you need it, not as an ego thing. This will
destroy or drastically limit your gains. Don't do this unless you've run many dual factor training
cycles and are absolutely sure you need it. I'm being overly cautious but most people on this
board come from a bodybuilding background where typical programs are the 3 day split variety
hitting each muscle 1x per week. This base program itself is a whole different world of volume
and the tweaks here can make it much more taxing and in every single case that I've seen where
someone is even relatively new to this style of program - they should not be employed.

SAMPLE TEMPLATE
This is a downloadable Microsoft 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. I've tried to make it applicable to an experienced trainee,
familiar with the lifts and just starting to run programs like this. Understand that this is just a
reference for what it might look like as some people do a lot better with an example - you don't
need or necessarily want to adhere to this.
TWO VERY IMPORTANT POINTS
1. When running this for the first time, you want to be constantly thinking about how
realistic expectations are (i.e. is next week too high or too low) and making changes as
needed to bring you up and time things correctly.
2. After you have run this even once, do not rely on this spreadsheet. You will do infinitely
better with even the tiniest bit of experience, a pencil, and your brain which is worth
infinitely more than the fanciest of spreadsheets.

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