Reg Park’s 3 Step 5×5 Routine: The Original Size & Strength Workout

If I could time travel, aside from using it to make millions a la Back To The Future Part II, I would pay a visit to my 15 year old self and impart some pearls of wisdom:

Get a haircut, stop wanking into a sock, and, most importantly, forget those endless bicep curl and tricep extension repetitions, as they’re not doing anything.

Instead – and this goes for all beginners who are taking their first nervous steps into the weight room – start with a well rounded size and strength routine like Reg Park’s 3 Step 5×5 workout.

Trust me, a solid routine such as this will do more for your gains in 6 months than that ‘Killer Bicep Pump Workout’ you found in Men’s Health magazine will do in 3 years.

What is 5×5?

reg park 5x5The idea behind 5×5 is extremely simple.

Each session is a full-body workout where you perform 5 sets of 5 reps on a range of compound movements.

The beauty of 5×5 is that it strikes a balance between strength and size protocols.

So if you’re looking to gain strength AND slabs of muscle this is the ideal training routine for you.

And, realistically, who doesn’t want that combo?

It’s like having your balls massaged by Emma Watson while someone else hands you a fat envelope full of cash.

(If you’re not looking to get strong and bulky, I have no idea why you’ve come to this website, or got this far into the article for that matter.)

Although the principles that underpin this routine were undoubtedly in use before Reg Park, it was the three-time Mr Universe – and perennial GymTalk favourite – who made it famous.

Since Reg Park, a number of other athletes and trainers have also championed the principles of this programme and their effectiveness for building size and strength, including Bill Starr and the popular Stronglifts and Madcow routines.

The Reg Park 3 Step 5×5 Workout

Reg Park’s 3 Step 5×5 workout is the original variation and also the most famous.

strength and bulk training for weightlifters and bodybuilders by reg park

First published in Park’s 1960 manual ‘Strength & Bulk Training for Weight Lifters & Body Builders‘, it comprises 3 phases of progressive volume and difficulty, with each phase lasting 3 months.

So, if you need help with the Maths, that means the entire cycle will last about 9 months.

Phase 1

Exercise Sets Reps
45-degree Back Extension 3 10
Back Squat 5 5
Bench Press 5 5
Deadlift 5 5

Phase 2

Exercise Sets Reps
45-degree Back Extension 3-4 10
Front Squat 5 5
Back Squat 5 5
Bench Press 5 5
Military Press 5 5
High Pull 5 5
Deadlift 5 5
Calf Raise 5 25

Phase 3

Exercise Sets Reps
 45-degree Back Extension 4 10
 Front Squat 5 5
 Back Squat 5 5
 Bench Press 5 5
 Bent Over Row 5 5
 Deadlift 5 5
 Behind-the-neck Press 5 5
 Barbell Curl 5 5
 Lying Triceps Extension 5 5
 Calf Raise 5 20

Notes

Warm Up Sets

What sets Park’s 5×5 routine apart from, say, Bill Star’s or Medhi’s’, is that the first 2 sets of 5 are warm-up sets.

For these 2 sets, progressively increase the weight at similar intervals.

So, for example, your 5 sets on Bench Press might look like this:

1 x 50kg, 1 x 75kg, 3 x 100kg.

Progression

Once you can complete that last 3 sets of 5 reps for an exercise, add 2.5-5kg to the bar.

Then just rinse and repeat.

Rest

Phase 1: 3-5 minutes between each set.

Phase 2: 2 minutes between each set.

Phase 3: 2 minutes between each set.

Failure

Park was a strong advocate of not training to failure as he believed this led to frustration and negativity which would hinder other heavy lifts.

So make sure you leave some juice in the tank while working through this routine!

Duration

For each phrase train 3 times per week for 3 months.

Recovery

Reg Park prescribes lots of rest and sleep (at least 8 hours) alongside a diet loaded with full cream milk, red meat, eggs, and protein powders.

Raaaaargh!

Thoughts

reg park 5x5I’m a huge advocate of this routine – it’s a simple, proven and ridiculously effective way to gain size and strength.

In my view, most beginners today are fed workouts by bodybuilding magazines which, while they might be might effective for a certain demographic, are not really geared towards building a well-rounded, structurally sound physique.

This 3 Step 5×5 routine harkens back to an era before steroids flowed like water and bodybuilders trained like strength athletes – and they were all the better because of it!

Having blown the trumpet for this routine, there are, however, some issues with it.

By the time you hit the phases 2 and 3 the volume of work in each session becomes insanely high.

In Phase 3, for instance, you will be working through 49 sets per session!

You will need at least 2 to 3 hours in the gym to get through all of that.

These colossal sessions were very common back in the day – indeed guys like Park, Reeves and Grimek used to live in the gym.

Unfortunately, most of us are not lucky enough to enjoy a career which involves downing milk and squatting, which means that fitting these monster sessions around your weekly routine can become problematic.

It can be done, but it’s certainly a tough gig.

I tend to either to split up the routine between 2 smaller sessions or drop down to 3 sets on some of the exercises.

And, as a final word of caution, while this routine is not as intense as say GVT or Squats and Milk, the high volume of sets involved still requires your respect, especially if you’re a beginner.

I guarantee your CNS will not know what’s hit it!

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Summary

Reg Park’s 3 step 5×5 routine is a classic routine for a reason: it is an extremely effective way to make impressive size and strength gains.

In fact, it’s pretty much impossible not to make huge gains during this programme – provided you’re training and eating consistently.

Ultimately, this is the routine I wish I had seen before I started my weightlifting journey!

Over To You

Have you tried this routine or any other 5×5 variations?

Thinking of giving this programme a go for the first time?

Have any questions?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments section below!