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5 x 5 Workout Rep/Set/Weight Comparison

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  • 5 x 5 Workout Rep/Set/Weight Comparison

    In the past, I have done a ton of 5 x 5 straight sets for bench. I hit 265 x 5 x 5 with 3 minutes rest in between sets a few weeks ago and then stalled out there. Too many reps being ground out in subsequent workouts. So I decided to try a new approach yesterday that I had used with a friend years ago. I did a 5 x 5, but it was not with straight sets or ramped up sets. We used descending sets. So I warmed up, then went 265 x 5, 255 x 5, 245 x 5, 235 x 5, 225 x 5, then a burnout set at 185 of 16 reps. Obviously this would be an easier workout than 265 x 5 x 5 if I had taken 3 min rest, but I limited the rest to about 1:30-1:45.

    So my question is, what is the main difference between the benefits of the two workouts? I’m guessing that the second won’t yield the strength results of the first and is more endurance based because of the decreased rest. I just felt like as far as muscle fiber activation, the second one did a better job at more recruitment.

  • #2
    It's really hard to look at outcomes of a program based on a single workout in a non novice lifter. That said- both programming options look suboptimal for strength and hypertrophy development. Here is a run down of why:

    Workout 1: 265 x 5 x 5 w/ 3 min rest periods. This is probably somewhere in the 70-75% range, which is good for strength and hypertrophy, but the rest periods probably make this more fatiguing with less of a benefit than if you had longer rest periods. I would expect you could run that out longer linearly if the rest of your programming was in tact, but inevitably- doing the same workout ad nauseam will stop working. You probably had a little bit of both factors contributing to your stagnation (without knowledge of anything else). Additionally, this is probably not enough volume compared to your current training level to drive hypertrophy improvements maximally.

    Workout 2: more volume and tonnage (due to the "burnout" set), but less tonnage and intensity without it. This probably produces less strength gain for the bench because your average intensity is likely < 70% and things get murky down there. It's probably fine from a hypertrophy standpoint outside of the fatigue/benefit analysis. Training to failure doesn't improve hypertrophy outcomes, but it does cause more fatigue. A better option would be to accrue volume in submaximal sets.

    In short, outside of a specific conditioning effect- the rest periods don't do jack for either goal.

    You also can't feel muscle fiber activation.

    If you want to bench 315 for reps, you'll need to start training correctly
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