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3 Day Intermediate and Advanced 5×5 Full Body Workout Routine

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On this page, I'll present a 3 day, 5x5 full body workout routine for intermediate and advanced weight lifters.

Full body training is generally most effective for beginners (see my full body workout routine for beginners). For more experienced lifters, however, it may or may not be the best choice.

Sometimes intermediate and advanced trainees are better off doing weight lifting routines with overall higher volume and less training frequency per body part per week (e.g. a 4 day upper body/lower body split routine, where you hit each body part 2x/week).

Why? Well, full body routines entail hitting each body part 3x/week, which is considered high frequency training. Experienced trainees often need more days of rest between training the same muscles because they've developed the strength and endurance to "damage" an extent that it could hinder proper recovery on a high frequency routine.

Also, lower frequency routines allow for specialization, making it easy to focus on and improve lagging body parts or weak lifts. You can't really do this with full body routines.

However, intermediates and advanced trainees can benefit greatly from full body training if...

  1. They are focusing on strength development.
  2. The routine is set up intelligently, with the correct volume, intensity and progression.
  3. The training is periodized, allowing for cycles of heavy training and deloading.

Intermediate and Advanced 5x5 Full Body Workout Routine – Template

MondayWednesdayFriday
Week 1Workout AWorkout BWorkout A
Week 2Workout BWorkout AWorkout B

Workout AWorkout B
Squat - 5 x 5Deadlift - 5 x 5
Bench Press - 5 x 5Overhead Press - 5 x 5
Bent Over Row - 5 x 5Weighted Pull Up - 5 x 5
Dumbbell Lunge - 2 x 8-10Weighted Triceps Dip - 2 x 8-10
Weighted Crunches - 3 x 10-12Weighted Hyperextensions - 2 x 10-12

Intermediate and Advanced 5x5 Full Body Workout Routine – Guidelines

Follow these guidelines to get the best results from the above routine template:

Warm Up

Do a complete warm up routine before each workout. You shouldn't need more than 2 warm up sets for your first lift, since you get warmed up in the first couple of sets since you'll be gradually ramping the weight up.

Do at 1-2 warm up for each main lift after that. Just make sure that you don't fatigue your muscles on the warm up sets.

Rest Time Between Sets

For the 5x5 lifts, rest 1-2 minutes after the relatively easy sets (sets 1-3), and 2-4 minutes after relatively difficult sets (sets 4-5).

Rest 1.5-2 minutes between sets for the assistance lifts (dips, lunges, crunches and hyperextensions).

Weight & Progression

You will ramp up the weight on the 5x5 exercises (i.e. the 1st set is lightest, 2nd set is heavier and so on until the 5th and heaviest set).

First, you must know your approximate 5-rep max for each 5x5 lift (use this calculator to estimate).

On week 1, the fifth set for each 5x5 lift should be 90% of your 5-rep max. The first set of each 5x5 lift should be 50% of the fifth set. The weights used for second, third and forth sets should be equally spaced between weights used for first and fifth sets. I'll give an example of how to do these simple calculations, below:

Example: If your 5-rep max for squat is 300 lbs, then your 5th set should be 270 lbs (300 x 90% = 270) and your first set should be 135 (270 x 50% = 135). The first, second and third sets should be approx. 170 lbs, 205 lbs and 240 lbs, respectively.

Now that you have week 1 figured out for each 5x5 lift, the rest is simple. Increase each set by 2.5% every 5 or 9 days, on Mondays or Wednesdays only. That may sound confusing so let me explain, below:

If you add weight on a Monday workout, then you should increase the weight for those lifts again on the following Wednesday, 9 days later; and if you add weight on a Wednesday workout, then you should increase the weight for those lifts again on the following Monday, 5 days later – since we're dealing with an alternating A/B schedule, this averages out to increasing the weight for each workout every 7 days, over the long-term).

Eventually, adding weight will become too difficult. Going back 2 weeks, every 6-8 weeks (or until your progress plateaus), will encourage relatively consistent progress and help to avoid long plateaus.

For the assistance lifts (i.e. dips, lunges, crunches, hyperextensions), the protocol is simpler: Using the same weight for each set, stop within 2-3 reps of failure on the last set (it's okay to fail). Add weight as often as you can.

12 thoughts on “3 Day Intermediate and Advanced 5×5 Full Body Workout Routine”

  1. Hi, Alex. I just found your website, it’s cool. I was doing a routine just like your 3 day full body for beginners (except DL 3×5) for 6 months. Now all my lifts have stalled.

    I would love to try your 3 day full body for intermediate/advanced lifters, but I am little worry that ramping sets might not work, because only the last 2 sets will be the hard work sets. I was reading something on Strength Theory website, and it say that you should add more straight sets, not ramp. But I also know that adding more straight sets could be bad for recovery.

    So much conflicting info.

    1. Hi Chris, you can always modify the ramping as needed. So, for example, you could ramp up to you top weight for a given exercise in the first 2 sets (not including warm up sets of course); then complete the remaining 3 sets at the top weight for 3 sets across. Or you could do all straight sets.

      I’d recommend going with first option for you, and see how it works. If after a few weeks, it feels like you’re not getting enough work in on heavier weight, then go straight sets across.

      Try not to get overwhelmed by all the information out there. Many times it’s not actually conflicting info, so much as it is different ways to do the same thing. Assuming you’ve got a good enough foundation of basic knowledge, it comes to the point where you just have to pick choose one method, try it, see how it works/how you like it, then try another, compare methods, and so on–After doing this enough, over a long period, you’ll get an idea of what works best for you, your goals and your preferences in terms of how you enjoy training.

  2. Interesting, in the beginner full body 5×5, you do straight sets. But in the intermediate/advanced full body 5×5, you do ramp sets.

    I’d think that as you get more advanced, you would need to add more straight sets, not change to ramp sets where only the last two sets could be considered the real work sets.

    I am new to lifting. So I don’t know anything.

    I am 5’8″, 165lb. If I were to follow the beginner and intermediate/advanced full body routine and lean bulk, what would be my expected bodyweight and lift numbers?

  3. Do any advanced lifters use full body routines? I really enjoy them and feel like I get stronger faster on full body routines instead of splits which I find boring. All I see is full body is for beginners only.

    1. Yes, many advanced lifters use full body routines. I have been doing so for about a year now, and gaining strength at a rate that I’m satisfied with and overall I’m loving the schedule.

      That said, you have to consider two things:

      1. It may not be “optimal” compared to, say, 4 or 5 day routines that enable greater volume for more muscle groups and more variety in terms of exercise choice.
      2. You generally have to spend more time in the gym to get sufficient volume for decent gains, especially if you’re trying to work on peripheral muscle groups (e.g. arms, side/rear delts). I’m usually in there for about 2 hours, though sometimes I can get out in 90 minutes.
  4. Alex,
    I’m going to start this routine today.
    On 2 alternate days I’ll be doing Muay Thai kickboxing for 1 hour sessions.
    Will I still gain from your programs?
    Also, my set up is in my basement.
    Can 5×5 work if I use heavy tension bands or do I need weights?
    Thanks for your time and input.

  5. On days when you are not adding weight, do you lift the same amounts that you did the workout before where you added weight?

    1. Thanks for the question, Gundy. Yes, that’s correct–unless you’ve plateaued on that workout for let’s say 3 weeks in a row. At that point, I would decrease the weight by maybe 10-20% and continue ramping up week after week from there.

  6. Hi Alex,

    Very interesting program you have here. I used your three-day beginner routine with great success over a period of seven months, and would now like to transition to this one, as my linear progress has begun to slow.

    That said, strictly with regard to the big three, I would prefer the three-rep range, as I plan to program my own assistance work, which will make up for the minimal amount of work with the main three lifts. How should I go about ramping to a three-rep max?

    Best,

    Gerald

    1. Hi Gerald. So you would be doing 5 sets of 3 for the main lifts? If so, then for your first set, maybe start around 70% of you 1 rep max. Work your way up to 85% of your 1 rep max for your final set of 3 reps. Then you can slowly increase the weight (only if you’re able to) every week or two. Remember, it’s always better to progress slower and stay injury-free than it is to progress faster and get injured.

      1. Hi Alex,

        Thank you for answering my question in a timely matter! I will definitely take heed of both parts of your response.

        I do have a few more questions that I hope you can take the time to answer as well.

        1) How long should I be resting between each set?
        2) Would a different amount of sets be more beneficial than five?
        3) Just to make sure I am understanding the idea of working my way up to eighty-five prevent of my one rep max, I wanted to provide an example of how I would go about executing this plan:

        My current bench press max is 315 (this is a tested max with full range of motion by the way):
        First set (70%): 220, second set: 235, third set: 245, fourth set: 255, fifth set: 265 (85%, but I rounded down to be safe, since 85% of 315 is 267.75).
        4) Just out of curiosity, and please do not answer this question, if you do not feel comfortable doing so, or feel that it would be a waste of time: what are your maxes for the squat, bench press, and deadlift? In no way is this question intended to establish your credibility or something asinine like that, it was genuinely asked out of curiosity.

        Best,

        Gerald

          1. However long you need to feel ready for the next set, but absolutely no longer than that (it’s easy to get lazy and waste time on your phone…try to avoid that). If you’re looking for a guideline, it’s usually 2-4 minutes for most people in this rep range depending on which set you’re on.
          2. I think 5 sets is right in the sweet spot for sets of 3, especially if you’re ramping weights like this. If you were doing sets across with 3 reps (i.e. all sets being the same; usually the percent of 1RM for each set is higher than your average set when ramping), then maybe 3 or 4 sets would be more appropriate.
          3. That looks good. As long as you’re not struggling on your final set in the first workouts, that’s a good starting point. If you are struggling early on, then decrease all sets by 5-10%. You want to leave room to progress, not start out at a wall.
          4. Well — how bout this: I’ll tell you the lift I’m most proud of 😀 — That’s my squat, which I’m currently doing for 455x2x2 ATG for my top sets. My bench and deadlift both need work. So get back to me on those later in the year haha.

          Let me know if you have any other questions along the way.

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