The 3×5 workout is a weight training program designed to build strength with the following guidelines:
- perform strength training three days a week, every other day
- traditionally Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
- take the weekend off to recover
What is the 3×5 Workout Plan?
The meat of the program is the full-body compound barbell exercises:
These barbell exercises will target all the muscles of your body.
3×5 refers to the set and repetition scheme of the program: 3 sets of 5 repetitions for the main work sets of the program.
Mark Rippetoe popularized the 3×5 workout in his classic book on basic barbell training Starting Strength.
The Basic 3×5 Workout Plan
The squat, bench press and deadlift are the foundation of the 3×5 workout plan.
These exercises are also the only competitive lifts in the sport of Powerlifting.
As a result, with these three lifts, you target all the muscles of your body.
Instead of focusing on strength gains in a smaller muscle group, like your biceps, or triceps only.
Smaller muscle exercises will result in less muscle strength gains than large muscles.
You will immediately understand why the 3×5 workout is so useful for athletes and anyone who wants to build muscle mass and improve health and fitness.
In a typical gym workout, you might spend thirty minutes to an hour walking on the treadmill or elliptical and then do some bicep curls, tricep press downs with dumbbells.
Even some leg presses, but then you finish up, leave the gym, and wonder why after years of working out like this, your body did not change much!
And it is not only your skeletal muscles that get stronger, but also your ligaments, tendons, bone strength, cardiovascular health, and endurance as well.
3×5 Workouts A and B
There are two workouts, A and B:
- Squats – 3 sets of 5 repetitions of your work sets (aka 3×5)
- Overhead or military press – 3 sets of 5 reps
- Deadlift – 1 set of 5 reps
- Squats – 3×5
- Bench press – 3×5
- Deadlift or power clean (as you get more comfortable with pulling weight from the floor) – 3×5
You alternate workout A and workout B on your strength training days. For example:
- Mon – Workout A
- Wed – Workout B
- Fri – Workout A, and continue the Monday of next week with Workout B
There are other modifications of the 3×5 workout, for example, Phraks Greyskull LP and LP Variant.
3×5 Workout Spreadsheet Comparison
A critical component of the 3×5 workout is to increase the weight for every exercise, every training session.
Even if you only increase your work set by half a pound, that is another personal victory for you.
Every day that you can push, press, or lift more weight, means that you are adding muscle and strength.
Just as high-quality real food is your friend, so too is your muscle mass, because muscle keeps you functional and mobile as long as you live.
A powerful multijoint exercise like the deadlift can even help rehabilitate older people who suffer from mobility problems.
For a dramatic illustration, see the story of the powerlifting grandma, Shirley Webb, who can now stand up unassisted from the floor, because she started deadlifting at the age of 75.
That’s right, Shirley is far stronger at age 81 than when she began deadlifting at 75.
It is never too late.
Progressive resistance training can help improve your mental and physical health and fitness, no matter what your age.
For this reason, these exercises, along with additional assistance exercises, form the foundation of the 3×5 workout plan.
Order of Exercises
The foundation of the 3×5 workout is the squat.
The purpose of squats first, and then press, is that once you get to the deadlift, your legs are warmed up for the deadlift.
Built into the 3×5 workout is the primacy of recovery:
- perform a 3×5 training session three times a week with a rest day in between, and weekends off
- so that your muscles will recover from the stress of the previous workout
- you run the risk of a chronic injury like tendonitis if you do not moderate training volume
- recovery also means that you eat quality food and get good sleep
3×5 Workout Equipment – Recommended Gear
Another advantage of the 3×5 workout is that you only need a minimum amount of weightlifting gear.
As a result, you can build a garage gym or home workout area and save money on a gym membership, and time.
Here are the essential pieces of equipment you need for the 3×5 workout:
#1. Power cage with weight bench combo
An excellent choice for a home gym is the Fitness Reality 810XLT which serves as a safe workout station for squats and bench press.
#2. Deadlift mats
Protect your floor and weights, and reduce noise in your home with these heavy-duty mats.
#3. Beginner Powerlifting Barbell
This CAP Barbell “Boss” Power bar is 7 feet long, weighs 20 kilograms (44 pounds), and is an excellent beginner powerlifting barbell for squats, deadlifts, and the bench press.
However, this center knurling version of “The Boss” barbell is not intended for Olympic lifts.
Instead, use this CAP Barbell silver-zinc “Boss” with no center knurl for Olympic weightlifting.
#4. Bumper plates
Visit The 7 Best Budget Bumper Plates for Your Home Gym: 2022 Buying Guide to learn what to look for in a good pair of bumper plates, their benefits, and additional purchasing choices.
#5. Olympic Fractional plates
Adding even as little as half a pound per training session is still progress.
Remember, progress, not perfection!
These 44SPORT fractional plates are the perfect way to practice micro loading and linear progression, which translates to more strength and mass.
#6. Barbell collars for safety
Greententljs Quick Release Barbell Collars secure the plates, are easy to put on and take off, and come in multiple colors at a low price.
#7. Gym Chalk
Improve your grip and reduce callouses with Gibson Athletic Gym Chalk.
#8. Squat and deadlift shoes
You do not need special shoes for the bench press, but you do need squat and deadlift shoes to promote stability and minimize your risk of injury.
See the 5 Best Shoes for Squats and Deadlifts: Review; Buying Guide for 2022 for additional details.
#9. Deadlift shin guards
It is better to have appropriate shin protection before scraping up your legs while deadlifting.
These easy-to-wear weightlifting shin guards will shield your shins and you don’t need to remove your shoes or training pants.
See 5 Best Deadlift Shin Guards on the Market Today for more buying choices and specifications.
3×5 Workout Program PDF
This monthly progress workout tracker helps you progress in your 3×5 workout plan.
Ed Coan, one of the greatest powerlifters of all time, attributed his success to recording and measuring training.
Included in this 15 page PDF is:
- All the exercises of the Rippetoe 3×5 workout program
- Each A and B workout is color-coded for ease of reference
- With sets, reps, rest, and a field to enter the lbs/kg you lift
- Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced phases
- Plus three options for the 3×5 workout, to rest up on Sunday, take the weekends off, or a Saturday rest day
- Last but not least, a full 12-month calendar to record your progress
Download your copy today, you have nothing to lose and plenty to gain!
3×5 Workout – Final Thoughts
Mark Rippetoe popularized the 3×5 workout, which is why it is also known as the Rippetoe 3×5 workout.
In a structured sequence, Rippetoe persuades you why full-body compound weight training is so practical for building strength.
Rippetoe is an American strength training coach, former powerlifter, and author of the classic barbell training book Starting Strength.
He tested his Starting Strength program as a powerlifter, coach, and gym owner for the last 30 years, and gives you the minimum effective dose of exercises that you need to build muscle mass.
Thirty years is a long time.
Why waste time trying to reinvent the wheel?
Of course, there are many approaches to strength training, but the good news is that the 3×5 workout has stood the test of time, and helped thousands improve their health and fitness.
This article will give you the basic concepts of how to implement the 3×5 workout routine for your body transformation.
You might not have time for a full 3×5 workout but fear not.
You do not need to do 3×5 weight training every other day to transform your body to leaner and stronger than you think possible.
Especially if you are overweight today.
Here is another approach:
- Learn how to lose 20 lbs in three months, which will help you achieve a normal weight for your height fast.
- Take a 30-minute walk every day.
- Use this beginner deadlift workout routine and 12-week program to maximize the number of muscles you target in your time training.
- Do pushups at home to complement your deadlifting pull movement with the classic push movement, the pushup.
Improving the quality of the food you eat, adding the deadlift, pushups, and a 30-minute walk every day is a simple recipe to change your body from fat to fit.
And when you get more time, do the 3×5 workout!
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