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Compound Barbell Workout: The Big 3 for 5


Posted by Adrian K under Weight Training (Strength Training) on 14 September 2013 at 11:00 PM

Compound barbell exercises are one of the best ways to build strength and improve body composition. The Bench Press, Squat and Deadlift in particular, (known as The Big 3) are well known for providing excellent results when aiming to increase strength levels and improve your physique.The Big 3 for 5 Workout

The basic principle behind the 5x5 setup is to pick a weight that you can perform for 5 sets of 5 reps with solid form (no cutting of the ROM, kipping or otherwise cheating yourself). Whenever you can complete all of your sets and reps, you should increase the load (by a small increment) for your next training session.

Your strength for the 3 different exercises will not progress at the same rate, and you will stall at different points in each exercise. You will most likely find that your Bench Press will be the first to hit a snag, if one lift stalls - continue to progress as normal with the other two, deloading the weight slightly on the stalled lift. So where should you begin when it comes to training with the Big 3?

How often to train?

If you really want to see results you need to aim to complete the workout at least 2, ideally 3 times per week. Too little weekly volume resulting from a low training frequency and you will be selling yourself short, and you won't maximise your results in terms of developing your strength or your physique. On the other hand, avoid training back to back days. These moves can be very physically taxing, something that you will notice a lot more as you get stronger - your body will be grateful for the rest and you will be able to continue progressing.

How to train with the right weight?

If you are a beginner, there is absolutely no shame in starting with an empty Olympic bar and gradually adding increments or 2.5kg to 5kg per week as long as you continue hitting 5 sets of 5 with good form. After a few weeks you will have added some respectable weight to the bar.

If you have a bit more experience you could de-load slightly from your regular weights and work your way back up and past your plateau's. For example take somewhere around your current 10 rep max and aim to complete it for 5 sets of 5. When you hit all your sets, add a small increment for your next session.

How to make and measure progress?

It won't all be smooth sailing, and eventually you will hit plateaus - but these can be overcome with the right approach.

If you stall, finish the workout as best as you can (even if it takes more sets to get your reps done), then re-attempt the same workout for another 3 sessions, before dropping the weight down slightly and working your way back up again, taking more time with the eccentric phase (lowering of the weight), and accelerating the bar faster and more forcefully on the concentric (lifting) phase.

You could also look to add some additional assistance work to help you bust through plateaus. A couple of sets of chin ups, pull ups, barbell rows and overhead presses all make for good assistance work.

Make sure that you are tracking your progress and numbers with every session - this is very important, the easiest way to do that is right here on Tribesports with our training logging tool. Keeping track of what you are lifting is vital to make sure that you are moving in the right direction. Log your reps and sets as well as your weights, even just an extra couple of reps per week makes for progress.

Ready to start this great training program? Add the workout to your favorites and get lifting!

  • Encourage

    encouraged this.



    Am going to have to take this sometime in 2013. Have been following Wendler 5/3/1 for much of the year but have really noticed my squat misses out on only being pushed once a week. The Big Three are the Best. (As are the Lady Lifter series of challenges - hope they don't get lost in the challenge refresh!)

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