If you’re looking for the best way to grow muscle or get strong in the gym, you might find yourself wondering what the best set and rep scheme is. Two common set and rep schemes are 5×5 and 3×10. So which is best?
The 5×5 and the 3×10 rep schemes can both be used to build muscle strength and size. While some lifts are better suited for one option over the other, the end results will be a function of intensity, consistency, volume, and frequency. When these are applied correctly, each rep scheme is effective.
In this article, I’ll go into more detail about the 5×5 and 3×10 rep schemes, loading protocol for each one, and which one is best for different types of lifters. By the end, you’ll be able to determine which rep scheme you should follow to help you achieve your goals.
What Is 5X5?
A 5×5 scheme means you are to perform 5 sets of 5 reps for a given exercise, with significant rest in between sets to recover.
Load and Rest
Because you are only performing 5 reps in each set, the load should be relatively heavy compared to higher rep schemes. 5×5’s are usually done with 81-87% of your max weight for that exercise.
In a 5×5 program, your first one or two reps should feel easier than usual, while your fourth and fifth reps should feel like it’s requiring about 90% of your max effort to complete them. This would be equal to what your effort would feel like if you had attempted 90% of your max weight for a single rep.
Because these sets use a heavier load, you should plan on 4-8 minutes of rest to fully recover before performing each subsequent set.
Because this rep scheme calls for heavier loads, it is ideally used with compound lifts, or lifts that use several muscles to complete the full movement. Examples are the squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, and some rowing exercises like barbell rows.
What Programs Use It?
5×5’s are commonly used in strength programs, as they have an impact both in developing muscle strength and size.
5×5 is the primary rep scheme of the “Starting Strength” program. 5-rep sets are also completed during certain weeks in Wendler’s 5/3/1 program. But it should be noted that 5/3/1 doesn’t follow a true 5×5 structure. However, certain variations may call for that rep scheme for secondary movements after the main lifts.
More broadly, powerlifting programs of all kinds will at least have periods of 5×5’s to build strength and muscle early in a training block.
Wondering how 5/3/1 stacks up against another popular powerlifting program, the Texas Method? Check out my comparison of the two programs in Texas Method vs Wendler 5/3/1: Differences, Pros, Cons.
Who Uses It?
The 5×5 rep scheme is very commonly used by beginner lifters, as it’s a good balance of using a relatively heavy load and keeping the rep range up.
That said, 5×5 never loses its ability to aid the intermediate and advanced lifter, so long as intensity, load, frequency, and volume are managed accurately.
Want to get advice on programming, technique, or competing? Speak with one of our coaches.
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What Is 3X10?
A 3×10 scheme means you are to perform 3 sets of 10 reps for a given exercise, with short or moderate rest in between sets to recover.
Load and Rest
Because you are performing 10 reps in each set, the load should be relatively light or moderate compared to lower rep schemes. 3×10’s are usually done with 71-77% of your max weight for that exercise. It’s unlikely you will have tested your 1-rep max with every exercise, so this should be estimated in most cases.
In a 3×10, your first 1-6 reps should feel easier than usual, while your final 2-3 reps should feel like it’s requiring about 90% of your max effort to complete them. Those last reps should feel as if you had attempted 90% of your max weight for a single rep.
Because these sets use a lighter load, you should plan on 1-3 minutes of rest between sets.
Because this rep scheme calls for lighter loads, this rep scheme is commonly used with isolation lifts, or lifts that isolate a single muscle to perform the movement. Examples are bicep curls, tricep extensions of any kind, shoulder lateral or front raises, and pec flys.
However, compound lifts are also effectively trained with the 3×10 scheme, especially for hypertrophy when strength gains are not the immediate, primary goal. Compound lifts done on a 3×10 scheme are great for building muscle, burning total calories, and increasing work capacity/endurance.
Wondering if isolation exercises can benefit your powerlifting training? Check out Do Powerlifters Do Isolation Exercises? (Yes, Here’s How).
What Programs Use It?
3×10’s are present in nearly every program out there. While they are the primary rep scheme for most full-body programs (where you train something on your entire body from head to toe each training session) and general strength and conditioning programs, they are also common in powerlifting programs.
In powerlifting programs, you may see 3×10’s prescribed for isolated exercises, accessory movements, hypertrophy blocks, off-season strength and hypertrophy programs, and for added volume on a weak point such as the glutes or chest.
Who Uses It?
The 3×10 scheme is very commonly the “default setting” for most people in the gym, from beginners to long-time lifters. Because there is less of a load requirement, this scheme is great for beginners to safely get a feel for an exercise, learn proper technique, and begin to estimate their actual capabilities and target load.
For intermediate and advanced lifters, the 3×10 scheme will never go out of style because of its ability to push a muscle to failure or near failure with safer load levels and the hypertrophic effects of the higher rep range.
While powerlifters can (and should) train in higher rep ranges during certain times in their training cycles, it’s recommended to avoid training the squat, bench, and deadlift to failure. Find out why in Do Powerlifters Train To Failure? (Not Often, Here’s Why).
5X5 vs 3X10: Which Is Better For Muscle Growth?
While both rep schemes are used in programs to grow new muscle, 3×10 is the best answer when hypertrophy is the goal.
That said, this is only true if you are properly controlling for volume, frequency, consistency, and intensity.
For example, let’s compare two hypothetical lifters. One is on a 5×5 program and one is on a 3×10 program.
The lifter using the 3×10 scheme only used 50% of their 1RM (instead of the prescribed 75%), while the lifter performing 5×5’s used the prescribed 87% of their max. The 5×5 lifter will get better results because they’re actually doing it with the proper load and intensity. The same goes for volume, frequency, and consistency.
5X5 vs 3X10: Which Is Better For Building Strength?
Look at any legitimate strength program out there, and it’ll focus on lower-rep, higher load set schemes. Because 5×5 uses heavier loads, it’s superior for strength training. But don’t throw away 3×10 if you are just focused on getting stronger.
Building strength continually also means adding new muscle, so a lifter focused on strength would also want to include sets of 3×10 somewhere in their training, whether periodically in blocks or weekly alongside their 5×5’s.
Ultimately, if your immediate goal (or even long-term goal) is maximal strength, you will want more emphasis on 5×5 work than 3×10 work.
With all of that said, you can still build muscle even if you’re following a 5×5 program to gain strength for powerlifting. Find out how in Can You Build Muscle With Powerlifting? (Yes, Here’s How).
5X5 vs 3X10: Which Is Better For Getting Ripped?
This is a fun one, almost a trick question, because both of them would be equally effective for getting ripped. Crazy, right?
But the fact is that getting ripped really means getting lean, and getting lean is 100% a function of your diet, not your rep scheme.
When it comes to lifting while shredding, you simply want to continue using your muscles with intensity so that your body stays adapted to the load you’ve trained it to withstand each week. Therefore, it won’t atrophy the muscles it thinks you don’t need to maintain.
Secondly, you want to continue to expend calories so that you can shed fat and make your muscles more visible.
For this reason, a lifter who continues training 5×5’s with intensity would see similar results to a lifter who performs 3×10’s with intensity, so long as they are both in a total caloric deficit (eating less than your body needs each day), while keeping their protein intake high (above 30-40% of your total calories each day).
A lifter performing 3×10’s on their compound lifts would burn far more calories in a workout than by doing 3×10’s on isolation lifts only (assuming they perform the same number of total sets), which makes exercise selection a factor for shredding as well.
Where you’ll see a difference is in whether or not you can sustain 5×5 training while eating in a caloric deficit versus performing 3×10’s. If your energy levels are too low, or load feels unreasonably heavy, you’ll want to consider the 3×10’s.
Alternatively, if you have a hard time getting through 10 reps in a set, you might find a lower rep range is favorable with lower energy.
We cover ways you can get leaner and stronger at the same time in Powerlifting For Fat Loss: How To Do It (Ultimate Guide). Even though this article is written with powerlifters in mind, many of the principles in it can apply to all kinds of lifters.
Two Ways To Use 5X5 And 3X10 Workouts
There are two ways you can incorporate both rep schemes into your program – through daily periodization or through block periodization.
Daily Periodization Model
A daily periodization model means you add variation in your rep schemes or training goals throughout the week.
For example, you might train your bench press on Monday for maximal strength, relying on 5×5’s so you can use a heavy load. Then on Thursday, you train the bench press muscles again, but perform isolated chest, shoulder, tricep, and back exercises on a 3×10 rep range to grow those muscles over time.
Each week, you get your muscles stronger with the 5×5 range, you train them to grow bigger with the 3×10 range, and you maximize those results by splitting up your training into two workouts per week instead of jamming all the volume into a single workout.
Still not convinced that you should do high-rep training as a powerlifter? Find out why I recommend it in Do Powerlifters Do High Reps? (Yes, Here’s Why).
Block Periodization Model
In a block periodization model, you break your goals up into phases and train exclusively for that goal during the block.
For example, you might start your 12-week training cycle with a 4-week block of hypertrophy, focused on 3×10’s across the board for your compound lifts as well as your isolated lifts and accessory lifts.
In the next four weeks, your block changes to a strength-focused block where the 5×5 scheme is king, training all your new muscle to get stronger.
What To Read Next:
- Prilepin’s Chart For Powerlifting: How To Use It Effectively
- Bench Press Pyramid – What Is It, How To Do It, and Common Mistakes
There’s nothing magical about 5 reps versus 10 reps by itself. It only makes a difference if those reps are intense, they lead you to muscle failure or near failure with each set, you train them often, you train them consistently, and you perform enough total volume each week.
Assuming you are doing those things right, then the 5×5 scheme will be great for building strength, and the 3×10 scheme will be great for building size.
But remember, this is more of a Venn diagram comparison. There is considerable overlap between the two, so lifters should rarely exclusively train one over the other. Each rep scheme is capable of adding both strength and size when applied correctly.
About The Author
Adam Gardner is a proudresident of Utah, where he lives with his wife and two kids. He has been competing in powerlifting since 2016 in both the USPA and the APF. For the past three years, he and his wife, Merrili, have coached beginning lifters to learn the fundamentalsof powerlifting and compete in their first powerlifting competitions.
Is it better to do 5X5 or 3X10? ›
5X5 vs 3X10: Which Is Better For Muscle Growth? While both rep schemes are used in programs to grow new muscle, 3×10 is the best answer when hypertrophy is the goal. That said, this is only true if you are properly controlling for volume, frequency, consistency, and intensity.Is 5 sets of 5 better than 3 sets of 8? ›
The group that did 5 sets per exercise gained more strength, endurance, and muscle than the groups that did 1 or 3 sets per exercise or body weight exercises. The main finding was that the more sets people did, the better their results on the whole.Is 5X5 the best rep scheme? ›
Although 5 repetitions are fewer than the typical 8–12 range often utilized in muscle building, research suggests that loads of 5 repetitions or even lower lead to substantial gains in muscle tissue and strength ( 4 , 5 ).Is 5 reps or 10 reps better? ›
Training with weights where you can do about 1–5 reps per set (>85% of 1RM) seems to be the most effective for strength, but training with weights up to about 10–20 reps per set (~60% of 1RM) is still moderately effective. Lighter than that, and the strength gains diminish.Is 3x10 enough reps? ›
You will not build muscle by performing 3 sets of 10 during your weight training workouts. You must do many more reps and sets to build muscle and strength.What is the best rep scheme for strength? ›
If your objective is strength or power (think: heavy lifting), the textbook advice is to perform 3 to 5 sets of 2 to 6 reps per exercise. For hypertrophy (building muscle), the sweet spot is 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 12 reps. And if your objective is muscular endurance, shoot for 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 20 reps.Is 5x5 enough for hypertrophy? ›
The 5x5 workout is primarily for hypertrophy, or, muscle growth. For beginning to experienced lifters, 5x5 is appropriate for those who want to increase both upper body and lower body strength, and also muscle mass.Why 5x5 is the best? ›
5x5 training is one of the original and most popular muscle mass building programs being used by elite bodybuilders and athletes. It's designed to hit a muscle group hard 2-3 times per week, while still providing enough recovery time to promote significant muscle growth.Is 3 sets of 8 12 good? ›
You can still build muscle with 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps — provided you train close to failure and progressively overload. But it isn't the most optimal, instead: Choose your rep range based on the exercise — the larger and more the muscles involved, the lesser the reps. Even then, don't venture below 3 reps or above 30.Is 5x5 good for powerlifting? ›
The 5x5 approach is pretty damn good for building strength. However, it might not necessarily translate to a proportional increase in 1RM strength. For example, if your 5RM strength increases by 20%, maybe your 1RM will increase "only" by 10%. Furthermore, the light days don't contribute much to strength improvement.
Does 5x5 work every muscle? ›
Together, these compound exercises work your whole body. This is what makes this program so time-efficient – you can train every single muscle by doing only three exercises per workout. This can be hard to believe if you're used to training one muscle a day by doing a dozen of exercises per workout.What percentage of 1RM for 5x5? ›
The most common figure I see is that a 5×5 workout is best done with about 81% of your 1RM. That works out to about 90% of your desired 90% intensity.Is 3 or 5 sets better? ›
Therefore, during a long training period, 5 sets per exercise is superior to 3 sets per exercise and 3 sets per exercise is superior to 1 set per exercise to cause increases in upper-body strength, local muscular endurance, and hypertrophy.Is it better to lift heavy or more reps? ›
So, in general, low reps with heavy weight tends to increase muscle mass, while high reps with light weight increases muscle endurance. This doesn't mean that you have to rely on one method exclusively. Alternating between the two may be the best approach for long-term success.Is 5 reps enough for strength? ›
This continuum states that 1–5 reps are ideal for strength, 6–12 reps are ideal for muscle growth, while 13+ reps are ideal for muscular endurance. This continuum does have some truth to it. More specifically, 1–5 reps are generally preferred for maximal strength development.Is 5X5 or 3X3 better for strength? ›
It all depends on what exercises you pick and how the workout weeks are structured. The 3X3 protocol is also a great prelude to the 5X5 program. Why? The 3X3 program will get you very strong, and the stronger you are the more effective the 5X5 program will be.What is the best rep range for size? ›
Reps for muscle growth
In order to get bigger and stronger, you must ensure your muscles work harder than they are used to. Generally, between 6-12 reps for 3-6 sets will help to build overall muscle size.
The 5x5 rep scheme is very good for both muscle and size. 5 reps is probably the most useful number of reps overall and 5 sets is a highish volume usage of them, appropriate for a lifter adapted to high volume, healthy and motivated.What is the best rep scheme for powerlifting? ›
The best rep ranges for growing muscle are higher repetitions between 6-12 reps. With these higher rep sets it is easier to accrue more total volume and time under tension (how long the muscles are worked for under load), which are key for muscle hypertrophy.What is the best set rep combo? ›
Sets of anywhere from 4–40 reps will stimulate muscle growth quite well, but most research shows that doing 6–20 reps per set is the most efficient way to build muscle. Bodybuilders often use the middle of that range, favouring 8–12 reps per set.
What is the best rep scheme for strength and hypertrophy? ›
A low repetition scheme with heavy loads (from 1 to 5 repetitions per set with 80% to 100% of 1-repetition maximum (1RM)) optimizes strength increases. A moderate repetition scheme with moderate loads (from 8 to 12 repetitions per set with 60% to 80% of 1RM) optimizes hypertrophic gains.Is 5x5 good for progressive overload? ›
StrongLifts 5×5 is built on a solid foundation of compound barbell lifts, full-body workouts, and progressive overload. The overall volume is fine for a beginner, too, just with too much of it in the lower body.Will StrongLifts 5x5 build big arms? ›
StrongLifts 5x5 already works your arms. Pressing the bar on the Bench and Overhead Press works your triceps. Pulling the bar on the Barbell Row works your biceps. Gripping the bar hard on Deadlifts and Squats works your arms.How long does it take to see results from StrongLifts 5x5? ›
For most people, this will be 3-8 months. After that, you'll want to start looking at intermediate programmes that allow you to recover better, as well as develop some muscular size and build your strength potential.Is 5x5 or 3x5 better for strength? ›
While the highly popular 5×5 set and repetition scheme will also yield progress, 3×5 will actually produce better strength gains in less time for the novice.What is the best 5x5 method? ›
The Redux method is by far the most popular way to solve a 5x5.How long should you rest between 5x5 sets? ›
You may perform the exercises as straight sets (complete all sets for one lift before moving on to the next) or alternate sets of the two 5×5 exercises (in Workouts A and B). Rest, as needed, between all sets, and at least 90 seconds between sets of the 5×5 exercises.Is 3 sets of 5 enough for strength? ›
Through long experience, for most trainees, three sets of five has been found to be an effective dose that allows the trainee to recover and adapt enough to train again in two days. In short, 5x5 three times a week is too much.How many sets are best for muscle growth? ›
SETS. Muscles do not naturally want to grow; they must be forced to grow through consistent periods of stress. Therefore, higher volumes of training have been found to yield better results for hypertrophy (Hedrick 1995). Typically, 3-5 sets are recommended for optimal hypertrophy.Is 5x5 enough for bench press? ›
Five by five workouts are effective. This fact can't be denied. They build strength, and provide a good enough mix of volume and weight intensity to build muscle.
What are the golden 5 exercises? ›
The five basic exercises bench press, deadlift, squats, shoulder press and pull-up are generally known as the big 5 of strength training. Due to the adjustability of the resistance, the lat pull-down is often used instead of the pull-up.What percentage of my 1 rep max should I lift for 5 reps? ›
3-rep max – 94% 4-rep max – 92% 5-rep max – 89% 6-rep max – 86%What is the Texas method for powerlifting? ›
The Texas Method is a three-days-per-week training regimen that emphasizes volume on Mondays, active recovery on Wednesdays, and intensity on Fridays. Rippetoe was inspired by an old bench press workout from Canadian strongman Doug Hepburn, in which Hepburn would do 5 heavy 1-rep sets followed by 5 heavy 5-rep sets.Is 3 sets of 5 good for building muscle? ›
If you're trying to build muscle and get bigger, doing sets of 3 or sets of 5 or sets of 10 will ALL help you get bigger, if you're eating enough to get bigger! If you're trying to lose weight, it doesn't matter if you do sets of 15 or sets of 5 if you are consistently overeating by 1,000 calories a day.What is the best number of sets to do? ›
No matter how many reps you're completing per set, most fitness experts recommend performing between two and six sets for each exercise. Anything below two sets may not challenge you enough; anything over six sets could lead to overworked muscles.Is 3 sets of 3 reps enough? ›
Reasoning: 3 sets of 3 reps allows the lifter to handle near maximal loads without pushing to the point of a true one repetition maximum (1RM). In doing so, the lifter can achieve an adequate strength stimulus without worrying as much about technical breakdown.
Repetition-based sets can build both muscular strength and endurance. Generally, low reps (two to six) will build muscle strength. If you want more muscle growth, 6 to 12 repetitions build muscle mass. More than 12 reps build muscular endurance.Do higher reps build more muscle? ›
More repetitions with lighter weights can build muscle as well as heavier weights -- assuming they are done to the point of exercise-induced fatigue. And fatigue is the important point. That means even with light weight, the last two to three reps should be hard.Do legs respond better to higher reps? ›
Use Higher Reps
The rule of thumb for gaining size is to use a rep range of 8-12. With legs, however, I always found – and research backs me up – that higher reps produce the biggest gains. I experienced great results with squats, lunges, leg presses and leg extensions when doing sets of 15-20 reps.
Therefore, during a long training period, 5 sets per exercise is superior to 3 sets per exercise and 3 sets per exercise is superior to 1 set per exercise to cause increases in upper-body strength, local muscular endurance, and hypertrophy.
Does 5X5 make you bigger? ›
Every StrongLifts 5×5 workout starts with 5 sets of squats. Squats are a great lift for building muscle in your quads and glutes, which are the two biggest muscles in your body. By emphasizing those muscles, you can indeed build quite a lot of overall muscle mass.Is 3x10 good for fat loss? ›
Is 3x10 good for weight loss? Many people who buy a gym membership do so because they want to lose fat. If you are one of those people, the 3x10 is vastly superior to the 5x5 approach. It is higher in volume, which means you will spend more energy, hence burn more fat and get better conditioning.Why is 5X5 workout the best? ›
SL 5X5 uses compound lifts.
These exercises work large numbers of muscles at the same time, which means they also stimulate growth in all of those muscles. The bench press, for example, is going to build muscle not just in the chest, but the deltoids and triceps as well.
The 5x5 workout is primarily for hypertrophy, or, muscle growth. For beginning to experienced lifters, 5x5 is appropriate for those who want to increase both upper body and lower body strength, and also muscle mass.What reps are best to build muscle? ›
Reps for muscle growth
In order to get bigger and stronger, you must ensure your muscles work harder than they are used to. Generally, between 6-12 reps for 3-6 sets will help to build overall muscle size.
Repetition-based sets can build both muscular strength and endurance. Generally, low reps (two to six) will build muscle strength. If you want more muscle growth, 6 to 12 repetitions build muscle mass. More than 12 reps build muscular endurance.Does 5x5 hit all muscles? ›
StrongLifts 5×5 is a full body training program. Every exercise works several muscles. Together, these compound exercises work your whole body. This is what makes this program so time-efficient – you can train every single muscle by doing only three exercises per workout.How heavy should 5x5 be? ›
The most common figure I see is that a 5×5 workout is best done with about 81% of your 1RM. That works out to about 90% of your desired 90% intensity.What is the best rep scheme for fat loss? ›
Ideally, you would train 50% of the time in the 8-15 rep range, and the other time could be spent training between 3-8 reps and 15-25 reps. One research found that the best rep range for universal strength training during a weight loss phase is between 9-12 repetitions (6).What is the best set rep for weight loss? ›
In general: For fat loss: One to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps using enough weight that you can only complete the desired reps. To gain muscle: Three or more sets of 6 to 8 reps to fatigue.
What rep range is best for fat loss? ›
In summary, the ideal rep ranges for fat loss and muscle building likely occur within the 6-12 rep range.Is it better to lift heavy with less reps? ›
So, in general, low reps with heavy weight tends to increase muscle mass, while high reps with light weight increases muscle endurance. This doesn't mean that you have to rely on one method exclusively. Alternating between the two may be the best approach for long-term success.How long should you stay on 5x5? ›
How Long Should You Do a 5x5 Program? Stick with 5x5 training for at least four weeks. If you hit all your reps, you should hopefully be setting new rep maxes and seeing a significant increase in both strength and muscle. If you're still making gains, stick with it for another four weeks.