Beginner weight lifters looking to follow an effective workout routine need look no further than the popular Reg Park 5X5 workout. This simple lifting routine consists of a series of five sets of five repetitions of one exercise performed before you move on to a new exercise. Using a modified 3X5 formula, you can also build muscle as you are getting started.
To perform a 5X5 workout, do five repetitions of an exercise, take a one-minute break, then do another five reps of the same exercise. Continue this pattern until you have performed five sets of one exercise. Take a slightly longer break, then start a new series with a different exercise.
Fitness expert Steve Shaw recommends that beginners start workouts with two warm-up sets before finishing the final three sets with the maximum weight you can lift. You should perform your first set using only 60 percent of the maximum weight you can lift. Use 80 percent of your max for the second set, and finish with three sets at your max.
To determine what your max is for each exercise, perform an exercise until you reach a weight that only allows you to perform one rep before failure. If you can perform two or three biceps curls without taking a break, for example, you are not at your max. While you will perform five reps of an exercise for each of your 5X5 sets, you will pause and recover after each rep.
Once you know your max for an exercise, calculate the weight you need to perform your warm-up sets at 60 percent and 80 percent of your max.
Don’t stretch using traditional methods before your workouts. Stretching your muscle and holding it for 30 seconds desensitizes the muscle and results in a decrease in power. Warm up with dynamic stretches like jumping jacks and butt kicks to get your muscles warmed up and stretched. After you work out, cool down, letting your heart rate decrease gradually. Stretch your muscles thoroughly to help remove lactic acid that has built up during your lifting. This will help prevent muscle pain later.
Alternate your exercises, moving from upper-body exercises to lower-body exercises each time to decrease muscle fatigue and give your muscles time to recover before you start a new series of sets. Give your muscles at least 24 hours to recover after each workout to allow your muscles to repair and grow larger.
You can create an effective weight lifting routine using less weight and performing more reps, which will also burn more calories. Use about 50 percent of your max and perform reps for one minute, then take a one-minute break. Move from exercise to exercise after each set during your workout to create an effective circuit-training routine. By using less weight, you perform more reps, which can be just as effective as lifting your max, according to researchers at McMaster University. You can also perform 3X5 workouts, performing five reps of an exercise, but only three sets of each exercise before moving on to the next exercise.
Recalculate your max and warm-up percentages each week as you build strength. Keep a chart for each exercise to track you improvement. Add 2.5 to 5 pounds of weight to each exercise each week. Even if you can’t lift the weight, trying to do so will help build muscle, and you should eventually be able to lift that new weight.