Introduction to the Bill Starr 5×5 Routine
The Bill Starr 5×5 is a popular choice among intermediate lifters. It is easy to understand and follow, allows for steady weekly increases, and has simple de-loads / resets built right in. It’s meant to get you bigger and stronger, and more importantly training correctly.
Is Bill Starr for you?
With the original program, weekly progression at a rate of 2.5% is built into Bill Starr. This usually translates to great gains as an intermediate, but too large increases of weekly weights for an advanced lifter, and possibly too slow progress for a brand new beginner.
Estimated examples for the Bench Press:
- 100 pound Bench = 2.5 Pound increase Weekly – (Somewhat slow rate of increase)
- 200 pound Bench = 5 Pound increase Weekly – (Usually a safe rate of increase, perfect)
- 400 pound Bench = 10 Pound increase Weekly – (Rate of increase too fast, high chance of only a very short term success)
This program typically works best for those who are already proficient at the Squat, Bench, Deadlift, Row, and Overhead Press.
Bill Starr Explained
This program is a little different than most. Here’s the outline of how it works.
- Monday – Work up to the prescribed top set of 5 on Squat, Bench Press, and Barbell Row. This day is typically the most difficult day of the week.
- Wednesday – Lighter squats, Military Press for a top set of 5, and Deadlifts for a top set of 5.
- Friday – Work up to top set of 3, with a weight +2.5% heavier than you did Monday. This day is similar to Monday.
- Then, on the following workout on Monday, you will be using this heavier weight (Friday’s) for the top set of 5.
Full Bill Starr 5×5 Routine
Below is the full routine, and a link where you can customize, print, or download to your device. Just plug in your max, and let it do the calculations. Bring a pen to the gym, and scribble off the days/sets as you go!
To edit the spreadsheet customized to your lifts, click HERE. You can print, or download.
Progression and Gain
When I was a freshman in college, Bill Starr gave me this routine to follow… In the first 16 weeks I was on it, I added about 35 pounds of bodyweight, and took my total from a paltry 600 to over 950. – Chris Manrodt
As mentioned above, the original Bill Starr program calls for 2.5% increases weekly on the lifts. This can be a respectable amount of increase depending on the weights being used. There is an alternative unofficial “by pound” version which allows you to set the weekly increases manually, instead of by the percentage. While this can work well, the 2.5% increases are more accurate and better suited for this program. You may need to use fractional plates (smaller than 2.5’s) , or figure out other ways to load the bar to the proscribed amount when using percentages.
Deloading and Failing Sets
After a few weeks of Bill Starr, you fail during a workout, it is time to reset or deload. This can be done for a single lift, all of them. Resetting is as simple as going back 4 weeks (10%) to lower the weights, and creating more momentum to break new barriers.
Tips for Bill Starr
- You can use some extra spring collars which usually weigh in at about 1 Lb as a pair for precise adjustment.
- Don’t skip the 4 week intro, or shorten the 4 weeks of reset between cycles. You have a high chance of ruining your training cycle and stalling early.
- Rest as much as required between sets. (Typically 1-5 minutes)
- Eat lots, and sleep uninterrupted!
- Be consistent with the equipment you use. Things like a different bench press or barbell diameter can throw your day off.
- Make sure you check your grip widths, some barbell rings are marked differently than others.
Named after Bill Starr, this workout routines popularity stretches back in time over 30 years coming from Glenn Pendlay, Mark Rippetoe, and of course Bill Starr. Over the years its popularity has increased through the internet.
Hi I have heard about this workout but never seen or tried it thanks
Quick question: You mention “Don’t skip the 4 week intro, or shorten the 4 weeks of reset between cycles,” but I don’t see the 4 week reset between cycles mentioned anywhere else; I very likely just missed it, but I am hoping you can elaborate or point me in the right direction.
I bought the book “The Strongest Shall Survive” and am pretty sure there were power cleans in the program. That was the exercise that ruined it for me. Most gyms don’t like it when you drop the weights, so when bringing the weight back to the floor would “catch it” when coming down from the top position. I am positive that was what caused me a lot of neck pain. Plus I am getting older and the old joints can’t take lifting heavy anymore.