MECHANICAL 5X5

Another Take on the Mechanical 5×5

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Guest Post by Gregor Sobočan

The Mechanical 5×5, Wood Type Power and Strength System

Today I will introduce you to my variation of the 5×5 training system. This system has been proven for decades to be one of the best programs to deliver power and pure muscle mass. I call it the Mechanical 5×5.

Even before me, 5×5 has been adjusted and changed by a few famous coaches, but I feel I can take it a little further. The idea of 5×5 is to pick 3 compound lifts and do 5 sets of 5 reps, preferably 3 times a week.

Now, it can be done with two different workouts (A and B) as it was originally planned by football coach Bill Starr in the 1970s. It can also be done with the same three lifts, with different intensity ranges every workout. It can also be adjusted to a wood type athlete, where we change the exercises we use every training.

Charles was always saying that the best way to cycle through phases is undulating periodization, where you switch between accumulation and intensification phases. Those phases should last between 3-5 cycles.

5×5 is mostly an intensification phase and should be treated as such.

For a wood type athlete, it is very important that exercises remain the same (or at least very similar to each other). However, the equipment used should vary a lot. 5×5 should be a total body workout, designed with compound movements and using big lifts for big muscle groups.

I have chosen three types of exercises, and three lifts for each type:

PULL

Power Clean for the hang, Power Snatch for the hang, and Muscle Snatch from the hang

SQUAT

Front Squat, Safety Bar Squat, and Back Squat

UPPER BODY PUSH

Military Press, Incline Bench Press (45º), and Bench Press

The reason for these exercise choices is to practice the movement, but at different angles. The same (or almost the same) muscle groups are involved, but the muscles and joints don’t get overused by repetitive patterns.

Since you will be doing three workouts per week, you should not just push yourself to the limit on every workout. Rather, you will alternate between intensity ranges. Doing otherwise would be too much of a “big bite” for the Central Nervous System (CNS).

There are three different types of days:

  1. Intense
  2. Light
  3. Intermediate

The trick is that on the intense day, you will use the most demanding lifts, mechanically speaking. Those are the muscle snatch, the front squat, and the military press. The loads you will use here will remain throughout the week.

The more you can increase the load on that first day, the more loads will go up on the other days.

How will the Mechanical 5×5 work?


On the first day, you will use 80% of 1RM of the most mechanically demanding lifts. Again, these are the muscle snatch, the front squat, and the military press. Hence, those loads will be true 80%.

On light days, mechanically easier lifts are used. They are the power clean, the back squat, and the bench press. Since they are mechanically more efficient, the loads will stay the same. For example, the power clean will use the same weight as the muscle snatch.

 

The reason for this is simple. It comes from understanding the ratios between lifts:

  • The power clean is about 85% of the power snatch
  • The power snatch is about 85% of the muscle snatch
  • That means that the power clean is about 72% of the muscle snatch

 

This mechanical difference is what makes this method interesting. You see, the original 5×5 system suggests using 85% of 1RM on the heavy day, 78% of 1RM for the intermediate day and 70% of 1RM for the light day.

If we use these numbers, and put it into the Mechanical 5×5 System, we get a very interesting result:

Almost the same percentage is used for each day, but the weight on the bar remains the same. What changes is the leverage. You will have an advantage on the lifts that are mechanically easier.

So, what we need to do is calculate the percentages of 1RM for first day only. The same weight will then be used on both light and intermediate days. Below is the breakdown of the percentage you will need, as well as the lifts they will be applied to.

Training scheme

Here is a sample 3-week program and the typical progression:

WEEK 1

Monday:

  1. Muscle snatch 5 x 5 @80%
  2. Front squat 5×5 @80%
  3. Military press 5×5 @80%

Wednesday:

  1. Power clean 5×5 @ the muscle snatch weight from Monday
  2. Back squat 5×5 @ the front squat weight from Monday
  3. Bench press 5×5 @ the military press weight from Monday

Friday:

  1. Power snatch 5×5 @ the muscle snatch weight from Monday
  2. Safety squat 5×5 @ the front squat weight from Monday
  3. Incline bench Press 5×5 @ the military press weight from Monday

WEEK 2

Monday:

  1. Muscle snatch 5×5@ 82.5%
  2. Front squat 5×5 @ 82.5%
  3. Military press 5×5 @ 82.5%

Wednesday:

  1. Power clean 5×5 @ the muscle snatch weight from Monday
  2. Back squat 5×5 @ the front squat weight from Monday
  3. Bench press 5×5 @ the military press weight from Monday

Friday:

  1. Power snatch 5×5 @ the muscle snatch weight from Monday
  2. Safety squat 5×5 @ the front squat weight from Monday
  3. Incline bench Press 5×5 @ the military press weight from Monday

WEEK 3

Monday:

  1. Muscle snatch 5×5 @ 85%
  2. Front squat 5×5 @ 85%
  3. Military press 5×5 @ 85%

Wednesday:

  1. Power clean 5×5 @ the muscle snatch weight from Monday
  2. Back squat 5×5 @ the front squat weight from Monday
  3. Bench press 5×5 @ the military press weight from Monday

Friday:

  1. Power snatch 5×5 @ the muscle snatch weight from Monday
  2. Safety squat 5×5 @ the front squat weight from Monday
  3. Incline bench Press 5×5 @ the military press weight from Monday

Final Word

This system is both simple and elegant. It allows you and your athletes to easily keep track of the loads to use. One further advantage it has is it will let you know if you are well-balanced between each lift. Remember that this is an important part of sports performance. Give it a try and let me know on Facebook how it goes for you.

Coach Gregor Sobočan

About Gregor

My name is Gregor Sobočan. I have been involved in sports and S&C trainings practically all my life. During my 16 year Handball Career (European Style, 9 years as a pro Athlete), game awareness has alway been my Achille’s heel. To compensate, I was always looking for ways to be physically better. Be stronger, faster, and more explosive than my opponents.

That lead me to Sports education on all levels, starting in High School.

After my handball career ended, I decided to give kettlebell lifting a try. In this individual sport, physical capabilities are the only measure of who will be the best. I became a World Champion. My new career lasted 8 years. During that time I have done all the research I possibly could about cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, lactate tolerance, and maximum strength training.

I have visited Russia on many occasions, where I even completed a few exams at their Sports Faculty in OMSK.

Training

Now I am back into training team athletes; I am the main S&C Coach for the National Slovenian handball team. I am also the main S&C coach for volleyball pro Club Calcit and I mentor 9 Clubs (handball and volleyball), advising them on how to train in their GPP phase.

I’m the owner of my own small facility, Kettlebells Center, where I have continued developing myself as a coach for the last 9 years.

I’m always looking for something that can make me better coach, striving to be the best. That is how I came upon coach Charles Poliquin. I followed him for a few years but was not fortunate enough to meet him in person.

After reading about Strength Sensei Legacy’s work I decided to register for 3 modules, and it really was a life changing experience. Charles (the author of all protocols) was a king among coaches. He left nothing to coincidence, the very same attitude I have. Every lift, every set, % of 1RM… everything has to be perfectly monitored.

I learned about his neurotyping method. This means that training should be adjusted to each individual’s neurotransmitter profile. I am aware that basically all the best training plans are already written. But that does not mean they couldn’t be made even better by being individualized to the client’s needs.

This is what I have been doing ever since I finished the certification with Strength Sensei Legacy. And results speak for themselves: my athletes’ performances, and even my own, are growing rapidly!