Reg Park's Beginner 5x5 Size & Strength Workout

Reg Park’s Beginner 5×5 Routine

For many aspiring bodybuilders, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘Golden Era’ physique is still the definition of perfection.

It oozes class and panache, like a Da Vinci painting, a Rachmaninoff concerto, or a cracking pair of tits.

However, in their bid to replicate the Austrian Oak’s muscular stature, many beginners get off to the wrong start.

In an effort to land that first schoolyard hand job (or gangbang if you’re from Luton), formative workouts end up being dominated by bicep curls and ab work, the vanity ‘t-shirt’ muscles.

Many so-called beginner routines are to blame for spawning these worthless gym sessions, as they read like someone has thrown a wet copy of Men’s Health magazine into a fan.

Fact is, Arnold didn’t build his foundation on this gubbins, he built it on the simple, heavy-duty compound lifts and full body workouts which were advocated by his childhood hero, Reg Park.

For example, in The Education of a Bodybuilder (1977) Arnie reveals:

From the beginning I was a big believer in the basic movements, because that was Reg Park’s preference.

He would stay with the basic exercises – bench presses, chin-ups, squats, rowing, barbell curls, wrist curls, pullovers, leg extensions, calf raises.

These were the movements that worked most directly on all body parts.

I was following his example to the letter.

And as it turned out, I could hardly have chosen more wisely.

The basic exercises were creating for me a rugged foundation, a core of muscle I could later build upon for a winning body.

Reg Park’s theory was that first you have to build the mass and then chisel it down to get the quality.

Specifically, one of Arnie’s first full body training programmes, alongside his very own Golden Six workout, was the Reg Park Beginner Routine, which were are going to look at today.

The routine

Reg Park’s Beginner Routine is built around the 5×5 method (of which Park was an early proponent) which strikes a perfect balance between size and strength protocols.

The 5×5 exercises are all compound movements, but there is also some higher volume isolation work thrown into the mix for good measure.

The complete routine (which is essentially a simplified, easier version of his famous 3 Step 5×5) features two main workouts which are performed three days per week, alternating as follows:

Schedule

Week 1 A, B, A
Week 2 B, A, B
Week 3 A, B, A

Workout A

Exercise Sets Reps
Back Squats 5 5
Pull Ups or Chin Ups 5 5
Bench Press or Dips 5 5
Barbell Curls 2 10
Wrist Work 2 10
Calves 2 15-20

Workout B

Exercise Sets Reps
Front Squats 5 5
Rows 5 5
Military Press 5 5
Deadlift 3 5
Wrist Work 2 10
Calves 2 15-20

Notes

5×5

Unlike Stronglifts, with this routine, like Starting Strength, only the last three sets are performed at 100% of your working weight.

The first two sets are warm up sets.

For example, perform the first set at 60% and the second set at 80%.

Deadlift

With the deadlift, only go heavy for the third and final set.

Again, the first two sets are just warm up sets.

Rest

Take 3-5 minutes rest between sets.

Progression

When starting the Reg Park Beginner Routine, it is important that you don’t jump right in with your 5RM, as this will stall progress from the offset and breed frustration and negativity.

Instead, start off with a weight roughly 15-20kg lighter than what you think you can max out on.

Then gradually work your way back up, adding 2.5kg to the bar every time you can perform 3×5 with perfect form.

Diet

To maximise gains on this routine you need to be eating like a king.

In other words, treat every meal like you’re Vanessa Feltz at an all-you-can-eat Greggs buffet.

Forget MRPs and lower calorie options, get stuck in to the old-fashioned bodybuilding fuel!

We’re talking full cream milk, whole eggs, red meat, nuts, fruit, veg, the lot.

Recovery

Remember, your muscles don’t grow during training, they grow while you rest.

So be sure you are getting at least 8 hours sleep every night and making the most of the recovery zone.

Thoughts

This is a decent full body routine in the old-school tradition, free of overcomplication, broscience and bullshit.

When followed faithfully (and that includes the diet and recovery elements as well), routines like this just work, plain and simple.

Some lifters might suggest eliminating the calf and forearm work, as anyone needing to focus on isolation work such as this should technically be way past the beginner stage.

But, hey, you do that and it’s no longer Reg’s routine.

And, to be fair, the accessory work does build in some variety which differentiates the routine from other beginner strength programmes.

Plus, from my experience, most teenage guys approach curls with the same enthusiasm as alcopops, Fifa and Megan Fox’s snatch.

So, provided you’re lugging that barbell about for those big compound movements, end the session with as many curls as you want boys.

Summary

Reg Park’s Beginner Routine is a hugely effective strength-based workout which is ideal for beginners looking to build a solid foundation of muscle.

As with any full body routine, just keep it simple, add weight to the bar as often as you can, eat like a king, sleep like a baby, and you’ll see progress.

Oh, and did I say, never follow anything you read in Men’s Health

justin bieber mens health

Over to you

Have you tried Reg’s Beginner Routine?

Thinking of giving it a go?

Any other questions or thoughts?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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  1. Reg Park is a massive inspiration for me as he was for a young Austrian wannabe.

    He trained hard on these basic movements and ate simple yet nourishing foods.

    Years of hard work and consistency paid off, something that’s sadly been lost as the birth of more and more fad routines hit our shelves.

    Listen to people like the late Reg Park, there is no secret or shortcuts.

    Thank you the golden generation!

    1. Danny, you’re absolutely right!

      I tried following some of the fad bodybuilding crap and have returned to the basics and 5×5 routine myself and have seen ridiculous improvements and gains.

      I don’t know why more people don’t look at things as if they aren’t broke, why fix them???

      Anyway just saw your comment and wanted to let you know that you weren’t alone in your way of thinking

      1. Thanks for the comments guys.

        It’s great to see people getting back to basics and making gains with these full body routines.

        For non-steroid users there’s simply no better way to gain size and strength.

        Most fads and split routines are utter cowshit – there’s no substitute for hard work!

  2. How should you warm up on the bicep and wrist work?

    1. Hi, you won’t need any warm-up, these are only accessory lifts.

      Plus your body will be throbbing from all those preceding compound lifts!

  3. I would be doing this routine along with using Myprotein Hurricane XS.

    Would that be a good starter point for beginners as I want to gain mass as well as muscle?

    1. Hi John.

      Yes, an all-in-one like Hurricane XS would be a great place to start if you’re goals are size and strength.

      See our review for more info:

      http://www.gym-talk.com/hurricane-xs-review/

  4. Haha, if any one of you believe Reg Park was natural, bwahaha I feel sorry for you.

  5. Hey Henry,

    I’ve seen this routine a few times as well as Reg Park’s 3 phase program.

    Was there a different demographic he was hitting with this vs the 3 phase?

    Also it looked a lot like the 3rd phase broken down into two sessions.

    Regardless it is effective.

    Thanks for this.

    1. Hi Zachary, this routine is more for beginners.

      It’s essentially a simplified version of Parks’ original 5×5 programme with less overall volume and fewer exercises.

  6. I am going to try this program, but I have a hip and knee problem.

    I am unable to perform squats but deadlifting is not a problem.

    What can I substitute for the squat sets?

    1. That’s a difficult one as squats are really the bread and butter of Stronglifts.

      Are you able to perform front squats at all? Lunges?

      If not, I would try some Romanian Deadlifts (great for glutes and hamstrings) or, though I’m loath to suggest it, leg pressing.

  7. Hi, I just want to ask for your opinion.

    Which one do you think is the better routine?

    This or the Golden Six?

    And I also noticed that there isn’t any abs workout for this routine.

    1. I much prefer the 5×5 protocol as it’s more strength focused, which will give you a better foundation moving forward.

      Regarding abs, you can always add in some isolation work at the end of the workout, but bear in mind that squats, deadlifts, presses, etc will also be targeting your core.

      1. I see.

        But in terms of muscle gains, does this have the upper hand as compared to the Golden Six?

        1. Both are extremely effective routines for building muscle – but as this is more strength focused, it will, long term, have you lifting heavier weights, which is the best and simplest way to get bigger.

  8. Hey Henry, I’m a beginner and I’m caught in 2 minds if I should follow this routine or Arnold’s Golden Six?

    What are your thoughts and opinions?

    1. Personally, I would always recommend 5×5 for new lifters, as it’s more strength focused and will thus help you develop a better foundation from which to progress.

  9. This seems like an excellent routine to improve my muscle and strength for Martial Arts.

    Is there a twice weekly version?

    I do Martial Arts 3 days for hour long practices.

    Any input appreciated.

    1. Hi Joe, if you’re working out twice a week, just do A once and B once.

  10. Hello Henry.

    Do I follow these exercises in a circuit fashion or do I finish each exercise with the recommended sets and move on to the next one?

    1. Hi Zomu, it’s the latter, you finish the recommended sets on each exercise before moving on.

      1. Hi Henry,

        I had a couple of more questions.

        Going by the 3-5 mins rest between sets, each workout will last anywhere between an hour to two.

        But, I had read elsewhere that it’s best to keep the workouts short.

        Can you help me with that pls… and also, do I do cardio on the rest days?

        I am looking to build size.

        1. Yes, most full body workouts of this ilk are pretty long and intense, as the focus is on quality rather than quantity – that is, three proper workouts per week with lots of time to recover as opposed to some shitty workout split which has you training shoulders one day, back the next, etc etc.

          If time is an issue, just drop the curls, wrist and calf work, or, alternatively, try a shorter “get the fuck in, get the fuck out” style workout, such as Stronglifts 5×5 or Wendler 5/3/1, which are both extremely effective.

          Regarding cardio, if you’re looking to build sheer size, I would keep this to a minimum (some gentle low-impact swimming, for example, would help ease joint/muscle niggles), and instead focus on ‘optimising’ your diet.

  11. Hello Henry,

    I have one question.

    I’m certainly a beginner and this seems like an excellent routine however I want to know how long should I stay on this program?

    1. As long as you’re seeing improvements, keep going.

      I’ve used the 5×5 protocol consistently for years as the results kept coming.

      If you plateau quickly, I would take a look elsewhere for issues before changing you routine.

      Make sure you’re overloading your body with calories, sleeping well, not draining your energy with needless cardio, etc, as all of these can impair progression.

    2. @Harley

      If you want, you could just alternate between Reg Parks Routine and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘Golden Six’ Routine.

      This is actually something I was thinking of doing in a few weeks.

  12. I have been seriously training for 14+ years.

    During that time my arms have grown from 11 1/4″ to 17″ and my legs from 19″ to 26 1/2″.

    My bodyweight from 152lbs to 254lbs.

    I am not extremely lean right now but my bodyfat levels are pretty close to the same level they were at 152lbs.

    I tried all the fad routines, the 2,3,4,5,6 day splits, powerlifting, bodybuilding, general fitness, 1 set per exercise, 10 sets per exercise, 5 hour workouts, 20-30 minute workouts, etc.

    What I have learned is this: FULL BODY Workouts are the best!

    Also, the shorter my workouts got the better progress and recovery I made.

    One set did great for strength gains but almost nothing for size gains.

    30-60 secs rest between sets seems to be optimal for me to gain well in both size and strength.

    You really have to see what you can recover from.

    If you do five sets per bodypart on Monday and you are really sore on Wednesday, wait until Friday and try 3 or 4 sets per bodypart.

    If you are not sore at all go ahead and try 6 sets per bodypart

    6-10 rep range has worked best for me for size and 3-5 rep range for strength.

    Leroy Colbert, Vince Gironda, Reg Park, Bill Pearl – check out anything these men have done.

    Super basic lifts, barbells and dumbbells, mostly very little machine work.

    The basics do it all.

    Once you have a solid base then try some machines to shape up what you got.

    1. Hi Paul.

      Thanks for your comment – agree with you wholeheartedly.

      I’m a huge fan of Leroy Colbert and recently wrote about his ‘Full Body Blitz’ routine:

      http://www.gym-talk.com/leroy-colbert-full-body-blitz-routine/

  13. I’m just starting this routine and I’ve never been so excited about working out.

    So glad I discovered this routine and others like it before I started doing any of those shitty 5 day split routines.

    This is effective and it makes you feel great.

    1. Hi John – it’s a great routine, enjoy it.

      And do let us know how you get on!

  14. Looking to start back at the gym after several years off.

    Only issue is that the only gym near me that works for my schedule doesn’t have any barbells (it’s PF).

    I wouldn’t hardly consider it a gym but it’s what I have.

    They have smith machines but I don’t want to be squatting there.

    Any disadvantage to working dumbbells as opposed to barbell for bench and military press?

    Not sure what to do about squats and deadlifts.

    I’ll probably end up maxing out weights fairly quickly and might have to look into another gym or something but would like to get started in the mean time.

    Thanks

    1. Honestly, just find a new gym, you really need a bar to complete this routine.

      Trying to make gains at Pure Fitness is like trying to enter a clown car in the Monaco Grand Prix.

  15. Hey, I’m a complete greenhorn in terms of bodybuilding and working out.

    I had no clue what exactly you were writing about in terms of particular exercises as there are no pictures.

    I’ve managed to Google most of it up, but for example googling “calves”, “wrist work” or “rows” even with adding bodybuilding or working out prefixes got me nowhere.

    Could you help me out and provide some links with pictures/description how perform exercises mentioned in your article?

    Regards,

    Mat

  16. Hi Henry, I’m a total newby and am going to try this routine.

    I can’t get to a gym so will be doing it at home, will that be OK?

    What supplements would you recommend?

    Cheers

  17. Will Park’s 5×5 done twice a week give decent strength and size gains?

    I am involved in kickboxing 3 days and those workouts run 45 minutes non-stop.

    I have a decent home gym with about 250 pounds which is more than enough for me.

    Any suggestions appreciated.

    Thanks!

  18. Hi Henry,

    First of all, I really like the replies that you give to people.

    It’s hip and cool!

    There’s no easy way to find all articles written by you on this website.

    1) But I wanted to ask you about the total training volume capacity.

    I’m facing a weird issue where I can lift more weight.

    My muscles seem to have evolved enough to lift better.

    But the problem is that if I increase the weights I get more tired.

    And if I increase it for all my exercises then I’m able to do it but the whole “tiredness” aka lathargy, sleepiness hits back really hard.

    The sleepiness and tiredness then lasts for quite a while.

    It impacts my next workout too (after 2 days).

    What can I do to increase my total workout volume?

    To increase the capacity of my body to recover from even more intense workouts?

    Currently, it’s dragging down my weights and preventing my progress.

    I’m on Arnold’s Golden Six routine (reps till 10-12 X 3 sets).

    It’s been 6 weeks since I started this routine (and I’m a beginner with a total of 3 months of gymming, 2 months of bro workouts, then I started this Golden Six routine).

    2) Cardio.

    Should I include or not in my 3 days resistance, full body workout program?

    I read somewhere that doing cardio causes some kind of hormone/chemical to get released that prevents muscle synthesis.

    I also read somewhere else that doing cardio is supposed to be bad for muscle gains.

    What do you think?

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