Stew’s Favorites: 5 x 5 x 5

Intense free weights exercise.

As the weather gets cooler up here in the Northern hemisphere, we typically transition from the higher rep calisthenics, mileage of runs, and move toward the heavier lifting cycles, some cold weather rucking, and indoor swimming for a healthy mix of non impact cardio. If you do not have a pool and cannot swim with fins for 1–2 miles of cardio, try the stationary bike, elliptical, rower or a SPIN class even. Here is our first 5 x 5 workout of the season.

Normally, when powerlifting for strength, you will pick a weight about 75–80% of your 1 rep max, but since this is the first 5 x 5, do some experimenting over the five sets and find a weight that you can do 5 reps with, but would likely fail on rep 6 or 7. As November turns into December, we will learn what our 1 rep maxes (1RM) are in these lifts and can figure out the standard 75–80% 1RM weight.

This is the workout mixed with a cardio rest session that we call: 5 x 5 x 5 min

Repeat 5 times
Cardio 5 min (tabata intervals, pyramids, or easy pace on bike or elliptical or treadmill)
5 — squats
5 bench press
5 — dead lifts
pullups — weighted 25# — max
abs of choice 50 or 1 min plank pose
(rest as needed in between sets)

Light Cardio Cool down: Run, bike, ruck, swim 30 minutes for distance — how far do you get?

Add Any auxiliary exercises you prefer: Dumbbells, KBs, TRX, etc to work arms, shoulders, core…

I rarely miss an upperbody workout without doing the Light Weight Shoulder Workout. (video)

Related Topics

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Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on's Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

Latest Fitness Books: Navy SEAL Weight Training and Tactical Fitness