5×5 vs PPL [Should You Do Push/Pull/Legs or Stronglifts?]

The 5×5 total body workout program is an excellent strength-building program for beginning weightlifters. It builds total-body strength and focuses on the most essential workouts for weight training. It also fits well with a busy schedule because there are only 3 weekly workouts. PPL workouts, on the other hand, are designed for more advanced weightlifters. PPL programs require more time in the gym (4–6 days), but they allow you to build more muscle mass than the 5×5 program.

5x5 vs PPL

What is the 5×5 Workout Program?

The 5×5 program in its most popular variant, Stronglifts, is a beginner weightlifting program built around 3 weekly workouts. Each workout consists of 3 compound exercises that are typically performed for 5 sets of 5 reps each (hence the 5×5 name).

  • 5×5 Stronglifts is a beginner weightlifting program.
  • There are 3 weekly workouts in the 5×5 program.
  • Each workout consists of 3 exercises from the following list: squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, barbell row.
  • Most exercises included in the workout are performed in 5 sets of 5 reps.

The 5×5 workout plan focuses on 5 lifts: the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, and barbell row. These compound movements are designed to build fundamental strength and skill in weightlifters before moving on to more complex weightlifting programs.

How Long Does a 5×5 Workout Take?

A 5×5 workout will take you 60–90 minutes to complete, depending on how many warmup sets you need to perform, as well as your rest time between sets. 5×5 workouts are relatively short but each exercise is a big movement that recruits several large muscle groups. If you’re new to weightlifting, 5×5 will leave you exhausted.

What is the PPL Training Program?

PPL is an acronym that stands for Push/Pull/Legs. Each day in the program corresponds to one of these words. A push workout focuses on upper body pushing exercises, such as bench press and overhead press. Your pull workouts will have pulling movements, like pull-ups, rows, and bicep curls. Finally, leg day will consist of lower body lifts.

  • PPL stands for Push/Pull/Legs.
  • Push workouts combine 4–5 pushing exercises for the upper body that work the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
  • Pull workouts consist of 4–5 pulling-motion exercises that target the back and biceps.
  • Leg workouts are 4–5 lower body exercises that work the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
  • PPL programs range from 6 workouts per week to a modified plan that has 4 or 5 workouts per week.
  • The number of sets and reps in your PPL training routine differs based on your goals.

An intense PPL workout consists of 6 weekly workouts so you hit each muscle group twice. However, you can modify a PPL program to reduce the number of weekly workouts to 4 or 5. You typically perform 4–5 exercises per workout during PPL. The number of sets and reps will depend on your strength and fitness goals.

How Long Does a PPL Workout Take?

Because the PPL training routine combines 4–5 exercises, plan to spend about 90 minutes in the gym for each training session. It takes a little longer than the average 5×5 workout, but you’ll fit a lot more exercises into your training routine with PPL than 5×5.

5×5 Stronglifts vs. Push/Pull/Legs [PPL]

5×5 programs and PPL programs are both excellent tools for weight training. However, which one you should follow depends on your schedule, goals, and experience level. We’ll look at which program will give you more muscle mass, which will make you stronger, and which you should choose based on your skill level. For the purposes of this comparison, we are comparing the 5×5 Stronglifts program vs. a 6-workout-per-week PPL plan.

Best for Size

If you want to increase the size of your muscles, PPL is the answer. The 5×5 program is built around performing sets of 5 reps, which is mostly geared towards increasing muscular strength, not muscle mass. With a PPL program, you can determine your own number of sets and reps. If you want to build mass, the key is performing each exercise at 3–5 sets of 8–12 reps. Combined with progressive overload, this set-and-rep range is the best way to push your muscles to develop in size and tone.

  • PPL can be tailored to drive muscle hypertrophy (growth).
  • Perform a PPL workout with 3–5 sets of 8–12 reps for each exercise in order to tailor your routine for muscle mass gains.
  • 5×5 programs typically only include 5 reps per set, which is better for strength gains than mass.
  • To boost muscle size and tone, work each muscle twice per week for a total of 10–15 sets per week.
  • PPL allows you to achieve 10–15 sets per muscle per week.
  • 5×5 Does not provide 10–15 sets for each muscle every week.

Beginners will no doubt experience both size and strength gains with the 5×5 plan. However, where PPL really wins is in the frequency of training. To grow bigger and stronger, a muscle needs to be worked twice per week for a total of 10–15 sets per muscle. So, if you want your chest to grow you need to perform 10–15 sets of chest exercises per week, every week. You can easily achieve this with PPL. On a 5×5 Stronglifts program, there will be some weeks you only perform 5 sets of bench press, meaning your chest will lag. The same goes for shoulders and back.

Winner: PPL

Best for Strength

So, if PPL is better for muscle mass then 5×5 has got to be better for strength, right? Not so fast. While a 5×5 program will provide beginners with amazing strength and mass gains, it won’t do the same for advanced lifters. Again, PPL can be adjusted to provide better strength gains than the 5×5. Simply shift your PPL to a plan where you perform 5 sets of 3–5 reps per exercise and you’ll maximize PPL for strength.

  • PPL has more potential for strength gains than 5×5 due to frequency of training and sets-per-week.
  • Perform your PPL workouts with 5 sets of 3–5 reps per exercise in order to build strength.
  • 5×5 is an amazing strength-training program for beginners.
  • A PPL program is better for strength if you’re an advanced athlete.

As with muscle mass gains, the training volumes in a PPL program once again help it beat a 5×5 plan. By working each muscle group twice per week for a total of 10–15 sets per week, you will achieve strength as well as muscle mass gains. The 5×5 program simply doesn’t have the frequency of training—or enough sets per muscle—to cut it as a strength training program for more advanced lifters.

Winner: PPL

Best for Beginners

If you’re new to weightlifting, haven’t lifted in over 6 months, or are recovering from injury, 5×5 is a much better program than PPL. 5×5 only includes 3 workouts per week, which allows you time to recover between gym sessions. If you’re new to weightlifting, your body absolutely needs this time to recover.

  • The 5×5 workout is excellent for beginners because it teaches fundamental strength and form.
  • The 5×5 plan allows time for a beginning weightlifter to adequately recover between workouts.
  • A PPL program is too intense for beginners—6 workouts per week will tax your body and make recovery difficult.
  • Build strength as well as good rest, recovery, and dietary habits with the 5×5 before moving to a PPL program.

A PPL program that includes 6 workouts per week is too much to ask from a beginner. It’s a bit like attempting to run a marathon when you’ve never run more than a mile in your life. Your body won’t be ready for a PPL program at the start of your fitness journey. The 5×5 will build fundamental strength, form, and guide you into a healthy diet and exercise lifestyle, making it possible to graduate to a PPL program in the future.

Winner: 5×5

Best for Advanced Lifters

If you’ve plateaued after 2–3 months with a 5×5 program or have been weightlifting regularly for years, a PPL will yield far more results than a 5×5 plan. As we’ve discussed, the PPL program has more flexibility to allow you to reach specific goals of mass or strength, plus the training frequency enables you to reach those goals more easily than a 5×5 plan.

  • Experienced weightlifters will get more results from a PPL plan than the 5×5 program.
  • The PPL training routine allows you to break plateaus and reach your physical fitness goals.
  • You can focus on developing specific muscles with PPL.
  • The 5×5 program is more likely to cause you to plateau than the PPL.
  • 5×5 is a total body training program that doesn’t train many accessory muscles directly.

Many experienced lifters have specific muscles that are lagging or weaker than the rest. A PPL program allows you to tailor your workouts to work those muscles. Whether it’s the lats, calves, or shoulders, a PPL plan gives you the flexibility to build that muscle specifically. A 5×5 program doesn’t have this flexibility and some accessory muscles are largely ignored.

Winner: PPL

Best for a Busy Schedule

Hitting the gym 6 days per week as part of a PPL program is grueling work. You have other commitments between work, school, and your personal life. If you find yourself skipping gym days and only getting parts of your PPL workout in, it’s time to rethink the plan.

  • PPL requires 6 weekly workouts, making it difficult to fit into a busy schedule.
  • Skipping workouts in a PPL plan means major muscle groups will be completely ignored.
  • 5×5 only requires 3 weekly workouts—it’s much more schedule-friendly than PPL.
  • A 5×5 program is a total body workout each time you’re in the gym.

A 5×5 workout plan is great for those with a busy schedule. The 5×5 program is designed to work your entire body in every single workout. Plus, you only need to get to the gym 3 days per week. This makes the 5×5 a great way to build or maintain fitness if your schedule is currently overbooked.

Winner: 5×5

Which Weightlifting Program is Better: 5×5 or PPL?

Both the 5×5 program and PPL workout plans are excellent during different stages of your lifting progression. Which one you choose depends on where you are. Here’s a quick cheat sheet to make the decision simple:

Choose the 5×5 Workout Plan if:

  • You’re a beginner or haven’t lifted weights in over 6 months.
  • Your schedule is too busy for 6 weekly workouts.
  • Your goal is overall strength and fitness.

Choose the PPL Workout Plan if:

  • You are an advanced lifter.
  • You have followed a 5×5 plan for the past 3 months and are beginning to plateau.
  • Your schedule allows for 6 weekly workouts.
  • You have very specific strength and muscle mass goals.

5×5 is a great introduction to weightlifting while PPL is not for the faint of heart. The PPL program may seem too daunting now, but after a few months of following a 5×5 program, you may be itching to try out a PPL training regimen.

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