The Heavy-Light Version of 5×5

Q: How do you do? Thank you for answering my questions on skinny-fat.

I need your advice again. I have been following the 10-8-6-15 routine you suggest for ectomorphs for 1 month. I workout 2 to 3 times a week, only do one exercise per body part and gradually increase the weight for each set except for the last set.

I notice improvements on my strength but not so much on my physique. How is this so? Is there anything I can do to improve on it, or does this simply mean it’s time for me to switch to other routines?

Thank you. Have a nice day.

– J. Yang


My Answer: If you’re getting stronger, but there isn’t any change in your physique, then it’s usually diet that is holding you back. You have to eat more, and you have got to eat more meat and whole eggs. If you start to get the skinny-fat look again, then eat more veggies and eliminate those starchy carbs. If you drink a lot of alcohol, that is also making fat in all the wrong places, so cut the booze.

Regardless of diet, you should change your training. I often recommend 5×5 after the 10-8-6-15 routine, but you may need to add some back off sets to facilitate growth. Try alternating between these 2 workouts throughout the week:

Workout #1

Dumbbell press 5×5
Machine flyes 3×12

Seated cable rows 5×5
Pulldowns 3×12

Wide grip upright rows 5×5
Seated lateral raises 3×12

Workout #2

Squats 5×5
Leg Extensions 3×12

/ Seated dumbbell curls 5×5
\ Lying triceps extensions 5×5

/ Incline curls 3×12
\ Pressdowns 3×12


10 thoughts on “The Heavy-Light Version of 5×5

Add yours

  1. Hi James,

    I'm a newbie so please forgive me for my ignorance, what does the forward and back slashes mean for the arm workout?

    / Seated dumbbell curls 5×5
    \ Lying triceps extensions 5×5

    / Incline curls 3×12
    \ Pressdowns 3×12




  2. The slashes mean you alternate between the 2 exercises. So for:

    / Seated dumbbell curls 5×5
    \ Lying triceps extensions 5×5

    this means you do dumbbell curls, rest 90 seconds, do tricep extensions, rest 90 seconds, back to dumbbell curls, and so on and so forth until you complete all five sets for each exercise.

    For these exercises, rest one minute in between:

    / Incline curls 3×12
    \ Pressdowns 3×12


  3. Hi James,

    I have been doing the 10-8-6-15 routine with great results for a few weeks now. For the first time in my live I have been able to add muscle without adding body fat at the same time and the pumps I am getting from those burnout sets are just insane.
    Once progess stalls I plan to follow up with your 5×5 routine.
    My question is, are all listed sets both for the exercises performed in the 5×5 scheme and those performed in the 3×12 scheme performed with a fixed weight or are they to be performed as progressively heavier sets?
    If the listed sets are to be performed with a fixed weight how many warm up sets do you recommend to be performed in addition to the listed work sets and at what percentage of the work sets?
    Thanks a lot,


  4. You will use a fixed weight through all five sets of 5, and another fixed weight for all three sets of 12.

    As far as warm-up sets, just perform 5 rep sets, increasing the weight until you figure out your fixed weight for the 5×5, which ideally should be your 6RM.

    So for example,

    Warm-up set #1: 135 lbs, 5 reps performed easily

    Warm-up set #2: 145 lbs, 5 reps performed easily

    Warm-up set #3: 150 lbs, 5 reps performed with moderate effort, but with no breakdown in form or speed.

    First Work Set: 155 lbs, 5 reps


  5. Great! Thanks a lot for the fast answer, James!

    Just two last questions:

    1. I suppose for the 3×12 sets no warm-up is needed as these muscle groups are already warm after having perfomed the 5×5 sets. Correct?

    2. Is it o.k. to replace machine flyes with regular dumbbell flyes. I work out at home and have no access to a flye machine.

    By the way I alreday own Strength and Physique Vol. 1 both as a hardcover and as an e-book (got the e-book after you announced that you would give away a free complimentary PDF with it.)
    I now have ordered Strength and Physique Vol. 2 as well and I was wondering if you are planning to release Vol.2 – 4 as ebooks as well. I like having the hardcopy for reading from cover to cover and in addition to that the e-book to quickly search in the book and also for printing out routines or exercise descriptions for my workouts.
    I wanted to get Volumes 3 and 4 as well but they are neither available on (I live in Germany) nor on Only Volumes 1 and 2 are available on these sites. I can order from but there is always some hazzle due to overseas delivery and the necessary customs clearing.
    Any idea why only the first two Volumes are made available in Europe by Amazon?

    Again many thanks,


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