Increase Your Deadlift and Receive a Huge Hypertrophic Pump with the 5x5 Protocol

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Achieve a Deadlift PB with the 5x5 Protocolskynesher - Getty Images

The deadlift is a strength-training staple for a reason. It hits your quads, glutes, hamstrings, lats, adductors, erectors, traps, rhomboids, abs and obliques. Quite impressive for one move. Plus, nothing beats walking out of the gym with a new deadlift PB. To that end, we have a training protocol that will ensure you have something to celebrate.

Below, MH Elite coach John Chapman delivers a pull workout that will challenge your muscles, increase strength and deliver a huge hypertrophic pump. But this one is a challenge of brains as well as brawn, as Chapman brings you the science behind building muscle with the 5x5 protocol.

What Is the 5x5 Protocol?

By 5x5, we mean five sets of five reps, but don't be fooled by the simplicity of the reps and sets, the 5x5 protocol is a sure way to nail a new PB. According to Chapman, '5x5 is a very popular method of gaining strength with compound moves, and I find it particularly effective with deadlifts, squats and bench. The goal is to increase weight each time you lift, but once you get close to your limit, adding weight with compound lifts is extremely challenging and you can compromise form and safety.

'I’m a huge fan of fraction plates which most gyms don’t have and in fact I’d invest in your own set if your gym doesn’t. These plates can be 0.5kg each for example & this allows you to break through plateaus rather than having to jump by 5kg a time. This is a very cost effective way to progressively overload and stay safe.'

What's the Science Behind Strength Gain?

On how Chapman's heavy-lift programme makes you stronger, he explains, 'The mechanism of this making you stronger, is something called myofibrillar hypertrophy. Now what that means is building muscle, and it's going to work on our myofibrillar. These are basically the string like strands that are inside your muscles. What we're going to do via this workout is actually create more of them, so going forward we will have more myofibrils, so we can contract with more force, i.e. lift more weight, as well as gain some muscle mass.'

What's the Science Behind Hypertrophy?

'As we go through this session,’ says Chapman, ‘we're going to increase reps and reduce the rest time, and slowly move into something we call sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. The mechanism for this working, is on swelling. You know when you get that pump? It's the swelling of the sarcoplasmic fluid. It will probably have more effect on muscle size and less effect on muscular strength'.

While we're probably not going to be throwing the term 'sarcoplasmic pump' around the gym floor anytime soon, it's still useful to understand these terms when approaching our own programming. 'In this one session, we are doing myofibril hypertrophy (the heavy deadlifts) and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (your bicep curls),' says Chapman.

Since you've had your fill of the 'brains' behind the workout, it's time to move onto the brawn. Grab your kit and go get it.

The Workout

deadlift exercise
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5 sets of 5 reps, 3 mins rest

Hinge down with a flat back and grasp the bar with an overhand grip. With a straight back and braced core, drive your feet into the ground and pull your torso up. Thrust your hips forward to stand up, keeping the bar as close to your body as possible. Reverse and repeat.

pull ups
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Weighted Pull-ups 3 x 6 – 2 minutes rest

3 sets of 6 reps, 2 mins rest

Grasp a pull-up bar with an overhand grip over shoulder-width apart, lift your feet from the floor, hanging freely with straight arms. Pull yourself up by flexing the elbows while pinching your shoulder blades together. When your chin passes the bar, pause before lowering to the starting position.

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Bent Over Barbell Row 3 x 8 - 2 minutes rest

3 sets of 8 reps, 2 mins rest

Hinge down with soft knees and a flat back, gripping a loaded barbell with hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing away from you. Draw your elbows back, rowing the barbell up towards your hips while maintaining a flat torso and tight core. Pinch your shoulder blades together and squeeze your biceps, before slowly lowering the barbell.

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Barbell Bicep Curls 3 x 8 – 90 seconds rest

3 sets of 8 reps, 90-secs rest

Stand tall holding your barbell at waist height. With minimal momentum, curl the bar upwards, until it reaches your upper chest. Squeeze here and lower the weight under control taking a three count to bring it down, fighting all the way before repeating.

bicep curls
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Dumbbell Bicep Curls 3 x 10 – 60s rest

3 sets of 10 reps, 60-seconds rest

Stand tall with a pair of dumbbells at your sides, your palms facing towards you. With minimal momentum, curl both of your dumbbells upwards, turning your palms in, until your little fingers are near your shoulders. Squeeze here and lower the weights under control taking a three count to bring them down, fighting them all the way and repeat.

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