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Intermediate lifters cannot make progress on their lifts every 4 days, especially if they have already completed Starting Strength. They will make much more progress splitting their routine into Push and Pull motions which create power and strength for the upper body as well as strength for the lower body, and Squats and Deadlifts need to be treated as the KINGS that they are and get their own Lower Body days. This way we can create recovery and strength as well as great muscle gains for a lifter. This routine uses the basic 5x5 principle by Bill Starr and adds in hypertrophy work to increase both myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. ZionNYC from Bodybuilding.com has come out with this routine to give lifters both systems of hypertrophy, strength, and power so they will not have to choose or decide between "Powerlifting" and bodybuilding. Both muscle and strength should be built at all times when in the gym. This is mostly a bodybuilding and strength building program so Powerlifting techniques such as "Box Squats" or whatever cannot be used.

Zion's 5x5 - Strength & Hypertrophy - The Intermediate ProgramEdit

The routine is taxing on the body so you must be eating at least enough calories to maintain and preferably to bulk and gain weight because that is the fastest way to hypertrophy. The goals of the routine are to increase muscle weight as much as possible and increase strength and power as much as possible. This is the routine:

Monday: Legs (Squats + Deadlifts) & Abs

Squat: 5x5 ramping up weight to the top set

Deadlift: 5x5 ramping up weight to the top set

Weighted Decline Crunches: 4x15

Ab Pulldowns: 4x15


Wednesday: Upper Body Push & Calves

Bench Press: 5x5 ramping up weight to the top set / 4x5 on the second week using the same weight for the first 4 sets as last week but a 1x3 top set with a weight increase

Military Press: 5x5 ramping up weight to the top set / 4x5 on the second week using the same weight for the first 4 sets as last week but a 1x3 top set with a weight increase

Dumbell Incline Bench Press: 5x10

Lateral Raises: 5x10

Skullcrushers: 3x10

Overhead Extensions: 3x10

Dumbell Flys: 4x15

Calf Press: 4x15


Friday: Legs (Squats & Deadlifts) & Abs

Squat: 4x5 ramping up weight using the same weight as Monday - 1x3 an increase from the weight used Monday from the top set

Deadlift: 4x5 ramping up weight using the same weight as Monday - 1x3 an increase from the weight used Monday from the top set

Weighted Decline Crunches: 4x15

Ab Pulldowns: 4x15


Saturday: Upper Body Pull & Calves

Barbell Rows: 5x5 ramping up weight to the top set / 4x5 on the second week using the same weight for the first 4 sets as last week but a 1x3 top set with a weight increase

Barbell Shrug: 5x5 ramping up weight to the top set / 4x5 on the second week using the same weight for the first 4 sets as last week but a 1x3 top set with a weight increase

Pullups: 5x10 (assisted, bodyweight, or weighted)

Yates Row: 5x10 (close grip Rows with a static contraction at the top part of the movement)

Dumbell Curl: 3x10

Concentration Curls: 3x10

Wrist Curls: 4x15

Seated Calf Raises: 4x15


You could deload your 5 rep PR by up to 10 pounds but no more. That way, you will match your Squat, Deadlift, and Shrug PR by the second or third week, while you will take four weeks to match your Bench, Press, and Row PR similar to Madcows 5x5 but this will decrease the chance of stalling. I would recommend only a 5 pounds deload for true intermediate novices who just finished starting strength or have been lifting for a year. You should increase the weight by 5 pounds on Bench Press and Press in the second week and then keep alternating similar to Madcows Monday and Friday day. That will cause a 5 pound increase every two weeks for the Bench Press and Military Press. You could do more if you think that you could really handle it but you are risking stalling in the future. Rows usually increase by either 5 or 10 pounds every two weeks. It is very rare that Shrugs increase by only 5 pounds every two weeks. They should increase by 10 pounds, 15 pounds, or even 20 pounds every two weeks. Your Squat and Deadlift can increase by 5 pounds every week. Do not keep trying to increase your Deadlift by 10 pounds each week. It increases your chance of stalling. You should run the program for at least 8 weeks but it should run for a lot longer which could be as much as 12 or 16 weeks. If you stall you should just deload and start the program again. If you keep stalling then you have worn out the program and you should advance to a more advanced program or a different program.


REMEMBER TO EAT BIG. You should be eating 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per your bodyweight. You should be eating a lot of healthy fats. You should have fruits or vegetables in every meal. You can eat 1.5 to 2 grams of starchy carbohydrates per bodyweight but your overall carbohydrate intake should be much more than this due to the fruits, vegetables, and other things such as oats. REMEMBER THAT THIS ROUTINE WORKS ONLY WHEN EATING BIG SUCH AS OTHER HYPERTROPHY ROUTINES. YOU CANNOT GAIN BIGGER AND STRONGER MUSCLES EATING LESS THAN A BABY.

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