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Free 5 Week Barbell Basics Program

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

This post is meant to go alongside the 5 week barbell basics program that I have just released

It is available here:

Hawkers Hill Gym Barbell Basics
Download XLSX • 395KB



For a program to be worth using over longer periods of time it requires adjustment and that is what this program is able to automate to a certain extent. Via the use of percentages and effort level caps this program is able to adjust the weight that will be used. This takes some of the guesswork out of exercise weight selection, especially if you don't have lots of experience with strength programming to help you make optimal choices.

To access the program you will either need the Google Sheets app or the Microsoft Excel app on your phone. Either of these will allow you to view and edit the program as you go along.


The Program Guide

Inputting your information in to the program:

This is a screen shot of the first page of the program. It gives an overview of how to set it up and explains what you need to know to effectively run the program. The Green boxes are where you enter your current 1 Rep Maxes or if you don't know them, just use a best guess and if you are running the program and get to a point where you feel like you will fail a rep on either the squat, bench or deadlift, -5% off of your estimate for that lift and continue with the program.

So that is how you establish the weight that will be used on most of the core lifts. For accessories and some of the more intense sets we will use a difficulty rating instead of a set weight. This way it can adjust day to day. In this program we are using a rating system called RPE which stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion.

In a short summary RPE is a way or rating how difficult a set should be. Below is a chart that demonstrates what RPE is and the way it should be used. But if you would like a more indepth description click here to read the short article on the Hawkers Hill Gym website explaining it with more depth.

Next we move on to the main body of the program.


Everything You Need To Know About The First 4 Weeks

Week 1 Screenshot:

Above is a screenshot of Week 1 of the program. As you can see it shows all 3 workouts you will be doing in the week. It may look a little confusing at first but I will walk though it and hopefully you will see it's not that difficult to understand.

Remember if you need a reminder for RPE there is a chart on the first sheet of the program or you can get in contact with Jack and he will be able to run you through how to use the program (contact details available at the bottom of this article).

As you can see we have a list of movments we are doing and then the weight - sets x reps we will be doing for each movement. So for the first exercise we will be doing:

Squats at RPE 7 for 3 reps. And to help you work out what weight to use I have given you a estimate which is the number in blue.

The next box is the green one which means I want you to enter what weight you have lifted.

  • Remember if you need a reminder for RPE there is a chart on the first sheet.

  • Or you can check the article on the website by clicking here.

Once we have done this set we move to the next movement in the row below:

In this case it is a few more set of squats. But for these we have been told that we should just do 42.5kg for 3 sets of 5 reps.

So now we have done the first 2 movements. This leaves us with Leg press next:

For this we have 1 set of 8 - 10 reps at RPE 7.

This means we have to find a weight that we can do for around 8 to 10 reps and keep the difficulty around RPE 7, which we know means leaving 3 reps in reserve. We also have a green box to fill in, so here we will enter the weight that we used.

And finally we have the last movement of the session:

Which is the Hamstring curl and for this we just do:

3 sets of 10 to 12 reps at RPE 7

And that is the first session done!

The next sessions and weeks follow the same structure until we reach week 5. Week 5 is a testing week which will help us re-evaluate what 1 Rep Max estimates we should be using and allow us to push ourselves close to failure. This is super helpful when learning RPE as it is difficult to fully grasp what a max effort attempt is without pushing towards it every once and awhile.


The Changes in Week 5

Week 5 Screenshot:

Here is week 5. It looks similar to the previous weeks but this time it asks you to do a "MR10" set for each main movement.

Lets take a closer look at session 1

Here we are told by the notes that the MR set stands for Max Reps and that if we get to 10 reps we should stop. This set is also listed as RPE 9 which means we have to put a lot of effort in to this set and go until we are 1 rep from failure. Once we have done this, we enter the number of reps achieved in to the green box.

Once this has been done for all the week 5 sessions we can look at the charts that now have been auto filled at the bottom of the page:

Here we can see that depending on the weight used and the reps achieved we get a new calculated 1RM. This should be entered on the input page which will update the rest of the program and setting it up to be started again.

The final option we have before restarting the program is to select some new accessory movements we want to do. To do this there is a drop down box, shown below:

Here we can pick some new movements before we restart the program!


If you have any questions relating to this article, programming or training please get in contact via Facebook , Instagram or email:

*This program may also be updated periodically as people complete it and feedback is received

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