ICF 5×5 Overview – One Of The Best Beginner Routines

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If you’re looking for a full-body program that’s proven to work, then ICF 5×5 is what you need. Ice cream fitness 5×5 is a beginner program designed by Jason Blaha to gain mass and build strength. Perhaps the best aspect of this routine is that you only need to train 3 days each week, although 6 is also an option. 


The main goal of this program is to build muscle, although you will definitely get stronger too if you’re a novice. It is run for 12 weeks, and you need to allow approximately 60-90 minutes for each workout.

Background Information

Type of Program: Full Body 


Training Experience: Beginner to Intermediate


# of days: 3


Duration: 12 weeks, although you could go longer.


Required equipment: Barbell, dumbbells, cable machine. 


Optional Supplements: Creatine, whey, pre-workout.


Created by: Jason Blaha 


*Both men and women can do this program, there is no gender limitation* 


Because this program is designed to be 3 days each week, your workout split would look something like this. 


First week:


Sunday: Rest day 

Monday: Workout A 

Tuesday: Rest day

Wednesday: Workout B 

Thursday: Rest day

Friday: Workout A 

Saturday: Rest day 


Following week:


Sunday: Rest day 

Monday: Workout B 

Tuesday: Rest day 

Wednesday: Workout A 

Thursday: Rest day 

Friday: Workout B 

Saturday: Rest day 


Following the second week, you will go back to the first week’s routine where you hit workout A twice. You will alternate like this for 12 weeks, or until you’re done with the program. The nice thing about ICF 5×5 is that you generally get weekends off while hitting each muscle group effectively.

ICF 5x5 Program Specifics

Now that you know how to set up the program, it’s time to give an overview of the exercises. Ice cream fitness does a great job of incorporating multiple compound lifts, which are crucial for novices. 


Workout A: 


Barbell Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps 

Bench press – 5 sets of 5 reps 

Bent-over rows – 5 sets of 5 reps 

Barbell Shrugs – 3 sets of 8 reps 

Tricep extensions – 3 sets of 8 reps

Barbell bicep curls – 3 sets of 8 reps 

Hyperextensions – 2 sets of 10 reps 

Machine crunches – 3 sets of 10 reps 


Workout B: 


Barbell squats – 5 sets of 5 reps 

Deadlifts – 1 set of 5 reps 

Overhead press – 5 sets of 5 reps 

Bent-over row – 5 sets of 5 reps 

Close grip bench press – 3 sets of 8 reps 

Barbell bicep curls – 3 sets of 8 reps

Machine crunches – 3 sets of 10 reps 


As you can tell, you’re taking care of all of your major compound lifts with this program. The goal is to go heavier on your compounds because you’re only doing 5 reps. For the sets of 8 or 10, choose a weight that challenges you but also allows good form.

Frequently Asked Questions

I am not the creator of this program, Jason Blaha is. Regardless, the program is quite popular and many people ask questions about the layout. After researching forums and other websites, I put together the following FAQ. Some of these questions were answered by Blaha himself, others are based on prior knowledge. 


Do I have to deadlift? 


Yes, in this case, you should definitely be deadlifting. In this program, you will be doing one set of deadlifts for five reps. This is a very low deadlift volume, and therefore you have nothing to worry about in terms of injury or fatigue. If you have to start light, then so be it, but you should not skip deadlifts. 


Can I substitute exercises for similar ones? 


Generally no, but there are some exceptions. These exercises are the bread and butter of weight lifting, and this program is designed for beginners. Exceptions can be made if you have injuries that prevent you from doing certain exercises.  


I can’t squat because of an injury, what can I do? 


If you cannot squat because of bad knees or a lower back injury, consider doing heavy reverse lunges or box squats. Unless you physically cannot perform the exercise for medical reasons, you should be squatting. Knee sleeves or wraps may also help you out. 


Is there enough volume in ICF 5×5? 


The answer will vary from person to person, but considering this is a beginner’s routine, then yes there is enough volume. Workout A has 29 total sets while Workout B has 25 total sets, both more than enough for newbie gains. Rest assured, there is enough intensity too because you’re going heavy on the compound movements. 


How long should I rest between sets?


Your rest time between sets does not have to be set in stone. Generally, you should rest about 2-5 minutes after each set of 5. This time range will give you enough time to recover after lifting heavy. For sets of 8 or 10, you should rest 60-90 seconds between each set. 


Do I change anything if I’m cutting?


According to Blaha, you can change your compound movements from 5 sets of 5 to 3 sets of 5. You can also change your accessory lifts from 3 sets of 8-10 to 2 sets of the same. Lastly, instead of trying to progress on your lifts every week, you will increase the weight every two weeks.


Jason Blaha answers several questions in the video below. If you’re more of a visual learner, then I suggest watching the video.

Pros and Cons

Now that we’ve covered the background information about this program, it’s time to break down the pros and cons. Overall, I think ICF 5×5 is a good program for beginners, but there are some apparent flaws. 




  • There is definitely enough volume here to build muscle, especially if you have zero gym experience. 


  • This is a full-body routine, so you’re hitting most major muscle groups with each workout. If you’re training three days each week, full-body is particularly effective. 


  • The choice of accessory exercises will contribute to more strength on your compound lifts. Moreover, doing three different compounds in each workout will also yield gains. 


  • You do not need to devote much time to this program. Three days a week for 90 minutes is equal to 4.5 hours of your time. If you cannot devote 4.5 hours each week to crafting a better version of yourself, then this is not for you. 




  • There is hardly any hamstring work in this program. For beginners, this can quickly lead to muscular imbalances between the quads and hamstrings. An imbalance between these two can quickly lead to hamstring strains. Instead of doing deadlifts for one set of 5, I think it would be more effective to do 3 sets of 10 dumbbell deadlifts. 


  • Ab-work is minimal, but you can always do additional ab-work on your own time. It’s hard to complain about this because technically you’re working your abs with all the other exercises. 


  • There is enough overall volume, but not for specific muscle groups. As a beginner, this is not really a big deal. However, as you progress in your training, doing one exercise for each muscle group will get you nowhere. You will recruit a lot of muscle fibers no matter what as a novice, so I would not worry too much. If you consider yourself an intermediate lifter, look into a PPL routine or upper-lower split. 


  • Your arms can definitely handle a lot more volume than ICF 5×5 recommends. I would scrap the machine crunches for another bicep or tricep exercise, but that is just my opinion.

Results To Expect

The results are going to vary from person to person. It all depends on your diet, previous training experience, and the ability to follow the program. If you have no weight lifting experience whatsoever, expect to gain 5 pounds of muscle and 40-60 pounds on your compound lifts.


When you’re a beginner you will put on muscle and build strength exponentially. After your first year of training, things will start to slow down. With one year of consistent training, the general rule of thumb is that you can gain 15-20 pounds of muscle mass. Of course, this is assuming that your nutrition is good. 


Given the expected muscle gain, we can calculate the possible results from a 12-week program with some simple math.


  1. 52 weeks in a year * 12-weeks for this program = 0.23 


  1. 0.23 * 15-20 pounds of muscle = 4.61 or approximately 5 pounds of muscle in 12 weeks. 


Results are definitely going to vary, but the above math provides an estimate for what you can expect to gain. The strength gains were calculated by multiplying 5 times 12 because you are supposed to add five pounds each week on your compounds.

Closing Remarks

At the end of the day, I definitely think this program is effective for beginners, but it also has some flaws. With that being said, every program has its own flaws, and I am in no way criticizing Jason Blaha or ice cream fitness. This routine has helped thousands of people and it is great for getting started in the gym. 


Remember that the results I provided are a theoretical rough estimate. Your genetics, diet, and training intensity will determine the results you achieve after 12-weeks. Keep in mind that ICF 5×5 is a bodybuilding type of program. If your main goal is to get as strong as possible, check out a powerlifting program.

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