I have lifted free weights for most of my life. I started in Junior High and continued through High School and College. I took a hiatus after college for a while, but started up again in my late twenties. Most of my workouts consisted of bench press, squats, pull-ups, tricep push downs, curls and occasionally deadlifts. I would usually do these exercises anywhere from 5-8 reps for 3 sets. My strength increased very modestly. I think my bench maxed at around 240 when I was weighing 170. I am 5'11".
A buddy at work mentioned the 5 X 5 workout. I was hesitant after looking at the plan. 3 exercises everyday and 1 of them was squats. Squats were part of every routine and bench-press, bent-over rows, deadlifts, and shoulder press were performed every other day. I started with very low weights because 5 sets of 5 reps was something new. Every exercise was difficult at first, but once I could perform all 5 reps on the last set I increased the weight 5 pounds. Within 3-6 months, I was stronger than I was in High School.
I gained some weight during the 6 months, but not much. It was probably around 5 pounds and it was mostly muscle. My arms were bigger than they were when I was devoting 4 exercises to just biceps and triceps. I think at the end my bench was close to 280 which was close to 225 6 months before. Squats were around 400 after staring at around 300. I was blown away with this program. Plus, there is a very nicely designed free App that I used to document my progress. The app also has a timer for making sure you aren't taking too long of breaks between sets. If you want to get stronger and not gain too much mass, this is the way to go. The only reason I quit was because the workouts ended up taking closer to 1.5 hours after all of the warmups and it didn't feel right taking that long of a break during the workday.
I have no doubt that my strength would have kept increasing if I would have stayed on the program. I am definitely thinking about starting back up soon once I am no longer working my life away.