How StrongLifts 5x5 Changed My Life...
6 years ago I was a newcomer, browsing the internet looking for the perfect workout routine I can perform with minimal equipment as there wasn’t a gym nearby my house. After much searching, asking people for recommendations and trying to pick myself up some cheap equipment I discovered this ‘Stronglifts’ program created by a guy known as Medhi. After reading through the forums of his site and seeing countless skinny men gaining not only strength but also decent amounts of size quickly I decided to give it a try… This post will explore the Stronglifts 5x5 program, I will then go into my experience and thoughts on the program itself.
What is Stronglifts 5x5?
Stronglifts 5x5 is a workout regime focused solely on compound movements, you won’t find any barbell curls or tricep extensions here. Stronglifts is not only aimed at beginners, but instead anyone that is looking to gain size and strength. The Stronglifts 5x5 workout regime is comprised of 2 workouts ‘Workout A’ and ‘Workout B’ which are constantly alternated as you will be performing 3 workouts per week (in my case I did Monday/Wednesday/Friday, but whatever best suits your schedule will be fine too as long as you are allowing a rest day between workouts). Each workout only contains 3 exercises, which may not seem like much as you look at it but each exercise is to be performed for 5 sets of 5 repetitions (with the exception of the deadlift), totalling 15 sets of compound exercises per workout when performing workout A and 11 sets when performing workout B. Now, let’s take a look at the workouts themselves:
Workout A Squats 5x5 Bench Press 5x5 Barbell Rows 5x5
Workout B Squats 5x5 Shoulder press 5x5 Deadlift 1x5
Yes, that’s right you will be squatting 3 times per week.
The aim is to add 5lbs to each lift per workout with the exception of the deadlift which is to have 10lbs added to your previous weight each workout.
My Progress Following Stronglifts 5x5
Before starting the Stronglifts 5x5 program I had literally never lifted a weight in my life, I was a skinny 135lbs, roughly 16% body fat and struggled to lift the bar (20kg). I followed the Stronglifts program for approximately 9 months, my lifts after following the program for this period of time were as follows:
Weight: 175lbs, similar body fat (16%~)
Squat – 90kg (198lbs)
Bench – 70kg (155lbs)
Deadlift – 100kg (220lb)
Row – 60kg (132lbs)
Shoulder press – 45kg (100lbs)
An excellent foundation workout regime for any newcomer or even intermediate lifter, you will learn how to focus on and perfect your compound exercises. You will gain incredible core strength, stabilising heavy weight on squats, barbell rows and deadlifts every week will do more for you core than any amount of abdominal crunches will. Progressive overload - you know exactly how much weight to add to the bar for each of your lifts each session, this eliminates guess work and keeps you motivated to push that little bit of additional weight each session. You will build mental discipline, grit and strength, this will transfer over into all facets of your life.
Squatting 3x per week can be mentally and physically exhausting for a newcomer. Lack of variety. Can become troublesome if performed in the gym (considering you will be using the rack for your entire workout which will last in the vicinity of 45 minutes – 1 hour).
Would I Recommend StrongLifts To You?
I highly recommend you follow the Stronglifts 5x5 program if you’re a newcomer or intermediate lifter.
Disregard all of the isolation exercises like bicep curls, triceps extensions and lateral raises for now, once you have built up a solid foundation with the Stronglifts 5x5 program and have put on some size and strength you can hone in on individual body parts later down the track.
When you start this program you’re most likely going to need to increase the amount of food and sleep you are getting in order to continue progressing, the start may seem easy as you start out lifting reasonably light, but not too far into the program you will need to give it everything you have in order to move that weight.
Take adequate rests between sets, as this isn’t a hypertrophy based routine you will more than 30 seconds rest between sets, don’t be afraid to take 2~ minutes rest between sets, as long as you need to recover enough to hit that same weight again. My final and most crucial piece of advice for those that are looking to start this program is to ensure your form is correct before you start to add weight. If possible have someone critique your form. Your back should not be rounded on your squats, deadlifts or bent over row. Keep your core tight and drive through your heels on your squats and deadlifts. When bench pressing unless you have rails set up in a power rack to catch the bar it is essential to have a spotter on hand, when starting this program I got caught under the barbell more times then I care to remember.
You can find more details on the Stronglifts 5x5 program here.