Review: Stronglifts 5×5 – Initial Impressions

Stronglifts 5x5Stronglifts 5×5 – Initial Impressions

In my travels throughout the interwebs I’ve come across various methods purported to increase strength.  One of these is Body by Science, which many people who follow the Bulletproof Exec Dave Asprey report success with.  One of the main benefits is that you only need to train for 12 minutes, once a week.

This is definitely something I want to experiment with in the future… but not quite yet.

Since one of the requirements of my next experiment, Carb Back-Loading, requires resistance training multiple times per week I needed to find something else.

Now my typical weight-training regimen is to go into the gym and do some squats, deadlifts, bench-presses, and lat-pulldowns.  I haven’t been diligent about keeping track of what weights I’ve been using, and because of this I think I’ve been stuck at the same weights for quite a while.

That’s where Stronglifts 5×5 comes in.

It is a program popularized by coach and trainer Mehdi.  The main idea behind this is that in order to build strength you have to lift heavy.

The program itself is actually very simple, which is why I like it.  It only requires 3 days a week, and involves a total of 5 different workouts.

Workout A – Squat, Bench-press, Barbell Row

Workout B – Squat, Barbell overhead press, Deadlift

The 5×5 means, 5 sets of 5 reps.

Pretty simple right?

Now there’s one last part.  At the start of every new workout session, you progressively increase the weight of each exercise by 5 lbs.

So this is what 2 weeks would look like:

Week 1

Monday – Workout A

  • Squat 5×5 – 45 lbs
  • Bench-press 5×5 – 45 lbs
  • Barbell Row 5×5- 65 lbs

Tuesday – Rest

Wednesday – Workout B

  • Squat 5×5 – 50 lbs
  • Barbell overhead press 5×5 – 45 lbs
  • Deadlift 1×5 – 90 lbs

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Workout A

  • Squat 5×5 – 55 lbs
  • Bench-press 5×5 – 50 lbs
  • Barbell Row 5×5 – 70 lbs

Saturday – Rest
Sunday – Rest

Week 2

Monday – Workout B

  • Squat 5×5 – 60 lbs
  • Barbell overhead press 5×5 – 55 lbs
  • Deadlift 1×5 – 100 lbs

Tuesday – Rest

Wednesday – Workout A

  • Squat 5×5 – 65 lbs
  • Bench-press 5×5 – 55 lbs
  • Barbell Row 5×5 – 75 lbs

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Workout B

  • Squat 5×5 – 70 lbs
  • Barbell overhead press 5×5 – 60 lbs
  • Deadlift 1×5 – 110 lbs

Saturday – Rest
Sunday Rest

He recommends that people start at the recommended weights above, which may seem light to a lot of people, in order for people to practice their form and experience the positive feedback of successfully adding more weight each time.

There were a few things that stuck out to me that only made sense when I read over his free e-book (which I highly recommend).  The first being the amount of squats… I couldn’t believe it was used so often!  Apparently it’s the foundation of this program because of how effective it is in engaging the entire body.

The second thing I noticed was that deadlifts were only 1×5 (1 set of 5 reps), which is because your legs will be dead over the course of the week from all the squats.

Here are some free videos Mehdi put up on youtube showing how he goes through each workout… and as you can see, each session only takes around 30 minutes!

There’s even a handy dandy free iPhone App that’s available that makes tracking and recording progress very easy.  It tells you what exercises to do, how much weight to lift (it automatically calculates the progression), and how much rest to take in between sets.

This pretty much removes any chance for error AND serves as a convenient way to keep track of your weights!

Conclusion

With the simplicity and efficiency of the program coupled with the idiot proof free Iphone App, this was a program that I had to try out.

I didn’t start off at his recommended weights because I have enough weight training experience to know how to do things with proper form AND because Carb Back-Loading requires hard weight-training to stimulate the proper changes in the body… and lifting 45 lbs for me wasn’t going to cut it.

I’m eager to see how far this takes me.

Here is a link to how to get his free e-book and starter package.

4 Responses to Review: Stronglifts 5×5 – Initial Impressions

  1. Jasmine says:

    I started StrongLifts 5X5 after months of body weight exercises. I love Mehdi’s Workout A and B videos, and also love that he pushes drug-free lifting. Unfortunately two weeks in to the program I tweaked my lower back during squats. I realized I had better get my form down before putting weight on my back.

    I’ve been reading “Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training” by Mark Rippetoe, and highly recommend it to anyone wanting to perfect their form. Mark gives incredible detail for the squat, press, deadlift, bench press and power clean.

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      I agree 100% with what you said about form.

      The BJJ Cavewife remarked recently that We are fortunate in that we’ve had great coaching in the past so are very comfortable with our form while working out. We get the occasional form tune up here and there, but over all, it’s spot on.

      She actually just had her first Stronglifts session last nite and really liked it.

      We were correcting each other’s form here and there… slight weight shift here and there, and it was a lot of fun.

      When observing a lot of the other guys in the gym, we were cringing at the terrible form out there… some folks are on the verge of catastrophe with what they’re doing…

  2. Doug says:

    I have had a couple goes at 5×5. I have had a good results (I am a classic ectomorph hard-gainer).

    What I find difficult, is that after you’ve been at it a while, you are essentially going to failure every single exercise. I find that demoralizing after a while.

    Also, I found the squats just crushed me – I could barely stay on my bike to ride home. It was hard not to dread them.

    My biggest complaint is probably the lack of periodization. I think if you are going to do 5×5, plan for some alternate cycles, and also through in some de-load weeks sometimes.

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      Great suggestions. I think throwing in some de-load weeks is necessary.

      And Yes.. Squats are really killing me right now… I’m taking up to 5 min between sets to allow myself to recover… and I’ve become one of those guys in the gym that grunts or almost yells at the end of a set. Never thought I’d be one of those dudes… on the last 2 or 3 reps of heavy squats (hitting new PRs each session) I need every last bit of help I can get!

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