StrongLifts 5×5: The Ultimate Beginners Workout Routine

By guardian-elite
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What is StrongLifts 5×5?

Stronglifts 5×5 is a workout routine using standard bread and butter compound weightlifting exercises. These lifts consist of a squat, bench press, barbell row, overhead press and a deadlift.

Using these five weightlifting exercises over the course of only 3 days a week it is said that you can build strength, increase muscle mass and burn fat.

Build strength, increase muscle mass and burn fat.

Basically, I’ve covered the starting goals for any beginner weightlifter in one sentence. You most likely either want to increase muscle mass, build strength or burn excess fat (without cardio), or you want to do some combination of all three.

Oh, and you also don’t want to be required to spend 7 days in the gym either.

Surprisingly, you can have all of the above using the Stronglifts 5×5 workout routine. If you’re new to weightlifting or just new to the concept of a Stronglifts 5×5 routine, we’ll cover the basics here and get you on the fast track to hitting all the goals.

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Why StrongLifts 5×5 is Great for the Beginner Weight Lifter

As we briefly discussed above, the Stronglifts 5×5 workout routine is great for beginners. Here are some reasons you should consider trying out Stronglifts 5×5, whether you’re a beginner weightlifter or not.

Burn Fat Without Cardio

If cardio is the only way you know how to burn fat, well then, I’m going to blow your mind. Stop. You don’t need to hit the treadmill for an hour to burn fat.

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The more muscle you have, the better and more efficient your body is going to become at burning fat, even when you’re not working out. This is called the basal metabolic rate, and adding muscle to your body will super charge your metabolism.

This is going to make your body convert those calories into energy at a high rate and more efficiently than you would otherwise.

Build a Solid Base with Stronglifts 5×5 Program

Everyone wants to be able to show off the big chest and popping biceps, but none of those really matter without building a solid base first. The “big three” as they are called is the squat, deadlift and bench press. Guess what? That’s three out of the five exercises for Stronglifts 5×5.

Building a strong lower half will actually help to improve with virtually all of your other lifts. Why is that? Take the squat for example, when you perform a squat, not only are you working the leg muscles, but you are also working traps, your back, calves, etc. These other muscles are recruited to help stabilize your body and lift the weight.

This is what we talk about when we say these types of lifts are “Compound Lifts”.

Total Body Workout

If you are a beginner without much muscle mass and in need of improvement in all areas, you are going to want to hit as many muscle groups as possible.

You want the most bang for your buck. The combination of all five of these workouts will recruit and use all the major muscles in the body.

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You don’t need to worry about isolation exercises to begin with. You need to be building a strong foundation for later on when you’re ready to hyper-focus on certain areas after the initial muscle mass has been built. A Stronglifts 5×5 routine will stimulate the most amount of muscle growth.

If you want other lifts than the 5 used with the Stronglifts 5×5 program, check out this article: 17 Compound Lifts to Gain Muscle Mass Fast

Workout Only 3-days a Week With Stronglifts 5×5

There are some common excuses people make when they don’t want to exercise. Most will revolve around time restrictions, work, or straight-up laziness. The advantage to Stronglifts is that it is only a 3-day a week routine.

That means that if you know there is going to be conflicts on your normal gym day the coming week, rearrange the schedule to still get the three days in.

Note: We’ll touch on this later, but you don’t want to do Stronglifts 5×5 two days in a row, for obvious reasons, like letting your body recover.  So, if you need to rearrange, plan accordingly.

Simple Plan to Follow

If you haven’t realized by now, it should be fairly obvious. This is an easy plan to follow, 3 days, only five different exercises and you’re done. There’s not a bunch of complicated exercises to do, or setting a timer, or the need to go to the gym 6 out of 7 days.

It’s 3 days a week and these 5 lifts.

Main Lifts for StrongLifts 5×5 Workout

  • Stronglifts 5×5 Squat
  • Stronglifts 5×5 Overhead Press
  • Stronglifts 5×5 Bench Press
  • Stronglifts 5×5 Barbell Row
  • Stronglifts 5×5 Deadlift
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Why Only a Barbell Using Stronglifts 5×5?

Using the barbell will allow you to use the most weight possible without getting into isolation style lifts that are not the basis of a Stronglifts 5×5 routine. Remember, these five exercises are compound in nature so they will naturally recruit other muscles in your body to perform each exercise.This is the key to quickly building strength.

How long to Rest In-Between Sets

As opposed to a high intensity workout, where you are pushing max intensity as quickly as possible with short rest intervals, this workout is focused on completing every rep under control and being sure to hit every rep of the set. This also means we want a decent recovery period in-between these sets.

Pick a weight that is challenging but not so heavy that you won’t be able to finish each set. In-between these sets, aim for a rest period of 90 seconds up to 3 minutes.

The key is to make sure our body is ready to take on the next set. If you’re only going down half-way on each squat, you won’t ever realize the full benefits of the workout.

Things To Know Before You Start Stronglifts 5×5

If thus far you have been convinced to give Stronglifts a try, then you are probably wondering where to start and what the workout routine will look like.We will go over what each 3-day week will consist of, but first you will want to figure out how much weight to put on the bar if you are just starting.

One Rep Max

A one rep max is going to be the basis for which you determine your Stronglifts 5×5 starting weight. This one rep max is the heaviest weight you can rep, for only one rep of the given exercise.

So, first things first. You will need to find out what this one rep max is for each of the five exercises in the workout.

Make sure you are properly warmed up and ready to go before hitting that one rep max. Starting cold will undoubtedly affect your performance. Start this warm up by putting a manageable amount of weight on the bar, and with good form, lift at minimum 5 reps of the exercise.

After resting for 1-2 minutes, add additional weight that you feel would represent around 80% of your max. Try for 3-5 reps of this lift. Continue the rest process and add 5-10 pounds until you can no longer complete one rep. The last weight you were able to complete one rep will now be your one rep max.

Want a breakdown using a one rep max calculator? Check out this calculator from bodybuilding.com. This calculator is going to show you what weight as a percentage you should be lifting from 50% to 95%. This will come in handy for the next section below.

Each Exercise Starts With 50% of Your One Rep Max

Now that the one rep max has been established we can determine what the starting weight should be for the 5×5 workout. Start using 50% of your one rep max weight for the 5×5. Each week, you can increase this until you are nearing what your starting one rep max is.

Now, through the beauty of progressive overload, we get to set a new one rep max. Guess what, you’re building strength and muscle mass now too.

Stronglifts 5×5 Workout Routine

What we know so far is that the Stronglifts workout routine will consist of these five exercises:

  • Squat
  • Bench Press
  • Barbell Row
  • Overhead Press
  • Deadlift

As you already know, this workout routine will only consist of three days spent per week lifting. Building strength, power and muscle takes big, compound and heavy lifts to accomplish.

However, doing this means we need to give our body time to recover in between days too.

The Stronglifts 5×5 workout routine will follow two days of exercises, Day A and Day B. You will begin on Day A and alternate to Day B over a two week span to complete each cycle. Here is how a sample Stronglifts 5×5 routine will look.

Two Week StrongLifts 5×5 Workout Routine

During this two week routine, you will do three workouts per week, without training two days in a row. By the end of the two weeks you will have completed the entire workout routine.

This alternating series of days will continue, but the goal is to progressively increase the amount of weight you are lifting each week. Add five pounds to each lift, while still being able to complete all five reps of each lift.

Eventually, you won’t be able to add anymore weight to the bar and still be able to complete all five reps. However, by this time, you should have noticed a nice increase in the amount of weight you can lift, along with increase strength and muscle mass.

When To Increase The Weight

We mentioned above increasing the weight of each lift by 5 pounds every week. If 5 pounds is not challenging enough, try adding 5 pounds to each side of the barbell.

You can even increase the weight every session, instead of every week. The goal is to gradually and progressively increase your strength by lifting more weight.

Want to know more about Progressive Overload? We’ve got you covered here.

How Much To Increase The Weight?

How much to increase the weight depends on your current level and one rep max. One thing to keep in mind is that overloading your body too quickly can backfire. Your body will need time to adapt, recover and rebuild the muscle tissue.

Starting lighter and slowly increasing is best for optimal results and less chance for injury. Start at 5 pound increases per session and work up from there, until you can move to a weight increase once per week.

When To Reduce Weight

If you don’t calculate your one rep max correctly and possibly overestimate the amount of weight you should be lifting, you can cause issues for yourself.

Lifting too heavy can damage your joints and overload your muscles. Possibly leading to injury. If you find that you can’t complete the workout, or complete the 5 reps per exercise, you need to reduce the weight.

Reduce by 5 pounds per exercise until you’re able to complete all five reps for each exercise in the workout.

De-load

In cases that you’ve really over-done it with heavy weights too quickly, you may need to try what is called ade-load.

There are two options when going for a de-load. Plan to have the de-load last for the whole two week routine to get your body back on track. You can either reduce the weight you’re lifting by 25%, while maintaining the same rep level, or you can maintain the same amount of weight and reduce the rep level from five down to 2, while skipping the 2 x 5 deadlift.

Things To Remember With Stronglifts 5×5

The most important thing to remember when doing any workout is to make sure your form is spot-on. Proper form will make sure your lifts are doing exactly the work you intend them to do. Proper form will make sure each lift is completed in the most efficient way possible.

Stronglifts 5×5 Common Problems and Solutions

Plateau

If you find yourself unable to increase the weight each week or unable to complete the whole rep count per exercise, you may have hit a plateau. In this case, remember the options for a de-load to help you get back on track.

Poor Diet

Eating a bunch of junk, then hitting the gym expecting to make gains is never going to happen. It’s important to make sure your diet in on point outside of the gym, so you can perform your best while inside the gym. Stronglifts 5×5 nutrition is no different.

Things like getting enough protein, eating whole foods and drinking enough water can all contribute to making serious progress in your Stronglifts journey and strength gains.

Not Enough Rest

Not getting enough sleep at night can also affect your performance in the gym. If you find your struggling through each workout, and you’ve tried everything else we’ve talked about to get back on track, the culprit may be your sleep habits.

According to the CDC, 30% of us don’t get enough sleep at night. Fixing this small problem will do wonders for you not only in the gym, but in other areas of your life too.

Not Enough Recovery

Not letting your muscles recovery properly in between workouts will definately hamper your ability to make the gains you want. This is why Stronglifts recommends never working out two days in a row.

You’ll be lifting heavy weight, and your body needs this extra day to recover.

If you haven’t been taking the proper recovery, and you find that you’re moving in the wrong direction, this is obviously the reason why. Don’t get too anxious, let your body recover and watch yourself get stronger for it.

No Warm Up

You may not think a proper warm up is needed, but you’d be wrong. You want to make sure all your muscles have the proper blood flow, joints are ready, and even mentally you’re ready to go. You can’t improve when you’re injured.

Drawbacks of StrongLifts 5×5

As with any workout routine or protocol, there are pros and cons. What may work for one person might not necessarily work for another.We all respond differently. Below we’ll look at some possible draw backs of the Stronglifts 5×5 workout routine that you should know before beginning.

StrongLifts 5×5 Might Not Build Muscle Mass Quickly

Depending on your genetic make-up. Doing only lower rep ranges with heavier weights might not build the muscle mass you’re looking for.

There have been anecdotal evidence that varying your rep ranges between lower with heavier weights and lights weight and higher reps can build muscle mass the most effectively.

Outside of the anecdotal evidence, there is this study that shows combinations of high and low intensity resistance exercises yielded faster gains in muscle size.

Training Frequency

One benefit of the Stronglifts 5×5 workout is it’s simplicity. 3 workouts per week. But the benefit of the simplicity can also work against you when trying to develop muscle mass in your total body.

The reason for this is because Stronglifts 5×5 is naturally more heavily focused on the legs. Using the 3 day per week workout schedule you will end up working legs three times per week and the other muscle groups only 1.5 times per week.

If your goal is to add overall muscle mass this low frequency could be a problem. There are many other lifting routines that will work all muscle groups either once or even twice per week.

Neglect Other Muscle Groups

As outlined above, muscle groups not directly included in the Stronglifts 5×5 routine may be neglected.

We do know that compound lifts like what are used with Stronglifts will work multiple muscle groups, but if you are interested in isolating and working on particular muscle groups not included in Stronglifts 5×5, then this workout routine may not be right for you.

Summary

Stronglifts 5×5 is a great workout program for beginner lifter who may not know where to start, or is completely new to the gym and wants to put on size and build strength.

The benefits are there in the form of simplicity and learning the basics. The 5 lifts you will learn using Stronglifts 5×5 will build a strong base to lead you toward your other goals as you continue on your fitness path.