Should You Try StrongLifts 5×5

There’s a lot of misinformation out there and a lot of broscience following it.  You’ll hear so many things when you want to get fit.  Here’s a few bro-sciency things:

  • You have to have “muscle confusion”
  • If it doesn’t hurt you’re not working out hard enough
  • Eat this, not that, if you want to get big and strong

Now, let’s break these down a bit further to get at the root of what these mean.

Muscle Confusion

You hear it all of the time.  Advice to “change your routine every few weeks.”  Add more cardio, do less cardio.  Switch to 8 sets of 20 reps.  All types of crazy stuff.   Tom Venuto has a great article on why this is messed up.

No Pain No Gain

This is the guy who tells you that you should hurt everywhere the next day.  That if you’re not feeling Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) for the next week you’re not working out hard enough.

Eat This, Not That

Eat more protein, go keto, go paleo, follow Atkins.  This is the advice that is generally the most practical, and to be honest, the hardest work you will ever do.  Diet is 80% of your effort.

Let’s Get To StrongLifts 5×5

StrongLifts 5×5 is a linear progressive-overload strength training routine geared towards 5 sets of 5 reps.  Your exercises consist of:

Workout A:

  • Squats
  • Bench Press
  • Bent-over Rows (Pendlay Rows)

Workout B:

  • Squats
  • Overhead Press
  • Deadlifts (1×5)

Workout Schedule:

  • Monday – Workout A
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Workout B
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – Workout A
  • Saturday – Rest
  • Sunday – Rest

Each day you lift you add 5 lbs to the barbell.  Deadlift you add 10 lbs each time.  The goal is to progress 5 lbs at each lift each time you perform the workout.  Start with the empty bar (45 lbs).  Monday you do 5×5 squats at 45 lbs.  Wednesday you squat again so you add 5 lbs (2.5 lbs to each side) for a total of 5×5 at 50 lbs.  So on and so forth.  The weight will quickly challenge you as a new lifter.

Optional: Dips and Chin-ups/Pull-ups.

Now let’s use StrongLifts and attack that bro-science I mentioned before.

Progressive Overload “IS” muscle confusion.

This is a no-brainer.  You don’t need to swap routines every 2 months.  Adding 5 lbs to the bar each time  you lift is challenging your muscles.  Think “muscle challenging” not “muscle confusion.”  There’s a lot of science backing up linear progressive weight training.

No Pain No Gain

Silliness.  Any time you CHANGE your routine or TRAIN DIFFERENTLY you are going to get sore.  The real cause of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is unknown, but it is speculated that it is due to your body needing to adapt to new stimuli.  You WILL BE SORE after starting StrongLifts.  It will peak 48 hours after you lift and it will subside by the 3rd or 4th day.  LIFT THROUGH THE SORENESS.  Exercise is a proven analgesic.

Eat This Not That

True-to a degree.  This depends on your goals.  When you’re new to lifting your body and your central nervous system (CNS) must adapt and learn to recruit muscle fibers.  New lifters can lose fat and gain some muscle while on a calorie deficit.  You want to lose fat?  Eat less than your calculated Total Daily Energy Expenditure.  Want to gain muscle?  Eat MORE than your calculated TDEE.  Find a calculator, such as the one at IIFYM.COM, calculate your TDEE and your protein/carbs/fats macro requirements.

StrongLifts is an excellent beginner program.  Try it for 3 months (download the spreadsheet from Mehdi’s StrongLifts 5×5 page) and see how you do.  You’ll surprise yourself with how quickly you can progress!