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Stronglifts and cutting [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Dec 5, 2018 9:30:00 AM

Stronglifts and cutting

Stronglifts and cutting

Beginners should avoid combining Stronglifts with a cut. Combine Stronglifts with a bulk to put muscle on your frame. Get clarity around your goal set. If your main goal is aesthetics consult a doctor and nutritionist and combine a solid diet plan with cardio. This is more likely to make you look defined fast. If you want  more details on Stronglifts and cutting read further.

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What are your goals 


If you search for information around Stronglifts and cutting it is likely that you are considering to start training. Before you start I always recommend that you sit down and think about your goal set before picking your program. Beginners have a tendency to want everything very fast. Sharpen your focus first to get the results you want. Your goals will fall in one of these three categories

  • Looks
  • Performance
  • Health


What kind of look do you strive for? Do you want to be muscly like Arnold? Do you want to look like Michael Phelps? Maybe even Eddie hall or Brian Shaw? Looks are usually determined by what we see in the media and on Instagram. Therefore it is very likely that you strive for that six-pack. Lean, mean and healthy to outdo your peers. Being admired. There is nothing wrong with this. It is important to know the What and Why first. 


The second area is performance. You might be someone who is very committed to a professional sports career. For this you want your body to match your ambitions. What kind of sport do you want to be successful in? Which benchmarks do you have to fulfill to be successful? Do looks really matter in this field? How will strength training contribute to your results? How much time are you able to invest apart from practicing your sport? Ask yourself these questions to really know what you are signing up for and why.


The last area is health. You might have had an injury that you are recovering from. You maybe want to stimulate your growth hormones because you are getting older. What other ways would there be to stay fit? Is strength training really the best route? Am I more of an indoor or outdoor person? These are questions to consider when you are mainly interested in health. 


The biggest mistake I see is that these areas are not getting prioritized against each other. Which one os most important to you looks, performance or health? It will be hard to impossible to progress quickly and take care of all three areas equally. So which one is most important to you? People who look at Stronglifts and cutting at the same time often value looks and performance equally. The result is that they are disappointed with the results they get.




Stronglifts is one of the most known lifting programs for beginners. The program works with a linear progression using progressive overload. This means that you will increase weight in every workout. With five sets for five repetitions, it places itself in the middle of generally accepted strength training theory.


At one end you will find hypertrophy programs. These are designed to maximize muscle gains. For these, you do more repetitions at a lower intensity. At the other end, you find programs optimized for strength. These usually work with fewer repetitions at a higher intensity. You can read my review of German Volume Training to learn more about hypertrophy. The Smolov Squat routine would be an example that is more designed towards strength.

The components of Stronglifts 5x5 are



You will train three times a week. You will squat every day. All other exercises will rotate from workout to workout. The goal is to increase the weight in each workout. All lifts are done as 5x5 except the deadlift. The deadlift is programmed in as a 1x5.


If you fail a set you repeat the next time. If you fail three times to complete the prescribed weight you will deload. The Stronglifts 5x5 App does very well in guiding you through the program. You will find detailed instructions on how to perform the lifts on the Stronglifts 5x5 website.


The biggest advantages of Stronglifts are its simplicity and low entry point. This makes it ideal for beginners who want to learn the barbell movements and get started in strength training. Progress can be easily tracked as you have feedback each workout. This is good to get you hooked and motivated. These are very important points for beginners. The main thing is to keep up the routine and establish joy with training in this phase.


The biggest disadvantages of Sronglifts are its lack of specificity, marketing, and explosiveness. Stronglifts prescribes the same movements and load increases across the board. This does not take into account that based on your weight and fitness you might be able to progress faster or slower. Especially women with very low bodyweight will need to progress to a 15kg - 20kg barbell. Very fit athletes might leave gains on the table as they could progress faster. The self-proclaimed best powerlifting program for beginners from powerliftingtowin addresses this in detail. 


The marketing is problematic because of the claims that Stronglifts will make you strong and big are overstated. There is not enough emphasis put on your diet. To bet big you have to eat big. The instructions touch upon this, but not in great detail. If you only do Stronglifts without a very strict dieting plan, you will be left disappointed with the results on this end. The marketing is also problematic as it actively discourages to ask for help from professionals. Beginners and experts usually benefit the most from external help. Find proper instructions to perfect form before you scale up in load.


The last point is explosiveness. Especially if you are a strength athlete you want some component in your programming that takes care of power over time. Starting strength takes care of this by using the clean. You can also add some medicine ball throws/slams before or after Stronglifts to take care of this. The program by itself is poorly written when it comes to explosiveness. 




Cutting is a term which developed in the bodybuilding scene. It is a term which summarizes the process of going into a caloric deficit and extracting water from your body. The end result is a very defined body at 10% body fat or lower. As the term becomes more mainstream it also becomes a synonym for a diet aimed at weight loss. For a cut, you usually work with 1500 - 2000 calories a day depending on body size. Always consult a doctor before changing your diet dramatically.


The opposite of a cutting is bulking. When you are on a bulk your aim is to add muscle and mass to your body. To achieve this you will go into a caloric surplus. These diets usually work with 4000 - 8000 calories a day based on your size. 


The pro of a cut is that it is the most effective way to get a six-pack. If you drop to a level that is below 10% bodyfat your muscles will show. This works mostly independent of how big you are.


The biggest con of a cut is that the term is misunderstood and dangerously overused. Attaining a below 10% body fat physique all year round has a potentially dangerous impact on your health. Especially when you are a beginner and have no clue what you are doing. The models you see in magazines do this to make a living. They also have been doing this at least three to five years to get the results you see. 


Should you combine Stronglifts and cutting 


My personal tendency is a no based on where you are at in your thought process. Stronglifts is a beginner program so it is likely you are a beginner. Your main concern should be at first to think about your goals. Looking up Stronglifts and cutting already points to unclarity at a very basic level. Do you want to be mainly strong or mainly a model?  Make this choice first before picking your program and diet. "I want to be everything at once" usually gets you only a little bit of everything. Avoid spreading yourself too thin. 


The next level is to look into building mass. It takes a lot longer to build muscle than to cut. You can stop eating right now (DON'T) and wait for a week. Your abdominal muscles will show. The reverse is harder. If you hit the gym every day this week and eat a pig each day you will not have put a lot of muscle on your frame. 


I have done Stronglifts 5x5 for ten months and was very satisfied with it. I did not care about optics and mainly wanted to get stronger. I Had my first minor injuries from long distance running and Stronglifts helped me to cope better. Be very specific about what you want from a program. This saves you a lot of time. If you are a beginner who wants to get stronger, combine Stronglifts with a bulk, especially when you are young. That is a very solid combination


Further reading




Topics: Lift stronger, Stronglifts 5x5, Strength