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Stronglifts and weight loss [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Jan 30, 2019 9:30:00 AM

 Stronglifts and weight loss

Stronglifts and weight loss


Stronglifts 5x5 is not ideal for weight loss. Cardio and proper dieting are better to achieve your weight loss goals. Stronglifts is still better than no activity at all. If you are overweight and therefore not able to run or even walk, Stronglifts is also not suitable for you. Always consult a doctor before embarking on a fitness program to lose weight. 

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Why do you want to lose weight?


As you are looking up Stronglifts in combination with weight loss you are probably thinking about how to lose weight. Running did not appeal to you. Dieting is hard and maybe there is another way. You also want to look big and strong. But bodybuilding is a bit much for you. You do not want to take steroids and look like you are about to explode. Does this describe you correctly? This is where I was in 2014 when I started Stronglifts. By that time I had already achieved my weight loss goals by running a marathon. 


I wanted to lose weight because my wife threatened to break up with me. What is your motivation? The reasons for weight loss can be many. When I talk to beginners these are the categories in fitness that fall under


  • Looks
  • Performance
  • Health


Even weight loss falls into all of these three. The question is which one of these three is your motivator? Once you get more detailed about your goal setting it will benefit you to get results. The more detailed and researched your goals, the more likely you will achieve them. I often caught myself out jumping to action without having a proper plan. This is always paid in more time needed and frustration on the way to the top. Pick your mountain, map the easiest route to the summit and get going. Don't climb the nearest mountain to realize that you actually wanted to climb a different one. 


Looks are mostly about impressing others. There is nothing wrong with that. Looking better opens up better job opportunities, higher discounts, and a bigger network. There is a reason why more attractive people tend to be more successful and healthy. It is easier to get what you want when people are already impressed with what you look like. It takes discipline, time and resources to look a certain way. If you are aiming to get a six pack you will need to go on a very strict diet. This happens for most people when they hit about 10% body fat. If that is your goal I would recommend that you focus on your diet mainly and treat exercise as a secondary discipline to achieve your goals.


Performance is mostly related to sports. You might want to hit a weight class for your martial art. You might want to put up a couple of pounds for rugby or football. You might want to lose some fat to jump higher or run faster. All of these are legitimate reasons to lose weight. If your goals are of this nature be aware that your body needs the energy to function. If you make it your primary goal to lose weight you might do it at the expense of available energy to your body. If you think hard about it there might not even be a reason to lose weight for your specific sport. 


The last motivator is health. You might feel like that you are too big to move comfortably. Playing with your kids puts a strain on your breathing. Getting up the stairs is hard for you. Before you look into exercise you might want to look into your diet. If you feel like you can not run because of your weight, look into swimming or rowing. How much weight do you want to lose? What is considered healthy for your age and size? How do you feel on a daily basis? Take all of these factors into account when deciding on a program to lose weight.


Whatever your reasons are to lose weight get them straight. They will have a big influence on everything that you do. It will also be at the base of keeping you motivated. If you do not identify with the results you will have a hard time sticking to your regime.




Stronglifts is one of the most popular beginner lifting programs out there. You will train three times a week and have four days off. On its website, Stronglifts claims that it will make you strong, get you ripped and make you lose weight. To do this Stronglifts puts you on linear progressive overload. This means that the weight you lift increases by the same amount each workout when you hit certain criteria. 


With the 5 sets by five repetitions, Stronglifts places itself right in the middle of commonly accepted lifting theory. On one end you will find programs optimized for muscle growth like German Volume Training. On the other end, you will find programs optimized for Strength gains like Smolov. Hypertrophy programs usually work with 8 - 12 repetitions per set. Strength programs usually let you do 3 - 5 repetitions per set. 


The exercises you will perform on Stronglifts are:


You will squat every workout. All other exercises are being rotated. The deadlift comes in with a slightly lower volume of 1x5 a week. Download the free Stronglifts 5x5 App to keep track. I used it myself and it is straightforward. The design is also good. 


The biggest advantages of Stronglifts are its simplicity and progression. You do not need to have years of experience in programming to follow it. You also have immediate feedback each workout on how good or bad you are doing. This makes it a very attractive option for beginners who want to improve their strength.


The biggest disadvantages of Stronglifts are its lack of specificity and simplicity. Stronglifts prescribes the same progression for everyone. This assumes that you should treat people with no athletic background who weigh 40kg the same as someone who trained for ten years and weighs 120kg. The first group might want to scale a bit slower. The second group might want to speed up things a little. The simplicity of the program can also be a disadvantage. Beginners progress too quick with the poor form by focusing too much on the gains rather than execution of the lifts. That is what happened to me.


If you want to know more about Stronglifts you can read my 10-month review of the program. 


Weight loss


Weight loss is always a result of going into a caloric deficit for a prolonged period of time.. This means that you eat less than you burn. At the core of this is this formula:


Calories eaten - Calories burned = + or - for the day


This formula is simplified and you can make things more complex. Based on general experience this suffices. If this comes out at a zero each day, you keep your current weight. If this comes out with a surplus each day, you will gain weight. If this shows a deficit for the day you will lose weight. 


Our sedentary lifestyle combined with processed foods has a bias towards maximizing the calorie intake and minimizing the calories burned. This is why many city dwellers find it hard to lose weight. Stress also plays a role in this. 


The easiest way to lose weight is to work on both sides of the equation. Stronglifts is a good start. However, it is hard to outrun a bad diet. Just try to calculate how many burpees you have to do to justify one cupcake in terms of calories. 


Can you combine Stronglifts and weight loss


In my personal experience, this is a no. I kept my diet fairly the same from 2013 to 2015. That was before I introduced intermittent fasting and keto into my daily routine. I lost 15kg when I prepared for my marathon in 2013. That was the lowest weight I ever hit with 80kg since my mid-twenties. In 2014 I started to introduce Stronglifts 5x5 at the expense of time being invested into running. I gained weight and got back to 90kg. This has stayed stable ever since, although I am getting stronger.


Stronglifts is not ideal for weight loss based on the nature of the exercises you perform. Of course, it is better than doing nothing. Of course, muscle tissue will burn more calories proactively than fat tissue. However, if you do twenty minutes of cardio training compared to twenty minutes of lifting cardio will burn more calories. This is because you keep constantly moving. If you are looking into Stronglifts because you want to avoid running and dieting you will be disappointed. With this thinking, you will not go far for weight loss. 


A better pairing is Stronglifts for beginners with moderate mass and strength gains. This is what the program has been written for and what works. Weight loss is just a byproduct when executed well which has been overhyped in the 5x5 marketing message. That does not make the program bad, it just means that it is marketed well.


Further reading



Topics: Lift stronger, Stronglifts 5x5, Fitness, Strength