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Workouts like Stronglifts

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

May 8, 2019 9:30:00 AM

Workouts like Stronglifts

Workouts like Stronglifts


Workouts like Stronglifts are ketogains, ice cream fitness, and Starting Strength. This article discusses all four programs and gives recommendations which Is for you. 

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What is your why 

Before we go into the details of different programs and comparing I would like to ask you some questions:


  • Why do you want to do something different than Stronglifts?
  • Why do you want to lift weights
  • Why do you want to change your body?
  • What happens if you change? 
  • What happens if you don’t? 


While this little exercise annoys most people as these are intrusive questions they are the key to your long-term success. More often than not motivations and expectations are external rather than internal. If your training stays on this level you will not go far. Tom Brady had an unrelenting desire to win because he wanted to be the best. Find your why and the results will come. 


Many do their research and activities in this way:


  • What do I want to achieve 
  • How do I achieve It 
  • Why do I want to achieve it


Almost anyone knows what they want to achieve. You want to make more money or lose weight for example. Fewer know and spent effort on how to obtain these goals. With this, I mean a detailed plan of actions which build on each other. Almost no one digs deep on their why. If you know your why you will go longer and better after your goals than anyone else. It is important to stay focused long term. You can flip this dynamic on this head by communicating like this: 


  • Why do I wan to do something 
  • How do I do it 
  • What do I do to achieve it 


If you are not convinced yet look up Simon Sinek's TED talk on the golden circle. He makes a very compelling case. 


Beginner programs 


Beginner programs are the first programs you do when training with a barbell. They usually stretch to 1-3 years if your lifting career. The main characteristics are:


  • They progress load linear and not in waves 
  • You increase the load from session to session rather than week to week or cycle to Cycle
  • They are designed in a continuous loop and not to peak at a specific day for competition 


Another trademark of beginner programs is that they are cookie cutter. This basically means one size fits all. If you can not afford a professional assessment or feel like the skill is not around, try to make time for one. Suboptimal Training could otherwise be the result. 




Stronglifts is together with starting Strength the gold standard for beginner programs using a barbell. Its popularity is mainly due to its simple structure. When you research programs which make you big and strong it is very likely that you will find Stronglifts.


You will train three times a week on Stronglifts using the following exercises:



You will squat every session. All other exercises will be rotated. The goal is to complete five sets by five repetitions for each exercise. The only exception is the deadlift. You will start with an empty bar except for the row and deadlift. 


When you finish 5x5 for a certain load you will go up in weight. If you fail three times in a row you deload by 10%. The free Stronglifts 5x5 app is great to keep track of your progress. If you are interested in more details you can read my Stronglifts review. 


The biggest advantages of Stronglifts are its simplicity and effectiveness. You will get results and always know whether you are doing well. The direct feedback loop on each session is good to keep you motivated. Especially beginners find a great entry point to barbell work while minimizing risk. 


The biggest disadvantages are its marketing and lack of specificity. The website of Stronglifts 5x5 overstates the results you will get. Especially for building muscle. You will get results just not as rapidly that your trousers won’t fit anymore unless you are used to buying them one size too small. The lack of specificity is important for athletes and very small and light individuals. These two groups either undertrain or overtrain on Stronglifts and need a tailored program. 




Ketogains is a variation of Stronglifts 5x5 which fills the rest days with cardio or HIIT training and adds accessory work to 5x5 to especially target the arms. 


In addition, Ketogains recommends the ketogenic diet to go with this program. The Keto diet divides your nutrients in favor of protein and fat. Strict Keto only allows for 20 to 30g of carbohydrates. One medium apple on a day and you already reached that level. The good news is that you can loads of cheese, cream and meat. Try the diet doctor website for good recipes which are easy to make. 


I like the additions to the programs as they directly address the lack of accessory work that comes with 5x5. The diet addition also makes sense as the information on Stronglifts 5x5 is not that specific. If you are already disciplined enough to follow a five a week schedule and strict diet, this is the better program. If you are a dedicated athlete starting barbell work ketogains is a good place to start. 


For pure fitness beginners, I don’t recommend this approach. Start with strength training or cardio or diet. All three at once will lead to frustration. Conquer each area of fitness by creating lasting habits. Avoid the crash and burn approach of wanting everything at once. 


Ice cream fitness 


Ice cream fitness was created by Jason Blaha and first published on Juggernaut Strength. You will now also find it published on Muscle and strength. 


The main idea is to add accessory work to the Stronglifts core. Again mainly targeting the arms. There is no cardio on rest days and not a lot of diet tips with it. 


If you are an ambitioned beginner this is the place to go. In the beginning, you will easily get the workout finished in an hour including the accessory work. In later stages of Stronglifts, the rest times will balloon die to failed reps and more challenging sets. If you have 1.5 to two hour to spare for the gym great. Otherwise, drop the accessory work. 


For athletes, this can also be an entry point to barbell training. If you keep your normal training schedule up look into Wendler 531 or Juggernaut method. These programs give you more bang for your buck if you are already fit. 


Starting Strength 


Starting Strength has been designed and coached by Mark Rippetoe for a long time now. Most beginners face the decision between Starting Strength and Stronglifts when they start training. 


I am personally biased towards Stronglifts as this was the program I started with. I did it for 10 months and saw good results. Starting Strength is, in my opinion, a solid program especially when you are being coached. While all other programs in this listing can be done without a coach I would recommend starting Strength under the supervision of a strength coach. If you are a college or high school football player your coach probably likes Rippetoe. The main reason for this is the clean. This is a very intricate Strength movement easy to get wrong. I also find Rippetoes writing not as accessible to beginners as the other programs outlined. 


Which program should you do 


Most beginners are fu e with the basic Stronglifts template. If you can train three days a week and want to push the envelope do Ice cream fitness. If you want to train five a days a week go with Keto gains and get the cardio in. If you are new to the game please don’t overestimate what you can do. Start with three days a week and click them in. Only then expand. Avoid jumping from zero to five days a week. Football players will do well on starting Strength. Don’t bother with the details. Ask your strength coach what he thinks. 


Further reading 


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