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Extensive 10 month Stronglifts 5x5 review & results [Article, Video]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Apr 9, 2015 11:41:00 AM


Extensive Stronglift 5x5 ten-month review

Stronglifts 5x5 is one of the cookie-cutter programs with a linear progression that is designed especially for beginners who want to work with a barbell. Personally, I have done the program from 2014 to 2015 as an entry to the world of strength after running three marathons for consecutive years. After sticking with the program for ten months I changed my regimen because of a tennis elbow. My end results were a 122.5kg bench press, 120kg Squat, and 165kg deadlift. You can find the video evidence for this at the end of this post. Since then I have pushed my squat to 185kg, bench press to 150kg, and deadlift to 200kg which you can refer to via this link to my mock meet on Instagram in 2021.
This article was first written in 2015 and reworked in 2021 with a bit more experience under my belt. Since 2015 I have run Smolov, Wendler 531, Juggernaut Powerlifting AI, German Volume Training, and the westside method. At the moment of rewriting I am training with ABS powerlifting in Ireland to hopefully make the standards to lift for Ireland in the Master's division. For this, I have to meet at least a standard of a 600kg powerlifting total, preferably 700kg. Even with this extra experience I am convinced that Stronglifts 5x5 is an excellent program to start working with a barbell, especially when unsupervised. You will find quite a bit of negative feedback for cookie-cutter programs as personal training has become more affordable and available since 2015. The criticisms are warranted, but miss some key points as they are often taking the view of an experienced lifter who wants to train optimally rather than a novice who does not know where to start.
The graphics on linear progression in this post are taken from the Beyond the whiteboard app in 2015 which I used back then to track my workouts. For your personal tracking, I would recommend the Stronglifts 5x5 app instead and will go into more detail in a separate section of this article.

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Table of contents

This is an attempt to write the "Be all, end all" of Stronglifts 5x5 reviews and it is therefore rather long. You can click the links in this table of contents to directly hop into what you are most interested in.

  1. Who should do Stronglifts 5x5
  2. What is the structure of Stronglifts 5x5
  3. How does Stronglifts 5x5 fit into the overall lifting theory?
  4. Exercise selection in Stronglifts 5x5
  5. What do you think of Stronglifts 5x5 instructions?
  6. What were your starting statistics?
  7. How often do you have to do Stronglifts 5x5?
  8. How much equipment do you need for Stronglifts 5x5?
  9. How much time do you need for Stronglifts 5x5?
  10. What do you think of the 5x5 app?
  11. Are the claims on the Stronglifts 5x5 webpage correct?
  12. What are the advantages of Stronglifts 5x5?
  13. What are the disadvantages of Stronglifts 5x5?
  14. Can you do Stronglifts 5x5 by yourself?
  15. How long will you make gains on Stronglifts 5x5?
  16. What would you recommend to eat on Stronglifts 5x5?
  17. Why did you stop Stronglifts 5x5?
  18. Would you recommend Stronglifts 5x5to a friend?
  19. What accessory would you recommend with Stronglifts 5x5?
  20. When to move on from Stronglifts 5x5?
  21. Would you recommend Stronglifts 5x5 for a bulk?
  22. Can Stronglifts 5x5 get you ripped?
  23. Stronglifts 5x5 for runners
  24. Stronglifts 5x5 for crossfitters
  25. Can you do Stronglifts5x5 twice week?
  26. What to do on off days for Stronglifts 5x5?
  27. Stronglifts 5x5 for teengers
  28. Stronglifts 5x5 to lose weight
  29. Why are there so many squats in Stronglifts 5x5?
  30. Why are there only 1x5 deadlifts in Stronglifts5x5?
  31. What are the biggest mistakes on Stronglifts5x5?
  32. What are good alternatives for Stronglifts 5x5?
  33. When would you finish Stronglifts 5x5?


Who should do Stronglifts 5x5?


If you are a beginner who wants to build muscle and strength with a barbell to the same extent this program is for you. It is one of the simplest cookie cutter programs out there and the exercise selection is also easy. Progression is clear and easy to follow. People who should not do Stronglifts 5x5 are:

  • Only interested in muscle gain
  • Only interested in strength gains
  • Only interested in more explosiveness?

There is quite a broad body of evidence and studies out there that support that higher repetition ranges per set in the area of 8-15 are better for muscle gains. You also will have to take care of your calorie intake and eat a lot to grow if muscle gains are what you are after. 

If your main interest is gaining strength for a specific sport it is very often more about having the right leverages and movement patterns to take optimum advantage of physics, rather than just sheer horsepower. If you are a beginner I would recommend working on your movement patterns specific to your sport. After that, you focus on making your body stronger to move with more force along that trajectory.

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What is the structure of Stronglifts 5x5?


Stronglifts 5x5 is a cookie-cutter program with linear progression. You will train three times a week alternating between two exercise blocks. These are called "workout A" and "workout B". You will start with an empty barbell and increase the intensity on each lift by 2.5kg for each workout. The only exception is the deadlift which increases 5kg from session to session.
Workout A
Workout B
Stronglifts 5x5 takes a simplistic approach to Overload. Overload is one of the fundamental principles of strength training. You can only grow in strength and size if you push your body beyond its comfort zone. With that stimulus, it will be necessary for your body to adapt. Stronglifts 5x5 takes a linear approach to overload which is simplistic and effective for beginners as the need for recovery is not as pronounced as with seasoned athletes. The two graphics of my total volume per session from beyond the whiteboard illustrate this quite neatly.




Total volume is calculated as
Number of repetitions x Number of Sets x Intensity
Intensity for weightlifting is expressed as the amount of weight on the barbell traveling for a certain distance. As the bar path stays the same for an individual for the squat, bench press, and deadlift it can be discounted and intensity becomes simply the weight on the barbell
As an example calculation total volume per session for Workout A could be:
  • Squat 5x5x 100kg = 2.5t
  • Bench press5x5x100kg = 2.5t
  • Barbell row 5x5x50kg = 1.25t
  • Total = 6250kg  / 6.25t
For Stronglifts 5x5 load will progress linearly when charted out over time. More advanced programs utilizing deloads will look more wavey when charted in the same way. This is why this progression is called "linear".
Below you will find an example of my volume progression over 8 months on Wendler 531. Notice the peak in every fourth week followed by a deload creating the "wavey" pattern mentioned as a marked difference to the linear progression on Stronglifts 5x5.


Stronglifts 5x5 falls under the category of cookie-cutter lifting programs. Other programs within this category would be Starting strength, German Volume Training, Wendler 531, Smolov, and even the Westside Method to some extend. What cookie-cutter programs have in common is that they operate the same for each individual. You put in some starting values in an app or excel spreadsheet and then the program does the math for you and spits out some numbers. Cookie Cutter programs have improved with better use of statistics and apps, but their main DNA remains. The main strength of cookie-cutter programs is that they are easy to use and do not need a personal trainer. The main disadvantages of cookie-cutter programs are that they generalize and do not account for a bad execution of the program.
Generalization is a problem for people who are furthest removed from the average human being. If you are very big, heavy, and strong it is very likely that you will be under training with Stronglifts 5x5. If you are very small, light, and weak it is very likely that you will be overtraining with Stronglifts 5x5. If you have a long history of injuries it might be even dangerous to do Stronglifts 5x5 because you might pop your knee, hip, or shoulder again based on your medical history. The entry point of Stronglifts 5x5 is a barbell of 20kg for each different movement in the program. If you weigh 100kg and can knock out a tree with a tackle you are wasting your time with that little resistance. If you weigh 50kg and need to overhead press almost half your body weight for 5x5 I am certain that you will ditch the program after two weeks. This makes Stronglifts 5x5 an easy target for personal trainers who want to sell their services. With a bit of common sense and willingness to educate yourself you can use Stronglifts 5x5.
Where I would agree with is that Stronglifts 5x5 does not coach you individually- Especially in the beginning, individual coaching is useful. Beginners are on a steep learning curve and will benefit a lot more from any dollar they invest on proper instruction for a good foundation than someone further down the learning curve. So rather than criticizing the program itself, take your time to learn how to execute the movements, get a weekly check-in with a personal trainer on form, and be merry.
I disagree with the view that Stronglifts is suboptimal. While this is correct for maximizing strength and muscle gains I am of the opinion that this is not the main goal to achieve for a beginner. Knowing how to maximize each session for muscle and strength gains will come with experience. The main targets to achieve with a novice are consistency and enjoyment of the exercise. The pain and struggle can come in the intermediate phase. Starting Strength and Stronglifts 5x5 are optimally designed to achieve this goal as you have an immediate positive feedback loop from session to session putting more weight on the bar. You don't want your athletes and clients to feel like they are banging their heads against the wall for new movement patterns. They will run for the hills faster than you can say "work harder".  Cookie-cutter programs are for the general public. Keep the "work harder" mentality for your elite seminars once people come in three times a week.

How does Stronglifts 5x5 fit into the overall lifting theory?


The Stronglifts 5x5 program has been around for a while. Sets of 5 are a solid backbone of any size and strength program when cycling up and down in different intensity ranges. What you know now as Stronglifts 5x5 was a branding and packaging exercise done by "Mehdi" who build an entire small business around this program including coaches, an app with some extra content that you can pay for, and loads of additional free information.
Mehdi himself is a person whom I would deem trustworthy as the advice on the website is sound and carried by other professionals for the movement patterns. The benefits of the program and how fast you will see results are a little overstated, but that is also often the case to get people psyched to sign up. It is definitely not as macho and "bro-science" as other programs you can find out there. I would deem Stronglifts 5x5 the beginner version of Juggernaut Training Systems which I feel are the gold standard for powerlifting remote training to date. There is also a big community and endless success stories featuring Stronglifts 5x5 that are credible.
In terms of lifting theory, I will assess Stronglifts5x5 along the framework laid out in the book"scientific principles of strength training" authored by Chad Wesley Smith, Dr.Mike Israetel Ph.D.,  and James Hoffman Ph.D. There are other frameworks out there and I deem this the best for myself. I have trained years on their programs based on these principles while making gains and staying injury-free.
The seven scientific principles of strength training as laid out in this framework are:
1.) Specificity
2.) Overload
3.) Fatigue Management
4.) Stimulus-Recovery-Adaptation (SRA)
5.) Variation
6.) Phase Potentiation
7.) Individual Difference
Ranked in importance from1 - 7.
Specificity is the most important training principle as your training should be specific to achieve a certain goal. It means that your training should be as specific as possible to perform a certain task. If you want to compete in powerlifting the most specific training you can do is to do the bench press, squat, and deadlift to a one-repetition maximum in the same workout session. Based on other principles like overload and fatigue management this is not sustainable as this is almost certain to injure you to train this way. Training the squat, bench press, and deadlift as an Olympic weightlifter is somewhat specific, but it would be better to train the clean and jerk and snatch mainly and the other three lifts as accessories to address weaknesses for these lifts. Going out to the basketball court dunking all day is still more specific for barbell training than doing nothing on the couch. It still violates the principle of specificity for the goal of being strong and big lifting weights.  
The clearer you define your goal the easier it will become to formulate a specific training program towards that goal. Unfortunately, a clear goal set is what most beginners lack. Therefore specificity becomes harder to determine. Stronglifts 5x5 is, therefore, a very specific program for beginners who like barbell training but are undecided between hypertrophy and strength. For coaches, I would even reformulate this into "Stronglifts 5x5 is a very specific program to introduce athletes to barbell training". If you are looking for a program that is very specific to the task of starting beginners on barbell training then I think you will be hard-pressed to find a better solution. The reasoning behind this is that Stronglifts 5x5:
  • Is easy to do by yourself
    • Free app
    • No complicated computations
    • Easy barbell movements
    • Instructions are easy to follow
  • Uses a barbell
  • Introduces a positive feedback loop early to the beginner
  • Stays clear of complex ideas like RPE, Phased training, and active recovery
while using most of the other principles of strength.
Criticisms of Stronglifts 5x5 usually run along with the specificity argument. Sets of 5 for 5 repetitions are not optimally specific for strength gains as you never go near the range of 90% to 95% of the one-repetition maximum. The same is true for not being specific enough for muscle growth as these programs usually work with higher repetition ranges at a lower intensity. Personally, I think this criticism misses the point of the design of Stronglifts 5x5. It was designed to be an easy beginner program. For this task, Stronglifts 5x5 is designed very effectively.
Overload is the next important principle which defines itself as a
  • A stimulus within the maximal threshold of the adaptive system
  • A stimulus that is on average higher than recent historical stimuli
Stronglifts 5x5 fulfills both of these by starting from an empty barbell and increasing the load in a linear fashion. This keeps the load within the maximum threshold while increasing the average stimulus over time. Deloads for fatigue management are introduced once the lifter starts to fail. This is sufficient for a beginner as the injury risk from big loads is minimal and the fatigue management is straightforward by de-loading once the same weight is failed three times. However, there are better fatigue management techniques using deload weeks and active recovery which are more suited to motivated athletes. But these are also more complex to follow and not necessarily a good first option for beginners to keep them engaged.
Fatigue Management addresses the accumulated effect of training on your body. In an ideal world, your body would not suffer from the principle of overload and you would be able to infinitely add on volume to your program until you become the strongest person in the world. Unfortunately, training stimuli will accumulate fatigue in your muscles and nervous system. This is why sleep, nutrition, and low-stress levels are so important to an effective training cycle. The worse these three factors are the more fatigue you will accumulate with each session. A well-written lifting program will address fatigue on multiple levels. It will look at fatigue management within a week by giving you light and heavy sessions on your movements, rather than high intensity across all sessions and movements. It will also look at fatigue management in the course of a month and towards competition. On a monthly basis, you will usually get one de-load week to recover at low intensities across all sessions. Towards a competition, you will get a taper block of 2 - 3 weeks where you will take volume out until you work with very low levels of intensity. This has the goal to be maximally recovered to perform on competition day.
Fatigue Management in Stronglifts 5x5 is existent but suboptimal. The program's focus is to ramp you up fairly fast to the limits of the novice level. It is not designed to make you train optimally each day and recover optimally from that training. Fatigue Management still exists in the form de loads after failing the same weight three sessions in a row for a certain lift, but overall the goal is to add on weight until you drop out of the program and switch to one that has a better overall design. Someone with the mindset of an experienced powerlifter or bodybuilder will say it is a waste of time to start on a suboptimal program. If we remind ourselves that the specific purpose of Stronglifts 5x5 is to get beginners started with a barbell I would counter that giving up optimal fatigue management in favor of making the program as simple as possible is the right approach for beginners.
Starting a beginner on an empty barbell, given they can move the weight, keeps accumulated fatigue at a very low level compared to training optimally each day. The same low level goes for injury risk. This minimizes the need for proper fatigue management for the program overall. In return, you gain a very simple protocol to follow of "just add 5kg each session until that does not work anymore". This cuts out a big chunk of complex explanations and reasoning for fatigue management for a novice and coach alike without running a big risk of overtraining or injury. Therefore the suboptimal fatigue management of Stronglifts 5x5 compared to other cookie-cutter programs like Wendler 531 and Smolov is, in my opinion, a good trade-off for the simplicity of the program.
The following scientific principle of strength is stimulus, recovery, adaptation (SRA). This can get very complex per athlete and program as you have multiple SRA curves per movement, gender, age, and training history. A good program will account for these factors by taking the individual differences of the athlete into account and therefore shortening and lengthening the SRA curves. Interestingly enough, Stronglifts 5x5 has this in-built as long as you account for two major exceptions.
The stimulus is your training. The harder and longer you train, the bigger the stimulus. In turn, the bigger the stimulus is, the longer your recovery will take. Recovery is the process of repairing the damage the training did to your body.  This is where muscles are rebuilt and nervous systems are recharged. Adaptation happens during the recovery. Your body is a smart system and if it identifies hard training that damages the existing structure it will rebuild the system even stronger than before so that it will withstand the next session. The younger you are, the better your body performs this task. Of course, this is oversimplified and way more complex on a molecular level. However, it will suffice for the purpose of this article to see whether Stronglifts 5x5 addresses SRA sufficiently.
Stronglifts 5x5 addresses SRA sufficiently under the assumption that the athlete is an average male in their twenties and generally healthy. If these two factors are given the stimuli produced in this program usually take less than a day to recover and adapt from. Especially when you start out with the program. Exceptions from this rule are if you are not generally healthy or not an average male in your twenties. If you are female, very light or heavy, above 40 or bring any other factor with you that makes you deviate from the median your body might take longer to recover between Stronglifts 5x5 sessions than a day. Check with a coach to see whether that is the case or just try the program for a day. If you are challenged right from the start then the program is not for you because a barbell is already too heavy for you and the stimuli are too big for the program design to work. You should have no problem at all finishing your first week of Stronglifts 5x5 to run it effectively for a long period. 
The next principle of strength is variation and Stronglifts 5x5 does very poorly on this one. Variation in terms of strength is defined as “The manipulation of training variables to prevent staleness and injury and to magnify the long-term adaptive response to training.” Variation can be done in many ways and does not need to be as extreme as you might think:
• Changes in volume ranges (low, moderate, high)
• Changes in intensity ranges (low, moderate, high)
• Changes in repetition ranges and metabolite loads (low, moderate, high)
• Changes in exercise selection (leg press vs. front squat)
• Changes in frequency (low, moderate, high)
• Changes in velocity (moderate, fast, maximal)
A program design that takes this principle to the extreme is the westside method developed and made popular by Louie Simmons. For the westside method, you vary the lift in every single session by adapting your stance, grip, range of motion, or any other type of modification you can come up with. It is especially popular and effective among equipped powerlifters. Stronglifts 5x5 does none of these variations. You will simply repeat the same exercises over and over which can lead to staleness and boredom. However, if we remind ourselves that Stronglifts 5x5 has been designed for novice lifters you strip out a lot of complexity in return. Learn the basics and learn them well. As beginners will gain from almost any stimulus the principle of variation can be neglected in favor of simplicity to keep the lifter interested in the program. If you are an experienced lifter the principle of variation becomes more and more important to avoid staleness, boredom, and injury. Most senior athletes have the basics and move on to the more intricate aspects of programming.
Phase potentiation is the principle of sequencing training phases so they build on each other. For most powerlifting and bodybuilding programs, this means that you will start with a hypertrophy phase which builds the foundation of a strength phase that finishes off with a peaking phase. Each of these phases builds on the other and moves from building new muscle to making that new muscle stronger and then optimizing maximum output. For other sports, this might mean that you first build endurance to then build technique on top of that to finally perform in competition. Stronglifts 5x5 does not show any phase potentiation to speak of as it uses the same template repeatedly until it fails. There are no specific hypertrophy, strength, and peaking blocks within Stronglifts 5x5 so therefore it fails on this principle of strength training. However, I would doubt that the complexity of different phases is a necessity for beginners.
The last principle to look at is individual differences which Stronglifts 5x5 does not address. Different individuals will respond in other ways to training stimuli. Some people might be able to move in certain ways or get better leverages out of setting the bench, squat, and deadlift up in a certain way. These individual differences should be addressed for an optimal training outcome but are very hard to gauge for beginners as they have not experimented enough. Therefore it is a disadvantage of Stronglifts 5x5, but one that can be discarded for the benefit of simplicity.
In total, Stronglifts 5x5 is a good beginner program for anyone who wants to build strength and size with a barbell. The criticism of Stronglifts 5x5 mainly focuses on individual differences, phase potentiation, and fatigue management. While this is addressed better in other available programs they also add a certain amount of complexity. Giving up an optimal program design in these three minor principles while the main principles of specificity and overload are not violated is a good trade-off for beginners. In fact, it becomes easier to drill home the basics to a beginner by stripping all of this out and introducing it with time.

Exercise selection in Stronglifts 5x5


The exercises in Stronglifts 5x5 are the:

With this selection, you end up in a program that is slightly biased towards the world of powerlifting instead of bodybuilding or Olympic weightlifting.

The low bar back squat places the barbell lower on your back so that the barbell path is shortened and you can use your back more for the lift. Compared to the front squat and high bar squat you will get less hypertrophy for the legs out of this variation. This makes it a popular variation amongst powerlifters to maximize their one-repetition maximum. 

The front squat is a possible substitute, but I would not recommend it to beginners. Correct execution of the barbell front squat needs considerable wrist mobility or willingness to tolerate some proper discomfort during the squat to set it upright. Most beginners will find this less than appealing. The front squat is a good lift, but in my opinion more technical than the barbell back squat and therefore better chosen when you start doctoring with things after running Stronglifts 5x5.

The high bar back squat would be a better alternative for more quad activation. Most beginners end up somewhere between the low bar and high squat variation. Usually, it is best just to start with what you are comfortable with and hammer out a solid movement pattern.

The flat bench press is the next movement in the line-up for Stronglifts 5x5. This is a great basic move for building up your chest and tricep. Anyone who wants to have a rounder chest should have more variation in their program including INcline bench press, decline bench press, and flies to attach the chest from all angles. 

The Pendlay row is a solid row to improve the starting position of the deadlift and develop more speed of the ground. Some might argue, that the classic bodybuilding row starting from just below the knee is better for muscle development. While this is the better movement to focus on your back for mind-muscle connection in my opinion this is not the full picture. If you start picking Stronglifts 5x5 apart for exercise selection on rows you need to introduce Pendlay rows, yates rows, and one-arm dumbbell rows and rotate these in and out of the cycles to attack all angles. This would sacrifice the biggest advantage of the program which is its simplicity.

The deadlift can be one of the trickiest lifts to master out of the Stronglifts 5x5 line-up. The variations to discuss would be the sumo deadlift and the Romanian deadlift. The deadlift has been hyped as the biggest contributor of back strength and that no program worth its salt can be written without it. While it is a great exercise, there are other options to build a great back which people might prefer. Some of the are wide grip pull-ups and seated rows using different grip variations. A great program will play all of these notes, but is also more complex to follow.

The Romanian deadlift gives you more time under tension and therefore better hypertrophy results. However, I think the Romanian deadlift is even worse for beginners than the conventional deadlift. The challenge with a proper Romanian deadlift is that you have to reverse the momentum of the barbell just below the knee or just above the ground. Combine that with the tendency of beginners to overestimate your strength and you have high injury potential on your hands. Learn a proper deadlift first and then start playing around with the range of motion. If you want similar results with less risk try the kettlebell sumo deadlift instead for high repetition ranges.

I would also consider the sumo deadlift a more advanced version of the deadlift with less carry-over to other exercises than the conventional deadlift. If you choose this variation then it is usually better for very compact lifters with shorter leverages. The longer your arms and legs are compared to your torso the more likely it is that you are better suited to a conventional pull.

The barbell overhead press is a sloid movement that easily can be replaced with overhead presses with kettlebells or dumbbells depending on your preferences.

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What do you think of the instructions?


The instructions are clear and good if you read them or watch the videos provided on Stronglifts 5x5. All of the proper form fixes are there with pictures, according to descriptions, fixes, and drills.

The problem with 5x5 is that it first emphasizes a lot that you do not need any help from professionals to become strong and how easy the program is, which is generally true. In consequence, this can lead to a lack of attention paid to proper form. Even though it is said in all of the documentation that good form is key for a good lift you tend to focus too much on putting more weight on the bar, rather than fixing your form first.

In addition, a lot of the faults in the squat and deadlift are very hard to spot yourself or even impossible to fix whilst looking at a mirror. (Mehdi makes this point himself about the deadlift). Especially with someone who was never under supervision whilst lifting the ease of progress and lack of check-ins with actual humans can be dangerous.

It happened in my case, which of course is self-inflicted, but it is like with the handbook for a PlayStation 4 you just got with GTA5. You don't really read the bloody thing, you just want to shoot helicopters out of the sky as soon as possible. The only difference is, that you potentially can harm yourself in a big way with 5x5 if bad form meets stupidity and I have seen some strange things in the gym... me included.

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What were your starting statistics?


  • Height: 185cm
  • Weight: 80kg
  • Bench: 20kg
  • Squat 20kg
  • Deadlift: 30kg
  • Barbell row: 30kg
  • Overhead press: 30kg

This is what the program starts at. Still, this is not the full picture. At the start of June 2014, I had already run a marathon and lost 15kg within a year. I have also been doing weightlifting and judo in my high school years in a semi-professional environment and had therefore at least some kind of base to start from.

I was able to do a pull-up, multiple push-ups and had done two months of bodyweight training prior with admittedly unimpressive results by that time. Bare this in mind, when you are considering 5x5, as these exercises are complex, demand flexibility in the hips and ankles, and are not necessarily for everyone.

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How often do you have to do Stronglifts 5x5?



Three times a week. You will gravitate towards doing your exercises on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. However, I did not find that sustainable, as on Mondays the gym is packed with people. Especially when barbells and power racks are limited this can prolong your workout and waste your time and frustration levels go through the roof. Also Fridays most social activities is planned and it is hard to say no to friends or family who expect you to attend.


I switched to Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday a month into the program mainly because of these two reasons. I work full time and found that to be most easy for my lifestyle doing the routine after work on weekdays and on Saturday morning as an early riser before the rest of the family awakens. 

In total I had to do 83 sessions in the gym to get to the level I am now. Which is surprisingly low in my book.

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How much equipment do you need for Stronglifts 5x5?


The full list of equipment you could get for Stronglifts 5x5 runs is as follows:

The items you will definitely need are a gym membership and some form of lifting shoes. 

The easiest way to start is a gym membership in your local area which provides a free weight area including a power rack, a barbell, and allows deadlifts. Powerlifting gyms or a gym with an extensive free weight area would be preferred. If your local gym only has one squat rack you might want to consider looking for one that has multiple. Otherwise, you might have to wait each time you hit the gym until the rack is free as each Stronglifts 5x5 session has barbell squats in it. 

Avoid training in regular sneakers or runners. These shoes are laid out to cushion the impact your foot has when jogging and running. For proper lifting, you want the exact opposite and a solid sole. Your options for shoes are:

Converse chucks are a low-cost option for lifting shoes the work for the bench press, squat, and deadlift. They have a solid sole and can also be used to go outside. If you are a beginner and have an old pair ready I would say to stick with those and see how things go. If you want to buy new shoes specifically for lifting in the gym I would recommend looking at powerlifting shoes. Those are cheaper than weightlifting shoes and can be used across all lifts. Don't get a new pair of chucks as they are roughly the same price powerlifting shoes. 

Hybrid shoes have been made popular through Crossfit. These shoes are designed to work as runners as well as weightlifting shoes. The sole is somewhere between classical runners and weightlifting shoes. Examples of these shoes are the Nike Metcon series, Reebok Nano Series, and No Bull trainer series. These shoes are a good compromise if you do Stronglifts as a supporting routine to what you would be normally doing in the gym. 

Powerlifting shoes have a solid sole but no elevated heel. This makes them a great beginner shoe for Stronglifts 5x5 as you can use them for all three lifts without breaking the bank. I personally loved my Adidas Adipower shoes which I then upgraded to a combo of Nike Romaleos and deadlift slippers. 

Weightlifting shoes have a solid sole and elevate your heel. This makes it easier to move your shins forward to squat deeper. Weightlifting shoes are the most expensive out of this line up around $200. They also can not be used for deadlifts as you want to stay very low to the ground to not lengthen the bar path unnecessarily. This is a good upgrade once you move on from Stronglifts 5x5 and now you are in it for the long haul.

Deadlift slippers are little covers for your feet as you are not allowed to lift bare feet in a commercial gym or at a competition. Other than that they don't do a lot and usually set you back about $20. 

Whether you need a lifting belt for Stronglifts 5x5 can be debated. I think you should stay away from one as long as you can to build proper strength in your core, rather than relying on a belt. At least this is what I learned from my experience. Work with Stronglifts 5x5 without a belt until you start to stall considerably and then introduce it. In terms of belts your options are:

Single-pronged belts are the most common and least expensive. A good belt will be made of leather and set you back somewhere between $100 to $150. Avoid velcro belts as they often pop mid-lift and therefore are more a hindrance than a help on heavy lifts. A belt with a single pronged is a good beginner option and I loved my Rogue Ohio belt until I upgraded to a lever belt.

Double-pronged belts are an option, but I would not recommend them. It is annoying enough to close one prong on each set. Don'tmake your life harder by doubling up the hassle. 

Lever belts are the deluxe version of belts for powerlifting. The lever makes it very easy to open and close them for each set. The only downsides are that they are very specific to one user and that the lever mechanic will get in the way of the Olympic lifts. This is a piece of equipment to aspire to in your gym bag 2.0. The Rogue Ohio lever belt is a good option.

Knee sleeves and wrist wraps are also an option, but of lower priority for beginning lifters. Focus on shoes and maybe a belt out of your budget. 

If you want to build your own home gym I have an entire series of videos dedicated to the topic. Recommended shopping would be:

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How much time do you need for Stronglifts 5x5?


Mehdi claims it only takes 30 minutes for each workout. This assumes no warm-up beforehand and also no warm-up sets, which are kind of downplayed a bit in his resources to my tastes. 

The 30 minutes hold true at the beginning of the program until you start to get to the 100kg squat mark. Once you are there you will most likely do these two things, except you want to expose yourself to a high risk of injury:

  1. Implement a warm-up routine that loosens up your tendons and ligaments before hitting the bar
  2. Include warm-up sets with the bar
  3. Have longer pauses between sets

The warm-up sets with the bar are not included in the basic 5x5 app and cost a little bit. Implementing those is roughly 5 - 10 minutes per exercise. If you add a proper warm-up that is another 15 minutes added into the mix. The system also allows you to have either 1:30 minutes or 3 minutes of rest between sets if you struggled to hit the five repetitions. Now given you get close to your limits (which you will) that is 4x3x3 minutes of rest for a challenging workout which brings you to 36 minutes of rest in total. That blows the claimed 30 minutes of 5x5 right out of the window (but to be fair you will also not be a complete greenhorn anymore). 36 minutes of rest + 15 minutes of actual exercise + 10 minutes warm-up sets + 15 minutes warm-up without bar amounts to a bit more than an hour per workout. I found that to be a lot closer to what you actually have to invest if you take this seriously.

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What do you think of the 5x5 app?


I used it all the time. It is one of the best apps I have on my phone. Easy to use, no fancy stuff, straightforward. All of the buttons work as they should, you get appropriate loading and deloading advice and a timer for rest. Also works fine whilst listening to music on your iPhone. The upgrades to the program are installed easily and billing works just fine.

I recommend getting the warm-up and arms package right out of the gate. The other programs (3x5 and 3x3) can be gotten in the package, but will not be used even a year into the program. At least that is how it was for me, it could be that you plateau earlier and therefore need to change sooner.

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Are the claims that Mehdi makes on his website accurate?



A definite yes apart from some minor sales pitches he gives or sheer enthusiasm that it works so well. I let you be the judge of that. Mehdi promises you will get stronger and I did get stronger. The expectation to grow muscle was met. It is stated that the program is easy to understand and follow and it is. So overall, turn to the Stronglifts 5x5 website for advice and inspiration, it will pay off.

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What are the major advantages of Stronglifts 5x5?


The main advantages of Stronglifts 5x5 are aimed at beginners. As outlined in the structure of the program it will work as it follows the most important principles of strength training. Where it falls short is in the more sophisticated areas of individual differences and fatigue management.

  • Easy Structure
  • Easy lifts
  • Safe start
  • Positive Feedback loop
  • Free

The structure of Stronglifts 5x5 is very simple. You learn the lifts and then add either 5kg or 2.5kg per session to the bar. This does not need a lot of calculation or thinking which makes it easy for beginners to concentrate on progress and execution. 

Another element is that the lifts are rather easy to perform as far as barbell movements go. The squat, bench press and deadlift are on the easier end of the spectrum compared to the clean, clean and jerk, and snatch. This gives beginners the opportunity to build a solid foundation to work with a barbell for the future.

One of the main advantages of Stronglifts is the safe start of the program. The empty barbell starting point regulates intensity down to focus on technique and not overloading too early. While more experienced lifters would deem this a disadvantage as this makes the first 3 - 6 months suboptimal for strength and muscle gains, I personally think that it is the right approach for beginners. 

Stronglifts 5x5 also creates a positive feedback loop that makes you want to come back for more. IT is very satisfying to see each session that you are lifting more and more weight for a considerable amount of time before you have to deload. 

The last advantage is that the basic program is free. For a free program and app you re getting a lot of value out of Stronglifts 5x5.

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What are the major disadvantages of the program?


It does not help you to do a proper self-assessment upfront and is also spun in a way that can be dangerous especially for young adults or unfit individuals.

Young adults will be tempted to neglect any other advice they get because Mehdi presents his information as the ultimate undisputed gospel in some instances. While the results he has to show are impressive and real that does not necessarily apply to everyone. Especially teenage boys could be led to overtraining during puberty by the program, just because it is so easy to follow.

I would classify unfit individuals as people who cannot do a pull-up or push-up. Also, test yourself by lifting a 20kg plate as this is the same weight as the barbell you will use. If you cannot move the plate with ease and cannot do a pull-up or push up then focus on acquiring those skills first and progress with goblets squats to the bar increasing from a non-weighted squat to 5kg goblet 10kg, 15 kg, 20kg.

Reasonably fit people can fall into the trap of training with inefficiencies because you do not have a spotter as the program is self-explanatory. In my case this lead to scaling to a 137.5kg squat until realizing that it was… shit. I unloaded to 80kg and build back up from there with proper form and depth on the squat. It would have been better to get proper coaching to build a solid back squat right from the start.

What 5x5 also does not account for are imbalances in your physique. I always had a very strong upper body compared to a weaker lower body. If you only do 5x5 these imbalances will stay and scale. This led to me benching more than I squat at the end of the program. 

I also got bursitis in my elbow from doing 5x5 and had to pause in February 2015 for antibiotics. I felt no pain but still, it is a condition that will stay with me for a foreseeable time to come. I recovered well and I am stronger than ever in 2021.

Last but not least the program can get very boring. It is not for everyone to do the same exercises over and over and over…

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Can you do Stronglifts 5x5 by yourself?


Yes, you can, however, bear in mind the drawbacks I described under the disadvantages of 5x5 if you decide to travel down this path.

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How long will you make gains on Stronglifts 5x5?


That depends on your overall physique. In my case I made good progress for the first 9 months hitting plateaus at 150kg deadlift, 62.5 overhead press, and 110 kg proper squat.

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What would you recommend for nutrition on Stronglifts 5x5?


In the first 6 months, I did do nothing. After that, I implemented a whey shake in the morning and a complete protein shake in the evening from optimum nutrition mixed with water.

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Why did you stop doing Stronglifts 5x5?


After 10 months I felt that I did not get further with the program. Also, an injury is usually a sign of wear and tear that can be attributed to overtraining and a need for change. Apart from that I also switched my gym and I felt it was time to try something new as I was also in the range of hitting plateaus. In all fairness, I could have pushed the envelope further by sticking to the program and also doing the 3x5 and 3x3 programs from Mehdi. I do not really want to at this stage and we will see what the conjugate method has in stock for me.

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Would you recommend Stronglifts 5x5 to a friend?


A definite yes as long as

  • You can do a pull up
  • You can easily handle a 20kg plate
  • You are not overweight
  • You have no medical conditions which would prohibit you to lift
  • You want to get strong

If you are obese, focus on diet first then maybe HIIT and Tabata workouts. They are intense and do not do too many repetitions for the same exercise which will help your joints. If you are slightly overweight like I was maybe consider running first to get back to your high school weight and then build up strength using 5x5.

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 What would you recommend to accompany Stronglifts 5x5?


On the off days, I personally did my running plan and HIIT or CrossFit-related exercises. If you only want to get stronger you do not have to do this, but If you want to be an all-around athlete I would recommend getting some cardio/high-intensity work in somehow.

Also if you have imbalances in your body do the necessary work on your off days to compensate for those.

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When to move on from Stronglifts 5x5?


When you make no more gains / not get stronger anymore or get injured it is time to change the program. Also If you do not feel challenged by it anymore. Getting bored can also be a reason, but do not mistake a limited down in your mood as an overall dissatisfaction with the program. Be methodical about your choices for a training program, not emotional.

Would you recommend Stronglifts 5x5 for bulking?


Stronglifts 5x5 is not the best program for a bulk.
General advice would be that repetitions and sets in the range of 8 - 15 are better suited for muscle growth. Example programs that are a better fit for a bulk would be German Volume Training, Gironda 8x8, and dramatic transformation protocol.
A bulk is a phase in powerlifting or bodybuilding that is focused on gaining muscle mass. You will eat more than your body burns while you are trying to stimulate the body in a way to grow muscle. The opposite of a bulk would be a cut. In a cut phase, you try to lose as much weight as possible while keeping your muscle mass. Cuts are usually done for competitions while bulks are often done off-season.
While Stronglifts 5x5 is not ideal for a bulk, I still think that it is a good start for beginners to gauge where they want to go. Especially if you intend to work with free weights. Most hypertrophy programs are in the extreme end to be effective. This might lead to beginners burning out too soon and quitting.
The bottleneck for a bulk usually is not your program but your diet. To go into a caloric surplus without eating too much sugar and processed food often means considerable changes of habit. Spent more time on finding good batch cook recipes, reorganizing your kitchen, and minimizing stress for a successful bulk. A bulk is usually won in the kitchen and not in the gym.

Can Stronglifts 5x5 get you ripped?


Stronglifts 5x5 will not get you ripped. It is still better than doing nothing, but getting ripped is the result of a successful cut and therefore mainly about what you do in the kitchen rather than the gym.
If you starve yourself long enough you will get to see your abs at some stage. Depending on your body composition your six-pack will show somewhere between 5% to 10% body fat. To get to this stage even trained athletes will have to undergo a rigorous diet eating fewer calories than they burn in a day. Often this stage is not sustainable over a long period of time. This is also a reason why eating disorders are rampaging among models and bodybuilders.
If your main goal is to get a physique that gets you to the cover of men’s health or get you a lot of Instagram followers you are better off doing interval training with kettlebells and 20-30 minutes of cardio than working with a barbell. Barbell work will help muscle growth and strength, but a six-pack doesn’t necessitate this.

Stronglifts 5x5 for runners?



Stronglifts 5x5 might not be the best program for runners. Running, especially long-distance running can make your joints and bones feel brittle and weak.
To combat this you can work with a barbell on a beginner program like Stronglifts 5x5. It will make you stronger and more resilient. However, I personally think you can achieve the same goal with less time and equipment by using kettlebells. Runners are usually not after big gains in weight or getting a model physique. They want to be as fast as possible over a certain distance. This sometimes requires strengthening the entire body to hold up for the runs.
A great routine for runners in my opinion is Pavel Tsatsouline's Simple and sinister kettlebell routine. You will do 10x10 kettlebell swings and 10 Turkish get-ups. The routine takes about 20 minutes and you will see results if done three times a week for a month. I highly recommend the book by the same title to learn about all of the intricacies of the movements. 

Stronglifts 5x5 for Crossfitters?



Stronglifts 5x5 can be a great routine to build the necessary strength to handle a barbell. Crossfit has many routines which incorporate the clean and jerk and snatch. These movements are highly complex and dynamic. Beginners might not have the strength to handle a barbell well yet. Stronglifts 5x5 builds strength with a barbell with less complex movements that are still relevant to the Olympic lifts.
If you look at Greg Everett’s book that is widely considered one of the best to teach children Olympic weightlifting, then you will see that the barbell back squat and deadlift are introduced early to novice lifters. These two lifts cover parts of the full Olympic lifts. Therefore developing mastery in these will have carry over to the snatch and clean and jerk. In addition, the CrossFit games also featured specific max strength tests for the deadlift and back squat in recent years.
Personally, I think that Mark Rippetoe’s starting strength is a better fit for CrossFit beginners than Stronglifts 5x5. This is mainly based on the fact that starting strength uses the clean rather than the barbell row as one of the exercises and is, therefore, more specific to Olympic weightlifting which in turn is more specific to CrossFit.

Can you do Stronglifts 5x5 twice a week?



No, you can’t do Stronglifts 5x5 twice a week. If you do you will be doing a different program as Stronglifts 5x5 was designed with three sessions per week.
Most lifting programs work with 3 - 5 days of lifting per week. With three sessions you are already on the lower end of the spectrum. Therefore I would recommend avoiding cutting the volume any further. If you can not commit to three sessions a week your focus of fitness might be somewhere else or see whether you can cut down some other leisure activities to gain another two hours in the week to train.

What to do on off days for Stronglifts 5x5?


Especially beginners seem to have an urge to full every day of the week with exercise. If you are young and do not have any other obligations like a job and children this is a good approach. Still, be aware that rest is part of every program to allow the body to adapt to the stress that you purposefully put it under. So if there are rest days mentioned treat them as such. Especially when you have a taper phase before a competition it is important to take the rest seriously.
The risk of overtraining with Stronglifts 5x5 is very low based on the structure. Avoid adding extra Stronglifts sessions in the week as this will escalate the load progression a little too fast. Slow and steady wins the race in the game of strength and size. If you want to fill the off days with workouts, pick something low impact and not too strenuous. If you want to optimize for weight loss do a 30-60 minute ride on a bike at fat burn intensity. If you want to go for strength endurance and coordination I highly recommend Pavel Tsatsouline's Simple and sinister routine of 10x10 kettlebell swings and 10 Turkish Get-ups.

Stronglifts 5x5 for teenagers?



This is a tricky question as to the variety of development during the teenage years is big. Always talk to your parents and your general practitioner before you start loading your body in the teenage years. If you have not gone through the major growth spurt during puberty yet then I would stay away from barbell work. You don't necessarily want to load movements when your brain is getting used to the fact that all of your limbs are 10cm longer than 6months ago. If you think the worst of the growth phase is over and you also have guidance from a coach at a local team moving weights might be a good option. Your parents and your coach are usually the better people to ask whether they think you are ready for the weight room rather than determining it yourself. Self-awareness is unfortunately not the most dominant muscle in the teenage brain.
Again, Pavel Tsatsouline's Simple and sinister routine is great to build muscle and strength endurance for sports. If you want to introduce barbell work for increasing max strength and size if an athlete Stronglifts 5x5 is a good starting point as long as parents, teenagers, coaches and GP agree that it is safe to do so.

Stronglifts 5x5 to lose weight?


Stronglifts 5x5 is not an ideal protocol to lose weight. While there are some claims around weight loss benefits on the Stronglifts 5x5 website it is not a great program to run for losing weight. In fact, any type of strength program will have an in build bias towards bigger size and weight gain. Bigger muscles lift more weights and muscle tissue is denser than fat tissue. This means more weight per volume of a human being if you replace fat with muscle.
If your main goal is to lose weight, start in the kitchen. Simple protocols are to eat half of everything that you are currently eating. This is especially true if you are overeating or have a tendency to binge. In terms of exercise, anything is good that lasts long at a fat-burning intensity. If you do not have the gadget to measure this by heart rate then go by whether you can comfortably talk during the prolonged exercise while still breaking a sweat. If you can not talk you are overdoing it. If you are not sweating you need to make it a little more intense. Get at least 30minutes three times a week of this is in. Ideally more than that and up to 60minutes. Avoid going over 60 minutes of cardio or under 20 minutes as significantly reduces your return on invested time.
I have tried almost anything from yoga to marathon running and powerlifting. I was my slimmest when preparing for my first marathon, running 5 times a week without doing any major changes to my diet.

Why are there so many squats in Stronglifts 5x5?



Because the intensity is low and the back squat is one of the best foundations of strength for general barbell work. 75 loaded squats a week at 60 -70% intensity of one repetition maximum might seem a lot to a novice, especially if you dread squatting low with a load on your shoulders. However, in more tenured programs, you will do this volume in a day, rather than spread over a week. So "many" is always relative to your level of experience and what you want to achieve with the program.  If you want a balanced program to start with barbell strength 75 squats a week at medium intensity is just fine.


Why are there only 1x5 deadlifts on Stronglifts?


The deadlift is always programmed with less volume compared to the bench and squat. The deadlift is the most taxing of the lifts you can find in Sgtronglifts 5x5. Most people will use the most amount of weight on them, it activates the most muscles compared to the other lifts and has a bigger impact on your central nervous system. This is why you are given fewer repetitions of deadlifts during the week compared to other lifts. You will find this principle applied to most other lifting programs for the same reasons.

What are the biggest mistakes with Stronglifts 5x5?


The biggest mistakes with Stronglifts 5x5 are:
  • Greed
  • Inconsistency
  • Beginner mistakes
The over motivated usually fall into the greed trap. Some might also call it Ego lifting. Progress along with the program and take it slow. You have the opportunity to establish good movement patterns right from the start with low loads. Take advantage of this rather than retracing your steps after three years throwing you back.
The undermotivated will get problems with inconsistency. This is true for any program and not just Stronglifts 5x5. Body transformations take months and years and not just days. Have the patience to stick with it and you will reap the rewards. If it is a six-pack you are after start in the kitchen, not in the weight room.
The last category is honest beginner mistakes. I highly recommend getting a powerlifting or weightlifting coach to check hand positioning, foot positioning, and mobility early. Based on that listen carefully and implement the drills specific to you. You can figure it out yourself, but this usually means you do something slightly wrong and then it has to be corrected further down the line for optimum results. If you do not want to pay for services, although I recommend it, then work up the courage to walk up to the strongest dude or gal in your local gym and ask for some tips. Look for the person who trains alone or with one other person and gets things done. I am almost certain you will be surprised how helpful they are if they feel you are genuine.

What are good alternatives for Stronglifts 5x5?


Simple and sinister is a great alternative to doing at home with little equipment. It is also great for general mobility and explosiveness.
Starting strength is the better alternative to Stronglifts 5x5 for athletes and Olympic weightlifters as it utilizes the clean. The instructions ofMark Rippetoe are cumbersome therefore I recommend a coach for Startingstrength to teach the clean properly. Stronglifts 5x5 is easier to be done without professional instructions because of the clean.
Wendler 531 is the better program for seasoned athletes who want to start on strength work. Wnedler531 introduces autoregulation with AMRAP sets. It is also structured with a de-load phase that is better suited for people who will move bigger weights around.
German Volume Training, while not for beginners, is the better protocol for muscle growth. The 10x10 sets on each session will make you grow, given you eat enough, but are also super intense if you do it right and stick to the 30 seconds of rest between sets.

When would you finish Stronglifts 5x5?


When you make no more gains / not get stronger anymore or get injured it is time to change the program. Also If you do not feel challenged by it anymore. Getting bored can also be a reason, but do not mistake a limited down in your mood as an overall dissatisfaction with the program. Be methodical about your choices for a training program, not emotional.

Further reading on Stronglifts

Other programs


Topics: Lift stronger, Stronglifts 5x5, Powerlifting, Bodybuilding, Strongman