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How to energise Stronglifts 5x5 with a complete accessory plan [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Jul 11, 2017 10:00:00 AM

Group of man and woman jumping on fit box at gym.jpeg 

How to energise Stronglifts 5x5 with a complete accessory plan

Stronglifts 5x5 is one of the most popular lifting programs out there. I have done it myself for ten months with big success. Here is what I learned to make it even better regarding accessory work if you want to energise your routine even more. Highly recommended to anyone who got bored with the program or starts to feel like they are struggling with it after half a year.

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Stronglifts 5x5

Stronglifts 5x5 is a beginner lifting program to improve in strength and size at the same time. There is a long review of the program and how I progressed on my blog. In addition, I also discussed the underlying principle of different reps schemes based on the Prilipin chart. Refer to those for more detailed information on the program in case you are not familiar with it yet.

The 5x5 workout routine programs Squats, Deadlifts, Overhead presses and the bench press in two different workouts called A and B. You will train three times a week leaving one day of rest in between and taking the weekend off. While the squat is done every session the other lifts are rotated in and out. The goal is to increase the weight on each lift in increments of 2.5kg to 5kg based on the lift week over week. If you fail a certain weight for a certain lift for more than three times to get 5x5 together you deload 10%. This process is repeated during the program until you make no more gains.

Rest between sets is 1.5 minutesif the set was successfully completed with 5 repetitions and three minutes if failed. If you get the Stronglifts app everything is prescheduled for you to make it easier. All in all, 5x5 is a very solid program with only a few shortfalls which I rectify in this post.

Shortfalls of the 5x5 program

The nature of a one fits all approach is that it fits no one perfectly. Everybody is different in their development and personal strengths and weaknesses which are a point that is overlooked with Do it yourself programming of the internet. Happened to me and I wasted some time with it which I would like to avoid for you. Before you start with Stronglifts assess yourself on the following:

  • Do you have any strength imbalances?
  • Do you have any mobility issues?
  • Can you comfortably handle the weight of a barbell?
  • Are you generally sluggish or explosive?
  • Why do you really go to the gym?

To assess these points is important as Stronglifts falls short on these things

  • If you have imbalances it is likely that Stronglifts makes them more pronounced
  • There is no routine to fix mobility issues in Stronglifts
  • There is no progression to the bar
  • The program does not work on explosiveness specifically
  • Lack of focus towards a specific goal

Imbalances you have trained in before the program started will be more pronounced by the end of it because humans like to do what they are best at. Some people have a bias towards the squat, others to the deadlift or the bench press. The most likely bias is towards the bench press as this is the easiest lift to learn and to progress on. The more imbalanced you are the more likely it becomes that you fail to progress on one of the four lifts which are programmed on Stronglifts 5x5. Once you fail on only one lift but move the others up in weight while the one in question gets a deload you are training yourself even further into that imbalance. So happened with me on the bench press and deadlift. If you have imbalances identify them early and adjust the volume you do during the week accordingly. Especially the mid-section of your body at the core and lower back will fall short on this program.

Mobility issues are another point which you can carry over and make even worse with bad form and homogenous training which does not address these. Out of the box, you get little to no mobility work scheduled on Stronglifts 5x5 and the website or app also do not proactively guide you towards such an assessment. This is also a main differentiator between the very professional and more general training programs. Eric Cressey and others first assess your status quo to move then on to exercises. A self-assessment is hard and complicated therefore I am a friend of simplifying. Just be aware and have a plan rather than lifting like a madman for ten months like I did without properly thinking about it first.

Progression to the bar is omitted In Stronglifts as the program conveniently assumes you are strong enough to handle a barbell. That is not necessarily the case. The lower your body weight and the less trained you are, the more likely it will become that you should do some bodyweight exercises first. If you want to start there I have a full bodyweight accessory template for free for you.

Explosiveness is also not addressed in Stronglifts 5x5. All exercises are being performed with the same range of motion at the same speed. There is no band or chain work involved and also no autoregulation on good and bad days like with Joker Sets from the Jim Wendler 531 method.

Lack of focus towards a specific can also become a challenge with Stronglifts as it is not specifically geared towards the main goals in the gym, building muscle and getting stronger.

How to save time on Stronglifts

Stronglifts claims that it only takes 30 minutes to do per session. This certainly holds true in the beginning and develops over time into a 1.5-hour session on the program. This is due to the escalating warm ups on the barbell movements and the higher likelihood to fail sets for three-minute breaks. Here you can cut down by resting less between sets and also cut a bit on the warm ups if you switch the saved time for accessory work.

Another way of saving time is executing all movements with absolute perfect form. This is counterintuitive at first, as it will take you longer to finish the program. Where you will save the time is in avoided injuries and relearning of proper movement patterns. I have lost months to making adjustments because I did not pay enough attention to form on Stronglifts.

The last way of saving time is to circle in the accessory work in between the sets of the compound movements. Do pull ups and dips between the five sets of the big lifts to make maximum use of your time in the gym.

Closeup of athlete hand before his attempt to lift barbell.jpeg

Accessory plan

Here are the very basic things to consider for the accessory plan which will leave with the opportunity to do more in less time:

  1. Use active rest
  2. Build a strong core in your warm up
  3. Address mobility issues in your warm up

Do not let the rest time pass by unused. Look up the Grease the groove principle from Pavel Tsatsouline and use it on easier bodyweight exercises like push ups, pull ups, dips and others which address the imbalances you have hopefully notified by now. This way you get more activation for your cardiovascular system out of the program. Be mindful about how hard your sets were and do not overexert yourself in the rest periods. The idea is to get as many as repetitions as possible without getting exhausted.

The warm up is where you work up your sweat. Build a routine which will take you 15 to 20 minutes to complete before you go into Stronglifts. A strong core will help you to show off great aesthetics once you go through a cutting phase and drives your squat and deadlift up as it often becomes the limiting factor of these lifts if not taken care of.

In the warm up you can also address explosiveness by doing box jumps or sprints. These are easily done and will work wonders for the speed on your barbell. I would not recommend any band, chain or work with box squats if you are a beginner who has done no other lifting program before. This is more appropriate for intermediates who already mastered the basics.

The final piece of the puzzle is to address mobility in the warm up. Good tools to work on your ankle and lower back mobility while building strength in hard to reach areas are the Jefferson Curl and the Cossack squat. The lead in warm which takes me 15 to 20 minutes to complete there looks like this. All done without rest.

  1. 21 Box Jumps to challenging height
  2. 10 Kettlebell halos standing rotating each direction
  3. 2x 10 Cossack squats with kettlebell alternating legs
  4. 2x 10 Jefferson curls
  5. 20 GHD Sit-ups
  6. 20 Reverse Hypers or back extension
  7. 20 GHD Halos
  8. 20 Reverse Hypers or back extension
  9. 20 Rollouts
  10. 20 Reverse Hypers or back extension
  11. 20 Sand Bag pickups
  12. 20 Reverse Hypers or back extension
  13. 20 medicine ball slams
  14. 20 Reverse hypers or back extension

To start you can half the Reverse hypers and only superset them on every second core rather than every core exercise outlined. Once you are done with 5x5 and you still have 15 – 30 minutes left I recommend these finishers:

  1. Run the rack Shrugs
  2. Run the rack Bicep Hammer Curls
  3. Run the rack Tricep extensions
  4. Farmers walks with chains around neck
  5. Pull ups with towels
  6. Battle rope folded/unfolded
  7. Sledge push/pull
  8. 3 Cone drill
  9. 40-yard dash

I have created a Pinterest board for finishers which you can print out to choose and pick from whenever you feel like it. Still, keep especially your weaknesses in mind work on them through your accessory work every single day in the gym to perfection. Your weaknesses will be what will limit your performance most.


Stronglifts 5x5 is a solid beginner workout program which is easy to understand, execute and measure. These strengths are achieved due to the underlying cookie cutter approach which under the same breath is also its biggest weakness. It took me about two years to fully understand where my biggest weaknesses and strengths lay and how to address them in my daily routine. I hope this helps you in your thought process. Spend time to optimise what you do around 5x5 rather than just religiously following it. This will fasten up your learning curve and gains.

Further reading






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