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Stronglifts 5x5 vs Crossfit [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

May 23, 2016 10:00:00 AM

Stronglifts vs crossfit

Stronglifts 5x5 vs Crossfit

This question has to be seen against the goals you set for yourself. While Crossfit most likely is the better option for looking good and getting generally fit if you are already resonably fit, Stronglifts is the better option for beginners who want to get strong and have this as their main goal. For losing weight I personally think neither is the optimal choice as running long distances beats both in this context based on my own experience. 

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What is your goal ?

Again as so often pointed out on my blog I think the "vs" question will solve itself for you, if you get a clear mindset around your goals and what the gap between your goal and your status quo is. Here are some examples:

  1. I want to look good
  2. I want to get strong
  3. I want to be generally fit
  4. I want to lose weight

That is where most poeple in my opinion start out. When you examine these goals you already see, that they are quite up in the air. What does looking good mean ? Ripped ? Pumped up like Arnold ? Slim like Pharrel Williams ? Bubble Butt like Niki Minaj ? 

Next thing is what does strong mean ? You want to able to move a 100kg stone with ease ? You want to able to do all the positions in the kama sutra ? (if your girlfriends does not weigh 40kg, yes you need to be strong for that) You want to tackle your opponents so hard that they think they have been hit by a truck ? 

Going into the topic of fitness, what kind of fitness do you want to achieve ? More enduring then your son ? More flexible than your daughter ? 

Last but not least, losing weight. If losing weight means to get ripped that is completely different from losing weight to get healthy or avoid the next stroke. 

In my opinion this is where the confusion for many people starts when they get overwhelmed by what is on offer in the fitness industry. That is also why a lot of poeple are never satisfied with their physique, because they have not defined for themselves what "ideal" is and what would satisfy them.

Look at the goals section on my website to get a feeling of what more satisfying goals might be. For the question of Stronglifts vs crossfit, probably all of the goals apply to some degree, so let's break it down in a bit more detail based on my experience.

 Stronglifts vs Crossfit for looking good

Looking good is a lot about confidence, clothes, general fitness and being happy with oneself. This can involve some weight loss or building muscle or a little bit of both. Because this is usually a multilayered goal of losing fat at certain parts of your body while pumping up I personally would say crossfit is the better fit for achieving this nebulous goal. The downside of this is that Crossfit is not really laid out for beginners. To do it in a satisfying way, you will have to learn the clean and jerk and snatch. Otherwise you will not be able to follow most of box gym classes around. In addition most crossfitters already look good and from there focus on performance. You might not feel comfortable around them.

Of course there are exceptions from the rule of nice crossfit boxes, where everybody is understanding and the sport becomes more mainstream, but the focus of crossfit is on brutal performance. You do not necessarily need crossfit to look good. A good diet and three runs a week are already very likely to get you there.

Stronglifts is about building strength and muscle. Therefore its mainstream appeal woud be more towards men then women. As I personally perceive that looking good for men = ripped, Stronglifts is not the ideal program for that. Follow a bodybuilding routine and combine it with fat loss strategies to bring your bodyfat percentage below 10% for that. I'd like to warn you, that this is not necessarily healthy long term.

Stronglifts vs Crossfit for getting strong

If your main goal is to become strong and you are currently a small, weak, skinny bastard (just quoting some of the phrasing used in the indsutry), than stronglifts is just for you. It will take you from an empty bar to the top 5 strongest people in a average commercial gym within a year. I did it for ten months with high satisfaction and that result 

I had a shot at Crossfit for three months. Now this does not do it justice when compared to the time I invested in strength development and marathon running, so the statements I will now make are personal and not conclusive, but hopefully will give you a feeling. I found crosslift great to boost my recovery times and to build more general energy levels and powerlevels, but not ideal to develop more maximum strength. So here you see it is all about your own priorities. If you get them right (for me for now 200kg squat prio 1), decisions become easy. 

Stronglifts vs Crossfit for getting generally fit

Well you probably guessed, Crossfit wins hands down. This is mainly due to the fact that it exposes you to so many different movements at high intensity to which your body has to adapt. If you are into this and you have the time to train that much, Stronglifts 5x5 can be a very good strength component within a crossfit training plan for beginners. So also the question of crossfit vs Stronglifts is posed a bit sideways, as these approaches are not mutually exclusive. 

Stronglifts vs Crossfit for losing weight

Both programs are not ideal for the main goal of losing weight, as you build muscle during them. If you really only want to lose bodyweight running and a good diet turned out to be the best option for me. My weight stayed relatively stable between 80 - 85kg when doing crossfit and Stronglifts. I lost 15kg from 95kg to 80 when I did my first marathon in 2013.


To reiterate, the vs question only becomes meaningful against the backdrop of what you want to achieve. If you don't know that yet or you are only parroting what is in the magazines, think again. Sit down and make a plan of what you want for yourself, because then the path to achieving it becomes a lot clearer. 

Further reading

Topics: Stronglifts 5x5, Powerlifting, Crossfit, Bodybuilding, Strongman