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Thread: StrongLifts 5x5

  1. #1
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    StrongLifts 5x5

    Anyone doing this program? I've been going strong now for almost 3 months. Doing squats 3x/week, my leg strength has noticeably increased (as has my upper body strength). I am now climbing in 4 or 5 gears higher than before I started. I am changing out my chain ring tonight on my 1x.

    I have been lifting for decades but this 5x5 program is pretty insane for strength gains. It's like nothing I have ever done in terms of results. Including results that translate directly on the trail. Just wondering if anyone else is on it, and whether it has been effective for you.

  2. #2
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    It works.

    But during the hard riding season the 5 sets leave me a bit too tire to ride. Then, I back it off to maybe 3 sets and lift maybe only twice a week. Also, I do dead lift about as often as I squat because for me, it gives me more power on the bike (compared to squats).

    This 5x5 regime is very different than what I was raised on... lots of sets/reps to total failure/exhaustion, and then some more. I think a lot of that teaching was driven by the body building/Arnold era of the 70's. The 5x5, or modified approach, works way better to build power for a given sport.

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    If you were selling a product, I'd buy it! :-) are you stacking the weight such that you can only do 5 reps Max each time, or keep the weight the same? Or how do you figure the weight?

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    This program is nothing short of awesome.

    There's a free app that manages everything for you. As well, there is a free online 500+ page manual, as well as a number of 5-10 page summaries of the manual, easily discoverable via the Google machine.

    In short, you do 3 workouts a week. I usually work out on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Workout 1 is squats, bench and bent over rows. Workout 2 is squats, overhead press and deadlift. Week one is Workout 1, 2 and 1, and week 2 is Workout 2, 1 and 2. Etc. 5 sets of 5 reps for each exercise except deadlift, which is one set of 5 reps. Each exercise increases by 5 pounds each successive workout except deadlift, which increases 10 pounds each workout.

    If and when you hit the wall, there is a de-weighting procedure to break through any plateaus.

    Again, the free app manages EVERYTHING for you! Including the weights. It even keeps time between sets (1.5 to 3 minutes, depending on perceived exertion for the prior set).

    Compound exercises. Incredible. No bi or tri specific exercises yet my arms have NEVER looked better. 45 minutes max each workout, and I look forward to the next one the minute I finish each workout.

    I have worked out seriously for decades and am now in unchartered territory weight-wise. Again, on the trail, it could not be better. I rode today and climbed in 5th and 6th gear when, at the beginning of this riding season, I was climbing the same steeps in first and second gear. And blasting the flats and rollers in 11th. My legs are getting much bigger and SIGNIFICANTLY stronger. I could not be happier or more impressed. 10 out of 10. And with the lower cadence, cardio is MUCH less taxed.

    I wish so much I had always done this program, or at least, compound exercises. The 2 hour, 6 day a week, body part specific, isolation exercise-based online programs are best left for the juicers. Dammit. I wish I would have known all this decades ago. Better late than never I suppose.

    Not in any way affiliated with this program and frankly, the dude behind it all seems like a complete tool. Whatever. I couldn't care less. The program works. Almost miraculously. Try it for 2 months and let us know what you think.

    Good luck, and have fun. If you try it you will have some very exciting times ahead. Trust me.

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    I have done it before with great results....I stopped doing it by the book because the heavy squats 2-3 times a week was blowing my already injured knees out. Also, expect a huge increase in your grocery bills.

    I still follow it somewhat closely, except I only squat once a week.
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    Thanks to all that responded.
    I am always looking for different workouts, and I like the looks of this. Once I get through my next P90X cycle, which I feel is a good workout for rotator cuff surgery, I think I'll give this a shot.
    Craig, Durango CO
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    It sounds all right to me. I can't weight-lift any more due to a hereditary heart malfunction but it sounds like a program I would have tried. The scheduling is similar to BFL which alternated upper and lower over a 2 week cycle. But BFL ramps up the weight and ramps down the reps for each set.

    About the time I had to quit, I began to really feel how different groups recover at different rates and was going to put each exercise on its own schedule... it was going to be a little harder to track on paper. I also tried to remember never to do a big leg workout in the day or 2 before a snowboard trip!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironchefjon View Post
    I have done it before with great results....I stopped doing it by the book because the heavy squats 2-3 times a week was blowing my already injured knees out. Also, expect a huge increase in your grocery bills.

    I still follow it somewhat closely, except I only squat once a week.
    I am still doing it exactly by the book. Squatting 3 times a week, 5x5 each workout. I am well into the most weight for all of the exercises, that I have ever used in my life. It's a complete buzz being able to lift weights I never thought possible. Every time I work out I think "Wow - I made it. But there is no way I will make it next time". But then, somehow, some way, there seems to be just a little bit more gas in the tank for the next workout to deal with the increased weight.

    As for the grocery bill...yup. I have been on a 3,000 calorie minimum diet a day since starting and my body fat is the lowest it has been in my life (riding every second day in the mountains, week in, week out, plus commuting lots, helps in that regard). When the biking season ends in a month or so (except for my commuting), I expect to make some even more serious gains.

    In addition to increased grocery bills, also expect to sweat. Lots. I sweat more with this workout than any cardio I have ever done. I am drenched by the end, and continue sweating profusely for a half hour after. Possibly because I am shitting my pants looking at all the weight on the bar (for me at least) before each set.

    Love. This. Workout.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
    It sounds all right to me. I can't weight-lift any more due to a hereditary heart malfunction but it sounds like a program I would have tried. The scheduling is similar to BFL which alternated upper and lower over a 2 week cycle. But BFL ramps up the weight and ramps down the reps for each set.

    About the time I had to quit, I began to really feel how different groups recover at different rates and was going to put each exercise on its own schedule... it was going to be a little harder to track on paper. I also tried to remember never to do a big leg workout in the day or 2 before a snowboard trip!
    I did BFL for years. There is an immense difference between the 2 programs in terms of results. But yes - apart from doing squats every workout (3x a week), 5x5 is similar in scheduling to BFL (except there is no cardio component to 5x5 on off days).

    BFL might be much better if one were to stick to compound exercises only, instead of listening to Bill Phillips' advice that there is no difference between compound exercises (like bench or overhead press) and isolation exercises (like tricep pressdowns). That is pure bull$hit. Even with compound exercises though, I suspect 5x5 would destroy BFL in every single respect.

    Sorry to sound so hyped, but it's the truth.

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    Yeah, I seldom did isolation and on top of that I always used dumbbells as much as possible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
    Yeah, I seldom did isolation and on top of that I always used dumbbells as much as possible.
    Barbell only with the 5x5.

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    I'm starting to hit the wall on a couple of exercises. I haven't yet gone to 3 minutes between sets (I am still either waiting 90 seconds or 2 minutes max). Not sure whether I should keep going, using the de-weighting procedures when I hit the wall, or just move on to a different program for a while before I get injured, being happy with the incredible results I got in the short time I have been on this. I am shocked at the weight I am using and feel very fortunate I have not yet injured myself. Maybe it's time to move on. Not sure.

    Any of you guys who have done this or are doing it currently, have any thoughts on this?

  13. #13
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    It's worked great for me and I'm at my lifetime bench max at age 38. The benefit of the program is not just about the sets and reps, its also that you're doing mostly full body lifts, and doing your big body parts twice a week instead of one big overload day per body part (now known as a "bro split").

    But I'll say squats/deadlifts aren't going to help your cycling power very much. It's a different kind of strength. It might help sprinting and short term technical climbing, but its not going to improve your long climbing stamina, that's a different set of muscle fibers. You can either prioritize your riding and have weak legs for your squat/deadlift days, or you can prioritize lifting and have sore legs for your riding days. You can't have both, well not at my age at least.

    The other thing I've been doing, which I'd recommend for older guys, is an 8-day cycle:
    - Flat or Incline Bench every 4 days
    - Squat or Deadlift every 4 days
    - Mix in core/back throughout the week

    With a typical weekly cycle, say, flat bench Monday, incline bench Thurs, the second chest day is too soon, I'm still weak and I can't increase weight. With an 8 day cycle, I can increase weight or reps every session.

    Side note, there's no reason you can't employ a 5x5 with some dumbbell exercises. The point (benefit) of 5x5 is:
    - sets and reps (5x5 obviously) is the right mix of high-weight / low rep with adequate recovery between reps
    - mostly full body / power lifts (dumbbell bench counts here)
    - each body part twice a week, i.e. bench and squat on the same day

    There's nothing mandatory about barbell for bench, dumbbell is perfectly fine for bench, shoulder press, dumbbell row, lunges, ... you can still apply the above principles and trigger a lot of growth.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Procter View Post
    It's worked great for me and I'm at my lifetime bench max at age 38. The benefit of the program is not just about the sets and reps, its also that you're doing mostly full body lifts, and doing your big body parts twice a week instead of one big overload day per body part (now known as a "bro split").

    But I'll say squats/deadlifts aren't going to help your cycling power very much. It's a different kind of strength. It might help sprinting and short term technical climbing, but its not going to improve your long climbing stamina, that's a different set of muscle fibers. You can either prioritize riding and have weak legs for your squat/deadlift days, or you can prioritize lifting and have sore legs for your riding days. You can't have both, well not at my age at least (late 30's).

    The other thing I've been doing, which I'd recommend for older guys, is an 8-day cycle:
    - Flat or Incline Bench every 4 days
    - Squat or Deadlift every 4 days
    - Mix in core/back throughout the week

    With a typical weekly cycle, say, flat bench Monday, incline bench Thurs, the second chest day is too soon, I'm still weak and I can't increase weight. With an 8 day cycle, I can increase weight or reps every session.
    I agree with some of the comments here, and disagree with others. I have moved up four teeth on my front ring in 3 months. That's from 15 sets of heavy (for me) squats a week. I am convinced. And I have been working out (including legs) for a couple of decades now. Currently I am riding (in the mountains, in addition to weekly commuting) every day I have off the 5x5 (i.e.; 4 days of serious riding a week).

    But as usual, everyone is different. I suspect I am in a minority on this. Others above agree with your biking/squat comments. I don't want to screw with the original formula, which has been nothing short of incredible for me. Especially when it is assisting with my climbing, not detracting from it.

    I probably have not been at it nearly long enough to comment though. You and others are almost certainly in a much better position to do so. My comments are coming from only 3 months in. But wow - has that been an incredible 3 months. Absolutely blown away not just with the progress (barbell weight, body weight, size, body fat, etc.), but by how jacked I am to hit the next workout the minute I am done with the current one.

  15. #15
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    One thing that the deadlifts and squats do really help is your core and lower back strength, which, yes does help you in all kinds of situations. But I think too much leg lifting will hurt your riding, both due to the recovery time needed, and the fact that you're developing different fibers. But I agree YMMV. Glad its working for you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Procter View Post
    One thing that the deadlifts and squats do really help is your core and lower back strength, which, yes does help you in all kinds of situations...
    I could not agree more. My core strength with the compound exercises only (vs the bull shit isolation juicer shit) has gone through the roof. Apart from bench perhaps, all the exercises NAIL my core. But squats especially, and especially on the way up.

    Awesome.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Procter View Post
    It's worked great for me and I'm at my lifetime bench max at age 38. The benefit of the program is not just about the sets and reps, its also that you're doing mostly full body lifts, and doing your big body parts twice a week instead of one big overload day per body part (now known as a "bro split").

    But I'll say squats/deadlifts aren't going to help your cycling power very much. It's a different kind of strength. It might help sprinting and short term technical climbing, but its not going to improve your long climbing stamina, that's a different set of muscle fibers. You can either prioritize your riding and have weak legs for your squat/deadlift days, or you can prioritize lifting and have sore legs for your riding days. You can't have both, well not at my age at least.

    The other thing I've been doing, which I'd recommend for older guys, is an 8-day cycle:
    - Flat or Incline Bench every 4 days
    - Squat or Deadlift every 4 days
    - Mix in core/back throughout the week

    With a typical weekly cycle, say, flat bench Monday, incline bench Thurs, the second chest day is too soon, I'm still weak and I can't increase weight. With an 8 day cycle, I can increase weight or reps every session.

    Side note, there's no reason you can't employ a 5x5 with some dumbbell exercises. The point (benefit) of 5x5 is:
    - sets and reps (5x5 obviously) is the right mix of high-weight / low rep with adequate recovery between reps
    - mostly full body / power lifts (dumbbell bench counts here)
    - each body part twice a week, i.e. bench and squat on the same day

    There's nothing mandatory about barbell for bench, dumbbell is perfectly fine for bench, shoulder press, dumbbell row, lunges, ... you can still apply the above principles and trigger a lot of growth.
    Procter - how long have you been on 5x5 (or a variation)? Any comments (preferably of the non-smart ass variety ) about my concerns in post #12? Have you wondered about moving on to something different when you started hitting the wall on 5x5?

  18. #18
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    One thing I'll add, for 5x5ers (especially mountain biking ones) its important to do asymmetric lifts to keep your core and back strong - otherwise you're just building your power muscles not your stabilizers like your intercostals, romboids/ supraspinatus/ serratus / etc.

    So, mix in some turkish getups, alternating dumbbell press (holding two dumbbells, press one at a time), dumbbell row, high low cable chop, landmine russian twists, etc.

    Core strength is amazing, it makes that full body fatigue feeling pretty much disappear. After rides, my legs are tired. That's it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbkrmike View Post
    Procter - how long have you been on 5x5 (or a variation)? Any comments (preferably of the non-smart ass variety ) about my concerns in post #12? Have you wondered about moving to something else when you started hitting the wall?
    Good question - here's my take on this:
    - See my post 18 with regards to injury, this helps a lot. But, injury is inevitable, I am always dealing with 1 or 2 injuries at any time, between skiing and mountain biking (occasional crash, whatever), and lifting, and as I get older they linger a lot longer. I learn to work around them and through them, you need to know where you can push through something and where you need to back off and go to zero lifting for a couple weeks, on that body part.

    - For plateaus, I'm not sure if this is what you mean by dropping weight, but what I do an 10-12w pyramid program for this - When I hit the wall (usually every couple of months), I start over with a 4x20 regiment with significantly lower weight, but the same lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench presses, bent over rows):
    Week 1: 4x20 sets
    Week 2: 4x15 (increasing weight)
    Week 3: 4x8-10 (increasing weight)
    Week 4: 5x5
    Continue 5x5 till plateau for at least 2-3 weeks. Sometimes I think I'm plateauing but its just a bad day. So I keep the 5x5 until I'm really stuck. Usually this ends up being maybe 10-12 weeks total.

    Using this, I'm not claiming I'm Lee Priest or anything, I'm a skinny guy who never lifted anything, but I've gone from barely getting 4x8x135 in 2012 to 5x5x215 flat bench at age 38 with an ultimate goal of getting to 4x8x225 at which point I may call it quits and try some completely different lifetime goal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Procter View Post
    Good question - here's my take on this:
    - See my post 18 with regards to injury, this helps a lot. But, injury is inevitable, I am always dealing with 1 or 2 injuries at any time, between skiing and mountain biking (occasional crash, whatever), and lifting, and as I get older they linger a lot longer. I learn to work around them and through them, you need to know where you can push through something and where you need to back off and go to zero lifting for a couple weeks, on that body part.

    - For plateaus, I'm not sure if this is what you mean by dropping weight, but what I do an 10-12w pyramid program for this - When I hit the wall (usually every couple of months), I start over with a 4x20 regiment with significantly lower weight, but the same lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench presses, bent over rows):
    Week 1: 4x20 sets
    Week 2: 4x15 (increasing weight)
    Week 3: 4x8-10 (increasing weight)
    Week 4: 5x5
    Continue 5x5 till plateau for at least 2-3 weeks. Sometimes I think I'm plateauing but its just a bad day. So I keep the 5x5 until I'm really stuck. Usually this ends up being maybe 10-12 weeks total.

    Using this, I'm not claiming I'm Lee Priest or anything, I'm a skinny guy who never lifted anything, but I've gone from barely getting 4x8x135 in 2012 to 5x5x215 flat bench at age 38 with an ultimate goal of getting to 4x8x225 at which point I may call it quits and try some completely different lifetime goal.
    Incredible progress. Congrats.

    And thanks for the detailed response. I am off for a ride and intend to read and re-read this and some of the other posts above when I get back.

    I like to stick to the formula because of the results I am getting, all from an almost negligible time commitment. Plus, I LOVE the free phone app, which is not capable of being modified.

    One thing I think we can all agree on - anyone who does the 5x5, regardless of age or existing strength level, is going to benefit big time, quickly.

  21. #21
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    I forgot to add: The reason going to 4x20 works and helps you through plateaus, is that with that much lower weight, you can get 3-4 reps at failure. When you hit failure at your typical 5x5 weight, it's very hard to get that last rep. With lower weight, you are teaching yourself to recruit additional parts of your body in these situations and grind it out without injury, creating muscle memory that translates when you get back up to 5x5 weight.