There Will Be Sweat

Probably some blood too. No tears though. Never tears. Dan Betz's training log.

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Review: Stronglifts 5x5 Beginner Strength Program

It’s hard to nitpick an amazing, free resource like the Stronglifts.com program and web site, so I’ll just share my thoughts. All 5x5 strength programs (even Rippetoe’s 3x5 program) are all derived from Bill Starr’s original work and they all use the same basic principles. I personally don’t think there’s anything revolutionary in the program itself, but the Stronglifts presentation stands out for its comprehensiveness, depth, and organization. Medhi not only provides a thoughtful writeup on the program, but provides a free Excel spreadsheet of the program which lets you map out your entire 10 week cycle and keeps you on task. He also provides instructional videos, online articles, and helpful FAQs covering every possible question that could possibly arise. You also have access to a huge community of users of all skill levels on the Stronglifts forum who have either gone through the program or are going through the program. Hey, did I mention that this is all free?

My personal experience with the Stronglifts 5x5 Beginner Strength Program is probably not typical because I had a few years of strength training under my belt and was also keeping up with an intense workload of kung fu classes and other conditioning workouts. I didn’t start the program with just the bar, I had some decent loads so it got heavy pretty quickly. I also made some adjustments to the plan - swapped power cleans for barbell rows and did weighted pullups and dips instead of the unweighted versions.

I did see some strength gains, but my main goal in using the program was to build a solid foundation and to improve my form on the basic lifts. My squats and deadlifts feel really solid these days and no doubt the amount of time I spent under the bar made that happen. I wasn’t able to finish the program because in the later days the load just wore me out and I wasn’t recovering enough between sessions. I stalled pretty hard on the presses and hit the wall on the weighted pulls. I just couldn’t handle the volume at that point. They say progressive loading only works for so long and now I see first-hand what they mean.

Up next for me is the Texas Method, which is supposed to allow intermediate lifters to make steady progress