3

votes

Stronglifts 5x5 questions

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 08, 2012 at 6:22 PM

It's time to change up my routine for "lifting heavy things." I'm getting bored with it and not seeing much in the way of gains anymore. I've seen Stronglifts 5x5 recommended here, so I am looking into it. I understand it involves alternating between these two workouts:

  • Squat
  • Bench
  • Barbell row

And:

  • Squat
  • Overhead press
  • Deadlift

A couple things don't make sense to me:

  1. I understand that bench works triceps, and barbell row (or weighted pull up) works biceps, so isolation exercises aren't necessary for those muscles. But, what about calves and abdominals (for example). Which of the above exercises work them?
  2. How is doing squats at every workout not overtraining? For those who follow this routine, do you find your quads really have time to fully recover between workouts?

2fd93e91bb14e641a2bac9c6033e84e2

(1614)

on January 09, 2013
at 02:05 AM

CK, the rotator cuff exercises saved me! Thanks for the great advice! I still do them a couple times a week and haven't had another problem. Awesome!

C45d7e96acd83d3a6f58193dbc140e86

on July 25, 2012
at 03:33 PM

I prefer just to let go with one arm and do the pullup

2fd93e91bb14e641a2bac9c6033e84e2

(1614)

on June 10, 2012
at 11:43 PM

As long as it's not acute pain and you're sure it is just soreness, go for it. If you wait until you're never sore to workout, either your workouts aren't worth it (aka you're not getting sore, not building muscle), or you'll hardly ever workout! That being said, always be aware of the chronic soreness or pain... that nagging "knee" thing or "shoulder" twinge might not be DOMs, it could be a sign of an actual problem that should be addressed.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on June 09, 2012
at 04:03 PM

I'll definitely try to not be a moron. I've heard before if a particular muscle is still sore from previous workout, you should delay working it again until the soreness goes away. Sounds like you're saying that's not correct? I.e., just work through the DOMs instead?

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on June 09, 2012
at 04:02 PM

Just ordered Starting Strength. Thanks!

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on June 09, 2012
at 04:02 PM

Yes, agree. It's clear that separate exercises aren't necessary for biceps/triceps. I was asking more about about other muscles such as abdominals and calves.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on June 09, 2012
at 04:00 PM

Just ordered the book. Thanks!

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on June 09, 2012
at 06:27 AM

If you know of SL 5x5 then you should know of Starting Strength. I am assuming you got this workout from a forum focused on bodybuilding/strength training. The reason these programs are recommended for beginners is because they work. You need to lay a solid foundation of strength before you can specialize in other areas. This is around > 300# up to 400# squat which these programs will give an average male (limits of linear progression). You are not unique. Your body's physiology is no different than anyone else's. Stop questioning and start lifting. :)

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on June 09, 2012
at 06:22 AM

A strength training program that does not include squats and deadlifts for a normal (read non-injured) human being is a joke.

193f00d53ebcb13940c7a55afc78ad17

(1260)

on June 08, 2012
at 08:55 PM

So basically he says that research and studies are invalid proof, and that without those, you cannot disprove him, ergo, he is right by default.

193f00d53ebcb13940c7a55afc78ad17

(1260)

on June 08, 2012
at 08:53 PM

The 3rd like cites the 2nd as the source of his argument. The second link (Mr 'Dream'Johnson's) is laughably unscientific/flawed. He defends it this way: "The laws of logic dictate that I do not actually need to back up my claims — you have to back up yours (the assertion that a barbell squat is safe)"..."While I realize that you will...cite [a list of] studies and statistical research that support your *positive* claim, please try to grasp the idea that studies do not dictate reality."

193f00d53ebcb13940c7a55afc78ad17

(1260)

on June 08, 2012
at 08:07 PM

Chris, look into some rotator cuff rehab exercises. Trust the guides when they advise light (1-5#) weights; those muscles are small. Adding a quick rotator routine twice a week made all the difference in the world for me, both in the OHP and bench press.

2fd93e91bb14e641a2bac9c6033e84e2

(1614)

on June 08, 2012
at 07:23 PM

Great response. I've been doing SL for ~5 weeks and have a sore shoulder too... adding 5# on OH press twice a week got up near my max pretty dang quick. I'm taking a good week or so break on the press, then backing off a bit and will probably just go to +5# every week instead of every workout.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on June 08, 2012
at 06:41 PM

Personally, I could only do this routine 2x per week. But that's me. The beauty of squats every time is that it makes your arms grow faster! Stay with me here. Working the big muscles means a much bigger GH release - which affects the arms big time. At least that has been my experience.

  • Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

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8 Answers

best answer

6
85382cd84288ed28c92cbfe7bfcaf226

(184)

on June 08, 2012
at 06:28 PM

It really depends on where you're starting from.

Primary movers for the bench is obviously your pecs, secondary is tricep. Primary for barbell row is your back, secondary is bicep.

The Stronglifts 5x5 is not primarily concerned with being a bodybuilding routine. It is a functional routine used for developing strength by focusing on big movements. If you're worried about increasing your calf size, you'll want to do isolation work on your calves. Ditto your abs, though it's been my experience that very few people actually need to do ab work (and squats are definitely a strongly "core" exercise for your abs/quads/hamstrings/back...basically everything in your body).

If you're doing 5x5, you aren't hitting your 1RM. 25 reps of a reasonable weight (such that it's tough, but not failure) won't lead to overtraining. Your legs will be sore for the first couple weeks, but you'll adapt. If you find your lifts getting worse, or experience other overtraining symptoms, then address it. I find that people generally worry about overtraining when it's generally unnecessary to do so.

4
193f00d53ebcb13940c7a55afc78ad17

on June 08, 2012
at 06:38 PM

I did SL for a solid 6-7 months and set personal bests in every lift. While I believe I have been fitter before, I've never been that strong.

Every lift you do is compound, so there is no need for isolation work. You do not need to target your abs because the simple act of stabilizing yourself with weight above your head (OHP) or stabilizing the torso while bent over (rows) will take care of it for you. Also Deadlifts, Squats, and bench use massive amounts of core (when done correctly).

The quads are BIG muscle systems, and the 5lb increment is small enough that you will not over train. I was doubtful too, at first, but I went from 185lb squats to 275lbs and only stalled a couple of times at the end (and on those occasions I just squatted the previous weight and went up 5lbs on the next work out).

I stopped because I was having chronic shoulder pain issues (I now suspect my rotator cuff was too weak) and I was also starting to get a little knee pain. That and I just ran out of hours in the day to keep lifting (I was getting married, it was my last semester of college, and I was in the middle of a move). Remember that muscle grows faster than ligaments, and there is a difference between DOMs and injury.

2fd93e91bb14e641a2bac9c6033e84e2

(1614)

on June 08, 2012
at 07:23 PM

Great response. I've been doing SL for ~5 weeks and have a sore shoulder too... adding 5# on OH press twice a week got up near my max pretty dang quick. I'm taking a good week or so break on the press, then backing off a bit and will probably just go to +5# every week instead of every workout.

193f00d53ebcb13940c7a55afc78ad17

(1260)

on June 08, 2012
at 08:07 PM

Chris, look into some rotator cuff rehab exercises. Trust the guides when they advise light (1-5#) weights; those muscles are small. Adding a quick rotator routine twice a week made all the difference in the world for me, both in the OHP and bench press.

2fd93e91bb14e641a2bac9c6033e84e2

(1614)

on January 09, 2013
at 02:05 AM

CK, the rotator cuff exercises saved me! Thanks for the great advice! I still do them a couple times a week and haven't had another problem. Awesome!

4
4ec0fe4b4aab327f7efa2dfb06b032ff

(5145)

on June 08, 2012
at 06:27 PM

Pretty much any barbell exercise you do standing up will work the abdominals. If you do squats properly, they will work almost your entire body.

I just got the Starting Strength book, which is the basis of the StrongLifts program. I'd recommend getting it. It's an amazing reference for powerlifting that will answer just about any question you have on the subject.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on June 09, 2012
at 04:00 PM

Just ordered the book. Thanks!

3
1c67bc28f4e44bbb8770b86df0463df3

on June 08, 2012
at 06:36 PM

A guy that can hang 45lbs, or 100lbs for that matter off his waist and do pull ups/chin ups is going to have some serious biceps without ever doing a curl, ever.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on June 09, 2012
at 04:02 PM

Yes, agree. It's clear that separate exercises aren't necessary for biceps/triceps. I was asking more about about other muscles such as abdominals and calves.

C45d7e96acd83d3a6f58193dbc140e86

on July 25, 2012
at 03:33 PM

I prefer just to let go with one arm and do the pullup

2
2fd93e91bb14e641a2bac9c6033e84e2

(1614)

on June 08, 2012
at 07:27 PM

On your second question: one thing I found that worked for both me and my husband regarding squats and sore quads was either 1) stalling on the weight. Instead of upping 5# every workout, aim for 5# every week, whether you're doing 2 workouts or 4 workouts each week. 2) reducing to 3x5 once you're getting up near previous maxes.

And regardless of the schedule that the program provides, never ever hesitate to take a couple days off if you need it. Work through the DOMs in the first few weeks, but don't be a moron.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on June 09, 2012
at 04:03 PM

I'll definitely try to not be a moron. I've heard before if a particular muscle is still sore from previous workout, you should delay working it again until the soreness goes away. Sounds like you're saying that's not correct? I.e., just work through the DOMs instead?

2fd93e91bb14e641a2bac9c6033e84e2

(1614)

on June 10, 2012
at 11:43 PM

As long as it's not acute pain and you're sure it is just soreness, go for it. If you wait until you're never sore to workout, either your workouts aren't worth it (aka you're not getting sore, not building muscle), or you'll hardly ever workout! That being said, always be aware of the chronic soreness or pain... that nagging "knee" thing or "shoulder" twinge might not be DOMs, it could be a sign of an actual problem that should be addressed.

2
5b5abb28f3cacf4f5a01497f2895d072

(238)

on June 08, 2012
at 06:48 PM

I'm in my second week. Remember the rows aren't just arms - it's back and legs for stability. It's the same with the press; it works your core muscles. If you're worried about recruiting your whole body try to read something by Pavel Tsatsoline about tension doing exercises. Even if you're following stronglifts I recommend the book "Starting Strength" by Mark Rippetoe. It's a little dense but it's got all the info you need to start barbell training.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on June 09, 2012
at 04:02 PM

Just ordered Starting Strength. Thanks!

0
8b248792242cd18323237ea49ea1ccfe

on August 06, 2013
at 05:39 AM

bottom line is it WORKS, I'm a dedicated user of the system, was an athlete my whole life and work family etc stopped me for almost 9 years from working out, and I got fat!!! It killed me, and I stumbled on the 5x5 system on a paleo site when I became a paleo follower almost a year ago, went from 245 lbs at 20% body fat, to 225 lbs at 10%, I'm ripped & healthy again thanks to this.. I will say that if u follow the system it works, and you will not be tired or stall out until the last weeks of the first 12 weeks of the program at worst or u may never stall, I know I didn't, but many do, so deload & rebuild. The big deal is that your thighs are the largest muscles in the body, and the exercises built along w them are designed to build your core strength, but because you're using your largest muscle groups your body is releasing testosterone, which is actually strengthening and building muscle across your whole body. I also train 2 days of hard cardio every week, and as long as you don't kill yourself, eat right, and make sure you are getting the right caloric intake your body will react in an amazing way!!

193f00d53ebcb13940c7a55afc78ad17

(1260)

on June 08, 2012
at 08:55 PM

So basically he says that research and studies are invalid proof, and that without those, you cannot disprove him, ergo, he is right by default.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on June 09, 2012
at 06:22 AM

A strength training program that does not include squats and deadlifts for a normal (read non-injured) human being is a joke.

193f00d53ebcb13940c7a55afc78ad17

(1260)

on June 08, 2012
at 08:53 PM

The 3rd like cites the 2nd as the source of his argument. The second link (Mr 'Dream'Johnson's) is laughably unscientific/flawed. He defends it this way: "The laws of logic dictate that I do not actually need to back up my claims — you have to back up yours (the assertion that a barbell squat is safe)"..."While I realize that you will...cite [a list of] studies and statistical research that support your *positive* claim, please try to grasp the idea that studies do not dictate reality."

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