Strength Training with Stronglifts 5x5


It’s just a couple days after the New Year, which means gyms are packed with resolutioners, hoping to sweat off the 50,000 extra calories they tacked on over the last month. Inevitably, most of these folks will be out of the gym by mid-February, back to the tired excuses about not having enough time, or not seeing results quickly enough.

Been there.

In the past, I’ve gone through various workout regimines, mostly around running (which I abhor), and occasionally some gym-related stints of psuedo-random exercises strung together with no real idea of what I was trying to accomplish. Accordingly, I’d do what the resolutioners tend to do - haphazardly trip through a few weeks of working out, finally starting to skip one here and there, then completely abandoning it soon thereafter. To be honest, I figured it was me - just unable to stick to it, not seeing myself as a gym rat.

That wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I didn’t have a program to follow.

In the past, I’ve done some running programs. I did Couch to 5K and it was really successful. True to form, it got me from a complete non-runner to doing a 5K in about 3 months. Impressive. Problem is, I stopped there, didn’t continue working a new program, and sputtered out. It’s become clear, after examining all these starts and stops, that having a solid, progressing program is the key to making this whole thing work.

So, back in November, I started a new program that I’m really excited about, called Stronglifts. Stronglifts is a weight lifting program that’s based on a training regimine that Arnold Schwarzenegger did, focusing on a few key exercises each day, and progressively adding weight each session.

The basic program looks like this:

Workout A

Reps Workout
5x5 Squats
5x5 Bench Press
5x5 Barbell Rows

Workout B

Reps Workout
5x5 Squats
5x5 Overhead Press
1x5 Deadlift

This is basically a type of PPL workout (Push, Pull, Legs), with a pretty heavy focus on legs via the squats.

These workouts alternate, over a two week period, three days a week. So, week one is A-B-A, week two is B-A-B. Rinse and repeat, adding 5 lbs each workout.

What I love about Stronglifts is the simplicity. No fancy machines needed, just a squat rack and a bench, and some weights. You can get in and out in about 35-40 minutes for each workout, and the progressive increase of weight keeps you seeing progress on a nearly daily basis. Plus, it’s easy to remember, and they’ve got an app that helps you keep track of how much weight to add each day.

Over and above that, however, the magic of something like Stronglifts is that it’s a program that keeps you progressing each workout. Instead of the ambigous “I dunno, I guess I’ll play on these machines for 30 minutes” method that most people use, it gives you a focused set of activities to repeat, continually progressing with each workout. I’ve written before about managing activities, not results and this is exactly why this works. Going into the gym and saying “I’m going to lose 15 lbs by doing shit” isn’t going to cut it. You’ll lose energy, get burnt out, and evenually quit. But, going into the gym and saying “I’m going to do these X activities today, per this program, and I know eventually I’ll see results” sets you up for a repeatable and sustatinable relationship with the weight bench.

The fact is, it’s less about what you’re doing, and more about consistently doing something.

If you’re headed into the gym this month to burn off that extra tire you’re carrying around, take a different approach. Get on a program like Stronglifts, and you’ll have a far better chance at actually seeing results. There are a bunch of programs like this (and r/fitness is a great place to find others, as well as get support and questions answered), so chose one that looks interesting and get with it. Regardless of what you do, don’t walk into the gym this month without a plan and program. Having that plan is probably the most important factor in long-term success.

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