Bodybuilding: StrongLifts 5x5 Program: Pack on Serious Strength and Burn Fat


StrongLifts 5x5 is an effective, yet simple way to pack on muscle bulk, increase your strength and burn fat. It is a popular program for the beginning and intermediate bodybuilder. The workout takes less than 2 ½ hours a week and is simple, but powerful. StrongLifts 5x5 incorporates three workouts a week that take about 45 minutes to complete. Even inexperienced bodybuilders and lifters will hit 225 pound back squat for 5 reps within 12 weeks. When the StrongLifts 5x5 is combined with a good diet, it can produce powerful body sculpting.

StrongLift 5x5 rotates through five exercises; the squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, and barbell row. Only three of these exercises are done in each workout. The workouts are broken down into A and B workouts and are rotated. One full day of recover and rest is prescribed between each workout with one of those rests being a two day rest.

The 5x5 stands for 5 sets of 5 reps apiece. The only exception to this is when deadlifts are performed. Deadlifts are done with only one set. With Stronglifts, your goal is not to max out your reps or weight. The plan starts you out light, about half of your max for 5 reps and builds the weight every week.

To begin, start with start with half of your 5 rep max. If you haven’t done squats, bench presses or deadlifts before, then start at the following weights:

Do all the sets of an exercise straight across with only one to two minutes rest between. Then move onto the next exercise and do all five of the sets. The beginning bodybuilder should stay at the starting weight for 1-2 weeks. After the first couple of weeks, add 5 pounds to each exercise. That’s a total increase of 15 pounds per week per exercise. It may feel like you aren’t increasing very much, but don’t add more than that (and don’t add weight in the first week) or you will feel like skipping workouts. This will also give you a chance to practice proper form and to get used to the exercises.  

Create an A and B workout. Typically a workout schedule would look like this:

Stronglifts 5x5 Week One

Monday: A

Wednesday: B

Friday: A

Squats 5x5, 45 lbs

Squats 5x5, 50 lbs

Squats 5x5, 55 lbs

Bench Press 5x5, 45 lbs

Overhead Press 5x5, 45 lbs

Bench Press 5x5, 50 lbs

Barbell Row 5x5, 65 lbs

Deadlift 1x5, 95 lbs

Barbell Row 5x5, 70 lbs

Stronglifts 5x5 Week Two

Monday: B

Wednesday: A

Friday: B

Squats 5x5, 60 lbs

Squats 5x5, 65 lbs

Squats 5x5, 70 lbs

Overhead Press 5x5, 50 lbs

Bench Press 5x5, 55 lbs

Overhead Press 5x5, 55 lbs

Deadlift 1x5 100 lbs

Barbell Row 5x5 75 lbs

Deadlift 1x5, 105 lbs

One important item to remember when doing the StrongLift 5x5 program is to calculate for the bar weight. If you are using Olympic style bars, then the bars will weigh 45 lbs, unless you are using a training bar. Our technique bar weighs 17 lbs.

You should not be maxing out your weights on this program. Your goal is not to get worn out or sore. You are trying to increase your weight on each exercise. The goal is to build strength and muscle. Although your max weight will increase with the StrongLift 5x5, the focus is building strength and muscle. If you fail on the increased weight on a certain exercise, then decrease the weight for the next workout. If you succeed the next time, then increase the weight on the following workout. If you fail to get the 5x5 exercise again, then decrease the weight by 10%. Then continue on the progressive overload system.

The StrongLift 5x5 program is a simple and easily followed workout plan. It gives you goals and allows for rest time. It is progressive. The Stronglift 5x5 program works your entire body without becoming too complicated. It is important to track your progress and success in the program. If you fail and need to repeat a weight, tracking makes it easily and more consistent. For an easy tracking guide check out our Bodybuilding weight training schedule. When starting any new fitness program, there are important steps you can take that will help to maximize your results. We recommend that you check out the Bodybuilding beginners guide.  

Eventually the StrongLift 5x5 program will max out for you and you won’t be able to continue to add more weight. If that happens, then try the Madcow 5x5 program, which is ideal for advanced bodybuilders and weightlifters.