SL 5x5 Workout

This workout comes from Please note that the primary purpose of this program is build strength. Of course as you build strength, you will also build muscle. Strength and muscle just go together.

The Program
StrongLifts 5x5 Workout AStrongLifts 5x5 Workout B
Squat 5x5Squat 5x5
Bench Press 5x5Overhead Press 5x5
Barbell Rows 5x5Deadlift 1x5

When to workout
You will workout 3 days a week with at least one day of rest between each workout. For me, this will be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You will alternate workouts. So the first week, you will do workout A on Monday and Friday and workout B on Wednesday.  The next week you will do workout B on Monday and Friday and workout A on Wednesday.  You just repeat this pattern over and over.

What to workout
The 5 core exercises of the strong lifts program are squat, deadlift, bench, shoulder press, and rows. I am also adding abs and calf raises. The author of the strong lifts website claims that you will see little or no results from adding addition exercises. In fact, in most cases, the extra exercises will only hurt your ability to recover. However, calves and abs are muscles that are, at best, only indirectly trained by this workout. I happen to want nice looking calves, and I especially want six pack abs. I already have a low body fat, but no visible abs. So I know that I must increase the size of my abs muscles to achieve a six pack. As for calves, this is really just to test whether or not the strong lifts concepts are applicable to any set of muscles, even isolated muscles like calves. Also, since abs and calves are not directly needed in any of the core lifts, my recovery time shouldn't be significally increased. Tricep pull downs an example of a lift that I wouldn't even consider adding to the program because your triceps are already trained by bench and overhead press. It would do nothing but increase the time you need for your triceps to recover.

How many repetitions and set of each lift
For each lift except deadlift, you should start off doing 5 sets of 5 reps. Deadlift is the exception because it is the heaviest lift and will need the most recovery. In an attempt to reduce the recovery time on deadlift, you will do only 1 set of 5 reps. After you deload twice on a given lift, you will decrease the number of sets to 3 for that lift only. After you deload twice again on that lift you will decrease the number of sets to 1 for that lift only. You may find yourself doing a different number of sets for each lift depending on your progression. This is okay.

Warming up
For each lift, you will do two warm-up sets. The first warm-up set should be about 50% of your maximum weight for that lift. The second warm-up set should be about 75% of your maximum weight. Warming up is especially important if your muscles are sore from the previous workout. You will also want to stretch any muscles that you will use for that lift. Stretching helps recovery and loosens up the tissue surrounding the muscle giving it more room to grow.

How much weight
If you have never lifted before, you should start very low. You will want to start with the bar on bench, squat, and shoulder press. On rows and deadlift, you will start with more because the bar needs to start and end each rep on the floor for proper technique. You'll need to stack weights under the bar so that it is the correct starting height.

If you are like me and already know your maximum weights for each lift, you'll want to take 10% off your 5 rep max for each lift and start with that.

Progressive loading
This is probably the most important concept of the program. For any lift, if you completed all the reps of all the sets during the last workout, you'll add 5 pounds to the lift for the current workout. This will force your muscles to grow and adapt to more weight. The exception is deadlift. You will add 10 pounds to your deadlift because it is a heavy lift and you will only do it every other workout.

This is the next most important concept of the program.  Since you add weight to a lift everytime you successful complete all the reps, you will eventually get to the point where you start to fail on the reps of your last set or last couple sets. The first couple times this happens, you don't need to worry.  You just don't add weight the next time you go into the gym.  However, if you fail to perform all the reps of a lift for 3 workouts in a row, you will need to deload. Deloading means that next time you go to perform that lift, you will not try the same weight again.  Instead, you will take 10% of the weight off.  So if you failed to squat 250 pounds 3 times in a row, then the next time you do squat, you will drop back down to 225 pounds. You will then add continue like normal.  If you complete all the reps at 225, which you should, then you will go up to 230 the next workout, and so on. When you make it back up to 250 pounds, you should be able to break through this time.