Posts Tagged ‘Stronglifts’

So I mentioned recently that I don’t really talk a lot about my training and workouts here except a few mentions of my programs.

But maybe I should. And by “should”, I mean it’s my blog, so why the heck not?

So on that topic:

I mentioned recently switching to 5/3/1 from Stronglifts.

For those not familiar let me start with a brief overview of how each program works. I’ll throw this in a different color so that you can easily skip past this if you already know about these prorams.

Stronglifts has two workouts, A and B, and  5 lifts. The lifts used in Stronglifts are the barbell squat, bench press, barbell row, overhead press, and deadlift. These are arranged into two workouts:

Workout A:


Bench Press

Barbell Row

Workout B:


Overhead Press


For each of these you do 5 working sets of 5 reps, each time you successfully do your 5×5 you add 5lbs to the weight you life nextime. Along with the 5 working sets they recommend a number or warmup sets. I was doing about 4 warmup sets for squats and then 2 warm up sets for the others usually. So it’s more than 5 sets if you count warmups. And stronglifts recommends doing these 3 times a week alternating A and B.

As you can see with stronglifts, you would be increasing weight very fast if you don’t stall at any weight.
As I mentioned, I decided to switch to 5/3/1/ because I was always exhausted after all those squats and was not progressing in any other lifts anymore.

5/3/1 has 4 workouts focusing on 4 lifts. The 4 lifts are the barbell squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press. So 5/3/1 does not include the barbell row as a primary lift. Each of the 4 workouts then is focused on one and only 1 primary lift.

Using this website as a guide for each lift you progress through 4 “waves”. For each it recommend 3 warmup sets. 40% x5reps, 50%x 5 reps, 60%x 3 reps.

After the warmup you do 3 working sets. For wave A you do 75% x 5, 80% x 5, 85% x 5, Wave B is 80% x 3, 85% x 3, 90% x 3, Wave C 75% x 5, 85% x 3, 95% x 1 and then Wave D is a deload wave at 60% x 5, 65% x 5, 70% x 5. 

So they weight is all based on percent of your 1 rep max. The website I linked has a calculation to estimate your 1 rep max if you’ve never tried to max out for 1 rep on a lift. 

But wait! Not that simple! You are actually supposed to consider 90% of that to be your 1 rep max for purposes of the program. So you calculate a 1 rep max, then take 90% of that, then take whichever percentage of that.

Oh, and after you complete the 4 waves you then add 5lbs for upper-body and 10lbs for lower body to your 1RM to repeat the 4 waves based on that

In addition to the 1 lift each workout, you can do some optional assistance work after.

As you can see 5/3/1 is not really as simple as stronglifts in terms of simplicity of the set up.

As I already mentioned the main reason I’m switching is because I like being able to focus on one primary lift each workout and not being exhausted from squats before all my upper body lifts.

So having just started with 5/3/1 here are some of my thoughts:

1. It’s more complicated! 

So I’ve read around several different sites explaining 5/3/1, I still f-ed up on my understanding of it the first workout.

2. It feels so much lighter and easier!

For the main lifts I’m doing fewer sets and lighter weights than I was used to with strong lifts. Which I’m trying to trust the prescribed progression of this and not feel like I’m just always going backward. I do still wonder if I should just use my actual calculated 1 rep max instead of taking 90% of it. I read that 90% was in part to counterbalance people who would overestimate their one rep max by using a previous max when they aren’t currently lifting that heavy, and people using really bad form to get their max weight. My numbers are either a 1 rep max I’ve done recently or calculated from recent weights I’ve done at higher reps.

And with 5/3/1 you are changing your weight each set and only doing 3 working sets.

3. Progress is prescribed at a lower rate.

And I think part of this is that my weights are way lower than what seems the expectation of where folks start 5/3/1 at. so adding 5 or 10lbs to the 1 RM and then calculating a percent of that seems a small increase compared to adding 5lbs (or 10 for deadlift) each time to the weight you lift. And with my 1RM numbers being small already. Plus this is a slight problem in that I don’t have fractional plates, so right now the smallest weight increase I can do is 5lbs (or I guess 2.5lb if I had an imbalanced bar). And why the heck are fractonal plates so friggin expensive? Amazon has a set totaling 5 lbs (set of 1/4 lb, 1/2 lb, 3/4 lb and 1 lb) for $60. $60 for 5 lbs? Am I the only one who thinks that sounds completely ridiculous? So right now I’m trying to think of another way I can add small amounts of weight to my bar that don’t involve spending $60 for 5 measly lbs.

4. I’m doing more assistance work than seems recommended. 

So reading around I see a lot of folks saying no more than 1-2 assistance exercises per workout.

I did 5 with my first, which was bench- also I’m out of order because I did 5×5 squats the day before I switched so I’m doing bench, deadlift, ohp, squat instead of squat, bench, deadlift, ohp.

I planned for 4 with deadlifts but stopped after 3.

I keep seeing that the important part is that assistance work doesn’t take away from the main lift. So my feeling is, if all my assistance work is after the main lift, it shouldn’t be making a different to my main lift. Basically how I’ve been planning it is start with major lift, the assistance work in prioritized in order, so whenever I get exhausted and can’t do more (or run out of time) I  stop.

Also right now some of my “assistance work” is just extra stuff I want to throw in, more than stuff they recommend. Like I want to keep doing barbell rows so now I am calling that “assistance work”. I also love hip thrusts for more glute work, so I’m going to call that “assistance work”. So I’m kind of just making stuff up and doing whatever for that.

5. I’m doing low weight, high rep and it feels so weird.

So another recommendation for assistance work is “big and boring”. doing 5 sets of 10 reps at a low weight. This is mostly recommended for use with the main lift. So after the prescribed sets, reps, and weights for the main lift, I then aim to do 5 sets of 10 reps at 40% weight. Since I didn’t really know what to do for weight, reps, and sets for the other assistance work, I’ve decided to adopt this for all the assistance work for now.

It feels really weird doing high rep, low weight :-\

Well, technically it says to increase this weight percentage overtime too to whatever works out as the max you can do for 8-10 rep. Still lower weight and higher rep than I’m used to though.

Which I may then be able to fit less assistance work once I’m doing more weights. Also less with lower body because that always takes more out of me than upper body lifts- which also maybe will change once I get my weights higher with upper body.


Me doing hip thrusts after deadlifts.

So, there’s where my thoughts are on this right now.

So I had been doing or trying to do stronglifts. Decided today that I need to change to a different program.

After squats I’m exhausted and I’m not making progress on anything else and I know part of that is because by the time I get into anything else I’m totally exhausted from my squats.

Photo between sets of my workout this morning.

So I think I am going to try switching over to 5/3/1 I’ve looked into this before and I think right now it would be good as it focuses on 1 major lift per workout and then whatever assistance work one wants to add as well, but never focusing on more than 1 major lift at a time. I also hope this will give me the ability to focus more effectively on upper body since it will give me days when I am doing just a main upper body lift (Bench or OHP) combined with upper body assistance work. Which overall then would mean doing even more upper body work as well, which I think I need.

Anyways, I don’t really talk tons about my training here but thought I’d throw a post out about this planned change.

So I mentioned before that I am following stronglifts 5×5.

I’m fairly early on but so far love it and would definitely recommend it. So far I am liking having specific guidelines for increasing weights. And just used the app for the first time and like the timer for rests between sets.

This post really though is mainly for me, I realized I should keep track of my starting point so I can see better how far I’ve come with it later on, and figured I would post here to help me keep track and let others in on my eventual progress as well!

Starting weights:

Squat: 100lbs

Bench Press: 75lbs

Barbell Row: 95lbs

Overhead Press: 55lbs

Deadlift: 180lbs

Ok, so I figured that maybe I should go ahead and give some background info on me when it comes to fitness stuff and what I’m doing now.


Ya know, I started writing out a long thing about the past years and what exercises I focused on when as best I could remember. And realized that there has been one overarching theme for the past about 7 years- I exercise for awhile, then health gets really bad and I have to take a break, then once I’m feeling better I exercise again and the cycle repeats. Making it very hard to see lasting improvements.

But I have been on an off working out for awhile. I’m not really brand new to it. I’ve done lots of cardio in the past, some yoga.

I’ve done the couch to 5K program several times. For awhile every time I would get toward the end I would become anemic again (which when severe bring with it tachycardia and chest pain and does not make running or exercise in general a safe plan). So again- hard to see consistent improvement, after I’d feel safe running again, I’d be back to starting at the beginning.

A few years back in college when I had access to the gym there I learned about New Rules of Lifting for Women by Lou Schuler. Bought that book, read it, and started the workout plan in it. That was my first real introduction to lifting. By now you should know the story there- health issue got in the way and I never finished the plan all the way through.

And after college I didn’t have access to a gym for lifting anymore, and no money to join one, so I was limited to a few dumbbells I had at home at that was it. Throughout that time one of my goals was to have access to barbells and weights again to get back into lifting because I loved it when I was doing it.

In November I moved into a house that has enough space to set up a home gym. It took me a few months to get all my basics covered. First I got a bench. Then I found someone on craigslist selling a olympic barbell set- olympic barbell, ez curl bar, 435lbs worth of weight plates, and a rack for the plates. It was still awhile then before I could get together the money for my power rack. But now I have a nice little home gym. I’d love to add some more to it-especially kettlebells. But I have the basics I need. So now I’m able to get back into lifting- woohoo!

For the first while back at lifting I was basically making up my own workouts. I just now decided to give stronglifts 5×5 a try. Of course my goal is to work in a few other exercises too and I’m also working on running in between lifting days. So that is kind of the plan I am trying to follow right now. We’ll see how it works.


I figured I should maybe give some info into that. If I talk about my current plan it kind of sounds like I just started all this, but I don’t feel brand new to things like lifting, even if I am far from an expert, because I did start years ago, I just ended up having to stop and just started back.


I’ll talk more about my experiences with these plans in upcoming posts I’m planning. Including a post on how different plans have worked out for me in terms of time commitment and with health issues- since that is obviously an ongoing struggle for me is how to stay consistent with workouts even when my health problems flair up.