It took me a while to get this post out because I wanted to say some about Stronglifts 5×5 that would actually add to the conversation rather than a bunch of extra noise.
The website itself goes into a lot of depth, but it obviously has a bias towards painting the program in the best light. That’s not to say that it’s not a good beginner program to start with. I managed to get up to 235 lb x 5 on squat, 140 lb x 5 on bench press, 255 lb x 5 on deadlift, 96 lb x 5 on overhead press, and 160 lb x 5 on barbell rows in just 4 months starting from the lowest recommended weights.
I thought I would answer a few questions I’ve seen that the website doesn’t address.
What do I do on in between days?
Early on I did whatever I wanted because the weights were light.
I wouldn’t lift more weights, but you can do a bit of cardio, and it will actually help with your recovery. Yoga is another good option just to strengthen the core a bit.
As I got higher up in weight, however, I found that my recovery time greatly increased. At that point I mainly incorporated a bit of light dynamic stretching to ease some of the tension and soreness.
So ultimately do whatever works for you, but 3 days a week as a beginner is plenty to start with.
How long do I do the program for?
The short answer is for as long as you’re interested in it and still seeing results. Now that doesn’t mean that you give up after a couple weeks because it seems easy so far.
The longer answer revolves around the goal of the program which is linear progression.
At some point you will start dropping reps and even have to deload. You will find you’re having to use 3 minutes or more between each set just to feel recovered. Though you may still be able to eke out another 5-10 lbs over the course of a month, at that point the program has lost most of its usefulness.
Assuming you haven’t been severely calorie restricting yourself and getting enough sleep, at that point you’re ready to move onto an intermediate level program. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re lifting a little or a lot, you’ll be better served doing something else.
How do I make modifications to the program?
Ultimately you do it however you want, but if you’re making modifications you’re no longer doing the program.
For example, if you’d prefer to use dumbbells or machines, that’s perfectly fine. But it’s not the program.
Even changing up the amount that you do or which days you do which exercises means you’re no longer on the program.
Since you’re a beginner, if you don’t like the program, then just pick another beginner program that better suits you. Don’t try to mess around with trying to modify this one to make it work. Ultimately you’re still learning and going for easy to use programs because you’re not sure how to design your own.
Do I need to do any accessory lifts?
You can certainly add in some accessory lifts at a lower weight and higher rep range, but it’s not really necessary.
The reason this program is used by and recommended for so many beginners is because it utilizes the 5 big lifts. Compound lifts are so highly touted because they give you the best bang for your buck. Each movement recruits multiple muscle groups strengthening the whole chain.
The main advantage to adding lifts is enhancing certain parts of your physique. Also the additional volume will add mass a bit more quickly.
As a beginner however, this definitely isn’t a primary concern for you. Just be consistent, maintain good form, and get good at these basic lifts. Everything else snowballs from there.
If I missed anything please let me know. Especially if you have any questions of your own.