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5x5 strength training program

Old 09-20-14, 06:20 PM
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Vlaam4ever
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5x5 strength training program

I'm an average cyclist and log between 4 and 7 hours on the bike each week. As we are getting in to the fall I'll be riding less and am considering adding a strength training routine that I can do at the gym at work. I read about the Stronglifts 5x5 program and thought it would be a good beginner strength training program I can do on my own with out a coach. I have no interest in body building and bulking up but would like to improve my overall strength in my core and upper body. I'm curious if any body has tried this and balanced it with off season cycling?

For those interested here is a link and short description.

5x5 is program of various 5 compound exercises you do 5 sets of 5 reps. Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, Overhead Press and Barbell Row. You do three of these exercises each workout, three times a week, for about 45 minutes per workout. You Squat every workout, three times a week.

StrongLifts 5x5: A Simple Workout To Get Stronger
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Old 09-20-14, 07:18 PM
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It's an excellent beginning program. Just start the cycle with a very conservative weight and focus on perfect form. It will seem very easy at first, but by the end of the first week you may surprised by how hard those three days of squats work your entire body. Also very good during the spring and fall to avoid over training.
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Old 09-20-14, 07:32 PM
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yup
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Old 09-21-14, 08:07 AM
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The only part of the 5x5 program which I don't like is the bench press and barbell rows. I would avoid bench press and do chest dips instead or do weighted elevated push ups , and I would do pull ups/chin ups instead of barbell rows. When dips and pull ups with your bodyweight become too easy, then do them with a weighted belt. Dips work more muscles in your body then a bench press.. Barbell rows put a lot of strain on your back, pull ups/chins are a much better exercise then BB rows...Pull ups/chins will give you a much better all around strength/body development then BB rows.
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Old 09-22-14, 10:16 PM
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5x5 is a classic, time-tested program. One of many benefits of sticking to a couple of compound movements is that you can hit your whole body and be out of the gym in an hour or so.
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Old 09-22-14, 11:05 PM
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Buy the Starting Strength book by Mark Rippetoe.
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Old 09-23-14, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
5x5 is a classic, time-tested program. One of many benefits of sticking to a couple of compound movements is that you can hit your whole body and be out of the gym in an hour or so.

I did my first day on the barbells yesterday. What a humbling effort.

Squats, killed it. All these years of lunges have prepared me for this, I'll move up quick here..
Bench, I did okay but I'm sore today after 95lbs.
Barbel rows, I'm going to struggle with this one.
Dips, I almost completed 2 dips.

The entire thing took less that 40 minutes, including an orientation of the new gym. A lady next to me was power cleaning 190lb and a 65-70 year old guy was on the dip rack with a 45lb wieght strapped to him. I think I found a good gym that will motivate me to get stronger.

Thanks, I'm picking up the Rippetoe book. I hope he discusses strength maintenance, since this is an off season effort I'm working on to supplement my endurance training.
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Old 09-23-14, 02:04 PM
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I've had the most success least injury with this:
5x5 variants of the big 6, on a push/pull upper/lower split
push/pull means opposing muscles , so row, then bench...
upper / lower different days.
Works great for strength

I've tried 3x10, I get less progress.
I've tried other patterns such as 10x10, but overwhelmed stabilizers in shoulder due to a serious old injury.
Also tried pyramid scheme, but I'm too much of a space case.

Starting Strength was a great recommendation, as would Boring but Big...
Remember you can only get big when in calorie surplus.
Pick a solid pattern and stick with it for a good long time. Lifting is a very long game, measured in years, not months. If you mentally need a change up, then try 5/3/1 for a couple months and go back to your program from there..

The suggestion about dips is really a great one, very high hormone response.
Consider swapping in pull ups (even if assisted)... If cannot (like me, injured shoulder dislocates) then pullovers are an old school, extremely effective alternative.
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Old 09-23-14, 02:10 PM
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It's a great use of your time.

Very important to select your weights carefully. Don't rush it. Use blinders ... Don't compare yourself to others, don't worry about what they think of you. Everyone respects another weight trainers regardless of the weights they use.

I am a huge fan of the 5x5 but using my own mix/routine. I never really knew how to gain muscle mass until I used the 5x5 (in my late 40s) and wasted so many years with high reps and low weights. After achieving my body transformation I now use a modified program that keeps some of the essential aspects of the 5x5. At 56 I'm always conscious of trying to obtain/retain the most balanced proportions within reason. I also gained a lot by researching nutrition timing. Good luck and have fun! :-)

Oh yeah, rule number one ... do no harm ... :-) If you have an off day, don't sweat it.

hint: 2 days of rest between sessions using the same muscle groups.

Last edited by rumrunn6; 09-23-14 at 02:29 PM.
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Old 09-30-14, 08:08 AM
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I very much like the Mark Rippentoe book Starting Strength, very thorough and uncompromising on how to build strength. I think he recommends 3x5 instead of 5x5 but at my level of novice and weakness I dont think this matters. I'm moving the weight up by 5 or 10 lbs each time I go in the gym and can feel the gains after only the first 5 workouts. Even though I walk away from the gym knowing I can do more weight or reps, I feel the gains in my body. So I'm sticking with the program.

The strength workout only takes 30-45 minutes 3 days per week, so I still have plenty of time in my schedule to get some good rides in on the trainer and long rides on the road on the weekend. I'll need to add some significant protein to my diet (get it to 100+g/day) and I expect that recovery will become and issue in a few months. I'll worry about the recovery when I don't make gains anymore...

So far so good.
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Old 09-30-14, 09:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Vlaam4ever View Post
Even though I walk away from the gym knowing I can do more weight or reps, I feel the gains in my body.
That's the key to building strength, workouts you can effectively recover from and not getting injured.

Originally Posted by Vlaam4ever View Post
I'll worry about the recovery when I don't make gains anymore...
The book touches on what to do when gains slow or plateau. It usually involves some deload time and then resuming from a lower weight.

Congratulations on your progress thus far, I'm glad you like the book.

Last edited by CharlyAlfaRomeo; 09-30-14 at 11:36 AM.
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Old 09-30-14, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Vlaam4ever View Post
I'll worry about the recovery when I don't make gains anymore... So far so good.
That could be longer than you think. It's very hard for lifters to keep things simple in the gym -- people are always tempted to add more isolation exercises, pump sets, reps, etc, but you can go a really long ways on the simple workouts. There are some fun anecdotes in "Keys to Progress" about how big champions like Reg Park were in and out of the gym in no time.

Now that autumn is in force, it's time for me to start thinking about getting back into lifting as well.
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Old 10-15-14, 07:02 PM
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So, I've added 10 pounds onto my body in about 6 weeks, 100lb onto my squat, 40lb on my benchpress, 100lb on my deadlift. I hope I can still fit into my team kit come spring time...

I'm impressed how easy quickly the strength has come and how much I need to eat keep the gains coming. My endurance has fallen by the wayside, but I'll be adding that back to the routine in November. Until then strength is #1 .
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Old 10-15-14, 07:21 PM
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You don't need to eat to keep the strength gains coming, most of the strength comes from neuromuscular adaptation.

If your main goal is to bulk up then keep eating in excess of the calories you burn but if strength is your main focus you should be able to maintain a steady weight and see gains for quite a while.
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Old 10-16-14, 08:46 AM
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cross training can be complex. I remember when my arms got bigger it hurt my swimming a little. I had a little bit of heaven for a while bike commuting 26 miles round trip 3-4 days a week, swimming 1500 meters twice a week, running 3 miles 3 times a week & weight training 3 days a week. nutrition timing and protecting myself from injury was key. but man, I was in the best shape of my life at age 50!
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Old 10-16-14, 05:45 PM
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Originally Posted by CharlyAlfaRomeo View Post
You don't need to eat to keep the strength gains coming, most of the strength comes from neuromuscular adaptation.
That only works for 6-12 weeks, then you have to do something else to stimulate gains.
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Old 10-16-14, 09:51 PM
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Originally Posted by sprince View Post
That only works for 6-12 weeks, then you have to do something else to stimulate gains.
Mat 6 weeks and 10 pounds gained he hasn't hit that point, not by a long shot. Changing his routine after 12 weeks will keep neuromuscular adaptation coming though, albeit at a highly reduced rate.

As I'm sure you know, gaining strength is a marathon not a sprint.
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Old 10-19-14, 04:54 PM
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For anyone else reading, 5x5 is not a beginner's program...OP is mixing up the Starting Strength and 5x5 programs. 3x5 on squats, 3x/week is plenty for someone new to the program. 5x5 will lay you flat if you have never lifted before, which it sounds like OP has.

I agree bent-over rows place larger loads on the back than they're worth. Even TRX or other inverted rows load the low back less and activate the lats better.

YMMV with dips. I don't think they're a replacement for the bench press, and a lot of guys find they're even harder on their shoulders than bench pressing.
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Old 10-20-14, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by tadawdy View Post
For anyone else reading, 5x5 is not a beginner's program...OP is mixing up the Starting Strength and 5x5 programs. 3x5 on squats, 3x/week is plenty for someone new to the program. 5x5 will lay you flat if you have never lifted before, which it sounds like OP has.

I agree bent-over rows place larger loads on the back than they're worth. Even TRX or other inverted rows load the low back less and activate the lats better.

YMMV with dips. I don't think they're a replacement for the bench press, and a lot of guys find they're even harder on their shoulders than bench pressing.
I disagree about 5x5 squats, and think they're fine for beginners. In many programs, the first two sets are the warmups, so you're only looking at 3 work sets. The moderate reps allow you to hang up the bar before form goes to crap. Any non-stupid lifting program should emphasis working up the weights gradually anyway.

Dumbbell bent-over rows are my preference because they don't tax the lower back as much, but plenty of lifters have used BB rows with great success.
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Old 10-23-14, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
I disagree about 5x5 squats, and think they're fine for beginners. In many programs, the first two sets are the warmups, so you're only looking at 3 work sets. The moderate reps allow you to hang up the bar before form goes to crap. Any non-stupid lifting program should emphasis working up the weights gradually anyway.

Dumbbell bent-over rows are my preference because they don't tax the lower back as much, but plenty of lifters have used BB rows with great success.
This is part of the trouble of just saying 5x5. What's the frequency? Load relative to 1RM? If we are debating the merits of 3x5 done 3x/week vs 5x5 (5 working sets) done once or twice a week, I'll take the 3x5. The 3x5 gives you more or similar volume of work (a primary consideration for hypertrophy), typically a heavier load can be used (driver of strength gains), and greater frequency (better for skill acquisition).

The other question: how much daily volume does a beginner actually need to improve?

If we are including warm-up sets in the 5x5, then we might basically be talking about the same thing. I do warm-sets, but I wouldn't count that in my work sets for the day.

A lot of lifters have done a lot of things over the years, but it doesn't mean it's ideal. An appeal to tradition is not the way to decide best practice. I stand by my comments on the rows, as they are evidence-based. If you want a rowing variation that doesn't tax your back, why not pick something other than a bent-over row?
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Old 10-23-14, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by tadawdy View Post
This is part of the trouble of just saying 5x5. What's the frequency? Load relative to 1RM? If we are debating the merits of 3x5 done 3x/week vs 5x5 (5 working sets) done once or twice a week, I'll take the 3x5. The 3x5 gives you more or similar volume of work (a primary consideration for hypertrophy), typically a heavier load can be used (driver of strength gains), and greater frequency (better for skill acquisition).

The other question: how much daily volume does a beginner actually need to improve?

If we are including warm-up sets in the 5x5, then we might basically be talking about the same thing. I do warm-sets, but I wouldn't count that in my work sets for the day.

A lot of lifters have done a lot of things over the years, but it doesn't mean it's ideal. An appeal to tradition is not the way to decide best practice. I stand by my comments on the rows, as they are evidence-based. If you want a rowing variation that doesn't tax your back, why not pick something other than a bent-over row?
You are way over-complicating things, a nearly-unavoidable tendency when thinking about nutrition or fitness, but counterproductive in my view. It used to be that you just told a lifter, hey, do 3 (or 5) worksets of squats starting with a light weight a couple times a week, and increase the weight when you can. And if the lifter stuck with it for a while, it worked.

Now, we agonize over %1RM, whether 14 or 15 total reps is more "optimal", which exercises are on the "accepted list", what exactly to put in the magic post-workout shake and when to drink it, and whether our workout discussions include enough caveats! One very important thing that is missed by these technical discussions of how many reps/sets/frequency is "ideal" is that people respond slightly differently, so it's important that they experiment and find out what ultimately works best for them. Some people grow best on an HIT program, others on HST, some on the "Arnold" program, etc.


tl;dr quit overthinking it and just lift. Make adjustments if necessary.
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Old 10-27-14, 04:49 PM
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Just to clarify what I'm doing. I started with the StrongLift 5x5 (LINK) program. It starts with the bar and add 5-10 pounds each time in the gym until it gets heavy, then recommends moving to 3x5 and 3x3 once the increases slow down. With the 3x5 you should be adding warm up sets. It was my first step into a linear progression program and it made sense. I think the 5x5 was easy as it eliminated the complexity of changing weights, various number of reps etc.

After a few weeks I read up on Starting Strength and transitioned my programming to the standard 3x5 Rank Novice routine with 3-5 warm up sets. During the Rank Novice program the A workout is Squat, BP, DL the B workout is Squat, OHP, DL. I did it mostly because my gym has lots of SS lifters and I could not find a good reason why the 5x5 program was better for me. Now I can compare worksets and get in and out of the gym a little quicker. I have no idea if it is better or not.

Currently at 5rm(lbs): S/190 BP/140 OHP/95 DL/200, PC/??
wt is 187

I plan to keep focusing on strength for the remainder of the year, while keeping up my 2-3 hours weekend ride. This is 3hrs/3hrs weights/bike. In January I'll shift the volume back to riding so that will be 1.5hr/4.5hr weights/bike.

The biggest thing I've learned from this is getting lots of sleep. Eating is also important, lots of protein. Wow I need to eat a lot...

I'm glad this topic is taking off. As cyclists it's easy to focus on riding longer and faster, but most of us do it as an way to stay healthy so need some element of cross-training to touch on the weeknesses we develop on the bike.
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Old 10-27-14, 06:12 PM
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You might at some point consider getting a lifting coach to evaluate your form before things get too heavy. Here is a set of half day classes next month in Atlanta on lifts:

Starting Strength Training Camps

You could probably contact the coaches for a private session as well.
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Old 10-27-14, 06:34 PM
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Squats and/or deads 3 x week is a f-ton...
2 x week is actually quite a lot. Perhaps not at first but as weights approach fraction of body weight... 1/3 - 1/2 then recovery will get you at higher frequencies.

Originally Posted by gl98115 View Post
You might at some point consider getting a lifting coach to evaluate your form before things get too heavy. Here is a set of half day classes next month in Atlanta on lifts:

Starting Strength Training Camps

You could probably contact the coaches for a private session as well.

X10!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

with the frequency your doing and the intensity you're bring to this form will be key to avoiding injuries.
Perhaps you should reference t-nation.com...
As long as you're clear about you're goals they will help you immensely.
String a bunch of mutually exclusive things you want to do at the same time, and well, you'll get set straight pretty quickly.
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Old 10-27-14, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by gl98115 View Post
You might at some point consider getting a lifting coach to evaluate your form before things get too heavy. Here is a set of half day classes next month in Atlanta on lifts:

Starting Strength Training Camps

You could probably contact the coaches for a private session as well.

I'm already on it. I found a coach in my area on the SS forum. I haven't set up session or anything but I'm posting videos and having my form commented on at the SS forum. I'm beginning to understand that this program is great at building strength but needs a lot of recovery so I cut back the expectations on the bike. It's a balance of priorities, I'll change that up come January, until then I want to maximize the strength without risking injury.

I'll check out T-nation. I'm not familiar with it, thanks for the guidance.
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