Posted on 21 Sep 2013
4 min read
There comes a point in every bodybuilder’s training regime, usually about the time you’re doing a triple drop set of lat raises and you struggle to finish a set with 5kg dumbbells, when you think, “Oh fuck this, I want to be strong!”
This happened to me around 18 months ago.
So the next day I Googled “strength training” and clicked on the top result.
The rest is history.
I’ve used that phrase for dramatic effect – sadly I haven’t gone on to be an international standard powerlifter.
Stronglifts 5×5 is the brainchild of one Mehdi Hadim, ‘The New Muscles from Brussels’.
Now Mehdi is not the biggest guy ever, but then you don’t need to be built like Lou Ferrigno to know what you’re talking about (except Ian McCarthy, he literally knows sod all).
Stronglifts is the antidote to a series of embarrassing events in Mehdi’s life which include losing an arm wrestle to a woman and constantly hitting plateaus when trying out the latest fad workout.
On the about me section of the Stronglifts website, Mehdi shows us his PR squat (5 x 374lb at 176lb body weight) and a 451lb deadlift.
He had my attention instantly.
Now pay attention here because this is going to get complicated.
Stronglifts plays out like the plot of a Shakespearean tragi-comedy:
Thanks for sharing – it’s much appreciated!
You alternate workouts every other day, or, if you can’t be arsed, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
You can try to do 5×5 on deadlift, but you’re likely to injure yourself, so a single balls-out heavy set of 5 reps is advised.
Also, your lower back is gonna be pretty wrecked from squats and to an extent the military press.
So, if you’re going for a pro-card then this obviously isn’t the programme for you.
Stronglifts is designed for the hard-working bodybuilder who wants to lift like Mariuz Pudzianowski but can only spend 45 minutes a session in the gym.
The principle is that to an extent strength=size, but size doesn’t necessarily=strength.
Mehdi backs this up with the fact that the best bodybuilders ever all had a background in strength: Schwarzenegger, Park, Coleman, by way of definitive argument.
Mehdi urges people to try this programme for a minimum of 12 weeks, and not to go too heavy in the first few weeks.
Just get used to the make-up of the sessions during this initial period.
Each session you’ll add 2.5kg (5lbs) to the bar, so, again, don’t start too heavy or you will plateau quickly and lose motivation
He also tells you to never use a spotter – if you can’t lift the weight for five reps, you’re going too heavy.
For more tips, check out Stronglift’s regularly updated YouTube channel.
I have a lot of respect for Mehdi.
If his story is true then he’s really taken a lot of time to create something different.
Not only is Stronglifts 5×5 a workout, it’s almost a lifestyle.
There’s an online community of over 30,000 members (and growing) who all swear by the programme.
If you subscribe to the website you get regular tips and updates which are useful… for a while.
The site itself used to look about as dull as Kate Moss’ weekly shopping list but it has since been jazzed up to look a bit more interesting.
I followed this programme for 12 weeks and I gained a lot of strength.
It becomes a state of mind when all you’re doing is lifting strong.
Indeed, some of the PRs I achieved during the course of Stronglifts I’ve still not beaten some 18 months on.
Pretty impressive, huh?
One word: squats.
Now I love squats, I really do, but consistently doing them three times a week for 12 weeks without any proper deload will take its toll whether you’re healthy or not.
After seven weeks I started experiencing some knee joint discomfort and groin pain.
I decided to cut squats down to twice per week which managed to solve the problem.
Saying that, my legs ballooned in size, so much so that I still struggle to buy shorts.
Then again, those in the fashion world seem to think the average male is on the Alexander Litvinenko diet.
Stronglifts 5×5 is a simple, honest and effective programme for those looking to gain strength.
To be honest, it’s psychologically more challenging than it is physically.
By this is mean, it’s a mental challenge for your average gym rat to go 12 weeks without a single chest fly, lat raise or even bicep curl.
If you’re reading this and don’t think you could do that, you’re probably right.
All in all, with Stronglifts Mehdi really has invested a hell of a lot of time in something he’s passionate about, and it shows.
Christ, he’s actually written a 200+ plus page document to supplement the programme which includes diets, success stories, tips for breaking plateaus, and more advanced workouts for the seasoned lifter (Smolov for Squats).
So, if you want to give it a go, then please check it out.
If not, I just don’t care.
If you’ve tried this workout – or you’re thinking of giving it a go – we’d love to hear from you.
Just get in touch via the comments section below.
Until next time, lift smart and lift strong!