So today I hit the gym for the sixth time and completed week two of the StrongLifts 5×5 Program. I know I haven’t done much but I think I’ve learnt a few things about the program, here they are:
1.Stick to the Program
The program is simple. This is possibly its greatest strength. It is easy to concentrate on only 3 exercises instead of countless different ones each workout. Stick to it, unless you really really know what you’re doing.
2. Start Light
It’s important to start with really light weights. I started with the empty bar and I recommend everyone who follows this program to do the same. There are some reasons for this even though at the beginning you may feel that you are not doing anything.
Firstly by starting with an empty bar you learn correct form. This is important when the weights get really heavy. With poor form heavy weights can lead to injury. In fact I saw a guy injure himself doing squats this morning.
Secondly, starting light and gradually increasing weights builds strength. This is very important. I’ve seen people jump to weights randomly before building the required strength. This leads to injuries and slower progress. Though I started with very low weights and haven’t reached a stage where you feel like you are actually lifting real weights, I am much stronger than I was two weeks ago.
3. Use the App
I advise using a Stronglifts app. For IPhone and Android users just use the official ones. For Windows Phone there are several poor options. I recommend Simply Stronglifts for Windows Phone users.
The app shows you the day’s weights and other cool data. This is useful because after even a few weeks keeping track of each workout’s weights is going to be difficult. Additionally the apps show your progress in graphical form and also show rest timers and other cool features.
The Iphone and Android ones also allow you to backup your progress. You could probably get away with tracking the weights in your head but you’re likely to make a mistake. Besides, it’s the 21st century and there are plenty of tools to simplify life. Use them.
4. Beware the Overhead Press
When I started doing the program I thought the Overhead Press is a simple exercise. Turns out it’s the hardest and the one most people first stall on. The Overhead Press is deceptively simple but it’s very difficult- possibly because our shoulders are weak or something. Whatever the reason, be warned.
5. You’ll Squat Like Crazy
Now this program is built around the Squat and this is one exercise you’ll come to love and hate. Believe me when you squat 75 times a week ( More than 100 times with warm-ups) you will soon develop a special relationship with Squats. And they will hurt like hell at first, you will dread the stairs and won’t walk properly for days. Then the pain will disappear- except when doing them. You’ll want to cry.
6. The strength will come fast
This is a strength training program for beginners and it works. Adding 2.5 kgs to an exercise each time- or about 3 kgs every week- is no joke. You will quickly get stronger provided you are eating well.
In two weeks I have gone from struggling with a 20kg Squat to squatting 32.5 kgs.
6. The Aesthetics (Looks) will come slow
Like I said this is a strength training program. The idea is to get stronger and then maybe do other things. Muscle size will come with stronger muscles because strong muscles are big muscles but big muscles are not necessarily strong muscles.
So don’t expect to get ripped fast from this program – at least not right away. Though I am stronger I can hardly see the physical difference yet.
7. Consistency is key
As with any plan, consistency is important. Sometimes I don’t want to wake up but I force myself. Even the best plans need execution.