Strong Lifts 5×5 is a great intro program for developing strength and building muscle. It’s designed as a simple linear progression, which means you add weight every week until you can no longer do so with proper form. Simple, right?

Now, just because it’s simple and it’s a starter program, don’t confuse that for ineffective. If you’ve never done a structured strength cycle before, a linear progression program like this is THE thing to start with.

The only equipment you need for Strong Lifts 5×5 is a barbell, squat rack, and bench (and plates course). On this program, you’ll be lifting 3 days each week taking and taking at least one rest day between lifting sessions.

On training days you alternate between two different workouts:

Workout A Workout B
Squat 5×5 Squat 5×5
Bench Press 5×5 Shoulder Press 5×5
Barbell Row 5×5 Deadlift 1×5

So, if you’re lifting on M/W/F, your week 1 would look like this:

Monday Wednesday Friday
Workout A Workout B Workout A

Then your week 2 picks up where you left off:

Monday Wednesday Friday
Workout B Workout A Workout B

Each 5×5 lift is meant to be performed with the same weight. The idea is to start with a weight that gives you room to build each session, don’t let your ego get in the way here. Most lifters begin with about 50% of their 5RM. So if your 5RM squat is 250lbs, you’d start your 5×5 program off at 125lbs for the first session. On that first day all 5 sets of 5 reps should be performed at that same weight. The first few sessions will feel easy, but give the program a couple of weeks and it’ll start testing your limits.

The idea behind this program is to add 5lbs to your 5×5 each session. So, if on your first Monday you do your 125lbs 5×5, then for the next workout on Wednesday you’ll use 130lbs and on Friday 135lbs. Pretty straight forward… and you can see how it gets tough in a hurry.

Keep increasing the weight each session until you start failing reps. Once you get to that point, stop increasing the weight for that movement (but continue increasing weight for the other movements where you are able to hit all of your reps).

Once you’ve plateaued on a few of the lifts, then it’s time to do a deload where you take a week off from lifting or lift with substantially lighter loads. After that, it’s a good idea to retest your 5RMs, and if you want start the program all over again, go for it!

This is a full body training program and despite the simplicity, it is by no means easy. You’ll find that increasing the weight each session is quite tough. As I mentioned, there will be a point in time where you get stuck, but that’s ok. If you’re just starting out in the wonderful world of iron and strength, or if you’ve been lifting a while, but haven’t tried a structured strength program before, it’s best to maximize what you get out of a linear program like this first. After you’ve milked all the gains you can out of it, then consider moving on to some of the more complicated programs.

Finally, Strong Lifts has an excellent and free mobile app that does all the calculations for you. You can find the app here if you’re interested: iOSAndroid.