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I'm looking to start a 5x5 program because I've heard that there are great benefits for beginners just starting to get into weight lifting. What are some good programs, and how can I pick the one that's best for me?

Also, is it really possible to add 5-10lbs per week?

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2 Answers 2

The two programs that are best suited for beginners are Starting Strength and StrongLifts. See this article for some more information to help choose the program.

Starting Strength was put together by Mark Rippetoe who is a strength training coach since the 70s. I highly recommend his book whether you use his program or not. It is some good, no-nonsense information on how to do the lifts correctly and safely as well as recognize when you have problems with the lift. Rip tells you how to find your starting weight once you know your form.

StrongLifts 5x5 was put together by an enthusiastic guy named Medhi. His program requires less technical complexity which may be good for a beginner. Medhi recommends starting off with just the bar to get started if you've never done weight lifting before. Otherwise he suggests deloading to 50% to get started.

Yes, it is possible to add 5-10lb per week as a beginner. I think that is the key. Both programs realize that you can't sustain those gains indefinitely, but you can sustain them for a long time. I've been doing the StrongLifts 5x5 plan for the past 9 weeks, and with the exception of the overhead press have been able to go up by at least 5lb every session. On the overhead press, I did stall (which is what happens when you can't get all 5 reps in all 5 sets) at 90 lbs but was able to continue on after that. After the introductory 12 weeks is done with SL 5x5 I am planning to switch to Starting Strength. I like the idea of incorporating the power clean (a very technical lift) into my program.

Both programs do have instructions for what you do when you stall.

As a personal critique:

  • StrongLifts is easy to learn, but the details are spread across the SL5x5 report and Medhi's blog.
  • Starting Strength has all the information you need in one place (the book).
  • Both Rippetoe and Medhi are opinionated, but Rip has more science to back up his claims.
  • Rip is a teacher, Medhi is a motivator. That may help in choosing which to do.

There are a number of other 5x5 programs, but most of them are geared for intermediate and advanced lifters. In essence the gains you would expect from those programs are much slower than what you would get with either SL or SS.

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The StrongLifts seems very 'scamy'. I signed up, and now my inbox is getting flooded with emails every day from Medhi. It's going to take me a while to sort through the 'crap' and useful information. –  whoabackoff Jul 11 '11 at 17:19
    
That activity is new, and a shame that it started happening. When I got the report I just got the report. A couple months later I got an email or two asking how I was doing or any challenges. Other than that no SL 5x5 email. If that's the case, then I will have to recommend Starting Strength. –  Berin Loritsch Jul 11 '11 at 17:27
    
The SL 5x5 program works, but I wasn't a fan of the way the information was presented. I like the way the SS program is presented, but not a fan of the forum there. I use the IronStrength.org forum--there's a lot of StrongLifters there, but the community as a whole is program agnostic. –  Berin Loritsch Jul 11 '11 at 17:29
    
You can just unsubscribe from the newsletter if you want. I find some of the info to be useful, but I am getting a bit tired of Mehdi talking about how he lost at arm wrestling to a girl in every single email. –  Robin Ashe Jul 13 '12 at 23:45
    
I definitely agree that SS is a lot easier to understand while SL is a lot easier to do. It took me more than 2 hours just to understand how the SL program actually worked, because it was buried on something like page 57 in the report. So while I am doing SL currently as I am a beginner to strength training, I appreciate SS more because the information and program feel is so much cleaner. –  Moses Jul 13 '12 at 23:59
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You haven't specified your age or training history. I was introduced to Bill Starr's 5X5 back in the eighties by a professional strength trainer. I was in my thirties, living in Japan, and actively engaged in amateur sumo. It worked. Mark Rippetoe is the inheritor of the Starr mantel. Prior to the Starr system, I had done a lot of Weider style body building and even Nautilus. Now in my sixties I have found 5X5's on the big exercises (back squats, deadlifts...) to be too dangerous. I would recommend Starting Strength to a younger person - get the DVD and a buddy to check your form - you don't need an expert, just some one willing to watch the DVDs and read the book with you.

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