I have been following the Stronglifts program since February of this year, so I've been at it about 6 months. I had tried the program before, but I had been away from it for some time, so I started back at the beginning. I started with just 42 lbs on all my lifts, and added 5 pounds every week for as long as I could, removing 10% of the weight on the next workout if I failed a few times in a row.
The Stronglifts program uses 5 main lifts - squats, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, bent over rows. I've often heard that squatting 1.5 times your bodyweight is a good milestone to aim for, and that more-or-less coincides with the strength goals that the Stronglifts creator suggests, so I adopted those goals as my own. My target lift weights are:
- Squats: 270 lbs (5x5)
- Deadlift: 360 lbs (1x5)
- Bench Press: 200 lbs (5x5)
- Barbell Row: 180 lbs (5x5)
- Overhead Press: 120 lbs (5x5)
I started with 42 lbs on all exercises back in February. Here's where I am now:
- Squats: 257 lbs
- Deadlift: 242 lbs
- Bench Press: 117 lbs
- Barbell Row: 92 lbs
- Overhead Press: 92 lbs
(The reason my lift weights all end in 2 or 7 is because my bar weighs 32 lbs instead of the standard 45 lbs. It's an olympic-style bar, 7' long, 2" collars that rotate. Just the weight is off. I didn't know this when I bought it).
As you can see, my squats have progressed nicely. I'll be doing 262 lbs next workout, and my initial goal of 270 lbs is very nearly in reach. My overhead press isn't too bad either, I feel it's progressed at a similar pace.
In case anyone is curious about why my deadlift weight is less than my squats, it's due to grip strength. I tried to deadlift 252 lbs and I dropped the bar. It just slipped right out of my hands. Even when using mixed grip. But that's a question for another time....
What concerns me right now is that my bench press and barbell row weights seem to be progressing much much slower than my other lifts. Even though I'm squatting 95% of my target weight, my bench press is less than 60% of the weight I'm aiming for. And it seems like I plateau constantly. I feel similar about my bent-over rows. I've definitely made some progress, but the progress seems extremely slow compared to my squats and overhead press.
I have no idea what the cause of this could be. I've tried many times to check my form against videos I've seen posted online, and I've made some adjustments (wider grip on the bar during bench press, etc), but although adjusting my form did seem to help a bit, the difference was not dramatic.
The Stronglifts program prescribes lifting 3 times per week alternating between a squats/overhead press/deadlift workout and a squats/bench press/rows workout. I admit my follow-through hasn't been 100%, but I have been working out at least twice per week most weeks.
When I first started, I rested 1 minute between sets. Currently I'm resting about 5 minutes between sets for squats, and 3 minutes for all other lifts.
So, can you tell me please, why is my progress at the bench press and barbell row lifts so much slower than my progress with squats/overhead press? Is this normal? You might need more info from me to answer this question, but I don't know what else to offer off the top of my head. I will try to be proactive about answering any questions in the comments. Thanks in advance.
Additional Info requested by StupidOne:
Warm ups: I do warm up sets before I do all exercises. Typically I start with about 50 pounds, do one 5-rep set of the exercise. Then I add between 20 and 50 pounds and repeat, until I've got the full weight and I'm doing my first "official" set. For example, the last time I did bench presses, I did 1x5 at 52 lbs, then 1x5 at 82 lbs, then 1x5 at 102 lbs, then 5x5 at 117 lbs (my work weight).
Stretching Exercises: None, really. My research has left me unconvinced that they do much good.
Diet: I aim to eat about 200 grams of protein per day, although I sometimes fall short. I often start the day with 2 greek yogurts, and I eat a lot of chicken. Based on historical data, I burn about 3100 calories per day on average. I aim to eat slightly less than that so that I'll lose body fat, but I often fail. The other day I actually had 4900 calories in one day! Well, I don't ignore my hunger.... I'd say my average caloric consumption is probably about 3200 calories. I always eat something high protein (greek yogurt, cottage cheese, grilled chicken breast, protein shake, etc) immediately after weight training.
My diet could definitely use some improvement though, as I still eat out way too much and I know that's hampering my efforts to lose weight (and save money)!
By the way, I currently weigh about 218 lbs, which is about 10 lbs more than I did when I started Stronglifts in February. My goal is to get down to between 180-190 lbs. I've got a belly that needs to go.
Rest between sets:
As I said, I rest up to 5 minutes between sets for squats, and about 3 minutes for other exercises. This is based on advice I've read on a number of internet sites, such as this question in the Starting Strength Wiki FAQ:
At first you can probably get by with no more than 2-3 minutes between sets. However, once the weights start getting heavier, you may take upward of 5 minutes between sets. Near the end of your training cycle, especially when you are setting PRs (personal records) in the squat, deadlift, and power clean you could be resting upward of 7 minutes
Granted, Starting Strength is a 3x5 program, and I'm doing a 5x5 program. I don't know for sure if this is good advice, but I think I've read similar things other places.
Update 2 - August 20, 2011
As promised, here's a graph of my workout weights so far. The weights are expressed as a percentage of my goals. Note that my previous statement that my overhead press got to 102 lbs was apparently incorrect. According to my records, the heaviest press I've done was 92 lbs.
Full size picture at http://i53.tinypic.com/2ldgdhj.jpg