So let me start by saying, This is the best program I have ever followed in my life. I am in the best and strongest shape I have ever been in my entire life, and I can attribute most of it to sticking with the Stronglifts 5v5 program.

I'm 5'9, weigh 155 lbs and I wear it proudly. These are my numbers after about 5 months.

245 Squats 
185 Bench  
185 Rows 
105 Shoulder Press 
315 Deadlifts 

I am quite proud of all of these, because I am not, and have never been a big guy. I would love to keep going, however....

If I do this workout 3-4 times a week, my right knee starts to hurt. I am not looking for medical advice. I'm an athlete, I know what kind of lingering pain is detrimental to my health, and this isn't it. It's just over-exertion, and lots of strain being placed on my knee due to the heavy weight, and perhaps not 100% perfect form. Besides, when lifting like this, a little bit of pain to be expected.

What I am looking for, is a continuation program, probably with less squats. Maybe more strength training, with power cleans, clean and jerks, compound lifts, etc... I am really not a fan of isolation exercises, because they are a huge waste of time for my goals/body type.

My goals are basically to keep getting stronger, and get more muscle definition. I really don't care about my weight or my body fat %. Summer is coming, and I'd love to sculpt the muscle mass I've gained after a long winter of heavy lifting. If isolation, low volume and high reps is what I need to do, then so be it.

But if someone has had success with something a little more geared toward strength and compound lifting, I would love to hear it.

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    Well, as a starter, muscle definition is ALL about body fat % once you have some muscle mass.
    – K.L.
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 14:05
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    @K.L. I don't care about numbers on a scale or some other unit of measurement whatsoever, sorry. I care about exercising and eating healthy. I recently spoke with a girl who does bodybuilding competitions, and she does not own a scale, nor has she checked her body fat % in over 2 years.
    – user4963
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 14:10
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    I think youre not getting what I am saying. It does not matter if youre checking your progress by looking at your self in the mirror or at your scales and various numbers. The definition of your muscles is defined by how much fat is covering them. The more fat, the less defined are the muscles. People like to measure their bf% so that they can see progress before its visible in the mirror. You dont have to. But your goal is still lowering your BF% while maintaining existing muscle mass, at least if you want to have defined, toned muscles.
    – K.L.
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 14:16
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    @K.L. Thank you for elaborating. Are there tried and tested ways of lowering BF% without losing muscle mass, like you are alluding to in your comments, that you know of, off hand?
    – user4963
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 14:21
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    @MarcoLeblanc At your level of training, you probably will need to pick one of the two (strength or increasing definition) as a primary goal. You're past the novice phase where those two could easily go hand in hand.
    – user4644
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 15:58

5 Answers 5


Your body is telling you it's in trouble, and you're asking for ways to get stronger while continuing to do the thing that's causing the trouble. That sounds backwards. Fix your squat form, figure out what the pain in your knee is, and continue squatting with 5/3/1 or a similar intermediate program. (Or, start doing conditioning or gymnastics or Oly lifting or....) Ignoring the problem doesn't make it go away. The fact that you're the fittest you've ever been and you're quite strong for your size might mean an injury is right around the corner.

If the impetus for your program change is "my knee hurts when I squat", then fix the knee pain, don't remove the squats.

If you're looking for a temporary lifting program because you've stopped squatting while you go to health or lifting professionals about your knee, then "more of everything except squats" would be fine programming.

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    This is good advice. You need to rectify your squat form. The fact you say "perhaps not 100% perfect form" worries me a little (almost like you know your squatting incorrectly). Check out this video it helped me link If anything the squat should strengthen your knee joint. I am going to make a guess that your not squatting parallel. Your hip joint should be just below your knee joint if you look in the mirror at the lowest part of your squat.
    – james508
    Commented Apr 18, 2013 at 0:08
  • @james508 Love watching Rips' vids, hadn't seen that one yet. I think I may be lacking that hip drive he is talking about. I'm taking a week off, but saturday I will probably be practicing this with a plate instead of my regular weight.
    – user4963
    Commented Apr 18, 2013 at 11:51
  • @MarcoLeblanc I find the hip drive the most difficult part also. That and looking at the floor, my head always creeps up and I end up looking towards the mirror. Agree - practicing form with lighter weight helps immensely. Good luck on Sat!
    – james508
    Commented Apr 18, 2013 at 22:49
  • this! fix your squat form before you hurt yourself permanently.
    – DForck42
    Commented Apr 19, 2013 at 15:48
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    Dropped weights by about 60 Lbs, stared down at the floor, pushed out my butt as if I was trying to show it off, hehe... This allowed me to get almost parallel, and my knees weren't getting ahead of my toes. Instead of squatting straight up it felt more like a fluid motion, with the power coming from my posterior chain rather than just feel like I was just pushing straight up with my legs. No pain whatsoever, although I took 10 days off. Pretty sure I improved my form, though.
    – user4963
    Commented Apr 30, 2013 at 11:19

Just a first stab at an answer. Definitely open to corrections.

Replace 1 of your gym workouts with conditioning work (sprints, intervals, other HIIT, etc.) and reduce your calories so that you maintain strength, rather than gain strength.

You will still do your gym workout, only 2 times per week, but don't aim to increase the weight on the bar, or increase it much more slowly than before. [Somebody could describe a nice alternative workout like Marco's asking for here... I don't have any suggestions.]

This should result in a slow decrease in bodyfat % (will bring definition), while not sacrificing your current strength. You say you don't care about bodyfat %, but while you may not care about its absolute value, you do care that it decreases... this is the only way to get the type of definition I think you're talking about.

Basically, I'm trying to describe what people call a "cut". I've never done one myself. There are probably other experts around here, though.

Here's the story of a guy who took this to the extreme. He's a powerlifter with a 700+lb deadlift who decided to cut for a bodybuilding competition, losing 40lbs in 63 days.

  • This is good advice, I will be starting interval training soon, actually, for hockey next winter. I guess I'm sort of looking for something similar to stronglifts, but with more reps/less weight kinda deal. If no one has come across something like this, it's fine, I'll just devise my own plan :) But as you say, I don't think I'll be increasing the weight any time soon to any of these lifts, except the bench and the rows.
    – user4963
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 16:38

I'm starting out by saying Dave Liepman's answer is pretty spot on. There are plenty of programs out there that are good, including Gray Skull, Hepburn, Wendler 5/3/1, Big-15 (Paul Carter), etc. Take a look at them and figure out what fits your desires best.

As to the knee pain, there are a couple things to consider:

  • Foam rolling or LaCrosse ball treatment on trigger points. Lots of squatting can get your hips so tight it pulls at your knees at odd angles.
  • Take a deload and work on technique.

I've gone through a number of times in my journey to a 445lb squat where I had to take weight off the bar and refine my technique. The first is where your squat is now, then again in the 300s. And again in the 400s. My squat is a lot better now than it was during starting strength. When I finally get my squat over 500lbs, I can say the same about my squat being better then. While I have mad respect for Rippetoe, and his Starting Strength book is one of the best strength training books out there, particularly for beginners, I found his squat cues don't help me.

Here's some points that have helped me:

  • The tighter your entire body, the more you can lift. Arch your back, tighten your shoulders.
  • Bar path needs to be as close to straight up and down as possible.
  • Shove those knees out to make room for your body
  • Don't sit back too far. That only works if you have a squat suit.
  • Try to "Break the Bar". That's apply as much force straight up through the bar on your back as you can, like you are trying to permanently bend the bar.

The last point, "Break The Bar" automatically takes care of the first couple points. It also helps prevent the "squat-morning" where your hips move faster than your shoulders. If you open your knees to let your body come straight down, that also helps with the bar path and sitting back too far. Just boil it down to the smallest number of cues that can give you the greatest results.

Also, one of the best tools I've discovered to help fix form is the paused squat. You don't relax at all, but you stay at the bottom for a second or two. Enough to feel that you've hit parallel, are still in good balance, and ready to drive up hard. It kills the stretch reflex, but you can better feel if you are out of alignment or discover and fix any number of small problems.


Came off Stronglifts after about 14 months of linear progression - was in the best shape of my life, but I just couldn't keep increasing the weight every session once I hit about 145kgs on Squats, and 155 on Deadlifts.

I've since shifted to Wendlers 5/3/1 - It's a great program for me, because it focuses on monthly progression - I am comfortable enough with my level of fitness that I don't need to improve at any particular rate, as long as I'm constantly improving. And you can do that with 5/3/1. Also, it's squats one day a week.

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    I'm confused by the "155 on dumbbells" part, considering Stronglifts is supposed to be a barbell workout routine; there shouldn't really be any dumbbells involved. Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 10:00
  • Sorry - brain derped - I meant 155 on Deadlifts, not dumbbells. Editing now Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 16:35

My advice to you should be treated like gold as this advice gave me the ability to smash my records and stay injury free even with a surgically related knee.

  1. First squats are not the problem, it is probably the way you do them.
  2. Second you are overtraining by using this method three to four times a week.

I am 5'10" and I benched an all time best 510 last week, I recently broke 600 on deadlift and squat around 550. I have no pain and I train to a near 90 percent max on a weekly basis. You may ask, "how do I do this?"

I myself was an accomplished athlete I played two years of college football, I was a competitive mma fighter until my knee injury. I use the conjugate method of weight lifting. I can sit here and write you a 8 pg research paper on its benefits and at the end of my comment I will leave you the info you need to install this system. NFL lineman, Olympic track and field, basketball and yes hockey players have used this method to shatter records and stay injury free.

The conjugate method of weight lifting is centered around three major core lifts: bench press, deadlifts, box squats; these lifts, if done in accordance to the method developed by Louie Simmons, will give you more power than you have ever had.

I stopped doing free squats and instead do box squats at or below parallel because the box squat was used by soviet lifters to shatter American records and dominate sports. It is not even a squat at all, it is really a leg curl that kills the posterior chain, a group of muscles that include your hip flexors and ham strings and the erector muscles of the lower back. It is easier on your knees and will keep you injury free. You will have more strength and raw explosive power than ever before with no need for doing overrated Olympic lifts done wrong in the United States. Go to the west side barbell website and begin changing your life.

  • I am looking into this site. The philosophy of deadlift, squat and bench that is so highly touted is done so for good reason: it works. So I am open to more programs that incorporate this theory.
    – user4963
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 19:23
  • Does the conjugate method also have something that targets the upper back or shoulders, or is it just box squats, deadlifts, and bench press?
    – Moses
    Commented Apr 19, 2013 at 4:53
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    This answer reads like a commercial.
    – VPeric
    Commented Apr 20, 2013 at 8:04
  • @VPeric No doubt, but Westside Barbell is the real deal
    – G__
    Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 18:20
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    @Greg Agreed, but if it was instead a commercial for "Random BroStrength website 4254" we'd be smashing it to bits. If Rob would actually write the 8 page research paper and detail the program, maybe remove references to "Soviet olympic lifters", "NFL lineman" and his own successes, it would probably be a great answer. As it stands, I'm downvoting it.
    – VPeric
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 8:55

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