I am doing Stronglifts 5x5. I want to incorporate exercises for abs, biceps and triceps because I want to have a stronger core for the main lifts and I want to avoid T-Rex arms.

My current plan is to do L-sit training for 5 minutes at the end of each workout then only on fridays do biceps and triceps. Since I will have the weekend to rest, doing extra arm work on friday should not affect my workout on the next week.

What non-machine exercises are the most effective for biceps and triceps? The goal is strength.

  • META: An "accessory-exercise" tag should be created.
    – user5275
    Apr 22, 2013 at 6:16
  • 4
    How are bench and overhead insufficient for triceps? How are pull-ups/chin-ups/rows insufficient for biceps? Have you started to plateau on your main lifts? Your abs will get stronger in proportion your need for their stability as you progress on your main lifts.
    – user4644
    Apr 22, 2013 at 7:44
  • 2
    Sorry if it seems I'm just answering questions with questions, but I believe stronglifts is a fairly well-balanced program, and deviations from it should be justified.
    – user4644
    Apr 22, 2013 at 9:17
  • The biceps and triceps are small muscles compared to some others. What is more, the whole point of doing big, compound movements is that you dont have to dabble with every single muscle in your body: youre getting the best fuctional strength, because youre doing actual functional movements - pulling, pushing and lifting. Read a bit about 5x5 and Starting Strength, there is more to it than just the workplan. Who told you that using 5x5 makes you have "t-rex arms"?
    – K.L.
    Apr 22, 2013 at 9:49

2 Answers 2


I'll assume you are a novice lifter (since you're doing stronglifts), with a goal of strength.

You don't need additional tricep work. Triceps are worked every workout with either bench press or overhead press.

If you have the capacity for extra arm work at the end of a workout that included benching or pressing 5x5, you must be just beginning stronglifts. Soon, you'll have workouts where you'll only be able to barely complete the prescribed number of reps. That is sufficient to stimulate a strength increase for the next workout. There is no need for additional work beyond that.

If you begin stalling on the bench or overhead press, the suggested accessory exercises are chin-ups and pull-ups, but these are part of the optional program anyway. Much later on, intermediate lifters may include dips or lying tricep extension. They didn't become intermediate lifters because they do these exercises; they're doing these exercises because they're intermediate lifters.

For bicep work, Stronglifts includes rows, and optional chin-ups and pull-ups. These will make your biceps stronger. I can't think of an activity that requires isolated, open chain biceps contraction, so there is no need to train that movement.

For ab work, you don't need any accessory exercise. Your abs will get stronger in proportion to your need for them as you progress on your main lifts. Once you're well past the novice stage, you may need some accessory ab work, but not now.

If you follow Stronglifts, you will not get t-rex arms, and your abs will become as strong as they need to be.


As you have noticed, Stronglifts does not have any direct arm exercises, and relies purely on compound exercises to grow arms. Make no mistake, Stronglifts will NOT give you puny "t-rex" arms, but the arms WILL be aesthetically underdeveloped; this is especially true with regards to the biceps.

Where you go from here depends on your priorities:

  • If you care ONLY about gaining strength: consider switching your program to Starting Strength; it is much more finely tuned and suited to that purpose. It can be argued that Stronglifts is more a hybrid strength / hypertrophy program, but to that end it lacks the direct arm work necessary for bodybuilders to stay fully balanced. In contrast, Starting Strength is absolutely designed for gaining strength, and it is exceptional in that category.

  • If you want to gain strength AND do body building: you can either continue doing StrongLifts and do the recommended supplemental exercises (pushups/chinups) as Kate suggested, OR you can do a modified Novice 5x5 program designed for bodybuilders that addresses the arm/core issues you identified.

It is hard to understand your goals and make a recommendation, because clearly you have at least some aesthetic motivations ("avoid t-rex arms"), but you also stated your goal here is strength, not mass. Personally I would go with the modified 5x5 bodybuilding program. It is very well designed, has the direct arm and core work you were looking for, and puts all of the assistance work at the end after your main three lifts. Stronglifts did a lot for increasing my base strength, but it was the modified program that really gave me the body comp I was looking for.

  • 3
    This may be subjective, but I found that the rows and pull-ups actually developed my biceps MORE than when I was doing preacher curls and hammer curls a couple of times a week. I think maybe he should give it some time, and once he hits the bigger lifts in deadlifts and rows and starts hitting higher reps of chins/pulls, the biceps should start 'aesthetically developing'
    – user4963
    Apr 23, 2013 at 11:29
  • @MarcoLeblanc I agree with your statement. It's not subjective at all. EMG studies show that combo lifts like rows and pull-ups/chin-ups activate biceps tremendously. Although these lifts are not as bicep-isolated when comparing to bicep curls per se; however, we are able to lift a lot more weights when we do rows, pull-ups/chin-ups. Thus, our biceps actually develop quiet well with combo lifts over time due to the fact that it is easier to increase more load with these lifts (more muscles assisting). This will result in more muscle mass, assuming with proper rest and nutrition.
    – QikMood
    Apr 23, 2013 at 17:20

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