I'm aware of what the report says but was advised to post the question. I am also interested in the responses more so that I can figure out how to proceed with my own gains.

One of the main draws I had to SL 5x5 was the 45 minute workout time, but now since things are getting a little tough, the rest time between heavy(relatively)sets is really drawing out the length of the workout to 1.5 hours easily. I was just advised recently by Dave Liepmann that this was normal and he also said that he changes the programming when this occurs.

I'm wondering if it's "time" to switch to SL 3x5 even though my lifts aren't THAT high?

For reference:

Squat: 230 DL: 175 Bench: 185 OHP: 110 Rows: 110

I would like to alter the programming so I can get in and out but I'm not sure I'm at the "level" to be doing SL 3x5 yet? Or could I be wrong? If it's not necessary I'm willing to continue putting in the long hour at the gym.

See, as far as rest times are concerned I typically don't need 5 minutes until my 4th or 5th squat, and the OHP has been incredibly hard. One day I'll pump out the sets easily and then when I go to increase the weight, the 5lb minimal increase will be extremely challenging in comparison. I'll try 2-3 minute rests but sometimes I feel that even that isn't enough.

On a typical squat for me I'll do final warmup-2-min-Set1-2min-Set2-3min-Set3-4min-Set4-5min-Set5.

2 Answers 2


The StrongLifts report, page 48, says the 5x5-to-3x5 switch often occurs around a squat of 200 pounds:

My own analysis of hundreds of training logs and surveys of StrongLifts Members shows that most guys usually need to switch from 5x5 to 3x5 once they hit the 200lbs mark on the Squat. Now before you fix on this number – many StrongLifts Members got way past that.... Instead of fixating on that 200lbs mark, use the deloads to figure out when to switch from StrongLifts 5x5 to StrongLifts 3x5. You should switch to 3x5 after you deload 2x on a lift.

So you're almost, but not quite, at the point where orthodox SL says to do three work sets instead of five. (This change does not affect the warm-up sets.) But 3x5 is a fine program, and there's nothing wrong with switching now.

Personally I like workouts that last 1.5 hours. However two hours can be draining, as can 5x5. In the past I've solved this by switching to 3x5 and/or further splitting the workouts, roughly like:

  • A: squat/pull-ups (in your case, barbell rows)/accessory work
  • B: deadlift/overhead press/accessory work
  • Rest day
  • Repeat. Note this breaks the A/rest/B/rest/A pattern!

Two side notes:

  • it's generally not advised to take a 2-minute rest between the final warm-up and the first work set. Warm-ups are generally bang-bang-bang, taking only the time necessary to switch plates.
  • if there's any way to make a 2.5 pound increase for the overhead press, do it. It makes progression in that lift so, so, so much easier. I filled socks with 1.25 pounds of sand and taped them closed in a loop. Other people use magnets and washers. Find a way.
  • 1
    I did a 3x5 today for my workout and honestly felt pretty good after. I think that I would rather go straight to 3x5 than to deload because I really just don't like being setback. I altered my OHP after reading more about the form on the StrongLifts site after my first work set and found that squeezing my shoulder blades/lats together and bringing my elbows more forward gave me a stronger base to lift off from. Also, I wanted to let you know that I focused on tightening my core through each exercise today and definitely felt it getting sore as I was working through my sets. Good stuff! Feb 20, 2014 at 1:48
  • Would running on off days kill my gains? Feb 20, 2014 at 15:06

I started 5x5 in May 2014, and the workouts have lengthened to 1.5--2 hours depending on which workout I'm on (shorter for Deadlift day).

For reference, my current lifts: Squat: 240 Bench: 160 OH Press: 95 Deadlift: 285

I switched to 3x5 on squats on 10/1.

I will be 62 in December.

I've deloaded three times on squats, 4 times on OH press, but not on deadlifts. Using the 5x5 app to check my progress, I will slightly modify the deadlift warmup routine--it calls for 5 warmup sets for a 295 work weight, but I'm going to cut out one of the warmup sets. I tend to think that was the only reason I missed one rep on my last workout.

The trainers at my gym are extremely competent and are always willing to spot to check for good form. And I can say with confidence that only a very small percentage of people in my gym are lifting anywhere near what I am--and I'm one of the oldest members.

The short answer is that expecting the workouts to stay at 45 minutes is unrealistic when the weights get heavier. Alter the program as you need to cut down on the time, and try not to rest between warmup sets.

By the way, the app suggests waiting 3 minutes between you last warmup set and the work sets. I play it by ear depending on how I feel after the last warmup set--sometimes I have to wait as much as 5 minutes, just because I want to ensure I have maximum energy available for the work sets.

  • Good advice on not waiting as much between warmup sets. I know people will wait the stock ~4 minutes even between ~50% 1RM sets.
    – Eric
    Oct 20, 2014 at 15:45

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