So I have to drop a little bit of some back story and a stat or two to give some context.

I'm a small-ish dude, 5'8, nothing special, and weighed 180lb when I really tried to jump start my "fitness as a lifestyle" (aka lifting weights just to stay moderately healthy), I did okay, nothing impressive, but for a completely natural dude who didn't really do anything special with diet except just eat a bit more at home and a lot less out on the go, I shed some weight, got down to 159lb, but I know I needed to lose more since my stomach still wasn't completely flat yet. I did StrongLifts 5x5 which was completely new to me at the time, got up to a 250 lb 5x5, and then, at my job where the gym was at, the gym closed for the winter holiday(it was a college). I took the time off from the gym(big mistake), etc, etc, fast forward a year + later, and now I'm back, put on a few extra pounds, and am just annoyed by having to start all over again.

One of my most annoying hurdles is whenever I drop out of going to the gym and try to jump back into things, I get kind of depressed easily when the weights don't really fly up. I was never a guy squatting 4 plates, so it's not like I'm dropping down from 405lb squats to 3 250lb and "getting back into it", it's more of like, I'm dropping from a measly max of 250lb squats to 135lb or even less, depending on how I feel. And it just sucks because I'm like sore af for the first few weeks, and I'm not really sure if I should just jump straight back into the StrongLifts methodology of adding weight each work out. Should I take a few weeks to just "warm back up" into everything? Or is it okay to just hit it hard?

So here's the thing. I've been an overweight guy my whole life. Not overweight by relatively -that- much, but still overweight, never had a great aesthetic, etc, etc. I just want to be thin and fit well in clothes, have a flat stomach, maybe abs one day. But what I really am not interested in is bulking, adding on tons of mass, squatting 4-5 plate, etc. I mean squatting 3 plate for me would probably be a great achievement and one I'd be completely content with if I was a skinny dude that didn't focus on "bulking" or "eating over maintenance", and all of that other stuff. I know a friendly who literally just eats everything in sight because he's "on a bulk". The guy squats 405lb 1RM but he's also like 6'2.. Frankly, I really can't stand the idea of eating just to eat or bulking, and, I know what you're thinking, it's ironic given my current status. I just admit that I've made poor life style choices that lead me to this state. I just want to cut and get thin, get rid of these b!tch tits, etc. I do not want to bulk, I don't want to be the next popular power lifter, or anything like that.

So, I guess what I'm trying to figure out is, are lifting programs like StrongLifts and Sheiko's destined to set me up for failure when my goal is to be "perpetually cutting" or just being at less or around maintenance calories? I find that when I try to cut and diet for real on programs like StrongLifts that I just don't have the energy to knock out all the 5x5s day in and day out, adding weight daily, resting only 60-90 seconds. And this just takes a mental toll because, like I said, I'm not really pushing that much weight at all. What kind of advice can you guys give me for lifting, as far as intensity, volume, or programs are concerned, that will help keep my sanity and central nervous system in check, to where I can achieve my goals of just becoming a thin, normal body weight dude, but won't also completely tire my brain out in the gym? I'm just not sure if I should just keep it simple with stronglifts, and just cater it to my needs. Would cardio be a better way for me to achieve my goals?

Hope this all makes sense. Sorry for the livejournal entry.


3 Answers 3


Dude, don't stress it. Eat a high-protein diet without sweets or junk. Pick a lifting program with room for cardio. 5/3/1 is a common and solid choice for this.

I see two templates working well. The first is cardio during the lifting workout:

  • warm up
  • work up to one or more heavy sets of a compound lift, e.g. 3x5 squat or 1x5 deadlift or something
  • run a few miles on the treadmill OR a circuit of bodyweight exercises done without rest OR whatever cardio you feel like
  • go home, rest, repeat a few times per week

The second is cardio in a separate workout. So do your two or three lifting workouts a week, and run (or whatever) two or more times per week.

  • +1 for "don't stress it". Too many people try to do everything perfect from the first day, and wear themselves out within weeks.
    – Alec
    Jan 5, 2016 at 0:05
  • This is a great answer, but I'd advise against doing one exercise and moving on to cardio. There are great assistance templates for 5/3/1 that are perfect to put in "autopilot" and not worry too much (e.g. the Boring But Big or the Periodization Bible assistance templates) and provide enough volume to get some progress. Jan 6, 2016 at 17:38
  • @JérémieClos Assistance exercises could be useful, but I'm not sure why someone whose goal is body recomposition would use BBB or PB, which are both templates for hypertrophy. Again, the goal isn't progress in the lifts or in mass, but in fat loss while maintaining muscle mass and strength. Jan 6, 2016 at 18:17
  • @DaveLiepmann in order to preserve lean tissue, he should maintain a training stimulus as high as possible and as long as he can while allowing recovery. Progressing in the lifts is a good way to do so, especially if the goal is body recomp. Jan 6, 2016 at 18:49

Firstly I would suggest going very easy for a while, for the same reason you stopped for over a year when your gym closed for a month. You lost the habit of exercising every week. You need to get that back by having a routine even if it's not very much weight or very intense or whatever.

Since your goals are purely to lose weight and you're not worried about maintaining muscle mass or strength I would recommend doing HIIT combined with a caloric deficit diet instead of a strength program like stronglifts. Even cardio would be better for your goals than lifting.


First, I'd advise against doing Sheiko if your goal isn't powerlifting as it's extremely specialized. I'd also advise against doing StrongLifts as it's just a dumb program in general (for various reasons, including the unhealthy mindset it creates in beginners, the poor technique it develops, and the fact that it's based on blatantly wrong assumptions). Assuming that you do like lifting weights, your best bet is to find a balanced program that can accommodate your desire (eating at maintenance, becoming more generally athletic rather than specialized in the powerlifts) and set it on autopilot.

As it was mentioned in another comment, 5/3/1 is popular because of its simplicity and its flexibility, as Jim Wendler (its creator) is very keen on making people strong and fit (in an athletic sense) rather than out-of-shape powerlifters (which he was before). I'd recommend picking up the books (5/3/1 second edition and Beyond 5/3/1 are good and complementary) and reading up as it's a program sustainable enough that you can probably do it for the next decade. There are also a lot of excellent apps for 5/3/1 (like Wendlerized, on Android) that can help you take the thinking out of the equation, even though I'd still recommend reading the books to understand the program.

  • How does SL create an unhealthy mindset and develop poor technique? And what blatantly wrong assumptions is it based on? Jan 6, 2016 at 18:19
  • Its entire philosophy revolves around putting weight on the bar as fast as possible, and dropping volume to do so (5x5 -> 3x5 -> 3x3 -> 1x5) which goes against everything reasonable and our scientific understanding of strength training. In addition to that, the small volume provides for very little practice of the lifts, which means that technique isn't perfected before the lifter increases their training maxes, and thus degrades over time. Finally, it is based on a principle of minimalism which just doesn't make sense in the context of strength training. Jan 6, 2016 at 18:45
  • I'm not sure I agree that 5x5 is small volume, and I'm not sure what is unreasonable or against research about decreasing volume in order to increase max strength. It's also weird that these criticisms apply even more so to 5/3/1, which has less volume, uses a decrease in volume to allow increase in poundage on the bar, and is just about exactly the same "minimalism" in terms of exercise selection. Jan 6, 2016 at 18:55
  • That is not exactly a fair comparison: what you are describing is just the rep scheme of the main lift of the day. Wendler advises to not do only the main lift of the day. That is why a large part of his books is filled with a collection of assistance templates for different needs and goals (with as little or as much minimalism as you want). Doing 5/3/1 without assistance would be akin to doing Westside with just the max effort lifts. Most of the progress in these methodologies comes from accessory lifts and rep work. Jan 6, 2016 at 19:36
  • "Most of the progress in these methodologies comes from accessory lifts" I don't think that's the case. My point about volume still stands, for instance with regards to form practice. Regardless, from reading people's advice and experience, I'm losing confidence in 5/3/1 as a template for body recomp. It's possible that Wendler's recommendation to combine assistance with a metcon/circuit is the right direction but I'm losing confidence. Jan 6, 2016 at 20:38

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