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Essentially, what the title says - are there programs targeted at beginners, or could you do these forever and still see good progress?

Or are there better programs once you have been lifting for years? Should I be doing a 5-day split or something? Is there anything established to do as as an "Intermediate lifter" (as judged by exrx Strength Standards)?


This is just the program I am talking about if anyone is unfamiliar, Starting Strength is similar.

The StrongLifts 5×5 Routine:
Day A:
Squat: 5×5
Bench: 5×5
Deadlift: 1×5

Day B:
Squat: 5×5
Press: 5×5
Barbell Row: 5×5

StrongLifts Two Week Cycle:
Mon: Day “A”
Wed: Day “B”
Fri: Day “A”
Mon: Day “B”
Wed: Day “A”
Fri: Day “B”
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Starting Strength recommends that each trainee commence training with the following simple "novice" program, alternating the following "days" across workouts that should be performed every 48-72 hours:

Day A

  • Squat 3x5
  • Press 3x5
  • Deadlift 1x5

Day B

  • Squat 3x5
  • Bench Press 3x5
  • Deadlift 1x5

The core principle is the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS): the ability of a living organism to undergo a stress and, by recovering from that stress, adapt. In this case:

  • the barbell work is the stress,
  • eating, drinking, and resting facilitate recovery, and
  • increased muscular strength is the primary adaptation.

Depending on the trainee's ability to recover from the stress imparted by the barbell lifts, progress will be made on this simple program over a time period of weeks to months. This program cannot be used indefinitely, because of the law of diminishing returns.

Strength can be built for decades, but more-complex programming and longer stress-recovery-adaptation (SRA) cycles become necessary. In particular, once the trainee can no longer complete an SRA cycle within 72 hours, that trainee is no longer a novice trainee, but is instead by definition an intermediate trainee: one who can increase strength over a time-range of four days to four weeks. Trainees who cannot increase strength that quickly have become advanced trainees; extremely few trainees ever reach this level of training advancement. Note that these definitions do not depend on actual strength levels.

Intermediate -- and especially advanced -- training programs are extremely varied because they must be individualized to suit each trainee's particular needs and interests. For example, an intermediate trainee interested in competing in powerlifting needs a program that differs from the program needed by an intermediate trainee interested in marathoning. The Texas Method and Heavy-Light-Medium are templates for intermediate programs. Advanced trainees might use bespoke programs, but such programs, to be effective, must still exploit the GAS using (long) SRA cycles.

  • "but more-complex programming and longer stress-recovery-adaptation cycles become necessary." - 5x5 and Starting Strength seem to be universally accepted beginner programs, at least to some degree. Are there such "universally accepted" intermediate/advanced programs. Or is it up to individuals at that point? – VSO Sep 5 '17 at 17:24
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    @VSO, I've updated my answer in an attempt to answer your further questions. – Christian Conti-Vock Sep 5 '17 at 17:34
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    Other good intermediate programs are Madcow and Jim Wendler's 5/3/1. – Dennis Haarbrink Sep 6 '17 at 5:44
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    By the time you are onto intermediate you should consider what your goals are and choose an appropriate program: Asthetics (PPL), Powerlifting (5/3/1 or Madcow), Oly Weightlifting (Torokhtiy), Metcon (Crossfit) etc. – Gunge Sep 11 '17 at 13:53

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