Starting Strength, Stronglifts 5x5 and Madcow 5x5 are popular and similar barbell strength training programs. They all use the same lifts and use sets of 5 and trains the full body 3 days a week. Starting Strength is for absolute beginners so the volume is low: 3 sets x 5 reps. Stronglifts 5x5 is for beginner - intermediate lifters so the volume is higher: 5 sets x 5 reps. Madcow 5x5 is for intermediate lifters. With heavy weights it becomes impossible to give 100 % effort on all 5 sets so the effort is ramped from 50% effort on the first set to 100% effort on the last set.

That means that one may only ever need one program with some minor modifications along the way.

I think these programs are great but one problem I have is that the workouts takes a long time. It is hard to give a 100 % on 3 big lifts in the same workout. Currently I am doing Starting Strength and spend ca. 90 minutes on each workout. Obviously this problem will only worsen as I move from 3 to 5 sets.

A solution I am considering is to split the program into lower body and upper body days and to train each musclegroup only 2 times a week:

  • Tuesday: Benchpress, Barbell row (, arms)
  • Wednesday: Squats (, abs)
  • Saturday: Overhead press, Chin-ups (, arms)
  • Sunday: Squats, Deadlift (, abs)

If I use 5x5 sets this will result in 10 sets per week for squat and 5 sets per week for benchpress. Which is slightly more than Starting Strength which has 9 sets per week for squat and 4 sets per week for benchpress. However the volume may still be a bit low. One simple idea I have for fixing this is to do 10 reps instead of 5 on the last set.

Another idea that I have for fixing this is to add 1-2 sets of an extra exercise after each main lift: - lunges after squats - dips after benchpress - incline bench after overhead press

I have also noticed that some criticize Starting Strength for causing "T-Rex like physique", meaning big legs but tiny arms. That is why I have added some extra "fluff" at the end of each workout: abs and arms. I was thinking maybe bodysaw and pallof press for abs and biceps curls and triceps extensions for arms and 2 sets x 10 reps.

My hope is that even with the extra exercises each workout will take ca. 1 hour.

What do you think of this idea?

  • 1
    I think you should find a program that matches your goals. If these free programs need to be fundamentally changed, then you are basically doing your own thing. And even some advanced lifters aren’t going to be able to make their own optimal program, instead you would more likely expect them to follow or tweak an existing one. Just try to find something reputable. May 6 '19 at 19:30
  • I believe thats what they call reinventing the wheel. I'm almost sure the upper/lower split is older than the programs you have used as your inspiration
    – Raditz_35
    May 8 '19 at 6:25

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