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The Stronglifts website says it scales from beginners to advanced lifters. I'm a complete beginner and I'm not so sure if it's suitable for me.

Mainly because I suffer from bad anterior pelvic tilt, hip shift, weak quads, and rounded shoulders. A big guy at the gym told me I'm too weak to do the program, and should instead do more isolation to strengthen my body before getting on the Stronglifts program.

I have been training for a month and below are my stats:

  • Height/Weight: 5'3" / 61kg
  • Bench Press: 60 kg
  • Squats: 60 kg
  • Deadlift: 80 kg

These are stats where my form is relatively clean.

I can go +20-30 kg on squats/deadlifts but my form breaks down. Eg: My knees start to cave in when doing squats, stiff-leg when doing deadlift.

I guess my question is: Is it ok to start Stronglifts even if you have imbalances in your body?

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  • In between bench press sets I perform high rep low weight facepulls to counter rounding of shoulders from bench press. The day after bench press it is a good idea to do wall angels.
    – Andy
    Sep 21 at 18:57
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I'm not so sure if it's suitable for me. Mainly because I suffer from bad anterior pelvic tilt, hip shift, weak quads, and rounded shoulders.

None of these things are actually problems - either for lifting or otherwise.

Anterior pelvic tilt is the normal human pelvis orientation, with 80% of healthy people exhibiting it.1 It does not correlate with low back pain.2 And despite claims you might hear, it's also not associated with hip flexor tightness or abdominal weakness.3 It's also largely determined by the shape of your pelvis4, which is not something you can change. Here's an easily understandable video on the topic.

Hip shift is a concept that people have only started obsessing about in the last few years, but it's safe to say that there is absolutely no research or even mechanistic justification to suggest that it's harmful. At worst, it could possibly result in a slight loss of efficiency. It could be caused by one leg being a little stronger than the other, in which case focussing on keeping straight in the squat (possibly with vocal cueing coming from a coach or workout partner watching you) will likely fix it. Or it could just be a requirement of your skeletal structure, given that 90% of people have a leg-length discrepancy5, in which case all you can do is ignore it.

Weak quads can only be said to be the result of a lack of strength training, and for obvious reasons, are an indication that you should be doing strength training, rather than avoiding it.

Rounded shoulders are not associated with pain6 or risk of impingement7, but can be modified through exercise8 if you're concerned about it aesthetically. The rows and (optional) chin-ups used in Stronglifts would very likely achieve this.

A big guy at the gym told me I'm too weak to do the program, and should instead do more isolation to strengthen my body before getting on the Stronglifts program.

He has no idea what he's talking about. Stronglifts is suitable, without modification, for anyone strong enough to be able to lift a barbell. And even those not strong enough to start the program with an empty barbell could still do the program just by starting with lighter dumbbells instead. Focussing on isolation exercises first would certainly leave gaps in your musculature and completely neglect training the balance and coordination of compound lifts, arguably leaving you in a worse position to learn the compound lifts.

I can go +20-30 kg on squats/deadlifts but my form breaks down. Eg: My knees start to cave in when doing squats

This is normal. The hip adductors, which bring the knees together, also majorly help as hip extensors in the bottom of a squat, so it's very common for the knees to "cave in" when lifting near-maximal loads. For instance, see this world record 193kg squat at a bodyweight of 63kg.

stiff-leg when doing deadlift.

This is a little more of a problem, and usually occurs due to the back rounding before the bar comes off the ground. Most people who continue the lift in this posture struggle to lock the shoulders back at the top of the lift, because even though they can straighten their legs, they don't have the back strength to finish the lift by raising their chest and pulling their shoulders back. They often then begin hitching, where they bend their knees again and push them forwards under the bar, in an attempt to jerk the weight up. A simple way to treat this is to consider the lift to be failed if you can't fully lock it out at the top without hitching, and proceed as you would if you had failed at any other point in the lift. Then you don't have any incentive to just try to continue the lift once you have moved into this problem posture, and instead you are forced to work with a lighter weight that you are able to lift properly. (Where "properly" is defined as within the rules of powerlifting.)

I guess my question is: Is it ok to start Stronglifts even if you have imbalances in your body?

Emphatically, yes.

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The only thing that's required to do Stronglifts is to be able to squat, deadlift, and bench with good form. Medhi even says that people can start with just the bar. People who physically can't perform these lifts would need to do basic rehab exercises to build themselves up to it.

Height: 5"3, weight: 61kgs Bench Press: 60 kgs, Squats: 60kgs, Deadlift: 80 kgs

These are stats where my form is relatively clean.

Then you've met the basic requirements! Do the sets at a weight you can do 5 sets of 5 reps. Add 2.5kg - 5 kg each workout just as the protocol states.

So if you do 50kgs of squat today at 5x5 schema. Two days from now, do 52.5kgs of squats at a 5x5 schema. Two days after that, do 55kgs of squats at a 5x5 schema. Just keep progressing linearly. Do the same thing for bench, deadlift, and overhead press as well. After a few months of consistent work, you won't be able to advance linearly which is normal and expected. Once that happens, you can try to add weight every other workout. Once progress in that slows down, you can consider moving to another program or continue following Stronglift's intermediate program.

I can go +20-30kg on squats/deadlifts but my form breaks down. Eg: My knees start to cave in when doing squats, stiff-leg when doing deadlift.

This is normal for everyone, even advanced lifters. Everyone has a "technical max" in which you can perform the lift with good form. Adding 20-30kgs (which is a pretty big jump) will always cause some kind of form breakdown.

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  • Is this "technical max" a dynamic number that improves over time? Or is it static based on your genetics?
    – nz_21
    Sep 21 at 13:55
  • @nz_21 It's a dynamic number that improves as you get stronger and more skilled.
    – DeeV
    Sep 21 at 13:56
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There's nothing in DeeV's answer that I disagree with.

If you can lift the bar, you can do barbell movement's. Everyone started somewhere. In high-school I went to a buddy's place and needed a spot when I was benching just the bar. The "big guy at the gym" has probably forgotten where he started from, or is trying to give you some well-meaning advice that missed the target.

[...] bad anterior pelvic tilt, hip shift, weak quads, and rounded shoulders. [...]

A lot of these can be fixed by working out. Strengthen your back to bring your shoulders back, keep push:pull in a 1:1 ratio (i.e. don't skip back day). Weak quads can be developed by squatting consistently (i.e. don't skip leg day). I say this because you're benching the same as your squat.

The bar is 20 kg, so that's the minimum requirement for bench and squat. For deadlift you'd ideally like to start at the right height1. So that can be 20 kg if you have blocks, or probably like 50 kg if you have two full-size 15 kg plates (maybe less if you have bumpers). Don't be afraid of failing the lifts. Squat with safeties. The worst thing that happens is you have to re-rack the weight.

From a personal standpoint, I ran Stronglifts 5x5 for almost two years (?) before I really needed to search out a different program. Train hard, eat big, rest well, stay injury free, keep healthy, and you'll get strong. I'm a large advocate for form-check. If you're comfortable recording yourself and sharing it, it's easier to give tips on form or to tell you that you need to go lighter or heavier. Here's one of my own form-check questions to get an idea. As another point, it's been 1y 6m since that post and I've added 35 lb to my 1RM. So pace your goals and expectations realistically.


1 There's no such this as a right height. Strongmen pick things up right off the ground. Real life won't place the weight 9" symmetrically off the ground for you.

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