I have started to try out the StrongLifts 5x5 program. Started a week ago.

But, I have a rowing machine at home that I'd like to keep using. So, what I'm wondering is

  1. Should I? Or will it ruin things for SL?
  2. If it's not a problem, when should I do it? Inbetween the SL days or same day? Before or after?
  • Do you find rowing to be relatively easy or challenging?
    – Robin Ashe
    Aug 10, 2012 at 9:28
  • Not a pro, but find it relatively easy. Depending on the workout I will get tired of course.
    – Svish
    Aug 10, 2012 at 10:08
  • How much rowing do you want to do? How intense? Aug 10, 2012 at 14:02
  • well, trying to follow a training program made with some software that came with the rowing machine. Sessions so far has been between 20-40 minutes. The intensity is... middle? Maybe between 120-170 HR.
    – Svish
    Aug 10, 2012 at 14:07
  • 1
    Perhaps some guidance from this question: fitness.stackexchange.com/q/4758/3778 where there is a resistance and cardio mix
    – FredrikD
    Aug 10, 2012 at 14:08

3 Answers 3


It's not a problem:

  • In fact rowing is a good warmup exercise before you lift.
  • You can do your rowing after you lift on the same day
  • Do lighter rowing on your days off

Conditioning work is different than lifting work, and as long as the rowing is low intensity it will not interfere with your lifting. If you want some high intensity rowing sessions, it's best to do them after you lift so you don't pre-exhaust your body.

  • I thought you should completely rest on days off? I'm planning on getting into the 5x5 so I'm barely reading about it. So is it okay if I add a bit of cardio on off days?
    – Just Do It
    May 9, 2016 at 20:37
  • 1
    Sure, but increase a little at a time. As you add more demands, there comes a point where you need to readjust how you train. May 9, 2016 at 22:08
  • I've been training for a while but this workout really interests me since I feel that the constant change in weight will make me push a greater effort, burning more calories and helping me reduce that fat that just wont go away.
    – Just Do It
    May 9, 2016 at 22:43

Strength alone?

It's okay to want to do more than just strength training. The thing to realize, however, is that the initial period where you start lifting heavy can be very productive if you focus on it, and much less productive if you try to chase two rabbits at the same time.

StrongLifts, like Starting Strength and other 3x5 or 5x5 programs, is based on linear progression, which is made possible because of your status as a novice. You add weight every workout. Once it starts getting heavy, it gets very intense, very fast. Adding things to your weekly workout routine--supplementary lifts, running, rowing, long hikes, playing judo--will dramatically speed up the process of stalling out.

Official StrongLifts Advice

Mehdi, author of StrongLifts, addresses the question of extra conditioning in the first "5x5 Report" ebook. It's on page 57 of my copy:

If you somehow need to do conditioning work (I never do it), then do NOT add it on your off days. HIIT is way too stressful because it requires you to go all out to be effective. If you do it on your off days anyway, you'd never have any recovery and you'd quickly be stalling all over the place. My recommendation: wait until the first 12 weeks are over before you even think about doing extra conditioning work, so you have some foundation of cardiovascular fitness first. Then you can add it, but at the end of your StrongLifts 5x5 (yes that's hard but the only way), never more than 2x per week, and spread it out.


Rowing 20 to 40 minutes definitely qualifies as a significant amount of work to put on top of a novice's linear progression. Devoting your body's recovery resources to attributes other than strength (such as significant rowing) means that your strength will hit a wall faster than if you buckled down and just lifted. If that's OK with you, great! It's perfectly fine to work on multiple things at a time.

It would also be a fine approach to put rowing on the back burner. You could put a light 5 minute session before your lifting sessions as a warm-up. You could also dial down the length of the rowing sessions significantly and do a high-intensity 3 to 5 minute row at the end of your lifting sessions, which would minimize its impact on your lifting progress while maintaining good metabolic conditioning effect.


It's important to realize that rowing is primarily a leg exercise, it's like a horizonntle power clean, arms and back just carry through the power generated by the legs. Given the high volume of squats in the 5x5 program, intense rowing is likely to wear out your legs, but light rowing is probably ok if it is absolutely needed.

This is from the standpoint that you want to get strong as possible and not as fast as possible rowing. There might be a way to adapt power lifts to a goal-oriented rowing program, but only after going through the full 5x5 program first.

That sais 2 weeks into 5x5 I did a short rowing warmup, just 5 minutes, and my easy warmup pace was magically about 15 seconds faster. My joints were loaded with kinetic energy

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