Posts Tagged ‘stronglifts’

I’ve been away for quite sometime. The last time I wrote an update was when I was still having hip issues and I got them straightened out with the help of a chiropractor. I had given thought to switching my lifting routine from Stronglifts 5X5 to Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1. The idea behind this change was to increase recovery time and to be less beaten up (squatting 200lbs 3 times a week is no joke at my body weight). However, I stuck around with Stronglifts for the better part of last month.

It’s been a little more than a year that I have been on this program and saying that I am satisfied would be an understatement. The program is amazing for anyone who has never touched weights in their lives; split routine training doesn’t mean touching weights (no offence to the aesthetic chasers). If the program wasn’t as good as it is, I wouldn’t have been on it for a year. Mehdi has done a good job creating a routine which will work for anyone.

Now if you are subscribed to the Stronglifts newsletter which Mehdi sends out everyday, you should have a pretty good idea of what the title of the post means. There was a time when he used to post videos of himself lifting pretty heavy stuff, no more though. All that is left of Stronglifts is the Stronglifts inner circle. The bottom of every e-mail from Mehdi begs people to join his inner circle of members. He also gives freebies to people who join. However, I reckon that it is a little excessive on his part to write in every e-mail “Doors are closed now but you can go here and sign up for early bird registration for my Inner Circle.” Some way or the other he always manages to link his stories to the inner circle as if the inner circle is the solution to every problem.

When he posted his videos of him lifting in his home gym, that was inspirational stuff. When I saw him for the first time, I thought I wanted to be like him. I believe he made a big mistake in marketing himself by changing his focus from posting videos to sending crappy e-mails. To be honest, I am still subscribed to his newsletter because his e-mails make me chuckle first thing in the morning. He has also shown his complete rebuttal of steroids and steroid users. He has called them cheaters and has gone as far as to prove it by citing some research studies. He also says that, “If you’re using workout gloves and using a foam pad (for squats), you are not really doing stronglifts.” I think there is a better way to convince people not to use workout gloves or foam pads. I also think it is a personal preference and nobody gives a shit about you telling them that they’re not doing your program because you said so.

Coming to the program, I think it is a fairly balanced routine.

Day 1 – Squat, Bench, Pendlay Row

Day 2 – Squat, Overhead Press, Deadlift

Work out three times a week alternating between day 1 and day 2 workouts with 5 sets of 5 reps on each lift except the deadlift which is 1 set of 5 reps. There is push, pull movements for the shoulders – the bench and the pendlays. There is a push movement overhead but there isn’t a pull movement. I think if you’re doing stronglifts you should also do pull ups/ chin ups if you want to keep your shoulders balanced.

So much for the praise of the program. Even though the program is simple to follow, there is very little information about how to properly do the lifts without getting injured. Here is where the marketing gimmick called the Stronglifts Inner Circle comes into the picture. Mehdi says that if you join the Inner circle, you can post videos of your lifts and get instant feedback about your form from other members which will help you be injury free.

First of all Mehdi, there is only so much you can see in a video. Secondly, are those members of your inner circle all personal trainers? Are they certified to provide feedback? I don’t think providing feedback is wrong. But if you are selling the membership to your inner circle to people to help themselves, then you’re making money out of nothing. You have just created a forum for people to interact with each other. There are websites like Fitocracy which do the same thing and for free. One can also post videos on youtube and have someone on facebook look at them. Why would anyone in their right mind pay for membership of a forum in which you ask questions from people who aren’t even certified to answer them?

In any case, he has done a good job making the program from Bill Starr’s/ Reg Park’s 5X5 program. However, he has not marketed himself correctly. From a stronglifter he has become a gatekeeper who does nothing except opening and closing the gates of his Stronglifts Inner Circle. Good luck to you Mehdi. May you achieve what you set out to achieve.


The very first time that I squatted was on the Smith Machine; biggest mistake of my life. If you want to be as strong as an ox, read on about how the Squat can help you with your goal.

The squat is probably one of the most controversial exercises in existence. If you ask me, or any of the best powerlifters/ olympic lifters/ strength coaches, they’d tell you that a perfect squat is one in which you go down till your hip bone is at least in line with your knees. Here is an excellent article about how you can work on your depth.

Now the question, why is the depth so important? Well, if you load up the bar and unrack it only to go half way down before coming up, you’re not working most of the muscles involved in a squat. This is something which I like to call half squat (or quarter squat, depending on the depth). You’re probably just working a little bit of your quads and maybe a little bit of your core. The squat is meant to be a full body exercise. If you want bigger arms, you know what you should do: that’s right – heavy squats. And unless you do it completely, you’re not going to reap the benefits associated with it.

There are two kinds of back squats, the low bar back squat and the high bar back squat. As explained by Rippetoe in this video, the low bar back squat enables you to lift more weight. If you want to know how to low bar back squat, buy your copy of starting strength here or check out the resources on the stronglifts page or just shoot me an e-mail and I might be able to help you figure it out.

Now, a lot of people argue that deep squats (parallel and below parallel) will blow your knees. Let me put a counter-argument about bench pressing here. If you study the mechanics of bench press, it is quite similar to the squat. The lever joint in the squat is the knee while in the bench press, it’s the elbow. Would it be a valid point to say that benching heavy weights will blow your elbows? I am sure you get the point. However, you can injure yourself if you load up the bar heavy quicker than you should or squat with improper form.

I have had my own issues with the squat. I broke my fibula (ankle) a few years ago so my right ankle isn’t as flexible as it should be. And then there’s muscle imbalances. But I haven’t yet hurt myself on the squat bad enough to stop squatting. The key thing to keep in mind is to squat with flat sole shoes or barefoot. This way you have a solid base to push the weight off the floor, also your feet stay flat which enables you to keep the weight on the heels as opposed to squatting in running shoes.

Another key point to keep in mind is that the squat isn’t supposed to be just knee bending and sitting down. One needs to push their hips back far enough and sit back as if sitting in a chair (try doing this and finding the analogy). As far as I think, you don’t need to go all the way down to the ground. That is impossible for many due to mobility issues and is controversial too. Go down deep enough so the hip bone is in line with the knee, make a video of yourself squatting if required.

Oh, and don’t forget to keep your core tight. Imagine yourself flexing your abs in the mirror or getting ready to get punched in the gut. Your core should be as tight as it would be in any of those cases. This helps keeping the spine neutral and reduces shear forces on the back. If you cannot do this yourself, get a belt. Remember, the belt is not support. It just helps you to push against it and keep your core tight.

Remember to start light and move up slowly while focusing on form. If you have questions, there are tons of resources out there both good and bad. Shoot me an e-mail and I’d point you in the right direction.

Have fun squatting!

So you joined a gym and had a PT design a training routine for you. You have no idea what the training routine is going to do for you, but you have trust in the PT’s abilities. Read on if you want to know how to question the PT’s routine and refine it to your needs.


The first thing that you need to do is to ask yourself about your fitness goals. Do you want to run faster, or lift heavy or play a sport better or run a marathon? One training routine cannot serve all purposes. All training regimens are different. Once you’ve narrowed down your goals, it is going to be a lot easier to decide what program to follow.

Strength – If you decided that you want to lift all those plates like Franco Columbu in the picture above, you have a very simple path defined. The easiest way to train for maximum strength is to lift the maximum weight you can for 1-5 reps. Usually this is the way power-lifters train and work up to a 1 rep max for their power-lifting meets. There are many beginner programs out there like Starting Strength, Stronglifts, Greyskull LP. If you are an intermediate or advanced lifter, you might want to try the Texas Method, Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 or The Cube Method. In an interview with Starting Strength coach Mark Rippetoe, Ed Coan admitted using 5 reps in his training. If you don’t know who Ed Coan is, go here.

Strength and Size – If you want to look big and gain strength at the same time, the ideal rep range to work with would be 6-12 reps. Although, strength gains might not be the same as with a lower rep range strength based training program, you will surely gain some strength along the way while getting big. Remember, more size doesn’t necessarily mean more strength.

Endurance – Anything greater than 12 reps is going to help you build endurance. Remember, the weights used in these rep ranges would be a fraction of those used for strength training else you’re lifting too heavy here.

If you want more info about rep ranges go here or here.

If you want the best of all the good things: strength, size and endurance, you will have to switch it up and work with different rep ranges. But if you’re just starting out, strength is the way to go. Everything else follows suit.