Back at the end of last year I wrote a post about how to get over the fear of the free weight area and just get in there and start lifting the big weights (spoiler alert: Eventually you just have to fake it till you make it).

But, once you’ve got the guts to go in there, what the hell do you actually *do*?

So, today I’m going to talk about the program and associated app that I used to get started in the gym.

Stronglifts 5×5 is hugely popular beginners weight lifting program. It focuses on 5 basic lifts, that you do 5 sets of 5 reps, with 90 seconds rest between each set, split over 3 workouts per week.

There are 2 workouts that you alternate each time you head to the gym. Workout A is squats, bench press and barbell row. Workout B is squats, overhead press and deadlift.

These are all good, basic, lifts that will help you work on your form and gain some confidence in the free weights area. They are what is called compound lifts, which means that each exercise works more than one muscle group. You’ll be working on your core, to stabilise yourself, as well as all the muscles in your legs, arms and shoulders.

The basic idea of the program is to start with just the bar (which is approx 20kg) and add 2.5kg each workout until you hit the point at which you can’t complete all the reps. If you fail to complete all the reps 3 times in a row then you “deload” (reduce your weights) and start working your way back up again. There are also options to reduce to 3×5 sets, or 1×5 sets if you repeatedly fail at a certain weight.

I strongly suggest downloading the app. The app basically does all the work for you, telling you what weights to use each workout, when to deload and even timing your breaks between sets. I’d also recommend upgrading to the “power pack” as with that the app will also calculate your warm up sets as you add weight, as well as telling you exactly what plates to load onto the bar so you don’t have to attempt to do mental arithmetic in the gym. The app also contains videos of all the exercises so you can review them and check your form.

One thing I don’t recommend with Stronglifts is subscribing to the newletters. I’ll be honest, I found Mehdi, the creator of the program to be a bit of an idiot, and a sexist idiot at that. His back story includes his eternal shame at being beaten in an arm wrestle and push up competition by a girl, and I found some of the language in the emails extremely irritating, so I unsubscribed. The program and the language around it is extremely Gym Bro. Don’t let that put you off the program itself, the app is super helpful and it’s a great basic program to get you started.

If you’ve never been in the free weights section before and lack confidence it’s a great idea to book a session with a PT at your gym. Tell them you want to do Stronglifts 5×5 (and if they haven’t heard of it, move gyms!). They can show you how to use the equipment and give some tips on form.

The routine is super simple, and by the time you are bored of it you’ll have a great basis to keep working on new things, and the confidence to keep working with free weights.

Next week I have a post scheduled with a few more tips for beginners for each of the exercises in the Stronglifts 5×5 program, and some more general advice about venturing into the weights room.

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