40 Things to Know About StrongLifts 5×5 for Women 

Woman Doing 5x5

Everything you need to know about StrongLifts 5×5 for women

StrongLifts 5×5 is a great weightlifting program for women looking to get stronger and build lean muscle. The best thing about it–anyone can start it! Here are 40 things you should know about the program before jumping in.

Things to Know Before You Begin


Before you get started on the StrongLifts, make sure you keep these tips in mind.

 

1. 5×5 is not just for men. Don’t let this misconception keep you from diving in. This program is for you too.

2. You’re not going to bulk up. Another common myth. Unless you start shooting steroids, you aren’t going to get massive. Instead, you’re going to lean out and shape up where it counts.

3. You may need to eat more and get more vitamins. Once you really get into the workout, you are going to find that you may actually need to increase your food intake to continue getting stronger. Bump up that protein.

4. You definitely need to sleep more. Sleep is often the most underrated part of any fitness plan. If you aren’t getting as much sleep as you should, you will kill your 5×5 workout.

5. It’s good for your bone health. Osteoporosis is a legitimate concern for many aging women. StrongLifts will help strengthen your bones by increasing density. It’s the anti-osteoporosis.

6. Olympic weights are preferred, but not necessary. If you look on the StrongLifts site, he recommends that you use olympic style weights. However, if you don’t have them, don’t sweat it. Standard will do just fine until you hit 200+ pounds on your lifts. And for most women, that will not happen any time soon.

7. Don’t start StrongLifts if you’re pregnant. While getting pregnant doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot lift, you certainly don’t want to be adding weight to the bar throughout your pregnancy. In fact, it should be the opposite.

8. Study up first. There are lots of good resources out there on 5×5, including how to properly do all the lifts. Do your homework before you dive in. You want to make sure it is really the program you want to commit to, and you do not want to hurt yourself.

Things You Should Know to Get Started

Ready to jump into the program? Read these tips as you begin.

ring

A ring could cause serious injury

9. Remove rings. We’ve heard horror stories of people getting their rings caught doing deadlifts and other lifts. So if you have a big engagement ring or some other sort of jewelry, remove it. Better to keep your ring safe and your finger on your hand.

10. 5×5 can help those trouble spots. While cardio is good for burning fat, nothing will shape your body like resistance training. In particular, heavy squats will sculpt your butt.

11. Start with an empty bar. A lot of people have difficulty with this one, although we have found it’s not usually as big a deal for most women (maybe men have bigger egos when it comes to being macho?). Regardless, make sure you begin the program with an empty bar, even if you are capable of lifting more. Working your way up forces you to practice proper form before the weight gets really heavy.

12. You can still do the program if you can’t lift the bar. In some cases, a woman might not be strong enough to use the bar in some lifts. That’s okay. Many gyms have lighter bars you can substitute. You can also use a standard bar at home, which is usually only about 15-20 pounds.

What You Need to Know About Aches and Pains from 5×5 Workouts

aching muscles

Should you keep going when you’re sore?

Spoiler alert: it’s going to hurt. Learn what kind of pain you should tolerate.

13. Soreness is normal at the beginning. Feel like you can barely move after your first few workouts? This is normal. Have no fear, as this will go away once you get used to the movements.

14. Muscle soreness isn’t a reason to skip a workout. Some women may feel like they are too sore to do the next workout. Maybe they need an extra day of rest. Don’t let this happen to you. Going through your workout is the best way to relieve that soreness.

15. Just because you aren’t sore doesn’t mean it is not working. After a few workouts, you may find that you don’t feel much of anything afterwards. That’s okay. Just because you aren’t dying the next day doesn’t mean it isn’t working. Equating soreness with effectiveness is a common mistake.

16. Don’t settle for lower back pain. Lower back pain is never normal. In fact, if you are experiencing pain in your lower back during your lifts, you are likely doing them wrong. Make sure to analyze your lifts and see if you can find where your lower back may be compromised.

What Every Woman Should Know About Squatting in StrongLifts

Squats are your best friend. Find more info on them below.

17. They’re the best thing you can do for your butt. Look, it’s a trouble spot for all of us. Almost everyone has some complaint about their butt. It’s too big. It’s too wide. It’s too flat. Whatever. Bottom line, the squat attacks your glutes like no other exercise. Keep up with it and it will shape the muscles and make your butt look awesome.

18. They’re the anti-thigh gap creator. We here at WFHQ don’t believe in thigh gaps. I mean, they exist. But they’re dumb. Squats are going to do the opposite for you. They’re going to give you awesome, muscular thighs to match what they are doing to your butt.

Woman squatting below parallel

Now that’s a deep squat!

19. Squats should go past parallel. This seems to be a difficult for many people to understand. The way to tell if you are going past parallel is to look at your thigh crease, right at your hips. That crease needs to drop below your knees to get the full effectiveness of the movement.

20. Watch for butt wink. The downside to squatting low is that some people’s pelvis will rotate in at the bottom of the squat. Known as butt wink, this can compromise the lower back. Here’s a great article on butt wink.

21.Full squats are great for your weighted squats. The full squat (some call it the “Third World Squat”) is basically a stretch that will make your ankles, hip flexors,  and hamstrings more flexible. It’s also great for your lower back (and for me, is a great way to pop my lower back). So how do you do it? Simply sit down in squat position, like a baby. 

22. Low bar squats are not worse on your lower back. StrongLifts advocates that you use a low bar squat position. However some people say that is worse on your back. Myth. In fact, I’d say it’s safer. Not only that, you will be able to lift more, which will work your butt and legs more.

23. Lay off the hardcore cardio. If you are used to running mile after mile or hitting the elliptical hardcore for an hour every day, well you need to make some adjustments. Your squat will suffer if you don’t back off the cardio. Can’t give it up completely? Try something fu and not-so-extreme like this workout.

24. Push up with the heels. Sometimes when squatting heavy weight, it’s tempting to push up from the front of your foot. I used to do it without even realizing it. Concentrate on pushing up through the heels to stay vertically centered and get more power.

Doing 5X5 at the Gym?

stronglifts for women at the gymPlanning on working out at a gym? Here are some things to look out for.

25. Stay off the smith machines. Most women I see doing squats in the gym are on the smith machine. Why? Well, it seems to be the safest option. And since it’s not technically free weights, it is less intimidating. But please don’t use it! The smith machine actually screw up your form, forcing you into unnatural movement. It also robs you of the workout your other muscles get as you attempt to steady the weights.

26. Plan your outfit. Hear me out on this one. The free weight area is full of testosterone. You are going to be in that area squatting down, bending over to row, etc. And let’s face it–guys will be looking. That said, you might want to think about how what you wear will fair during the lifts, should you not want to reveal too much. Edit: As some have pointed out, there’s also the comfort factor to consider. You want to be as comfortable as possible when trying to fire out those squats, so choose your clothing wisely.

27. Take gym-goers advice with a grain of salt. It’s inevitable. People are going to see you, the girl, lifting and think they need to help you. It’s nice and all, but it can get annoying. Just remember, everyone thinks they know the right way to do everything. Study StrongLifts 5×5 and follow it, despite what they suggest.

28. Let people know you’re waiting. Most of your 5×5 workout will take place in the power rack. Unfortunately, many gyms only have one or two (squats aren’t that popular to the casual gym-goer). So sometimes, people will lollygag and take up the rack foreeeever. Don’t be bashful. Let them know you are waiting and maybe they will take turns with you.

29. Ask someone to spot your bench press. Don’t bench alone. It’s dangerous, even when you think you’ve got the lift under control. Most people in the free weight area will happily spot for you.

30. It’s okay to bench in the power rack. Can’t find a partner to spot for you? Drag the bench into the power rack. Set the spotting pins up to where they will catch the bar close to your chest if you fail. It’s perfectly acceptable!

31. Don’t let the guys intimidate you. Depending on the crowd, walking into the free weight area can be intimidating. It can even be intimidating for men who are new to lifting. Don’t worry, no on is judging you. Just get in there and get started. If anything, most people will be impressed that you’re trying something different.

32. Don’t substitute free weights with machines. It may seem that your gym has machines that imitate the movements of your 5×5 lifts. Don’t substitute. Machines for you into unnatural movements. You simply will not get the same results from them. Get to the barbell.

Wrap-Up Tips

A few things in closing…

You can do it

Don’t give up!

33. You have to stick with it to see results. Results will not come over night. You have to stick with it. Remember, you will feel better before you look better.

34. Don’t quit just because you skipped. I get it–life happens. Sometimes things will come up and you have no choice but to skip. But don’t let that stop you. Get back on it ASAP. Keep going.

35. Don’t substitute anything in the routine. People love to mess around with routines and switch things up. Don’t give in to the temptation. You have to follow the routine to get the results you are looking for.

36. If you get pregnant, pull back. If you become pregnant during the middle of StrongLifts, consider lowering the weight you are lifting. However, remember that there are still some benefits to lifting during pregnancy, especially at the onset. Regardless, talk to your doctor.

37. Take advantage of “period power.” It’s easy to convince yourself to skip lifts when on your period. It’s uncomfortable and painful. However, you might find that you are actually stronger on your period, so if you can, take advantage.

38. You can get support on Reddit. Need a community to back you up? Go to reddit. They have a bunch of subreddits that have people just like you who can help support you. Start at r/fitness, or better yet, for a female-specific sub, try r/xxfitness.

39. Video yourself. When it comes to compound lifts, form is everything. Being off even a little can rob you of gains. Not only that, but it could result in an injury that could put you on the shelf indefinitely. Video yourself to check form. You can also post videos to reddit and others will critique your form for you.

40. Don’t take weight off the bar as soon  as you fail. Eventually you will stall. Complete that day’s 5×5 with as many reps as you can. Try it again next workout. If you fail, try it again the next workout. If you miss it the third time, then it’s time t take 10% of the weight off the bar and start working your way back up.

There it is–40 things women should know about StrongLifts 5×5. Have questions? Contact us and we will do our best to help you out!

14 Comments on "40 Things to Know About StrongLifts 5×5 for Women "

  1. You should have offered up xxfitness instead of r/fitness.

    Also, I’m pretty sick and tired of the rhetoric that women need to plan their gym outfits around some men’s inability to not ogle. I should be able to wear whatever the hell I want regardless of someone elses’ ill manners.

    • Tiffany,

      It’s not so much that you NEED to plan your outfit. But some girls just starting out might not consider it before they begin. Should it matter? Nope. But it’s worth mentioning in case it’s enough to get someone from working out full force once they get to the gym.

      If you’re comfortable, screw everybody else, right?

  2. I go to a very male orientated gym and do not feel the least bit intimidated, I find most of the guys very helpful, some of them even offer to put my weifghts away, I have been lifting for nearly a year but have jsut started the 5×5 program, one thing it has highlighted is my upper body weakness, going to keep up with it and tbh it can only make my strength improve.

    • Great! I find a lot of women get stuck on wanting to “tone” their butt and thighs, so they neglect their upper body. The truth is that we need to strive for well-rounded strength and fitness!

  3. Plan your outfit? Definitely. Not for the “ogle” factor but comfort. For example, I wear loose singlets when squatting so I can “hike” up the neck to cover the top of my shoulders. Just me :-)

    Also, buy some fractional weights if your gym doesn’t carry them. These babies have kept me from stalling, for now :-)

  4. Joshua Magnusson | September 21, 2015 at 3:34 pm | Reply

    We don’t pay much attention to the opposite gender and what they are wearing. We actually pay a lot more attention to other guys and their physiques.

  5. Yeah guys who lift look at other guys. lol

  6. I am looking forward to starting the 5×5 program I have done crossfit on and off for many years and it beats me up. 5×5 looks like a much better smarter way to get strong.

  7. Getting my 15 y.o. twins into 5×5. Should theybincrease the weight in 5 lb increments too, or should we try less?

    • Up to you really…but I don’t see why you’d stray from the program. I think the main thing would be starting with just the bar, no matter how silly it might seem.

  8. I actually always plan my gym clothes!
    The right bra (if cardio is needed),
    The right pants (some are not my friend when I bend over so those go for chest day.
    Good article.
    I’ve been trying to switch things up, I downloaded the app for the 5×5. The weights to start out seem low at first. I’m really skeptical. I can bench 3×6@140 and it has me starting out 5×5 at 70lbs. I feel like that’s too low for any athlete 3 years of weight training experience. Considering upping the weight but keeping the concept.

    • You can try what you like, but odds are starting out heavier will slow your progress in the long run. You add weight so quickly that you’ll be where you need to be in no time. That said, you could start heavier and if you find yourself stalling out too soon, you could deload and try again.

  9. I started the 5×5 program a few months ago then I changed programs. I REALLY like the 5×5 program, it doesn’t take a lot of time, the phone app is great, results were very good. I just felt like it wasn’t working my upper body (shoulder, arms) enough. Can I add a few exercises to the program for those areas?

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