Is StrongLifts 5×5 a Good Weight Lifting Routine for Women?

Squats for StrongLifts

The squat is the foundation of Stronglifts 5×5.

The jury is in, and here’s what they’ve decided: women need to lift weights. No fitness guru with any real knowledge can deny this. Cardio is great and all, but weight lifting should be a part of any woman’s well rounded routine.

With that in mind, we’d like to take a look at a simple, no-frills weight lifting routine that’s gaining popularity with beginners all around the world. It’s called Stronglifts 5×5.

What is StrongLifts 5×5?

While there are more involved routines for women like Strong Curves, StrongLifts is a beginner’s weight lifting routine that’s meant to keep things simple. Rest assured, there aren’t a million lifts for you to master. Instead, you only have to learn 5 different compound lifts. In other words, these are the lifts that work the biggest and the most muscles. No wasting times trying to focus on small muscle groups.

Essentially there are 2 full body workouts, and you go back and forth between the two, three times a week, resting in between. The workouts are as follows:

  1. Squats, Overhead Press, Deadlifts
  2. Squats, Bench Press, Bent Over Rows

Why Are Some Women Hesitant to Start Stronglifts?

The most common thing said is “I don’t want to get bulky like a man.” Let me assure you, this fear is unfounded. Unless you lift, eat, and take hormones like a bodybuilder, you aren’t going to look like a man. Instead, you’ll lose body fat, develop a nice round butt, and balance out your body.

Do You Need to Be on a Diet to Do Stronglifts?

No. In fact, in many cases, being on a weight-loss diet during Stronglifts is probably a bad idea. Why? Because you need to make sure you are getting enough calories to keep up with your lifts. If you aren’t enough, you simply will not get stronger.

Now that’s not to say you shouldn’t be eating healthy. In fact, you need to focus on lean proteins, complex carbs, and high quality fats. In particular, make sure you are getting enough protein to help build muscle and burn fat.


The Pros for Women

There are quite a few positives here in respect to women. Let’s take a look:

  1. You start with nothing–Face it, most of us aren’t starting off very strong. The fact is, starting with an empty bar makes this program accessible to nearly any girl. And there’s no need to feel week or ashamed, because we are all starting out with no weight on the bar.
  2. You only have to learn a few lifts–Since women typically don’t lift, odds are you have no clue what to do with a barbell. This program teaches you a few basic lifts only. No complexity necessary.
  3. You practice form over and over–The light weight at the beginning coupled with the sheer volume of lifting forces you to practice your form, allowing you to stay safe and stave off injury.
  4. Focus on the butt and thighs–Perhaps the biggest benefit here is the fact that this program is so squat-intensive. There’s no way you can do this program right and NOT get the butt and thighs you dream of.
  5. Increased bone density–Especially when we hit 30, we start to lose bone density and increase our risk of Osteperosis. Lifting heav can help curb that.

The Cons for Women

While this program can do wonders for you, there are a couple of negatives.

First, weightlifting can tear up your hands. And for women concerned with keeping their hands soft (hey, I don’t wanna waste that mani), this can be an issue. Luckily, StrongLifts 5 X 5 doesn’t have to tear up your hands. You just need a good pair of weightlifting gloves to protect you as you lift.

I recommend the Meister Women’s Fit Grip Weighlifting Gloves for a few reasons:

  • They fit well. They’re designed specifically for a woman’s hand.
  • They’re cute. Aavailable in pink, turquoise, and black.
  • They’re comfy. The palms are padded.
  • They’re effective. The no-slip grip makes holding heavy weights easier.

Get your own pair by clicking the picture to the right.

Another con comes from one of the benefits actually. Many women are cardio junkies. Face it, we love to hit the open road and run for hours. Or to get the lung burn with cardio like Cize or Insanity. It’s therapeutic and helps keep us trim. However, the sheer amount of squats you do in this program can put an end to all that running. There’s no way you can squat heavy three times a week and keep up with a heavy duty running program. That’s not to say that building those glutes and quads isn’t going to help your running, but you’re definitely going to have to dial things back if you get serious with StrongLifts.

What If I Don’t Have Access to Weights?

You can’t do StrongLifts without weights. That said, if you don’t have weight access, you might want to try TRX bands for strength training. They’re relatively inexpensive, can be used in your home, and allow you to use leverage and your body weight to get a goo strength workout. Learn more in our TRX workout video roundup here.

And if you want to mix strength training with HIIT, you could try getting your hands on an adjustable kettebell. Learn more about that in our Empower 3-n-1 Kettlebell review.

Bottom Line, is StrongLifts Right for a Woman’s Weight Lifting Routine?


Man or woman, if you are a beginning lifter, this is a great program for you. Follow the program as written, and you are sure to see results!

Beginning the routine? Check out our other StrongLifts info for women!

Have questions? Comment below!


18 Comments on "Is StrongLifts 5×5 a Good Weight Lifting Routine for Women?"

  1. l have never heard of and cannot find an “Overhead Rows” that is what you have up above as part of the 5×5. Do you mean bent over row?

  2. I have been doing stronglifts for 7 months now and it is the most awesome programme ever. I was very intimidated at first going to the weight section where I was the only female there. But with time I got used to it and now feel confident walking into that section.

  3. Sounds like I’ should give it a try!!!

  4. Just started this week, excited i am 51 year old grandmother

  5. Can’t wait to start

  6. Thinking about trying because lifting appeals to me…a little skeptical because I am very overweight. Is this the right program for me to start with?

    • This is one of many programs you could try. The best course of action is to start with changing your diet, and from there go with a program like stronglifts mixed with cardio. We recommend you speak to a doctor before beginning.

  7. The photo shows her holding the bar at her neck. It should be held lower down her back.

  8. How long is the workout maintainable?

    What if I have a physical issue with benching. Can I use a macHine to chest press?

    • WomensFitnessHQ | December 3, 2018 at 10:41 am | Reply

      This workout is maintainable for quite awhile assuming you follow it properly and deload properly when necessary. As for the physical issue, make sure to talk to a doctor. The advantage of free weights is that it exercises all the smaller stabilizer muscles and gives a full body workout, where as the machines just targets one specific area.

  9. I just recently started strong lifts, my question is, do I just continue to progress at the 5 lbs increments each workout until failure and then unload some weight?

    I have had a few stalls but I continue to press on.

  10. I have been lifting weights for a while and decided just to go back to basics. For a woman will this workout help burn bodyfat?

  11. I just started on this program, and have been using the Stronglifts 5×5 program ( and the matching Apple app. It’s great – easy to follow and you work your entire body in an efficient space of time. My boyfriend got me into this, he’s been lifting for years and is very health conscious and researches things to death. Other benefits to mention: when you workout large muscle groups using these combination muscle lifts, your metabolism keeps burning fat longer than if you do cardio, and most importantly, you also build your abs core. This is because to do ANY of these exercises, you need to balance the bar. So no crunchies are necessary. When I first asked my bfriend how he looks so great (like jaw dropping great) I didn’t believe him at first when he said that he does NO abs or cardio whatsoever. He literally just lifts and eats well. So the program is also very efficient time wise, if you are a busy person. You just follow the routine and it takes less than an hour and boom, you’re done, provided you eat well. It is also great for weight loss if you are very overweight – cardio might seem like such a hard and demotivating thing to do, but you can probably start lifting an empty weights bar, even a few times. You still have to combine it with a high protein and veggie diet though, the article is right that you will be more hungry after doing this and it should not be an excuse to pile on the carbs and snacks, as that will just put a layer of fat over those hard earned muscles. I’ve had really good experience with the MyFitnessPal app for tracking calories and would highly recommend using some app like that in addition to this program. It’s a great tool for finding out how many calories and nutritious values those things you put in your mouth actually have (often it’s a shocker.) Finally, going to the lifting part of the gym can be scary – so much metalwork equipment and often more men than women – so I highly recommend booking a fitness trainer for one session, so that they can show you where all the equipment is, and how to use it safely, and what the etiquette is about using it (if the gym gets busy, you might need to share the power rack with someone, which can feel awkward at first.) Good luck!

  12. I have been doing 5×5 for a few years now on and off and have seen some great results!
    I have pretty significant CTS and Sciatica issues. What I have learned from lifting is to lift with gloves – they help grip strength – but also learn different grip styles that accommodate your needs.

    Lift barefooted (with socks on if in a public gym) make sure your socks are snug so you dont slip. This will allow you to feel more grounded and you can balance your core better.

    Take a Pilates class and learn to engage your core muscles.

    KAGEL KAGEL KAGEL KAGEL KAGEL -it engages your core and also results in stronger orgasams *yeah baby*

    Preparing to lift heavy? Go pee and poop before you hit the squat rack… me. If you are an older lady, or have had a kid or two you know what I mean – also wear a light pad if you are worried.

    Yoga or stretch after a lifting session. 5×5 has some good theories about stretching before lifting but in order to stay flexible you need to have a good stretch out routine. Or you’ll end up like the Meatheads who cant button their pants.

    Also the outfit deal is real. I don’t want to see anyone’s butt crack, hot chick or hot dude.

    I love this program very much! Paired with Keto it has worked wonders for me. Time to get back on the train though after falling off for the holidays. lol


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