StrongLifts 5×5 Advanced is the training program that I recommend you to do after at least 3 months of Madcow 5×5. As explained in the StrongLifts Ladder of Strength, the optimal training program progression is…
StrongLifts 5×5 Advanced is NOT a training program for beginners. As a rule of thumb, a 25-30y old guy weighing around 185lb and Squatting less than 225lb should do StrongLifts 5×5 first. If you Squat 225-300lb, start with SL3x5/1×5. Beyond 300lb start with Madcow 5×5. Only after you’ve gone through at least 3 months of Madcow 5×5 should you jump to StrongLifts 5×5 Advanced.
Here’s why: strength and muscle gains are slower on StrongLifts 5×5 Advanced than on SL5x5. With SL5x5 Advanced (and Madcow 5×5) you won’t add weight every workout, but each week. So forget about boosting your Squat by 120lb in 8 weeks like with SL5x5 – 25lb is more realistic with SL5x5 Advanced. If that doesn’t sound much, think long-term – 25lb in 8 weeks is 100lb in a year.
Don’t do StrongLifts 5×5 Advanced because you’ve been training for 5y and you think that means you’re “advanced”. StrongLifts Members Jake and Norman may be training for only 2y, they Squat 600lb. Your years of training don’t make you advanced, how much you can lift does. Unless you can Squat over 300lb and have milked out everything out of Madcow 5×5, don’t do SL5x5 Advanced.
Origins of StrongLifts 5×5 Advanced. The reason I’m telling you all the above is because I made this mistake back in 2004. StrongLifts 5×5 Advanced was the first 5×5 program that I did and, looking back, I should have done Madcow 5×5 first because I could barely Squat 300lb after 5y of bodybuilding split routines.
I discovered this program back in 2004 through Olympic Coach Glenn Pendlay MS who had written about it on various forums under the alias “John Smith”. I frankly have no idea who invented this variation of the 5×5 program (this goes back to Mark Berry in the 30s, Reg Park in the 50s, and Bill Starr in the 70s), all I know is that it works and that it’s been around for many years.
StrongLifts 5×5 Advanced is one variation of the 5×5 method that I’ve used myself and with private clients, and that several StrongLifts Members have used successfully to gain strength and muscle while losing fat.
Expected Gains with SL5x5 Advanced. 25lb on your Squat & Deadlift, and 10lb on your Bench & Overhead Press. Again, if this doesn’t sound much to you, realize you’d gain 100lb on your Squat by doing 5-6 cycles of SL5x5 Advanced. For a 350lb Squatter, achieving a 450lb Squat in 1 year is fast progress.
Here are some results from StrongLifts Members with StrongLifts 5×5 Advanced. First from StrongLifts Member Adam R. (29y, Australia) who has since Squatted over 600lb and who is now also a competitive strongman…
- Squat: 5×5 205kg => 3x230kg
- Deadlift: 1x180kg => 1x205kg
- Bench Press: 1×5 120kg => 3×3 125kg
- Overhead Press: 1×5 67.5kg => 3×3 92.5kg
- Squat: 1×5 127.5kg => 1×3 145kg
- Deadlift: 1×5 160kg => 3×3 175kg
- Bench Press: 5×5 85kg => 3×3 95kg
- Overhead Press: 5×5 60kg => 1×3 70kg
Looking at these results, it’s clear you can add even more than 70lb in 9 weeks. Aside from these strength gains, expect also to gain muscle while losing fat by week 3. SL Member Nico H. (42y, Belgium) 6 pack started showing even though he gained 2,2lb on SL 5×5 Advanced. Adam R. went from 130kg to 140kg body-weight with most of the weight in his thighs, arms, shoulders and back.
How StrongLifts 5×5 Advanced Works. SL5x5 Advanced is a 9 week program divided into 3 phases of 3 workouts per week each. All exercises are exactly the same as on StrongLifts 5×5 and Madcow 5×5. The 3 phases…
- Weeks 1 to 4 you’ll be doing sets of 5 reps, alternating ramped up sets of 5 (1×5) with 5 sets of 5 with the same weight (5×5). Like on Madcow 5×5, Wednesday’s Squats are lighter for recovery. The weight increases weekly, first 2 weeks are easy, week 3/4 you go for PRs.
- Week 5 is a deload. You repeat the weight you lifted in week 4, but drop from 5×5 to 3×3 and from 1×5 to 1×3. Weight will feel light, and you’ll start the final 4 weeks fresh in order to hit PRs again.
- Weeks 6 to 9 is the same as the first 4 weeks except that you’re not doing Squats on Wednesday. The weight still increases weekly, with week 6/7 being easy and you hitting PRs in week 8/9, but you’ll be doing 1×3 and 3×3 instead of 1×5 and 5×5 (like in the 5th week).
No 5×5 Deadlifts for the same reasons you don’t Deadlift 5×5 on SL5x5. You will Deadlift 3×5 however because this program has no heavy 5×5 Squats 3x/week with the weight increasing 5lb each workout. There’s only 1 heavy 5×5 Squat on Monday, Wednesday is light Squat and Friday medium 1×5 Squats. Because the Squats are less stressful, you can do 3×5 Deadlifts with the same weight.
Starting week 6, you’ll do 3×3 Weighted Pull-ups on Wednesday since you’ll no longer be Squatting on that day. Start with an easy weight, increase the load every week, and aim for PRs in week 8/9. You can do Pull-ups for 5 sets of 5 on the Wednesday workouts of week 1 to 4 also if you want.
So here’s how StrongLifts 5×5 Advanced looks like:
StrongLifts 5x5 Advanced Week 1-4
|Squat 5x5||Squat 5x5||Squat 1x5|
|Bench Press 1x5||Overhead Press 5x5||Bench Press 5x5|
|Barbell Rows 1x5||Deadlift 3x5||Barbell Rows 5x5|
|StrongLifts 5x5 Advanced Week 5-9|
|Squat 3x3||Deadlift 3x3||Squat 1x3|
|Bench Press 1x3||Overhead Press 3x3||Bench Press 3x3|
|Barbell Rows 1x3||Weighted Pull-ups 3x3||Barbell Rows 3x3|
How to Choose Your Starting Weight. The big mistake to avoid on StrongLifts 5×5 Advanced is, like with StrongLifts 5×5, Madcow 5×5 and Wendler’s 5/3/1, starting too heavy. If you start too heavy, you’ll plateau too soon, get demotivated, and that’s the end of the program. So be conservative, take it from my StrongLifts Member Nico H. (42y, Belgium) who Deadlifts 500lb…
Before starting SL5x5 Advanced I was not really following a program since I was going over a holiday period with quite a lot of missed sessions. Since this was the very first time I did this cycle, my starting number on Deadlift and Squat was too high. For Squat I used a number which was done 3 months ago without any work in between to sustain that level. At the end I did not have to scale down on Squat but I should have done for Deadlift.
Before attacking a program like this it is advisable to either add some more lighter weeks to get back into the groove of doing 5×5, or do some weeks of StrongLifts 5×5 working back up to the starting weights scheduled for SL Advanced. The second cycle you can go all out. The first time, start conservative.
-StrongLifts Member Nico H. (42y, Belgium).
Start with weights you’re certain you can lift. The goal should be to match your PR in week 3 and then hit a new PR in week 4. If it turns out you started too light, you can easily fix that by doing a 5th or even 6th week before you enter the deload phase. Your first time doing StrongLifts 5×5 Advanced should be more about building experience than anything else, so be conservative.
Spreadsheet for StrongLifts 5×5 Advanced. The following spreadsheet will calculate exactly how much weight you should lift each workout of StrongLifts 5×5 Advanced. You only need to plugin your numbers and then show up.
- Click here to download the StrongLifts 5×5 Spreadsheet
Do keep in mind that this spreadsheet is only a guideline – if you started too heavy, do an extra 5×5/1×5 week before hitting the deload phase. If you hit a plateau, repeat the weight the week after instead of adding more. And please send me your success story after 9 weeks of StrongLifts 5×5 Advanced.
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