Do You Train Too Much?

Steve wonders if StrongLifts 5×5 can work for him, or if his program will be more effective to gain muscle and strength for football. Quote…

Hello Mehdi,

I’m going to keep this short as I know you’re a busy man. I have been strength training for football on and off for 4 years. I have not lifted for 3 weeks due to time restraints and a shoulder injury. My previous lifts were Squat 345 lbs, Bench Press 265 lbs, Deadlift 410 lbs. Personal stats: 19 yrs old, 5’8″, 175lbs, 12% bf.

Do you think I could still progress much off of StrongLifts 5×5, and if so would I start with just the bar on as everyone else? If not what program would you recommend me? Do you think I will be better off with your StrongLifts 5×5 program than this?

Day 1: Legs

  • Squats 5x 6-8
  • Leg press 5x 6-8
  • Lunges 5x 6-8
  • Leg Extension 5x 6-8
  • Leg curls 5x 6-8
  • Stiff-leg deadlifts 5x 6-8
  • Standing calf raises 5x 6-8

Day 2: Back

  • Barbell rows 5x 6-8
  • DB rows 5x 6-8
  • Pulldowns 5x 6-8
  • Seated cable rows 5x 6-8

Day 3: Chest

  • Bench press 5x 6-8
  • DB Incline bench 5x 6-8
  • DB Bench 5x 6-8
  • DB Flyes 5x 6-8

Day 4: Shoulders

  • Military press 5x 6-8
  • DB Shoulder press 5x 6-8
  • DB Arnold press 5x 6-8
  • DB Lateral raise 5x 6-8

Day 5: Arms

  • Barbell curls 4x 6-8
  • Close grip bench 4x 6-8
  • DB curls 4x 6-8
  • Skull crushers 4x 6-8
  • Hammer curls 4x 6-8
  • Pulldowns 4x 6-8
  • Preacher curls 4x 6-8
  • Tricep extensions 4x 6-8

Day 6: Rest
Day 7: Repeat

My goals are to get stronger, and bigger.

Man, I get tired just looking at that training program. It’s actually very similar to the bodybuilding split routines I did from 1999 to 2004, before I discovered the 5×5 method through coach Glenn Pendlay’s writings and before I overcame my skepticism to finally give the 5×5 training-style a try and never look back.

The good thing about that program is that includes free weight compounds like Squats, Barbell Rows and Bench Press. Free weights are superior to machines because they force you to balance the weight yourself. Compounds are superior to isolation because of the heavier weights – you gain more muscle/strength.

The bad things: many. One, too many exercises per workout. The only way you could ever do 6 exercises after Squats, is if you’re training light and for “pump”. Because everyone who has done heavy Squats for 5×5 will tell you that they’re more than happy there’s only 2 exercises left after that on StrongLifts 5×5.

Two, the program is imbalanced. Only 4 exercises for your back – the largest muscle – but 8 (!) for your arms. 2 “press” days (chest/shoulders), but only 1 back day without Deadlifts or Pull-ups. Lack of rowing and pulling is a common cause of shoulder pain, and you already say you’ve injured your shoulder.

Three, 6 workouts per week, which will most likely take 2 hours to complete, maybe more, and that’s without the gym commute. You said you didn’t lift for 3 weeks because of time constraints. Why not do less and be more consistent as a result? Remember the best program is the one you actually stick to.

Four, if you want to get stronger, I suppose for football, then why this bodypart split? T.J. Ward used the 5×5 method with Glenn Pendlay to prepare for the NFL combine in 2010, eventually went much higher in the draft than expected, and is now a standout in the defensive backfield. StrongLifts Member Myles (20y, Canada) also used StrongLifts 5×5 to get stronger for rugby. Quote:

My athletic performance also increased greatly, I had gained around 20lbs, a lot of which was muscle, but my speed had actually increased. On the rugby field, whenever I went into a tackle or hit a ruck, I could actually feel people move as they absorbed my momentum, instead of just bouncing off of them.

In the entire first season of rugby I played after strength training, I didn’t sustain a single injury which prevented me from practicing or playing, in contrast to being an injury prone wreck in previous years. I always had issues with my lower back and knees, but after getting my deadlift and squat strong, they went away completely.

Myles increased his Squat from 185lb to 434lb and his Deadlift from 225lb to 506lb in only 12 months of training, and broke the provencial record in the sub junior category.

So no, I don’t think you will get better results with your program. But, I also don’t think StrongLifts 5×5 is for you with your 345lb Squat at only 175lb body-weight. You’re too strong for it, you need an intermediate program – do Madcow 5×5 and use it to take your Squat to 400lb and your Deadlift to 500lb.