I recently (4 weeks ago) started StrongLifts 5×5. Quick background – I’m recovering from two knee surgeries the last 24 months, most recently 7 months ago. Before knee surgeries I was doing the endless cycle of split training, however I was squatting 400lbs raw 3×8…but never attempted a deadlift. I’ve gained almost 50lbs in the last two years (pure fat) and I am trying to get back on track.
I started StrongLifts 5×5 as you advised by starting with the bar, and adding 5lbs per work out. I have yet to feel sore (obviously because I am not really lifting much weight), but I am getting a little impatient and want to add 25lbs to my work out tomorrow… I still feel I’d easily be able to do 5×5 and add 5lbs the next workout….
I guess my real question is – how do you know when you need to add more than 5lbs?
It’s a shame you never did Deadlifts because it would have allowed us to check the validity of your 400lb Squat. Put bluntly, the fact that you had knee issues and that 400lb for sets of 8 reps is quite some weight makes me think that you used to Squat inside the Smith Machine and/or without hitting parallel.
Which brings us to the issue of ego and how many guys get carried away with…
- Starting a new training program with too much weight
- Cheating the range of motion to Squat and Bench heavier weights
- Trying to accelerate their progress by adding more than 5lb per workout
All of this will result in earlier plateaus and also injuries because you’re focussed on the weight instead of technique. With your past knees injuries your priority should be mastering technique, not lifting heavy weights. Make sure you Squat with your toes and knees out, sitting back and hitting parallel on each rep.
Also, the impatience you have is bad because it’s not what you do in 1 workout that matters, is what you do over the course of months and years. It’s easy to accomplish the 400lb Deadlift within only 12 months of training by simply adding 5 pounds on the bar each workout. Adding weight faster than this is more likely to make you stall earlier, get injured, and fall off the bandwagon.
The only situations where you could add more than 5lb per workout is if…
- You’ve mastered technique on all the lifts already; AND
- You have the strength to lift more weight
So if you have done Squats, Presses, Deadlifts and Rows in the past, but you’re coming from another program or resumed lifting after a break, then you could add more than 5lb per workout. Just don’t add 25lb, that’s being greedy. 10lb on Squat (120lb per month!) and Deadlift is enough. Forget about doing this on the Press, you’d plateau too soon. You can try it on the Bench, but won’t last long. In all cases, switch back to 5lb as soon as things become challenging.
If you’re not sure what to do, just stick with 5lb per workout. It might take you a few more workouts to get there, but the end result will be the same.