1. Learn to deadlift properly. use these videos
- Stand with bar over your mid-foot.
- Keep stance fairly narrow.
- Keep your head neutral.
- Bend knees until shins hit the bar.
- Shoulder-blades should be directly above bar.
- Hold the bar low in your hands, close to your fingers.
- Keep hips relatively high – this is NOT a squat!
- Lift your chest but DON’T squeeze your shoulder blades.
- Get slack out of your arms.
- Pull and keep bar close to your body. Dig heels into ground.
- Think about pulling the bar back – NOT up.
- Do NOT lean back at top/roll your shoulder back.
- Pull quickly, even on warm-up sets.
- Lower weight back down relatively quickly.
2. Learn to OHP properly. use this video
- Feet shoulder-width apart.
- Grip bar just wider than your shoulders.
- Hold bar close to your wrist (not close to your fingers). Keep wrist straight.
- Elbows in front of bar but NOT upper-arms parallel with the floor. Elbows should not exceed a 45 degree angle out from your body (i.e. do not flare elbows).
- Chest up and look forward – NOT up/down.
- Once the bar reaches forehead level, shift torso forward.
- Nicolas Cage the bar up.
- Squeeze dat ass at the top and lock everything.
3. Learn to squat properly. use these videos
Note: this describes a low bar (aka powerlifting style) squat, which SL calls for. It is generally safer than a high bar squat and offers better leverage, allowing you to lift more.
- Tighten-upper back.
- Make sure the bar is evenly spaced across your back.
- Hands should be in line with forearms and NOT supporting the bar (i.e. keep thumbs over the bar).
- Lift chest up and forward and keep it there (don’t let it fall).
- Keep shoulders back and down.
- Keep elbows down.
- Head neutral.
- Keep bar low on back.
- Wide foot stance.
- Keep knees out!
- Keep weight on HEELS and mid foot (curl toes if necessary to prevent putting weight on balls of feet).
- Always keep your back neutral or slightly curved (but NEVER rounded).
- At the bottom of your squat, drive up with your ass! (Imagine a chain from the ceiling pulling lower back straight up).
- Try to raise chest at same time (i.e. do not turn the lift into a good-morning).
- Squeeze dat ass at the top.
4. Learn to bench press properly. use these videos
Note: 95% of the bros in my gym don’t bench like this and I don’t understand why. The trainers in my gym call it the « powerlifting style » bench but I can’t see how any other style would be beneficial.
- Forearms perpendicular to the floor when bar touches your chest.
- Put the bar in your palm, close to your wrist (NOT close to fingers).
- Tight upper-back.
- Eyes directly under bar (when the bar is racked).
- Chest up and big arch in back, but keeping ass on bench.
- Weight should be on the traps.
- Feet as far back as possible.
- Knees should be lower than hips.
- Keep legs tight.
- Squeeze the bar (helped me a lot!).
- Press in a straight line with elbows close to ribs (flaring is easier but will lead to injuries in the long-run).
- Imagine breaking bar in half towards your feet.
5. Learn to row properly. use this video
- Row from the floor every time.
- Keep bar very close to legs before pulling.
- Grip the bar like you bench press (i.e. squeeze it).
- Pull with your elbows.
- Row against your chest.
- Keep upper back parallel with floor.
- Open your chest at top of movement (squeeze shoulder blades for a second).
- Keep your head down (take this time to look for cracks in the floor from all the weight you’ve been throwing around).
6. Don’t add weight too quickly.
The programme will seem easy at the start but the whole point is to perfect the form for each lift at a lower weight so you don’t injure yourself at a higher one. Resist the temptation.
EDIT: To clarify, of course add weight every workout. But stick to the programme increments (2.5kg for everything except deadlift). If you’ve lifted before (and your form is great), you can start at 50% of your 5RM, but the increments should be the same as for beginners.
7. With that said, progress properly.
- Never lower weight DURING a workout, even if you only get 5/5/4/2/1 reps.
- But do not increase the weight for the next workout if that happens (aim for 5 x 5 on same weight).
- If you don’t achieve 5×5 for a certain weight 3 times in a row then deload weight by 10%.
- If you have to deload 2x on a lift, switch to SL 3×5.
- If you have to deload 2x on a lift during 3×5, switch to SL 1×5.
- If you have to deload 2x on a lift during 1×5, you’re finished StrongLifts!
8. Warm-up properly.
Mehdi advocates SOLELY warming up with the lift itself but this is the one and only thing I disagree with about the whole programme. Learn to foam roll and do the Limber 11 before every workout.
Then move on to warming up with the lifts.
EDIT: A lot of people are concerned about this point. I am not advocating static stretching (which has in fact been proven to reduce strength if done before training). The Limber 11 utilizes dynamic stretches which are very different.
9. Don’t accessorize too early.
If you’re going to add accessories, don’t do it too early or you risk not being recovered in time for the next session. You’re doing this programme for a reason – strength. I must confess I started adding dips/bicep charles in the last few weeks but only because most of my lifts were down to 1×5 so my workouts were short and my volume low.
10. Accessorize the right way.
If you do decide to add accessories anyway, here is what the original SL guide recommended:
Workout A Squat 5×5 Bench Press 5×5 Barbell Row 5×5 Dips 3xF
Workout B Squat 5×5 Overhead Press 5×5 Deadlift 1×5 Pull-ups/Chinups 3xF (alternate between both types)
11. Do these 5 stretches on your off days.
12. Don’t be shy.
If you get unusually sore (DOMS is NOT unusual), try mobility work and stretching but most importantly – ask here (a video of your form is 1000 times better than trying to describe your problem in words). Or even better – get it looked at by a professional! My upper arm started to hurt a lot during squats. As an arrogant, overly-confident med student, I diagnosed it myself as bicep tendonitis. Turns out it was a rotator cuff issue, and I should have been icing in a different place all along. This Fittit thread helped immensely, as did changing grip, like in this video.