You’ve taken the deloads, dropped 10% and built back up multiple times, but your lifts still aren’t improving. Looks like it’s time to move on from stronglifts 5×5. This article explains why 5×5 has stopped working, gives you 2 possible programme options to do after 5×5, and suggests exactly what I would do if I was coaching you.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Why Has Stronglifts 5×5 Stopped Working?
Assuming that you’re eating plenty, sleeping plenty and staying hydrated, stronglifts 5×5 stops working due to one main reason…
Violation of the SRA (Stress, Recovery, Adaptation) cycle.
In other words, stronglifts 5×5 is either not providing you enough stress in order to actually cause adaptation and/or it’s not allowing you enough recovery in between application of those stressors.
Not enough stress: Over time your body adapts to any given stimulus. Performing 5 sets of 5 reps over and over again will eventually lead to adaptive resistance. Your body is essentially so adapted to that specific stimulus that no further progress can be made.
Not enough recovery: Performing 5×5 squats 3 times per week might be okay when you’re a beginner, because you’re only lifting relatively light weights. Now that you’ve gotten stronger, though, your workouts cause much more damage to your body and take longer to recover from.
Is StrongLifts Bad?
Not at all, it’s a decent programme and you’ve probably gotten decent results from it. But nothing works forever. As you become a better, stronger lifter your programming has to adapt with you.
When Should I Stop Doing Stronglifts?
Put simply, when you can no longer add weight to the bar every workout, and you’ve already de-loaded 2 or more times.
At this point, it’s very unlikely you’re going to get anything else out of the programme. There’s no magic gainz fairy that’s going to come and magically make your body respond differently to the exact same stimulus it’s already resistant to. So you need to change things up.
Possible Programme Options After Stronglifts 5×5
Alright, so you know that stronglifts 5×5 isn’t working anymore, but what should you actually move onto next?
Option 1: Bodybuilding/Hypertrophy style training
This works because it changes the stimulus to create new adaptation. If you’re used to doing 5 sets of 5, then doing 3 sets of 10 is suddenly a completely different challenge for your body.
Another benefit of this approach is that you’ll be building muscle, and since muscle size contributes to more than 50% of a muscles’ strength, you’ll be building the foundation for huge increases in strength in the future.
A classic, proven approach is 4x per week training using an Upper/Lower Body Split.
*Choose this option if you want to do something different after stronglifts 5×5, adding some muscle size and keeping your training fresh.
Option 2: The Texas Method
This works because it allows more recovery time between workouts, and introduces a heavier day for some slight variation in stimulus. It looks like this…
Monday: Volume Day – 5×5.
Wednesday: Light Day – 2×5 at 80% of Monday’s weights
Friday: 5 rep max
The light days provides more time for recovery, whilst allowing you to work on technique.
I have to say that overall I’m a big fan of the texas method, and I’ve used it with plenty of athletes to add a tonne of weight to their lifts.
*Choose this option if you want to stick closely to 5×5, but want to push for rep maxes at higher intensities each week
Option 3: Madcow 5×5
Another really simple option that sort of combines that classic 5×5 with some principles of the texas method.
Monday: 5×5 Ramped (Ascending) sets
Wednesday: 2×5 @ 80% of Monday’s weights
Friday: 4×5 ramped plus a heavy triple top set
**Choose this option if you want to stick as closely to 5×5 as possible with just enough variation to allow for continued progress.
What Programme Would I Suggest After Stronglifts 5×5?
Honestly, all of the above programmes are great options, and you’ll do fine with any of them. Personally, though, I’ve had the best success with my lifters by using a programme that combines these approaches to provide the best of both worlds.
The Character Strength ‘Jacked Up Texas Method’
Monday: Squat 4×6, Deadlift 3×6, Split Squats 2×10 each side, Back extensions 3×10.
Tuesday: Bench Press 4×6, Pendlay Row 4×6, DB Lateral Raises 3×10, DB Rear Delt Flyes 3×10, Tricep Exercise of Choice 3×10, Bicep Exercise of Choice 3×10.
Thursday: Squat 6 rep max, Deadlift 6 rep max, Core work.
Friday: Bench Press 6 rep max, Pendlay row 6 rep max. Optional 1-2 sets of rear/side delt work, optional 1-2 sets of tricep/bicep work.
The reason I love this programme is that it provides a texas method structure for weekly strength progression, but with a slightly new rep scheme to challenge your body. It also provides just enough bodybuilding work to pack on some extra muscle, fill out your shirts, and build the foundation for future strength progress.
That’s it for today, you’ve got a selection of solid options that you can use after stronglifts 5×5 to continue making progress in the gym. If you’ve got any questions, feel free to reach out to me by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘Til Next Time
MSc Strength & Conditioning
British Weightlifting Tutor/Educator
Alex has provided Strength & Conditioning support to Leeds University, City of Leeds Swimming Club Talent Pathways, and Rebound Gymnastics Elite Squads.