Exercise is part of the “getting healthy” equation that I have struggled with for many years. Now that I have my diet (way of eating) under control, thanks to Dr. McDougall and I am happy with my weight, it was time to gain strength and build muscle. After the loss of my gym partner to a heart attack in August, 2012 I was unsure how to proceed at the gym. Like many others, I was doing a split routine, working different body parts during the week. Then I found Mehdi and Stronglifts 5×5.

I thought it was too good to be true, I read through the web site and honestly thought Mehdi was feeding me bullshit. The testimonials were surprising and it got me more curious. I started reading more about Stronglifts and ordered the free guide to the 5X5, 12 week program. This was the first time I was excited to have direction when going to the gym. Granted, it took some time to correct form and gain confidence doing a new routine, but Stronglifts 5×5 has lived up to its hype.

As I read through the material and applied what I was learning that the gym, I searched out You Tube videos of Mehdi, other Stronglifts users and the advice of Mark Rippetoe, author of Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training. Following an email I received from Mehdi, I decided to join the Stronglifts Inner Circle, which is a group of like-minded weight lifters, who offered support and advice to help someone like me, a novice when it came to real weight training. After a 30 day waiting period I had the chance to join and jumped at it. This allowed me access to “insider information” and access to the support forums, which has been invaluable.

As I mentioned in the beginning, I have been very impressed with the progress I have made after 12 weeks of weight lifting. My gains probably would have been more noteworthy if I did not miss a 4 week period starting the end of December in order to take care of my wife and her recovery from back surgery. Still the great part of Stronglifts is you can jump back in and either start where you left off or, as I have found out the hard way, deload and work back up to the weight you left at.

sl5x5_12wk_resultsStronglifts is centered around 5 lifts; squat, bench press, barbell rows, overhead press and deadlift. These lifts have been tracked since I started the program on October 22, 2012. For practical purposes, Stronglifts is based around the squat, where you load up a barbell, move the hips back and bend the knees until your quadriceps are parallel to the ground. Looking back to the start of the program I set some pretty lofty goals. To be honest, even if I didn’t miss any time during the 12 weeks, I don’t believe I would have hit most of them in this time frame.

Goal Weight: 220 lbs (100 kg)

Start Weight: 45 lbs
End Weight: 165 lbs
Total Gain: +120 lbs
Personal Record: 200 lbs

Bench Press
Goal Weight: 135 lbs (61 kg
Start Weight: 45 lbs
End Weight: 135 lbs
Total Gain: +90 lbs
Personal Record: 165 lbs

Overhead Press
Goal Weight: 135 lbs (61 kg)
Start Weight: 45 lbs
End Weight: 85 lbs
Total Gain: +40 lbs
Personal Record: 90 lbs

Barbell Row
Goal Weight: 150 lbs (68 kg)

Start Weight: 65 lbs
End Weight: 95 lbs
Total Gain: +30 lbs
Personal Record: 110 lbs

Goal Weight: 300 lbs (136 kg)
Start Weight: 90 lbs
End Weight: 180 lbs
Total Gain: +90 lbs
Personal Record: 225 lbs

Over the course of 12 weeks I added 370 lbs to all my lifts, an obvious indicator that my strength was increasing on a regular basis, something I did not experience while doing a split routine. The only goal I attained was that of the bench press at 135 lbs mainly because I continually added 5 lbs. each time I benched and I didn’t have to deload (take weight off). All the other lifts were impacted by the time off I took as I would end up spending 2 weeks getting back to the weight totals I was at prior to stopping my program.

Looking at my goals and assessing how I was lifting the only other lifts that might have been close to achieving inside of 12 weeks would have been my squat and deadlift. By far, these two lifts are my strongest. Even at 8 weeks into the program my squat was at 150 lbs, some 70 lbs short of my goal. As for the deadlift there was no deloading, adding 10 lbs each time I did the lift. I was at 190 lbs prior to my 4 week hiatus, figuring I would added 60-80 pounds over the next 4 weeks I still would have come up a bit short.

Still, weight lifting is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. What I have achieved is a strong base from which to build. I have gains loads of confidence when I walk in the gym. I have a purpose when I arrive and a free weight routine I follow each and every time. Looking in the mirror I am starting to notice some definition of muscles in my arms, back and chest.

Where do I go from here? Now that I have finished the 12 week program I have continued working on my goals I set back in October. I am going to re-evaluate them and push my self towards 1 year goals, which may or may not be similar to my 12 week goals. I already foresee the problems I will have as weight increases along with stalls and deloads. One thing I won’t do is give up or give in. I have made wonderful progress because of Stronglifts and enjoy the time spent lifting heavy weights.

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