A Little 5×5 Mistake That Can Retard Your Gains

One common mistake I see guys doing on StrongLifts 5×5 is getting caught up with the sets and reps. Some think that reaching 5 reps on all 5 sets is more important than lifting a heavier weight than their last workout.

Example: you achieved 5 sets of 5 reps with 135lbs on the Bench, but because it was challenging, you decide to stick with the same weight next workout. Or worse: you increase your work weight by 5lbs, but since you struggle to get 5 reps on all sets, you go back to your previous work weight during that workout.

This is wrong, wrong, wrong.

The worst part is that in the first example you actually achieved 5×5, but decide to stick with the weight because it was challenging. How do you expect to get stronger if you avoid heavier weights? And how do you even know, with 100% certainty, that you won’t succeed next time? It’s not the end of the world if you do this once, but it does build bad habits and delays muscle and strength gains.

Frankly, after analyzing thousands of training logs and coaching hundreds of guys, I can only think of 3 reasons why you’d make this 5×5 mistake:

  • Insecurity – you think you won’t succeed with 5lbs more
  • Technique – your technique wasn’t top notch
  • Fear – you’re afraid of stalling

You really don’t know if you’ll make it until you get under the bar. Experienced SL Members will tell you that the next workout with 5lbs more often turns out easier than the last one. This may surprise you but it’s actually quite common.

In fact, this is why I often tell my private clients to increase the weight even though they didn’t get 5 reps on each set their last workout. I know, from experience, that they’ll get it the next time and I’m almost always right.

Technique you should fix with the heavier weights. And if it really, really gets messy, then lower the weight by 20% and progress from there.


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