Quitting Sport to Lift: Why StrongLifts 5×5 isn’t Compatible with Sports

The more I lift, the more I think about quitting sport.

Especially when you’re running a beginners program like StrongLifts, which requires you to squat heavy 3x a week.

Or playing a sport like hockey, which causes tremendous stress to your lower-body.

Your legs feel like jello on rest days. You can hardly move.

You really want to play sport or make it to the gym.

But you can’t.

You’re mentally and physically fatigued.

So what can you do?

I’ve thought about this long and hard, and this is what I’ve come up with:

1. Only lift 2x a week

Not really optimal if you want to gain strength and build muscle. This has to be done sometimes though, because hockey can make me sore for days.

2. Choose a different routine that requires you to workout legs only once a week

Not really optimal if you’re a beginner. Beginners should stick to simple routines like StrongLifts and Starting Strength, which focus on compound movements.

3. Stick with StrongLifts, but replace squats and deadlifts with upper-body exercises on the days your legs are too sore.

So this is what workout A could like:

Bench: 5×5

Pendlay rows: 5×5

Dips: 3×8

Close-grip bench: 3×8

Seated rows: 3×8

And this is what workout B could look like:

OHP: 5×5

Chin-ups: 3×8

Lat-pulldown: 3×8

Bicep curls: 3×8

Front raises: 3×8

By replacing the squat and deadlift with upper-body exercises, you’ll be giving your legs a rest.

Your squat and deadlift will take longer to progress, but at least you’ll be able to play your favourite sport without having your legs constantly feeling like jello.

Plus, your arms will get larger compared to if you just followed the program as it was written. After all, you’re doing more upper-body exercises.

So if you want to keep playing sport, while also building strength and muscle as a beginner, then a modified StrongLifts routine is the way to go.

If you’re not a rookie lifter anymore, then I’d suggest going with a split, where you’re only working legs once a week. This will make it even easier for you to balance gym and sport.

At the end of the day, it’s possible to lift and still play sport. You just have to accept the fact that you’re probably not going to be squatting heavy 3x a week.


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