StrongLifts Versus Starting Strength: Which Routine is Better for Beginners?

person lifting barbell

If you’re looking for a good lifting program for beginners, then you can’t go wrong with either StrongLifts or Starting Strength.

In this article, we’ll discuss the similarities and differences between the two routines and determine which is best for you. 

Similarities Between SL and SS: What are the Benefits?

Full-body workout: All the exercises are compound movements, meaning they workout your ENTIRE body, not just one muscle group. This means you can do less exercises, spend less time in the gym, and still get great results.

Master form: All the exercises are done with a barbell and require you to start at a low weight. This allows you to master your form before you progress to higher weights.

Become stronger: Hitting 5 reps on an exercise means you increase the weight by 5 lbs the next time. This is called progressive overload and is the fastest way to increase your strength.

Differences Between SL and SS 

Number of sets: StrongLifts requires you to do 5 sets of 5 reps for each exercise, while Starting Strength only requires you to do 3 sets of 5 reps.

Number of phases: The Starting Strength routine has 3 different phases, which means 3 different routines. You start at phase 1, progress to phase 2, and ultimately end up at phase 3. StrongLifts is just one routine the entire way through, making it the simpler choice.

Cleans versus rows: Starting Strength makes you do power cleans, while StrongLifts makes you do rows. Rows are an easier exercise to learn.

Disadvantages of SL and SS 

StrongLifts: 5×5 can be too much volume for beginners. I remember when I was doing StrongLifts, my legs were always sore. I was constantly dealing with DOMS and one day of rest usually wasn’t enough. As a result, I felt burnt out and was more likely to plateau on my lifts.

Starting Strength: Power cleans are an advanced exercise. If it takes years to perfect your squat, I can’t even imagine how long it would take to master the clean.

So Which Routine Should I Pick Then?

I recommend starting with StrongLifts. 

Once you start plateuing on your lifts, switch to 3×5.

This allows you to keep your workouts simple without causing you to burn out.

Because you won’t be plateauing on your lifts as much, you’ll be able to increase your strength at an efficient rate. Strength results in muscle, meaning if you stick with the program, you’ll become strong AND jacked. 

So stop reading this, and get your butt to the gym!

I’ll see you there.

Darren Li


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