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Is Stronglifts 5x5 a Scam?

Updated on May 3, 2013

Who was Bill Starr?

Stronglifts 5x5 program is a descendant of a program originally developed by Bill Starr. Bill is an ex Olympic wieght lifter who went on to become strength and conditioning coach for teams such as the Houston Oilers and the Baltimore colts, as well as for the Universities of Hawaii and Maryland.

He joined the Colts in 1970 and is widely acknowledge as one of the first strength and conditioning coaches in Pro Football. Bill is widely respected in the Bodybuilding community and is considered as one of the pioneers of modern bodybuilding. He still around today and has written for many magazines, currently he writes for Iron Man magazine.

He is the author of The Strongest Shall Survive: Strength Training for Football - A book widley acclaimed as one of the greatest strength and conditioning books ever written for those looking to start strength training..

Bill developed a 5x5 program was so effective, some argue perfect for beginners that it has been copied and adapted by many (including by Why copy and adapt it I hear you ask? There are a number of reasons, mainly commercial but some technical too but they are beyond the scope of this hub. I may write a future hub about Bill's 5x5 but for now I hope it gives you an idea of what stronglifts 5x5 is.

Bill Starr's Book - possibly the best strength training book for beginners

What is stronglifts 5x5 strength training?

The short version is that it is 12 week exercise routine that is carried out typically every other day starting on Monday (Mon, Wed, Fri). There are two workouts, Workout A and B which are to be done on those alternate days. So Week 1 you would do Workout A on Monday, Workout B on Wednesday and Workout A again on Friday. Then on Week 2 you would start with Workout B on Monday, A on Wednesday and back to A on Friday. Week 3 you would start with workout A and so on...

Each day, you do 3 compound exercises in sets of 5, with 5 reps in each set (hence the name 5x5) and you are supposed to increase the weight between workouts (not between sets) by 2.5kg. All exercise are to be performed with a 20kg Olympic Bar.

If you do it correctly without breaks or deviation you should end up lifting 107.5 kg on Squat, 62.5 Kg on Bench Press. 62.5 Kg on Overhead press, 72.5 Kg on Barbell Row and 125 Kg Deadlift. assuming that you started from 20 kg on all exercises. Now I don't care what anyone says, for a beginner these are great stats.

How much do I have to pay to join?

Nothing at all. If you sign up to you get a tracking spreadsheet and workout routine videos to take you through the routines all for free. The founder will also occasionally send you testimonials and success stories of people who have completed the 12 weeks and who have now moved on to the "inner circle". More about that later.

What equipment do I need to do Stronglifts 5x5?

You have to be a member of a gym that is equipped with Olympic bar bells and a squat rack. Smith machines and dumbells are no substitutes if you want to follow this program, as you will be constantly reminded. That kind of gym membership can be expensive in the long run so you may want to invest in some equipment and go that route The links here are to the kind of equipment that I am talking about.

It might seem quite expensive, but if you are serious about it, you will save money in the long run as you will save on Gym membership and never have to wait to use it because there is someone using it before you at the gym. You can also look at ebay or craiglist and pick up these from there. Always check the safety instructions and seek advice if you are not sure how to use this equipment. Failure to do so could cause serious injury. I added a chinup bar to my routine to improve my upper body strength but that's just something that I wanted to do.

Eliott Hulse on Stronglifts 5x5

Does Stronglifts 5x5 work?

Frequently google is the phrase "Is Stronglifts 5x5 good". Having done I would say yes it does work for beginners. I found myself slowly getting stronger as I moved from week to week. My friends said that my progress was slow compared to the routines that they were doing but I found that this was simple to follow and in the beginning it didn't leave me feeling overwhelmed or dreading the next session. As the weights increased, the workout got hard and took longer as I needed more rest between sets.

Having said that, I didn't hit the 12 week targets. I found that as the weights got heavier, I began to stall. Luckily the program has a solution for this and it shows you how to lift slightly less and build up to the weight that you are stalling at. For me it took about 18 weeks in total but still I think for a novice it is a great program.

On criticism that I have is that the although the program has videos and advice, I found that I had to look elsewhere to get my technique right as I just could not get it. Maybe this was specific to me because there are lots of people out there that seem not to have this problem. I used Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe.

Essential book on proper form when lifting weight

what is inner circle?

Stronglifts inner circle is a closed community forum that is built off stronglifts, which is open to new members periodically. When I say opened, I mean that you have to pay to join. The emails that you get before you sign up are kind of a marketing ploy to get you to sign up to stronglifts and contain many testimonials and advice from inner circle members.

The implied benefit of the inner circle is that it is some elite community who have completed Stronglifts 5x5 and are ready to help you build the perfect body. You get access to exclusive videos, audio material and advice forums that are closed to non members. By calling it the inner circle, you somehow feel that you are outside missing all the goodness which I think is a great marketing strategy.

Poll - I want to see how popular 5x5 is

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So why do people say is a scam?

Another frequently googled phrase is "Is stronglifts 5x5 legit?". Again, having done it. My answer would be yes is legit and no is not a scam. I say this because although I get a lot of emails inviting me to join the inner circle, there is no obligation to join. The founder of stronglifts gives you 12 weeks worth of planning as well as countless videos and emails on how to get started and how to complete the program all for free.

Yes you have to pay to join the inner cirlce, but that is your choice and you have 12 weeks to try out the program for free in order to decide. Nobody forces you to buy anything and for the record, I did not join the inner circle and I will not join any time soon. I personally think that there is a wealth of advise out there, especially from the likes of Elliot Hulse (the guy in the video above). This advice is free and widely available so I see no need to join the inner circle.

From what I gather, the inner circle used to be free and now you have to pay to join. Also, I think that the original inner circle members had to pay to join even though they were already in the inner circle. As you can imagine this upset people and rumours of a scam started.

To conclude

I have no affiliation with I do not intend to ever pay for any services offered on this site, but that does not mean it is a scam. There are hundreds of youtube videos made by inner circle members that you can view by clicking here. These guys are lifting more than me and are paying to stay in the inner circle.

If you are a beginner, I would say try the program. Nobody will force you to buy anything and you can always move on to something else if you do not like it.

I hope this helps someone, please leave feedback below and also check out my other Articles.

If you would like to read more about 5x5 Workout and how to gain strength through it, check out this hub by dwelburn

Think you have an idea for an hub article and want to earn money writing online? Click here to join hubpages today


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Holy cow. I need a child to try this out on *right*now*. Such cool stuff, and I can hardly wait to play with the suigtsegons. Oh, why must I work today?!?!Again, thanks for sharing these very helpful insights. It really is quite generous of you. Cheers,msn[]

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      A million thanks for posting this innafmotior.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I am in complete and utter love with your blog! I just sbmtuled upon it while researching Easy as Pie looking for some business help. I work full time as a radiologic technologist at the local hospital. I do photography on the side and love every second of it, but want to make sure I am doing it right the first time! Thank you so much for pouring your heart into these posts! They are incredible! []

    • BeBrown profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Yes, I think so too though I wouldn't pay for it. Got an email from them today offering a 30 day free trial. If it was a scam then they would not offer that.

    • soconfident profile image

      Derrick Bennett 

      6 years ago

      I don't believe its a scam it seem legit to me

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Stronglifts is for gaining muscle for a beginner. People saying it's a scam probably not checked it out properly.

    • BeBrown profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thanks dwelburn, yes 5x5 because punishing as the weight goes up but as you say reduce it to 3x5 and continue.

    • dwelburn profile image


      6 years ago from Birmingham, UK

      Good hub. Yes Stronglifts is a great program and he gives a huge amount of free information. Those who want to join the Inner Circle can do so, but you don't need to. To maintain progress reduce the number of top weight sets from 5 to 3, as 5 will become too much after a while.

    • BeBrown profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thank you for the comment, you've actually said a few things that I left out because the article was getting too long. Bottom line is he gives away videos, apps and advice for free, which is more than enough to get started. The gaps that are there can be filled in by books, YouTube, blogs etc so there is no need to pay. If you do choose to join then I guess you get specific advice from people following the same structured program.

    • TahoeDoc profile image


      6 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

      Just started SL 5x5 and as a beginner, I do like it. I feel like I am getting stronger and like this as an intro to free weights and barbell lifts. Women can really benefit from lifting but many of us are quite intimidated or afraid to enter the "man zone" of free-weights in the gym, especially if we don't feel like we know what we are doing. This program is a great way to get started and gain confidence as well as strength.

      I agree that Starting Strength is the best source for form and descriptions of the exercises. There's something about having the kinetics and physiology describe and illustrated that makes it stick, at least for me.

      Anyway, good hub. There's nothing magical about strong lifts, and therefore no 'scam'. You lift heavy things, then you get stronger. This just gives you a structured way to go about it. I get emails from SL, but don't have to buy anything. I find the iPhone app (free) to be great, quick and easy to use at the gym for tracking progress.


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