I’ve been wanting to start lifting and StrongLifts 5×5 looked like a simple and effective way to get back into it (not to mention there is a seriously awesome app to keep track of it, it even has android wear integration!). I did lifting back in high school and some in college but that was 6 kids ago; and while my quads still look pretty awesome (if I say so myself, which I do) it’s time to take the next step. My brother advocated “renting” the equipment via a gym membership before outright buying so I decided to try that.
So I made an appointment at two local gyms to see what they offer. Lifetime was pretty much a country club with a price to match ($69 a person, $169 for 3+ “adults” over 13 years old, kids under 13 are $10). It was a really nice place with several hundred treadmills, indoor and outdoor pools and other amenities. VASA was more spartan with less available but again, a price to match ($10-25 a month). Both of the gyms are targeting people who want to do classes, who want to do cardio, who want to use weight machines with pulleys and cables. Both are sub-optimal for StrongLifts 5×5 because their free weight offerings frankly sucked.
StrongLifts 5×5 is pretty basic: you alternate 5 different lifting exercises 3 times a week: Squat, Bench Press, Barbell Row, Overhead Press, and Deadlift. Each is 5 sets of 5 reps (hence 5×5 – except dead lifts which is 1×5), Squats is done each time or it would be 6 exercises. It ends up being really simple and doesn’t require a lot of equipment. Mostly you just need weights, a bench and a way to lift safely – that involves a squatting rack/power rack which is also used for bench press. If you have a full cage power rack you can do the whole thing without a spotter, on your own terms and schedule, so going to the gyms I was looking primarily at how many power racks they had. Lifetime had two fully enclosed free weight racks and four power lifting open cages – mostly for deadlift though you could easily use them for squatting. VASA had 3 full cages. Neither had a bench you could pull over to use in the cages so you would need a spotter for bench press. I was able to locate a roaming bar to use for barbell row/deadlift/overhead press at Lifetime but not at VASA. Neither were terribly accommodating to StrongLifts or free weights in general. At least they don’t have the moronic PlanetFitness “lunk alarm” used to actively discourage serious body building. I actually did a full SL5x5 session of lifting at LifeTime and I pretty much hated the entire experience. Waiting for a rack, waiting for a bench, searching for a bar, no bueno man. Add to that at the beginning of SL5x5 you’re just lifting a naked bar without plates; I felt silly at the gym.
So I came home and was at least grateful that I just did it as a trial run without actually signing anything. I decided half way through my first set of squats that I was going to clean up the basement and buy my own equipment. There was a really helpful post on reddit that pointed me over to the Titan T2 Power rack which I had previously seen on the SL5x5 site. On a side note: Titan has a 10% off code good until April 30, 2016 “REFUND10” – they also do free shipping which is crazy for how heavy the stuff is they are shipping. So I ordered the T2 then found a guy on craigslist that buys inventory from gyms and got some used plates, a bench and a bar. The guy gave my kids some mis-matched 1 lb hand weights because my youngest kept asking what he could buy with the $3 in his wallet. Nice guy.
Anyhow, I have a place set up in the basement and the power rack should be arriving Friday, which is pretty awesome for free shipping from Tennessee ordered Monday night. I’m looking forward to posting updates (and not being able to walk every other day).