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    Rippetoe's Starting Strength FAQ

    Notes

    It seems strange that there is a Starting Strength FAQ stickied in the Teen Bodybuilding section of the forums but not one here where more people are likely to find & benefit from it. After all, many people seem not to utilize the search function.

    Thanks to Farley1324 for writing this version. I have taken the liberty of integrating the links into the text & adding a few extra links. If you want to rep anyone, then rep him.

    A link to his current thread where you may find useful questions & answers - ***Rippetoe's Starting Strength (and other Ripp novice programs) FAQ***

    Even if you choose not to follow this program, I strongly recommend anyone who is serious about their lifting should purchase & read the book, Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training.

    There are many beginner programs out there each with their own strengths & weakness. I suggest you fully read over this FAQ as well as those on the other beginner programs before deciding which routine is best suited to your needs.


    Farley1324's Post

    Continued/revised from previous thread, seen here: ***Rippetoe's Starting Strength FAQ***

    Please read all 3 opening posts before making a reply or asking a question.

    What is it?
    Starting Strength (SS) is a novice lifting routine written by Mark Rippetoe.

    It is also a book called Starting Strength, Basic Barbell Training (SS:BBT). It was written by Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore. There are three editions of the book. (get the 3rd)

    The routine is mentioned in the book, however, the book's primary purpose is to instruct the reader in the basic barbell lifts as well as some common accessory movements. It goes into great detail when explaining not only how to properly perform the lifts but also why they should be performed that way, common mistakes and methods for avoiding and even correcting these mistakes. For this reason I highly recommend the book as a primer to training with a heavy barbell even if you have no intention of ever running the program.

    From the Aasgaard Company. They are the publisher and a seller.

    Mark Rippetoe on Amazon.

    Note: Other than SS:BBT there is one other book I universally recommend to just about everybody, beginner or not it does not matter...and that is Bill Starr's The Strongest Shall Survive.


    Who is it designed for?
    Starting Strength is best suited for novice trainees who are primarily interested in strength/performance. The "ideal" trainee is a skinny male teenager who wants to get bigger and stronger, especially for athletic purpose. However, it can and does work very well for ANY novice who wants to get stronger. This could be a brand new lifter, somebody who has been 'going to the gym' for years but never followed a solid routine, an iron veteran returning from a lengthy layoff, etc.

    Notice I said novice, not beginner. There is a difference. A novice is capable of progressing on a session-to-session basis. Being a novice is not a bad thing, it means you can progress more rapidly than anybody else. Relish the "noob gains" while you can, because if you stick with it making progress will eventually become far more difficult.

    A Clarification by Mark Rippetoe

    Some common questions:

    Can I also build muscle and gain size while on Starting Strength?
    Yes, you can. If you follow the program properly, while gaining bodyweight, you will gain muscle and size. However, SS is a strength routine, if you are primarily after looks and not strength or performance you may want to venture into the Workout Programs section and look for All Pro's simple beginner's routine. It is currently in a sticky at the top of the forum.

    AllPro: A Simple Beginner's Routine part IIII

    How long should I follow SS?
    For as long as you can keep up with the progression.


    How do I verify correct form?
    Unfortunately, few personal trainers will be of any help. The same can be said regarding your fellow gym goers. Very few people perform these lifts correctly, and relatively few people even attempt squats, let alone power cleans.

    Your best bet is to take a video, upload it (YouTube works well) and post it on bb.com for feedback. If you are following SS it would be acceptable to post it in this thread. It is always acceptable to start your own thread in a forum, such as the workout programs or exercises section.


    What about diet?
    This depends on your current condition and individual goals. SS is generally best run on a calorie surplus/bulk. I think a minimum protein intake is 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass per day, though some people go for 1 gram per pound of total bodyweight as a minimum. For a bulk (calorie surplus where you gain bodyweight) you should aim for gaining at least 1/2 pound of bodyweight per week. For an underweight novice on SS Mr. Rippetoe will suggest an even higher rate of gain than this, at least initially. There is a nutrition sub forum here on bb.com, I suggest browsing around in there at some point, but the most important factors to watch are number of calories above/below maintenance and protein.

    Do not rely solely on running the numbers using online metabolic rate calculators and estimates of intake. You can get a baseline that way but the true test is looking in the mirror and standing on the scale. The most consistent time to take a measurement is first thing in the morning. Your body weight can and often does fluctuate by several pounds or more throughout the day. Track it over time and look at it on a weekly and monthly basis.

    A Useful link to a Free Calorie Counter & Weight-Loss Journal.

    Calculating Calories and Macronutrients

    Do not forget to sleep!
    Sleep is very important. The big three are diet, routine and rest. 6 hours of sleep per day will hold you back.

    Here are some routines.

    They are listed as sets x reps. Thus 3x5 is 3 sets of 5 reps. 1x5 is 1 set of 5 reps. 5x3 is 5 sets of 3 reps.

    A repetition, or rep, is performing the movement one time. A set is performing a series of consecutive reps without putting the bar down.

    You will always do a warmup. More on that later.

    The original/classic Starting Strength

    Workout A
    Squat 3x5
    Bench 3x5
    Deadlift 1x5

    Workout B
    Squat 3x5
    Press 3x5
    Power Clean 5x3

    Training days are 3 per week on non consecutive days.

    No, you cannot skip the 'weekend' and fit 7 workouts into a two week period instead of 6.

    The current Starting Strength program, 3rd edition

    Workout A
    3x5 Squat
    3x5 Press
    1x5 Deadlift/5x3 Power Clean (alternating)

    Workout B
    3x5 Squat
    3x5 Bench Press
    3x10 Back Extension
    3xFailure(15 max)* Chin-ups/Pull-ups (alternating)

    Training days are 3 per week on non consecutive days. People commonly use Mon/Wed/Fri, but that is arbitrary. Any 3 days per week with at least one day in between training sessions.

    No, you cannot skip the 'weekend' and fit 7 workouts into a two week period instead of 6.

    Alternating means that the first time you do workout A, you deadlift. The next time you do workout A, you power clean. And so on and so forth. You still follow the back and forth pattern of doing A, then B, then A, then B, etc, and you still do this 3 times per week without lifting on consecutive days.

    Example:

    One week: Monday = workout A (w/deadlift). Wednesday = workout B (with chinups). Friday = workout A (with power cleans)
    The next week: Monday = workout B (with pullups). Wednesday = workout A (with deadlift). Friday = Workout B (with chinups)
    Repeat

    *For chinups and pullups you use bodyweight (no weight added), and do three sets of as many as possible, up to 15. If you can do three sets with 15 reps on every set, start adding weight. A "dip belt" is good for this, or you can simply hold small/medium size dumbells between your ankles or knees. If you are unable to do a few bodyweight chinups/pullups you may do negatives and/or assisted chinups/pullups.

    Practical Programming Advanced Novice

    Week A
    Monday
    3x5 Squat
    3x5 Bench Press
    Chin-ups: 3 sets for reps or add weight if completing more than 15 reps

    Wednesday
    3x5 Squat (lighter weight, use 80% of Monday's) OR 3x3 front squats
    3x5 Press
    1x5 Deadlift

    Friday
    3x5 Squat
    3x5 Bench Press
    Pull-ups: 3 sets

    Week B
    Monday
    3x5 Squat
    3x5 Press
    Chin-ups: 3 sets

    Wednesday
    3x5 Squat (lighter weight, use 80% of Monday's) OR 3x3 front squats
    3x5 Bench Press
    1x5 Deadlift

    Friday
    3x5 Squat
    3x5 Press
    Pull-ups: 3 sets for reps or add weight if completing more than 15 reps

    ^^^This one is a little bit more advanced than Starting Strength. You can tell this because 3x5 squats are only done at full weight 2 times per week instead of 3. If you are on a cut, an older trainee, or maybe aren't a total novice and don't think you can keep up with squatting heavy, adding weight every time, 3x per week, consider the Advance Novice program. Personal note: When I ran this program, I did power cleans on either Mon or Fri, so that I did deadlifts, chinups, and power cleans each one time per week.

    The Onus Wunsler
    Workout A
    3x5 Squat
    3x5 Press
    1x5 Deadlift / 5x3 Power Cleans (alternate every other A session)

    Workout B
    3x5 Squat
    3x5 Bench Press
    3x10 or 5x10 Back Extensions
    Chin-Ups: 3 sets
    Last edited by rossmcd87; 12-02-2013 at 10:12 AM.
    Maximum Lifts

    Squat = 154lbs 5RM (ATG) | Goal = 176lbs 5RM
    Deadlift = 253lbs 3RM / 275lb 1RM | Goal = 2x BW 5RM (On Hold whilst doing AllPro)
    Bench Press = 110lbs 5RM | Goal = 1x BW 5RM

    "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul." Invictus, William Ernest Henley.
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    What weight do I start with?

    The First Workout
    During the very first workout a general warm-up performed walking on a treadmill is all that is necessary. The first set of squats begins at 45 lbs (an empty barbell) and a set of five is performed. If this is completed easily with the trainee's best form, ten pounds are added to the bar for the next set. If bar speed does not slow and form does not break down, ten more pounds are added to the bar and another set is performed. This process continues until either form begins to falter or the bar speed slows more than the preceding sets, whichever comes first. This is the trainee's starting weight. Once this occurs the trainee rests and performs two more sets at this weight, for a total of three sets of five reps (3x5) at the starting weight. For the squat, a typical starting weight is in the neighborhood of 85 lbs.

    The bench press is the next lift to be performed and the process of adding weight until form breaks down or bar speed slows is repeated. Again, once this weight has been found two additional sets are performed for three sets at the starting weight.

    Starting weight for the deadlift is similar but because it is done for one set, once the starting weight is determined no further deadlift sets are performed. Also, the deadlift must start from a standardized height. If bumper plates are not available to the trainee and a deadlift of 135 lbs is too heavy, other plates may be stacked under the bar to elevate it to the proper height. After the deadlift weight is established the first workout is done and the trainee takes the next day for rest and recovery.

    The Second Workout
    The second workout marks the first step of linear progression. A general warm-up is done (walking on treadmill, rowing machine, play a little basketball, etc) and then the trainee will warm up independently for the squat. After the warm-up, the work sets are then done. Because the squat weight was established during the previous workout, 5 lbs are added to the previous day's working weight, so a trainee who squatted 85 lbs is now squatting 95 lbs.


    Personally they way I describe it to people is that if you know how much weight you can legitimately and positively move for the prescribed worksets already then you should consider starting at a weight that will have you hitting your current ability in the 3rd or 4th week. Do NOT start at your current ability/limit. Start under and work up.


    When do I add weight/how much do I add?
    You add weight every single session. As long as you completed all of the prescribed reps the last time that exercise was performed you add weight the following time. This means you add weight to the squat three times per week on the classic program, for example. Add 10-15 lbs to the deadlift and 5 lbs to everything else. If you do not get every rep (with acceptable form) simply repeat the weight the next time. If you fail to complete all of the reps after 3 attempts remove weight from the bar (known as a reset) and progress over again from there. I typically suggest removing two weeks worth of progress from the bar. So, for a squat where you add 5 pounds 3x per week, you would remove 30 rounds to perform a reset.

    As you progress it will be more and more difficult to add weight and get all of the reps. At some point in your lifting career you will want to microload. The term microloading refers to adding weight in increments of less than 5 pounds. I use chains I made at Home Depot for about $14. With them I can add 1.25, 2.5 or 3.75 lbs at a time. This comes in very handy for the press, especially.

    Microloading Solutions


    How long should I rest between sets?
    You should rest as long as is necessary to get all of the reps. This could be as long as 10 minutes...yes, 10...between sets of heavy squats. Generally for heavy, limit sets your rest will probably fall between 5-8 minutes. Rest as long as necessary to get the reps. As long as you do not cool down, it is not possible to rest too long when training for strength. Please do not ask why you are stalling when you are resting 2 or 3 minutes between sets.


    The Lifts
    One of the best sources for information on how to perform the lifts is the book. It is highly recommended! You may also search Youtube for something like "Mark Rippetoe Squat".

    A Link to: The Starting Strength Wiki

    Describing the lifts is beyond the scope of this post or my writing ability. Use the book, the wiki and youtube to learn them. Use videos of yourself posted/linked here on bb.com to get feedback. If you have a specific and semi intelligent/informed question about a lift, just ask.


    Speaking of lifts, I don't want to do cleans
    And why not?

    If you say "injury risk" I must point out that the deadlift carries the highest risk of injury, mostly due to form deficiencies, and in fact Bill Starr writes "OMIT THE DEADLIFT" as a direct result of this. Not only that, but the bench press is the absolute most dangerous exercise you are likely to perform in a gym setting. People can and do DIE performing the bench press. I strongly recommend you never use a thumbless (aka suicide) grip when benching. Wrap your thumbs around the bar! And read the book, it goes into depth about how to safely bench. And not kill yourself.

    If you say "it's hard to learn" I say "so what?" Some things in life are hard. I am of the opinion that one should learn to power clean when running SS, if for no other reason, than to make yourself learn something that may not be exactly what you want to do. Even if you move on from SS and never do them again I believe you will be a better lifter with more rounded experience for having put the time and effort in. And you just might come to like them.

    If you say "I don't have access to bumper plates" I say "you don't need them".

    A little on where I am coming from...I have never had a coach or trainer for anything. I have only used bumper plates twice, ever. While my power clean form is not very good, they ARE power cleans and I have power cleaned as much as 225 pounds. I have also had to dump the bar a few times. Yes, it was loud. But nothing bad happened, nor should it have. If your gym is very against that then be a little more conservative if you are not sure you will be able to get the rep, and practice catching the bar at your thighs. You can use your thighs to absorb a great deal of the force very easily. Another reason the clean is good to learn from the start, IMO, is that it gets you accustomed to having the bar on your front delts in a clean grip, which comes in handy when you start front squatting later in your lifting career.


    Bill Starr has written that if your routine only allowed for one exercise, the power clean would be best. Bill Starr knows. The power clean can be learned without a coach or experienced trainer. That certainly would make it easier but many, many people have learned to power clean without a coach or trainer by their side. Read the book, read the wiki, look up Mark's videos on youtube, get video and post it here for feedback.

    I am of the opinion that (almost) everybody on SS should do the power clean.

    The Power Clean - The ultimate tutorial to learning it fast!

    Warmups
    You should always warmup before lifting weights. Always. Rippetoe says to start with the empty bar for at least your first set. The idea is to start with an empty bar (where applicable) and ramp the weight up. If the trainee is particular small/weak, an empty 45 pound bar may be too heavy to use as a warmup. It may even be too heavy for a workset! A proper warmup will start light and work up to a weight close to workset. The purpose of warmup sets is to prepare the lifter both physically and mentally for the heavy worksets to come, without being so much that they interfere with the worksets.

    So start light (empty bar at the most) and do a set (or more) of 5 reps. Then add some weight and do another set. When you begin to approach your workset weight reduce the number of reps. No two people are likely to do the exact same warmup. I have pretty well determined how I like to do my warmups. I start with an empty bar. Then I go back and forth between adding 25s and 45s until I get close. The heavier the weight I am using the more wearmup sets I will do.

    For example, personally if I am going to squat 315 I might do:

    45 x 5
    95 x 5
    135 x 5
    185 x 3
    225 x 2
    275 x 1
    315 workset(s)

    If I was to bench or press 135 I might do:

    45 x 5
    95 x 5
    115 x 2
    135 worksets

    If I was to bench 245 I might do:

    45 x 5
    95 x5
    135 x 5
    185 x 3
    225 x 1
    245 workset(s)

    You get the idea. I tend to do a little bit more in the way of warmups if my workset is only one single set of 5 and a little bit less/lighter if I am going to do 3+ sets of 5.

    There is a warmup calculator tool you can download from the Wiki that is not a bad starting point.

    Ripp says to do a full body warmup prior to beginning the first lift as well. A little time on a rowing machine, elliptical, bike or even a treadmill will work. Or you can just ride your back to the gym. You get the idea.


    What about cardio?
    Cardio is good for you. The problem is that working towards multiple goals at one time will necessarily reduce your rate or progress with each one individually. If you want to do cardio...why? If it is to lose weight remember that that is simply calories consumed vs calories burned. As such cardio is not absolutely necessary to cut. If you want to get better at that particular form of cardio or you need a high level of cardiovascular fitness for a sport (basketball, track, football, whatever) you will have to prioritize. For best results with the weights cardio should be avoided or extremely limited during SS.

    If you decide it is worth doing make doubly sure your diet and rest are in order and accept that it probably will interfere with your recovery from the weights (and the weights will interfere with recovery from the cardio!). I have not done much cardio while on SS myself. If I were to do so I would try to only do cardio on "Saturday". Or I would do the Advanced Novice program with light squats on Wed and make my second cardio day (after Saturday) be on "Tuesday". But as I said I have not actually done this myself.
    Last edited by rossmcd87; 12-02-2013 at 07:10 AM.
    Maximum Lifts

    Squat = 154lbs 5RM (ATG) | Goal = 176lbs 5RM
    Deadlift = 253lbs 3RM / 275lb 1RM | Goal = 2x BW 5RM (On Hold whilst doing AllPro)
    Bench Press = 110lbs 5RM | Goal = 1x BW 5RM

    "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul." Invictus, William Ernest Henley.
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    Only 5 reps of deadlift?
    Only one working set of 5 reps of deadlift, yes. This is enough. Heavy deadlifts take a lot out of you. The more weight you lift the more you will realize this. Do your warmups (you may not need a lot of warmup for them, having already squat) and then the one workset of 5 reps. Didn't feel like "enough"? Oh well. Add 10-15 pounds the next time deadlifts come up and do it again. If you keep adding even so much as 5 lbs, even if you are only deadlifting once a week, it will get heavy. Do not rush things.

    This is a marathon, not a sprint.

    It is always better and easier to make smaller jumps and avoid missed reps/getting stuck.



    Can I add an exercise (like curls or abs)?
    The short answer is no, do not add anything. Your recovery capacity is going to be taxed by this program and anything else you do will tap into that. Remember that a large aspect of recovery is systemic. If you really feel that you must do curls for your biceps then do 3 sets of 8-12 reps after your chinups/pullups. Do them standing, preferably with a straight barbell, although you may use a curl bar or dumbells if you wish.

    Do not add significant, targeted ab work. The core lifts work your core considerably as it is. Besides, visible abs are made in the kitchen much more than in the gym (and we aren't really after that with this program, anyway)


    What equipment do I need?
    In order to do everything listed for all three variations you would need:

    An olympic barbell with plates
    A squat rack or power rack (or at least stands)
    A bench
    Enough floor space to work with the bar on/from the floor

    A smith machine, which is the device with a "barbell" that is held captive in a track, is not acceptable for these programs.

    For lifting heavy weights in general a squat or power rack is what you really want to have. You can get by without them, but it will be difficult as you will have to alter pretty much any established program that is out there. It is always possible to clean the bar into place and do front squats, or do zercher squats or hack squats, but the best bang for you buck is a heavy barbell back squat and for that you need a rack or stands.

    Stretching
    It is generally not recommended to do static stretching before lifting. You may choose to do some dynamic movements or stretches as part of your warmup. If you want to do static stretches to improve flexibility they are best done post workout and/or on off days.


    Mark Rippetoe Q&A on the Starting Strength Forums

    Most Lifters are Still Beginners - T-Nation Starting Strength Article by Bryan Krahn.
    Last edited by rossmcd87; 12-02-2013 at 06:32 AM.
    Maximum Lifts

    Squat = 154lbs 5RM (ATG) | Goal = 176lbs 5RM
    Deadlift = 253lbs 3RM / 275lb 1RM | Goal = 2x BW 5RM (On Hold whilst doing AllPro)
    Bench Press = 110lbs 5RM | Goal = 1x BW 5RM

    "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul." Invictus, William Ernest Henley.
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