My Biggest Starting Strength Mistake
The First Three Questions
In case you were wondering, I think Starting Strength is the GOAT for anyone getting back into the gym.
There is no better program for getting stronger, and if your goal is to change your body in any way, you need to start by getting stronger.
That said, here is the biggest mistake I made on the Starting Strength program…
Something I like to do when I start any program is check out the online communities associated with it.
Facebook groups, Reddit pages, that kind of thing.
Starting Strength has a fairly active Facebook Group.
Lots of people without coaches go there for advice and information.
One of the most common questions is what to do when your lifts stall.
And it happens.
You can’t go up 5 pounds forever.
At some point, something has to give and you can’t hit your 5-across.
So folks come into the FB group to ask what to do.
Now, Mark Rippetoe wrote an article a while back called The First Three Questions.
This article seeks to help out people who are stuck.
In case you didn’t check out the link, here are the 3 questions:
- How long are you resting between sets?
- How big a jump in weight on the bar are you putting on each workout?
- How much are you eating?
These are all great questions.
If things are starting to get heavy and you are only resting for 1-2 minutes between sets then you probably aren’t recovered enough to try again yet.
Result: potential failure.
If you’re adding more than 5 pounds per workout (like 10lbs on the deadlift or squat) then, at a certain point, you might be going up to fast.
You can also get fractional plates and increase by 2-2.5 pounds on exercises like the press and bench press.
Going up in weight too fast result: potential failure.
The Third Question Is Where Things Get Hairy…
How much are you eating?
How many calories are you consuming?
The fact is that you need to consume an adequate amount of protein, carbs and fat to recover from your workouts.
But here is where the problem comes in.
The focus of Starting Strength is purely getting strong.
And that’s awesome.
Being strong is great.
But there is a general disregard, or even disdain, for aesthetic concerns.
Chances are you will be ridiculed pretty hardcore if you are as concerned with how you look, as you are how much weight is on the bar.
And this leads to a big focus on question number 3.
In fact, sometimes the only response that people get to the question of what to do when they stall is “eat more”.
They tell people that you need to get lots of calories in order to continue to keep making progress and putting weight on the bar.
I’ve even gotten the idea that it doesn’t much matter what you eat, as long as you’re getting your calories.
There are some people out there who have trouble gaining weight.
I’m not one of them.
So the biggest mistake that I made was paying attention to this advice.
My Biggest Mistake
When I started the program in November 2016 I was about 235.
I looked pretty decent, but I wanted to get strong.
So I bought into the notion that I needed to eat a lot of calories so that I could keep getting stronger.
And because of that, I stopped moderating my food intake.
I didn’t eating 10,000 calories a day or anything, but I didn’t make an effort to get quality calories in.
I got back into eating burgers and fries.
I ate ice cream and desserts.
Added bread or tortillas to lots of my meals (just to get the carbs).
I just wasn’t intentional or smart about how I went about adding my calories.
I probably ate 4000-4500 cals per day.
I got stronger, that’s for sure!
My squat hit 415, as did my deadlift.
I pressed 190 and benched 275.
So my lifts were good.
But my weight got all the way up to almost 280.
I put on a decent amount of muscle, but it was all hidden under terribly ugly fat.
I bet I was stronger than 90% of the people at my gym, but I didn’t necessarily look like it.
And no matter what, that’s a lot of weight for my joints to carry around.
If you read my backstory you’d know that I’ve been fat in the past.
I’d argue that my default mode is to be fat (and that’s not an excuse, because I’ve been skinny and fit too).
So it’s easy for me to gain weight, and more challenging to lose it.
So when I indiscriminately upped my calories to keep my lifts moving, it manifested itself on me as fat.
And I don’t like that.
This site is all about improving yourself so that you are more attractive to women.
You can’t do that without muscle and strength, but if that muscle is all covered with fat it’s probably worse.
What you eat matters.
If you are like me and gain weight easily, you need to be intelligent about what you eat.
Get the right kinds of carbs and fats.
You’ll make progress with your lifts and you will either lose weight, or you’ll increase your muscle while adding the least amount of fat possible.
Now go out there and get strong!