April 4

Does Starting Strength Suck? A Review


Does Starting Strength Suck?

Want to save the few minutes it will take to read this post on Starting Strength?

Answer: No! Starting Strength is awesome.

Read on to find out why!

5 Reasons I Think Starting Strength is the BEST Program

1. Progressive overload is the best way to get strong

I’ve done dozens of programs.


One that particularly sticks out involved doing exercises for 3 sets of 4-6 reps.

The signal that you were to go up in weight was when you could do 6 reps for all 3 sets.

Then you would go up an amount you felt was appropriate.

So you might stick at the same weight for several workouts, or be tempted to go up too fast because you had a good day and the sets felt easy.

There was a big guesswork element to it.

Other programs use a 1RM and have you work off of percentages of that lift.

But it’s hard to get an accurate 1RM, and after you get it, then theoretically you’re a little stronger after you recover, so it’s no longer valid.

Starting Strength takes all the guesswork out of the weights you lift.

You work up with sets of 5 until the bar starts to slow down, then you do 2 more sets.

From there you add 5 pounds to the bar each time you do the exercise for 3 sets of 5.

Able to complete all 3 sets of 5?

Go up 5 pounds next time!


Write it all down in your notebook, and when you show up to the gym you know how much weight to lift that day.

Again, this takes away the guesswork.

But it also removes the subjective feeeeeeeeeeelings from what you should lift that day.

If you’re tired or didn’t eat enough or just pissed off, you might feel like not going up or even <shudder> going down in weight.

On a great day, you might decide to go up 10-20 pounds.

That will stall your progress quick.

Progressive overload is the key.

In fact, it could be one of the most important concepts in strength training.

Basically this means you increase the stress on your body each time you go into the gym.

Your body then recovers, adapts, and you’re ready for more stress next time.

Starting Strength gives you a simple, sensible roadmap for effective progressive overload.

2. Starting Strength Gives You An Easy To Follow Plan

I can remember looking at workouts that had 4-6 different workout days, several different rep schemes and numerous different exercises, some of which my gym wasn’t equipped for me to do.

So these were non-starters.

They may have the the “world’s most effective fat-burning program” or whatever, but they were too complicated to even think about beginning.

Starting Strength is the polar opposite of this.

2 different workouts:

Workout A: Squat, Press, Deadlift

Workout B: Squat, Bench, Deadlift

Alternate them on Monday, Wednesday and Friday (or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday).

Why is this good?

Most gyms (though not all) are well equipped enough to pull this off.

What do you need?

A squat rack, olympic bar, plates, bench.

If your gym doesn’t have these items, GET A NEW GYM!

It’s also good because the workouts are uncomplicated.

You’re working with 4 exercises (5 if you add in a Power Clean).

The set and rep scheme also doesn’t vary.

3 sets of 5 reps, after your warmup.

Couldn’t be easier.

3. Starting Strength Focuses On The Exercises That Give You The Most Bang For Your Buck

Most of us don’t have tons of time to spend in the gym.

We don’t have the luxury of spending 2-3 hours to blast our pecs or delts from 6 different angles with 8 different exercises.

Further, most of us don’t have the amount of muscle that makes all the small accessory exercises worthwhile.

If you don’t have delts, you won’t get them by doing front raises, lateral raises and bent-over raises with 15 pound dumbbells.

You don’t need to know endless varieties of curls to get bigger arms.

Starting Strength uses barbell exercises that use the maximum amount of muscle over the greatest effective range of motion.

The squat is one of these exercises.

You’ve probably come along in the gym thinking that the squat is only for your quads, or maybe your hamstrings and glutes.

But really, it stimulates much more of your body’s skeletal muscle than you might think.

And because it provides this stimulus, it also generates a hormonal response that aids in muscle growth (and can help raise your overall testosterone levels).

The Deadlift, Bench and Press are all part of the program for the same reason.

They use the maximum amount of muscle over the longest effective range of motion.

Barbells are used because they can load the body evenly, and give you the opportunity to add weight almost endlessly.

Dumbbells are limited in this regard because you can’t continue to go up past the end of your gym’s dumbbell rack, which usually ends around 120-130.

It’s not necessary to spend hours in the gym with lots of exercises to get stronger.

Starting Strength gives you the simple way.

4. Starting Strength Gives You Detailed Info On How To Perform The Lifts AND The Physics Behind Why

When you buy the Blue Book you might be surprised to see how much content there is in there, particularly for how simple the program is.

And when you open the book you might be overwhelmed at the amount of foundational information is in there before you get to the lifts.

Force? Gravity? Velocity? Anthropometry? Moment Arm???

Starting Strength is a crash course in the Physics of lifting.

I remember being blown away by how much thought had gone into the programming.

The people who are certified Starting Strength Coaches have been put through the ringer, and have a great understanding of anatomy, physiology and everything else that goes into understanding how these movements affect the human body.

This is why the program is effective for everyone (point 5 spoiler alert).

In fact, Starting Strength is not so much a program or book (though it is all those things), as it is a way of performing the lifts.

There are very detailed instructions, and many of them go against the conventional wisdom that you’ve been taught.

Using the Squat as an example:

Point your toes out, push your knees out toward your toes and look down.

Bet you’ve never heard that before.

Especially the part about looking down.

But every step of the lift is designed to get you to do it in the most efficient way possible to maximize the strength related benefits of the program.

It takes a while to get right, especially when you have to correct bad habits that have been ingrained over years but once you get it right, it’s very effective.

5. Starting Strength Works For Everybody

This might be the most important point of all.

Everyone who follows the program will make progress.

They will get stronger.

If you’re like me, you probably started reading bodybuilding magazines (aka muscle comics).

And these magazines had different routines every month, showcasing the bicep workout of one bigtime pro bodybuilder, or the calf workout of another.

You get the point.

But what gets left out of that story are several important things to note:

  • These routines are specifically designed for these guys. They know what works for them based on years of experience.
  • Genetics play a huge role. Top level bodybuilders are genetically selected to be the best. YMMV!
  • Lifting is their job (or if it’s not their job, it is the remainder of their life). You don’t have time to do everything else necessary to maximize these programs.
  • They are using steroids. Listen, I don’t think steroids are bad. Everything you’ve heard about them is pretty much wrong. That said, there’s probably no benefit to you using them. That said, they ARE using them and it makes a big difference to muscle growth and recovery, especially when combined with genetics.
  • It’s similar with pro athletes as with pro bodybuilders, just with different purposes.

The takeaway here is that these programs are not going to get you the results that are advertised.

Same with the programs sold by other fitness personalities.

All bodies are different, from the way they look to the way they respond to stimuli.

People sell programs that work for them.

They may not even know why they worked for them, but they did.

That doesn’t mean it will work for you.

What are the foundations underpinning the exercise selection, frequency, volume etc?

Do you know?

Do they know?

How do they know those foundation apply across a varied population?

Starting Strength has been used by everyone from scrawny teenagers, to overweight dads and housewives to senior citizens.

And it always works.

Sure, “works” looks different in each case, but everyone gets stronger and that means your life improves.

Many of the problems that we take for granted as things that “just happen” as we get older… Are often a result of muscle deterioration.

If you lift you slow down that deterioration and those problems can be mitigated, or at least lessened or slowed down.

And Starting Strength is the simple way for anyone to do that.


So there are ~1500 words on why I think Starting Strength is hands-down the best program for anyone to use on their strength journey.

It’s not exciting, but it’s effective.

It’s simple, but not easy.

I think you should give it a try though.

If you have any questions on the program, shoot me a message and I’ll do my best to answer them for you.

Now go ahead and get started!


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5x5, Mark Rippetoe, SSOC, Starting Strength, Strength, Stronglifts, Weight Training

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