Saturday, December 02, 2006

Rippetoe's Starting Strength revisited

The newbie fitness guide (see sidebar links) talks about the "Starting Strength" workout developed by Mark Rippetoe, and include links to a description of it on the forums. Well, I've found a better description of the program written by poster kethnaab on the same forums, so here it is.

This is a slight variation of Rippetoe's outstanding "Starting Strength" workout. You train on 3 nonconsecutive days per week.

So week 1 might look like:
Monday - Workout A
Wednesday -Workout B
Friday - Workout A

Week 2:
Monday - Workout B
Wednesday - Workout A
Friday - Workout B

If you choose Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday as your workout days, the planets won't get knocked out of alignment, so don't sweat this one, as long as you get in 3 workouts on non-consecutive days each week.

Dont' blow off workouts. Dont' adjust the workouts. You don't know enough about weight training to change it up properly, and neither does your 19-year old buddy who played football a few years ago and has nice arms. I've been squatting 400+ lbs longer than your buddy has been alive, and Mark Rippetoe has forgotten more about weight training than I'll ever hope to know, so don't **** with the workouts.

I bet you're worried about your arms. I honestly would not worry about your arms just yet. I think you'll be surprised how hard your arms will get hit. Give it a few weeks, and if you don't have sore arms by the weekend, then add in 2 sets, 8-12 reps of low incline skullcrushers and 2 sets, 8-12 reps Barbell, EZ-Bar or standing DB Curls on Fridays. DO NOT ADD THE ARM WORK RIGHT AWAY. Give it at least a few weeks. I'm betting you'll learn what I learned long ago...that direct arm work is highly overrated and can actually be counterproductive at times.

Here are the workouts, from Rippetoe's Starting Strength, with a slight twist (I add chinups and dips). Go to and pick up your own copy, there are 200+ pages of good **** for a skinny dude (and anyone else who cares about getting big and strong). I've been lifting weights for over 20 years, and this guy cuts right to the heart of the matter, and if I learned, I'll bet you will too. The nuances for exercise technique performance are outstanding. I'm as arrogant and egotistical as it gets, but this guy's knowledge ****s all over mine.

anyway, here are the adjusted workouts (sets x reps, not including warmup sets):

Workout A
3x5 Squat
3x5 Bench Press
1x5 Deadlift
2x5-8 dips (only add weight if you are doing >10 bodyweight dips)

Workout B
3x5 Squat
3x5 Standing military press
3x5 Pendlay Rows (or power cleans for 5x3, 5 sets of 3 reps apiece)
2x5-8 chinups ***if you do the power cleans, do 3 sets of chinups***

Fridays only (Not earlier than 3 weeks into program) -
Parallel Bar dips or incline skullcrushers - 2 x 8-12
barbell/DB/EZ-Bar curls - 2 x 8-12

Daily accessory work:
-45 degree Decline bench weighted situps, 3x5 (hold body parallel to ground for static 5 seconds each repetition on the way down, then go down slowly and come back up)
-Hyperextensions - 3x8 (hold weight across chest or small barbell across back, and don't swing past parallel) - reverse hypers are preferable, but I don't know too many gyms with a reverse hyper.

chinups performed with undergrip or hammer grip. Pick one and stick to it. If you are very light (and have a strong set of lats and a flexible shoulder girdle), you can do BTN pullups with a medium-wide grip instead.

Dips are done "deep", but do NOT drop into the bottom position and bounce/swing your way out. Add weight if necessary to keep rep range at 5-8 or so reps (if you do sets of 8-10, then you won't die and cripple your training progress, so don't sweat the reps on the chinnie-chins or dippidy-dips)

If you can't do chins by yourself, then get your buddy to hold your feet, or use an incline bench to put your feet on to "lighten" the load. Use as little as need be to copmlete the positive (pulling up) part, and then use your own strength to lower yourself.

Use the same weight for each exercise. i.e. 3x5 squats means 3 sets, 5 reps on the squat, using the same weight for all sets. This is known as "sets across", as opposed to "ramping", where you increase the weight on each work set.

If you get all 15 reps (3 sets of 5) of the squat with good technique, going low enough, no bouncing out of the bottom, going low enough, no excessive forward lean, going low enough, etc (did I mention that you need to make sure you go low enough?) then add 5-10 lbs to the bar next time you hit them.

For bench, no bouncing, feet on the floor, keep your damn a** on the bench. Did I mention NO BOUNCING???? Don't bounce. Elbows at approximately 45-60 degrees from body, shoulder blades 'tucked' underneath, comfortably maintained arch in lower back.

For deadlift, no "heaving", it's a slow, steady pull. Go here and watch one of the best ever perform the deadlift:

Go here for an explanation of how to do the power clean and squat properly:
look at the little links on the right and you'll see. 18-year old powerhouse under the instruction of an old-school Olympic lifting teacher. Great little videos.

If you desire, you can do the "HCP" - hanging clean and press, in place of the standing military press, and follow this up with the pendlay rows.

The hanging clean is essentially a clean done from knee level instead of the floor. You stand up with the bar, bend your knees, keep your torso upright. You bend your knees and allow the bar to travel downward just to your knees, then you explosively straighten your legs, perform a power shrug/upright row, and flip your arms underneath the bar, just like in a regular clean. From there, use a bit of leg drive and push-press the weight overhead. Then control the weight back down. If you are comfortable doing power cleans and would prefer them, then just do power cleans and standing military press. If not, do the Pendlay rows instead, and do only 2 sets of chinups instead of 3, since pendlay rows work your lats a bit more, and power cleans work your lower body, delts and traps a bit more. Each of those options are great options.

Here's how you do a Pendlay row (also check the stupid drawing, attached)

1) Maintaining a PERFECTLY PARALLEL upper body is the key. Once you get your hips in position, do NOT use hip extension, knee extension, leg drive, etc to move the weight.
2) You use a relatively wide grip (I keep pinkies approximately 1/2" inside outer knurling on standard Olympic bar), and pull the bar into your lower ribcage/upper gut area. Some people will argue that a close grip is better, and for chinups, I would agree. For rows, I disagree. The line-of-pull argument doesn't fly here.

Start off with the bar on the floor. Get your body into a parallel position initially. Keeping your upper body parallel, allow your shoulder blades to roll forward so that you can grip the bar as explained above. Without standing upright at all, explosively contract your shoulder blades together, and KEEP YOUR HIPS MOTIONLESS. There is *no* movement at the hips, i.e. do NOT stand up during this motion, you maintain the parallel upper body position throughout. Your lower lats arch hard, your elbows pull outward and behind the body, but you do not stand up at all. Slam the bar into your upper gut/lower ribcage, then control the weight downward while maintaining the parallel upper body position.

If you are able to row more than 135 with this exercise, use 35s so that you can get a better range of motion while pulling from more of a stretch position. Stand on a low, wide box if need be.

Use significantly less weight on this exercise than on normal 45 degree rows. Significant reduction in weight, significant increase in lat stimulation.
Don't forget to check the pic for my wonderfully descriptive artwork. :P

You are going to need to eat like mad. Unless you eat junk food and drink Coke and Pepsi constantly, you don't eat enough. As Mark Rippetoe said, he tells his kids that they have to drink a gallon of whole milk each day, and get kicked out of an all-you-can-eat buffet at least twice weekly.

Do you have the ability to eat 3500-4000 calories EVERY day without consuming tons of junk food? Nothing wrong with eating pizza and a double cheeseburger (or two!) every day, as long as you keep lifting hard.
Dump the candy, soft drinks, donuts, cookies, etc....stuff that is high in calories with no protein or nutritive value. You want *quality* calories.

Convince Mom to buy seven pounds of the 93% ground beef, and finish off an entire Hamburger Helper box with a pound of ground beef daily, as well as 2 or 3 peanut butter and banana sandwiches and as much whole milk as you can stomach. Don't like hamburger helper? Go for a box of mac-n-cheese along with your ground beef, but put down 1 lb of beef and 1 box of starch per day at least. Don't like mac-n-cheese? Make a bunch of spaghetti noodles or some rice or corn and peas, baked beans, potatoes. And eat dead animal. Lots of it. Don't want to eat a pound of ground beef? EGGS! Eat them! All of them!

the grocery bill is going to knock mom for a loop. Do your chores, wash the dishes, keep your room clean, etc, and Mom probably wont' freak out too much.

Make no mistake. The best weight training program will make you strong, but it won't make you big. Weight lifting does NOT make you big. It makes you strong. Eating properly is what makes you big. If you eat a ton of calories without the weights, you get fat. Eat a ton of calories WITH your weight/strength training, and you get big, strong muscles.

Have fun.