Friday, June 15, 2007

Starting Strength style workout, take two

Mark Rippetoe wrote a book called Starting Strength. And it was pretty great. There are lots of versions of the "Starting Strength" workout floating around the internet, with various modifications done by different people. This is my take on the same basic workout. It is a simple strength training workout intended for people new to weight training. All the fundamentals are the same as the original Starting Strength workout, and most of the exercises are the same. The changes I made were pretty minor.

1) A few of the exercises were relatively exotic/non-standard for a beginner-oriented workout. These were replaced with their more conventional counterparts. For example, here you will see bent-over rows instead of Pendlay rows. If a beginner at the gym asks somebody for help with bent-over rows they can probably get it; asking about Pendlay rows is apt to get them a blank stare.

2) This write-up includes links to instructions for doing the exercises. I also provide alternate exercises, such as dumbbell variants of barbell exercises, where the alternate exercise targets the same muscle groups and can be expected to provide a similar training effect.

3) To be blunt, many people doing writeups of Starting Strength workouts on the internet are kind of jerks about it. I tried to make my writeup more accessible and less like the stereotypical "internet meathead" rants that seem to put a lot of people off.

If you want to do the original workout as written - which I think is a great idea, by the way - you can see it here.

The principle is simple – you’ll have 2 different workouts, Workout A and Workout B. You’ll work out on 3 non-consecutive days every week, alternating A and B.

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

And so on.

Here are the workouts (sets x reps, NOT including warmup sets):

Workout A

3x5 Squat (barbell)

3x5 Bench Press (barbell or dumbbell)

1x5 Deadlift (barbell)

2x5-8 dips (only add weight if you are doing >10 bodyweight dips)

You can also substitute barbell or dumbbell decline bench press for dips.

Workout B

3x5 Squat (barbell)

3x5 Standing military press (barbell) or dumbbell overhead press

3x5 Bent-over rows (barbell or dumbbell)

2x5-8 pull-ups (only add weight if you are doing >10 bodyweight pull-ups)

Accessory work (done every workout, can also do 3x/week on non-lifting days):

-Incline weighted sit-ups 3x5

Do standard weighted sit-ups if you don’t have a decline bench available, or unweighted sit-ups if you can’t do them weighted at first.

-Hyperextensions - 3x8

If you don’t have the apparatus to do hyperextensions or otherwise don’t feel you can do them safely, do “Supermans” instead. Even if you have the means to do hyperextensions, you might want to start with Supermans first.

4-8 weeks into the workout, you can add the following supplemental exercises at the END of the last workout of the week:

Lying tricep extensions (barbell or dumbbell) 2x8-12

Barbell or dumbbell curls 2x8-12

NOTE: 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.

Before each exercise you will want to do a ramping warm-up of 2-3 sets of 5 reps to work your way up to your “working” weight that you’ll use for the 3x5. The warm-up is VERY IMPORTANT if you want to avoid injury.

Example: if you’re military pressing 120 pounds for your 3x5, your warm up might look like this:

5 reps @ 60 lbs (warm-up 1)
5 reps @ 80 lbs (warm-up 2)
5 reps @ 100 lbs (warm-up 3)
3 x 5 reps @ 120 lbs (working sets)

If this kind of warmup seems to fatigue you too much by the time you get to the 3x5 sets, you can scale it so you do more reps at lower weights and less reps at higher weights... for instance going 1x5, 1x3, 1x2 then doing the 3x5.

Dips are done "deep", but do NOT drop into the bottom position and bounce/swing your way out. Add weight if you can to keep rep range at 5-8 or so reps for the dips and chin-ups. But it isn’t a big deal if you have to stick to bodyweight and are doing 8-10 reps per set instead.

Always keep in mind the following:

1) You have to increase the load on your muscles to progress. That means adding weight from week to week whenever possible. You have to push yourself to get results. Keep increasing weight AS LONG AS YOU CAN DO THE EXERCISE PROPERLY.

2) You have to be consistent. The difference between doing 3 workouts a week and doing 1 or 2 workouts a week is very significant.

3) BE SAFE. Make sure you understand how to do an exercise properly before attempting it. Don't sacrifice technique to add more weight - this kind of cheating will only lead to injury. Don't twist or jerk the weight around to try to get 1 more rep or lift a few more pounds. Don't blow off doing warm-up sets.