T Nation

2x/Wk Starting Strength Variation


Well hi everyone. I've been lurking for a while on the site and thought it was about time to sign myself up.

So first a little about me-

190cm 85kg
BF- who gives a?

Been doing SS for a while now and managed-

Squat 82.5kg 3x5
Bench 70kg 3x5
Deadlift 115kg 1x5

I only train twice a week due to MA training, 3-4x week for 2-3 hours at a time. And also working nights, so I just don't have the time/recovery to train 3x week.
I'll say now that my goals are to improve athletic performance and general strength. I don't care about bic3ptz p33kz or having the hugest 3-lift total.

So anyway, to the questions!

My question is, would this variation of SS work for 2xweek training?

Workout A

deadlift 3x5
press 3x5
front squat 1x5
+ assistance work (chins/pull ups, ab work)

Workout B

front squat 3x5
bench 3x5
deadlift 1x5
+ assistance work (dips or push-ups, ab work)

Now before everyone tells me to just stick with the program as rip wrote it, here's my justification for making these changes. I'm open to people telling me that I'm wrong about this, but not just "you're wrong", an explanation and reasoning would be nice!

Rip feels that the (low bar back) squat is the most important lift for general strength. I don't disagree, but I feel that the deadlift is the most important lift for a fighters/martial artists strength. So that's why the program is based on deadlifting.

Because the program is based more on deadlifting, I feel that I can include front squats in place of low bar back squats. The reasoning is that the DL will provide quite enough PC work and back squats would be over-kill.

I also prefer to have front squats in my routine as apposed to back squats for several reasons.
Firstly I believe that front squats are more beneficial to athletic performance (as apposed to brute strength in the back squat)
Also I am quite a tall guy with very long limbs and I'm not very well suited to the back squat. I feel much more comfortable doing front squats for that reason.

So I'm just after peoples thoughts on the program, and any reasons why it may cause muscle imbalance or problems.

I feel that everything essential is covered-
Front squats+DL= Legs
DL= back
chins/pull ups= lats
bench= chest
press= shoulders

and even the non essentials-
chins= bic3ptz
dips/push-ups= tric3ptz
DL= forearms

and my calves are just fine, thanks for asking.

Thanks for taking the time to read my rather long post and for any suggestions/ideas you have!


Do you also work a day job, as well as nights?


No just nights, but my training schedule looks something like this…

SUN- Off, stretching/light cardio
MON- am- SS 3x5, pm- MA training
TUES- Off, stretching/light cardio
WED- MA Training
THURS- MA Training
FRI- Off, stretching/light cardio
SAT- SS 3x5 and Conditioning

I can’t add a weights session on WED because my thursday MA training would really suffer. I’ve tried weights the day before MA training and it doesn’t work for me.
I can’t add it on THURS morning because my performance would be down due to training MA only 12 hours before. I’ve tried weights the morning after MA and it doesn’t work for me.

So that’s the way it goes. Strength training is only a secondary thing for me anyway, skills training and conditioning are the top two on the list. And training twice a week i’m still making slow but steady gains.


right so just to confirm, you swapped the back squat for fronts, and taken out the power cleans?
Well i can see why you would want to swap to fronts, but i do feel they limit the amount u can work up to purley based on (for me any way) my arms/shoulders cramp up quite bad. But esp if your looking for conditioning aswell i wouldnt have taken out the cleans, those are a good lung buster.


Yeah that’s basically right, swapped back squats for front, and increased the frequency and volume of deadlifting.

I orginally did powercleans in my SS program but because of having no bumper plates I found them very hard on my shoulders, having that jerk when you catch the bar on the drop from the racked position. So I switched to BB rows as suggested by Mark Rip, however in this modification i’ve done I don’t feel that they are essential, as the incread DL will work my back well, and having chins/pull ups to work the lats.

Explosiveness will come through my skills training, as will most of my conditioning.

As far as being limited to a certain weight on front-squats, I’m not looking at the moment to build my strength past the beginner/linear progression stage (prob. around the 2xbw deadlift 5rm stage). I feel that, at this point in time, the benifits of strength to training time put in will diminish, and the benefit to my MA training will also be less noticable at that time. As I said, the priorites are skills, conditioning, then finally strength. I will probably work more on strength-endurance after the beginner stage of strength.


Right,so you’re aiming to put your deadlift up to 170 for 5 reps from 115. I know as a beginner will probably the fastest gains you get in any kind of training and they’ll get harder as you go. But looking at your schedual with all that going id hope you have a solid diet plan to fuel all that training. But on the last point it seems your pretty serious about specifity to your MMA, i dont know anything much about training specific TO mma but i always think the more specific you train to your sport/event the better. So if strength endurance is more relavant i might ask your MMA coach about relative training?



Yeah thats my main aim, where-as the aim of SS, as it’s written, is more to get your low bar back squat to 1.5xbw for 3x5. I’m not so worried about my back-squat strength as I don’t feel that it is as important for a martial artist.

My diet is pretty solid, not always the cleanest but it gives me enough fuel for the program that i’m currently on. Perhaps if it was cleaner I might be able to deal with an extra day of training in there (whether that be conditioning/strength/skills) but a man has to have some pleasure in life, right?

Strength endurance is very important, but I want that basic level of strength first, as I said, after that point I’ll get onto doing even more specific training while maintaining the level of strength that I’ve built.


Well i would still say to consult your MMa coach, or whoever is in charge of those sessions and pick their brains a bit for info on a good way to train for strength rerlated to your sport at whatever level u happen to be at.



I don’t know what part of “don’t change the fucking program” you are having trouble understanding. Everyone thinks they are the exception that makes changing the program an okay thing to do. You aren’t. Either do SS or don’t. But don’t go changing it up, then later come back and complain that it did not work for you, which is what most folks who change the program end up doing.

As for subbing in front squats for back squats, you do realize that there is more to it than just squatting for the sake of squatting, right? You will in no way get the overall benefit from those lighter front squats that you would from the back squats. I am a tall guy myself and can really understand the angst behind doing those heavy back squats. But making progress is not about what makes you comfortable, bud. As an MMA guy, you know your opponents out there to try to make you as comfortable as possible (unless knocking you out for a few seconds is all comfy for you).

All that said, you can certainly do what you like with your program. The only person you really have to answer to here is yourself. Just don’t call it SS or some variation of Rip’s programs. I am certain he would not approve of these changes.


For twice a week, that program looks ok. If it was 3 times a week, I’d say the deadlifting volume is too high. I think that the additional deadlifting volume will probably make up for the lack of back squats.

One question, though. For the 1x5 squat/deadlift days, will you be working up to a max 5RM? I’d probably do that – but start low.


@ Bamma-- Well no, this isn’t really SS, but if I had said “Here is a 3x5 program what do you think?” Everyone would have said- DO RIPPETOES. I just thought that by saying it was variation that it would give people a familiar place to relate the program to, and that people would know where I was comming from.

Yes, I realise that there is more to squatting than just squatting. The front squat is more quad dominate, more core intensive and must be done with lighter weights.
The only thing that is really a concern for me is the fact that it is more AC/Quad dominate, which isn’t such a horrible thing as strict SS adherents make it out to be. The purpose of putting front squats in my program is that I wanted to increase to volume of deadlifts. Low bar back squatting + high volume DL would = death for me.

@ Goochadamg-- Thanks for the reply. I had a think about it and I would probably drop the 1x5 Front Squat in favour of doing 3x5 BB Rows, for extra back work. The 1x5 Deadlift would probably be done as a speed set, at probably 80-85% of 5rm, to decrease the chances that the deadlifting volume will get to me. I’m glad to hear that you think the extra DL volume would make up for the lack of Bsquats, this was my main concern/question about the program.

The only other thing is that I would probably change the dips/push-ups assistance work to Hypers or fairly light GM’s, too, so that I’m gettin some more lower-back/ham work done on that day.


[quote]tassietaekwon wrote:
The only other thing is that I would probably change the dips/push-ups assistance work to Hypers or fairly light GM’s, too, so that I’m gettin some more lower-back/ham work done on that day.

I’m not so sure this is necessary; you’ll be getting plenty of lower back & ham work. :wink:

Looking at it again, the only thing I’d personally change is to move the dips/push-ups to the 3x5 deadlift day, and the chins/pullups to the 1x5 deadlift day. You’ll be more fresh for pushing on the 3x5 day as MP’s aren’t as taxing as benching, and more fresh for pulling on the 1x5 day as you’re only doing 1x5 deadlifts & your back won’t be as tired.

Be aware that BB rows can stress your lower back quite a bit, too.

Of course what will matter most is adequate nutrition, busting your ass & adding weight to the bar. On that note, it may be beneficial to start light: figure out what you can do for your work sets, drop 15-20 lbs off of it, and work from there. Also, I’m not entirely sure about this as I don’t do speed work, but I’ve seen the percentages for it to be more around 50-60% of your 1RM, which is more like 60-70% of your 5RM (assuming 5RM is 85% of 1RM).

Good luck! Heh.


Your ideas seem well thought-out. I would be surprised if you didn’t make good progress for a good period of time with your plan as described.


[quote]Bill Roberts wrote:
Your ideas seem well thought-out. I would be surprised if you didn’t make good progress for a good period of time with your plan as described.[/quote]


all the lifts are good lifts. If you eat your meat and put some sack into these sessions then you’ll come out the better.

results are most highly correlated with effort after decent general structure [lifts, volume, intensity] is taken care of.

In other news: hows the weather down there? getting cold?



Thanks guys. After some consideration I’ve decided to make a few changes to the program. It’s now going to be-

DL 3x5
Press 3x5
Front squat 1x5 at 80% of 5rm
Assistance work- chins or pull-ups, bridges or roll outs… 3x12-15

Front squat 3x5
Weighted push-ups 3x5
Rows 3x5
Assist- Hypers or GM’s, bridges or roll outs… 3x12-15


switching the dips/pushups and chins/pulls would have been a good idea, I can see the logic behind that. I can see that i’ve got a fair bit of lower back and ham work but I still feel that I could use a little “light” work on the front squat day. So chins will have to stay where they are. If I decide to switch to doing chest/tri work as an assistance I will take your advice and switch them.

I was hesitant to take out the 1x5 deadlift in favour of rows but feel I could use the extra upper back/lat work. Plus I like doing rows :wink: They haven’t been playing up on my lower back much and now that i’m doing 60kg+ for 3x5 the bigger plates put me at nice enough angle.

The main reason I wanted to say “speed work” for the 1x5 front squat was mainly an excuse to drop the weight a little bit. I guess I should think of it more as “active recovery” rather than “speed work”. If the percentage ends up feeling too heavy after hitting those DL’s i’ll drop it abit.

Oh and as you can see I’ve replaced bench with weighted push-ups. I know I’ll prob. get flamed for that one, but my shoulders give me quite abit of trouble and push-ups don’t seem to hurt them as much. Huge chest development isn’t really a goal at this stage and push-ups are going to be more “useful” for my MA anyway.
Plus this is a program mainly designed to build my DL, not to build chesticles.

Anyway thanks for the encouraging feedback, I’m going to make the transition from SS to this over the next week, I’ll let everyone know how it’s going!

oh and Avacado, yes, it’s getting quite cold and wet down here, winter finally hit us about a week ago. I had to go buy a clothes dryer because it just wouldn’t stop raining and I couldn’t get anything washed.


[quote]tassietaekwon wrote:
Oh and as you can see I’ve replaced bench with weighted push-ups. I know I’ll prob. get flamed for that one, but my shoulders give me quite abit of trouble and push-ups don’t seem to hurt them as much. Huge chest development isn’t really a goal at this stage and push-ups are going to be more “useful” for my MA anyway.

While weighted pushups are, imho, a good exercise, uhm, it’s difficult to load them. You’ll find that even throwing a 45 lb plate on your back is pretty easy (or will become easy very quickly.) That’s why people bench press. :slight_smile: If benching with the bar hurts, can you use DB’s?

Also, you may want to check this out: intensemuscle.com/6997-how-cure-shoulder

I’ve also found that doing cuban presses, https://www.tmuscle.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_repair/cracking_the_rotator_cuff_conundrum , with a low weight (prevent cheating), a slower tempo (prevent cheating), and high rep (lotsa blood flow to the area), to be almost magical in alleviating shoulder pain; even just one set to near failure will help.


Thanks for the links I’ll check em out in a minute.
I’ve subbed weighted push-ups in place of bench for a little while now, just using a back-pack with weights in it, wrapped in a towel so they don’t move around, haha. You’re right though, it’s not real easy to get that thing on and off, and I don’t feel like I push as hard as I was with bench. I’ve been considering buying a 84lb x-vest, would be killer for all weighted “bodyweight” exercises. I guess 84lbs still isn’t a huge weight and eventually I’d need to deal with my benching/cuff issues.

I’ve tried benching with DB’s before, the gym I’m at has up to 110lbs I think, but I don’t seem to progress as easily, and they are all in 5lbs jumps a side, which is harder for me to make. I find doing +2.5kg-3.75kg on the weighted push-ups manageble every session or +2.5kg on bb bench, but 5lbs a side is almost double that? I dunno, maybe I’ll give it a go and see whether it works out or not.

Like I said I’ll check out the links thanks heaps for that, hopefully it helps my problems.