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Adding to Starting Strength


Hey guys just curious as to if anyone has ever added to starting strength. I added a set of jump squats 3x5 and a set of pull downs 3x8 to the first day. To the second day I'm going to add some bicep curls 3x8 and maybe some jump squats. Any input is much appreciated!



Okay, so what are your current lifts right now? How long have you been on SS? How long have you been lifting at all? How old are you, height, weight?


Current lifts are as of today I went a little lighter just so I can get all my lifts as I hadn't squatted or benched in a while. Bench 135 for 5, Squat 145 for 5, Deadlift 225 for 5. Just started starting strength. Been lifting for a year and a bit. Age 17 Height 5'10 Weight 150


I think Rippetoe expressly states to not fuck around with it, and that people, even after hearing that, will do it anyway. Unless you have stalled on SS or you are now capable to handle higher volumes, you really shouldn't add anything. Having said that, if you truly feel that you can now handle higher volumes, or that only higher volumes will produce a training effect, then I say go ahead and add accessory lifts. I would not, however, advise you to add jump squats. I can't see how you are going to be able to effectively do jump squats after busting your ass on heavy back squat...

Assuming you are following the basic starting strength template, my suggestion would be to add pullups/chinups to your bench press day and dips to your overhead press day. The pullups/chinups will take care of your biceps without making you look like a curl monkey and the dips will give much better upper body stimulation than a tricep isolation exercise (while still hitting the triceps very hard).

You can also add heavy decline half sit-ups.

But really please don't add anything if you can't handle the increased volume ie if any of these new lifts negatively impact your core lifts. Please post your current lifts as long as all pertinent physical stats.


Thors, that is kinda what I was going to get to after asking the questions I asked. Nik, you are a beginning lifter, based on your numbers. Mark Rippetoe wrote that program for beginning lifters to make them stronger. Now, not everyone buys into everything he says, but the fact remains that he has made a lot of beginning lifters much stronger on the program as he designed it. Now, as a beginning lifter, do you really think you are capable of writing a better program than someone proven like him? Some might be able to, but odds are that you can't.

If you still have enough gas in the tank to do these extra lifts after completing the program as written, then you may want to consider increasing your output on the lifts as he has them laid out (do more weight). It looks like you are already a little off the program because you stated that you had not benched or squatted in a while. Well, that is not the way to go about it. You must stick with it, not fuck with it at all, and keep progressing with each workout. Oh yeah, and eat like a fool. Drink a gallon of milk a day. Understand that this program is not there to turn you into Jay Cutler, but to significantly increase your strength on the big lifts. Once you have achieved that, you can feel free to move on to a slightly more advanced routine for either powerlifting or bodybuilding, depending on your personal goals. But for now, leave the program alone, bust your ass doing it like it is already set up, and enjoy the benefits.

Good luck.


Thanks for the advice, sorry if I came off that I am trying to improve the program, as I have done a lot of reading in the past 2 months and have found that it has worked great for everyone. However in everything I do I try to push myself to the limit and if I feel like I have something left in the tank, I think that one or two more exercise won't be too bad. As for my goals, I am looking to add about 10-15 pounds of lean muscle as it really isn't necessary for my sport and especially my position to be caring a lot of bulk, some guys can do it and I can't. I do keep a log of my diet and my workouts, I will for sure be upping the volume next time and I will see how my body responds, I always try to listen to what my body tells me and gauge how it reacts. Thanks again for the thought out responses!



Nik just out of curiosity what sport do you play? (my guess would be hockey from your avatar)


Yep goaltender for hockey.


As long as you're doing SS, the only thing I would add to it would be isolation work for the bi's, tri's, calves and forearms. Regardless of what anyone tells you, if you're doing pullups in a way that sufficiently works your bi's, you're doing them wrong.


And again, you would be going against the program by adding this work. Geez, I do not know part of "don't fuck with the program" you guys have such a hard time understanding.


Ok well as a goaltender you actually shouldn't be too worried about putting on a lot of mass, so long as it is functional ie lean muscle rather than fat. But that's totally your preference.

Wow. JayPierce, starting strength is not a bodybuilding routine, so what is the point of isolating calves and forearms. The workouts in starting strength will stimulate all the muscles you just said to isolate more than enough. I think you are forgetting that as a beginner his muscles don't need to be isolated to grow. Benching and dips will hit his triceps. Rowing and chinups will hit his biceps (much moreso chinups than rows). Squats and power cleans will hit his calves. And as for forearms, how dare you. You would actually have him isolate forearms in a program that prescribes heavy pulling? You must be joking.

And I'm also wondering about your knowledge of the human body. Or maybe you misunderstood me, since you referred to pullups when everyone knows that chinups are more bicep involved. It is not possible to do chinups without some bicep involvement JayPierce. If they aren't feeling it, then you aren't using enough weight, plain and simple. He is a beginner, so who cares if he's not thrashing his biceps with eight supersets of curls - the simple stimulation from chinups will produce enough of a training effect in his biceps that he will ever need as a beginner.

The advice you just gave him would make him look like a total gym failure. If I were in a gym and I saw someone prescribe a workout routine to a kid that made him go from tricep extensions to bicep curls to calf raises to forearm curls I would openly call that man out and then promptly drop a dumbbell on his foot for wasting the precious beginner gaining time that this kid has.


Yet whenever we slate Starting Strength the general response is "no-one is stopping you adding some work for arms". I can even remember reading an entire section on the Starting Strength FAQ detailing exactly that.

Okay, so maybe it's not in the book - I don't know, I haven't read it - but we'd rather not have this guy come back next year complaining about his lagging biceps (use the search function) when doing some direct arm work isn't going to interfere with the rest of the program.


The part where after two months, I was no longer sore from the program and was ready to do more. The part where my chest, shoulder, and leg measurements were increasing, but not my calves, forearms, and upper arms. The part where I listened to my body and it said "this is not enough".

Every single time I've added something to my program, I've gotten better results. If you're ready for it, do it.


Speaking from experience, no they won't.

There is a difference between need and optimal

Power cleans, yes. You might want to check your squat form if you're working your calves with them.

So the only muscles in the forearm are the ones that hang on?

Rip says to use either version. I used pullups because they use the outer portion of the lats more (width), where bent rows use more of the inner portion (thickness). Made sense to me.

Some biceps involvement is not enough. The biceps brachii itself if triarticulate, not to mention the brachialis and brachioradialis. You're not going to work them sufficiently by moving them in one plane only.

Why do you feel the need to misquote me and blow this all out of proportion? I never said anything of the sort.

Again, misquoted. I wouldn't suggest to do it all in one session.

I doubt you would call anyone out anywhere other than the internet. Just mentioning that you would maliciously drop a DB on someones foot tells me that your a pussy.

Wasting Precious Beginner Gaining Time by doing more work and stimulating more growth? I'd hate to be so accused.


I partly agree with both sides here whilst adding some basic isolation work will not really affect the proram and its progression I wouldnt go adding in extra right off the bat.

If he wants his arms and calves to grow properly he will need to train them, but this isnt an open invitation to add 50 sets of curls and extensions to the SS program.

OP, If I was you I'd stick with it as written for at least the first month get used to program and see how you get on, you can then add extra work after. But remember you have to be sensible about it small amounts of isolation "should" be fine, heavily demanding compound movements may limit the effectiveness of the program.

Good Luck


OP, whichever you wind up choosing (and I'm not qualified to get in this fight, being a beginner myself, though I do sometimes do curls and I suspect they're harmless) actually make sure you progress every workout. You can't have been doing that for the whole "year and a bit" you've been lifting, given your lifting numbers -- I'm doing a little better on squat and deadlift, and I've been at it for half as long and I'm twenty pounds lighter. Starting Strength only works if you increase the weight on the bar. (I'm sure you know this -- no offense intended.)


I know you have a good head on your shoulders, and this isn't necessarily aimed at you, but no-one is telling him to add 50 sets of curls. That's clearly ridiculous. Obviously, it's an over-exaggeration, but why must everyone always talk in extremities when it comes to adding in isolation exercises? It just seems as soon as isolation exercises are mentioned people think we're telling them to do ONLY isolation exercises, or TONS of isolation exercises, neither of which is ever the case from what I have seen, and exaggerating it like this doesn't help. :wink:

I would personally add in around 3 x 12 on curls and something similar for triceps if the program doesn't prescribe anything for those. I seriously fail to understand how anyone could think doing 3 sets of 12 curls at the end of the workout is going to affect progress anywhere near as drastically as people make out, if at all (I actually think it would HELP).


I was being over the top on purpose, I've seen it before where people completely bastardize a program with tonnes of additional work to the point where it doesnt even resemble the original. Im not suggesting do 50 sets of curls but Im also not saying don't add isolation work. The point I was trying to make was just do the program as written for small period of time and the add work as necessary, if you are doing SS you are doing it increase your base level of strength in the squat, dead and bench, adding inches to your arms and calves is secondary. 1-2 months not doing curls/ extensions wont hurt and those muscle groups will catch up very quickly if your torso can support more weight.

The OP can do what he likes, I was just voicing my opinion thats all.


Hey guys I just wanted to let you know what I did as you all were kind enough to help me out :), thanks! I did this program Monday,Tuesday, Thursday and Friday last week and I was going to do some isolation work on Saturday, but I was done, so I took the weekend off.

I decided to do this program Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and I am going to keep the jump squats (not on Sunday though), added pulldowns on the bench day, added curls on the power clean/press day, the pulldowns/curls are 3X8 and on I do 3X8 on the dips and chin ups. I have added 20 pounds to my squat, 10 pounds to my bench, and 25 pounds to my deadlift in only 1 week, so I am LOVING the results!



You're not doing Rippetoe. You think you are, but you aren't. SS involves five exercises, and you added more, so you aren't doing starting strength. I've done starting strength and its amazing but don't mess with it until you up your weight, lifts, and experience. Stick with the program as writen by Rippetoe for three months or until you start stalling before considering any changes.