T Nation

Bill Starr - Question

I was cheching his 5x5 routine (bench, clean, squat) and was wondering if I can add rows, chins and dips to this, or is this kind of workout enough.
Since I don’t have his book I would like to know if anyone of yall has done his routine and if yall added any additional exercises.

Bill Starr is the man, hands down

He has been my biggest “silent mentor” in all my years of lifting.

Keith W.

Keith, I’m assuming that you have tried that workout since he is you ‘‘mentor’’.
Was it successful?
And if you have done it, what did you do on light days?

[quote]Hrastnik wrote:
I was cheching his 5x5 routine (bench, clean, squat) and was wondering if I can add rows, chins and dips to this, or is this kind of workout enough.
Since I don’t have his book I would like to know if anyone of yall has done his routine and if yall added any additional exercises.[/quote]

Why wouldn’t you be able to add rows, dips and chins? Do you think that there is some sort of magic in just doing the original three movements?

Just split it up so that you are not pushing to hard. It’s all good man.

[Short answer: it appears that following Starr’s style or program design, you don’t add the other exercises, you substitute them in.]

Here’s what it says in the original “The Strongest Shall Survive” book. I have the book right in front of me so this is “definitive”:

The basic routine in “The Strongest Shall Survive” follows the 3 lifts, 3 times per week, heavy day (5RM on last set), medium day (90% on last set), light day (80% on last set) protocol. He also includes leg extensions and curls for 3 X 10-15 reps.

Here are some thoughts Starr has on adding other movements to the “big 3” program:

  1. Starr suggests if you want to use overhead pressing, you could replace the benching on medium day with 5RM overhead (behind the neck) press, and on the light day use a military (in front of the neck) press.

  2. If you want to work on your traps, replace the cleans for shrugs on heavy day, and cleans for power pulls on medium day, and continue to use the cleans on light day. This approach is recommended for somebody with at least 6 months of lifting experience.

  3. If you want to use incline benching, replace light bench day with incline.

  4. If you want to use front squats, use these instead of back squats on light day.

  5. If you want to do calf raises, work up to 6 X 30, using different foot positions for each set and really fighting through those last 8-10 reps.

With regards to all of the “other” exercises, Starr addresses this directly: “…I am certain that a majority of the readers are wondering why I didn’t include… bent-over rows, up-right rows, close-grip bench presses, pullovers, leg presses, lat pulldowns, good mornings, tricep extensions, dips… The question is in priorities. There is only so much time to be spent on strength training in any football program, so it should be spent on the most useful movements as they relate to football… Do not change merely for the sake of change.”

That’s what the original book has to say on the matter. I’ve seen this routine posted on the net and credited to Starr as an off-season football routine:

Monday (Heavy) Bench, Squat, Clean, Hypers, Abs
Wednesday (Light) Squat, Incline, High pulls, abs
Friday (Medium) Squat, Bench, Cleans, Dips, Biceps and Tricep isolation (last 3 categories are 3X8)

I’ve also seen this 90’s Starr routine posted and it’s what I am currently following:

Monday: Squat, Dead, Bench, Incline Dumbell (2X15)
Wednesday: Lunges (X8), Good Mornings (X8-12), Overhead (5x5) or Dipping (4xmax), Pullups 4xmax
Friday: Squats (4x5, 1x3), Row, Incline, Tricep

So, no, if you’re following Starr’s principals you shouldn’t “add” the other exercises, you substitute them in as can be seen in the above examples.


I was cheching his 5x5 routine (bench, clean, squat) and was wondering if I can add rows, chins and dips to this, or is this kind of workout enough.
Since I don’t have his book I would like to know if anyone of yall has done his routine and if yall added any additional exercises.

Thanks, John. That’s just what I needed.

Glad to be of service.

This routine should be on file for everyone to find very easy. Classic.