T Nation

How I Modified Starting Strength

first of all, I would like to make it clear that:

  1. Im not a native english speaker so I apologize beforehand for any bad grammar.
  2. Im by no means an experienced person nor an accomplished powerlifter im still running this version of starting strength and im super fucking weak to even call myself a powerlifter. im more of an “aspiring lifter”

having said all that ill go to what I modified.
as most of you guys know, starting strength is a very simple, 3 phase program, on the first phase you squat 3x5 everyday, you deadlift 1x5 everyday and you alternate the press with the bench press. on the second phase of the programme you power clean the day you press and on the third phase you start doing chin ups and such.
I completely dismissed the first phase as I started the programme with a 240lbs deadlift wich IMO is to heavy to do 3 times a week.
so I:
1)Added weighted dips on day A (the day where you bench) and weighted chin-ups on day B (the day you press)
2) incorporated a deload week once every 3 weeks cause frankly grinding 3x5 on everything everytime, even if youre supposed to fully recover between workouts as a novice is brutal. the deload weeks are more of a mental health/motivation thing than a real need.
so to sum up this is what the programme looks like now:
day A:
squats 3x5
bench press 3x5
power clean 5x3
weighted dips 3x5
day B:
squats 3x5
press 3x5
deadlift 1x5
chin-ups 3x5
deload week:
its always a B A B week.
I squat on the first day 70% of what would’ve been your next squat, on the second day 80% and on the third day 90% so for example if your next regular weight was supposed to be 100kg and you train monday, wednesday and friday, monday you do 70kg, Wednesday you do 80kg and friday you do 90kg. I like to do paused squats if the weight feels to light.
I do the same thing for all other lifts but depending on how many times I do that lift that week I drop percentages, in order to better explain myself, I drop the squat down to 70% cause ill squat 3 times that week, but ill only drop the bench down to 90% cause ill only bench once.

the reasoning behind all of this is that, first of all, the normal version of SS has waaay too little emphasis on upper body development, also the extra work on the upper body has made it so I have never been close to stalling at the bench or press and I have (less importantly) built a more balanced physique. I also added dips on day A and chin ups on day B so that they serve as an assistance to the main lift being performed that day other than the squat, dips assist your bench, chin-ups assist your deadlift lock-out.
deload weeks are incorporated in a manner in which that week you press twice so you have more time to work up to a PR weight given that the press a very easy lift to stall at.

to summarize, I added weighted dips and chin-ups to even out upper-to-lower body volume and I incorporated deload weeks mostly in safeguard of my mental health.

I post this so that what im doing can be constructively criticized, im a novice looking for some form of guidance.

doing this my squat has gone from 185lbs to 240lbs (Im super fucking proud of this)
my deadlift from 240lbs to 335lbs x5
my bench from 160lbs to 185lbs x5
and my press from 100lbs to 135lbs x5

Do you see the problem here? No?

You admit you’re inexperienced, so what business do you have modifying a program?

Starting Strength isn’t at all a great program, but it has been proven to work in the short term for novice lifters. So why change it? If you don’t think it’s good, do something else.

You’ve made some progress. Fine. Hardly surprising given where you started out.

I have no words for this.

Sorry mate. The most constructive criticism I can give is to stop changing up programs. Pick one you like, do it exactly as written. If you don’t like a program, don’t do it.

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you havent read Starting Strength havent you? Rip talks a fuck ton about adding assistance work and using the programme as a guideline.

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Someone a lot stronger than you just gave you guidance, and you blew him off.

What, exactly, are you looking for again?

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I don’t really see any need for further discussion here until the OP changes his attitude.


I don’t think this is a huge deal either way. You got yourself stronger. That’s great, and an obvious sign you are doing something right.

Just don’t act like you’ve had some stroke of genius by adding some dips or declaring that deadlifting two plates should not be done frequently. You’re just lifting some weights bro. You’re not on to anything new.

Be humble and learn from those who have walked the path. Or not, if you believe you have superior methods.


Deadlifting two plates several times a week is something my girlfriend is capable of.

You clearly do not want to do Starting Strength so why even do it? There are a ton of other programs with more assistance work added in a more intelligent fashion. If you think doing 3x5 on squats twice or thrice a week is too heavy, there’s already a plan like Madcow, Texas Method and Bill Starr’s 5x5 that address this issue.

You say yourself that you are a novice so why do you insist on modifying programs that are proven to work time after time again? Also if you have clearly gained strength while doing this, why do you need any kind of acceptance from this forum for a program like this? If it works for you, do it and don’t look for acceptance from other people.

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hmm kuddos to your girlfriend I guess? No, squating 3 times a week isnt too
heavy, it just can be to tiring, its kinda hard to explain. why do you
think I dont wana do SS? Im doing it and loving it,I dont need to move on
to intermediate programming, im still making a lot of gains with ss. Im
most definetly not looking for acceptance from other people, Im looking for
constructive critism based on logic and sound argumentation.

to further elaborate.
Im not really modifiyng SS im just adding one assistance movement to each
workout (seriously, theres a whole chapter about assistance work on the
fucking book, what I added I did based on the guidelines provided by said
I do NOT need or want your acceptance, but I would really like INTELLIGENT
critiques, for example instead of “accusing” me of stupid shit in a rather
moronic fashion you could just say that if I feel the need for deloads I
may need to change my programme to a intermediate one, on a kind manner
there is no need for attacks.
I seriously have no time or desire for this sort of negativity, I apologize
if my post somehow offended anyone, I would really like advice given on a
"healthy" manner. no one in my country is into strength training of this
type, thats why I need to resort to forums.

fuck no bro, im not trying to act like a i had a stroke of genius, in trying to see if i did something right or wrong and why would that something be correct or incorrect.
on the deadlift part i guess i expressed myself incorrectly, deadlifting 2+ plates three times a week is too heavy FOR ME obviously not for everyone.

Use results for this. If you are getting results, you did something right.

I will say, with this in the powerlifting section, I do not understand why you choose to follow a program where the author says it’s not a powerlifting program nor does the author train powerlifters. If your goal is powerlifting, I would follow powerlifters personally. However, changing a working program is a silly idea.

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Lifting is heavy. The difference between heavy sets of 240lbs and a heavy set of 500lbs dl is that the latter takes longer time to recover for everybody no matter how strong you are.

My only “constructive criticism” is this: Do not program by yourself until you’ve lifted at least 5 years. Honestly. This is the most common beginner/intermediate mistake here is.

Of course “anything works”, but if progress is what you want do something proved and tested. If the changes are in line what reads in SS, I see no problem here.

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Mike Hedlesky AKA stormthebeach deadlifts well over 800lbs. and when he isn’t injured he deadlifts three times a week. Nobody says that you have to deadlift 3x/week, twice works well for most people, but don’t use some embarrassing numbers to justify why you can’t. Just follow the damn SS program and make SMALL changes as you progress and see the NEED for changes, not because you think you know better. Trust me, you don’t. Once you can’t make linear progress anymore then you should look into other things.

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Serious question: What do you think is a good beginner program? I thought that any sort of 5x5 variation (the OP is talking about 3x5, but still) was pretty much ideal for the first while, what would you recommend to an absolute beginner?

I think Dave Tate had some awesome ideas regarding how to take someone from blank slate to powerlifter. “Education of a Powerlifter” and “Iron Evolution” had some great inputs.

From the third link

Most raw novices are too weak for either method. Hell, most are too weak for weight training period.

A raw novice’s time would be better spent doing bodyweight training. You should be able to perform 100 push-ups, minimum, before even approaching a bench press. Add in pull-ups, lunges, and the other bodyweight staples to complete the program.

After a decent base of bodyweight strength has been developed, I’d next perform a sensible linear progression routine until respectable strength levels are achieved. 5/3/1 by my friend Jim Wendler and Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe would fit the bill perfectly, with assistance work programmed to target any emerging weak points in size and strength.

Basically; first spend time building basic athleticism, strength and conditioning with some athletics and bodyweight work. After that, weights can come into play. I like 5/3/1, since it’s a variety of rep ranges, logical and sustainable progress and assistance work as needed. The stuff Paul Kelso put in “Powerlifting Basics: Texas Style” is also gold for just getting a basic training plan put together.


SS is a great program and Ripptoe knows his stuff. You an extreme novice, so following his program and only modify it if you have an injury. If something is to heavy, then drop the weight. For example, if 240 taxes your CNS and is tough for you to recover, drop down to 205 or 225 and build up by adding 5lb a week or so. But, you sound to green to make changes.

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thanks for the reply, I acctually did a lot of bodyweight work before getting into strenght training, ive always had a decent physical condition cause i have spent my entire life training in martial arts but right before lifting I spent the entire year doing calisthenics, it was just for fun, i had no idea i was going to start lifting, but still before starting I could do well over a hundred pushups, 35 pull ups and about 20 pistol squats with each leg, I didnt start completely raw.

I am following SS, second phase tho.

Again though; if your goal is powerlifting, why not follow a program for a powerlifter?


what programme would you recommend?

I am not being rhetorical; I want to know your reason.

I am not a powerlifter, so I couldn’t really say.