Rippetoe on Training Volume

I recently heard an interview with Mark Rippetoe regarding weight training in the middle age bracket. I formed the impression that strength athletes in the 40 year old range ought to keep training sessions heavy, and eliminate longer sets. He suggested 3-4 sets of 5 reps (working sets… not including warm ups etc) would be enough to stimulate a training effect while allowing for a decreased recovery capacity. In other words, the program for Starting Strength seems to apply to young novices and older lifters about equally (ignoring the differences in rate of progressive overload).

This lead me to wonder: How many forum members here have adopted this logic and focussed on lifting heavy with reduced volume because of age? I am coming to the end of a 6-week reintroduction to lifting and was debating trying the Texas Method program… but the volume on that seems a bit higher than what was recommended for a 40-year old without a great background in strength training.

Any advice? Whatever program I adopt has to be a total body approach, lifting 7 times in a 14 day period.

I would say anyone doing a full-body workout every other day would be wise to keep the per-workout volume low, no matter his/her age.

Thanks for the quick reply… sometimes the simple answer is the easiest to overthink. I’ll keep my progression heavy but low volume, whatever form it eventually takes.

By the way, you had an excellent thread on your training/diet! I learned a great deal by reading that.


Give it a whirl. The wednesday/light day accomodates for the volume and acts as active recovery and help build your work capacity over time. Waterbury programs also worth a look.

Also consider getting some Plazma and Mag 10/ hydrolysed whey and karbolyn depending on budget -pretty much doubles the amount of volume you can recover from if used properly

Don’t remember which one, but on one of his recent Youtube podcast Q & As, Rippetoe specifically told someone that the Texas program was not for older lifters. Not a Rippetoe fanboy, but he’s entertaining, so I was just listening for entertainment value, and I don’t recall whether an age cutoff for “older” was mentioned.

Perhaps you can try asking the question on one of his forums. His followers are very…avid, so I’m sure you’ll get a quick response.

Caveat: everyone is different, etc., etc…

Thanks for the info, and the supplement advice. I will definitely check out the Biotest stuff, and likely give it a run. How long do you give a supplement before evaluating effect?

Also, while I like Rippetoe and respect him immensely, I’m not sure I will ever be able to achieve his benchmarks for strength given my genetics and background as an endurance athlete. Although absolute strength is my weakness, and if the point of training is to improve on those things that are difficult for you, then I am inclined to give his stuff a try.

It’s undoubtedly worth the effort.

In this case pretty much straight away -ie do a tough workout where you know you will feel it the next morning, if its for you then will feel much more recovered/less sore than usual.

Saying that you might need to play around with dosage and timing to see what your body responds best to.
Immediately post workout works best for me but a lot of guys seem to get the most results with pre and mid training consumption.

For something like creatine or vit D3 I would evaluate after a few weeks or one bottle

Thibaudeau has been talking about this a lot lately. To build muscle you need to activate mTor; however, mTor activation can increase the effects of aging. The solution for lifters over 35 might be to do more frequent training with lower volume. CT said he likes to do lifts that emphasize the concentric portion of a lift without the eccentric (Olympic lifts). It allows him to address his strength without activating mTor too much and thus increasing aging.

I’m not quite 35 but I’ve been paying attention. You definitively don’t need to do a high volume program written by someone enhanced. I think you could benefit from 3-4 sets of 5 on each exercise as long as you’re pushing yourself and not wasting energy on stuff that’s too light. I think the older we get, the less room we have for fluff. Get in the weight room, work hard, and get out. It doesn’t have to be a marathon session to be effective.


I’m 53 and spent about 12 weeks on SS and am admittedly a Rippetoe fan but recognize that everybody needs to find their own groove.

I hired a Starting Strength Coach and he told me that Texas Method is a young man’s program. When I got towards the end of my LP, I also extended recovery time and reduced the amount of weight added between workouts.

Instead of MWF, I would lift Monday, Thursday, Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, etc…

I dropped my increases to five on SQ and DL and 2.5 on BP and OHP.

Andy Baker has more on this for over forty lifters.

The bottom line is that us old folks can’t recover as well and we need to make sure we are getting good nutrition, sleep, and recovery time between workouts.

FYI, I made solid gains on the program and was very happy with it. That doesn’t mean I would not have done better or as well on something else, but I enjoyed it.

On the advice of my SSC, I went back to 5/3/1 after my SS LP stalled.

Good luck!

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Very True!!


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Thanks guys for adding insight. I must admit that my own empirical evidence suggests that I don’t have the recovery ability for marathon sessions. I will go ahead and try some Plazma for a pre-intra workout help.

Part of me wonders at 38 what my expectations ought to be with respect to progress. I am hoping it isn’t too late to reap some novice training benefits, but the promised weight and strength gains attainable by 20 year olds is certainly not available to a novice in his late 30s.

I think I’m going to focus on really perfecting my low bar squat, keeping the weight high, the reps and sets low, and the recovery as best as possible.

Final follow up question: Any suggestions on supplement lifts to improve a low bar squat for someone with less than optimal recovery (notwithstanding the Plazma effect… according to the store, I ought to become HUUUUGE).

I would do the opposite - start low, add weight every week and focus on form. If you don’t have someone to lift with, post videos here for form checks. I started LBBS (Low Bar Back Squat) at 140 pounds and got up to 265 3x5 on SS when I got with a coach. Lo and behold, I was high AF and had to reset at 215#. You’re better off reaping the benefits of good form than just moving the weight in a sloppy manner.

This depends on your commitment to the program. If you eat enough and sleep enough and do it intelligently, you can milk LP for 16-20 weeks. You won’t be able to add ten pounds to your squat and deadlift every workout for that long, but if you rest well, eat well, and use micro loading (less than ten pounds when it gets heavy), you can expect to add significant weight to your lifts barring injury.

Another issue you need to confront is your tolerance for gaining fat. If you eat enough to continue LP, you will gain some fat. If your goals are strictly strength, then good for you and rock on.

If you have issues with gaining fat, you’ll cut your LP short.

I went from 183 to 197 in twelve weeks, and I looked pretty good at 6’1" and 197. My BIA scale had me at 15.7% body fat, up from 13.5%, but I was probably more like 18.5%, up from 15%, and that’s why I quit. I really wanted to get to a 1000 pound total, which isn’t shit, but I couldn’t handle being fat because I used to be really fat, so I started cutting, which doesn’t work with SS.

But, I started at 140 squat, admittedly low and low on purpose, and finished at 265 - still low, but good gains.

My bench went from 145-195 for 3x5, my OHP went from 95 to 135, and my DL went from 155 to 275. I did hit a three plate DL a few weeks ago, albeit with shitty form.

My weight went from 183 to 197, BF from 13.5 to 15.7 (most likely inaccurate).

That’s my experience on SS. I loved it.

Cutting now, average weight and bf last week were 180@12.3%. Lifts are way down but that’s because I quit TRT twelve weeks ago.

Good luck man!

Edit: I have pictures if you want to see the changes - they weren’t that great because a lot of initial strength comes from CNS rather than from hypertrophy.

Great information… thanks for the recap. I should have qualified my current program: I am doing sets of 15 reps of squats, with VERY low weight (160 lbs). I am having a tougher time recovering, and hence the extra research and questions of volume. For me, heavy weight and low reps will likely be 3-4 sets of 5 reps.

I think a general problem of using such a light weight for squats is that it actually affords poor technique: The load is light enough that I can “hold” the bar with my arms, and not pay attention to proper tension and bar placement. As my lifting weight increases, there is no more margin for error.

I think I will heavily consider a Starting Strength program in the next 2 weeks (I am currently doing a very general strength program to “get ready”). I don’t mind putting on fat, since my ectomorphic figure can take off fat and muscle at an alarming rate.

I suppose it comes down to this: I would kill myself in the gym if it brought the results I wanted, but at this stage I doubt that working harder will trump working smarter. I think I’ll be fine as long as I also win the battle of the knife and fork.