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Some Questions on Starting Strength

Hello, just a few points I wanted to clear up on starting strength after a bunch of reading about it.

For context, I’m 17, 5’11", and 150lbs, and I’m planning to begin the starting strength program next week. For the past couple of months I’ve done some regular calisthenics training to get back into working out again, and rejoined the gym last week. In the last few days I’ve just played around with the basics again, and managed these numbers (not great I know):

Trap bar deadlift (straight bar was taken at the time): 130kg/286lbs (2RM)
Bench: 65kg/143lbs (3RM)
Lat pulldown: 73kg/160.6lbs (5RM)
(Didn’t get to try squats yet because the rack was quite busy, but I can do pistol squats with 10kg+ dumbbell for reps)

So far, starting strength looks like it lines up pretty well with my strength goals, but every forum or article I’ve read to understand more about it is full of so many back and forth arguments, whether it’s about upper body volume or power clean inclusion. My aim is primarily pure strength and to get a longer broad jump, but it would be nice if I could get a little bigger too, especially in my upper body.

I apologise if this is a repeat of what you’ve already read a million times, because I got frustrated reading other people’s arguments over and over again, but there are a few specific points I wondered about.

  1. Is the inclusion of pullups/chinups and dips in later phases actually enough arm volume to make reasonable gains? (Don’t worry I’m not obsessed with curls if that’s what you think I’m hinting at haha)

  2. Is the deadlift to squat ratio really such a big deal? Everyone makes only 1x5 deadlifts sound like the end of the world.

  3. How much should I decrease my lifts by when starting the first phase? I’d rather not start on a totally empty bar, but I understand that starting too heavy would make me stall sooner.

  4. Would it be wise to possibly later on increase overhead press frequency to match bench, as with ICF, provided I can still progress?

  5. Is overtraining a concern if extra work is done on top of the program? (As in, will extra work like helping with construction, or handstand practice hinder progress if done after workouts?)

Again, sorry if this is a dead topic by now, but I couldn’t find definitive answers to these anywhere else, and I’d trust this forum over r/fitness anyday
I suppose just picking a decent program and sticking to it is the best advice across the board, right?

Starting strength isnt a body building program, and as such it is not designed to make “reasonable gains” on your arms, or most of the other “show muscles” that young men usually want to be big.

If this is a primary goal for you I suggest you look for a different approach to training.

No. In fact, almost nothing is as big a deal as most people make it out to be. The program was written by someone with 30 years of experience and gets critiqued by people with 30 days of experience. Pick which one you’d rather listen to.

I believe the way Rip encourage you to select a start weight is to do increasing sets of 5 until you get to a “hard set” (form breaks down, grinding reps, unable to complete 5 full reps). Your starting weight should be 5, good, solid reps but the last rep should be a good effort (NOT a rep you might miss, but if you do 5 reps with an empty bar it shouldnt be that easy for your working weight)

It would be wise to follow the program. It is laid out the way it is for a reason.

Probably not for someone your age and experience level. “Helping with contruction” sound like your job, which should be your priority. And handstand practice should be fine as well.


You are a picture-perfect candidate for following Starting Strength to the letter. Change nothing, do exactly what it says, and you’ll be in a much better place in 3 months.

Many coaches believe so. Arm size is way down the list of priorities on the Starting Strength plan, but when you gain 25 pounds of bodyweight while increasing your lifting numbers, your arms will get bigger along the way.

Not really sure what you’re referring to, but again, follow the plan as-is.

You don’t “decrease” your lifts, you choose appropriate weights. Something where you’re not grinding the sets of 5 from week one. Maybe the ballpark of an 8-ish rep max if you don’t want to work your way up from the bar. But, with your bench for example, starting with the bar and working up over a few sets the first few sessions will be a good idea.

Mark Rippetoe is smarter than Jason Blaha. Do what he said to do.

Under-recovery is definitely an issue when adding work to any plan, especially a strength-focused routine. Sleep and food become even more important the more “stuff” you’re doing.



Thank you for the answers - I’m not too concerned with show muscles like biceps or whatever, just overall would like to gain some weight. Do you have any suggestions for good strength or hypertrophy (or both?) programs for after six months of SS?

Thank you for the reply, I hope to order the starting strength book soon and get some more information on everything. Can’t wait to start lifting!

If you find yourself liking Marks style of programming, he recommends moving from Starting Strength to Texas Method, which again is more focused on Strength that body building. Its very similar, but changes from workout-to-workout weight increases to weekly increases (so you would only increase the weight on Friday, for example, its a little more complicated than that but you can read up on it if you want). If you still find yourself liking Marks style of programming, buy his book “Practical Programming for Strength Training” which not only has more programs, but teaches you the principles so no longer need someone elses program, but can figure out what works and make your own.

As for BBing, there are 50,000 templates online. Find one you like and get after it. It really, truly, honestly doesnt matter which you pick as long as you are training hard, although generally speaking its probably easier to succeed if you do a “bro split” which is typically where you train everything once a week on its own day. Again though, full body, upper/lower/ Push-Pull-Leg, Body Part Split… they all work about the same. Just find one that makes training fun for you and works with your schedule.


I think you’re off to a great start. Just do the program as planned till you get a little more experience.

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Be prepared to stall and have a plan.

For example, if you only get four squats at 250, then the next time do five, Then drop to five pound bumps, then to 2 1/2 pounds, then go 3x3, 3x4, 3x5.

Don’w quit the LP because you stalled on one lift, stick with it.

Good luck young Skywalker.


And your goals.

Don’t run starting strength and be surprised that it doesn’t turn you into a fitness model. That is not the point of the program.

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Of course that being said, it’s a great way to familiarize yourself with structured strenght training and learn to navigate your way around the gym.

If you goals change, at least you have the flexibility to move on to something else.

It should be also added that Started Strength isn’t a powerlifting program either

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Hey man - my advice. Run the programme as directed. See how it goes.
You might find your arms do lag. In which case you know next time you need more arm volume. You might find the pull ups give you 16 inch biceps. Who knows? But once you have 3-6 months under your belt and you can report back on progress people here can help fill in the gaps.

Mho SS is a great intro to weight training. It’s not the be all and end all. But for a kid looking to gain a bit if strength and a bit of mass its spot on.

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Most people will get bigger arms from curling. Some people can get big arms without curling (usually, they are arm dominant in pulling movements).

SS is notorious for producing noodle arms but you will need to see for yourself.

  • Is the deadlift to squat ratio really such a big deal? Everyone makes only 1x5 deadlifts sound like the end of the world.

Most people are okay with this if you also do the power cleans and squats.

  • How much should I decrease my lifts by when starting the first phase? I’d rather not start on a totally empty bar, but I understand that starting too heavy would make me stall sooner.

On day 1, make the last set of each exercise a little bit challenging.

When I say little bit, I don’t mean grinding from rep 1 of the last set but that the last rep of the day for each movement should be a bit slower than the preceeding ones.

Don’t start with an empty barbell if that is a walk in the park.

  • Would it be wise to possibly later on increase overhead press frequency to match bench, as with ICF, provided I can still progress?

ICF is pure junk. Don’t do that. Anyone who has run SS knows that the later stages are really fucking tough. The idea of adding all that extra work is nonsense. If you want a program which matches those lifts then find one written by someone who actually coaches people.

  • Is overtraining a concern if extra work is done on top of the program? (As in, will extra work like helping with construction, or handstand practice hinder progress if done

That is fine - though some SS zealots will tell you that all your energy needs to go to SS

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I am going to be the dissenting voice on Starting Strength here.

Now, if you want to just run it for 3 months to get into the weight room and establish a practice of regular lifting, it’ll work for that just fine. Per your questions though.

  1. Direct arm training is NOT a bad thing, despite what many gurus would have you believe. Most of the people in the world with big and strong arms got that way with direct arm training. There’s nothing wrong with curls. Include curls and direct tricep work in a good program.

  2. Ratios in general are not a big deal, but also, you can deadlift much more than 1x5 and still recover. When you run a better program, it will most likely have more deadlifting.

3 and 4: Just do a better program after 3 months. Don’t stay with Starting Strength.

  1. It would be impossible to overtrain what with how little volume there is in 5/3/1. As a 17 year old, you’ll be able to do a LOT more work.

Use this as a springboard into more effective training.

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To be fair to starting strength, it isn’t intended to be run for longer than that for most people.

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Concur, although now there are included phases to make it last even longer, and then Mark released Practical Programming to make it even more insane. I swear he doesn’t know any number other than 5, haha.

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You mean “fahve” (for those who have heard him speak)


I personally don’t like the idea of newbies doing direct arm work. I think their time can be spent on going heavier on compound movements. But I also like the idea of doing whatever you want once you got the compound lifts out of the way.

I feel as though this is a false dichotomy. Why can’t they go heavy on compound movements AND do direct arm work? A couple sets of curls takes like 5 minutes, especially since loading is easy. You could even work them in between sets with minimal detriment to performance. Pushdowns can be done with a band after all pressing is done as a burnout exercise for 1 set.

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More like time/effort. But I agree with you since direct arm work doesn’t take too long and its easy to

If I were teaching teenagers to lift, I wouldn’t include it or specify 1 curl variation set/rep range because I don’t want these kids to do ego curls or 3x10 of every curl variation after

Yeah, I’d include 1 type o f curl. I don’t see a need for more than that as a beginner. It’d ideally be barbell/axle, because it would help maintain necessary mobility in the wrists and elbows that tends to get lost through training. If they absolutely can’t do that due to pain, I’d go with dumbbells or the EZ curl bar, but still focus on keeping the wrist turned up. Too many dudes jump straight to hammer curls, and all it does is reinforce lacking mobility.

And then something for direct tricep work. Again, could just throw in some pulldowns until failure for 1 set after all the pushing.

Big, strong arms are a GOOD thing. You use arms SO much when you’re actually trying to move heavy stuff. Powerlifting became real big and convinced people that you don’t need big strong arms to be strong because you can get away with neglecting direct arm training when it comes to the powerlifts, but if you ever tried to move a heavy and awkward object over some distance, you’ll see just how much your arms come into play.