Starting Strength or Wendler's Beginner Program?

Hey everyone. I have a strange question which might be out of the ordinary and kind of biased based on the forum and all. I started lifting in 2015-2016 and did starting strength and got very strong. After hitting a plateau and feeling beat up I switched programing and then once covid hit I started hardcore training at home. I took about 8 months off for crossfit and know I want to get back to strength training. I am trying to plan ahead but over the last few days I have been considering a few things and need some honest advice where to go from here. I am currently running Krypteria redux and enjoy it, but I am wondering if I could get back to stronger numbers using something like starting strength to move up in weight. I have come up with three ideas and not sure which would be the best.

  1. Run a short Starting Strength LP to get back up in the weights
  2. Run Jim’s beginner program
    3.After week 3 on the current template take a few days and run a training max test or work up to an all out 1RM to recalculate my training max

Just to clarify, since the post kinda went all over the place

Is your goal:

  • To get stronger?

  • To move more weight on certain lifts?

The next step depends on the answer to that.

I’ve run SS and derivatives (grayskull) a couple of times after long layoffs, so might be able to say something useful about whether it will be profitable to run an LP again. Some questions:

  1. What did your squat 5RM end at on the first LP?
  2. What is your best ever squat 5RM?
  3. What is your current squat 5RM?
  4. What was your body weight at the beginning and end of your first LP?
  5. What is your current body weight?

Basically, I want to know if you have runway on squat strength and body weight for an LP to takeoff.

  1. Do you want to train cleans/snatches? [NB: First timers to SS, you don’t get this choice. Do the dang cleans. Re-runners hopefully have a clearer idea about their goals and can choose.]
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One of Wendler’s principles of training is to start light. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. You’ll get too numbers higher than you’ve ever touched before you know it. Buy 5/3/1 Forever and learn you’r how to program Leader and Anchor cycles and you can basically program for yourself for the rest of your life and pick your supplemental/assistance just based on what your goals are in terms of strength and/or size. Remember that you can use the 7th week protocol to test your maxes in case you think you’re going too light.

I want to get stronger build back up the four lifts. I had decent numbers but for example on starting strength I was squatting 245lbs but since training at home I don’t think I touch anything even close to that, maybe 185lbs. Currently from coming leaving CrossFit training and lack of barbell training my squat is I believe an estimated 1rm of 140lbs. So I would like to see them go up and get stronger.

My body weight on starting strength went from about 170lbs to 205lbs but mostly fat. I was unhappy being that big and while sure some weights were being moved I looked out of shape not strong just fat. I currently am around 175lbs

I have forever and have combed through it many times for templates and trying to play around with some of the anchor leaders. I just didn’t know if building my lifts up every session would be better than progress monthly and if maybe I was holding myself back. I’m currently running krypteria redux and like the layout but I’m wondering if I continue this template if the circuit work will fail me or not. Just want to maximize my time and training and not spin my wheels.

It doesn’t seem like you understand leaders and anchors. Leaders are higher volume supplemental periods and anchors are lower volume higher intensity periods done for a shorter period of time with more assistance work. Generally you do 2 leaders and 1 anchor. You are certainly not spinning your wheels. If you want lots of work at a high percentage of your training max, you could check out one of the templates that offer that like 5/3/1 for Hardgainers or one of the many other templates designated as such.

You can train however you’d like but several members on this board are getting bigger and stronger using 5/3/1 Forever, including myself. While we may be able to tell you how well it works, if you don’t pour everything into it, it won’t work. Whatever you do, believe in it 100% and give it your all.


Perhaps I have misread the thread or misunderstood but they way I understood it is:

  1. You have not been practicing the main lifts for a long time
  2. As a result your current max on those is drastically lower
  3. You want to do something before 5/3/1 to get your numbers back up and rely on ‘muscle memory’ to aid with that.
  4. You are worried following 5/3/1 with your ‘deflated maxes’ atm would be spinning your wheels

Is that correct?

If so I definitely see the logic in doing a week on week progressive overload on the weights until you stall, take those numbers and then follow 5/3/1 with the correct TM.

I also somewhat agree following 5/3/1 with a deflated max and then taking 85%-90% of that and adding the 5lbs/10lbs every cycle is not the best.

If you mean you think 5/3/1 in general with the 85%-95% TM and using %s of that is spinning your wheels then I agree with @davemccright you are WRONG. Many people here have followed 5/3/1, committed to it and ended up casually hitting 5+ reps with higher weight then their old 1rm following the protocol.


I was asking which of these two and you picked both.

That will make determining the next step difficult. So again: which of those 2 is the goal?

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Yes I have not done any real lifting for about 8 months. I have run 5/3/1 many times in the past and enjoy it but I was always coming off a program like starting strength and always training the four compound movements. For the last eight months I have done barbell squats maybe twice and deadlifted with a barbell 3 times.

I want to get strong that is the ultimate goal but if I got strong wouldn’t my lift numbers go up at the same time. My concern is that if I continue using my current training max I will get stronger but I’m also holding myself back because I haven’t lifted in 8 months and jumping back into it is great but is my training max set correctly to grow or could I use some progressive overload over a weekly basis instead of a monthly basis. I guess that’s where my head is at. Starting strength you add weight every time you lift but 5/3/1 you add weight but it’s a percentage of your maxes and it’s monthly. It’s slower which is fine since most use it as an intermediate program not a beginner program. I know in forever he has prep school/ beginner template which I was considering running but I wasn’t sure if that was a smart move or not to help get back into the right amount of weight to see some strength come back and build on it.

In my opinion, the question comes down to whether you want to have overall body strength or get much stronger on specific exercises. Naturally, when you have general strength you will be stronger on these exercises, but obviously it will not be optimal if your main goal is to increase as much as possible the strength of these exercises.
At least that’s how I understood it.

5/3/1 works for everyone, but many times the advice to beginners is to wait for the weight in each workout, and when they can’t do that anymore, switch to a program where the weight goes up each week. And when they hit a plateau there too, they switch to a program where the weight goes up every month.
Even if I haven’t reached a plateau of increasing the weight every workout, my personal preference is to start with 5/3/1 or at worst Madcow 5x5 type programs.

You’re squatting barely 1 plates at a bodyweight of 170lbs? You’re overthinking things man, pick any program by an established author and get to work for a long time. Stop template jumping, stop worrying about optimal, stop asking questions on the internet, start working harder. Your deficiency is in your effort, not your method.

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I’ll be honest dude: it’s hard for me to understand how you’ve been on these forums for so long and read so much of Jim’s books and still think this way.

The TM does NOT determine how fast YOU progress. It simply determines what weight is on the bar. Weight on the bar does not determine speed of progression. If it did, we’d all just put 1200lbs on the bar and be Superman.

TMs can go DOWN while progress goes UP. And TMs can go up with progress going down. It’s why I asked the question I asked. Abbreviated programs like Starting Strength are about getting BETTER at lifting weights: not STRONGER. That’s why you run them for 8-16 weeks before moving on: it’s a short term blast to improve proficiency on the barbell lifts. New lifters look like baby deer on ice when they first lift a barbell, so you give them a program with few sets of few reps so that they can’t groove bad motor patterns and you keep upping the weight as their skill catches up to their ALREADY AVAILABLE strength. Once they can no longer keep up that pace, it means skill and strength have met, and now it’s time to actually get stronger.

If your goal is to get stronger, you don’t need to worry about getting better. You can just jump straight to the getting stronger phase. I legit have NO idea how much weight I can lift on the 4 lifts. I know what my TM is, I know what I’m SUPPOSED to lift, and I lift that so I can get stronger.

So if your goal is to get stronger, there’s no need to rush your TM. You can get stronger with lighter weights. If a dude goes from deadlifting 405 for 5 to 405 for 20, that dude got stronger, even though the weight didn’t go up. If that same dude deadlifted 405 for 5 and it took him 2 minutes to do that, and he gets it down to 45 seconds, that dude got stronger, even though the weight AND reps didn’t change. If that SAME dude deadlifted 405 for 5 in 2 minutes and does it again BUT, before the deadlifts the second time he did 400 push ups, that dude got stronger, EVEN THOUGH the weight, reps AND TIME did not change.

There’s more to getting stronger than simply putting more weight on the bar.


A couple guys mentioned overthinking and I agree that’s your main issue. It sounds like your main goal is to get stronger on the 4 main lifts. If that’s true go with either the 5/3/1 for Beginners or Big But Boring and run them as written.


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This strength level is that of a rank novice. You are a prime candidate for a linear progression program like Starting Strength or Greyskull. More complicated programs will work (because everything will work for you) but they will mostly waste your time.

So, in my perspective, you never actually finished the program. I expect the average 20-35yo male of your size to finish the program with a squat 5RM in the mid 300s to low 400s, using the techniques for drawing out the program described in Practical Programming for Strength Training. If I were to guess, the reason you stalled out early was one or more of 1) poor nutrition, you gained weight but not strength so protein was probably inadequate, 2) egregious form errors, uncoached people will often do things like put the bar too low and stall out when the weight is too much to hold in place, 3) poor program management, use the techniques described in PPFST to reset after a stall, or better, to prevent stalls in the first place.

So, yes, do Starting Strength or the Greyskull Linear Progression by Johnny Pain exactly as written. I somewhat prefer SS, but I think for someone who is a bit spastic with their training as you seem to be, Greyskull works better. Get and read the full ebook and pick any two of the layer-ins that make you happy.

Also, this 100%.