T Nation

Switching to Starting Strength


I have been lifting for a year now. I went from 6'2 139lbs to 194 lbs in 8 months. My progress kinda stopped after that as I have been very sick the past 3 months and have had a surgery that kept me from doing lower body training. ( I have still been lifting though and currently my body weight is 181 and my strength remains the same.)

Anyways I'm starting to get a little better, slowly but surely. I am debating on switching to starting strength and following it exactly, only adding a few assistance exercises. What I'm worried about is will I lose some of the muscle mass I have gained? I have been doing a lot of volume in an attempt to gain mass. My routines started off terrible and slowly gotten to the point where they aren't too bad as my knowledge grew.

So will switching to starting strength cause me to lose any mass I have gained from the higher volume workouts I have been doing? I can post my current workout if that helps you decide.. Thanks for the input


You're only 180 pounds, you don't have much mass to lose.

What are your lifts?


haha that is very true. I do not have any 1RM. But my 3RM for each lift is as follows.
Bench Press- 200
Shoulder Press- 100
Squat- Haven't squatted in 7 weeks due to surgery
Deadlift- 295

Obviously none of these are impressive in any way. I just feel like starting strength may not allow for the volume I would like to use to gain mass. Also thinking about it a push pull routine is better for my lifestyle right now. There are some days where I can't make a training session due to my health issues and have to push it back a day. The push pull routine is perfect for that. I have heard great things about starting strength though. At the very least could I get your input on a solid push pull routine, and how to load and schedule intensity for each day? Obviously I don't want you to do everything for me just a push in the right direction may be helpful.



Starting Strength + accessory.



Step back and answer this question objectively: What is the appeal of Starting Strength for your current, specific situation, your goals, and your present post-surgery condition?

It's a good program, but it isn't a cure-all. Know why you're using a program before you even start, so that you can reap the most benefits for your time invested.

Ben Bruno had a solid push-pull-legs program a while ago:
That's a start.


Thanks Chris, I guess my reasons for switching aren't as good as they should be. Ive been stuck in a rut with my training and I guess I just wanted to try something that is proven to work. I guess the real problem is just finding something and sticking with it once my health issues go away. I also have a few unrelated questions, if you stick around this thread it would be great to have them answered and if not Idk if i can send you a PM or something. Thanks again though and I'll check out that routine now.


There are unlimited amounts of programs out there, but since you've got to deal with having a hectic schedule, something like 5/3/1 would suit you well. This would also help you with the loading, as it tells you exactly what weights to use each day.

You don't have to use 5/3/1, the more important thing is that you use something that will have built in progression on your main lifts (look for something with percentages that increase over time)

As far as a set up for push/pull/legs, check out that link that Chris Colucci posted. I did that exact set up for a while and it works well.


Ah, that's right. You had some chronic nausea problems a while ago, right? What'd that turn out to be?

No problem, man. I'm usually wandering around, or you can always shoot me a PM.


Well the nausea never got diagnosed. I continuted to get every test under the sun and saw tons of different specialists. I started going to a chiropractor 3 weeks ago and he said my spine was out of alignment and was pressing up against nerves in my stomach. I have always heard chiropractors are full of it but since I have been going to him I haven't vomited in 3 weeks so maybe he's right. I'm also seeing a nutritionist and am on a strict "diet". I was just able to start eating whole foods again last week. Only 1 meal a day and very small portions, the rest of my calories come from shakes.

Anyways my question is about loading. I started a thread and got some answers, but I'm having trouble truly understaning the concept. I'll give an example to make things more specific.

For my bench press I do 4 warm up sets. First just the bar, second with 25's on either side, 3rd with 35's on either side, then 4th with 45's on either side.

Then I do 3 work sets. A set of 7, a set of 5, and a set of 3. All are max effort sets, however the last set is sometimes until failure. My last session the first set was 185, second was 190, third was 195. My question is should each set be max effort? and should there be greater weight differences between each set? My goal is to build mass, however at the moment I'm trying to increase my strength so I can actually move heavy enough weights to do so. Thanks again Chris


Ha, I'd say it worked then. Nice.

Sucks to hear, man. But at least it sounds like you're getting it somewhat under control. Good luck with it.

What kind of reps are you doing for warm-ups? I'm not a fan of much-higher-than-usual reps since, if you're done a general warm-up before touching the weights, you should only need enough reps of a new exercise to get a good feel/groove going, unless you have a particular injury that calls for a more detailed and movement-specific warm-up.

Okay, so understand that different coaches have different takes on this, but you want my opinion, here goes... ::cracks knuckles::

When I write a program and recommend a rep range, I literally mean for all work sets to be within that range. So if I write 4x4-6, I'm expecting you to sort of "autoregulate" and use whatever weight you can handle for at least 4 good reps and no more than 6. Preferably without hitting muscular failure or grinding/barely getting any of those reps. The last set of an exercise is usually the only exception, where I can see it being fine to grind the last rep and end that lift on a high note, though I'd still avoid hitting failure or failing mid-rep.

Every rep should have solid form and feel solid. That's probably, but not necessarily, going to mean you'll adjust the weight used each set based on how you just performed and how you're feeling.

As an example, here's how I've been working my dumbbell shoulder press. My plan calls for 4x2-4.
3 Sessions Ago
60x4 -Every rep felt smooth, I could've squeezed out one more good rep before form got ugly, so I bumped up the weight.
65x3 - Felt good and solid. Stayed in the target rep range, so kept the weight.
65x2 - Glad I got at least two and hit my "minimum", but it shouldn't have been this hard. I made sure to rest a little bit longer, then attacked it again.
65x3 - Suck it, 65'ers.

2 Sessions Ago
65x3 - Based on the last workout's last set, I should be good for 3, but a 4th would be gravy.
65x3 - Felt fine, still in target range. Continue.
65x3 - Same as last set. Felt good, carry on.
65x2 +1 push press - First rep felt good, second hit me hard for some reason. I got dumb and greedy and intentionally "cheated" an extra rep with leg drive.

Most Recent Session
65x4 - Mildly pissed about last session's last set. Want to make a statement to myself, and I did. Yay me.
65x3 - Hit the top end of my rep range last set, but I don't feel confident at this weight and know 70 would be a big struggle. Kept weight the same.
65x3 - Reps felt smooth. Maintain.
65x3 - End of a good session. I'll likely go for 70 on the second or third set of the next workout, depending on how I feel.

What you need to realize, and I was just telling this to another guy with regard to rep speed, is that everything in a program is connected. When you're designing your own training plan, first you figure out the exact goal, that will tell you generally what rep range will be most effective. Once you know the reps you're using, that will tell you roughly how many sets/what volume you'll need to get towards your training goal.

When you know the volume, you'll be able to figure out what exercises will be most effective. As far as what weights to use, again, that's adjusted on a set-to-set basis using whatever keeps you within the target rep range. It requires a lot of self-evaluation and thinking on the fly, but I find it to be ultimately the most effective way of progressing. This is partially what Thibaudeau talked about here:

Was that one big ramble that missed the point, or did it make any sense?


Not to hijack the thread (I don't think it's a hijack, since I'm sticking to the topic), but I don't quite follow this: "When you know the volume, you'll be able to figure out what exercises will be most effective".

I guess I thought exercise selection came earlier in that process, based upon your goals.

How does one select exercises based on the volume?


I only do warm up reps for the first lift each day. So for my first set it is very light weight and 10 reps just to get the feel for it, then each warm up set after that is only 3 reps. Thanks for the thorough explanation, it made a lot of sense and I really feel like I get it now.


Choosing the exercises before knowing how you'll use them (sets and reps) is putting the cart before the horse. Would we say, "I'm training for arm size and I want to use one-arm cable preacher curls, reverse EZ bar curls, and that funky machine the gym just got. I'll plug them in however I can because I really want to experiment with them" or "I'm training for arm size, and I believe in (and respond to) moderate volume, so I'll use 4x6-8 for two exercises. Since I can only use two exercises, I'll go with barbell curls and incline db curls because those are two solid lifts."

It's one part appreciating/exploiting "bang for the buck" and one part knowing what you want to do and then deciding how to do it, instead of vice versa. It's probably possible to choose your exercises earlier on in program design, but it'd call for paying even more attention to fine-tuning the rest of the program structure.

If the case does come up where I want to spend some time playing with a new exercise, that's when I might go into program design-mode knowing at least one exercise i'll have to factor into the plan. But in those cases, I try to only have one new exercise per bodypart or workout, so the rest of the session can be figured out as "normally" as possible.

Warm-ups sound pretty spot on. Glad to be of some help.