T Nation

Weight Gain concern on Starting Strength


Hey guys, I am new to this forum. My main goal is to gain a lot of strength. I am 5’10 and my starting weight was 145 lbs. So, I’ve been doing Starting Strength for over 6 months now and currently weigh 165 lbs. My bench has gone from 95 lbs. x 5 to 170 lbs. x5. My squat has gone from 150 lbs. x 5 to 275 lbs. x 5. My deadlift has gone from 185 lbs. x 5 to 340 lbs. x 5. My OH Press has gone from 75 lbs. x 5 to 120 lbs. x 5. I know that Rippetoe has said that by the end of the program, you should have added a total of 40-50 lbs. of bodyweight on you within 6-9 months. However, that’s seems to be a bit too much bodyweight to add on within less than a year.

In fact, according to other legit resources on weightlifting and nutrition that I’ve looked up before, they say that newbies can expect to only gain at the very most approx. 20 (if you’re genetically lucky) of pure muscle tissue within 1 year. I know that putting on some degree of excess fat from having a caloric surplus is needed to promote optimal muscle growth, but if as a newbie I gained 40-50 lbs. of weight on me by the end of the 6-9 months on this program, then I will have gained about 15-20 lbs. of lean mass (including muscle, water, bone, and connective tissue) and 25-35 lbs. of fat on me. So, do I really need to add another 20-30 lbs. of weight within the next 3 months to continue making significant strength gains on the program?


What does the mirror tell you? Let your results dictate your actions.



OP, you are correct that adding 40-50 pounds in a year will undoubtedly include some fat gain. If staying lean is a priority, then you certainly can seek a cleaner bulking process, even that means slightly slower strength gains. The key thing is what dt79 just said - don’t go by some magic number you read in a book, go by what’s actually happening with your body.

You appear to have made some excellent strength progress (deadlifting 340x5 at 165 pounds is really quite good for only 6 months of solid lifting). I will hazard the guess that you are still fairly lean, so just keep striving to add weight to the bar, eat “big but clean” (plenty of eggs, meat, and vegetables) & then let the mirror and the weight on the bar tell you whether it’s going well or not. If progress starts to slow down on SS, you might consider shifting to Texas Method or one of the zillion versions of 5/3/1.


Rip doesn’t care about your waist line. He cares about you getting strong and learning the basics.

If your waist line is a concern and you learned the basics, move on.

Eat and train for your goals.

Don’t diet, don’t join a “fitness” class and stay away from programs that do not include balance and compound movements.

Refine eating and training habits until you reach your goal.

Did I mention to eat and train for your goal?


I can all but guarantee he did not say that. He may have said it has happened, not that it should happen. The same way some Italians from New York have been in the mafia, but not all Italians from New York should be in the mafia.

Your strength has gone up a bunch and your bodyweight has gone from underweight to not-underweight. If your “main goal is to gain a lot of strength”, first, I’d ask specifically what “a lot” means. Strength is a particular goal where specific targets are very possible and very effective. Secondly, I’d say you’re on track and should make further adjustments based on when/if your strength plateaus.

Also, the numbers you were throwing around about gaining X amount of weight per year didn’t take into consideration that you were at the far end of the bell curve and were significantly underweight to begin with, which means your body is/was capable of adding “greater than average” weight in a given time, if properly fed.


Thanks for all your responses, guys. I still look pretty lean, as I can still see my abs a little bit when I flex them. So in my case, would adding at least 5-10 lbs. of bodyweight on me over the next month, likely improve my strength significantly on all of the main lifts?


Were I in your situation, I’d focus less on making the scale weight move on and more on making the weight on the bar increase. If you NEED to eat more to get that to happen, do it, but don’t try to beat it to the punch. That’s a recipe for getting fatter.


Well, to be honest, my lifts have stall for about 3 weeks now at a bodyweight of 165 lbs. even after deloading and reloading 2 times. So, are you guys are saying that I am just gonna have try and see if gaining more weight on me will increase my lifts significantly?


So here’s the thing; you’ve done the same thing many many times in a row and it’s not working. One possible solution is to try to throw more food at it, but do you imagine that THIS is the one thing that’s keeping you from getting bigger and stronger?

I would find it far more reasonable to believe that it is the TRAINING that is failing rather than simply the diet. It was working, now it’s not. You dropped the weight down, did the exact same thing you did before, stalled out, did that again, and stalled out. You’ve found the limitation of the programming, so it’s time to use something different with different limitations.

Something with a variety of rep ranges, assistance work, a logical and sustainable progression method, etc etc. 5/3/1, Westside Barbell for Skinny Bastards, the Cube Method, the Juggernaut Method, etc. All great programs based around logical principles and developed by successful athletes/coaches with verifiable track records.


Well, it’s funny that you mentioned all of those other programs, because I actually tried all of them, each and everyone one of them to the T and they didn’t work to improve my strength. I’ve tried practically everything to improve my strength significantly and none of them really worked until I did Starting Strength.

Maybe I am not recovering well, because I am not eating enough, which has negatively affected my strength performance in the gym. Idk.


How long did you spend on each program? The sheer fact that you started Starting Strength at 5’10 and 145lbs after running all of those programs is rather alarming.


I ran each program for 2 months.


This is probably the reason why you experienced no success. Hell, on WS4SB, you wouldn’t have even had enough time to rotate BACK to an ME movement in that span to be able to even gauge if you had gained any strength unless you ran 2 ME movements back to back, which isn’t really a great way to go about it anyway. On 5/3/1, 2 months isn’t even enough time to get your training max close to your actual max.

You have stuck with a program for 6 months now, and that’s awesome. If you can bring that kind of conviction to one that is well designed (and pair it with intensity of effort and consistency), I believe you will see the results you want. If you try to push the scale weight up while sticking with Starting Strength, I believe you will get fatter than you’d like.


I did rotate back to an ME movement after trying for two months and I got no increase on the bench. Also, I can’t keep wasting so much trial and error time trying to figure out what works for me.


Well good luck with all that.


Is the key to definitely gaining strength, after making newbies gains on a 3x5 or 5x5 programs, is to continue to eat more while utilizing a legit strength program like 5/3/1?


You tried “all of them, each and every one” of those programs " - 5/3/1, Westside for Skinny Bastards, the Cube Method, and the Juggernaut Method - “to the T” for 2 months each and none of them improved your strength? Mind telling us which 5/3/1 template you used?


I tried the boring but big template of 5/3/1.


Move on to Texas method or madcow -the majority stall hard on SS around the point you’re at.

Also you must have set up 5/3/1 wrong as its pretty much impossible not to set rep PRs for the first 3-4 months even if eating like a bird


What was your diet like during this time? And, for that matter, during all of your prior training time when you gave 4 excellent programs each a 2-month-long effort and saw no progress?