Never ask a question that you may not be prepared to have answered. - Mark Rippetoe

Frequently Asked Questions

Purpose, Scope, Target AudienceEdit


The purpose of this wiki is twofold:

  1. General - to provide a repository of useful information for any novice trainee
  2. Specific - to provide a concise, comprehensive and cross-referenced guide to the Starting Strength program and the lifts it teaches and to answer the hundreds of questions that have been asked on this incredibly simple program


This is primarily intended for the novice trainee who is new to the weightroom. There are many statements which apply to novices only, not intermediates or advanced/elite athletes. The program can be used by intermediates and better, but the writeup is directed to the newb.

Target AudienceEdit

The exact intended target audience of the First Edition of Starting Strength is the coach of pubescent/teenage kids who want to get bigger and stronger, frequently for a sport. The Second Edition is directed specifically at the trainee (of any age, regardless of advancement in puberty). The newest edition of Starting Strength is the Third Edition. The Third Edition is the recommended book to purchase for new trainees.

Both books, and the programs contained within, emphasize the gradual but consistent progression in weight of a handful of basic exercises with specific and incredibly detailed on proper technique. As a result, it is very useful for any newcomer to the weight training game, as well as anyone who is making a "comeback" to the iron sport. If you haven't trained in awhile and want to get back into weight training, then the Starting Strength program will probably be ideal for you, as it will help get you back into shape rapidly. If you are new to weight training, then this program, as simple as it is, is arguably the ideal method for the first several months of your training.

Again, this program (and the books) are for:

  1. Strength training coaches
  2. Newcomers to the weight room
  3. "Old timers" looking to get back into lifting shape
  4. Anyone who hasn't mastered the squat, bench, deadlift, press and power clean, but would like to.

If you have been using exclusively nautilus machines, Hammer Strength machines, or bodyweight-type workouts, then this workout will also be a great introductory weight training program to teach you the "way of the iron."

The book itself contains a wealth of information and detail on the "big 3" exercises (squat, bench and deadlift), as well as power cleans and standing overhead presses. The detail and exacting cause/effect relationships with technique and technical flaws that is described in the books are, in my opinion, priceless. So in addition to the above-mentioned individuals, even non-coaches who are advanced in their weight training can learn quite a bit about the most important and useful exercises being done in the weight room.

Is this program for mass or strength?Edit

The bodybuilding magazine world is wrought with huge, vascular, "pumped up" fellows with bulging musculature, ripped abs and pecs, and enormously wide delts and backs. Yet there seems to be a disconnect between the size of their muscles and the amount of weights some of them move. Unfortunately, common sense takes a back seat to fantasy and silliness, and the result is that the novice trainee sees the pro on the cover of a magazine and now believes that he can get "big and hyooj" without making progress in their strength. This is a fallacy, for several reasons.

First, we must define what a "bigger muscle" is. Your muscle, after a workout, is probably slightly bigger than it was when you started the workout. Think about what happens when someone does a few sets of curls, his biceps looks bigger. This happens for a variety of reasons, but for simplicity's sake, we'll just deal with the increased blood flow. That is "the pump" that has been discussed elsewhere. Intermediate trainees know this all too well, and they flaunt it to best advantage. Some keep light dumbbells in the back seats of their cars, and prior to encountering members of the opposite sex (or perhaps the same sex), they will do some "pump sets" to make themselves look nice and 'swole'. However, this effect is short-lived, just as the flushing of your face from a hard workout is short-lived. It does not represent true "muscular size".

For our purposes, we will define 'a bigger muscle' simply as increased muscle tissue. It is beyond the scope of this discussion to detail the difference between myofibrillar hypertrophy and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, except to say that additional myofibrillar hypertrophy is what results in "more muscle tissue", and is the type of size that causes the majority of muscular size and density in the vast majority of Homo sapiens. This is the type of growth we concern ourselves with. In the future, you can concern yourself with sarcoplasmic hypertrophy when you have been training for, perhaps, a year(ish). But for the novice, you need to understand that you MUST get stronger in order to get bigger.

Why do I need to get strong?Edit

"I don't care about strong, I care about mass. Ronnie Coleman is bigger than the powerlifters, strength isn't really necessary"

  1. The majority of powerlifters need to eat somewhat limited/controlled calories because they want to remain in their weight class for competition. They want to be as strong as possible while minimizing their overall bodyweight. As such, they eat with this in mind.
  2. Lean muscularity coupled with vascularity and small joints creates the illusion of much greater muscular size, whereas smooth musculature and large joints create the illusion of much less muscular size. This is ESPECIALLY prominent in pictures, so bodybuilders, even if they have much less muscle mass than powerlifters, frequently look more "jacked".
  3. The type of person who is going to be extremely successful in powerlifting will have very specific structural "abnormalities". Great deadlifters will have longer arms, great squatters and deadlifters will have shorter legs, great benchers will have shorter arms, etc. What is a guarantee is that a champion powerlifter will have a large, blocky waist and thick joint structure. A bodybuilder will have a smaller, more wasp-like waist, coupled with much smaller joints.

Moral of the story? Don't compare powerlifters to bodybuilders. If you add 50 lbs to your bench without changing your technique, do you honestly think you won't have thicker pecs, delts and triceps?

On a side note, the last 2 Olympias, Dorian and Ronnie, are (or were) widely considered the strongest high-level bodybuilders of their respective times. By now, you've probably seen Ronnie's 800-lb back squat and deadlift, his 585x6 front squat, his 200x12 DB press, his 495 x 10 barbell rows...that is strength.

"Strength" ≠ "1-rep max". Don't get them confused. "Stronger" means that your muscles can move more weight for any given rep range than they could before.

Why shouldn't I mess with the original program?Edit

The reason why people really don't like guys altering Rippetoe's novice program is because the target audience of this program doesn't know anywhere near enough about training to make appropriate adjustments. You'll see newbs who are 13ep peaks", and they want to train their upper-inner chest because it's a weak point. This is laughable simply because their entire body is one big weak link! In reality, they aren't really weak, they are simply untrained.

The flip side is that anyone who actually needs any type of specialized instruction is already well-trained and conditioned, and they have identified true weak points...well, they shouldn't be using this program's template! They have specific needs that require addressing. The novice's only "specific need" is to get bigger and stronger overall. The target audience is not someone who actually has weak points, the target audience is someone who hasn't been training long enough to know what a true weak point is.

On, those issues are brought to bear multiple times on a daily basis again and again, and every single person thinks they are special or different. So many clueless kids seem to somehow have some gem of knowledge to share from an uncle who used to squat 1000lbs or a PT at the gym they just joined who got his "official personal trainer certification" out of a cereal box, but they lack the knowledge and experience to apply said gem to the appropriate trainee in the appropriate context.

The reasons against deviation from this program are very logical - an untrained guy is untrained, he is one big weak point. He won't know what his true weak point is until he has spent many months (and possibly even a few years) training and learning how his body responds to overall training. Is his upper chest REALLY a weakpoint? Yeah, his upper chest is a weakpoint because his entire chest is weak! He needs to spend time training his chest with the basic pectoral developing exercises before he decides to specialize in incline DB flies and cable crosses and reverse pec dec inverted flyswatters.

Does he honestly have a "poor biceps peak"? Definitely! He honestly has a very poor biceps peak, and that is easy to understand because he is a buck thirty, soaking wet, with 14" arms. Yup, his biceps peak definitely sucks!

Honestly, how can one know anything about training if they themselves are untrained. They have no experience, no point of comparison, no idea of what truly works because they simply haven't experienced training themselves. You can read a science book and learn that a shark is in a specific genus/species. That is knowledge and is easily applied, because it is based on factual science. Training is NOT factual science, it is an artform with a VAGUE and unproofed background in science.

How would an automotive engineer take the advice of a 13-year old who had never driven? The 13-year old is convinced he knows the best way to design a transmission so that it shifts smoothly because he reads Motor Trend each month, yet the 13-year old has driven nothing more challenging than his grandfather's golf cart. As a general rule, a woman will be resistant to taking the advice of a man when it comes time to dealing with the emotional events that occur during "that time of the month", for reasons that should be quite obvious. Are we seeing the connection here?

While the "don't mess with the program!" attitude is dogmatic, and "everyone responds differently because we're all individuals, blahblahblah", the idea of sticking with the program for its intended audience is, in fact, logical and in 99% of the cases it is doing the prospective trainee a favor. Just about every single person who wanted to change the program but didn't has been very very happy they stuck with it. The ones that seem to complain are the ones that have tried to change it to the point that it bears little resemblance to the original program.

Now, since 90% of the people that come to are novices, Rippetoe's program gets recommended a lot because it's good, it drives home proper understanding and fundamentals, gets them started on the right foot, they learn what is important in programming, and it provides a plan as to how to execute and how to adjust the weights on a session to session basis. Truly, this is really the key to all successful programs even though this information is totally absent for most people on BBing sites and in magazines.

Ripp's way certainly isn't the only way but it's a damn good method that is as good as any. It is simple, it works, it provides an ideal foundation, and it SHOULD be easy to follow.

Of course, if it were truly that easy, I wouldn't be re-writing this wiki and it wouldn't have so many pages worth of information and explanation, but that is another story.

The BooksEdit

This FAQ/wiki, in no way, shape or form, is a representation of OUR independent work. The entire wiki is a representation of information contained within the books, Starting Strength 1st, 2nd and 3rd Editions (Amazon link), the brainchild of Mark Rippetoe, with assistance from Lon Kilgore. They are unequivocally the most thorough body of work ever assembled on the topic of learning the core lifts of strength training and the knowledge contained within them is far-reaching in potential impact for anyone and everyone in the weight game. Coaches and trainees alike can benefit immensely from these books and its' incredibly detailed and exact descriptions and advice given on 5 of the most important lifts in weight training.

Both books contain 8 chapters, 5 of which are dedicated to providing pictures, visual, physical and verbal cues, and incredibly detailed descriptions of the proper methods of performing the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press and power clean. You thought you knew how to do these exercises until you read up on them, and you learn more in those pages than you knew in the first place. There is also an intro as well as chapters on programming (i.e. planned progression) and mistakes/fallacies with regards to youth weight training. The 2nd Edition contains an additional section that covers useful accessory exercises, although these exercises are not part of the Starting Strength Novice Programs.

If you give a crap about training, I highly recommend you buy the book. Apparently, I'm not the only one that recommends the book. And on it has almost unanimously received a 5 star approval rating.

[Starting Strength] should be owned by just about everyone. It’s a shame that this book hadn’t come out sooner. In an age where complexity and overcomplicated training has become the norm, this book is a breath of fresh air. I honestly believe that this book, more than just about any other book on lifting weights or training, should be in everyone’s bookcase, office or gym bag.

Jim Wendler

Anyway, all credit goes to Mark Rippetoe, as I stated earlier. We have simply taken the ideas contained within the books and attempted to promote them because, quite simply, they work. Sometimes a very complex idea requires a very simplistic solution. Starting Strength details that simplistic solution, and Practical Programming follows up with information to maintain the trainee's progress.

Starting Strength: A Simple and Practical Guide for Coaching BeginnersEdit

Starting Strength (1st Edition) (Amazon link) is a unique approach to coaching weight training, written by coaches and designed specifically for training beginners. Learn how to effectively and safely coach the basic core lifts and their programming in an easy to do, step-by-step process. Featuring the most heavily illustrated exercise chapters in print, Starting Strength shows the reader not only how to teach the lifts, but how to recognize and correct technique errors. The book features flip animations of each exercise performed correctly, along with practical interpretations of coaching theory, and the anatomical, physiological, and mechanical principles of training. It will help prepare coaches and personal trainers to be more effective strength and conditioning professionals.

Starting Strength: Basic Barbell TrainingEdit

Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training (Amazon link) is the new expanded version of the book that has been called "the best and most useful of fitness books." It picks up where Starting Strength: A Simple and Practical Guide for Coaching Beginners leaves off. With all new graphics and more than 750 illustrations, a more detailed analysis of the five most important exercises in the weight room, and a new chapter dealing with the most important assistance exercises, Basic Barbell Training offers the most complete examination in print of the most effective way to exercise.

Practical Programming for Strength TrainingEdit

Practical Programming (Amazon link) offers a different approach to exercise programming than that typically found in other exercise texts. Based on a combined 60+ years of academic expertise, elite-level coaching experience, and the observation of thousands of novice trainees, the authors present a chronological analysis of the response to exercise as it varies through the training history of the athlete, one that reflects the realities of human physiology, sports psychology, and common sense. Contrary to the one-size-fits-all models of periodization offered elsewhere, Practical Programming explains the differences in response to exercise commonly observed between athletes at the novice, intermediate, and advanced levels, explains these differences in the context of the relevant exercise science, and presents new training models that actually work for athletes at all levels of experience. Complete with new, innovative graphical representations of cutting-edge concepts in exercise programming, Practical Programming is sure to become a standard reference in the field of exercise and human performance.

Strong Enough? : Thoughts from Thirty Years of Barbell TrainingEdit

There are lots of things about weight training in general and barbell exercise in particular that can only be learned by spending way too many hours in the gym. And honestly, unless you're a gym owner, this is a really weird way to spend 75 hours a week. Mark Rippetoe has been in the fitness industry since 1978 and has owned a black-iron gym since 1984. He knows things about lifting weights and training for performance that most other coaches and professionals have never had a chance to learn. Strong Enough? : Thoughts from Thirty Years of Barbell Training (Amazon link) offers a glimpse into the depths of experience made possible through many years under the bar, and many more years spent helping others under the bar.

Essays in this book are a collection that have appeared in similar form in the CrossFit Journal.


Mark RippetoeEdit

Mark Rippetoe, CSCS is the owner and general manager of Wichita Falls Athletic Club, CrossFit Wichita Falls and Performance Sports Conditioning. He has 25 years experience in the fitness industry and 10 years personal experience as a competitive powerlifter. He has coached athletes in barbell and strength sports since 1980. He was in the very first group to sit for the NCSA's Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist exam in 1985, and has been continuously certified since then. He was certified by USA Weightlifting as a Level III Coach in 1988, and currently holds the Senior Coach certification. He has coached numerous national level competitors, and many thousands of people interested in improving their health and strength.

Lon KilgoreEdit

Lon Kilgore, Ph.D. is a professor of kinesiology at Midwestern State University (USA) where he teaches exercise physiology and anatomy. He holds a senior faculty appointment in Exercise Science at Warnborough University (UK). His career as an Olympic-style weightlifter began in 1972 as a means to improve his wrestling performance. His wrestling career ended after high school, but weightlifting continued and he has had many national event podium appearances over his 30 plus years of competitive experience. His coaching efforts began in 1974 when he took five athletes to the AAU Junior Olympic Nationals and since those early days he has remained active in coaching national and international caliber weightlifters. He also did a three year stint as a NCAA DII strength coach. He is currently Chair of the Sports Science Committee and a coaching course instructor for USA Weightlifting and a member of the Board of Certification for the American Society of Exercise Physiologists.

Unwitting author of much of this wiki. He is also the architect of Kethnaab's Novice Program Adjustment.

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.