Starting Strength Program: App & Guide

Written by the Boostcamp staff
Nov 29,2023|8 min| 1554

Mastering the Starting Strength Program: Your App & Guide

What is Starting Strength?

Starting Strength is a popular 3 days per week training program for beginners who are looking to build strength and muscle. The Starting Strength workout, also known as basic barbell training, is designed specifically for people who want to get stronger, build muscle, and improve their performance in the gym. This guide will teach you about the Starting Strength workout and the Starting Strength book, written by Mark Rippetoe, which is now in its third edition, how it’s different from other programs, and why it’s so effective for beginners.

The Starting Strength workout program, developed by renowned strength coach Mark Rippetoe, is based on the principles of progressive overload, a technique that involves gradually increasing the weight you lift over time to build strength and muscle. This program focuses on using compound exercises that target multiple large muscle groups at once in order to help you build lean, strong muscle quickly. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced lifter, the Starting Strength training program is a great way to improve your overall strength and fitness.

Program structure

Starting Strength is a 3 day per week training split consisting of 3 compound movements per day. Each movement is done for a 3 sets of 5 with the exception of deadlifts, which are done for 1 set of 5. There are 2 different workout days - A and B. Each alternating week is structured as A/B/A and B/workout b/A. The workout days are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

The program uses linear progression, which means additional weights are added every time you workout. Try to add 10lb to your squats and deadlifts every workout and 5 pounds to your bench press, overhead press, power cleans, and big lifts every workout. As it becomes more difficult to add this amount of weight every session, add less weights and continue progressing.

The Starting Strength workout consists of three distinct phases: the novice phase, the intermediate phase, and the advanced phase.

The novice phase is designed for beginners who are new to strength training and have never lifted weights before. During this phase, you will focus on learning proper technique for compound exercises of:

  1. Squat,

  2. Deadlift

  3. Bench press

  4. Overhead press.

Once the trainee develops basic proficiency for the novice phase exercises, he / she should move onto the intermediate phase. This is typically after 2 - 4 weeks of the novice phase. Here we are ready to introduce power cleans into Day B, in place of Power Cleans.

Finally, the advanced phase is for experienced lifters who have built a solid foundation of strength and muscle and are looking to take their performance to the next level. During this phase, chin-ups replace power cleans in Day B while deadlifts and power cleans are alternated.

Who is Starting Strength for?

Starting strength is designed for beginners who want to get bigger and stronger for the first time and for those who want to regain their prior strength. Simply speaking, if you're someone who hasn't exhausted strength gains through simple, linear progression workouts, this is for you.

How should I warm up for Starting Strength?

Perform 3 warmup sets before your working set at increasing % of your first working set:

  • Warm up set 1: 40%

  • Warm up set 2: 60%

  • Warm up set 3: 80%

How do I find my starting weight for Starting Strength?

  1. Start with the bar

  2. Add some weights and perform sets of 5

  3. Keep adding weight and when the final reps start to slow down, use that as your starting weight.

How long should I rest between sets?

In order to see results, you must take a rest period between sets that is long enough so that you don't feel any residual fatigue from the set before. For men squatting 185 pounds in their work sets, this should be five minutes. If you're only waiting 60 seconds between sets, you're not giving your body enough time to recover and thus won't make any progress on Friday.

When should I switch to a different program?

If after 6-12 weeks, you are still seeing gains, keep doing the program. Don’t fix what ain’t broke!

If you have been stalling for 2-3 weeks, that does not mean it is time to switch the program yet.

First, assess what the stalling could be due to:

  • Nutrition: are you steadily gaining bodyweight? (i.e., 0.3-1 lbs bodyweight per week). If not, you could be not eating enough calories to fuel your recovery. Make sure you’re getting adequate protein and carbs to fuel your training.

  • Sleep: are you getting 8+ hours of quality sleep? For demanding training like PHUL, getting great sleep is critical.

  • Form: are you doing the exercise correctly? Could your form be better, which would help you increase weights? Post your video to Reddit r/boostcamp to get feedback from the community.

  • Stress: are you stressed from work or life? if so, that could affect your recovery. Your body does not differentiate between training stress and work stress, so make sure you find ways to alleviate it (meditation, walks, fam time).

  • Deload: have you taken a deload every ~4 weeks? If not, go 50% of your normal weights for a week and let your muscles, joints, and mind recovery so you can come back even stronger. 1 step back, 10 steps forward.

  • Lastly, are you just going too heavy? Don’t ego lift. Lighten the weight by 10% and push it slowly backup.

Once you’ve tried all of the above (and don’t try to fix everything at once; start with 1-2 of the biggest hurdles), then consider switching to a different program.

What programs should I do after Starting Strength?

  • nSuns 5/3/1 - one of the most popular programs ever made, with 4-6 day program variations available on Boostcamp.

  • GZCLP - the modern alternative to 5x5 and Starting Strength. Made by world-class coach and Marine veterine Cody Lefever (GZCL).

  • Candito 6-week Strength Program - a fun 6 week strength peaking program by champion powerlifter Jonnie Candito.

Should I do cardio while doing Starting Strength?

  • Cardio is not prescribed in Starting Strength, so do at your discretion

  • Doing cardio is beneficial for increasing your work capacity (and general health), so doing some cardio on the 4 rest days a week is recommended if you are up for it.

  • Cardio should aid your training, not detract from it. This means that you shouldn’t go too hard or too often. Use your own judgement

Wrap Up

Overall, the Starting Strength Program is a great way to get into the gym and familiarize yourself with some of the equipment and exercises. So what are you waiting for? give this program a try!

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