A. Purpose, Scope, Target Audience
B. Why Should I Do This Program? Why Shouldn't I Mess with This Program?
C. Program Basics
E. The Original Threads
The purpose of this writeup is twofold:
General - to provide a repository of useful information for the novice trainee
Speciifc - to provide a coherent, linked guide to the Rippetoe Starting Strength training "theory" and to answer the 100s 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 individuals of varying training levels, but the writeup is directed to the newb.
The exact intended target audience of the book Starting Strength is the coach of pubescent/teenage kids who want to get bigger and stronger, frequently for a sport. The book, and the program contained within, emphasizes the gradual but consistent progression in weight of a handful of basic exercises with specific and incredibly detailed recommendations 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 weightlifting, 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 book) is 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 and deadlift, 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 "zen of the iron."
The book itself contains a wealth of information and detail on the "big 3" exercises, as well as power cleans and standing overhead presses. The detail and exacting cause/effect relationships with technique and technique flaws that is described in the book is, 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.
Why should I do this program?
Why are there so many questions on this program? Some say it is a fad, nothing more, nothing less. However, it is a fad that, along with Bill Starr's training methods, is now going on 3 decades of use. That is pretty long lasting for a 'fad'. It may be a 'fad' to the small fishbowl of training that is the bb.com Workout Program regulars, but to weight trainees worldwide, it is anything but a fad.
The program stresses the tried-and-true basics of effective compound exercises and weight progression on those exercises with an emphasis on exact technique. There is nothing "magical" about the program. It works because it is rooted in common sense and decades of experience.
It is a beginner's weight training program. As such, many of the specifics of the program (no machines, barbells only, very few exercises, very low complexity) will simply not work for someone who is more experienced or has a specific goal in mind (i.e. increase vertical jump, increase speed, win a national-level powerlifting contest or a bodybuilding contest). When reading through the program, ensure that you keep a sense of the Target Audience in your head, so you know to whom the information contained within is address.
In the end, the newcomer should do this program because it will get him strong and will teach him what he needs to know to form a basis of a "successful career" in weight training. There is no single "best way", but any different way Not everyone wants to be a professional bodybuilder/powerlifter/weightlifter/strongman. Most guys would like to be stronger and have some muscle. This program will help them take the first, crucial steps toward that goal, and the program ensures that those steps are solid, aimed in the right direction, and can set you up for further success in your weight training endeavors.
Why shouldn't I mess with it?
The majority of this is from Madcow2, with my own interjections and statements thrown in for good measure. So quote madcow, but understand that I threw my own 2cents in there as well, and I did so in a majestically seamless manner.
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 135 lbs complaining about their "bicept 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 BBing.com, 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 perspective 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 bb.com 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 or 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 thread and it wouldn't have so many pages worth of information and explanation, but that is another story…