Starting Strength: The Foundational Beginners Program For Explosive Gains [With Spreadsheets]

By Nader Qudimat ·
Updated Apr 15, 2021

If you're looking for a strength program as a beginner, then you'll certainly hear of Starting Strength. 

This is a straightforward, text book strength program for starting lifters who want to develop their strength as quickly as possible. 

It uses basic compound exercises and it's the perfect program for beginners.

Make sure you make a copy of the spreadsheet. For how to save spreadsheet instructions on mobile, click here, or desktop, here. 

Recommended

4.5/5

Yes, Starting Strength is great for beginners.

Experience Level

5/5

Beginners

Periodization

5/5

Follows a linear periodization.

Reps

5/5

Uses only 1RM.

As you may have guessed, the Starting Strength program is created for beginners.

It was created by Mark Rippetoe, the author of the original Strength Strength book which was released in 2005.  

He's a strength and conditioning coach and author who has been an athlete and coach for more than 40 years. 

By coaching many national and international athletes, writing fitness books, content and articles, he has gained a ton of experience and knowledge.  

The book isn't required to use the program but if you want to make the most progress, it would be wise to invest in the book. 

And it's influenced many other programs. 

The book contains the program but goes into much more in depth about how to make the most out of the exercises and training. 

Table of Contents

Starting Strength Program Overview

While you may find many variations of this program, one thing remains true.

It uses a no-nonsense approach to lifting and gets results quickly. 

The program is laid out on the fundamentals of strength training and it can be broken down into 3  simple phases:

  • Phase 1: setting the foundation and learning the 4 exercises.
  • Phase 2: Use the skills learned to increase strength.
  • Phase 3: This is when exercises get introduced, here you'll start using chin ups and uses a linear progression principle.

The linear periodization used in Starting Strength is used in other programs like Greyskull LP

Starting Strength Spreadsheet

Here's the spreadsheet:

Starting Strength Program

This spreadsheet contains the calculator to help you decide the weight and keep a record of progress of the program. 

If you don't know if you should use the Starting Strength or Texas Method, check out the video below:

Starting Strength Workouts 

There's 2 simple workouts to Starting Strength, labelled as A and B.

These are alternated throughout the program and you'll train 3 times per week. 

There's one day on, one day off, allowing for recovery between workouts. 

So an example can be like Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with the other days being off days.

Starting Strength Progression

The progression style in Starting Strength uses linear periodization.

The periodization is used in other popular beginner like Greyskull LP and Ice Cream Fitness.

These programs have used the fundamentals of Starting Strength. 

Linear periodization means every exercise and each workout will have an increase of the weight.

As a beginner, you'll be able to maximize your strength and muscle gains as load and strength increase in a straight line upwards. 

You'll experience rapid improvements to body mass and strength, thanks to this progression style. 

Being untrained will allow you to be able slap anywhere from 5lbs to 20lbs per lift. 

To completely understand Mark Rippetoe's principles, we recommend reading his book, Practical Programming for Strength Training. 

Warm Up

Always take 5-10 minutes to warm up.

Perform some light cardio for at least 5 minutes, until you feel warm or break a sweat. 

Then perform a few light sets of the muscles you're about to exercise.

Do at least 3-4 warm up sets before your actual workout, and then follow the program's workouts. 

You can do 1-2 warm up sets before a specific exercise, which is especially useful if you're a beginner.   

Starting Strength FAQ

What Is Starting Strength?

Starting Strength is a straightforward 3 times per week strength training program that uses reps of 5 that's done in 3 sets for each of the compound lifts. 

With the exception of deadlifts, which is done only in one set of 5 reps. 

The rest times between exercises are 3-5 minutes, to optimize strength and muscle. 

It's designed by Mark Rippetoe, a fitness coach and athlete who's been involved with the fitness industry for over 40 years. 

He uses all of his knowledge and experience to create the most optimal program for beginners. 

Who Is Starting Strength For?

Starting Strength is designed for beginners and people who are considered to be untrained. 

It's definitely not made for intermediates or advanced trainees as the progression is fairly quickly, and it's applied to every exercise and every workout. 

What's the difference between Starting Strength and Other Strength Programs? 

The general consensus is that even if you're doing other strength programs, you should invest into reading the book for Starting Strength. 

Because that's where it all started from. 

Many programs that are designed for strength training and beginners will take the foundational principles from Starting Strength. 

For example, with StrongLifts, it uses a simpler approach but it has more volume and is more geared towards experienced lifters. 

Another one is GreySkull which has high volume training like AMRAP (as many reps as possible), less deadlifts and 2 lifts for every other day. 

Sometimes you'll find more people leaning towards StrongLifts because it has more resources online, and the creator is much more internet savvy than Starting Strength. 

What Do I Do After Completing Starting Strength?

After you've moved on from Starting strength, a good program to use is Madcow or Texas Method. 

Signs of Burnout?

By paying attention to the signs that your body gives you, can prevent a burn out. 

Here are some overtraining signs to look out for:

  • Pain at joints like knees, elbows, shoulders, etc.
  • Soreness at distal portion of muscle.
  • Like feeling sore near joints.
  • Lack of proper sleep
  • Suddenly feeling sick or a cold coming on- immune system is compromised.
  • Loss of libido
  • Depression

If you ignore these signs and keep exercising, you will eventually hit a plateau and will increase chance of injury.

If you're already experiencing these symptoms, take it easy and avoid pushing yourself for at least a week or two.

Starting Strength: The Starting Point For Beginners

Starting Strength is clearly the best program for beginners and it's used by many, especially as a way to build other strength programs on. 

It's a foundational strength program that isn't going anywhere anytime soon. 

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below. 

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