Resources for Starting Strength

There is no such thing as “firming and toning.” There is only stronger and weaker. – Mark Rippetoe. 

I like results, and I like getting results efficiently. That attitude is what's led me to become a huge fan of Mark Rippetoe, and discover his Starting Strength program. Two excellent resources that discuss the content, with pictures, video, and candid commentary can be found here and here. There's also a good narrative with illustrations here, but no video at this time. Note: if you want to get big, this program is not for you. There's plenty of other literature out on that topic; this is a beginner & intermediate resource for getting strong.

In a nutshell, the Starting Strength program is to do the same set of a few basic exercises every 2-3 days and gradually increasing the weight. All exercises are complex compound movements that use multiple muscle groups at the same time. Very effective, very efficient, takes 30-45 min once you know what you're doing. Add a little warmup and cool down and we've got a nice 1-hour package. Repeat for several months; very easy to document, very effective.

I use a Google Spreadsheet workbook that I made myself to keep track of my progress. I like it because I made it, and it's simple and flexible. I don't record my warm-up or cool-down because that's not the point. Values entered are all 3 sets of 5 of the basic exercise (per the program guidelines) unless otherwise specified. For example I could modify a bench to 175lbs incline. Which would mean that I did inclines instead of flat bench. Or flies, or chin-ups to clapping pull ups, etc. etc. The base muscle group(s) are still the same. I also have the Google sheets app on my smart phone so I can easily enter my ~5 lines of < 20 character notes for the day on the spot.

I suggest simply sticking with the basic program for the first few months, and just know that there's plenty of wiggle room to add variety to exercises without losing the value of the framework -- both the program and my spreadsheet. It's simple, approximate, doesn't require an exhaustive amount of documentation, and is thus very effective for building a good habit. If you're totally new to these types exercises, then I suggest working with someone experienced to nail your form before you start piling on plates. The goal is to do more and be stronger, not to do frantic-sloppy and get injured. So, hire a personal trainer for your few sessions if you must. I'm also personally available by appointment if you live in the Phoenix/Tempe area too.

Now here's a fun video of me doing my first set of clapping pullups for New Years. =)

Strong people are harder to kill, and more useful in general. -Mark Rippetoe

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