Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World


The Boyfriend Problem

by Niki Sims, SSC | October 06, 2016

boyfriend coaching problem

The “Boyfriend Problem” is an issue in barbell training, defined by the two following situations:

  1. The man who says, “I want to put my girlfriend on Starting Strength.”
  2. The boyfriend who is not a coach yet is coaching you anyway – a less obnoxious instance of mansplaining.  

Really, the issue is more inclusive and we could call it the “Whoever You’re F*cking Problem,” because any girlfriend, husband or wife can be guilty of doing this, but it’s just not as catchy. So bear with me, and know that I am not a triggered feminist standing upon on a soap box made of the reconstituted ashes of burnt bras.  

Let’s address situation #1 first, our friend who really wants to put his lady on the program. First off, this choice of phrasing, which we actually have heard from clients and at seminars and read on the forum, sounds like you’re referring to cattle that you’d like to switch over to a new type of feed. Thanks, but no thanks – I happen to like my current feed, and it fits my macros. 

Fortunately, I think for the most part this is just a person who has reaped many benefits from barbell training, and who wants to share them with someone he cares about (#swoon). And perhaps there are a few instances here and there in which the desire is of a selfish nature, like he wants more butt to squeeze or something. In either case, the recipient of the suggestion is highly unlikely to proceed with the program unless it is done so through her own volition.

It’s no secret that women and men struggle with body image issues. These struggles can affect self-confidence with doubt and a lack of self-worth, and lead to some challenges in a relationship. Enter our SS friend wanting to help his loved one who wants to “lose weight and feel better” – and he may be right. It would appear that providing a measurable way to track progress tends to create an upward shift in confidence as we move away from reliance on subjective ideals of body image to objective measures of body function, an excellent side effect of a barbell training program based on the principle of progressive overload.

But how many times have you suggested something to your girlfriend, only for it to fall upon deaf ears until she finds out for herself on Yelp? Likewise, how often have you told your boyfriend how great Taylor Swift is, but of course he has to wait until his buddy, who out-benches him, verifies this before listening to “Shake It Off” on repeat??

It’s no secret that we here at Starting Strength think everyone can benefit from becoming stronger, but we just can’t go around force-feeding it to the unwilling, no matter how much we hate the look of tube arms in a tank top – ugh. We can only educate and let the tube arms come to us when ready, and then force-feed them with milk via skinny-shaming.

So, by all means, talk about the great things that getting stronger has done for you. And maybe your girlfriend will choose to give it a shot and she too will experience the pure joy of deadlifting a PR set of fahve, and the pride in having to buy new pants because there’s just too much assmeat now. Or maybe she won’t – just don’t take it personally. 

Which leads us to situation #2) the boyfriend coach. This calls to mind an article Rip wrote entitled, “The Blind Leading the Willing.” I have seen very few instances of this type of relationship not ending in arguments.

While your man cares for you and your hip drive, maybe he isn’t the best person to coach you – especially if he’s not a coach. Perhaps, just maybe, a coach would be a better choice as a coach. Before you take advice from your eager boyfriend, and definitely before you choose to not take his advice and call him an ignorant bag of cheese dicks who doesn’t know a knee slide from a heap of steamy dog doodoo and he reminds you of your knee-sliding college days with your trashy sorority sisters, I encourage you to consider your options.

Because if you hire someone who has some experience in the field, you’ll probably get better sooner while at the same time decreasing the chances of someone ending up with a plate to the head.

So, while you’re great at patching holes in our walls, reminding us to check our oil, and helping us choose between a non-fat caramel macchiato and a non-fat iced chai latte with an added shot, it would just be a better world if everyone says “No!” to mansplaining and womansplaining and “Yes, please!” to coachsplaining.  


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