Starting Strength Weekly Report

July 20, 2015

  • Rip gives a rundown on Barbell Basics: different kinds, what to look for when purchasing one, and basic maintenance.
  • Catch up on the last few Ask Rip videos for answers to various off-topic questions
SS Coaches' Updates & Blogs

Under the Bar

starting strength classic training Kris presses 100 lb for 3x5 in preparation for the Starting Strength Classic at Westminster Strength & Conditioning in October. [photo courtesy of Emily Socolinsky]
heidi coffman strongman contest Starting Strength Coach Heidi Coffman took first place in the West Texas Strongman Showdown lightweight class June 27. (Left) Deadlifting a tractor tire for 14 reps in 60 seconds, (Right) pulling a Jeep 50yd in 25 seconds. [photo courtesy of Heidi Coffman]
phillip deadlift coaching 61-year-old Phillip started lifting after a hip replacement. After 3 months of self taught lifting, he traveled 90 minutes coaching from Starting Strength Coach Noah Milstein to clean up his form.[photo courtesy of CREDIT]
strength training carrie Carrie trains at Woodmere S&C to stay strong for her summer outdoor runs. She has greatly improved her endurance and performance simply by increasing her strength. [photo courtesy of Inna Koppel]
squat opener andy baker Starting Strength Coach Andy Baker opens with a 460 lb squat at the Warren Branch Classic powerlifting meet in Houston. [photo courtesy of Flo Corcutt]

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Best of the Week

PP 3rd Edition – Starr Model HLM – 5x5 Confusion

I have Practical Programming 3rd edition and I have a question regarding the rep x set system for the Starr model. In the introduction to the chapter, Mark says that Starr had his athletes work up in sets of five (5 x 135, 165, 225, 255). Later on in the chapter, in the example workouts, it simply says ex 350x5x5. So I'm wondering if I ought to be working up in increasing sets of five as per the introduction. Or, warming up to my work-weight, then doing five sets of five at that weight.

The reason I'm curious is because I have been on the Starr Model for 12 weeks, as I interpreted it from the PP book. That is, warming up to 5x5 across. I train Jiu-jitsu three times a week and work full time, so, often I just don't have the mental or physical reserves to manage a 5x5 max effort and progress has stalled. I'm wondering if 5x5 ramped sets could fix the problem.


The book does give a few examples that use 5x5, some that use 3x5 and a few others that rotate rep ranges. It also goes on to talk about how the system is really about the stress of the day being Heavy, Light or Medium and that none of the examples are really set in stone. Heavy day could be 3x8, 5x3, 5x1 any other rep/set range that could be considered a heavy stress dose.

Andy Baker

This is very important and I have mentioned it multiple times: The Heavy-Light-Medium System IS NOT A SPECIFIC PROGRAM. It is a means of organizing training. Within that organization there are LOTS of set and rep schemes that can be utilized effectively and lots of exercises that can be plugged in at different times.

Now, Bill Starr used the HLM system for his athletes and wrote about it in his books. He happened to be a fan of using ascending rep schemes for 5x5. Over time a lot of people have come to think like this: HLM = Ascending 5 x 5. NO. That was simply Starr's preferred rep scheme within the HLM system - if for nothing else, it is an easy way to train large groups of athletes. But the two concepts (HLM and Ascending 5x5s) are not married to each other.

Within the HLM system you can use Ascending 5 x 5, 5x5 across, a 5RM, etc. As long as what you are doing on a given day fits the criteria as either Heavy, Light, or Medium you are managing stress in a way that the system was designed for.

Best of the Forum

Wrist circumference and genetic potential

I have an off-the-scale TINY wrist circumference (just shy of six inches), is it a foregone conclusion that I'll never be able to squat 225lbs for example, no matter how much I eat or how hard I train? In short, are there fairly reliable ways to determine genetic potential for strength before even starting any training program?

Mark Rippetoe

No. Maybe you'll grow. Maybe you'll be strong at a light bodyweight.

Tom Campitelli

I just watched one of my trainees squat 225 pounds last night for four sets of three. She weighs 112 pounds and is in her mid to late 30s. If you want to squat 225, you can do it and quite a bit more.


Coach, in your experience how many people do you see reaching (or get close to) their full genetic potential? The owner of my gym says he's never really seen it.

The reason for this question is that out of the variables affecting strength, genetics is fixed. On the other hand, if it’s really rare to reach your genetic potential, most of us don't need to consider it. Wrist size or other.


I'm by no means an expert, but wouldn't someone's genetic potential be more of a sloping hill to climb and less of a wall? It's not like your genes dictate a 300lb bench is your max and it's easy going until you hit 300. You'd find it harder and harder to increase your bench until after many years of slowing gains you hit a point of near-total lack of progress on your bench a little shy of 300. This wouldn't happen if someone had the makeup to get them to 400, who would sail past 300 (relatively) easily as it's below their potential. It seems that it would affect your progress at all levels, not only when you're trying to get into seriously heavy weight.

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