Starting Strength Weekly Report

June 15, 2015

SS Coaches' Updates & Blogs

Under the Bar

squat 325 tres gottlich 1stLt Tres Gottlich, USMC squats his 3rd set of 5 at 325lbs. Tres has been on the novice linear progression for 3 months and is still progressing. [photo courtesy of Grant Broggi]
squat Nick Pecarich Nick Pecarich, 53, walks out 315 for a few doubles on his intensity day at Horn Strength & Conditioning in Los Angeles. [photo courtesy of Paul Horn]
barbell strength rehab Daniel began strength training at Studio Inna after two shoulder labrum tears and surgery. His post-surgery rehab therapies left him with limited range of motion and bouts of pain and stiffness. He trains using the basic barbell lifts (squat, press, deadlift, bench) as a way to heal and strengthen his shoulder. Today he has full range of motion, presses and bench presses without pain and has gotten quite strong overall. [photo courtesy of Inna Koppel]
novice strength training strong gym 51 year old Sam Voshell squats 205 x 5 x 3 in his second session with Starting Strength Coach Matt Reynolds at STRONG Gym. [photo courtesy of Matt Reynolds]
bench press collegiate swimmer Our college swimmer returned to us a few weeks ago. Last July, she started with just the 15kg bar. This week, she benched 110lbs for three sets of five. [photo courtesy of Emily Socolinsky]

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Best of the Week

The Cardiovascular Conundrum

We all know that lifting big hunks of iron that are sufficiently heavy that we can only muster 5 repetitions while progressively overloading your barbell for every performed exercise every session will make you a strong boy. But there are some of us that are interested in also increasing our cardiovascular conditioning while on the Starting Strength [novice] program. Is this possible or wise or even prudent? Share with me some strategies on improving this vital function of the human body all the while not compromising my ability to maximally make strength increases.

Andy Baker

Drag a sled on Saturdays.

Bill Been

I offer for your examination the results of my first foray into doing a Starting Strength session while wearing a heart rate monitor chest strap:

  1. Heavy weight training with a Heart Rate chest strap today. At age 52, my (supposed) max HR is 168.
    • Squats: 3 sets of 5 @ 310 (Personal Record)
    • Presses: 3 sets of 5 @ 145 (failed, got 5,2,3)
    • Deadlifts: 1 set of 5 @ 295 (didn't even attempt, was smoked after DL warmup sets. Too much volume, not nearly enough food prior.)

    • Session Duration: 52 minutes and change (didn't wear the strap for squat warmup sets ~10 minutes)

    • Max Heart Rate: 144

    • Avg Heart Rate: 115

    • Calorie Burn*: 496
  2. Compare and contrast this with a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session on the Prowler on Tuesday:
    • Protocol: 20 seconds sprint @~85% pace/1+40 rest, 8 rounds;
    • Session Duration: 20 minutes
    • Max Heart Rate: 151
    • Avg Heart Rate: 125
    • Calorie Burn*: 226

* my gut tells me not to put too much stock in the calorie burn guesstimate, but my old kettlebell instructor tested his $19 Timex HR monitor's results against a MetCart at Vanderbilt and it was within 10%. Luckily, I don't really care about calorie monitoring; I just like to compare things.

So the Prowler has a higher average intensity for a shorter period of time. However, I note that the strength session looks identical to a longer, slightly less intense HIIT session.

What does all this mean you should say when somebody asks you "Yeah, but what do you do for cardio?"

Best of the Forum

Texas Method Question

Is the overall goal in the TX method to drive up our 5X5 Volume day, or the 1X5 Intensity day? Which is the most beneficial for strength overall?

Through the end of December, I had been increasing my Vol day by 1.25kg a week, along with my Intensity day by the same increment.

It got to the point (around 160kg) where my volume day was effecting my Intensity days in order to complete the 1 set by 5 reps. I failed the ID by one rep each at 192.5 and 195kg. Recognizing my fatigue, I decided to reduce my weight for the volume day back down to 150kg (and have kept it there for the last 5 weeks) and have successfully increased my ID 5 rep set over the last month, most recently for a surprisingly easy 205kg.

The reason I ask is because I thought the vol day was to stimulate the intensity day. With my lifts moving up on ID day, should I just keep the volume the same until the ID slows down? or should I make the effort to slowly increase the weights for my 5X5 volume day?

Andy Baker

It's all about the ID. Adjust volume accordingly to ensure progress occurs on Fridays.

If you are using 5x5 for volume and 5RM for intensity, then yes, about a 10% offset is correct. Obviously it will be a bigger offset if the intensity work is being done for triples, doubles, singles, etc.


If you keep adding 5lbs to each day, eventually they will start to converge on eachother, and that 10% offset will slowly become smaller (9%, 8%, etc...) as the weights keep moving upwards. A small correction will be needed fairly often. I had a lot of success increasing VD every other or once every third cycle to keep progress moving.


Maybe you built enough fatigue with the 85% and now you can still see gains with 78% for a few weeks? Otherwise 78% seems alittle low. The recommendation in Practical Programming 3 is 80-90% but if i understand correctly 90% is better for most Andy?

Also why not just keep the 90% constant?

Andy Baker

Percentage offset are not an absolute. It varies depending on lift and lifter.

In general the percentage offset will be higher:

  1. On lowerbody lifts
  2. For men
  3. For strong men

It will be lower:

  1. For females
  2. For upperbody lifts
  3. For weak people
  4. For old people
  5. On the olympic lifts

Unfortunately there is no set percentage that works universally. You'll have to resort to trial and error at some point and go with your own results.

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