Starting Strength Weekly Report

August 14, 2017

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy and Starting Strength Coach Darin Deaton discusses the use of barbells and the Starting Strength Model in his physical therapy practice.
  • From the Archives: Rip explains the use of supportive knee wraps to enable effective training for old and/or beat up lifters.
Training Log
Starting Strength Channel
  • Ask Rip #52 – Rip discusses his motivation, the growth of Starting Strength, the P scale, and super secret Chinese lifter training methods.

In the Trenches

carl raghavan 225 pound press
Starting Strength Coach and Prince of the UK Carl Raghavan locks out a 225 press at WFAC during his annual visit for the Starting Strength Coaches Association Conference. [photo courtesy of Nick Delgadillo]

Best of the Week

Hamstring tightness/lower back pain – revisited

Back in 2008 you described your need to do hamstring stretches to alleviate a tight lower back. I’ve just started SS and my lower back/pelvis is uncomfortably tight. Hamstring stretches are proving helpful for me, providing an almost instant relief, but the tightness comes back quickly. I intend to do hamstring stretches more diligently to see if I can permanently correct the issue over the next couple of months. It could be an adaptation issue, not sure.  I’m certainly not injured.

My question is whether your thoughts on hamstring tightness/lower back pain have changed at all over the past 10 years? Did you reach a happy management of lower back tightness through continued hamstring stretches or did you discover anything new?

Mark Rippetoe

As it turns out, almost nobody needs to stretch their hamstrings. Continue reading.


I'll agree with Rip on this one. I stopped doing any serious stretching years ago with no ill effects on flexibility. A tight muscle is tight because its weak and when you try to stretch it, the body shuts it off to protect it. I now do dynamic movements for a few minutes prior to training. For the squat/deadlift I'll do lunges, side lunges, pliets and banded good mornings for maybe 6-8 reps each. For the bench/press I'll do some band pull-aparts, band dislocates, and some very light front raises. That's it.

Mark Rippetoe

Without deferring to some arcane mechanism, let's just agree that the vast majority of people don't have to stretch their hamstrings to squat to depth. If you enjoy jumping around on the floor before you squat, have fun.

Best of the Forum

Adjustments to Novice Program for Cardio/Endurance

I've stuck with the novice SS program since 8th April. It's now 18th July. My weekly routine goes like this:


  • A: Squat/Bench/Deadlift (recently added bodyweight dip sets 3x5)
  • B: Squat/Press/Deadlift (recently added chins 3x5)  (No clean due to an achilles injury)

My stats: 

  • I'm 49yrs, male, 245lbs, 6'3"
  • Squat: 3x5 110kg (242.5lb)
  • Bench: 3x5 85kg (187.4lb)
  • Press: 3x5 62kg (136.6lb)
  • Deadlift: 1x5 160kg (352.7lb)

This is where I am today, but it's also where I got to at the end of May – but I had to reset due to a stomach bug. In total I missed about 2 weeks workouts. I then reset too heavy, struggled for a week reset again much lighter and slowly increased back to where I was at the end of May.

But there were benefits to the reset. My form on all lifts is far more solid and I've turned my deadlift from 5x1 back to 1x5 (reducing time between reps). Also managing to keep an overhand grip on my DL.

Here's the shock. I started the SS program following achilles tendon surgery. So I was doing this before I could walk properly and it was my only exercise. It has been a great help to recovery. BUT last week I was late to visit a friend and tried running. I made about 50 yards and had to stop and walk 50 before trying again. I was gasping and sweating buckets.

This kind of weighed on my mind a bit. I feel strong these days but suddenly I also felt "unfit." I finally decided to try a "HIT" type workout on Wednesday to see what would happen – Oh dear!

Given that my current 3x5 squat is 110 kg (242.5l b). I thought I would manage high reps at half that weight and tried 50 kg (110 lbs). Naturally, the first 5 of the set went easily, but on number 6 I felt like someone had drained me of energy, at 7 I was gasping and sweating, and at 8 I thought my head would explode. That's all I managed. I did 2 more sets of x10 reps each but the experience was much the same and I sat and gasped for a long time before I could move on.

Doing 3x5 I rarely sit or gasp between sets or exercises.

I also thought I'd try a front squat for the first time, for variety. But found myself "weak" when it came to it. I gave up pretty quickly. Although after the back squats was maybe the wrong time to try.

Admittedly, I was doing the lighter squats faster than I would a heavy set, but the almost immediate loss of power at 6-8 was shocking.

I am truly shocked that all my "work" has resulted in such poor cardio/endurance capacity. And my strength lasts only for 5 repetitions! I know I am "older" so this is a factor. My life is fairly sedentary (work at a computer) and I've had 6+ months of reduced activity due to my achilles injury, so working out at the gym, doing 3x5 is almost the entirety of my exercise. And I've certainly put on weight since I started this program. Although looking in a mirror, I look more "thick set" than before, but no really discernable muscle mass increase. Definitely some fat increase!

So as a result of my "experiment," I'm suddenly feeling like a fat middle-aged man who is moderately strong so long as he doesn't have to do more than 5 of anything.

So here's my proposal: I'm considering swapping out my Wednesday SS (3x5) workout for a higher rep workout – 3x8 or 3x10 or 3x12. That way my week would look like this:

  • WK 1: Mon A (3x5) / Wed B (3x10) / Fri A (3x5)
  • WK 2: Mon B (3x5) / Wed A (3x10) / Fri B (3x5)

Due to my front squat "experience" I was also considering bringing those into my workout. Perhaps alternating Wednesday and Friday – WK 1 3x10 FSquats on Wed, 3x5 BSquats on Fri then WK 2 3x10 BSquats on Wed and 3x5 FSquats on Fri.

Before anyone accuses me of not doing the SS Program, I do get it. But here are my justifications:

  1. Continuing with SS without change I might well do better from 2x workouts per week rather than the current x3. In another month I may well be struggling from 3x heavy days per week.
  2. I "need" to do something about my cardio/endurance capacity. My ankle is a limiter on what I can do, so upping/doubling the reps one day a week may be a good way of tackling this. And burning some extra cals in the meantime.

I am very interested to receive any (constructive) feedback, obsessive as I may occasionally sound, this is weighing on my mind. Having followed Rip's advice as closely as possible for 3-4 months now I think it would be daft to "go off and do my own thing" so I'm hoping that this suggestion isn't too far from the spirit of SS. Although at the same time I think my 2 justifications above have some merit and this isn't just an excuse to "mess with the program."

Mac Ward

I read everything you wrote, but I have a question, what are your goals?


Thanks. As for goals, nothing unusual – I'd like to be able to lift like Viktor Testsov whilst looking like Chris Hemsworth (Re: the Thor movie)...

Ok, joking aside, I'd like to get my main lifts up to "respectable" weights. (A DL of 190kg/420lbs, SQ of 165kg/365lbs, B of 122kg/260lbs, and a Press of 75kg/165lbs would be a good start in this respect.)

And since I snapped my achilles doing judo, I'd like the cardio/endurance capacity to be able to last more than a few seconds of sparring. Which in my current state (as described above) I would be nowhere close to.

And yes, there is a "vanity" element too, if I'm honest. I'm 49 years old and have a 3 year old son. I may be 20+ years older than most of his friends' dads but I'd like to make up for that by being bigger and stronger.  Or at least reduce the middle aged spread that has overcome me since my achilles surgery. But, on balance, hitting some decent lifting weights and knocking some crap out of my sparring partners (once I get back to training) are slightly more important priorities of the three.

Finally, I am genuinely curious as to whether my experience of low cardio/endurance capacity is common doing a 3x5 routine such as SS.

Mac Ward

Dude, you're all over the map.

Strength comes from training.  Leanness, abs, and the rest come from diet.

Cardio and strength training do not go hand in hand. I'm not saying you can't spar and not be out of breath in 5 seconds, I'm saying that recovery dictates how quickly you will make progress. If you give up recovery time doing cardio stuff, you won't be ready for your next training session. And as you already know, 49 years old is not the optimum age for recovery.

Strength is a long-term adaptation, cardio is not. There is TONS of information about this very subject on this board.

I am 45, 236, 6'3". I'm in the USMC, I run 3 miles once a year for a test, and I train the 4 weeks prior to get me specifically ready for that. Last time I did it in 25:30ish. Could I do that right now? No, it nearly killed me then, and I trained for it. Does this bother me? No, because I could care less what my 3 mile run time is, I'd rather drive.

The recommendation on this board is going to be to train for strength, and take that strength to your chosen activity. If you chose to do other things (which is perfectly acceptable and a personal decision) recognize that strength gains MAY be slowed, but if you are achieving your personal goals in the process, than go for it.

But if you don't need to run a race, why train for it? If you snapped an achilles training judo, then is it worth it to continue doing so (to you)?

If it were me, I would want to be strong enough to pick up my 10 year old son and carry him around on my back in 7 years, and you won't get that from running. Even better, in 25 years, I would want to be strong enough to pick up my grandbabies. To me, strength is slowing the process of atrophy...the atrophy of ability and life. I don't want to live forever. I want to live forever unassisted.

Starting Strength Weekly Report

Highlights from the StartingStrength Community. Browse archives.

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