Starting Strength Weekly Report

June 03, 2019

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In the Trenches

duane stokes earns a 260x5 deadlift pr
At this past weekend's Training Camp in Michigan, Duane Stokes deadlifted new PR of 260 lbs for a set of five at 64 years old.
ralph youngs pulls and easy set of five iwtht 315
Ralph Youngs, age 74, pulls an easy set of five with 315 lbs at Fivex3’s Starting Strength Squat and Deadlift Camp this past Sunday. [photo courtesy of Fivex3 Training]

Best of the Week

I want [to eat] fat
David Sanders

Hey coach Robert. So, most days I do well with my macros. 350-400 c, 50-70 fat, and 220 protein. I'm 6'1", 245, 45 yo. Squat is 200, DL is 305, BP is 185, and press is 110. I am PRng every lift each workout right now. My issue seems to be an insatiable craving for fatty foods at night on workout days. Any insights? Thanks in advance!

Robert Santana

Glad to hear you are making some rapid progress. Keep it comin buddy. One thing you can do is swap fat for carbohydrates on non workout days while matching total calories. I've done this for many clients and it works quite well. Gives you some balance so you have some more fats on your non training days and more carbohydrates on the days that you train. This way you aren't "low" in one macro on all days.

David Sanders

Thanks coach! Making sure I understand, on non workout days I can drop carbs and increase fat while maintaining my caloric intake? I still need to reduce BF%. Is that possible with a plan such as this?

Robert Santana

Yes that is correct. You can lose body fat with this approach but don't reduce body fat at the expense of getting stronger at this time. You have room to improve, don't take that for granted.


If my primary goal is to drop body fat, should I be putting off the Starting Strength routine? Should I pick up a bodybuilding type routine, one that allows you to "practice" the S.S. movements?

Robert Santana

We are not bodybuilding coaches here and the book isn't designed for bodybuilding. Muscle is gained as an artifact of getting strong. Fat loss is not something a novice lifter should concern himself with unless he is obese.

Best of the Forum

Starting Strength and the Military: An Advisory

This is a “warning advisory” for soldiers, sailors and airmen (and police and firemen as well, for reasons which will be obvious) who want to follow Starting Strength. BLUF: if you follow SS as presented and “do the program,” you are going to increase your weight substantially, 30 pounds or more easily. That means you will bust through the top end of your service’s height/weight charts, and will be subjected to follow-on bodyfat measurements that will be even more ludicrous than the height/weight charts. I am telling you from hard experience that managing the problem at that point, after you have maxed the tape, is too late. This is intended to be a caution so that the military member can best manage the problems SS weight gain brings.

The military likes strong men when the shit hits the fan, no doubt about it. What it doesn’t like is what it takes to make a man strong, lifting and eating. Look at your generals or admirals – many, if not most of them are runners, often running twice a day for ungodly distances. There are exceptions, but they are that – exceptions. Outside of combat the narrow-waisted men are the ideal. But running twice a day doesn’t do jack for moving chains and hoses during flight ops, hauling a downed soldier out of the line of fire, unloading a pallet of gear or just moving across rough terrain with 60-80 lbs of kit on your back. Strength absolutely makes you more useful in the military.

Let’s look at the example of very useful Zach [of The Novice Effect]. At a weight of 242 he exceeds his max allowable weight by 30-40 pounds no matter what his height is. Had Rip taped his waist and neck the way Navy guidance prescribes (cannot indent the skin at all, around the neck below the Adam’s apple, around the waist at the navel, must be kept horizontal to the ground all the way around), we’d find he’s at least 25% bodyfat, probably closer to 28% (he does appear to have a large neck, which buys him a few points).

Is he really that fat? Hell, no. Now, when you were skinny and weak and fat, that extra four inches across the gut didn’t matter because you were way under your weight limit. But now that you’ve built a solid base of muscle, and your abs and back are thick and solid from squats and DLs, that extra bit of fat across the gut will bite you and cause the taper to mark you at a minimum as 3-5% higher than you really are. If you want to be taped as 20% bodyfat, you have to be 15% bodyfat in reality. That’s what soldiers and sailors undertaking SS face – your muscle will cause you to be considered fat, with dire consequences like negative marks on your evaluations, participation in several extra “fat burning” PT sessions a week, and regular weigh-ins to ensure you’re making progress. Not making progress fast enough? There’s the door, buddy, give us an hour or two to process your separation paperwork.

The Navy considers progress for a BCA (bodyfat measurement) failure actual loss of fat, not just of weight. That means that to improve you have to tape better every week. The only way they know how to do that is through 45-minute aerobic sessions four times a week. They do not care whether it is water, fat or muscle and strength that you are losing, only that your waist is getting slimmer relative to your neck.

So how best to manage it? I’m open to input from all sources, military and non-military, but a few options seem obvious. The first is to end the program before you break the weight limit. I know of at least one poster on this board who has done that, and while I give him sh*t for it, he has done the right thing for his career at this particular point. You may go intermediate early in order to make smaller gains with better control of your weight. You may cycle and cut, which is exactly NOT the program, but which you may have to do regardless. Or you may carefully watch your calories and balance as best as possible between too much and just right. My own thinking is that this last option, coupled with awareness of where your height/weight limit is, is probably the most successful option.

Which is why you must know your numbers – what your allowable weight is, and if you’re going to consider going past it, what your neck and waist (wrist and waist for Coast Guard) measurements will generate for a bodyfat percentage, and to stay well below your limit. Regrettably, this means you will have to think something like a bodybuilder because once over your weight limit everything comes down to that neck/waist ratio, diet and appearance. 70s Big is not the way to go, not unless you’re young enough and in a sufficiently strenuous environment that you can eat like a monster and burn off all the excess. For a lot of young guys that just might work, at least at first. For the rest of us, careful monitoring of diet is essential.

I shouldn’t have to say it, but that also means GOMAD is not recommended. Add milk so long as your waist remains the same, but a gallon a day will put most of us in the hurt locker very quickly – what made Zach strong will put you on the fat boy program just as quickly. Your target is not to gain strength and size as quickly as possible, but to gain strength in such a way to keep you in weight standards. GOMAD isn’t part of it.

Neck hypertrophy: Ridiculous as they look, neck exercises to build size in your neck are valuable, whether you use bridges, pointy helmets with weights on top, canvas head slings or even one of those silly machines – whatever it takes! Body fat tapers are instructed to avoid the traps, so don’t count on them to save you. The larger your neck, the better your chances of avoiding the “fat boy” list. Regrettably, when you lose fat it will disappear from your neck before your waist, putting you at a disadvantage if you expect to beat the tape without doing neck exercises.

MetCons: Do them. The plan Justin Lascek came up with and modified on 70s Big is probably smack on – four lifting sessions and 2-3 metcons a week, with metcons never to exceed 8-10 minutes. Long enough to grind you, but not long enough to interfere with recovery. So long as unit PT doesn’t get too much in the way, Lascek’s plan(s) if worked hard should be a good plan for most military members.

Others may think I’m overstating the problem. Perhaps I am, but there are fitness leaders who respect individual fitness, fitness leaders who think they are doing right by following the rules to the letter, and fitness leaders who like to collect scalps. There are horror stories aplenty in every service, enough that a word here might spare some other soldier or sailor a lot of time and misery down the line. No use bitching about it, this is mandated by DoD, not your service,and it’s not going away, period. It’s a fact, just like 200lbs is 200lbs.

Commenters, what I’d like to see added are best practices – what works for you, what didn’t work. Service-specific tips are valuable, too, because each service skins the cat differently. Over to you.


I'm an active duty Air Force Officer on my 8th week of SS. I used GOMAD for the first 4 weeks and put on 15 pounds very rapidly. I'm currently deployed, so I'm safe from a fitness test for at least 4 more months. But I've looked at the new AF PT standards which take effect 1 Jul and I think I'll be ok.

I haven't taped recently, but I'm 2 or 3 inches short of the 39 inch waist (I'm still wearing some 35" pants). And if I wasn't, there are some 'techniques' out their that will lower your AC measurement and inch or 2 prior to measurement. It involveds plastic wrap and duct tape, but I've seen it work countless times. 39 is the key number. You need to be below that to pass. A 35" waist gives you max points for the category (20).

We have a BMI measurment, but it only helps if you are below a 25 BMI. I used to be in that category, but those days are behind me.

Using me as an example, a 32 y/o male would have to run a 13:13 mile and a half (44.9 pts), perform 57 push ups(10 pts) and 54 sit ups (10 pts) in a minute and measure in at 39 inches (12.6) to score a 77, which is 2 points above passing. It won't get you a patch on your PT uni, but you'll stay out of the dog house.

I'd be interested to hear what other people are doing in terms of metcons. I'm currently doing 2 a week, usually 1 on the rower and 1 running. I've never been a strong runner so I can't get away from it too long.

It sounds like the AF is a little easier then the other services in terms of passing. Just another reason why we are the best service!

Ryan Long

I feel your pain brother. Though I'm not on linear progression anymore it still is something of an issue, especially when I'm training my soldiers/cadets and I want to do it the right way. I'm working with a group of 30 cadets this summer, doing 3 days a week of modified novice linear progression (no power cleans) and 2 days a week of 400m and 800m intervals. I know this is likely overtraining for them but its only for 6 weeks with a 1 week break in the middle, they're young, they can handle it. I've done a similar program with myself with great success but haven't tried it on this large a scale yet.

As annoying as the Army Weight Control Program is, I have seen very, very few soldiers kicked out for being fat. Though I don't consider this to be a frequent problem (soldiers being kicked out for being fit but “overweight”) I'm sure it sucks plenty to the soldier it happens to. I've been the commander trying to kick out the sloppy fat, weak soldier before and had great trouble doing so. When it comes to the strong fat soldiers who could physically do the job I let reason be my guide. I'll take a strong chubby soldier any day over a sparrow, but he still has to have the ability to run fast for short distances. I wish we could go to a more accurate fat measurement system than the tape test.

Mark Rippetoe

Ryan's article is now up: Why Does the Army Want Me Weak?

Beau Bryant

I have spoken to Ryan about this off line, great article Ryan. I will pass it to everyone I know.

I have trained the military for over 2 years now. I have some experience with this. I've been to Rip's cert twice, once when it was a CF cert and the new and improved version. I have used both SS and intermediate programming on the military for over 2 years.  Anyone interested in seeing the programming I now do, and have seen some wild results with you can check out my website.

Here is what I find:

  1. The fast get a little slower
  2. The slow get faster
  3. I have had a handful of people in that 2 years have to watch the diet closely so they do not fall into the tape test situation.
  4. Everyone gets strong
  5. Everyone from the top down has been extremely pleased with the results
  6. As the body adapts to ever increasing loads it becomes hardened and those silly over use injuries that are so high in the military go away.

I program 4 strength days and 4 conditioning days a week. The conditioning is fast and rarely last over 10 minutes. Toss them a 5k every now and then, give them a day for regeneration and mobility and we see great results. As far as age, I have trainees from the age of 25 to 50.

Thanks again for the article Ryan. Good luck with the program this summer.

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