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Thread: Intermediate and Advanced Programming Modifications (and for older lifters)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2008

    Default Intermediate and Advanced Programming Modifications (and for older lifters)

    I wish more publicity had been given back 9-10 years ago to the modifications that need to be made to the program once you hit an "intermediate" level or so. Maybe this info was out there back then and I just missed it but I never heard much talk of this at the time. Just starting this thread to share experience and make sure other lifters modify their programs appropriately. I also want to know what other ways are you older more experienced guys are doing to modify your lifting programs to preserve your bodies?

    My testimony:
    I got turned onto starting strength sometime around age 30 (i'm 39 now) after I'd been lifting and working out most of my life. I fell in love with SS, as many do, because the program was so simple and I was in and out of the gym in less than 60 minutes and only 3 days a week. For only 3 hours of workouts a week I felt amazing and looked amazing.

    Well the problem was that I was not a "novice" or beginner (or however you want to define it) when I started SS. So it only took me about 4-6 months of starting strength before my workloads increased to the point that my bodyweight was 190-195lbs and my SS workouts were 3x5 squat 365lb; 3x5 bench 275lb; and 1x5 deadlift 405. As you can imagine, on a relatively small frame of only 195lbs and trying to stick to this training 3 days a week I was starting to feel like I was ran over by a train literally for days after every workout (yet I'd still try to hammer out the next workout 2 days later).

    The problem was at the time, I wasn't hearing much talk at all about program modifications that you need to make at this point to basically save yourself from destroying your body. I still thought SS program was greatest thing as sliced bread and so I kept hammering away a couple more years. I learned the hard way and tried making my own modifications like just doing 2x week (i.e. workouts A and B) and doing HIIT or something a 3 or 4th day but I still kept hammering away at the base 3x5 workout (straight across sets of 5). One day I'd come to gym and pop of 3x5 squats with 315lbs and then my next workout that week I could hardly make it through squat warmups up to 225lbs.

    Well the answers were their buried all along in the fine print. I don't recall if Rip put it in his original SS text that I was following, but its out on the internet and in the stronglifts report and other places. The answer that I wish I had known back then is you can't continue to lift that way indefinitely. Once you start squatting proportionally over 300lbs with a bodyweight of less than 200lbs, you have to convert over to incremental sets where you just build up to one good set of 5 reps.

    So now I'm 39 years old and I really don't barbell squat anymore and traditional deadlifts are a huge no no. This is due to degenerative disc in the low back. I don't believe it is a result of SS program. I have typical degenerative disc that most active guys my age have. it probably didn't help the extra year or two I tried to hammer through the above mentioned workouts but not the sole cause.

    So here are modifications I've had to make to my training programs as an older lifter:

    Bulgarian split squats - I've really had to back off barbell loaded squats (front or back). These are the next best thing for trying to get a decent load and most chiropractors really prefer this movement over loaded barbell squats. The only draw back is finish 3-4 sets of these with some 85lb dumbbells in each hand and it's like starting your workout with a farmers walk finishing

    RDL's - had to convert to RDL's instead of traditional deadlifts

    Increasing work sets instead of work sets straight across same weight - this is something that I probably need to do a lot more of as I'm still in that SS or 5x5 mentality of doing my all my sets straight across with same working weight. For example, this past weekend I got the itch to do some barbell squats. I went with Front squats because they still feel better on my low back than back squats. I went up to 245lbs and then did 4 sets of 5 straight across. Thankfully I did not injure myself but I probably should have just done 185x5; 205x5; 225x5; and 245x5 and that would have been a lot safer.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Philly burbs, USA


    I suspect there's more to your story? Your first (of 3) posts was in 2011 and seemed to claim you'd been doing SSLP for 6 months, and your join date is 2008. I started SS in mid 2011 too. I bought PPST 1 and 2, so had a few decent guides to post LP programming. Barbell Rx was the most recent. My discs are fine (haven't had back pain since I started SS) and I'm 15 years older than you and closing in on a 500lb 1RM dead, so I don't think you're belief about the cause is necessarily correct. Time to buy another book, maybe?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2016


    So much stuff you need to read...
    Start with this:
    Back Pain and Back Strength | Mark Rippetoe

    And then you can find more stuff using the word "back" here: Starting Strength

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2017



    I'm not exactly sure what the point is that you're trying to make here. I'll respond to a couple of things.

    Programming - It sounds like you tried for along time to stick with novice programming, past when it was appropriate for your level of training advancement. I certainly agree that this ill-advised, and that trainees should move on when the novice program no longer works for them. As to problems with sets across, there aren't any. With the right load, there's no greater risk of anything with sets across, and they can be a useful tool for programming. But, if you were consistently working at too high of an intensity because you were trying to stick to novice programming, I can see how you might mistakenly attribute the problem to sets across.

    Back Pain - I'm not really sure how this is connected to the programming issue. You present the two together here, but then say that you don't think the lifting caused your back issues. Regrardless, most adult humans have something wrong with their back at some point. If you can do BSSs and RDLs, I doubt there's any reason why you couldn't squat and conventional deadlift. If you have pain, you probably need to back the weight down to a load that doesn't hurt, and conservatively work yourself back up over time. Over time, I suspect that this would help rather than hurt with respect to your back issues, if done correctly.

    If I've misunderstood you on any of this, happy to be corrected.


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