Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World


by Daniel Oakes | February 01, 2022

before and after basic barbell training

Most thinkers are preoccupied with what the will is, whereas Rippetoe is concerned with how to best apply it. Instead of waffling on, he cuts through the mental masturbation and helps us by providing a basic premise – something with which we can all finally build upon:

“Strength is the ability to exert force against an external resistance. That's all it is.”

Instead of listing 8 types of strength (Beardsley), or defining strength as being “contextual” (nearly every “strength coach” in the fitness industry), Rippetoe wants the reader to understand precisely how the world works: a) you move something, b) you don't move something, or c) something moves you.

Once an essential understanding of how the world works is out of the way, we are mentally unchained from rumination and suddenly at liberty to get god-awful strong. And Rippetoe explains exactly how to get god-awful strong by explaining that we need to satisfy 4 criteria of exercise efficiency:

1. The greatest amount of muscle mass that can be involved in the movement

2. Over the longest effective ROM

3. So that the heaviest weight can be lifted

4. So you get stronger.

Rippetoe teaches that the best exercises to satisfy these criteria are the squat, deadlift, bench press, and press. And that's all. It's incredibly simple: the human body either sits down and gets back up (the squat), lifts things off the floor (the deadlift), or pushes things overhead (the press) or away from you (the bench press). That's how we exert force against external resistance in this world – that's how we exert our will. If we incrementally load these movements we can exert more and more of our will in the physical world.

Starting Strength gyms are opening up everywhere as people of all ages and abilities commit to exerting their will upon their physical domain. The alternative is others exerting their will upon them instead (as sadly happens in care homes). It's as simple as that. Starting Strength is not here to make you feel like you have "worked it," or to entertain or satisfy you – it's here to make you stronger. For that reason, it is brutally effective. So effective that it can take Zach Evetts from squatting 145x5x3 to 315x5x3 over a few months.

Does Beardsley and his 8 types of strength, or do most “strength coaches” allow for this sort of progression? No. They are too busy talking about how best to target “quads” or the pros and cons of “half squats.” They don't get people strong – Rippetoe and his specialized legion of SS coaches get people strong. They apply the above formula and results come swiftly.

Lots of people simply refuse to understand what Rippetoe provides us. Is this willful ignorance? Possibly. Strength training is hard and people generally don't like doing hard things. But once it is understood that the human will is directly tied up with force production, strength training becomes much more appetizing for those with an above-average IQ (those who understand). We are lucky we are living in a time where we have an author who explains to us bluntly what strength actually means. We could all be flexing our backs atop bosu balls right now, or rehabbing a knee due to too much running, instead of lifting 400lb. It's easy to get distracted from the prize, and Rippetoe's concise formula helps keeps us focused on what matters most.

And it really does matter. Rippetoe has said he could free 50% of care home residents from their chains (not his exact words) if he could train them. That kind of fact is no joke and should be taken seriously. But nobody will take it seriously. Perhaps we don't want to look at the simple solutions (we just bury our heads in the teachings of Beardsley) because it's too unnerving to focus on the truth. Who knows? All I know is that I'm lucky that I've been taught how to enhance my will in this world – that I'm able to move and not be moved.  

Discuss in Forums

Starting Strength Weekly Report

Highlights from the StartingStrength Community. Browse archives.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.