Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Strength Training Will Force You to Fix (Almost) Everything

by Andrew Lewis, SSC | November 21, 2023

andrew lewis coaching a deadlift at starting strength indianapolis

Any novice who does the Starting Strength linear progression will get stronger. The duration of this progress, however, has a wide range: 3 months on the shorter end to 7 months or more on the longer end. Progress will last longer if the lifter organizes his life to optimize recovery elements, mental requirements, and limiting physical conditions. Linear progression is a relatively short period of time in which a massive amount of progress can be made.

More than half of all lifetime training progress will occur in the first 6 months if you do it correctly. Maximizing this training can have profound effects on your life both immediately and long term. As a result, obstacles that come up in the linear progression will reveal opportunities for improvement in mental capability and physical habits.


You don’t get stronger from lifting weights. You get stronger from recovering from lifting weights that you were previously unadapted to. The stress must be sufficient to demand the body to adapt, but the recovery must also be sufficient to respond to that demand. The first month of a linear progression is easy. You show up, add 5 pounds more than last time, do your sets, go home, and you don’t have to do much else. You’ll make progress as long as you’re consistent and not skipping workouts. But after the first month, recovery starts to be a limiting factor for trainees who don’t understand what is required. Continuing linear progression will require you to address existing inadequacies in your recovery.

You have to eat correctly, which means eating the right amount of protein and calories. The right amount – not too much, not too little. Most trainees eat too little and have to learn how to eat more. Some trainees use this advice as an excuse to continue to eat too much and not remove unnecessary food they should probably get rid of anyway. You’ll still get stronger on too much protein and calories, but you’ll also get fat. A gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is a good starting place.

Additionally, you need sufficient vitamins and minerals – a lifter whose leg cramps every time he bench presses heavy is going to have a hard time completing all 3 sets of 5. Insufficient carbohydrates will also make completing workouts difficult.

Sleep – Quality and Quantity

You have to sleep enough. This could be 7, 8, 9, or maybe even 10 hours of sleep a day. It depends, but it must be enough to recover. That sleep has to be high quality. Go to sleep at a consistent time. Wake up at a consistent time. Don’t stay up all night partying or playing video games. If your dog or cat is waking you up in the middle of the night, lock them in the basement. Don’t sleep having recently consumed alcohol, marijuana, or caffeine. These all disrupt sleep quality. Many lifters who like marijuana and alcohol argue that it helps them get to sleep – which may be true, but once they are asleep, quality suffers.

Recovery occurs outside of the gym. Do what is necessary to recover from the workouts, and you’ll make more progress than you would have previously thought possible.

Discipline and Mental Toughness

The process of linear progression also forces you to become mentally resolute and determined. The weak-willed or weakly-motivated do not get out of bed at 5:00am or go to the gym after work 3 times per week to do the hardest activity they have to do today. The weak-willed either quit this program or develop discipline to train consistently, show up and push hard, and learn from failure. This isn’t challenging in the beginning of the program. Soon, though, you have to go to every workout not knowing if you can add 5 pounds to the bar, but you try anyway, regardless of your fear of failure. You learn when you truly fail.

And you definitely don’t give up. Don’t rack the bar after the fourth rep. Squat down, not truly knowing if you can do it, hit depth, and drive up out of the bottom as best as you can. This develops resolution: do what you say, and commit to doing it. It also builds discipline: doing something in spite of a fear or concern.


Strength training and the novice linear progression do not fix everything – every solution has limitations. Training does not fix congenital issues, disease, and issues that require surgery – although strength will better prepare you for these problems. An inguinal hernia, for example – when the intestines push out of the abdominal wall in the groin – can only be trained around. It cannot be cured with lifting. Only surgery can fix that. However, training can reveal previously unknown problems, such as structural problems like scoliosis or a leg-length discrepancy – problems assumed to be insubstantial that must be taken into account as the weight on the bar goes up.

Large unadapted stress is also, by definition, not prepared for in the novice linear progression. Strength improves all physical attributes (even cardio), but a new stress will always present a challenge. For example, strength will allow a man to carry bucket after bucket of cement in a day, but he will still be extremely sore the next day. Walking 30 miles in a day is not going to be easy for a lifter who is accustomed to only walking one mile a day. But both situations will always be more manageable for a strong person than for a weak person.

The End Result

You will come out of a properly executed linear progression far different than when you went in – the physical strength and aesthetic changes aside. These changes came about as a direct result of focusing on doing what is necessary to add 5 pounds next time to your squat.

What do your habits and life look like now? You have good sleep habits, you don’t smoke or drink too much, and you eat a balanced diet with lots of animal meat, carbohydrates, and micronutrients. You’ve developed a good lifestyle regarding your sleep, diet, and extracurriculars by focusing on making your workouts successful. You are resolute and determined. You push yourself to do what you say you will do even when you are scared of failure and its implications. You’ve discovered and treated problems that would need to be treated anyway to improve your life. You will come out of linear progression a completely different person by focusing almost exclusively on doing what is necessary to add 5 pounds to the bar each workout for 3 workouts a week.  

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