Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Why Will You Not Do The Program?

by Mark Rippetoe | October 20, 2016

searching for answers

Damned if I know. What I do know is that of the 324 training logs posted on this site and reviewed for Dr. Racculia’s survey of novice lifters, 6 of them followed the program with some degree of accuracy. Less than 2%. On this very website. That’s an interesting statistic, and it bears some discussion.

The program works, especially when executed exactly as written in the books, SS:BBT3 and PPST3. I know this because I have used it for many years with our members, and every single one of them who does it according to the instructions gets big and strong over a 6-month period. All of our Starting Strength Coaches who apply it to closely-supervised personal training clients report the same thing – without exception. Quite simply, it works every single time it’s actually used, because it is based on basic biology and simple arithmetic.

Those very few of you who do it correctly report the same thing. When the data was averaged, the few who made a stab at the program gained 162 pounds on their squat over 4 months. But done verbatim, your squat goes from 115x5x3 to 315x5x3 in 4 months, along with comparable gains in the other lifts and bodyweight gains of 25 to 45 pounds, depending on your height, with an acceptable bodyfat/lean mass ratio. Those of you who are stronger but still novices report even more dramatic results, with linear progress on the squat to over 500x5. It has been documented, and you know it occurs.

You also know how to do it, because the program is available in both books. Both books are available from our website, our distributors, and Amazon. The Kindle versions are cheap on Amazon, and for a method that works every time it’s used, full print retail is still pretty damned cheap. There is no Calculus involved, and the complete method is clearly explained. It is not difficult to understand unless I have overestimated your intelligence, and few of you will accept that explanation.

Yet essentially none of you actually do the program exactly a written. Why?

Maybe you just don't have time to do the 3 workouts required by the program. I understand this perfectly, but that doesn't explain the vast majority of non-compliance, which most usually involves helpful additions to the program in the form of WODs (don't want to detrain), curls (obviously), and running (the source of Razor Abs). You guys working 80-hour weeks are not exactly representative of the general public these days, and I know guys who really do work 80 hours who still manage to do the program correctly.

I think it most often involves a willingness to interpret the program as a general guideline. You read the program, and instead of reading it as a concrete procedure to be implemented exactly as written, you see an outline that suggests that you squat, press, and deadlift occasionally, adding a little weight every so often, while you do your other WODing, curls, and running.

Or it may be that you think doing the program will make you fat. You read on the internet that everybody has to drink a gallon of milk a day if you are doing “Starting Strength,” so “Starting Strength” means a GOMAD, and that this causes heart disease and obesity, and you don't want to get fat and have a heart attack, so you just do a little of it – both the diet and the training. And it pains me to observe that maybe you really are that stupid. Do you get into flame wars in the YouTube Comments section? Yes? Well, here's your sign.

It may be that you don't think this simple an approach can possibly work without the helpful addition of your WODs, curls and running, because and after all nobody else's program is this short and simple, and everybody else does all this other shit, something different every workout, and you have failed to notice that they haven't made any progress either. But hey, that's what everybody does, so it must be the right thing to do.

It may be that the first couple of times you did the program as written you failed to get sufficiently tired, sweaty, and hot to suit your preconceived notions of how a workout should feel. Despite the fact that this program is training, not exercise, and despite the fact that today's subjective perception of your workout will be inaccurate until the process has continued long enough that you have accumulated enough strength to get tired, sweaty, and hot doing the simple program, you lack the patience to follow the process upon which strength and muscle mass increases are predicated. You are impatient, like a child.

Maybe we didn't charge you enough money for the program. That has occurred to the developing Cynical Me as perhaps the primary reason for non-compliance. When you pay the doctor $500 in addition to your growing Obamacare insurance premium to tell you that you have to take statins or you'll die, you take the statins. After all, she is a doctor, and you did pay a lot of money for this expert advice, so you'd better do what she says. This is one of the primary reasons why people who hire our coaches get the results the program is famous for – free advice is never heeded.

But maybe you just don't know. Read the programming chapter of SS:BBT3 again, more carefully this time. Or better, read chapter 6 of PPST3 and follow the instructions to the letter. The whole process by which you can activate the amazing power of the correctly applied stress/recovery/adaptation cycle – perhaps the most fundamental aspect of biology – is discussed in detail. Biology and arithmetic, ladies and gentlemen, are fairly straightforward approaches to what need not be a complicated problem.

Do it exactly as written. Do not add your helpful WODs, curls, and running. Do it without deviation for a minimum of 6 months. It's only 6 months. You have 6 months to improve every aspect of your physical existence, right? Just try it. Just this one time. See what happens.

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