Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training

Author:Mark Rippetoe

Starting Strength is a book by Mark Rippetoe.

Mark Rippetoe is the author of Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, Practical Programming for Strength Training, and numerous journal, magazine, and Internet articles. He has worked in the fitness industry since 1978, and has been the owner of the Wichita Falls Athletic Club since 1984. Rip was a competitive powerlifter for ten years, and has coached many lifters and athletes, and many thousands of people interested in improving their strength and performance.


1   Function

This book is intended for those people who find themselves feeling that their strength is inadequate, or that it could be improved beyond what it is.

This book is an attempt to address the problem with barbell training that most people don't know how to it correctly.

2   Substance

2.1   Strength - Why and How


The Greek tale of Milo of Croton serves to date the antiquity of an interest in physical development and understanding of the process by which it is acquired. Milo is said to have lifted a calf every day and grew strong as the calf grew larger.

Physical strength is the most important thing in life. Though less critical to our daily existence, strength still determines the quality and quantity of our time here in these bodies. A weak man is not as happy as the same man would be if he were strong. (This reality is offensive to some people who would like the intellectual or spiritual to take precedence.)

Humans are not physically normal in the absence of hard physical effort. Exercise is the stimulus that replicates the conditions under which our physiology was and still is adapted and returns our bodies to the conditions under which we are physically normal and for which they were designed. Exercise is not a thing we do to fix a problem; it is a thing we must do anyway; a thing without which there will always be problems.

2.1.1   Why barbells?

Men developed the barbell, a long metal shaft with some type of weight on each end, among the first tools developed to practice resistance exercise. The earliest barbells used globes or spheres for weight, which could be adjusted for balance and load by filling them with sand or shot.


A Nautilus circuit.

The invention of the Nautilus by Arthur Jones in the mid-1970s revolutionized resistance exercise. The Nautilus utilized the "principle of variable resistance" which claimed to take advantage of the fact that different parts of the range of motion of each limb were stronger than others. Jones designed a machine for each limb or body part and incorporated a cam into the chain attached to the weight stack that varied the resistance against the joint during movement. Jones designed the machines for people to use in a specific order, one after another, without a pause between sets, since different body parts were being worked consecutively. The central idea was that you could train the entire body if you add enough machines, each working a separate body part, together in a circuit. Jone made the machines exceptionally well and handsome, and soon most gyms had a circuit.

The Nautilus allowed the health club industry to offer to the general public a thing which had been previously unavailable: if a member wanted to train hard prior to the invention of Nautilus, someone had to teach him how to use barbells. Moreover, someone had to teach the health spa staff how to teach him this. Such professional education was, and still is, time-consuming and not widely available. But with Nautilus equipment, a manager could quickly teach a minimum-wage employee how to use the whole circuit, ostensibly providing a total-body workout with little invested in employee education. Furthermore, members could perform the entire circuit in about 30 minutes, thus decreasing member time on the exercise floor, increasing traffic capacity in the club, and maximizing sales exposure to more traffic.

Isolated body part training on machines doesn't work for the same reason that barbells work so well: the human body functions as a complete system. Training differently from the ways we will actually act ignores the relationships between the organ systems.

Barbells, and the primary exercises we do with them, are the best training tools that men have ever devised:

  • Properly performed, full-range-of-motion barbell exercises are essentially the functional expression of human skeletal and muscular anatomy under a load. Balance between all the muscles involved in a movement is inherent in the exercise, since all the muscles involved contribute their anatomically determined share of the work. Barbells allow the body to move weight in exactly the way the body is designed to move it, since the body determines every aspect of the movement.

    Machines, on the other hand, force the body to move the weight according to the design of the machine. This places some rather serious limitations on the ability of the exercise to meet the specific needs of the athlete. For instance, there is no way for a human being to utilize the quadriceps muscles in isolation from the hamstrings in any movement pattern that exists independently of a machine designed for this purpose. Quadriceps and hamstrings always function together to balance the forces on either side of the knee. Since they always work together, why should they be exercised separately

    Even machines that allow multiple joints to be worked at the same time are less than optimal, since machine determines the pattern of the movement through space, not the individual biomechanics of the human using it. Barbells permit the minute adjustments during the movement that allow the body to express individual anthropometry.

  • All of the exercises described in this book involve varying degrees of skeletal loading. After all, the bones are what ultimately support the weight on the bar. Bone is living, stress-responsive tissue, just like muscle, ligament, tendon, skin, nerve, and brain. It adapts to stress just like any other tissue, and becomes denser and harder in response to heavier weight.

  • Barbells are economical to use. In practical terms, you can build five or six functional weight rooms for the cost of one circuit of any brand of modern exercise machine.

The only problem with barbell training is the fact that few people know how to do it correctly.

2.2   The squat

The posterior chain (= hip extensors) is the group of muscles that straighten out the hip joint from its flexed position in the bottom of the squat ("hip extension"). These muscles contribute to anything involving the lower body, such as jumping, pulling, and pushing. The posterior chain consists of the hamstrings, the glutes, and the adductors (groin muscles).


Three views of the squat. Profile view: Depth landmarks for the full squat. The top of the patella (A) and the hip joint, as identified by the apex in the crease of the shorts (B). The B side of the plane formed by these points must drop below parallel with the ground.

A correct squat perfectly balances all the forces around the knees and the hips, using these muscles in exactly the way the skeletal biomechanics are designed for them to be used, over their full range of motion. The postural muscles of the lower back, the upper back, the abdominals and lateral trunk muscles, the costal (rib cage) muscles, and even the shoulders and arms are used isometrically. Their static contraction supports the trunk and transfers kinetic power from the primary force-generating muscle groups to the bar. The trunk muscles function as the transmission, while the hips and legs are the engine.


Total-body power development originates in the hips. The ability to generate power diminshes with distances from this hips. The farther from the center of the body a body part is, the greater the angular velocity with which the body can move, enabling the application of power through acceleration.

The "core" of the body is at the center of the squat, that the muscles get smaller the farther away from the "core" they are, and that the squat trains them in exactly this priority. The interaction of the postural muscles with the hips and legs provides balance, starting on the ground at the feet and proceeding up to the bar. A massive amount of central nervous system activity controls balance under the conscious direction of the athlete's mind. In addition, the systemic nature of the movement, when done with heavy weights, produces hormonal responses that affect the entire body. So not only is "the core" strengthened, but it is strengthened in the context of a total physical and mental experience.

Few people understand the squat well because it involves the use of more muscles than most people realize.

2.2.1   Loaded human movement

To understand barbell training, you must understand how the skeletal system translates the force of muscle contraction into movement as the body interacts with its environment ("loaded human movement")   Balance


The center of mass shifts up toward the bar as the mass of the barbell increases.

The body prefers stable positions, loaded or not. The most stable position is a position of balance that requires the greatest amount of force to perturb, or the least amount of force to maintain.

When standing, the most stable position is where your center of mass ("COM") is over the mid-foot, since, being exactly half-way between either end of the foot, it takes the most movement to disrupt. Similarly, when you squat down and stand back up, your body's COM is in balance when it travels in a vertical line directly over your mid-foot.

The heavier the weight on the bar, the more precisely the bar position calibrates to the mid-foot. Since you will do most barbell exercises while standing on your feet, this mid-foot balance point becomes a critically important concept in the analysis of good exercise technique.


Extra work that must be done on an out of balance bar.

A small imbalance can increase the leverage to the point where you miss a rep. So, "good technique" in barbell training is defined as the ability of the lifter to keep the bar vertically aligned with the balance point.

2.2.2   Squat depth - safety and importance


Muscular actions on the knee. In the deep squat position (A), the anterior force provided by the quadriceps is balanced by the posterior force provided by the hamstrings. The depth is the key: partial (high) squats (B) predominantly work the quadriceps and therefore lack balance.

The squat is the safest leg exercise for the knees and produces more stable knees than any other leg exercise. To perform squat correctly, one must squat through one's full range of motion, with hips dropping below level the with the top of the patellas. Any squat that is not deep is a partial squat. partial squats stress the knees and the quadriceps without stressing the glutes, adductors, or the hamstrings. In the deep squat position, several muscle groups reach a full strecth: the adductors, the glutes, and external rotators. Here, the function of the hamstring muscles is primarily isometric since they don't need to change length on the way down.

A partial squat done with an upright torso and vertical back angle is typical of most people's attempts to squat, because we have all been told that the back must be vertical to reduce shear, the sliding forces that occur along a segment in rotation. Shear between the vertebral segments is supposed to somehow disarticulate your spine, despite the fact that this cannot and has not ever occurred. But in a misinformed effort to protect the back, this advice results in a lot of unnecessary stress on the knees. As we've already discussed, however, the vertical back angle fails to fully load the hamstrings. Therefore, they cannot exert the posterior force needed to oppose and balance the anterior force exerted by the quadriceps and their attachments to the front of the tibia, below the knee. (In other words, there's no force pulling backwards to balance the forces that are pulling the knees and tibias forward.) The result is an actual anterior shear on the knee. The partial squat also forces the knees quite forward of the mid-foot - much more so than the low- bar squat form we will be using, which keeps the knees back and uses the hips as the primary mover of the load. This lack of posterior support produces an anterior-dominant force distribution on the knee: the further back the hips are, the more hip muscle you use, and the further forward the knees, the more quad you use. Many cases of patellar tendinitis have been caused by this incorrect squat technique.

The hamstrings benefit from their involvement in the full squat by getting strong in direct proportion to their anatomically proper share of the load in the movement, as determined by the mechanics of the movement itself. This fact is often overlooked when the medical community considers anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears and their relationship to conditioning programs. The ACL stabilizes the knee: it prevents the tibia from sliding forward relative to the femur. As we have already seen, so does the hamstring group of muscles. Underdeveloped, weak hamstrings thus play a role in ACL injuries, and full squats strengthen the hamstrings. In the same way the engaged hamstrings protect the knees during a full squat, hamstrings that are stronger due to full squats can protect the ACLs during the activities that we are squatting to condition for. With strong hamstrings and the knees-back position provided by the low-bar version of the squat, the hips bear most of the stress of the movement. So athletes who are missing an ACL can safely squat heavy weights because the ACL is under no stress in a correctly performed full squat.


Forces on the knee in the squat. The hamstrings and adductors exert a posterior tension on the tibia, and the net effect of the anterior quadriceps tendon insertion is an anterior force against the tibial plateau. With sufficient depth and correct knee position, anterior and posterior forces on the knee are balanced. The anterior (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligaments (PCL)stabilize the anterior and posterior movements of the distal femur relative to the proximal tibia. In a correctly performed squat, these ligaments are essentially unloaded.

Another problem with partial squats is the fact that very heavy loads can be moved due to the short range of motion and the greater mechanical efficiency of the quarter-squat position. A trainee doing quarter-squats is predisposed to back injuries as a result of the extreme spinal loading that comes from putting a weight on his back that might be more than three times the weight that he can safely handle in a correct deep squat. A lot of football coaches are fond of partial squats because they allow the coaches to claim that their 17-year-old linemen are all "squatting" 600 pounds. Your interest is in getting strong (at least it should be), not in playing meaningless games with numbers. If it's too heavy to squat below parallel, it's too heavy to have on your back.

2.2.3   Learning to squat

We will approach the squat in two phases:

  1. Unloaded, to solve the majority of problems, which are associated with the bottom position. (This the most important part of learning to squat correctly is learning the bottom position because good depth is the difference between a squat and a partial squat.)
  2. Loaded, to learn how to apply the bottom position to the hip drive used for heavier weights   The standing position


Map of foot placement.

The heels should be shoulder width apart and the toes should point 30 degrees. An excessively wide stance causes the adductors to reach the end of their extensibility early. A deficiently wide stance causes the thighs to jam against the belly. Both of these problems prevent you from reaching proper depth. Shoulder width is proportionate to pelvic width for most people, and experience has shown that this width works well for most of the population.   The bottom position


Use your elbows to stretch into the correct position at the bottom. The femurs are parallel to the feet, the feet are flat on the ground at the correct angle, the hips are back, the knees arejust a little forward of the toes, and the back is at an angle (about 45 degrees) that will place the bar over the middle of the foot.

In the bottom position, you should be able to shove your knees out to where they are in a parallel line with your feet using your elbows with the palms of your hands together. If not, holding this position acts as a stretch. Your feet should be flat on the floor and your knees should be slightly in front of your toes. Your back should inclined at about a 45-degree angle and as flat as you can get it. Your eyes should be looking down at the floor a few feet in front of you.   Generating hip drive

After you've established the bottom position, come up out of the bottom by driving your butt straight up (not forward). This movement keeps your weight solidly over the whole foot instead of shifting it to the toes. Think about a chain hooked to your hips, pulling you straight up out of the bottom. Don't think about your knees straightening out, don't think about your feet pushing against the floor, and don't even think about your legs. Just drive your hips up out of the bottom, and the rest will take care of itself.

Eye gaze direction plays an important part in this process of driving the hips, and it is introduced even before the bar becomes part of the squat. Looking up at the ceiling when squatting has so many detrimental effects on proper technique that it is absolutely amazing that so many people still advise their lifters to do it. It interferes with the correct bottom position, with hip drive out of the bottom, and with correct chest position. It changes the focal point from a close, manageable spot to one that is farther away. And the neck position that results from looking at the ceiling is inherently unsafe: to place the cervical spine in extreme overextension and then to place a heavy weight on the trapezius muscles directly underneath it is, at best, imprudent. The normal anatomical position for the cervical spine is the preferred position when the weights get heavy.

The habit of looking up is also a very difficult problem to correct if it has existed for any length of time. Lifters whose high school football coaches taught them to look up during the squat often have a very difficult time with changing the eye gaze direction, even when we have effectively demonstrated that looking down works so much better. An embedded movement pattern is always easier to perform than a new one, and it will be the default movement pattern if conscious control is shifted to another aspect of the new technique.

Do an experiment or two to demonstrate for yourself the effect of gaze direction. Assume the bottom position with knees out, toes out, and heels down. Put your chin down slightly and look at a point on the floor 4 or 5 feet in front of you. Now drive your hips up out of the bottom, and take note of how this feels. Now do the same thing while looking at the ceiling. If you have a training partner or coach, get in the bottom position and have him block your hips, with a hand placed firmly on your lower back and pushing straight down, so that you have something to push up on, but not so that he pushes you forward. Push up against the resistance while looking down at your floor focus point, and note the effectiveness of your hip drive and the power it produces. Then try this movement again while looking up. You will discover an amazing thing - that the chin-down (looking down keeps the chin down), eyes-down position enables your hip drive to function almost automatically. In contrast, the upward eye gaze pulls the chest forward, the knees forward, and the hips forward -just a little, but enough to produce a profound effect. It slacks the hamstrings and all the posterior muscles we are trying to keep tight so that we can use them to drive the hips up. The first time you do this experiment will convince you that looking down is more efficient.

Looking at the floor also provides the eyes with a fixed position reference. Using this reference, you can easily identify any deviation from the correct movement pattern and adjust it as it happens. The ceiling also provides a reference, but the neck position is unsafe, and anything you're looking at upward will be farther away than the floor when you're at the bottom of the squat. It's hard to imagine a room in which the floor isn't closer to the eyes than the ceiling is; the floor is therefore more useful as a reference - smaller movements can be detected against the closer point.

Most people will have more trouble with this change in their eye gaze direction than with any other aspect of this squatting method. To correct the error of looking up, fix your eyes on a position on the floor 4 or 5 feet in front of you. If you're training close to a wall, find a place to look at that is low on the wall and results in the same neck position. Stare at this point, and get used to looking at it so that it requires no conscious effort. Most people, if they are looking down, will not raise their heads to the point where neck position is affected. Inventive coaches have used tennis balls for the purpose of demonstrating a chin-down, chest-up position.   Adding the bar

First, chalk your hands. Chalk is always a good idea because it dries out the skin. Dry skin is less prone to folding and abrasion than moist skin and therefore is less prone to problem callus formation.

The squat begins at the power rack or the squat stands, whichever is available. Set the rack height so that the bar in the rack is at about the level of your mid-sternum. (Many people will perceive this as too low, but it's better to be a little low taking the bar out of the rack than to have to tiptoe back into the rack with a heavy weight. Often, this position in the empty rack will look low because the diameter of the bar sitting in the hooks tells the eye a different story about its true height in the rack. You'd rather have the rack set a little too low than a little too high, and most people are not as tall as they think they are.)

You should always start with an empty bar at first.


A comparison of wide and narrow grips. Note the difference in tightness of the upper back muscles and the result difference in support potential.

Face the bar and take an even narrow grip on the bar. A narrow grip tightens your shoulder so that muscle supports the bar and it doesn't dig into your back.


You should place the thumbs on top of the bar so that the wrist can be held in a straight line with the forearms. An incorrect grip intercepts some of the weight, loading the wrist and elbows. You should lift up your elbows to trap the bar between the hands and the back.


Position of the barbell relative to the scapula. The bar is just under the spine of the scapula.

With your grip in place, dip under the bar and position the bar on your back. Place the bar just immediately under the spine of the scapula (the bone you feel at the top of the shoulder blades) and secure it in place by lifting your elbows and chest at the same time. It should feel as though the bar is resting on a "shelf" under the traps and on top of the posterior deltoids. This action tightens the muscles of your back and lifts your chest, placing the thoracic spine in an extended, straight position and thereby fixing many of the problems encountered with a round-back position. Most people starting with this method will place the bar too high on the back, perhaps just above the scapular spine instead of just below it.

Take one step back out of the rack; more steps are unnecessary yet they could become a problem if the set is heavy or if you cannot rely on spotters.

Don't stop at the bottom. Immediately come back up, driving your butt straight up, not forward, out of the bottom.


The back angle during the drive up from the bottom is critical to the correct use of the hips. You produce the correct angle when the bar is just below the spine of the scapula and directly over the middle of the foot, the back is held tight in lumbar and thoracic extension, and the knees are parallel to the correctly placed feet, and the correct depth is reach.

You should be in good balance at the bottom of the squat. Your weight should stay evenly balance over the middle of your feet.

The reference point your eyes have on the floor should help you maintain position all the way down and all the way up. Balance problems usually indicate a back angle that is too vertical, so make sure you're sitting back and leaning forward enough. Most people have a picture in their minds of a vertical torso during the squat.   The important things you're going to do wrong

  • Depth: You're probably going to squat to a position above parallel either because you're not looking down, you're not shoving your knees out, you have a stance that either too narrow or too wide, or have not committed to going deep.
  • Knee position: You will to shove your knees out as you start down. This will make correct depth hard to attain and will kill your hip drive.
  • Stance: Your stance will be either too narrow or too wide, with your toes usually pointed too forward. This will result in a squat that is not below parallel.
  • Eye gaze: You will fail to look down. This will kill your hip drive.
  • Back angle: Your back will usually be too vertical due to a fault mental picture of what your hips do when you squat our due to the incorrect placement on the bar on your back. Or your back will be too horizontal, due to your failure to keep your chest up. Either error will adversely affect hip drive and depth.
  • Hip drive: Your will your chest instead of driving your hips up. This will kill your power out of the bottom by making your back angle too vertical.
  • Rack height: You will set the bar in the rack in a position that is too high. This will make the preferred position on the back difficult to attain.

The squat is a complex, multi-joint exercise whose correct execution depends on every component of the entire system functioning together. An incorrect placement of any component will perturb the entire system to its detriment. A working knowledge of the functional mechanics of the system is important if you are to understand the contribution of each component to the system, and the works of the system as a whole.

2.2.4   Leverage and moment - the basis of barbell training

You must understand the forces affecting the lifter and the barbell to form an accurate analysis of the movements used in barbell training.

The complexity of the squat, bench press, deadlift, press, and power clean is mitigated by the fact that they are all natural expressions of loaded human movement, but if these natural movements are to effectively function as exercises, we must tailor them to use the most muscle mass over the longest range of motion so that we can lift the most weight and thus produce the most effective strength adaptation.

A model of the exercise is an accurate description of the exercise based on an understanding of how you are supposed to move to effectively move weight, and how physical adaptations will increase you ability to handle increasing loads in each particular pattern.

The science of classical mechanics studies the effect of forces on the motions of material bodies. Its important you understand its concepts because your muscles moving your skeleton obey the laws of mechanics as a system of level, and you must know them before you can analyze your lifting to optimizing the way you do it.

2.2.5   Common problems everyone should know how to solve

We can recognize correct squats by certain characteristics controlled by skeletal anatomy and muscle function. All the skeletal components that support the bar (the knees, hip, and spine) will be locked in extension at the top of a squat so that the muscular components have to exert only enough force to maintain this position, in which compression is the primary force on the skeletal components.

When the squat begins its eccentric phase, all the muscles will ultimately extend these joints.

The correct bottom position is identified by definite anatomical position markers:

  • The spine will be held rigid in lumbar and thoracic extension
  • The bar will be directly over the middle of the foot
  • The feet will be flat on the ground at the correct angle for the stance width
  • The thighs will be parallel to the feet
  • The hip joint will be in a position lower than the top of the patella

Given the constraints of the barbell-body-gravity system, your body will naturally solve the problem of how to most efficiently squat if you keep the bar in the correct vertical position over the mid-foot on the way down and back up (as if the bar were riding in a narrow slot directly above the mid-foot). The position of the bar on the torso will control the angle of the back, and the angle of the back and the stance will control the forward or back position of the knees.   Grip arnd arms

Hand position first determines the relationship of the body to the bar. For example, an uncentered placement of the bar on your back results in an asymmetrical loading of all the components under the bar. (An exception made here for trainees whose shoulders have significant differences in flexibility as might result from an injury.) The thumb should be placed on top of the bar so that you can hold the wrist in a straight line with the forearm. Most people will prefer to hold the bar with a thumbs-around grip. This can cause a problem when using heavy weights because people will use their hands to hold up the weight, but these structures are not nearly as capable of supporting heavy weight as the back is and injury will occur. In the correct position all of the weight is on the back.

Some trainees take too wide of a grip. As grip-width increases, upper-back muscle tightness decreases and muscular support for the bar diminishes. The skeleton becomes the default support structure if the posterior deltoids, rotator cuffs muscles, traps, and rhomboids relax, which is bad.   Hips

Push your hips forward. Do not stick your butt out by pushing your hips back.

2.2.6   The master cue

Simply keeping the barbell over the mid-foot by thinking about doing so can fix most things wrong the errors made by the body, from knees to back angle.

This concept is an example of a bar cue which enables the body to sort out complex motor problems by jumping past the analysis to the result.

2.2.7   Breathing

The Valsalva maneuverer is the proper term for holding the breath against a closed glottis while pressure is applied by the abdominal and thoracic muscles.

If you have to push a heavy box, you will take a great big breath and push the box. You will probably not exhale except to take another quick breath until the box is moved. You will not even think about this because you have evolved to do so.

Your diaphragm contracts and the volume of your thoracic cavity increases when you inhale. Pressures equalizes between the outside and the inside as air flows into your now larger lungs. You create a pressure gradient between the inside and the outside when you clamp down to hold your breath and tighten your trunk muscles. This pressure increases markedly with the intensity of the squeeze.

2.2.8   Spotting the squat

The squat and the bench press are the only two exercises in this basic program that require spotters. Squats and benches can be dangerous when they're heavy, so good spotters become an important commodity at some point in everybody's training.

Two people should spot any squat or set of squats you are uncertain you can do. They have to know how to watch each other and work carefully together to minimize the effects inherent in having two people apply force to the same object, otherwise they may cause back injuries.

One person cannot safely spot a squat. Standing behind a lifter is terribly ineffective and unsafe. In an emergency, a spotter might be able to help by standing directly behind a lifter and pushing up on the bar on the outside of your grip, but this will not work if the weight is heavy. In such a case, everyone should get away from the bar as safely as possible. However, this situation is avoidable, and its occurrence indicates either the wrong weight is on the bar or there is not enough help in the weight room.

2.2.9   Personal equipment

Supportive apparel is designed to help powerlifters lift more weight at a meet where such equipment is permitted. Powerlifting is an extremely technical sport due to the use of this equipment, but is has no place in a program of strength training for athletics and fitness.   Belts and wraps

A properly designed and adjusted belt is useful as a safety device when you're squatting heavy weights. A belt protects the spine by increasing the amount of pressure that the muscles that support can it apply to it.

A suit is different in that it actually enables you to lift weights that are heavier than those you can lift without the suit.

...   Shoes

Shoes are the only piece of personal equipment that you must own. A good pair of squat shoes adds enough to the efficiency of the movement that the cost is easily justified.

The primary beneficial feature of a squat shoe is its lack of heel compressibility. The drive out of the bottom starts at the floor, where the feet starts the kinetic chain. If the contact between the feet and the floor is the squish gel or air cell of a running shoe, a percentage of the force of the drive will be absorbed by the compression of the cell, which reduces power transmission efficiency and foot stability. Unstable footing interferes with the reproducibility of the movement pattern, rendering virtually every squat a whole new experience and prevent the development of good technique. Squatting in running shoes in like squatting on a bed.   Clothing

It is better to squat in a T-shirt than a tank top because T-shirts cover more skin than tanks do. Skin is slick when sweaty, and slick is not good for keeping the bar in place. The shirt should be 100% cotton or 50/50 polyester/cotton, not all synthetic, because synthetic materials are slick under the bar. Shorts, sweats, or training pants should always be made of stretchy material since if your pants grab your legs (and they will because of the sweat), a non-stretch garment will restrict the movement of your legs and interfere with your ability to shove your knees out and use your hips. Mid-thigh shorts or simple gray sweats are the best pants for training.   Mirrors

Avoid squatting in front of a mirror. Many weight rooms have mirrors on the wall and place the squat racks near the walls, making it impossible to squat without a mirror in front of you. A mirror is a bad tool because it provides information about only one plane of the three: the frontal, which gives you the least information about your position and balance.

  • A mirror may distract you because it shows any movement occurring behind you.
  • You should be developing your kinesthetic sense while you squat. When you pay attention to all of the proprioceptive input provided by focusing on your balance point on the floor in front of you, the pressure on your feet, the feel of your back angle, the bar in your hands and against your back, and you general sense of the balance of the movement, your sensory input is much richer than that provided visually by the mirror image.

2.2.10   Coaching cues

A cue is a movement signal. Both coaches and athletes use cues.

For a coach, a cue is a signal that causes the athlete to correct some part of the movement he is about to do, as previously discussed with the coach. The cue focuses attention on the thing he should be thinking about at that time, instead of all the other things he is probably thinking about.

For example, "chest up". For counter example, "lift the chest so that your back gets flat".

Cues evolve naturally between the athlete and coach during training.

A cue can also be a reminder that you give yourself, not necessarily spoken aloud.

There ate two basic types of cues: body cues and bar cues. Body cues are references to parts of your body interacting with the bar, like "chest up", "look forward", or "long, straight arms". These cues draw awareness to the thing doing the moving: the muscles or body needing a correction. In contract, bar cues refer to the object being moved. For instance, if your problem is jerking yourself out of position while coming off the floor in a deadlift, a problem that usually happens when you're in a hurry to get the bar moving fast, the bar cue might be "pull it slow" or "squeeze it up".

Body cues draw the lifter's attention to a component of the movement, while a bar cue refers to the whole movement or to a part of that several components are engaged in.

2.4   The deadlift

See deadlift.

2.4.5   The little details   Platforms

Bumper plates, a necessary expense for the clean and snatch can be used for the deadlift as well, but the more reasonably priced ones take up so much space on the bar that iron plates will eventually need to be used as you get stronger.

2.5   The bench press

The dumbbell version of the bench press involves a greater amount of instability, especially if the weights used are sufficiently heavy to challenge your ability to actually finish the set. Most trainees use dumbbell bench presses as a light assistance movement, and never appreciate how hard they are or how useful they can be at heavy weights. Because dumbbells are not tied together between the hands as a barbell is, dumbbell bench presses require more active, conscious control, are harder to do, and are therefore less commonly done. The problem with dumbbell bench presses is that the equipment provides its own limitations in a progressively increasing program. Most dumbbell racks are not graduated in fine-enough increments due to the expense of having twice as many dumbbells as most gyms have the money or space for. Plate- loaded dumbbell handles that would permit such loading are not widely available, of sufficient quality that they are safe at heavy weights, or capable of being handled without a lot of help from two spotters.

Therefore, SS uses the bench press.

2.5.1   Learning to bench press

It might be prudent to use a spotter while learning to bench press since the leverage disadvantage of having the bar several inches behind the shoulders becomes a problem at heavier weights.


Lie down on the bench with your eyes looking straight up. You should be far enough toward the foot end of the bench ("down") from the bar bar that you look up, your eyes are focused on the down side bar. This makes it easier to unrack the bar.

Your feet should be comfortably flat on the ground to squat stance.

Your upper back should be flat against the bench. Your lower back should be in an anatomically normal arched position (at first).


Take an overhand grip on the bar, somewhere between 22 and 24 inches to produce a vertical forearm when bar is on the chest, a position that produces the most range of motion around the shoulder joint during the movement. The bar should rest on the heel of your palm.


To un-rack:

  • Look directly up up at the ceiling above your position on the bench (not the bar) and push up on the bar locking out your elbows. With elbows locked, move the bar out to a position directly over the line of your shoulder joint to place your arms in a perfectly vertical position relative to the joint and thus to the floor; this is the blacne where the bar is in balance at lockout; where there is no moment arm between the bar and the fulcrum that is the shoulder joint.

  • Note the position of the bar against the ceiling. You will lower the bar to your chest, touch the chest, and then drive the bar right back to exactly the same position.

  • Have your spotter touch your chest a few inches below the bar's vertical position at about the middler of your sternum. This is the point your chest chest to touch the bar.

    If you have not spotter, unlock your elbows straight out the sides and then allow them to drop towards your feet just a little on the way down.

    The goal here is to produce a bar path that is not vertical.

  • Unlock your elbows, lower the bar to the chest, touch it without stopping, and drive the bar back at the point on the ceiling your eyes have trapped.

The key to this whole method is starting at the fixed position and not at the moving bar. If you used a fixed reference point for the bar position, you can make the bar go the same place. This is the same principle used to hit a golf or tennis ball: the implement moves to the target and the target is the object of the fixed eye gaze.

2.5.2   Common problems everyone should know how to solve

The bench press is the most dangerous exercise in the world due to the position of the body between the bar and bench with no way to get the bar off you by yourself in the event of an accident. An average of eleven people in the United states are killed every year with weights, essentially all of them under the bench press.


Most people will begin and the end grip process with the bar lying perpindicular to the line of the knucles (A). The best position is achieve by rotating the hands into pronation (B), and then setting the grip (C).

The force generated by the shoulders and triceps is delivered to the bar through the bones of the forearms. The most efficient transmission o power to the bar would be directly from the heels of the palms to the bar, through the forearms positioned vertically, directly under the bar, so that no moment arm exists between the wrists and the bar. Most people look at the bar, see the line of the bar in the air over their eyes, and then place their hands in a position that puts the knuckles in a parallel line with the bar. This position will produce a distance of 1-2 inches between the bar and the wrist - resulting in a lot of unnecessary leverage against the joint, and an inefficient force transmission configuration.

Like the press, the best way to position the grip efficiently is to set the grip width at the index finger and then rotate the hands into pronation by pointing the thumbs down toward the feet. This position hooks your thumbs around the bar and removes the wrists from the kinetic chain. You don't need the bar down in your fingers, the same way you hold it in a deadlift, since gravity is not trying to pull it out of your fingers.

  • It is common for the bar to shift back in your hand toward your fingers during the set so that the bar ends up in a different position from where it started. This is because you don't maintain a tight grip during the set. The bar must remain locked firmly in place during the set for efficiency and safety.

Grip width, within a certain range, is largely a matter of individual preference. Since you are trying to develop general upper-body strength, your form should be generalized, without too much emphasis on any one muscle group and with a lot of work for all of them. A grip that places the forearms in a vertical position when the bar is on the chest obtains the greatest range of motion. With a wider grip, the bar doesn't move as far as locks out before the triceps have done much work, so the pecs and deltoids end up doing more work. Too narrow will take pounds off the workset by placing the responsibility for most of the lockout on the comparatively smaller triceps. As long as the grip falls somewhere between 22 and 28 inches between index fingers, the purpose is served.

A medium grip gives all the muscles of the shoulder girdle a share of the work and produces the kind of overall shoulder and arm strength we want from the exercise.

2.5.3   Elbows


The elbow joint is at the distal end of the humerus, as it articulates with the radius and the ulna. The bony knob on the end of the ulna that most people think of as "the elbow" is the olecranon process, to which the triceps tendon is attached. The pecs and delts attach to the anterior side of the humerus up by the shoulder.

Essentially, all the force being generated by the muscles involved in the bench press moves the elbow down and up, and the forearm parallel to the bar with elbow directly underneath the bar so that no moment force develops between the bar and the elbow. The action around the shoulder joint contributes to the movement of the elbow, but the shoulder doesn't - or at least shouldn't - change its position against the bench while the humerus is moving. Think of it as if the elbows move and the shoulders do not (even though this is not literally true).

The position of the humerus while it moves the bar is crucial to the success of the movement. This position is determined by the angle the humerus makes with the torso as it proceeds from the lockout position down to the chest and back, as seen from above. The bar starts at the lockout position directly over the shoulder joint. In this position, there is no moment arm between bar and pivot point - the bar is in balance, with no effort being expended to keep it there other than keeping the upper arms and the forearms locked in a straight column of support. At the bottom - on the chest - a humerus angle of 90 degrees to the torso, a position of complete "abduction," would have the upper arms at right angles to the bench, parallel to the bar, with the bar directly over the shoulder joints. If mechanical considerations were our only concern, this would be the ideal bottom position because it would produce a mechanically ideal bar path, with zero moment between bar and joint through the whole range of motion, and zero force to apply on any leverage between bar and shoulder.

But mechanical considerations are not our only concern. We need to be able to train the bench press without injuring our shoulders. Shoulder surgery is a GREAT BIG DEAL, I assure you. This makes anatomical considerations very important in an analysis of bench press mechanics.

The press is never a problem for shoulder health because when you are standing, the scapulas are free to rotate up and in toward the spine as you drive the bar up. This allows the scapular position to accommodate the humerus locked in line with the forearm, so that there is no impingement between the bony knobs on the lateral scapula - the acromion and coracoid processes - and the rotator cuff and bicep tendons. The scapula gets out of the way of the humerus because it can "float" into a position that doesn't hurt anything.

In contrast, the bench press position traps the scapulas under the rib cage into a solid platform against the bench as the chest is shoved up and the back is arched. The scapulas are adducted - pinched together or retracted. They do not move if the position is assumed correctly, because they are functioning as the interface between the body and the bench. Therefore, they cannot accommodate the humerus if it approaches the bony processes. Since the scapula cannot adjust to accommodate the humerus, the humerus must accommodate the scapula by staying out of the way of the bony processes so that they don't saw a hole through the rotator cuff tendons.

  • The lifter keeps the scapulas out of the way by lowering the elbows, and thus the humerus, from 90 degrees of abduction to about 75 degrees of abduction.

2.8   Programming

The skin adapts not to total accumulated exposure but to the longest exposure. (If you just got darker every time you were exposed to the sun, we'd all be black.) If you want your skin to get darker, you have to stay out longer in order to give the skin more stress than it has already adapted to.

Exercise follows exactly the same principle as getting a tan - a stress is imposed on the body and it adapts to the stress, but only if the stress is designed properly.

Your bench press strength adapts to the stress and kind of stress imposed on it by the barbell; not the total numbers of type you bench. The muscles and nervous system function differently when doing different things, and they require two different sets of physiological capacities, and thus cause the body to adapt differently.

Furthermore, the stress must be capable of being recovered from. If the stress is so overwhelming that you cannot recover from it in time to apply more of it in a time frame which permits accumulated adaptation, it is useless as a beneficial tool that drives progress.

Exercise and training are two different things. Exercise is physical activity for its own sake, a workout done for the effect it produces today, during the workout or right after you're through. Training is physical activity done with a longer-term goal in mind, the constituent workouts of which are specifically designed to achieve that goal. If a program of physical activity is not designed to get you stronger or faster or better conditioned by producing a specific stress to which a specific desirable adaptation can occur, you don't get to call it training-- it is just exercise.

The thing that differentiates a good program from less good program is its ability to continue stimulating the desired adaptation. As a general rule, you need to try to add weight to the work sets of the exercise every time you train until you can't do this anymore. This is the basic tent of "progressive resistance training" and setting up the program this way is what makes it different from exercise.


The generalized relationship between performance improvement and training complexity relative to time. Note that the rate of adapatation to traing slows over a training career.

Before you even get through the door of the weight room, you should already know every single thing you will do while you are there, the order in which you will do it, how much weight you will do it with, and how to determine the next workout based on what you do today. Wandering around the gym, deciding what look fun, doing it until the fun stops, and then doing something else is not training. Each training session must have a definite achievable goal, usually an increase over the previous workout in the amount of weight lifted, or another definable objective based on the person's training history.

Strength in each exercise will progress differently due to differences in the amount of muscle mass involved and in the sensitivity of the movement to technique problems. The more muscle mass involved, the faster the exercise can get strong and the stronger it has the potential to be. For instance, the deadlift improves faster than any of the other lifts for most people due to its limited range of motion around the hips and knees and the fact that so many muscles are involved in the lift. In contrast, the press improves slowly due to the smaller muscles of the shoulder girdle.

In a trained athlete, the deadlift will be stronger than the squat, the squat stronger than the bench press, the bench press and the power clean close to each other (with the bench usually a little stronger), and the press lighter than the other for.


From left to right, strongest to weakest, the continuum of potential strength gains for the basic barbell exercises for the early part of the typical trainee's career. The deadlift, squat, bench press, and press actively involve decreasing amounts of muscle mass. Other facts affect the powerclean: although it involves a large amount of muscle mass, the technical requirements of the lift place it somewhere between the bench press and the press in strength and in improvement potential.

2.8.1   Learning the lifts & Workout order

For your first workout you should learn, in order:

  1. The squat. This is the most important exercise in the program and its skills are critical to all the other movements.
  2. The press. The squat has fatigued the lower body, and the press give it an opportunity to rest while another skill is introduced. The press is usually easy to learn because of the absence of preconceived notions acquired from media or friends.
  3. The deadlift. This is where you learn to set the lower back, and doing this at the conclusion of the day will solidify the concept of back position and make it more understandable to your body and your mind. (The mechanics of the correct pull from the floor are crucial to the clean and the deadlift serves as the best introduction to the idea that pulling from the floor.)

For the second workout, you should, in order:

  1. The squat.
  2. The bench press. Your shoulders and arm may be tired from the press, but this will have little effect on the bench press, a strong movement anyway.
  3. The power clean. This is introduced last since it is the most challenging of the exercises and only after the deadlift is correct off the floor.

Then, every other day:

Squat Squat
Press Bench press
Deadlift Power clean if deadlift is ahead of squat else deadlift
Nothing Chin-ups if deadlift is ahead of squat

Do the exercises in the listed order, with squats first, the upper-body movement second, and the pulling movement third. This sequence allows the squat to get everything warm for the next exercise; then the upper body exercise allows the legs and back to rest and recover for the pulling movement to be done next.

After two or three more weeks, you can add chin-ups as the only useful assistance exercise. You might decide to add three sets of chins after your power cleans and stay with this program for as many months as possible.

You should choose supplemental exercises carefully so as not to interfere with progress on these five crucial movements. (If in doubt, leave it out.) Assistance exercises must be kept in their proper perspective; they exist to help you get strong in the basic lifts, not as an end in themselves.

You can continue to use this workout with few additions after you progress beyond the novice phase.   Work sets

A work set is a set that produces stress which causes an adaptation. Work sets are the heaviest weight one will do in a given workout.

The number of work sets one should do after the warm-ups depends on the exercise and the individual. Typically trainees should do multiple work sets for each exercise to cause the body to adapt to a larger volume of work, which is handy for those training for sports performance.

Exercise Sets Reps
Squat 3 5
Bench press 3 5
Press 3 5
Deadlift 1 5
Power clean 3 3

The squat benefits from sets across (three sets for novice trainees), as does the bench press and the press. The deadlift is hard enough, and is usually done after a lot of squatting, and one heavy set is usually sufficient, with more tending to overtrain most people. The power clean can be done with more sets across, since the weight is lighter relative to the squat and deadlift, and the limiting factors are technique and explosive power, not absolute strength.


One school of thought holds that novices can stimulate muscular growth with one work set done at a high enough intensity. However, there several problems with this approach:

  • One set will not provide enough stress to cause an adaptation to occur if they don't know how to produce maximum intensity, and by definition, as novices, they do not.
  • One intense set adapts the body to work hard for one intense set. Except for sumo wrestling and a couple of others, sports do not usually involve one isolated, relatively brief intense effort, but generally involve repeated bouts of work.

The metabolic speedometer. How hard and how long we excercise directly affects which metabolic pathways our bodies primarily use to fuel activity. ATP already present in the muscles power all activity, and all bioenergetic activity replenishes these stores. Low-intensity excercise depends on cardiopulmonary delivery and muscular uptake of oxygen, the ready availability of which enables the body to use aerobic pathways and fatty acids as substrate. These aerobic processes take place inside the mitochronida within the muscle cells. As activity levels and energy requirements increase, the ability of oxidative metabolishm to meet the increased demand for ATP is exceeed. Weight training and other forms of high-intensity training exists at the anaerobic end of the continuum, using substrate that does not require added O2. No activity uses only one metabolic pathway with the exception of maximal efforts.


Electromyography (EMG, a recording of neuromuscular electrical activity) and force place data (a measure of muscular force generated) versus repetitions. In reps 1-5, the muscle is firing in a coordinated manner, with tight uniform EMG waves and consistent force production. By reps 10-14 there is a loss of omotor coordination, with erratice EMG waves and and force continuity. Using more than 5 reps per set during the learning phase of a new exercise will usually make correct technique harder to reproduce and master.

The number of reps each work set should consist of depends on the adaptation desired. For example, the demands of a one-rep max ("1RM") squat will cause the body to adapt each organ system to increase its ability to produce force. At the other extreme, a 20RM squat at 80% of a 1RM will cause the body to adapt each organ system to increase its ability to support muscles contraction under increasing metabolic depletion. The novice should work at sets of five reps. Set of five reps use enough weight that force production must increase, but are not so heavy that they neglect the cardiovascular component.

One of the most effective strategies for intermediates is to do the squat, bench, and press for five sets across of five reps, once a week as one of the three workouts, increasing the weight used by small manageable amounts each week.   Rest

The easiest way to stop your progress between workouts is to fail to finish all the reps of all the prescribed work sets. And the easiest way to make this happen is to fail to rest long enough between work sets to allow fatigue from the previous set to dissipate before you start the next set. This is the most common error made by novice trainees: the confusion of strength training with conditioning work. The program requires that you increase weight every workout for as long as possible, and if you fail to complete all the reps of all the work sets, you cannot increase the weight in your next workout.

The time between sets depends on the conditioning level of the athlete. Rank novices are not typically strong enough to fatigue themselves very much, and they can go quickly, just a minute or two, between sets, since they are not lifting much weight anyway. The first two or three sets can be done as fast as the bar can be loaded, especially if two or more people are training together. More advanced trainees need more time, perhaps 5 minutes, between the last warm-ups and the work sets. If they're doing sets across, very strong lifters may need 10 minutes or more between work sets.   Warm-up sets

Warm-ups are the lighter sets done before the work sets. Warm-ups serve two important purposes:

  1. Warm-ups warm the soft tissue (i.e. muscle, tendons, and the ligaments that comprise the joints). General warm-up exercises increase the temperate in the soft tissue and mobilize the synovial fluid in the joints. These exercises include walking fast or jogging, riding an exercise bike, or using a rowing machine (the best method, due to its range of motion and the full involvement of the back and arms as well as the legs). Specific warm-ups like the empty-bar sets of the barbell exercise itself, also serve to warm, mobilize, end stretch the specific tissues involved in the particular movement. This step is important for injury prevention, since it is more difficult to injure a warm body than a cold one.

    The elevation of tissue temperature is important and requires that you keep several variables in mind. You should consider the temperature of the training facility as a factor in this phase of warm-up; a cold room interferes with effect warm-up, while a hot room aids it.

    Age of the trainee affects warm-up requirements as well. Younger people are less sensitive to a lack of warm-up than adults are.

  2. It allows you to practice the movement before the weight gets heavy. (This is especially important in barbell training.) Light warm-up sets, done first with the empty bar and then progressively heavier until the work sets are loaded, prepare the movement pattern itself so that when the weight gets heavy, you can focus your attention on pushing hard instead of worrying about how to push. You must prepare the neuromuscular adaptation to a complicated movement pattern (the "motor pathway") every time you use it. The more familiar the movement pattern, the less critical this aspect of warm-up becomes, but for a novice it is always important. The warm-up sets prepare the motor pathway at the same time that they prepare the tissues for the upcoming heavier work.

Neglecting warm-ups is malpractice: if your schedule does not allow time for proper warm-up, it does not allow time for training at all. It is better to omit strength training from your program than to suffer the inevitable injuries that will result from the lack of warm-up.

Warm-ups will vary with the lift being warmed up.

  • If the room is cold, an initial warm-up on a rower or exercise bike might be useful to raise overall body temperature.
  • The squat, by its nature it s a total-body movement, and serves well as its own warm-up. You should carefully prepare with a couple of empty-bar sets, and then as many as five-sets between those and the work ones.
  • The deadlift will be warm from the squat, provided that the press hasn't taken so long you have gotten cold.
  • The power clean, being a more a complex movement, will require more warm-up for technique purposes.
  • Any area that is injured will require additional warming up.

The warm-up sets serve only to prepare the lifter for the work sets; they should never interfere with the works sets. Plan your warm-up sets with this principle in mind. The last warm-up set should never be so heavy that it interferes with the work sets, but it must be heavy enough to allow you to feel some actual weight before you do the work sets.

For instance, if the work sets are to be three sets of five reps at 225 pounds (22 x 3 x 5), then five reps at 215 (215 x 5) would not be an efficient choice for a last warm-up; a better choice would be 205 x 2, or even 195 x 1, depending on your preference, skill, and experience. Choose the warm-up to save energy for the heavier sets while still being heavy enough that the first work set is not a shock; if the warm-ups sets fatigue you instead of prepare you, they are not warm-up and your strength cannot increase.

As a general rule, it is best to start with an empty bar ("45"lb/20kg), determine the work set or sets, and then divide the difference between 45 pounds and the work-set weight into even increments.

As the warm-ups progress from the empty bar up through heavier weights, the time between the sets should increase a little. As a general rule, the time between sets should be sufficient for you to recover from the previous set, so that fatigue from the prior set does not limit the one you are about to do.

This type of training requires that all of the reps of each work set be completed, because the program is based on lifting more weight each workout, not on completing each workout or each exercise faster. A strength training program is designed to make you stronger, i.e., able to exert more force and lift more weight. Some training programs used in bodybuilding rely on the accumulated fatigue produced by short breaks between sets, and these programs specifically increase muscular endurance. Although endurance increases as a function of strength, it is not a parameter specifically targeted by our program at the novice level. You will benefit more by lifting heavier weights, through the efficient timing of sets to allow for recovery, than by trying to decrease the time between the sets and thereby allowing fatigue to limit your ability to exert maximum force.   Progression

Novices gain strength quickly, so quickly that maximum intensity is hard to define. Novices can and should increase the weight of the work sets every workout while possible. The key to maintaining this improvement is the careful selection of the amount of weight that you increase each time.

Work-set weight increases will vary with the exercise and the age, sex, and experience of the trainee. Male trainees with good technique can increase the squat 10 per workout. For children, elderly, and most women, 5-pound jumps are sufficient to start with. Some genetically gifted, heavier men can take bigger jumps of 15 or 20 pounds for this first two weeks, but anything more than this is usually excessive.

The easy gains begin to wane when you miss the last rep or two of your last work set. You can take 5-pound jumps for several months.

Even 2 pounds per week means a 104-pound increase in a year.

Exercise Jump for a healthy male novice (lbs)
Deadlift 15, then 5
Squat 10, then 5
Bench press 5
Press 5
Power clean 5

The increases in the bench press will be smaller than the squat since it uses smaller muscles. Most men can do 5-pound jumps for three to four weeks if they alternating bench presses and presses.

The press behaves similar to bench press since, though the press uses many muscles, it is limited by the smaller upper body muscles. The press will start somewhere between 50% and 70% of the weight used in the bench press.

The deadlift progresses the fast of all the lifts because the start position virtually every muscle in the body is involved in the mechanically efficient movement. Most men can add 15 pounds to the deadlift each workout for several weeks ,with 5 pound jumps sustainable for several months. The deadlift will start out with heavier weights than the other lifts for all trainees, and will continue to be stronger than the other lifters.

The deadlift is easy to overtrain since it involves more muscles and more weight than other lifts. Therefore, the novice should not train deadlifts using sets across.

The power clean behaves like the bench press in terms of the way it increases over time, and will move up maybe five pounds per workout for most men. This is because the power clean is explosive and technical, and it involves more than just absolute strength. The power clean is explosive and technical, and it involves more than just absolute strength. It is limited at the top of the movement by the lifter's ability to get the bar on the shoulders, and the heavier the weight, the more the power clean depends on the lifter's ability to generate enough momentum to get the bar high enough to rack. This momentum is controlled by the lifter's ability to explode - to recruit lots of motor units into contraction instantly - a physical attribute that is largely dependent on genetics and thus is less responsive to training than strength is.

Ancillary exercises, which are by their nature isolation-type exercises, produce slow progress.

We can consider a trainee an intermediate when he can no longer sustain these smaller jumps. Periodization refers to variation in exercises, tonnage, and intensity for the purpose of ensuring continued progress. Programming beyond the novice phase is dealt with in detail in "Practical Programming for Strength Training".

Trying to increase the weight faster than the program prescribe is failure to follow the program and it is your fault when progress does not occur. (Ambition is useful, greed is not.) Stronger does not necessarily mean more weight on the bar. Resist the temptation to add more weight at the expense of correct technique.

Day Workout (weight/rep/set=1)
  • Squat: 45x5x3, 65x5, 85x5, 105x5x3
  • Press: 45x5x2, 55x5x3
  • Deadlift: 88x5x3
  • Squat: 45x5x2, 65x5, 85x5, 105x5x3, 120x5x3
  • Bench: 45x5x2, 65x5, 85x5, 95x5x3
  • Deadlift: 88x5x2, 110x5, 132x5, 154x5x2
  • Squat: 45x5x2, 75x5, 95x5, 115x5x3, 125x5x3
  • Press: 45x5x2, 55x5, 60x5x3
  • Deadlift: 88x5x3, 110x5, 132x5, 154x2, 165x5
  • Squat: 45x5x2, 75x5, 95x5, 115x5x2, 135x5x3
  • Bench: 45x5x2, 65x5, 85x5, 95x1, 100x5x3
  • Deadlift: 88x5x2, 110x5, 132x5, 154x1, 165x5x2
  • Squat: 45x5x2, 75x5, 105x5, 125x5, 125x2, 145x5x3
  • Press: 45x5x2, 55x5, 65x5x3
  • Power clean: 55x3x2, 6x3, 75x3, 88x3x3
  • Squat: 45x5x2, 75x5, 105x5, 135x2, 155x5x3
  • Bench: 45x5, 65x5, 85x2, 105x5x3
  • Deadlift: 88x5, 110x5, 132x5, 154x1, 176x5

2.8.2   Nutrition and bodyweight

Eating "well" means four or so meals per day, based on meat and egg protein sources, with lots of fruit and vegetables and lots of milk. Most source withing the heavy-training community agree that a good starting place is one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day, with the rest of the diet making up 3500-6000 calories depending on training requirements and body composition.

One of the best ways to move in the direction of these numbers is to drink a gallon of milk a day, most especially if weight gain is a primary concern. A gallon of whole milk per day, added to the regular diet at intervals throughout the day, will put weight on any skinny kid. (The problem is getting them to do it. It is apparently a persistent tendency, since about 1990, for boys to think they need a "six pack".) Milk works because it is easy, it is available, it doesn't need any preparation, and it has all the components for necessary for growing mammals, which novice lifts most definitely are.

Weight gain occurs the same way strength gains occur -- fast at first, then more slowly as training progress. It is entirely possible for genetically favored individuals - for example, a broad shoulder, motivated 5'10" kid weight 140 pounds -- to gain as much as 60 pounds in a year of good steady training, good diet, and milk.

If you do the program as written and you are a novice male between the ages of 18 and 35 with a starting bodyweight of 160-175 pounds, the first five or six squat workouts will see the work sets going up 10 pounds every time. Eating correctly may means 6000 calories per day, including a gallon of whole milk, or it may means 3500 calories/day on a Paleo-type, lower-carb, no dairy diet, depending on your initial body composition. In this demographic, you're overweight if you're over 20% bodyfat and underweight if you're less than 10%. Body fat under about 10% is not usually the level that a performance athlete carries, and growing a significant amount of muscle mass will entail an increase in bodyfat.

The dietary habits necessary to sustain about 10% or lower for most people is too low to sustain the metabolic environment required for a novice to gain muscle mass. 10% bodyfat, if you not have genetically low bodyfat, is not healthy; that conditions that are required to produce and maintain it are not compatible with high strength and power performance levels; and those levels are necessary to get strong and thus big. (This probably means you. Make up your mind at least for the first year or two, you're not to going to worry about bodyfat levels if you're already leans, bean lean is easier to reacquire than strong is to build. The current emphasis on being lean at the expense of all other things is the result of Joe Weider's having done his done his job well: you have seen pictures of bodybuilders at 6& bodyfat in contest shape so often that you think it's normal desirable and always possible.) On the other hand, if you're a little fluffy around the belly, you have obviously already created the condtions necessary for growth.

If you're one of these guys who think you gained a lot of strength because your squat went up 30 pounds in three months, you're not doing the program ("YNDTP").

After the first couple of weeks, the increase of 10 pounds per workout becomes unsustainable and 5-pound jumps become the rule. This jump provides for a long steady linear increase in strength that has the potential to go on for month. It translates to a 15-pound-per-week increase in squat strength or 60 pounds per month. This progression adds up to a 205-225 x 5 x 3 squat workout after six or seven weeks of training for our novice male. Again, he must eat correctly. If eh started the program at a bodyweight of 165, then he should probably weight 185 at this point, more if he's talker.

Gains on the squat will slow after this period to an average of about 10 pounds per week due to the fact that most people will get sick occasionally, or miss a workout or two because of school, work, family, etc.

After the first three or four months, guys who started off skinny will need to change. If they did they program correctly, he should have gained weight, about 60% of it being lean body mass ("LBM") - muscle, tendon, and bone, and bodyfat may have gone from 10% to 18%-19%. This was necessary to produce the LBM increase, but now we need to modify the diet to reflect your body's approach to its limit of fast LBM growth. Now we need to drop the milk down to a half-gallon a day, for a while, and then perhaps less than that. At the same, daily caloric intake should drop to about 4000 calories/day, which you accomplish by cleaning up the carb intake and focusing on dietary quality instead of quantity like you did at first. The adjustment will allow your bodyfat levels to drop back to where they need to be, in the range of 15%-17%, normal for athletic males in our demographic.

Training drives strength acquisition, the strength increase drives mass gain, and the mass gain facilitates the strength increase. They are all intimately related, and they approach a limit asymptotically. The younger you are, the steeper the curve. You need a caloric and protein surplus which will produce some bodyfat accumulation that you can deal with later. The training stress has to constantly increase by as much as you can tolerate every workout. The variable is the load, not the number of exercises, sets, or reps. The ability to tolerate a rapid increase in load to continue to quickly adapt slows after a few months.

2.8.3   Equipment

Home and commercial exercise machines are expensive and single-function. Barbells, on the other hand, are cheap and can be used for many different exercises. All of the exercises in this program can be done with a minimum of equipment. At home, a good free-weight gym can be built in the garage with brand new equipment for the price of three year's gym dues. The following guidelines can apply to your garage or to any gym you might decide to join.   The power rack and platform

The training facility should be organized around the power rack. The rack should have a floor built into, and a platform attached to it, so that the inside floor of the rack is perfectly flush with t surface of the platform. An 8x8 platform works well, providing plenty of room for every purpose it will service.

The power rack is the most important piece of equipment in the room second only to the plate-loaded barbell. You can do all five primary exercises with a correctly designed rack, barbell, and flat bench. The wider the racker, within safe limits, the more easily taller, bigger lifters can use it, thus accommodating everyone. A 7'5" to 8' rack allows tall trainees to use the crossbar at the top for chin-ups and oull-ups. The depth of the rak may need to accomodate squatting inside it occasionally; for most people an inside dimension of 22 inches works well. The optimum setup is to have the rack bolted to the floor at the corners so that pull-ups and chin-ups can be done without tipping the rack if they happen to swing.

The rack should be fitted with a heavy plywood floor, reinforced with a welded crossmember under the wood.   Bar, plates, and collars

Spend your money on bars. Cheap bars are potentially dangerous, unpleasant to use, and a bad investment. Cheap bars will bend under normal use.

Standard "Olympic" bars -- the general term for a bar with a 2-inch sleeve that accepts plates with a 2-inch hole -- should weight 20 kilos or 44 pounds (in the United States, traditionally rounded to 45), within a tolerance of just a few ounces.

A good bar should be properly knurled and marked, should be put together with roller pins or snap rings, not bolts, and should require little maintenance beyond wiping it off occasionally and putting a drop of oil on the bushings or bearings every six months. Above all, a good bar is made of excellent steel bar stock which will not deform with normal use. Expect to pay $250 or more for a good bar.

...   Plate racks

Plate racks are available in two main styles: the A-frame tree and the plate tray.

  • If the A-frame is used, it should have two pins on each side so that you can load 45s or other full-diameter plates on the bottom and the smaller plates on the top. Such a rack can accommodate more than 650 pounds of standard barbell plates. The pins themselves should be made from at least 8 inches of 1-inch rod so that the 2-inch hole in the plate fits over it with an inch of slop. This is important for ease of racking the plates -- if the pins are made from 2-inch materials, you'll have to use both hands every time you rack a plate.
  • Tray-style racks are easy to use since there is no center pin, but they usually do not hold as many plates as an A-frame rack does, and their design is not as study.   Collars

Collars are usually thought of as necessary safety equipment in the weight room. Although important on occasion, it is much more useful to learn to keep the bar level so that plates don't slide off of it. Plate slide if often a problem during squats, since walking a bar out of the rack unavoidably involves some side-to-side movement when you step back. Collars are useful when you're squatting but they are less important when you're benching and pressing since the bar theoretically stays level during the movements and you take only one step out of the rack for the press. Collars are used in the deadflift, since they help keep sloppy plates from "walking" down the bar during the pick-up/set-down cycle.

Collars come in many design, from inexpensive spring clips to expensive study plastic types, to set-screw sleeve types, to adjustable competition collars. Collars used in power-lifting and weight-lighting competitions weigh 2.5kg. Springs work fin for most training purposes.   Chalk, clothing, training logs, and gym bags   Chalk

The gym should provide chalk in the weight room (if the gym does not provide the chalk for whatever misguided reason, you should bring your own-- it can be purchased at most sporting good stores or ordered over the Internet). Chalk increases traction between the bar and the hands, reducing the likelihood of grip accidents. It reduces callus formation, since the folding and friction against the skin of the palms and fingers are functions of the movement of the bar.   Clothing

Each trainee should have proper clothing: a cotton T-shirt, stretchy sweats or shots, and a pair of shoes suitable for squatting and pulling.   Training logs

Each trainee should have a journal in which to record each workout (a "training log") since no one can remember all the numbers involved in the all the exercises in this program. A person's entire training history constitutes valuable data that should be recorded for future use. This is information that will be sued each workout and over the course of your training career to determine the nature of problems and analyze the productivity of various training periods. Training information should be written in a format that you and any coach you might have can easily read. A composition book works just fine. The best training book would be a bound ledger with enough pages for year's worth of training notes.   Gym bags

Buy a gym bag so that you always have your equipment with you.

2.8.4   Soreness and injuries

Everyone who train with weight will inevitably have soreness and injuries. Injury is an inherent part of training hard, and you must properly prepare for and deal with it when it happens.

Occasional acute soreness, unless it is extreme, is no impediment to training. In fact, many records have been set by sore athletes. If you are not training hard enough to produce occasional soreness, and are therefore not having to train while sore, you are not training very hard. Waiting until soreness subsides before doing the next workout is a good way to guarantee that soreness will be produced every time, since you'll never get adapted to sufficient workload frequency to stop getting sore.

In contrast to normal soreness, which by its nature is delayed for several hours after the workout, an injury can be defined as something that happens to the body that causes pain in a way that is not the normal consequence of a correctly performed exercise. An acute injury is immediately perceived as pain or discomfort in an identifiable structure and persists after the movement has stopped. Most training- associated injuries affect the soft tissues; bony fractures are extremely rare weight room events.

Chronic injury is usually an inflammatory response to the overuse of a joint or its associated connective issue due to poor technique or excessive training volume. Tendinitis and bursitis are common diagnoses and are usually the result of repeated exposures to maladaptive stress.

When you return to training after some time off, you must consider your de-trained condition. If the layoff has been a long one, a couple of months or more, take care when planning your first workout back. If you have been training with weights for long enough to get very strong, adaptations have occurred in more than just your muscles. The neuromuscular system - the nervous system and its interface with the muscles - has adapted to training by becoming able to recruit motor units more efficiently, and it is slower to detrain than are the muscles it innervates. It remembers how to lift heavy weights even if the muscles are out of shape. This neuromuscular efficiency is quite useful when you are in shape, but when you are de-trained, it allows you to lift more than you are actually in condition to do without incurring adverse effects.

3   Summary

Strength is the physical ability to generate force against an external resistance. Though less critical to our daily existence, strength still determines the quality and quantity of our life.

SS offers a program consists of five barbell exercises: the squat, the press, the bench press, the deadlift, and the `power clean`_. Each trains a different muscle group. The squat trains the posterior chain, the press trains. the upper-body.

4   Criticism

Rippetoe does not define strength until page 210.

Rippetoe should have explained each exercise briefly, then the workout plan, then each exercise in depth. In other words, he should followed the pyramid pattern.

Rippetoe uses the passive voice and focusing for most of the book which greatly increases the verbosity. For example:

In the bench press, the muscles used are smaller, so the increases will be smaller.

The bench press uses smaller muscles so the increases will be smaller.

5   Footnotes


The term "posterior chain" indicates the nature of the problems most people experience under the bar: trying to improve their efficiency while squatting. Humans are bipedal creates with prehensile hands and oppostable thumbs, a configuration that has profoundly affected our perception as well as our posture. We are used to doing things with our hands in a position where our eyes can see them and we are therefore set up to think about things done with our hands.

The parts you can see in the mirror, such ast the arms, chest, abs, quads, and calves, are the favorite things for most people to train. They also the easiest to learn how to train because they involve the use of our hands. The hard parts to train correctly are the ones you can't see. The posterior chain is the most important component of the musculature that directly contributes to gross movement of the body, as well as being the source of whole-body power. The posterior chain is also the hardest part to learn how to use correctly.

The posterior aspects of squatting and pulling present the most persistent problems, require the greatest amount of outside input from coaches and training partners, and will be the first aspects of form to deteriorate in the absence of outside reinforcement.

You're already squatting 3x/week of 3 sets of 5 and that hits a lot of the same target muscles as the deadlift. That, plus the fact that deadlifts are notoriously hard to recover from is why they are only for 1 set.

During the warmup, rest between sets will be minimal. You want to get blood into the area, raise the temperature of the associated musculature and connective tissue, take some time to practice the exercise with lighter weights, and increase tissue elasticity. With the usage of light(er) weights during your warmups, you can use a shortened rest period. Usually you need only rest as long as it takes to switch out the plates.

At first you can probably get by with no more than 2-3 minutes between sets. However, once the weights start getting heavier, you may take upward of 5 minutes between sets. Near the end of your training cycle, especially when you are setting PRs (personal records) in the squat, deadlift, and power clean you could be resting upward of 7 minutes.

Strength and weight-on-the-bar increases are more important than your heart rate/body temp while lifting weights.

Workouts shouldn't ever last more than an hour and a half.

If you do everything outlined in this FAQ you could stay on the program as little as 3-4 months or as long as 8-9 months. Do your best to stay on it for 9 months if you can. Seriously, do the math and tell me how much 9 months is in terms of weight added to the bar!