I originally decided to return to the gym after being dominated by less skilled, but physically stronger opponents in my Brazilian jiu jitsu class. Despite the fact that I knew more moves and performed them better/smoother, it often just wasn’t enough against guys who weighed 60 lbs more than me. I thought that lifting weights again could be helpful, but I wanted to take a scientific approach to the subject. There are so many weight lifting magazines out there, but most appeal to the body building crowd. I had no interest in “getting big” and thought that something that stressed “functional fitness” would be more appropriate.

After asking around on a message board that I frequent, I decided to try Mark Rippetoe’s program, “Starting Strength.” Followers of the program were almost cult-like in their enthusiasm. Since the program appears in a book of the same name, I decided to look at some reviews on Amazon.com just to gain some perspective. Rippetoe’s book had some of the best reviews I’ve ever seen of any book, ever. The majority of respondents gave it the full 5 stars available, without a single person giving it a 1 star review. I promptly ordered it, and began reading it immediately after it arrived.

I was amazed at the perfect balance that Mark Rippetoe maintained between using legitimate exercise science while still making the book very readable for the average person. While many fitness publications push a lot of pseudo-science, Starting Strength is based on the author’s nearly 30 years in the fitness industry. Rather than just making bold claims about how a certain exercise will lead to the greatest possible strength gains, Rippetoe explains WHY this occurs. The program is designed for the serious athlete who’s looking to improve his strength, and avoids impractical exercises like curls that target esthetically pleasing “beach muscles.” Starting Strength focuses on exercises which genuinely demand the athlete’s full muscular abilities. Rather than wasting time with forearm curls and dumbbell flies, the program is based around a few basic compound lifts: the bench press, squat, deadlift, standing overhead press, and power clean. The author recommends a few other supplementary exercises, such as pullups and dips.

I started the program about a month ago. After years of frustration with poor performances, I was amazed at how quickly I improved. Starting Strength prescribes squats for each workout, as Rippetoe states that the squat is the overall best exercise for increasing strength and athletic performance. I originally felt like the pressure from the bar on my back was going to cause a hernia, but this has changed quickly. Deadlifts were never incorporated into previous workouts, but they’ve become a favorite lift. After increasing by several repetitions, I find myself looking forward to doing dips on each workout that they appear. The program calls for a total of three workouts per week, which fit perfectly with my Brazilian jiu jitsu schedule.

Mark Rippetoe makes it a point to emphasize how often you need to challenge yourself in the gym. This has resulted in increases in my squat of 50 lbs, deadlift of 60 lbs, bench press of 20 lbs, standing overhead press of 15 lbs, and power cleans by about 20 lbs. I’ve lost a few pounds of fat as well, and have improved my physique substantially. A few of my training partners in jiu jitsu have remarked that I “felt stronger”, which was quite the compliment. I’ve lifted weights in accordance with other programs, but mostly improved in exercises that were of little value. While my personal bests increased in hammer curls and dumbbell rows, I stagnated with basic lifts such as the bench press and squat. Overall I’d recommend this program to just about anyone. The gains in absolute strength you will experience benefit the dedicated athlete, and the rapid speed at which it develops your physique will appeal to the casual gym rat as well. Rippetoe and his legions of fans make none of the claims that you’ll find in fitness magazines or on late night infomercials. Starting Strength does not claim to demand little to no effort. The program does not boast of how quickly it will get you that 6 pack of abs. If you’re willing to put in the required effort however, Starting Strength will not let you down.


Starting Strength- Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore


Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!