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Thread: Starting Strength workout question

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    NW Illinois

    Default Starting Strength workout question

    I've been doing the SS workout for a while now and am facing the fact that I will not be able to continue to add weight to the bar continually! I'm probably close to my maxs at the rep/set ranges used in the SS workout, since I have had to drop down a couple times to finish up my sets. I'm not a 'body-builder', I just like to lift and stay in shape.

    When I hit my max, should I just remain there or what? I'm 46, FWIW. I like the simplicity of the SS workout using big compound lifts, but I realize there are physical limitations for anyone (especially older, steroid-free lifters)

    Thanks for ideas!
    Last edited by AverageJoe; 07-05-2012 at 08:59 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Upstate SC


    Average Joe-I'm no expert, but I have been lifting hard since the beginning of this year, and I'll be 47 at the end of this month. Personally, after slowly 'puttin' on the pudge' for years despite a fairly active lifestyle (lots of hiking and fishing, but also lots of indulging too!), I decided to really burn some fat and add some lean, hard muscle. My current goals, among others, are to see my abs (if I have any to see!) by my birthday, lose a couple more inches off my waistline, and start defining the 12-15# of muscle mass (estimated-4 inches off waist and bulkier everywhere else) I've packed on through hard work and lots of protein. Here are a few things I have learned/am learning as I go that may help:

    -The compound lifts are great for putting on mass and strength, though I have to be careful with the squats, and quit doing the deadlift recently when I developed lower spine issues. I'm not sure it's worth the risk, at least for me.
    -Alternate very heavy workouts with lighter ones to avoid over-training and straining our late 40's bones, joints, and connective tissue. Take a few days or a week off every couple of months for the same reason.
    -I have made significant strength gains as I near the end of a bottle of Amplified Creatine 189. Though I was leery about it, I did a LOT of on-line research; I feel it is safe if I don't over-do it (don't double-up like the young bucks), drink a ton of water, and otherwise respect my kidneys. I may try just straight creatine monohydrate next.
    -When I get stuck in a rut strength-wise (can't add weight), I have had good results by changing exercises. For instance, I was having trouble upping my poundage on dumbell rows (the aforementioned back issues), switched to a rowing machine, and have really upped the weight.
    -Though I don't have the upper-body strength yet to really do dips or wide-grip chins, I hear that body-weight exercises like these can really help with the strength in those areas. I do know that, by only going all out once a week, and adding in flies, cable cross-overs, incline presses, etc., my bench press is really improving dramatically, which gives me confidence to up the weight on other exercises. (Hint: Those 2.5# and 5# weights are great for small incremental weight jumps).
    -For instance, I was doing three sets of curls with our gym's fixed-weight EZ curls bars (40/50/60#). I just decided to drop the 40# warmup set, and start with the 50#, and go up the rack to the 70# (which I can only get a few strict reps from, plus a few cheat-reps with slow negatives). That's probably small potatoes to the serious lifters on here (Azmark), but it was a big deal to me. I've got my eye on that 80# bar for the near future, and have done similar with nearly all my lifts (up the starting weight, add some to the max where possible).
    -For the recovery that is so important at our age, you can't beat the steam-room and whirlpool if your gym has such-this is also where I stretch back out after a hard workout. I feel that the creatine, lots of bed-time protein, and a recovery tea I make all help with this, though there are lots of products on the market for the purpose.
    -As an older fella in my gym (who moves a lot of weight, BTW) says, "It's not how much you lift it, it's how you lift it." For me, strict form and full range of motion are things I shoot for on every set of every exercise.

    Keep at it, and maybe we can keep each other motivated. My long-range goal is to give myself an awesome body for my 50th birthday. So far so good. I've never been more motivated, and frankly, and am in better shape, am more athletic than I have ever been in my life.

    BTW-Aren't you on SRP too? Just checking-Aaron
    "Me they can kill. You they own."

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011


    Quote Originally Posted by AverageJoe View Post
    I've been doing the SS workout for a while now and am facing the fact that I will not be able to continue to add weight to the bar continually! I'm probably close to my maxs at the rep/set ranges used in the SS workout, since I have had to drop down a couple times to finish up my sets. I'm not a 'body-builder', I just like to lift and stay in shape.

    When I hit my max, should I just remain there or what? I'm 46, FWIW. I like the simplicity of the SS workout using big compound lifts, but I realize there are physical limitations for anyone (especially older, steroid-free lifters)

    Thanks for ideas!
    I've not done SS, so I'm not sure on the exact protocol, but I would change something. Logging means you know what reps you hit with what weight the previous week. If your goal is to build up to X reps with Y amount of weight, then ideally you should be either adding weight or reps to that exercise each time you perform it. When you don't do one of those things, it's time to switch to a new exercise for a while. This is one of the main aspects of DC training that I carried with me:

    The absolutely most important thing of any of this is I write down all weights and reps done from the working set on a notepad. So every time I go into the gym I have to continually look back and beat the previous times reps/weight or both. If I can't or I don't beat it, no matter if I love doing the exercise or not, I have to change to a new exercise. Believe me this adds a grave seriousness, a clutch performance or imperativeness to a workout! I have exercises I love to do and knowing I will lose them if I don't beat the previous stats sucks! But there is a method to this madness because when you get to that sticking point of strength (AND YOU WILL, THERE IS NO WAY YOU CAN HACK SQUAT UP TO 50 PLATES A SIDE) that is when your muscle=strength gains will stop. At that point you must turn to a different exercise and then get brutally strong on that one. Then someday you will peak out on that one too. You can always come back to that loved exercise in the future and you'll start somewhat lower and build up to a peak again--and trust me that peak will be far more than the previous one. Some exercises you'll stay with and gain strength at for almost up to a year and some exercises you'll be at the limit in 4 weeks and lose them but its all in the plan. For example-- I love reverse grip bench presses, knowing that I have to beat 315 for 17 reps RP or else I have to change to maybe dips next time puts a serious sense of urgency into workouts. I either have to beat it by doing something to the effect of 320 for 15 RP or if I stick with 315, I have to get at least 19 reps RP or so. If I'm feeling crappy or having an off day I might give myself a little leeway and allow myself another go at it next time around but that's it. The notepad is your intensity level, how badly you want to keep doing an exercise will be how hard you push to beat the previous. Looking at that piece of paper knowing what you have to do to beat it will bring out the best in you. Again, it's all in the plan to make you the strongest bodybuilder possible which will equal out into the biggest bodybuilder possible.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2009


    You mentioned in your post that you've been doing SS "for a while" - how long have you been doing it? As has already been mentioned, you will plateau on any program or any exercise for that matter. I find that I plateau on deadlifts and squats in 4 - 6 weeks, so at that time I either change the exercise or change the rep pattern. For example, you can substitute conventional deadlifts with rack deadlifts or use dumbells instead. Or instead of doing 6 sets of 3-5 reps, drop the weight and do 3 sets of 10-12 reps. Or you can just take a week off and do something completely different. I did this just last week, and only did push ups, chins, dips and body squats for four days of the week.

    I will also reiterate what has been said about keeping a log - I have a small notebook that I record all my weights, sets and reps in. Don't get caught up in increasing the weight every workout; sometimes if you're a bit sore, a bit flat or whatever, just go for an extra rep or two at the same weight. It's still progress, and it will give you confidence at the next workout to up the weight.

    If you're interested, a really good website is The author of SS posts articles on there, along with a lot of other respected strength trainers.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    NW Illinois
    Thread Starter


    Thanks for the input------just to answer some of the questions: I've been lifting regularly for probably 20+ years, with some periods of great slacking when I was in school etc., but have been steady since starting the SS workout. I had worked up to decent weights (for me anyway) a long time ago and kind of plateaued. I do keep a strict journal of progress.

    Here's where I'm at: (I'll give wts. I started at on 4/30/12, and where I'm at now separated by a "-") I didn't start with the empty bar, since I'd been lifting (probably for 20+ years to some degree), as I already said, and I didn't want to drop down so far!! Again, I don't consider myself a 'bodybuilder' and that's not really my goal------I just like to lift weights and stay in shape.

    Squat: 130-205

    Bench: 220-250 (I'm stuck here!!)

    Deadlift: 180-230

    Chin-ups: stuck doing 2 sets 8 reps with a 25# weight on belt (I weigh 200 lbs.) I'm stuck here, as well! Previously, I has been doing 3 sets of 10-12 with bodyweight only. BTW, it DOES pay to do chin-ups! At an airshow I was at once, the Marines had a chin-up bar set up and would give a T-shirt with the MC logo on it and saying "Earned, Never Given!" to anyone who could do 20 chin-ups. Well, that's more than I ever do at once, but I DID manage to eek them all out, although the last couple about killed me!

    Military press: 110-120 (pretty much stuck here too)

    Plank holds: for as long as I can whenever I think of it and am somewhere where I can do it without attracting curious stares!! :S

    I'd say I'm pretty average build. I do a lot of bicycling and walking too. Anyway, FWIW this is where I'm at. As far as I know from what I read online, this is pretty much what the 'Starting Strength' workout is other than maybe subbing chins for rows (?) I like chin-ups, so I do them instead.
    Last edited by AverageJoe; 07-10-2012 at 08:23 AM.

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