Rogue Health Podcast: Why I abandoned the Starting Strength program

It wasn’t me who abandoned the Starting Strength weightlifting program, but my guest, Mark Braivo. Have a listen to find out why.

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Daniel F says December 7, 2015

Important topic. This n = 1 discussion is important because it shows that a lot of the panacea-type thinking out there among diet and exercise bloggers is too rigid.

As Ross Enamait memorably said: “The workout you do is better than the workout you don’t do.”

Long term you have to enjoy or at least look forward to the workouts. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be tough, but they have to be something that you will do and that _work_ for you.

One has to draw a distinction between what can be affected with mindset and what is truly out of your control. But there is a distinction. Sometimes, psyching yourself up for a workout or a cold shower that you don’t feel like doing is called for and all that is needed. Other times, there is a real physiological issue that should not be ignored, and one should listen to one’s body. (Maybe the AA mantra can be applied to fitness: “grant me the wisdom to know the difference.”)

As you both discussed, one shouldn’t just focus on numbers. Working out should improve your lifestyle and make you feel healthier and more vital. If it isn’t, then you need to revisit what you are doing. If your 1RM is going up but you feel like your life sucks, that’s not optimal health.

This is particularly true for “older” (say, >35) guys where recovery time, joint strength, susceptibility to injuries, recovery from injuries (not just muscle recovery), family life balance, and other factors will be more a part of the equation.

I have noticed that over time, many of the bloggers who were once more rigid (diet doesn’t matter, you should (or could) be squatting six days a week, there’s no such thing as overtraining, etc.) change their tunes. More often than not this has to do with aging. Eating clean matters more as you get older; recovery time changes as you get older. The (honest) “gurus” recognize this, and change their recommendations, Also, people really are different, and what works for one, may not work for another.

On milk, I completely agree with you. Ordinary milk and fermented dairy products are simply two different universes. Fermented dairy (for me) is easily digested and forms an important part of my diet. Regular milk creates real digestive issues and I generally avoid it.

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gender_inflation says December 7, 2015

I wouldn’t say that Mark’s experience was exclusively because of his age. I’m 25, and here’s what I encountered with SL/SS.

Once I reached about 260ish on squats, I simply couldn’t recover. That was about 1.2 times my bodyweight. I was always exhausted and was slowly starting to get fat (google “Mark Rippetoe troll” and pictures of powerlifters to see what sort of body you’ll end up developing). You have to eat like a monster to sustain the level of work that squatting heavy 3 times a week requires. I started the program at 200 and was 225 within 3 to 4 months (I’m 6’4, by the way). Both SS and SL insist that you stay on the program as long as possible, but I think they fail to properly tell you when the time comes for you to switch the program.

When you reach the point where your body can’t recover fast enough, you’re officially a “intermediate” lifter. Rippetoe would have you believe that everyone ends starting strength with their deadlift at 405 and squat at 315. That’s simply not true. Your level of recovery determines whether you’re a novice or an intermediate lifter. Not your numbers. For older men, I assume that intermediate will come sooner, rather than later.

Once you’re an intermediate lifter, what that means is: 1.) you need to choose if you want to continue pursuing strength training or switch to hypertrophy, and 2.) what type of program you want to use to achieve that goal. Of course, hypertrophy and strength don’t have to be mutually exclusive goals, but people typically want one or the other. I think most people should probably keep with strength training until their numbers get a little higher. Focusing elusively on hypertrophy is still going to get you results. Also, hypertrophy is something you can focus on forever. Your strength gains will eventually hit a wall. Strength training still gives muscle hypertrophy, obviously, but the results are much different.

My experience is with strength training thus far. When you reach an intermediate stage, you will start adding weight either once a week or once a month, depending on your program. Rippetoe’s “Texas Method” (SL variant is “Madcow”) adds weight once a week. Wendler’s 5/3/1 adds it once a month. I’ve been on 5/3/1 for about two months now and I’ve been really happy with it.

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M Braivo says December 7, 2015

Great comment, thanks for listening.

I am going to give 5/3/1 a look as it has been recommended to me several times.

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    gender_inflation says December 7, 2015

    The flexibility of 5/3/1 is what is what sets it apart for me.

    You can either just focus on your lift (OHP, BP, squat, and DL), or you can add accessory work.

    But, I found that just 5/3/1 on its own wasn’t enough volume for me, so I’ve been doing the “boring but big template” with the “less boring” version + pyramid and joker sets.

    This free calculator is amazing and lets you play around with all the different variations: https://blackironbeast.com/5/3/1/calculator

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null says December 8, 2015

With regard to eating enough calories on paleo, take gander at this interview with Dom D’Agostino.

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