Derek Sivers

Starting Strength - by Mark Rippetoe

Starting Strength - by Mark Rippetoe

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

For those who ever considered getting fit, this is the way to do it, and the best book on the subject. Not sure if I should put this in my book list, because it's not something you read, but something you do.

my notes

Strength acquisition must be the same as that in which the strength will be used.

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.


The motor pathway – the neuromuscular adaptation to a complicated movement pattern – must be prepared every time it is used. The warm-up sets prepare the motor pathway at the same time that they prepare the tissues for the upcoming heavier work.

The inevitable injuries that will result from lack of warm-up: Yes, warm-ups are that critical.

Riding an exercise bike (a better method, due to the greater range of motion the knees are exposed to during the exercise, better preparing them for the squat), 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).

The squat should be carefully and thoroughly prepared with a couple of empty-bar sets, and then as many as five sets between those and the work sets.

Any area that is injured will require additional warming up. If the injured area does not respond to the warm-up sets by starting to feel much better after you do two or three sets with the empty bar, you will have to decide whether to continue with light sets or wait until the area has healed better.

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. Heavy enough that the first work set is not a shock.

Most people will need to select three to five warm-up sets.

Warm-ups serve two very important purposes. First, warm-ups actually make the soft tissue – the muscles and tendons, and the ligaments that comprise the joints – warmer.

This step is important for injury prevention, since it is more difficult to injure a warm body than a cold one.

The older the adult, the more time is needed for pre-workout preparation.

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.


The program requires that you increase weight every workout for as long as possible.

Stronger does not necessarily mean more weight on the bar. Resist the temptation to add weight at the expense of correct technique.

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 tenet of “progressive resistance training,”

For as long as possible, make sure that you lift a little more weight each time. Everyone can do this for a while, and some can do it for longer than others, depending on individual genetic capability, diet, and rest. If you are challenged, you will adapt, and if you are not, you won’t.

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, and the press lighter than the other four.

You do not need to do many different exercises to get strong – you need to get strong on a very few important exercises, movements that train the whole body as a system.

The more stress that can be applied to as much of the body at one time as possible, the more effective and productive the adaptation will be.

Squat every workout and alternate the bench press and press, and the deadlift and power clean.

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 (it does this well); then the upper-body exercise allows the legs and back to rest and recover for the pulling movement to be done next.

Chin-ups can be added as the only really useful assistance exercise. Add three sets of chins after your power cleans, and stay with this program for as many months as possible. Or, back extensions or glute/ham raises can be added in place of pulling every workout, dropping the deadlift frequency to every fifth workout, alternated with power cleans. This might be necessary if recovery is becoming a problem, as it might be for an older trainee, a female trainee, or someone who just refuses to eat and sleep enough.

Any assistance exercises that are added must be kept in their proper perspective; they are there to help you get stronger in the basic lifts, not as an end in themselves. The press and the bench press, for example, will always be more important than arm work, and if curls and triceps exercises interfere with your recovery from pressing or benching, instead of adding to your strength in these lifts, they are being misused.

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. If fatigue accumulates as the work sets progress, the predictable outcome will be that instead of 5-5-5 reps, you will do 5-4-3 when 5-5-5 was actually possible had you waited long enough between sets. This is the most common error made by novice trainees: the confusion of strength training with conditioning work.

If the weight is actually too heavy – because you took too big a jump or you have not recovered from the previous workout – then your programming must change. But impatience is a poor reason to allow progress to come to a halt.

When you miss the last rep or two of your last work set, the easy gains are beginning to wane, and you can take 5-pound jumps for several months; back up 5 pounds and start with 5-pound jumps.

When these smaller jumps can no longer be sustained, a trainee can be considered an intermediate, and the fun begins with more complicated manipulation of training variables. This variation in exercises, tonnage, and intensity for the purpose of ensuring continued progress is referred to as periodization.

Programming beyond the novice phase is beyond the scope of this book and is dealt with in detail in Practical Programming for Strength Training, Second Edition.

Ambition is useful, greed is not. Most of human history and the science of economics demonstrate that the desire for more than is currently possessed drives improvement, both personally and for societies. But greed is an ugly thing when uncontrolled and untempered with wisdom, and it will result in your program’s progress coming to an ass-grinding halt.

Four or so meals per day, based on meat and egg protein sources, with lots of fruit and vegetables and lots of milk. Lots. Most sources within 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.

Training drives strength acquisition, the strength increase drives mass gain, and the mass gain facilitates the strength increase.

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.

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.

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.

If you have missed just a few workouts (fewer than five or six), repeat the last workout you did before the layoff. You should be able to do this, although it may be hard. This approach results in less progress lost than if significant backing-off is done, and the following workout can usually be done in the order it would have been had the layoff not occurred.

The neuromuscular system remembers how to lift heavy weights even if the muscles are out of shape. It allows you to lift more than you are actually in condition to do without incurring adverse effects.


The squat is the single most useful exercise in the weight room. Training the hip drive – the active recruitment of the muscles of the posterior chain. The muscles that produce hip extension – the straightening out of the hip joint from its flexed (or bent) position in the bottom of the squat. These muscle groups – also referred to as the hip extensors – are the hamstrings, the glutes, and the adductors.

Keeping the bar directly over the mid-foot through the complete range of motion constitutes the most efficient way the work should be done during the lift.

Good technique in barbell training is the ability of the lifter to keep the bar vertically aligned with the balance point. The bar should therefore be in the lowest secure position it can occupy on the back, right below the spine of the scapula.