Rippetoe’s Starting Strength Program

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By Alex
Last updated on

Rippetoe's Starting Strength program is a universally respected beginner weight training routine. This page provides a program guide, template & FAQ.

This popular weight training program came from the Starting Strength book, written by Mark Rippetoe, which is now in its third edition.

While this page will give you enough knowledge to understand and implement the program, I strongly suggest you buy it in order to gain a deep understanding of the weight training techniques and concepts in the program.

With that said, let me begin by explaining who can benefit from Rippetoe's Starting Strength program...

Is Rippetoe's Starting Strength Program Right for You?

Build Muscle and Strength. Lots of beginners will blow this routine off because they think it won't make them bigger. Even if you just want to build muscle mass and couldn't give two sh*ts about being strong, you still need to develop a base of strength to work off. Make no mistake, though – you will gain plenty of muscle with this classic beginner weight training program (assuming you get enough sleep and have a good bodybuilding diet, of course).

Who Should Use this Routine? Rippetoe's Starting Strength program is a classic example of a beginner weight training workout routine. However, it can also benefit some who are not exactly new to the gym. Below are the types of people who could benefit from Rippetoe's program:

  • The Newbie. If you're a complete beginner (or recently started), then this program is right for you. It doesn’t matter if you're an aspiring bodybuilder or don't care about being strong. You still need a base of strength and technique to get huge.
  • The Weakling. Do you consider yourself to be beyond the beginner weight training level, but just can't seem to gain much strength? If yes, then this program can definitely help jumpstart your strength gains and
    catch you up to where you should be, relative to how long you have been training.
  • The Frustrated Bodybuilder. Are you disappointed with a lack of results from "bodybuilding" routines? If so, then this program can get you out of the slump and on your way to XXL t-shirts. The typical bodybuilding routines work for the guys who look like what you want to look like. They can only do so much for less advanced lifters.
  • The Machinist. Have you been in the gym for a while, but never really focused on the major compound exercises? If you've been doing a lot of machine/nautilus exercises or isolation movements, then you're limiting your potential. Starting Strength will help you gain dense muscle and functional strength.
  • The Comeback Kid. Are you a seasoned vet who's coming back from an extended break? Whatever your reasons for taking a layoff from pumping iron (injury, midlife crisis, baby mama issues, etc.), Starting Strength is a safe and effective workout routine for getting back to your previous glory.

Rippetoe's Starting Strength Program Template

How is it Starting Strength structured? Since it's a beginner weight training program, it is done just 3 days a week. There are two workouts:

Workout AWorkout B
3x5 Low Bar Squat *3x5 Low Bar Squat *
3x5 Bench Press3x5 Overhead Press
1x5 Deadlift5x3 Power clean **
* Rippetoe is adamant about using the low-bar squat. Try to learn it. But if you can't, it's not the end of the world if you substitute it with the high bar squat.** The program calls for 5x3 power cleans. However, the power clean is highly technical and difficult to learn without a coach. Doing the Pendlay row for 3x5 (not 5x3) is common practice.

Alternate workout A and B, with one day of rest between workouts. For example, your routine will look like this if you start on a Monday:

Week 1Workout AWorkout BWorkout A
Week 2Workout BWorkout AWorkout B

That's it. Very basic. But it works damn well.

FAQs RE: "Customizing" Rippetoe's Starting Strength Program

Rippetoe's Starting Strength Program Shouldn't Be Complicated. It's important to understand that this is a beginner weight training program that was created especially for maximizing beginners' results. Also keep in mind that the program was developed by guys who know more about weight training than you'd probably ever care to know.

It's Perfect the Way It Is. Everything in this program was done for a specific reason. Screwing around with the structure or adding random exercises completely defeats the purpose of this program.

Don't Change It. Just keep the program the way it is. I know how it is to want to do more. It seems logical that you would get better results if you add extra exercises, sets, or reps. I was certainly guilty of doing this the first few workout routines I did when I was just starting. Looking back on it, I wish I were smarter and followed exactly what the programs said. So, do yourself a big favor and learn from my mistakes.

Sorry, But You're Not That Special. I apologize if I'm just preaching to the choir about the importance of leaving the program alone. But there seems to be an epidemic among (typically younger) novices to try to "customize" beginner weight training routines. They somehow rationalize to themselves that they are "special" and that the advice doesn’t apply to them.

Mark Rippetoe's Words of Wisdom. Here's a quote from Mark Rippetoe himself that sums up the topic of making modifications:

"...why would I add other stuff when I have said that the best way to do it was the way it was originally presented." – Mark Rippetoe

With that slight rant out of the way, I'll start answering some of the most common Starting Strength topics.

More Starting Strength FAQs

Exercise Order. The exercise order is meant to be done exactly as it is written. Do all sets of one exercise before moving on to the next exercise.

Rest Days. You should not be going to the gym on rest days. If you truly want to maximize your strength and growth, then it is necessary to let your muscles recuperate. Rippetoe designed a three-day routine, so you would have enough time to recover. After all, you will be squatting three times a week, so savor your off days.

Cardio. Some people really want to do cardio to supplement their training regimen. Although I personally can't relate to this mindset since I am bored to tears by just the thought of cardio, I won't let that
influence my answer. I'd recommend (assuming your routine is M/W/F) keeping cardio to just one off-day on the weekend and maybe one off-day during the week (i.e., Tuesday OR Thursday).

You should keep cardio at moderate intensity levels in order to avoid getting burned out and hampering your recovery from the weight workouts. If the cardio interferes with your strength gains, then take the intensity down a notch or stop it completely.

For More Information...

...Buy the Book. This page provides more than enough information to get you started. But you must realize that there is simply no substitute for reading the book.

So crack open your piggy bank or dip into Junior's college fund if you must. You only need to scrounge up $30 bucks; a true bargain for what you get in return. Buy Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training (3rd ed.) here.

Alex from King of the Gym
Hey! My name is Alex and I'm the founder and author of King of the Gym. I've been lifting weights seriously since 2005 in high school when I started a home gym in my parents' basement. I started writing about fitness in 2009. Then, in 2014, I got into writing home gym equipment reviews and I haven't looked back. My current home gym is in my own house and it's constantly growing and evolving. My goal is to help you build the home gym of your dreams! Read more about me here.

11 thoughts on “Rippetoe’s Starting Strength Program”

  1. First and foremost, I have been all over your content, everything is linked well for me to gain a better understanding of everything that I need to start my training in the correct way. Thank you.

    So I have decided that this is the best routine for me to work from, but the only thing missing is the weight amount. This is something that I have always been confused about. I mean, I don’t want to start so light that there is no real benefit, and I don’t want to start so heavy that I snap my s**t up. The obvious thing to do would be to go through the weights and find a middle ground. But sometimes the obvious isn’t always the right choice.

    The other thing I am not clear on, is how long the routine lasts. I understand that there is the two week cycle, but how long should I continue this for?

    I suppose I’m looking for some clarification really.
    Thanks in advance for your reply.

    Kind Regards,

    • Hope these help…

      1. The reason we start low in weight is because the small incremental increases can add up fast. You will be adding weight every session on all the lifts. In paper this is how it could look like:

      *Increase weight 5lbs per session.
      Session 1: 45lbs
      Session 2: 50lbs,
      Session 3: 55lbs.
      Session 4: 60lbs.
      Session 5: 65lbs.
      Session 6: 70lbs.
      Session 7: 75lbs.
      Session 8: 80lbs.
      Session 9: 85lbs.
      Session 10: 90lbs.
      Session 11: 95lbs.
      Session 12: 100lbs.

      This, for a beginner, is plenty! Doubling their lift in a month. I’m safely guessing you’re not a beginner. I’d recommend scaling it back so you won’t stall too early.

      2. The routine lasts until you stall. Once you hit a plateau, then make adjustments in these areas.
      A. Rest periods between sets.
      B. Food intake.
      C. Weight. – You may have to deload when you plateau.

  2. Hey! I’m a 19 year old female just starting up this program. I have some questions on the first 2-3 weeks of the program. For phase 1/2 squat, press/bench, deadlift. Am increasing my weight 5-10 lbs each day? So if I workout Monday and squat 135 then Wednesday I will increase let’s say 5 lbs and the same for Friday. Or am I supposed to stay the same weight the whole week mon/wed/fri then the next week I increase and stay that weight for that week and so on? I’d appreciate it if you could clarify.

    • Hi Bri,

      Great question. You should increase weight each session that you do an exercise (until you’re unable to do so). So for squat, it’d be exactly as you outlined in your example (e.g. 135 lbs on Monday, 140-145 lbs on Wednesday, 145-155 lbs on Friday).

      For all other exercises, you’d only be increasing weight once per week because (obviously) those exercises are only meant to be done once per week. Enjoy the gains!


  3. Hey man im not sure you still operate this site but what workout do you do for your phisque its mint. Im a overweight slob 🙂 so just want to know, just starting Ripptoes SS 3rd edtion. Cheers

    • Thanks, man. To give you a general overview of my current routine, it’s basically this:

      Day 1:
      Main Lift = Squats: 5-6 sets x 1-3 reps (ramping gradually from approx. 80-85% 1rm for initial sets up to ~95% for top sets)
      High-Rep Seated DB Power Shrugs: 5 sets x 40+ reps
      Horizontal Pulling Movement: 3-5 sets x 8-15 reps
      High-Rep Neck Curls: 5 sets x 40+ reps

      Day 2:
      Main Lift = Bench Press: 5-6 sets 3-10 reps (ramping gradually from approx. 80% 1rm for initial sets up to ~90-95% for top sets)
      Incline Press Motion: 3-5 sets x 8-15 reps
      DB Lateral Raises: 5 sets of 15-25 reps
      DB Rear Delt Swings: 4-5 sets of 30+ reps

      Day 3:
      Main Lift = Deadlifts: 5-6 sets x 1-3 reps (ramping gradually from approx. 80% 1rm for initial sets up to ~90-95% for top sets)
      Vertical Pulling Movement: 4-6 sets x 8-20 reps
      Straight-hip Hamstring Curls: 3-5 sets x 8-15 reps
      Straight-leg calf raises: 6-7 sets x 12-20+ reps

      If I have time, I’ll throw in some misc forearm work and ab work throughout the week, typically at the end of the workout session.

  4. I am just starting to use this program. Are the 3×5 sets considered the “work” sets preceded by warm up sets? I have been doing one to two warm up sets before getting into the 3×5. Is this correct?

  5. Don’t let the fact that this is a beginner program fool you. If you add 5 lbs to every session, you will get your ass kicked eventually. I’m a 56 year old male who has been lifting regularly since high school, and this “beginner” program is more than sufficient for me.

  6. Hi. I’m considering this routine, but is tihis enough volume to build muscle and strenght? I’ve been training for 2 years on and off, but I look the same as when I started, so I haven’t gained much muscle. Im 18 now. Can I still do this routine now and build muscle and strenght fairly quickly? And is it possible to add chinups and pullups, as that is where I want to be stronger especially. And also, is it possibly to do this 4 days a week?

  7. While I totally get the paragraph “Sorry, But You’re Not That Special” I have struggled with deadlift and squat thanks to some issues with my lumbar, right hip and knee. At some age, you are bound to be limited by an injury … thus requiring rehab and targeted exercises. I friend of mine firmly believes that I should “just stick with the program” and “push through the pain”. I think that’s BS. If your body is injured or out of balance, you aren’t going to get that from Rippetoe’s program. My 2 cents – open to other points of view.


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