The Complete Starting Strength Workout Routine/Program – Guaranteed Strength Results

milo_carrying_bull_calf_starting strength workout routineThe Starting Strength workout routine was written by Mark Rippetoe and it is primary focused for the general newbie public that is just starting to go at the gym.

This is one of the best programs out there that will get a brand novice without an ounce of strength to an intermediate lifter with decent weights, if the program is followed as it’s written down and the diet is in check.

It can also be used by people that went to the gym for years and never  followed a good program to milk that strength adaptations to the max.

Before getting into the layout of the program I must say that this strength routine really works. It builds strength and muscle mass and you can’t deny this fact. I’m grateful that Mark Rippetoe took the time to create this beautifully programmed workout routine so that any gym “rat” will get results coming fast.

Because of the forums and also social media, this program became very popular in a sense that if you put a question like “ Newbie starting to workout, what program should I start with ? “, everyone who has some history on reading the forums will most likely recommend the Starting Strength program.

Diving More Into Starting Strength Routine

For the brand new novice or even the advanced people Mark states that very simple approaches to training should be taken and the workouts should be short and intense.

You need to get strong on a tight selection of important compound exercises that train all your body as a whole and don’t separate it by body parts.

The Starting Strength Novice Program Layout For The Novice:

For the first few workouts this basic program will be followed:


  • Squat 3×5 – work set
  • Press 3×5 – work set
  • Deadlift 1×5 – work set


  • Squat 3×5 – work set
  • Bench 3×5 – work set
  • Deadlift 1×5 – work set

This basic program will go on like this:

A Weekly Example Of Starting Strength Routine

Week 1

  • Workout A Monday
  • Workout B Wednesday
  • Workout A Friday

Week 2

  • Workout B Monday
  • Workout A Wednesday
  • Workout B Friday

Week 3 – > repeat the week 1 and so on

You will keep doing this starting program until the deadlift goes ahead of the squat and after technique for all exercises is in place.

After we settle with this, the powerclean will be introduced into the workout so we will have:


  • Squat 3×5 – work set
  • Press 3×5 – work set
  • Deadlift 1×5 – work set


  • Squat  3×5 – workout set
  • Bench Press 3×5 – workout set
  • Power Cleans 5×3 – workout set

Basically, when we look at this program, one week you will deadlift twice and the next week you will powerclean twice.After 2-3 more weeks you can add chin ups after power cleans and stick with this program as long as you can !

Now, after some time, you can break the pulling pattern by adding pull-ups and chin-ups along with some glute/ham raises and back extensions.

NOTE: This is not necessary as you can continue with the described program as it is.

In that  case, the program will look something like this:

Workout A

  • Squat 3×5
  • Press 3×5
  • Deadlift 1×5/Power Clean 5×3 ( they will be alternated )

Workout B

Squat 3×5

  • Bench Press 3×5
  • Back Extensions 3×10
  • Pull-ups/Chin-ups 3×15 rep maximum ( they will be alternated )


Alternating means that you will alternate one move with another so for example, one Monday you will do the deadlift and the next workout day which should be Wednesday you do the power cleans instead of the deadlift.

Once you reach the 15 reps on the pull-ups/chin-ups, start adding weight

Warm Up Section Of The Starting Strength Routine

What you should take away from this section is that you shouldn’t overcomplicate the warmup but also don’t neglect it.

For the warmup, a simple 5 minute treadmill should be enough. The general guidelines would be to get your body’s temperature up as easy as you can without getting into your body reserves that should be left for the actual workout.

A slight sweat is enough.

There is an excel file that was made some time ago in which you can find some general guidelines on how to get the warmup sets done up to the work sets.

Starting Strength Program Excell Warmup 1

It’s as simple as you can get it. Just imput your target 5RM weight that you will use in your training and the excel file should give you general guidelines on how you should warm up and progress ( pretty cool huh ? ).

After you’ve imputed your numbers in the excel file, this is what an example of what the excel file should show you:

Warmup example in the starting strength pdf routine

You can get an idea on how to do a proper warmup without getting yourself on the ground and being unable to finish your work sets.

By the way, you can get the excel file that will help you program your workout from here:

Share This Page to download Starting Strength PDF Workout Program
Starting Strength PDF Workout Program

How To Chose The Weight For The First Week

You need to determine how much weight you can handle for 5 reps while maintaining a proper execution style. If you are in your first days of starting strength program or going to the gym, you should warm up with the bar, then try adding some weight and do some sets of 5. You can try doing this until your form will become poor after which you will stop at that weight.

Try to make your technique “bulletproof” at that weight and perform two more sets.

This is the easiest way with which you can gauge your approximate working weight for the start of your starting strength workout but there are many novices out there that over-estimate that final weight at which they should stay so the best thing that you can do is to drop 5-10% of your starting “5 RM working weight” and go with that in your next workout.

Starting lighter is always a better thing to do than starting too hard and not working with proper technique. Remember this: reinforce proper technique by starting lighter.

How To Progress On This Routine

When you are in the novice shoes, the progression will come more easy as your body isn’t accustomed with the weights. Novices should be the ones that increase the weight from workout to workout until plateau comes.

The key here is to maintain a good form as the work sets increase depending on your experience, age, sex and consistency that you are proving. Generally speaking, you can get 10 pounds more on the bar every workout.

There is an end to all good things and this is also true in the case of progressing continuously. For example, when you are starting to miss the last rep or two from your last work set, then you should know that your newbie fast progression is about to end.

For the very young of us and the old people that want to start training, 5 pound jumps are sufficient to start with and progress.

A point to remember is don’t try to make huge jumps even if you can make them, stick to 5-10 pound increments and work from that up.

Frequent Questions And Answers Section

Question:  Can I do cardio on this program ?

Answer: Yes you can do it but take it lightly like brisk walks or slow jogging.. don’t overstress yourself over this

Question: Can I use SS for fat loss ?

Answer: This program is tailored for strength gaining because of it’s frequency but it can be used for fat loss by cutting down the volume/exercises

Question: Can I change the exercises or substitute ?

Answer: Unless you have an injury that is keeping you for doing the program as it’s layed out,or you can’t do it safe, NO. Just do it like it’s explained.

Question: Can I use Starting Strength pdf for building muscle mass and size ?

Answer:  The short answer is yes. Heavy weights + getting stronger while lifting them + proper caloric intake = more muscle mass.

Question: Is stretching recommended before the workouts ?

Answer: In the book it is stated that static stretches should be avoided and you should focus only on dynamic stretches pre-workout

Question: Can I add curls ?

Answer: Just do the program like it’s written down ! Your recovery capacity is being hit hard enough in the workout time.

Question : How long should I rest ?

Answer: Rest long enough that you get your reps in but not so long that you transform the workout into a 3 hour laying around routine.

Question: Do I really need to squat ?

Answer: You can substitute it with leg press but if you can, do the program as written.

Anyways, look at my leg press vs squat article and also learn how to squat with proper form.

Question: Can I train two consecutive days ?

Answer: NO.

Question: I don’t want to do the power clean/I can’t learn the power clean/I can’t do the power clean in a safe way. Is there any exercise with which I can substitute it ?

Answer: It is allowed the replacing of the power clean with the bent row/cable row in case you can’t perform the power clean safely or it’s impractical for you to do it.

Question: Can I do this program Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday ?

Answer: As long as you do it in nonconsecutive days it’s ok.

Question: Can I change the order of the exercises listed ?

Answer: NO ! Keep it like it’s written with Squats first -> upper body second ->pulling movement 3rd

Question: Do I have to do chin-ups and pull-ups?

Answer: No. They are only used as an accessory work at the end of the main workout.

Question: What kind of grip should I use ?

Answer: Doesn’t matter as long as you are progressing on them.

If there are any questions that you might want to ask regarding this program, please do it so bellow and I will kindly answer any question.

Also if you have a friend or a relative that would benefit from this nicely explained program, you can use the sharing buttons that flow to the left (did I mention that sharing is free? (:)

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  1. can I leg press instead of squatting on starting strength??

    • Oneizer, as explained, you can substitute the squat with leg press but I would suggest to do that only if you have an injury or if you are not capable of doing squats.

  2. What do I do when I hit a plateau?

    • There are plenty of strategies you can use when you hit a plateau:

      1. If your weight is static, the weight on the bar is also static, the plateau is probably there because you are not eating sufficient calories.
      2. If you try and try for over 2-4 weeks and you don’t see any progress, it might be the time for a deload
      3. Try switching to a more intermediate routine like 5×5 for a while

      Don’t forget to watch your caloric intake!

      • Thanks for the fast reply!

        Would incorporating a deload every 5 weeks (5th week is deload. 6th week would be 2.5%/2.5lbs more than week 4) be advisable? Or just keep pumping the weights until a plateau and then take a deload?

        Also how do you calculate a deload? I don’t know if you have written an article about deloads yet, might be a good idea for us beginners.


        • Well, this whole deload issue is yet subjected to another article.

          As I stated before, It all depends on your diet and how you train.

          The easiest strategy would be to “keep pumping” the weights until you hit a plateau.

          Deloading can be done in many ways (I will discuss about this in another article) but it’s not rocket science. You can simply train with 50% of the weights for 1 week and that can be considered a deload and the next week, you can train with the same weights you did before starting to deload (just try to get more reps in).

          Watch out your caloric intake!

  3. It is very hard reading this page with that extremely annoying social media menu floating down the left side of the article. If you really want to use it, why don’t you embed it at the end of the article instead? That way you won’t be blocking everyone’s view and pissing them off.

    Now, that I’ve said that. Please explain what ‘press’ is? You mention ‘Press 3×5′ and also ‘Bench Press 3×5,’ but only bench press is a link. Perhaps you could link each exercise to a page/video of someone performing that exercise correctly? That would make it easier for some of us to understand what you are talking about.

    • Good suggestions Jimmy, I actually like getting critiques because it helps me to learn more what my readers like to see.

      Alright, sorry for not explaining “press”. Mark Rippetoe included the press in his program as an alternation to the bench press. Basically 1 workout will be done with the bench press (for chest) and in the next you will press (for shoulders) -> standing shoulder press is the main exercise used by mark but you can do any pressing movement (when I worked with this program, I did the standing barbell shoulder press and it worked like a miracle).

      Regarding the social media suggestions, I think that I’ll implement what you said because I was also thinking about it some time ago.

      Regarding every movement, I linked the squat, deadlift and bench press through the article.

      Thanks for your suggestions and if you have any other questions left, I’m here. Also good luck!

  4. Hi Marinas,

    Thanks for loading out all the information in a concise manner, it’s very helpful.

    Just a comment / question regarding the warm up sets…

    if I followed this format based on my own 5RP i would be changing the weights 5 times for each exercise |(sometimes after a single rep!) that’s a lot of messing about in a busy gym in central London i’m bound to get some aggro..

    Is there any other way?

    I also noticed that for example the squat is at 500lbs as the work set and the final warm up is 400lbs, this is high for a warm up no? Even so, it must be an important part of the general routine at 80% of the 5RP.

    I hope you can help. Many Thanks,


    • Hey Chris,

      I’m glad I can be of help.

      1st question: Well, the warm-up section is very important. You don’t really want to risk your joints (believe me, I had problems some time ago because I was not doing the warm up properly).

      Everybody warms up and this is the correct way to warm up.
      I don’t think that you should pay attention to how much you change the weights – I mean you pay for that place and you should be able to move any weight around as much as you want to.
      I mean, it’s common sense that you need to move weights around the gym and get them on the bar.
      Busy or not, it’s your training program – don’t pay attention to what others say/look, just train – that’s why gyms are made, for training
      Just do your warm up sets, get the weight, don’t really take notice of what others say.

      2nd question: No, it’s not high for a warm up because you will be doing 1-2 reps :)

      Good luck and if you have any other question, I’m here.

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