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A1. Days per week 

Starting Strength is a three day per week program. Training days are non-consecutive, with a two day break after the third training day.


The classic schedule is Monday (A), Wednesday (B), Friday (C), but you can do Tuesday (A), Thursday (B), Saturday (C) or Wednesday (A), Friday (B), Sunday (C) — any combination that fits the same on-off spacing scheme.

Whatever allows you to be most consistent. If you get drunk every Saturday night, don’t train Sunday. Or, maybe, that’s exactly why you should train Sunday.

A2. Exercises 

There are three training days per week, but only two workouts. I hate the word “workout,” but, whatever. Actually, not whatever. Training sessions. Call them sessions.

Session 1

  • A) Back squat (3×5)
  • B) Bench press (3×5)
  • C) Deadlift (1×5)

Session 2

  • A) Back squat (3×5)
  • B) Overhead press (3×5)
  • C) Power clean (5×3)

You rotate between the two sessions, like this:

Week one:

  • Monday (A) – Session 1
  • Wednesday (B) – Session 2
  • Friday (C) – Session 1

Week two:

  • Monday (A) – Session 2
  • Wednesday (B) – Session 1
  • Friday (C) – Session 2

On the third week, you’re back to the week one configuration. You keep rotating the sessions until the program finishes.

A3. Sets, reps, notations 

All notations are (SETSxREPS) when there are only two numbers. To avoid confusion, I’ll use @ when referencing weight. Three sets of five reps at 225 pounds looks like 3×5@225.

The letters in front of each exercise tells you the order. Do A first, B second, and C third.

Occasionally, you’ll see numbers paired with letters, like this:

  • A1) Back squat
  • A2) Fart loudly

This is known as a superset. You switch between each exercise, set for set. So you’d do a set of back squats, rest for a little bit, then you’d fart loudly, rest for a little bit, then go do a set of back squats…

Rest in between sets and other similar logistics come later. My eyes are already drying with boredom.

A4. Progression 

The ethos of the SS program: add weight to each exercise every session.

The amount of weight you add on a session-to-session basis depends on the exercise. The deadlift can handle more than, say, the overhead press. (You’ll know why a little later.)

But, for simplicity’s sake, it’s easier to generalize and say: every lift increases at a rate of five pounds per session.

Take the first few training sessions to establish good technique and find your individual strength level, then start conservative. If you find out you can bench 155 pounds at an 8/10 on the difficulty scale, you should start with 95 pounds. Build momentum.

Let’s assume you took one week (three training sessions), worked on your technique, and then tested yourself through each lift in order to find solid starting spots.

  • 105 pounds for the squat
  • 135 pounds for the deadlift
  • 95 pounds for the power clean
  • 95 pounds for the bench press
  • 45 pounds for the overhead press

(These numbers are not necessarily in realistic proportion to one another, but I make the rules.) Here’s what the first two weeks of training would look like.


  • SQUAT: 3×5@105,
  • BENCH PRESS: 3×5@95
  • DEADLIFT: 1×5@135


  • SQUAT: 3×5@110,
  • OVERHEAD PRESS: 3×5@45,
  • POWER CLEAN: 5×3@95


  • SQUAT: 3×5@115,
  • BENCH PRESS: 3×5@100,
  • DEADLIFT: 1×5@140


  • SQUAT: 3×5@120,
  • OVERHEAD PRESS: 3×5@50,
  • POWER CLEAN: 5×3@100


  • SQUAT: 3×5@125,
  • BENCH PRESS: 3×5@105,
  • DEADLIFT: 1×5@145


  • SQUAT: 3×5@115,
  • OVERHEAD PRESS: 3×5@55,
  • POWER CLEAN: 5×3@105

There’s no change in sets or reps. Just a linear increase in weight lifted every training session, hence the name linear progression.

You’re setting a new personal record (PR) every time you train. It’s such a simple idea that no one (me) thinks about doing it until they read about it…in a book.

stiller dodgeball in a book

A5. Warm-up (and work) sets 

The sets you’re adding weight to on a session-to-session basis are known as your work sets, which differ from your warm-up sets.

The sets listed in the original breakdown above (3×5) are the work sets, and they are done in sets across fashion, meaning the weight on the bar holds consistent across all sets. So if you’re benching 95 pounds, your work sets would look like this:

  • First work set: 5 reps @ 95 pounds
  • Second work set: 5 reps @ 95 pounds
  • Third work set: 5 reps @ 95 pounds

Warm-up sets come before your work sets and prepare you for the work sets. Warming-up is more art than science. Some days you might need more warm-ups. You have to be your own judge. But remember: your work sets shouldn’t drain your energy for your work sets.

Typical strategy goes like this: get the blood flowing with light weight and higher reps, gradually increase the weight and decrease the reps to kick your nervous system in the face.

So if you’re doing bench presses with 95 pounds (on your work sets), your first warm-up set might be a set of 5 push-ups, followed by a set of 5 reps with 45 pounds (the empty bar), followed by a set of 3 with 75 pounds.

As you get stronger, you’ll need more warm-up sets to help your nervous system deal with the heavier loads. If you’re squatting 315 pounds, your warm-up might go something like this:

  • First warm-up set: 10 bodyweight squats
  • Second warm-up set: 10 @ 45 pounds
  • Third warm-up set: 5 @ 135 pounds
  • Fourth warm-up set: 3 @ 185 pounds
  • Fifth warm-up set: 5 @ 225 pounds
  • Sixth warm-up set: 2 @ 275 pounds
  • Work sets: 3×5@315

This is why (typically) beginners can finish training session faster and do more exercises (if they wanted to).

005 →

Trying to lose fat, build muscle, and build a body you’re proud of?

Maybe you’re a little lost right now.

Maybe you don’t have much motivation.

Maybe you don’t what program or diet to use.

I don’t know…

But what I do know is this:

Everything you need is inside of you.

You’re capable of more than know.

You just have to open your eyes.

My weekly column can help.

Just a small little honest note from me sent every Sunday.

Unless I’m hungover.

And then it comes Monday.

What I’m trying to say is that it’ll come Monday.

(These weekly columns don’t get posted to the site.)

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