Starting Strength Program Review

Starting Strength Review – How To Be More Productive!!

Way back in 2006, I was skimming through Amazon looking around at different fitness books, and I came across Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength Program for practical barbell training for beginners.

Hailing from Wichita Falls Texas, Mark Rippetoe actually trained under Bill Starr.

Mark Rippetoe Practical Programming
Practical Programming

At that time, I had never seen so many 5 Star reviews for one book, so I went ahead and purchased the Starting Strength manual along with Mark Rippetoe’s other book Practical Programming for Strength Training.

Then I got to work applying what Mr Rippetoe teaches. Later on, I added his DVD to the mix where he coaches young athletes how to build an adequate strength foundation using compound lifts in the five basic barbell exercises, the Squat, Press, Bench Press, Deadlift and Power Clean.

Starting Strength provides detailed instruction in the five basic barbell exercises, and the companion DVD adds another layer to the book as you see these athletes performing these compound exercises under the supervision of Mark Rippetoe.

Not only do you see these exercises correctly executed, but you also get to see vital corrections to some of the most common problems individuals encounter when performing the movements.

I’m writing this review in 2020, and honestly, since 2006, Mark Rippetoe and The Aasgaard Company’s strength training program have gone from strength to strength which is fantastic and well deserved!

Starting Strength DVD
Starting Strength DVD

They even have an app now that you can get in either the App Store or Google Play to work the official program off.

They also have a certification now if you want to become a starting strength coach.

I’m writing this review because I want to not only talk about the strength gains I’ve gotten from the program but also how it’s helped me many years later.

The lessons I learned from this strength book have always helped me as a solid foundation when I have spent a few months at a time testing out various other training programs through the years!

The Starting Strength Method is the fastest, most efficient and straightforward way to increase total body strength for complete beginners.

Starting Strength has been called “the best and most useful of fitness books” and has sold over 500,000 copies in a competitive global market for fitness education. 

Along with Practical Programming for Strength Training, they form a simple, logical, and practical approach to strength training. 

Alright, let’s dive right in!

Who Should Use Starting Strength?

Starting Strength is not a powerlifting program; it was created for people getting started in the primary barbell lifts that including The Squat, Deadlift, The Overhead Press and the Bench Press.

Everyone can benefit from the Starting Strength Program. As human beings, one of our first movements is to Squat(Ass To Grass!!) using our bodyweight.

But often as we get older and begin to live more sedentary lives in many parts of the world, it’s taken as a given that if you cannot squat to the ground, then that’s ok!

Yet, if you go to parts of Asia where you have no choice to Full-Squat if you want to use a public toilet, then you have no option but to learn how to Full-Squat again!

Starting Strength teaches you how to do this before going anywhere near a barbell. With different limb-lengths comes a varied range of motion for each individual. 

One person’s range may not be as good as somebody else’s, but we can all still make an effort to improve our potential in this area.

This program is an excellent introduction to teenage athletes in how to use the barbell for maximum effect properly!

It is beneficial for weight loss, building muscle and the list goes on! There is no secret to what to do, follow the instructions from Mark Rippetoe, get under the bar and get to work!

The main reason I purchased Starting Strength way back when is that when I went to fitness college and we were learning about exercise, nutrition etc. we were forever told when squatting not to let our knees travel past our toes.

It didn’t seem right to me because anytime you walk up a flight of stairs your knee moves beyond your toes and I’ve never heard of anyone getting an injury from walking up stair in that manner!

I was thrown on to machine weights for my first day in a gym instead of being appropriately coached to use Dumbells and Barbells. 

I had to learn how to Squat correctly and have it on lockdown for the remainder of my life!

Because of Mark Rippetoe’s teachings, I confidently Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Overhead Press and Power Clean.

But more importantly, I can show other people how to do it too! Not only has it been better for my health and my client’s health also, but we have so much more freedom in our workouts with what we can do.

Squatting, Pushing and Pulling is all a part of how we’re designed as human beings, and the Starting Strength program will show you how to get the most out of this part of you!

What You Should Know

The Starting Strength manual, as you can see from the table of contents picture I took here is broken down into eights chapters.

Starting Strength Table Of Contents
Starting Strength Table Of Contents

This photo is from the original black book that I purchased back in 2006, but if you’re to buy it today, the new 3rd edition will have much more user-friendly content that you can apply to your barbell training straight away.

The introduction chapter goes into details as to why we should be performing barbell training instead of using the machine weights at the gym.

The human body functions as a complete system; it works that way and likes to be trained that way. Machine-based training will give you a workout, but the isolated body-part training you get from using machines is not as natural and nowhere as effective as working the body as a whole.

Mark Rippetoe talks about this in detail in the intro chapter, the rationale behind barbell training and throughout the book, recommendations for the equipment you need for this kind of training.

Some of this equipment includes a set of weight lifting shoes, wraps, knee sleeves and a weight belt that you can add to your toolkit down the line as you get closer to maxing out your lifting potential without a belt.

Chapter 2 through 6 coaches you through the right way to perform the Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, The Press and finally The Power Clean. The DVD aligns perfectly with these chapters.

Chapter 7 is on programming, although this book does not go into as much detail as the previously mentioned Practical Programming for Strength Training book from the same author.

You don’t need the Practical Programming book straight away; I recommend going as a far as you can go using the Starting Strength manual and it’s programming recommendations before purchasing the other book.

Take 100% on what you learn with this book before getting anything else.

Chapter 8 is an excellent chapter on Misconceptions about Training Youth, especially if you have children and aren’t sure what age they should get started in the gym.

My First Impressions

They say less is more and rings true big time for this program!

I like that there are only a few exercises, but they work the entire body with fewer reps and a lot less moving around from machine to machine as you might do with some other training routines.

A beginner starts out with three to four basic whole-body exercises and after the warm-up is complete will do three work sets that are based on their performance in the previous training session.

An example of Starting Strength Workout would be the following:


  1. Squat.
  2. Bench Press/Overhead Press.
  3. Chin-Ups.


  1. Squat.
  2. Overhead Press/Bench Press.
  3. Deadlift.


  1. Squat.
  2. Bench Press/Overhead Press.
  3. Pull-Ups.

The Squat, Bench Press and Press are performed for 3 Sets x % Reps with the Press and Bench Press alternating every second day.

Then you do the Deadlift for 1 Set of 5 Reps, and finally, you do either Chin-Ups or Pull-Ups to failure for three sets, but if you can do up to 15 Reps for Chins/Pulls then add some resistance in the form of a dumbbell or plate etc.(Beginning light)

It may not seem like much, but this is a novice example of Starting strength with rest days in between. As you improve and progress, so do the levels.

I felt great on the first day of the program, because, as a trainer, it wasn’t about looking better or adding more weight etc. but I was finally learning the right way to do all of these exercises.

These movements are second nature now, but back when I started, I could not get over how much I did not know which we’ll talk about in a minute!

The Use Phase

I won’t go into too much detail here as far as the actual programs are concerned if you get the book and DVD then start with the novice routine and crack on from there working through each routine one day, one workout at a time!

Every training session using Starting Strength was phenomenal!

I’ll talk a bit about what I learned from each movement that Mark coaches you through.

It was all positive and extremely beneficial for every other training program I’ve done since!

Remember too that all of this might seem obvious to someone reading it that has been weight lifting their whole life, and it is to me now, but at the time it didn’t seem so obvious!!

Like anything really 🙂

Let’s go

P.S. – Forgive me in the video, I was getting my mate to record these in between his workout, the deadlift is loaded up for his warm-up but as you can see all of the others are bare as I wasn’t warmed-up and rushed them so apologies!! 🙁

The Squat

What I learned:

  • I’m pretty flexible, but if my heels leave the ground as I’m going deeper into the Squat, all I have to do is pull my toes back towards my shins, and I’ll be fine.
  • Before Starting Strength, I used to push up through my feet when squatting but now thank God I drive through my hips. As Mark Rippetoe says “Hip Driiive!!” It’s a game-changer! My hips, lower back, hamstrings, quads, abs and glutes are all firing together as one! There’s nothing like it, and my abs looked better too as a result!
  • As you’re ascending back up to the top, pick a spot in front of you, avoid looking at your face, the reps are more relaxed while still being effective because there’s less drama involved as you’re not watching yourself.

The Bench Press

What I learned:

  • Eyes should be looking up at the thumb side of the bar.
  • Grip the bar at the base of the palm by setting the heel of the palm in position first, then wrapping the fingers around the bar second.
  • Star at the place on the ceiling where the bar goes. Do not look at the bar as it moves, do not follow the bar with your eyes, but just stare at the ceiling and make the bar go to that spot for every rep.

The Deadlift


What I learned:

  • How to properly use straps when deadlifting.
  • Gripping the bar correctly well down into the hook of the fingers will reduce the amount of callous development.
  • The path of the bar as it is pulled from the floor to the top position is a shallow sweeping arc back towards the body. The bar is always close to the body.
  • Actively use your lats to pull the bar towards you to keep it close to your body for each rep. 

The Press

What I learned:

  • Your hand position should be barely less than shoulder width. I would always have a much wider grip when overhead pressing but not anymore.
  • Squeeze your glutes when pressing upwards, it proved support for your lower back, and it also makes the movement easier, thus allowing you to increase the resistance on the bar.
  • If you’re having trouble pushing through the sticking point of the movement on the way back up force you head towards the bar and this will help.

The Power Clean

What I learned:

  • The basic stance the trainee should assume is similar to a vertical jump take-off position.
  • Finish in the rack position.
  • The Grip must be outside of the shins.
  • Use a hook grip and have your toes slightly outward.

Starting Strength Results

After going through the Starting Strength program from Novice right up to Advanced, my technique improved in all of the lifts above tremendously.

My appearance improved too as I combined the Starting Strength Routine with a not too strict version of the Paleo Diet. I left out wheat and alcohol but kept in dairy without drinking a gallon of milk a day as Mark Rippetoe suggests.

The best part for me was that every routine of any kind I did and will do after Starting Strength will be at a whole new level because I now know how to perform these exercises.

My arms have grown a lot too, probably from the Squatting in the program.

I’m recruiting more muscle mass when squatting than anything else, and the payoff is there for all to see.

Your strength levels and appearance will improve big time by incorporating the Starting Strength routine but you will also gain tremendous experience in how to use barbells in a safe and effective manner!

Final Thoughts

Starting Strength Rating: 5/5

Not to take anything away from my where I studied, but I wish I had this when I was becoming a fitness trainer in college back in 2002.

I highly recommend the Starting Strength book for a solid strength foundation!

Mark Rippetoe along with Lon Kilgore does a great job with the Starting Strength Basic Barbell Training 3rd edition in how to correctly perform these compound exercises, fully work the central nervous system and add muscle mass all at the same time.

We should all be squatting ass to grass for the most part well past retirement, at least with our bodyweight only.

The Starting Strength Program is the foundation every beginner for safe, practical barbell training that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Mark Rippetoe’s a class act, he been around for a long, long time with no signs of slowing down and even though I have not met him just yet, he’s helped me out with my workouts more than I can express!

Check out Starting strength here in the Amazon Store

You can also get the Starting Strength DVD here.


Mark Rippetoe