Rogelio gives his opinion on the Starting Strength routine by Mark Rippetoe. He dissects this fitness routine & criticizes the Power Clean advice with tips and other useful advice for beginners venturing into the world of gym training.
I would like to offer my opinion to you guys on the Starting Strength weight training routine which has been popularized by Mark Rippetoe. I have been intending to write on this program for some time since I am a fitness enthusiast and my background is in Olympic weightlifting. I love anything to do with strength (both physical and mental) so reading training routines is, let’say, one of my hobbies!
The Starting Strength routine is a weight training program which calls for training with a full-body emphasis 3 times per week using the Squat, the Power Clean and the Press exercises as the core to the routine. It came to light with coach Mark Rippetoe from Wichita Falls and it has gained popularity from both weight trainers and bodybuilders alike.
Mark Rippetoe is an interesting guy
Now, before I proceed with my opinion (i.e criticize) on the Starting Strength program, let me say that this strength program works. It builds muscle as well as strength, there is no denying that. I also praise Mark Rippetoe for bringing some sense to gym goers and popularizing full-body training and the use of compound exercises such as the Squat. Starting Strength is built upon long-term progression and it is no wonder that it works because any program or routine that satisfies this element of progression over an extended amount of time will ensure results.
Starting Strength has become popular due to the internet, and these days most members of online fitness forums have either given Starting Strength a go or have heard about it (online fitness forums being one of the carriers of the Starting Strength word). In fact, the widespread of Starting Strength has surprisingly allowed average gym goers to emphasize more strength training in their routines and tamed the bodybuilding nonsense that many gym beginners tend to be bombarded with by Mickey Mouse personal trainers, stupid online experts who rely on steroids for their gains or hilarious supplement pushers promising overnight “pump-aholic” results. Personally, I think Starting Strength has made a positive impact in average gym goers who just want to put on some weight on their 120lbs frames.
Starting Strength has helped to shift the “bicep curl” gym mentality to Squats and Power Cleans
That said, I have seen and tried countless of strength routines, and I have got myself a solid strength foundation by following several principles that I either learnt from Olympic/Strength coaches or that I acquired through my own experimenting (as you guys know, I love being my own Guinea Pig!). Starting Strength is just another routine, it is not the Holy Grail of strength training as so many Starting Strength advocates would have you believe, and it is not the only way to get stronger if you are just a simple gym goer who just wants to look good naked!
There are many ways to get strong other than Starting Strength
My criticism to the Starting Strength routine boils down to these 3 issues:
1) Starting Strength is a mere reinvented version of much older proven routines such as The Strongest Shall Survive by coach Bill Starr, nothing more.
2) Mark Rippetoe thinks he can teach the Power Clean with his own “jump and shrug” made-up technique, a technique that is incorrect and futile to building impressive numbers in the Power Clean.
3) Starting Strength has become a cult and their advocates try to convince everyone that it is the only way to get strong.
I don’t have anything against Mark Rippetoe, I actually think he is a decent coach, but, being myself an Olympic lifter, I facepalm myself everytime I read the “jump and shrug” Power Clean parrot line, either from Mark Rippetoe or from one of his Starting Strength followers. The “jump and shrug” line is part of the incorrect Power Clean advice that Mark Rippetoe has ingrained in all his followers; with his following consisting of about 95% gym newbies. Starting Strength has thus become something akin to a cult (just like Crossfit), and cults, as we know, tend to be annoying as hell because cultists go out of their way to convince everyone that they are right and the rest of the world is wrong.
This is how I feel when I happen to read a “bro” parroting Mark Rippetoe’s advice on the Power Clean
Allright everyone, let’s open the can of worms:
1) Starting Strength is a reinvented version of other strength routines
The first time that I read Starting Strength, I laughed out loud (LOLed), and I didn’t laugh out loud because the text describing the routine had some good jokes inside. I didn’t know who Mark Rippetoe was (he is practically unheard of as a coach outside the US) nor did I know that Starting Strength was supposed to be a popular strength program. I laughed because as soon as I read the Starting Strength routine I immediately thought of coach Bill Starr and his superb The Strongest Shall Survive program. Mark Rippetoe’s program is nothing more than a reinvented version of Bill Starr’s program, it even shares the same exercise pattern for crying out loud!
For those not aware, coach Bill Starr popularized a solid strength routine in the 70’s called The Strongest Shall Survive that was advertised as packing on bulk (muscle everywhere) and overall body strength. This routine was an eye opener for those in the field of applied strength training in sports as The Strongest Shall Survive was successfully used in American football and players got very strong and bulky on coach Starr’s routine. People packing on 40lbs of weight, most of it muscle, in short amounts of time was not unheard of because Bill Starr, having being an Olympic weightlifter himself, intelligently based his routine around the Power Clean, the Full Squat and the Strict Press. With Starting Strength, Mark Rippetoe has cheekily added a few things here, removed a few stuff there, put it a label, started the marketing engine, and off he went with his Starting Strength routine. It worked.
The Strongest Shall Survive owns Starting Strength in every way
Starting Strength does work, of course it does, but it works because the routine that it was spun off from, The Strongest Shall Survive, has been working for about 40 years already. Starting Strength brings nothing new to the strength arena, other than being marketed to average gym-goers and people who haven’t performed a correct Power Clean or Squat in their life (i.e. gym newbies). Thing is, practically any decent strength program will work on these two fitness populations because both average gym-goers and fitness newbies tend to be weak and will obtain strength gains by merely following a few training rules. I can think, straight off my head, of about 20 weight training programs that will work just as well as Starting Strength in packing muscle and strength in beginners, including my own Manly Strength program.
Point is, do not become blinded with all the hype surrounding Starting Strength, it works just as well as other strength routines and will be of benefit if you are at a stage where your strength levels in compound exercises such as the Squat are weak to begin with. If you are a seasoned lifter, there are better strength routines out there.
These are the type of people who’d benefit from Starting Strength
2) Mark Rippetoe thinks he can teach the Power Clean with his own made-up technique
The Power Clean is a great strength exercise. It builds power, overall strength and a sense of coordinating the body as a single piece when applying force. The Strongest Shall Survive used the Power Clean as one of its key elements and so does Starting Strength. The difference comes when we compare both coaches and the manner in which they teach and advice how to perform the Power Clean.
Bill Starr was a former Olympic weightlifter in the 60s and 70s who had walked the walk before talking the talk. He lifted big weights and taught the Power Clean from his humble Olympic weightlifting origins. He depicts how to perform the Power Clean in his book The Strongest Shall Survive, with his Power Clean instructions being enough reason to go and buy the book (you get to see black and white pictures of men with moustaches doing Power Cleans, priceless!).
Mark Rippetoe, on the other hand, has zero experience in Olympic weightlifting and teaches an incorrect form of the Power Clean, as one would expect from someone who has no relevant Olympic weightlifting experience. Mark Rippetoe teaches a weird “jump and shrug” method which is, to put it bluntly, silly. The way he teaches the technique to the Power Clean is unlike that taught by actual Olympic Weightlifting coaches (and I have been under the wing of several international Olympic coaches) and he teaches a “jump and shrug” motion for the Power Clean which is just something he made up to make Starting Strength look like a novel and pioneering method.
Of course, if you are someone who is not familiarized with Olympic weightlifting and fall under the two categories of gym goers he targets with Starting Strength (i.e bodybuilders and beginners), then you will fall for his Power Clean shenanigans. I am not claiming that you need to have perfect technique on the Power Clean to coach it but you should at least have a solid understanding of how it is performed. There is no discussing or trying to innovate here, guys who have won medals (you know, like been to the Olympics and brought medals home) perform the Power Clean as it is intended to be performed for optimal power and strength development as dictated by Olympic weightlifting dogma. There is no room to try and be different and try to pioneer nonsense, unless you do that to try and give yourself an unmerited competitive edge to sell your routine.
Mark Rippetoe has power cleaned 275lbs. I have done more than that at a lower body weight, and I recently power cleaned 275lbs after a mere 4 weeks of doing Power Cleans and getting back to lifting weights. I teach the Power Clean from the lessons that I obtained from Olympic coaches while he teaches the Power Clean with his own technique, which no one else uses or coaches. The truth is in the pudding, and you should not follow Rippetoe’s advice on the Power Clean if you want to become remotely strong on this exercise. I have a very strong opinion on this matter because, unfortunately, there are plenty of people both online and offline giving incorrect advice on the Power Clean and bastardizing a very useful lift; coach Rippetoe should have known better. My thoughts on this issue are shared by others, especially Olympic lifters, and beginners to the fitness arena are easily being misled by Rippetoe’s Power Clean shenanigans, which in turn continues to propagate power clean folklore.
For the love of Bambi, there is no “jump and shrug” in the Power Clean!!!!
3) Starting Strength has become a cult
Seriously, what’s up with that. I have yet to find anyone in real life doing Starting Strength but it seems as though every online fitness forum has a troop of members fighting their own battle against society and convincing the rest of humanity that Starting Strength is the only way to go. What’s even more laughable is that these same blind people take whatever Mark Rippetoe has said as gospel and will repeat everything like parrots without consideration to questioning what they repeat ad nauseum.
You like to go to the gym and want to build some muscle? Starting Strength, they answer.
You are a bodybuilder and want to build some muscle in the off season? Starting Strength, they reply.
You want to lift some weights to get in shape? Starting Strength, they scream at you.
You want to get stronger in the Power Clean? Starting Strength and “jump and shrug, bro“, they respond.
Of course, this whole cult-like status is powered by Rippetoe himself who has separated himself from conventional smiling and gentle fitness coaches and proudly made his way with a “take no prisoners” attitude that all pseudo-hardcore gym warriors love to hear and read about. As a matter of fact, Rippetoe was affiliated with Crossfit not until that long ago for the moneyz (for which he also took some heavy criticism) and is one of the men responsible for Crossfitters having the worst Power Clean technique out of all gym populations. Then, he left Crossfit and the shizzle hit the fan, which made for some online fun dramas. He has a loyal following because of all of this, to the point that many fitness forums are starting to have an anti-Starting Strength crowd to fight the SS nazis (as they call them).
Moreover, Mark Rippetoe has ensured to provide the program with other integrated goodies such as nutritional extremism in the form of advising his Starting Strength trainees to drink a gallon of milk a day, regardless of the fact that 50% of them turn overnight into overweight potatoes, or calling those who don’t agree with him a range of pejoratives. It goes with the persona and his primary audience loves it. Can’t argue with the marketing, I guess.
Due to my Olympic weightlifting background, I have been doing Presses, Power Cleans and Squats before many SS nazis had even touched a computer keyboard
Bottom line, Starting Strength is one of the ways to get strong and gain muscle but it is not the only way, much less if one has a decent strength and muscle base. It is a program that works because it is based on another much older program that too worked. Mark Rippetoe, as much of an interesting character as he may be, took it too far trying to invent his own form of the Power Clean and addresses Starting Strength to beginners, which smartly allows for masking any deficiencies of the program and his advice. The fact that most of Starting Strength practicioners are beginners makes for an awesome pool of trainers who will follow him blindly and continue to snowball the Starting Strength cult with incorrect information so long as they are zombified from the insulin response to the gallon of milk that their god forces them to consume every single day.
“Jump and shrug”. LOL.
All the best.
P.S: Make sure to check out our strength training section (which includes my popular Power Clean tutorial) and our fitness section. Oh, and if you want to get strong, lean and sexy, get yourself one of the books below to put the icing on the cake to your strength goals!