Why You Shouldn’t do Starting Strength as a Beginner

Article last updated: January 2018 by Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer

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starting strength bookWhen I started training in February 2010 I was getting most of my information from the bodybuilding.com forums.

The popular advice for a beginner was to do the program ”Starting Strength” by Mark Rippetoe.

Therefore, I did a bodybuilding version of Starting Strength called Kethnaab’s Modified Starting Strength Routine.

Kethnaab’s variation replaces power cleans with barbell rows because the technique of power cleans can be difficult to get right without a coach.

Below, I will show you the full routine and share my body-composition progress after adding +500 pounds to my compound lifts.

Kethnaab’s Modified Starting Strength Routine

Workout A

  • Squat 3 x 5
  • Bench Press 3 x 5
  • Deadlift 1 x 5

Workout B

  • Squat 3 x 5
  • Military Press 3 x 5
  • Barbell Row 3 x 5 (the original Starting Strength program would replace barbell row with power clean 5 x 3)

You alternate between Workout A and Workout B on 3 non-consecutive days of the week and do the exercises in the order they’re listed above.

The big benefit of starting strength lies in its simplicity; you only do 5 basic exercises during the program and focus on progressing on those.

This laser-like focus has 2 big benefits:

  1. You gain a good amount of strength on the few exercises you do. I added 500 pounds (227 KG) to my deadlift, squat and bench press total.
  2. You master the technique on some of the most important compound exercises and this technique translates into many other exercises you will do throughout your training career.

The other big benefit of Starting Strength is the book itself.

Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength is the best book out when it comes to teaching proper technique on the barbell squat, deadlift, bench press and overhead press.

And this is important because 99% of guys in the gym have poor form.

By studying the book and making regular videos of yourself you will be able to achieve good form without any coach helping you.

Therefore Starting Strength does what it promises: It helps you become stronger on the big compound exercises.

However, these strength gains don’t necessarily translate to bodybuilding gains and now I’ll explain why.

Adding 500 pounds to my compound lifts didn’t change my body-composition for the better

In just 1 year of doing starting strength I made the following gains on my key lifts:

starting strength progressBy adding a lot of strength, my confidence skyrocketed and I had a goal that motivated me to go to the gym every time: add more weight to the bar.

The big issue with starting strength was that my strength gains didn’t translate into positive body-composition changes.

Overall, I added 35 pounds of bodyweight throughout the 1st year of training, and I thought I was getting muscular. But I was wrong.

After following the program for a year, I travelled to Miami with my high school class, and when we went to the beach, I would do a set of 5 pull ups (something I could never do before).

Shortly after doing the pull ups, a guy would call me “Snorlax” (the fat pokemon) and I didn’t understand why.

I thought that I was getting muscular because my lifts went up, but that was clearly not the case.

Here’s a photo of how I looked after 1 year of doing starting strength:

starting strength progress photo

When I saw this “progress picture”, I realized that I had become fat for the first time in my life.

Why I Gained A Lot of Fat on Starting Strength

On Starting Strength, you are squatting at near maximum weights 3 times a week for 3 sets each time.

In addition to that you do other heavy compound lifts and you have to add weight to the bar every time you train.

This becomes a problem when you are a guy with average recovery capabilities.

With the frequent heavy lifting you put a lot of stress on the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the CNS can take much longer to recover than your muscles.

After a heavy deadlift or squat session, the CNS can take 5-7 days to recover fully and this is essentially what happened to me.

I felt drained when going into each training session and I couldn’t add any weight to the bar.

My lifts were stalling all the time so I initially thought it might be because I used poor technique on the lifts.

I re-read the Starting Strength book multiple times and worked extensively on my form but after months of trial and error, I still found myself plateauing. 

In fact, using good form just made me stay at the same weight for a longer time.

I found that I could only add weight to the bar when I cheated a lot on my form but then I would get pains in my joints.

So I started looking into protein intake. Maybe my protein intake was too low to recover?

I increased my protein intake from roughly 150 grams to over 200 grams of protein per day and guess what… I still felt drained going into my training sessions and couldn’t progress on the lifts.

Then finally, I tried to increase my carbs and fats.

At first, I didn’t see any difference but then I tried to eat a lot: Between 4000-5000 Calories per day.

Once I hit that amount of food intake, I was finally able to make consistent progress on my lifts.

When I increased food intake I started gaining weight every week and my deadlift shot up from something like 260 to 350 pounds in just 6-8 weeks!

So increasing food intake was amazing for fast strength gains. It really worked.

But it didn’t work for improving my aesthetics.

Most of the weight I gained was body-fat and the moderate amount of muscle mass I gained was in all the wrong places.

I had gained a moderate amount of muscle mass in my traps, core, glutes, legs and lower chest.

I had made close to no gains in the muscles that actually matter… The shoulders, upper chest, biceps, triceps, forearms, calves and lats.

Here’s how my 2 year progress looked with Starting Strength and later the intermediate program Madcow 5×5:

starting strength progress photo 2

In the photo above, you will see that I wasted my first 2 years of training. I was at the same bodyweight and didn’t look any different.

I thought that perhaps I was doing something wrong, but then I discovered that most other skinny-fat guys got similar results to me.

Here’s an email I got from a blog reader:

I wasted nearly two years so far with Starting Strength/Stronglifts type routines, and all I got was fat with very little to show for it.I went from about 140lbs to 198 (at 5’8) on that routine. I looked better BEFORE I started it. I also made very little strengths gains to go along with it, which makes it even work. At least you made some strength gains. I kept convincing myself that if I just eat a little more, I will make progress.

I would get fat and cut then start it all over again. I am only a week in to another one of these viscous cycles. I had myself convinced that I just need to eat more than I ever did before, then it will finally happen.

Only a week and half in, and my lifts are stalling again, I gained 5 pounds (probably fat), and I already injured my knee from squats. I’ve had enough!I am going to use all the info from your site.Thanks again for sharing your experiences.

This is just one example of another guy who came to the same conclusion as me.

Since starting this blog in 2013 I have gotten hundreds of messages and emails from guys who have wasted years lifting heavy weights.

Starting Strength Is Not A Program For Physique Development

I don’t have anything against strength training programs, but the issue with Starting Strength is that it’s promoted as a great starting routine for guys who train for physique development.

A lot of beginners start doing Starting Strength because they get sold on the idea that drug-free lifters can’t recover from high volume training and that bodyweight exercises are useless.

I know because I was sold on these ideas as well. That’s why I did Starting Strength in the first place.

After my first 2 years of training, I noticed that most of the guys who have the type of body I want do high volume training and most of them implement bodyweight training as well.

This inspired me to switch to high volume training where I used chin ups, diamond push ups and bodyweight squats as my staple exercises.

I would do multiple high rep sets of each exercise everyday.

At first, I didn’t make a lot of gains with this type of training because I was on a fat loss diet.

However, once I leaned out and increased my food intake, I started gaining muscle mass at a very fast rate. Especially around the shoulders, biceps, triceps and upper chest.

In just 4 months time I gained a lot of size and my friends and family started complimenting me on my arms and shoulder width – something that had never happened before.

Here’s how I looked after 4 months of bulking with high volume bodyweight training:

starting strength 2131

Bodyweight exercises gave me a superior result compared to 2 years of heavy weight training and the chin up and diamond push up really helped me add muscle mass to my triceps, biceps, shoulders, upper chest and lats.

When I did chin ups and diamond push ups, I finally felt my muscles getting worked and because of the higher reps I did each set, I got a much better pump.

I came to the conclusion that it makes sense to master your own bodyweight before you start adding external weight to a bar.

Why do weighted barbell rows if you can’t even do a chin up? Wouldn’t it make sense to first learn how to move your own bodyweight through space and then later add external weight?

Why High Volume Bodyweight Training Is The Best Way to Get Started

If your goal is to build an aesthetic physique, I can’t see a better way to get started than basic bodyweight exercises.

Going from 0 to 20 clean and controlled chin ups with slow negatives will do A LOT for your physique development.

Overall, here are the top benefits of bodyweight training compared to heavy barbell training:

  1. When performed correctly, the chin up and diamond push up are great for building a V-tapered upper body with wide shoulders and big arms. You won’t build that with heavy squats, deadlifts and bench presses unless you happen to be one of these guys who starts training with a natural V-taper and arms that respond fast to training.
  2. Bodyweight exercises put less stress on the Central Nervous System. As a result, you can train more often and with a higher volume. Training frequency and volume are by far more important for muscle gains compared to increasing your 5-rep max strength.
  3. Bodyweight exercises force you to maintain healthy body-fat levels. There’s no way you can do 20 clean chin ups and be fat but there are plenty of fat guys with 500 pound deadlifts and squats.
  4. Once the basic variations become easy, you can use bodybuilding techniques to increase the difficulty of your training. I have a detailed post about that here: How to Get Muscular With Calisthenics: 6 Proven Strategies to Accelerate Your Gains
  5. Bodyweight exercises are much safer. Your risk of getting injured is close to non-existent so you will be able to train hard for decades to come.

One thing that holds a lot of people back from starting with bodyweight training is the inability to do a single push up and chin up.

That’s why I personally shyed away from chin ups and push ups when I got started training.

If you lack the strength and mobility to perform chin ups and push ups, you can start off with easier variations until you build up enough strength. You can work on negative chin ups, australian pull ups and knee push ups until you build enough strength to do a real push up and chin up.

If you follow a good fat loss diet while working on your strength you will get your first rep very fast! And if you think it’s embarrassing to do knee push ups, just start training at home until you build up your confidence to train in a park or at a gym.

Heavy Lifting and the Risk of Injury

An aspect of training that often get’s ignored is training longevity.

When you look at real world examples of guys who are big proponents of heavy weight training, you will find that most of them have had reconstructive surgeries and suffer from chronic pain in at least one area of their body.

In mid 2014, I did a quick comparison to show the injury risk of heavy weight training compared to calisthenics.

The sample size was big so I’m sure the result would be almost identical today if you did the same comparison.

You can find the result below:

Madbarz vs. the Starting Strength forum:

  • Madbarz: 93 topics are about injuries and there are 9,044 users (1.03% of users have made an injury related topic)
  • Starting Strength: 1,358 topics are about injuries and there are 17,125 users (12.61% of users have made an injury related topic)

If we assume that each user has made no more than one topic related to injuries, and we take a sample of 1000 people, the starting strength forum will have 126 injured people, while the Madbarz forum has just 10.

Now, you can say that looking at just two forums is not enough, and that starting strength users are generally more active on their forum, compared to Madbarz users, but none of that would ever account for the huge difference in injuries from heavy lifting compared to bodyweight training.

I personally want to stay injury free and exercise for the rest of my life.

If I lift heavy for decades, chasing personal records on the compound lifts on a regular basis, chances are that I won’t be able to do that.

As a result, calisthenics and moderate weights are my choice of training.

Be proud but stay hungry,

Oskar Faarkrog

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  1. I realise this is an old post with no recent comments but I have two cents on this.

    I think the core exercises that starting strength uses are great, but there’s no reason you can’t take those exercises and put them in your own, more suitable program.

    I fall within the skinny fat body type and have leaned down considerably using a combination of bodyweight circuits (chin ups, push ups, etc.) and running. Now I’m looking to put some lean muscle on and am doing a very high volume lifting program which I do every other day.

    Bench Press
    Military Press
    Bicep Curls
    Skull Crushers
    Incline Dumbell Press
    Dumbell Rows

    For the big compound lifts I ramp up the weight each set then back it off a bit for the last two. I think that this works the muscles for an extended period of time so you get the hypertrophy but are still doing short heavy sets to build strength.

    eg. Deadlift: 6x60kg – 6x70kg – 6x80kg – 6x90kg – 6x100kg – 6x110kg – 6x100kg – 6x100kg

    Then for the more isolated exercises I just do 4 sets in the 6-8 range. Trying to progressively add weight.

    I still run every couple of weeks and squeeze in a bodyweight circuit here or there. This slows down the strength gains but helps to keep the body lean.

    Diet is basically gluten and dairy free with no refined sugars. So mainly meat, veggies, nuts and fruit. I put a load of oats in my protein shake on workout days for a bit of carb cycling.

    Also practice 16:8 intermittent fasting and work out at the end of the fasting period as this helps to improve the body’s nutrient partitioning.

    So my point here is that strength is important to me but then so is aesthetics and cardiovascular fitness. Am I willing to slow down my strength gains to maintain general fitness and look good in the mirror? Absolutely. The gym going community I feel is too ‘tribal’ and you have to be 100% committed to one particular group. Why not take what you like and what you think works well from different areas and implement them into your own program or routine.

    Lastly always listen to your body. If I feel like shit because my workout is such high volume I will give myself an extra rest day. If I feel bloated or podgy I will go for a run or do bodyweight circuits instead of hitting the weights. If I feel lean and mean I’ll throw some extra carbs on my plate at dinner.

    In my training journey I have found that learning to recognise what your body is trying to tell you is very important. So take the time to really concentrate on how you feel overall and work out what your body is asking for.

    Thanks for all the great articles Oscar, keep up the great work!

    • Danny rongpi says:

      Great comment man . I wish I was as smart as you when I started training. I did good training wise but I made a big mistake nutrition wise. A paleo diet with a lot of dairy fucked me up bad. My Steak, bacon and milk diet made my cholesterol level extremely high. Ever since switching to a diet of lean meats such as chicken,turkey, tuna, cod and salmon with brown rice oats and vegetables and liquid egg whites post workout made me more muscular and less fat.

  2. Starting Strength makes it pretty clear that the program isn’t about aesthetics and also that muscle is harder to put on than fat is to burn. If you missed that key bit of info then. One has to question your diet if you were that unhappy with your physique.

    Personally my body comp has never been better since strength training and my bodyfat is down each month, despite having an endomorph body type.

    The section on injury risk could become credible if you conducted a meta-analysis of the injury related post by the user and the reasons for said injury, we have no idea how minor or major the injuries were. I expect a vast majority are down to form rather than heaviness of the weight. But of course injuries are more likely via heavy lifting – that’s a given.

    The fundamental point is that the Madbarz and SS forums are those of different training ideaologies so to compare the 2 in the first place is a moot point. If you compared Stronglifts 5×5, 531 and SS for example that would at least be a start.

    • Danny rongpi says:

      Starting strength has the best poster boy for their program, that lard ass zach evetts. That’s the result you get from GOMAD and following a fatass coach.

      • At the end of 6 months, Zach was at 21% bodyfat and had gained 46 lbs of muscle. Who wouldn’t want to gain almost 50 lbs of muscle in half a year while getting very strong in the process? Twenty percent body fat isn’t lardass for anyone. A young muscular man can lose 20 lbs of bodyfat in 3 to 5 months through dieting alone.

        And GOMAD isn’t for everyone. Rippetoe doesn’t recommend it for everyone. It’s for young, skinny, lactose-tolerant males looking to put on muscle mass as quickly and cheaply as possible.

        • Danny rongpi says:

          First of all Zach’s results were absolutely terrible. He gained majority of the 50 pounds of muscle only in his ass and little bit on his legs. Looks like his upper body got only his fat gains. Look at his arms, shoulders, traps, forearms, they did not change at all. He got small man boobs, his gut got big. I bet not a lot of people would want 50 pounds of muscle in their ass

          • Most of his gains are where they are most functional: legs, glutes, and back. His legs are much bigger than they were. He clearly gained mass on his arms and shoulders, too though. He gained some visible fat, but there’s a lot of new muscle under the fat pushing it out.
            Again, minor changes in diet would get rid of that small amount of excess fat he has in a few short months. It’s a minor inconvenience for a skinny guy like Zach was, and an easy temporary trade-off for a skinny-fat guy who wants to be easily able to literally sweep his girlfriend off her feet. A skinny-fat guy could worry about fat loss from day 1, but it’s going to take at least as long as it would with SS+diet to put on the muscle, and in the end you still won’t be as athletically strong as you would if you went the SS route.

            • Body builders and mass junkies should not do strength programs expecting body builder results. Use a program that fits your goals. SS is a beginner’s strength program, nothing more. Rip says to move on to periodization when you tap out SS. He also says to eat a ton, but cut out the crap calories. If you over eat or eat too many crap calories, that’s your fault. Monitor your intake and results and adjust as necessary. It is a good program for the people it was designed to serve. Nothing more. Nothing less. Worth a try.

              • Danny rongpi says:

                Rippetoe’s nutrition is ridiculous. 6000 calories and 300 gram protein and a gallon of whole milk for a 150 pound natty kid will only make him fat. People accuse starting strength students of using estrogen because of their increasing butt from squatting and growing man boobs from drinking so much milk

                • Danny, dude, why do you keep making up lies about what Rippetoe recommends?

                  • Bro those were his own words. 6000 calories and 300 grams of protein for a 160 pound novice. He also adds that a 4 big meals and a gallon of whole milk works better than any other approach for a novice. And I don’t hate Rippetoe’s training. He is perhaps the best one of the best strength coach in the world. I only have problem with his nutritional rules and his get fat attitude.

    • Danny rongpi says:

      Starting strength has the best poster boy for their program, that lard ass zach evetts. That’s the result you get from GOMAD and following an obese coach who only knows how to make people hate themselves in the mirror

  3. In my experience, Dips are better than Bench Press in terms of chest development. I ditched the Bench Press a long time ago in favor of Dips and my chest looks better in combination with the Overhead Press. I also don’t have to fear the barbell fall on my face. I also ditched Conventional Deadlift in favor of Behind-The-Back Deadlift because Conventional Deadlift wrecks my lower back which affects my other lifts. I can also do BTB Deadlift more frequently compared to Conventional Deadlift. I felt more muscles firing in BTB Deadlift compared to Conventional Deadlift which is mostly lower back. I’ve learned that there are other variations that you can do that suits your personal needs.

  4. Martin Carøe says:

    I have to say that i am making great results on the SS program. You say that the reason you train is mostly for the aestetics (“no one cares about how much you deadlift, except from other men at the gym”). Well, I care about how much i deadlift. I dont care if other people care. I also don’t really care alot about if people think my biceps and pecs are big (of course i do care a little bit… everyone does). But for me strength is what matters. I play field hockey and the reason i do strength training is partly because i want to get better at the physical aspect of hockey. Therefore SS mixed with some conditioning training was my choise. I started starting strength three months ago, and before that, i had been lifting inconsistantly for a year with no plan.

    My stats three months ago:
    Squat: 3x5x100kg (225lbs)
    Deadlift: 3x5x125 (about 270lbs)
    Bench press: 3x5x57,5kg (130lbs)
    Overhead press: 32,5lbs (70lbs)

    My stats now:
    Squat: 3x5x132,5kg (about 295lbs)
    Deadlift: 3x5x163,5kg (about 365lbs)
    Bench press: 3x5x71kg (about 158lbs)
    Overhead press: 41kg (about 90lbs)

    As you can tell, my squat and deadlift has gone up quite a bit. At the moment im kinda stuck in my OHP and bench, and they are already pretty weak (My OHP is only 25% of my deadlift, where 35% is more normal for people. In this period my body fat percentage hasent changed alot… I think its about 13%.

    The only negative aspect of SS is that since i started the program, my upper body hasnt really grown at all, which for alot of people is the only thing they want by training. Also the upper body lifts havent increased as much as I’d liked them to increase.

    Conclusion: SS is good for some people, and I definetely think the title is a bit misleading. If the main goal is strength, you should definitely start doing SS. However if the goal is more upper body musculature and lower body fat, starting strength is not the way to go.

  5. Oskar, very interesting read. Firstly, those that have criticized you for your thoughts on strength training are not worth your efforts. Everyone reacts differenty to different programs.

    Now I can only talk about my own experiences. I had been hitting the gym foor years, not seeing many gains due other than those of a newbie. Though I am not skinny fat in the typical sense, I have had a mid section excess for as long as I can remember. I stumbled across the 5×5 stronglifts program and decided to give it a go. Personally, I was thrilled with the results. Having the visual sign of gains in terms of the weight going up every session helped my confidence no end. My butt, in my ex-girlfriends words, became glorious (and looking at your before and after pics, it’s clear that your legs are a lot stronger looking).

    In terms of the issues, one of the things for me is that it said NO CARDIO! This is ridiculous for a number of reasons. 1 – your heart needs it. 2 – as you’ve mentioned, you’re eating a lot. 3 – lifting heavier requires a lot of oxygen, increased cardiovascular capacity will help with oxygen consumption. Personally, I did 15 minutes of cardio of days off the weights – 15 squat thrusts, followed by 15 kettlebell swings, then 14 and 14, 13 and 13 etc all the way to 1 and 1. I found that this helped keep the fat levels down.

    I also utlized intermittant fasting (16:8) during this period and, as with the cardio, this helped.

    This isn’t a program I’d recommend to stay on for more than 10 weeks, but as a starting point it helped put me in a position to go heavier and harder with more hypertrophy based training massively.

  6. I think SS is a good program to get people interested in Power Lifting. I tried it and Strong Lifts and they were great at helping me get used to the form and build up my 1RM. I eventually switched to Wendler’s 5/3/1 and now just kinda do my own thing. I’m thinking of trying Starting Strength again as I still have a long way to go before I’d feel comfortable competing in a PL competition.

  7. Everyday a beginner to the gym will ask what program he should do. People will usually respond with either Starting Strength or Stronglifts and order them to eat a lot. A few months will pass and the beginner have stalled and is confused with why he’s not gaining any muscle despite putting so much weight on the bar. They say he should stick with the program, get a lot of sleep and eat even more food and not to switch programs unless he’s reached “intermediate” lifts. The beginner sticks with it and runs it for 1 year, while making very little progress.

    Here is where the problem actually lays: Starting Strength and Stronglifts does not actually build muscle, but PEAKS it. In other words, It builds what is already there. Yes! Really!

    Both of these programs are based on Bill Starr’s 5×5 that was made for off-season football players that wanted to get their numbers back up in the weight room with as little work as possible. That is also the case as a beginner. With these programs you’re not actually getting stronger, just adapting to the training, becoming more efficient at moving the bar and getting the central nervous system to handle the work load.

    Thank you, Emevas (@blogger, youtube & mythicalstrength on reddit) was one of the first people that told me where these program actually stems from. One of his blog posts that is worth a read is “AN ARGUMENT AGAINST BEGINNER PROGRAMS AND ABBREVIATED TRAINING”. I hope I’m able to post this here, these are just his personal posts that’s there to help people.

    And also thank you Mr Faarkrog for your work. You were the first person that made me question these programs and is the reason why I started to research more about them.

    Love from Sweden.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thank you for your comment Johan. I wish you a great 2017!

    • “Starting Strength and Stronglifts does not actually build muscle, but PEAKS it. In other words, It builds what is already there. Yes! Really! ”

      This is unscientific nonsense.

      “With these programs you’re not actually getting stronger”

      You seem to have your own definition of the word “stronger.” Someone who adds 200+ lbs to their deadlift and squat has gotten stronger, according to the definition of the word that everyone else uses. The fact that beginners gain muscle mass while doing this further underscores the utter inaccuracy of your claims.

      • I do see where the peaking theory comes from, and I see how it occurs.

        Those routines do peak your 5-rep strength but the earlier weeks where you’re not struggling also build a little, before it starts getting tougher and falls under the category of “intensification”.

        Some folks — myself included — have felt that volume training is great for mass building and running a 5×5 or 3×5 routine can slot in nicely for optimising muscle strength/efficiency in the lower rep ranges.

        The main difference for a new lifter is that they’re coming from a background of zero volume (spare moving the odd table) to a bit of volume, so it can work. Especially with leg training. Most people would beat themselves up going into a 25 set per session bodybuilding routine from a sedentary background.

        But Stronglifts does taper off into a peak once you’ve exhausted the gains on the regular 5×5 then followed up by doing the “Madcow” progression. So it’s built like an accumulation/intensification strength peak in that regard.

        So I guess it’s defining a display of strength versus strength potential that could easily be got at.

        • These beginner strength training programs, whether 5×3 or 5×5, lead to adherents gaining muscle mass. This is a clear indicator that their capability has increased beyond what it was previously.

          These programs also do not merely improve the trainee’s ability to move a weight for only 5 reps. As an example, starting off, the trainee may be capable of only doing 100 lbs for 5 reps. A few months later they are able squat 300 lbs for 5 reps, but they can also go and squat 100 lbs for probably 25 reps. So not only have they gained the ability to move heavy weights a few times, they’ve also gained the ability to move lighter weights many times, without having trained to do specifically that.

          And the effectiveness of high-weight/low-reps continues even up to the elite level. Competitive powerlifters and olympic weight lifters never stop doing high-weight/low-reps, even as they add in a lower-weight/higher-reps component to their routine, while they recover from high weight/low rep days.

  8. I’ve been on starting strength, I work out at home I have a small rack for benching and other barbell work and a set of Powerblocks and chinup bar. I’ve been doing the program for about 3-4 months added about 30-40 pounds to all my major lifts. I feel great and strong, these are my current stats this wk at 194lbs and for me they are my best, and do not care what anyone lifts what’s good for you is good for you.

    Deadlift 280lbs 1sx5r
    Bench 215lbs 3sx5r
    Press 130lbs 3sx5r
    Rows 125lbs 3sx5r
    Chinps 33lbs vest 3sx5r

    I went to the doctor this past week with nasty congestion and he asks why I suddenly changed from my 170lbs vie been and gone up to 194lbs. Explained my workout routine and the progress I have made, and was told you should consider losing weight. And truth is told I LOOK LIKE SHIT AFTER A HARD SIT DOWN WITH MYSELF, IM FATTER THAN THE AUTHOR IN HIS BIGGEST PIC. I looked better at 170lbs and trail running 5miles twice a wk. And before I get bashed I hate fast food and the 99% of my extra calories came from x2 protein shakes per day one morning and one night I made in the blender per day consisting of

    12oz skim milk
    1 scoop Optimum whey
    1 banana
    1tbs peanut butter

    Now I’m starting a cut in attempt to keep what I’ve gained and get back down to a healthier/ better looking 170 with more muscle. The calorie surplus he suggests is way too high and I was blinded by the climbing numbers I could lift. I do not do squats as I have no safe way to perform them with my equipment and is the reason I added rows, chin-ups. And it worked for me strength wise making that switch.

    This article gives me the motivation again now that the physique I want is attainable through other forms of exercise. To all those that SS gave you LEAN gains thumbs up, it did not work that way for me.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey Kev, thanks for sharing your story. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in your shoes but I can tell you that once you start training in the higher rep ranges, you will make much better muscle gains and feel better between training sessions since heavy weights are very strenuous on the central nervous system.

    • I haven’t been super active on this thread, but the thing is, Starting Strength and as it builds toward the Texas Method (Practical Programming ) is all about pure strength. For some it is absolutely possible to make lean “gains” but the only gains that truly matter, on tge program, are your numbers on thlse main lifts. Have you stopped running or any other conditioning? If you like the strength gain but not your “aesthetics” i would recommend maintaining the Starting Strength and add whatever sort of conditioning you either enjoy, or need to train specifically for.

      • Also, shame on me for missing this.

        If You aren’t squatting. You can’t really call it Starting Strength, Squats are a cornerstone of the program. The Squat, Press or Bench Press, and the deadlift must form your foundation. Deadlifts are huge but the don’t work the legs like a squat and you don’t perform deadlifts for any meaningful volume to replace squats.

    • I would also recommend scrolling down to about august where Oscar quoted a great post by James.


    • RAYYAN first stop the caps and i would recommend barbell rows with an underhanded grip. it works the lats more and the biceps less, but its a good alternative to pullups/chinups if you can do them

  10. Oh my. Just saw the kerfuffle on the SS forums that this post generated a couple of years ago.

    It really troubles me when a bunch of guys such as *some* of those on the SS forums — proud of being shockingly out of condition — feel they are qualified to advise people on weight loss and body recomposition and “call out” anyone who does things a little differently and succeed, looking for evidence of their “failure”.

    I don’t know if the SS partisans/internet ultras realise the implications of telling a light framed skinny-fat guy to go and get 15-20kg fatter in exchange for a < 5kg muscle gain. I'm talking blood sugar problems, further hormonal issues, etc. Most of those guys don't give a damn about bloodwork or health. Plenty of them will have ceased lifting by 40 years of age through injury.

    Linear progressions take so many forms. The reason why ones like SS are so popular is that they've been created with a view to being inherently "programmable". To me, progression encompasses so many things:

    – more reps
    – more sets (don't go mad and jump from 2 to 10 sets per exercise next session, though!)
    – better *quality* reps by feeling the muscles working more
    – increased TUT per set
    – same weight/reps/sets but shorter resting periods
    – introducing mechanical disadvantage
    – etc…

    Weight on a bar is just one way to go about things and the easiest in the early weeks, even if in a caloric deficit. But it comes to an end and there's no reason to push yourself towards injury or obesity when your goal is to look better shirtless and optimise health + hormones + nutrient uptake/partitioning.

    As for me, I can't be bothered with "programming". If I have a good day I'm going to take advantage of it. If I have a bad day, I'm not going to risk injury by trying to force weight up when my body is already somewhat drained from a bad night's sleep or outside stressors. When you have enough good days under your belt, your capacity on bad days will be enhanced anyway.

    If some permabulker who thinks lightweight behind-the-neck presses will kill me decides that he wants to revoke my man card because I don't trash my elbow tendons with low-bar squats, I'll live with that.

    Groups on the internet, such as the SS forums, have probably left untold amounts of guys disappointed with how they've looked after 3-12 months. Meanwhile, the "bro" who goes to the gym and does curls, bench, shoulders and a few chin-ups and leg presses totally blows the SS "student" out of the water, getting bigger arms, shoulders, pecs and upper back without that much weight gain. Thus trashing the SS mantra of people being unable to induce significant localised hypertrophy, which skinny fat guys benefit from aesthetically.

    Anyway, rant over :D

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Great great comment!

      • Thanks Oskar.

        As you may know I tend to frequent the comments section here quite often as it’s good to see guys improving themselves with manageable weights (injury free) and creating longevity and belief for themselves.

        Also as I allowed myself to fall into the trap of the whole “eat big to get big” dogma, whilst doing a pathetically low volume of lifting such as that found in 3×5 programs, I do feel that others (especially very young guys who don’t know any lifters IRL) will continue to get suckered into GOMAD whilst doing routines that last no longer than 20-25 minutes and just make them hate what they see in the mirror. I know I did. I was fat, injured, still had skinny arms and didn’t lift again for years until more recent times. That was once the last of my tendonosis had cleared up, haha.

        Not to mention, those routines just aren’t fun. They’re billed as “simple” but most of them have some elaborate deload process built in once you plateau that you’d never remember unless you did nothing but read that program day and night.

        I wouldn’t blame the likes of Mark Rippetoe for this trend (he has made numerous clarifications, and has never presented himself as other than a strength coach) but rather the army of dedicated SSers that present the program as the answer to all problems and denigrate anyone doing things differently with endless pejoratives and e-statting.

        They say:

        Wanna get jacked? Do SS. Wanna get aesthetic? Do SS. Wanna bodybuild? Do SS. Wanna become CEO of a Fortune 500 company? Do SS.

        Only on the internet does this madness exist! Only on the internet do people think that squatting and eating a 2000 calorie surplus a day will cut bodyfat, build and sculpt your bicep peak and give you boulder shoulders.

        I’ve never known or met anyone IRL who has looked well built and lean who built themselves up using a low volume, low rep, CNS wrecker of a routine. Plenty have done it with bench presses or inclines, pulldowns/pull-ups, curls, shoulder side raises, rope pushdowns and leg presses though (I would also add that diamond push-ups are awesome tricep builders, and high rep OHPs blow your shoulders out like you’re on trenbolone!).

        So I guess I feel compelled to contribute with further reasons as to why you can do just as well — if not better — from mastering bodyweight and medium weight stuff with a focus on lifting technique and feeling the squeeze of the muscles, the stretch and the burn. Amazing how many forums out there one would get slaughtered on for saying people who want to bodybuild should lift like bodybuilders :)

        Anyway, enjoying the articles here on this site!

    • Danny rongpi says:

      You spoke my mind. The people who do Starting Strength are recognizable immediately ie a big ass, wide hips, small arms and shoulders and minimum 30% bodyfat

      • Danny rongpi says:

        Basically if you ask anything about aesthetics in the starting strength forum, you are immediately told by the coaches to eat 6000 to 10,000 calories and avoid isolation exercises and cardio and only do SS . If you try to argue, you are immediately labeled as a TROLL.

        • Nobody is told to eat that much on the SS program.

          Isolation exercises are not for strength training novices, except for those who need them rehabilitative purposes prior to starting SS.

          Aesthetics is fine, it’s just outside the scope of the SS program. If you want to bodybuild, you should still do a strength training program to start off with to get a jumpstart before moving to a bodybuilding routine. Lots of elite bodybuilders come from a powerlifting background. Lifting heavier weights requires adding muscle mass. If you can lift 300 lbs after 9 months of strength training, you’ll be better prepared for success than the guy who can only lift 150 lbs after 9 months of training. After you’ve gotten strong, then focus on fixing your diet.

          Cardio is not shunned or proscribed by the SS community.
          Cardio is recommended against until you are at least about halfway through the SS program. The reason has to do with recovery time needed from the strenous SS workout. Even Oskar here points out that you don’t need to worry about cardio at first.

          The SS community considers good strength to be more useful to the general population than good cardio (but doesn’t say that good cardio is outright bad). To understand why, consider an elderly person who has fallen out of bed onto the floor. To get themselves up off of they floor, they need strength, not cardio. You need strength more than cardio to help your friend load up their moving van. Strength (and the balance and flexibility that comes with it) in general will help you better avoid common injuries, especially as you get older. And intense strength training gives the heart a good workout, too.

          LISS cardio has a catabolic effect. Too much of it, and it will diminish your strength. If you have the muscle mass to spare, that’s fine. If you don’t, then that can be a problem.

          Muscle mass takes longer to build, but it lasts longer with little or no continuous training.
          Cardio fitness, by comparison, is easier to improve, but also diminishes faster with little to no continuous training.

          Lots of people on the SS forums do and recommend cardio, although they typically prefer HIIT exercises.

          And yes, if you ASK questions but then ARGUE with the answer, you probably are a troll. If you’re certain you had the answer to the question, then you shouldn’t have asked it in the first place.

          • Danny rongpi says:

            I get your point and I have no issue with powerlifting or powerlifters whatsoever. In fact I myself am planning to compete in bench only meets in the near future. But I have to disagree that you don’t need isolation for powerlifters. Ted Arcidi, the first man to bench 700, credits heavy skullcrushers for his benching success. And yes there are some SS members who prescribe absurd amount of calories to novices who weigh less than 200 pounds regardless of what their goals are

            • I think you mis-read what I wrote. I didn’t say isolations aren’t good for powerlifting. I said they aren’t good for strength training novices. For novices, a simple plan focusing just on the major lifts will provide a workout that is both all the body needs and all the body can handle without risking over-training. Once you get past the novice gains, into intermediate and experienced levels where the gains get more difficult, absolutely, you’re going to want to do some isolations.

  11. Hi Oskar,
    I had started your phase 1 last week and I just read this article. Currently i’m doing this 30 days dumbbells challenge with lightweights (max 4kg per dumbbell). I’m wondering if this is considered as a strength routine? I do the push ups and pull ups on the arms, chest, back and shoulders days of the 30 days challenge which are every other day (4 days a week).

  12. Daric Lee says:

    Hi, please answer the boy from Malaysia’s question. I have a simillar issue as to him and would like to know your thoughts on the matter as well

  13. Hi Oskar,what’s your opinion weighted vest?

    • *about ^^

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      It’s great man if you can do weighted pull ups

      • Thanks for the reply mate, I am stuck at 9 wide grip pull ups for some weeks now. So I had an idea about doing weighted negatives do you think its gonna work?and i plan on doing weighted diamond pushups as well ( my max body weight is 17).Should i buy weighted vest ?

        Ty very much man big fan , after I finish phase one, I’m going to buy your 2 phase package.

  14. Hi Oskar, i’m sorry to disturb but I do hope you would reply my question. I’ve been reading alot on about what I should do and I’m honestly lost right now and I need some fitness advice please!
    I’m from Malaysia, I’m a male at 19years old, 180cm tall and weigh in at 64kg. When standing upright, I do see noticable flabs of fat (below my belly button area, my lower ab basically) and my chest instead of having a sunken shaped chest that looks like this ” \_,_/ ” my chest has some fat accumulation so it looks like this ” (_,_) “, a flabby chest so to speak. My nipples are puffy as well, meaning they’re not errect and flattens soft slightly puffy nipples which makes my chest look fatter.
    Question is, for my weight, of 64kg and body composition of a somewhat chubby person, what do I do? My plan originally was to bulk up to 80kg and build decent strength before going on a cut to 70kgs! Because I figured, at 64kg I’d need to go to about 55kg to my fat really go away but that would make me absolutely underweight! Currently I’m doing 5 workouts 4 days a week, eating at maintainence. I do flat and incline bench press, lat pulldowns, barbell squats and deadlifts each workout using 5×5 method.

    My strength went up from
    Flat BP-15kg to 45kg
    Incline BP-15kg to 40kg
    Lat pull downs-18kg to 50kg
    Squats-20kg to 40kg
    Deadlifts-20kg to 50kg

    I dont see much improvement in my overal physique, but I noticed my arms have more definition now, my biceps are much harder when i flex, and there’s slightly clearer seperations between my triceps (meaning my shoulder caps are more obvious). My weight on the other hand, has maintained at 64-64.5kg throught the 1and a half months that i’ve been doing this. Should I carry on with this workout plan? My goal is an aesthetic but somewhat big look (like Randy Orton from WWE) sorry couldnt think of any other examples. Anyway, I dont mind bulking and building strength and gaining weight to 80kgs(because i’m considered near underweight as it is) and then cutting. But after reading the advice you’re recommending for skinny fat people I wanted to make sure, If the advice is for skinny FAT people or if it includes SKINNY(underweight)-FAT people. I really do look forward to your help and advice!


  15. Hi Oskar, I just recently found your site and I have to say great work dude! This post is spot on and I bet its saving A LOT of people adding more fat when using starting strength (something that other forums and the the book fail to tell you!). I have done starting strength before, however, I used it for a cut. The problem was that 5×5 was too much workload whilst eating under calorie maintenance, so I changed it to 3×5 and I got some awesome results and cut down to 10% body fat in a few months. I totally agree with using SS when your in the dreaded ‘skinny fat’ stage. It can spiral out of control quick. Awesome site man, extremely helpful, wish you all the best!

  16. fattyskin says:

    It sounds like most of your objections are about how you looked after doing the program. I tried the program and I’m “skinnyfat”. I got stronger, and I didn’t get fat, which was all I really cared about. And I didn’t develop bulky muscles, bulging abs, or veiny, muscley limbs, which is another benefit. You said in the objections that you don’t really care about how much you’re lifting in the gym, but that translates to how much you can lift on the job, on the trail, or in the woods. The carryover to functional strength isn’t perfect, but once you’ve developed a strength base, it’s possible to move on to do sport specific stuff, survival training, etc, that’s more specialized.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Yes, this article is targeted towards skinny-fat men who train for aesthetics, not to get strong on the barbell bench press, squat and deadlift. I’m happy that the program worked for you and you got what you wanted out of the program.

      • “this article is targeted towards skinny-fat men who train for aesthetics, not to get strong”

        If this were the first sentence of your article, you’d probably have vastly fewer critics in your comments.

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          Thank you for your comments, I’m always open to new perspectives and appreciate you took the time to write them.

          Regarding putting a disclaimer: The website name is skinny-fat transformation, the domain is skinnyfattransformation.com and almost every article including this one uses the word skinny-fat more than 10 times. My articles are clearly for skinny-fat men so no need to put any disclaimers.

          • Sure, but what does “transformation” mean? It could indicate anything.
            A skinny-fat person could transform into just plain skinny or just plain fat.

            Following a low-rep strength-training program, a skinny-fat could transform into skinny-strong, or fat-strong, or just-right-strong, or whatever. The word “transformation” doesn’t indicate only one possible outcome. Hence, all of the replies from folks who wouldn’t have chimed-in had you stated at the outset that your primary goal is appearance and not strength.

  17. Oscar, SS is meant to build strength, it’s not meant to make you look muscular. Nobody has ever claimed doing SS will make you look buff and ripped (or if anyone claimed that, they don’t know what they’re talking about).

    Lifting in the 4-6 rep range is optimal for building strength, whereas if you want to build big muscles you should lift in the 8-12 rep range. That’s why SS has you doing 5 reps.

    But I can tell you this: If you build strength first, you will have a much easier time when you switch to a hypertrophy building routine, than if you had done hypertrophy training right from the start.

    You say SS never made you look good, and it was when you started training a different way that you started to look good. But have you considered that it was precisely because you did SS first that you were able to build a good physique once you started training for hypertrophy? If you had never done SS at all you probably wouldn’t have had anywhere near the success in building a muscular physique, or it would have taken you a lot longer.

    I think everyone who wants to look good should start with SS or SL5x5 or another similar program for at least a few months. He will not look as good as the guy who jumps right into hypertrophy training at first, but eventually when he switches to a hypertrophy routine he will overtake the other guy who never trained for strength.

    • Crap. You don’t need to get strong to take up bodybuilding. Most skinny fat guys need volume to build muscle and burn fat. Strength building programs work very well for mesomorphs and endomorphs with thick joints. Ecto’s and skinny fat guys were not designed to lift heavy.

      • “Strength building programs work very well for mesomorphs and endomorphs with thick joints.”

        This is a myth. “Mesomorph” and other somatypes are terms created by some crank who thought body shape was related to intelligence. It was junk science on the same level as phrenology. Some time later, some bro-scientists took these junk-science descriptive terms, and began treating them as predictive terms, but still without any science behind it.

    • This is the best comment on this page, and what I came here to say.

      First, SS is NOT SSLP. There are two discrete things. People (like this author) conflate the two. A linear progression is just…a linear progression. SSLP happens to be the one that seems to work best for everyone that is a novice and wants to get stronger.

      Second, SSLP is entirely about building strength. It is not about increasing muscle size, or keeping weight down, or increasing flexibility. It is about making you as strong as you can be within your limited novice window. That’s it. The author seems to think he’s found a revelation in that “SS is not about physique”. Well no crap. If he’d actually read the books multiple times, as claimed, he would know this.

      Third, the author should not have run SSLP for a year, unless there was some major, mitigating event that made him have to restart it once or twice. SSLP always tapers out within about 4-6 months. After that, you’re just smashing your head against the ceiling of your novice window. If you find someone – anyone – that says “I did SSLP for a year (or more)”, they didn’t do it correctly.

      Fourth, here is what happened to the author. He did SSLP to some level of correctness. He got stronger. He then decided to lose weight. This weight loss allowed the muscle he had gained to show through. He then continued to pair this with hypertrophy work to increase his size, and figured out lighting and posing.

      In other words, the author did exactly what SS suggests: use SSLP as a tool to get as strong as possible and learn the major compound lifts while they’re light. Then, at the end of SSLP, move on to whatever your personal goals are. If those are sport-specific, do that. If you want to get as strong as possible, move on to TM or something similar. If your goals are aesthetic, do that (like the author did).

      TL;DR: the author seems well-intentioned, but in the end unclear as to how SS and SSLP work.

      • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer says:

        I didn’t follow LP the whole year.

        I changed to the intermediate program Madcow 5×5 after about 5-8 months (can’t recall the exact time-frame) and while that worked much better for my recovery and helped me increase my deadlift max to 400 pounds, it didn’t produce any physique results.

        After 1 year of heavy compound training and bulking from a skinny-fat 200 to a fat 235 lbs, I spent 2 years cutting from 235 lbs to 177 lbs at 6’2′ height. During my cut I used mostly Martin Berkhan’s RPT training to increase my strength further. (I have to say I prefer both RPT and Madcow way over SS and wish I had started these from the get-go).

        I spent 2 years cutting off the body-fat because I wanted to have time to implement bulk 2-3 week bulk cycles in between my cut cycles to maintain as much muscle mass as possible and increase my strength further.

        During my 2 year cut with strategic bulk cycles inbetween I maintained all the lean mass I had gained on SS and even gained muscle mass in some areas.

        But I ended up looking like a skeleton: http://skinnyfattransformation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/skinny-fat-transformation23131.jpg (Look at the middle photo).

        I don’t look like someone who added 225 pounds to their deadlift and 120 pounds to their military press.

        I had no visible muscle mass after 2.5-3 years of heavy compound training and doing nearly everything by the book.

        I know that SS is a strength program, but a lot of guys to this day believe that SL and SS will give them a good body because “high volume training is a waste of time for natural lifters”. They’re just wasting their time training hard without any ROI. Most of them end up injured without any results to show for it.

        The only way LP will work is if you have the right person under the right conditions. Most often a big boned fat guy who is built for the compound lifts and gains strength easily and an underweight skinny guy who needs to put on weight fast.

        This is only a minority of the gym population. The vast majority of guys who start going to the gym are somewhere in between, therefore following an extreme approach like SSLP is not going to work for them.

      • Danny rongpi says:

        SS and SL are highly overrated. Oskar clearly gained more muscle in Upper chest, arms and specially on his shoulders after he switched to high rep isolation work. You will find a lot of imbalance if you strictly only do SS or SL. The founder of stronglifts Mehdi is a complete moron who believes his own bro science. At least Rippetoe knows something about training. But knows nothing about nutrition and bodybuilding.

  18. sydfrey says:

    What about the sarcoplasmic vs myofibrillar hypertrophy debate? wouldn’t high rep ranges build mostly water muscle while medium rep ranges build the muscle fiber themselves??

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey Sydfrey,

      As a natural lifter with average or below average genetics you will most likely never have the issue of getting too big shoulders, upper chest or arms so you want to take any muscle gains you can get in these areas and training with about 8-12 controlled reps per set has been proven over and over again to be the most efficient way to gain muscular size (provided that you have a decent strength foundation).

      To answer your question, both medium and high rep training will build up the muscle fibers as well as long as you’re in a caloric surplus. There’s no way you will gain 20 pounds of lean mass while doing a proper bodybuilding program, without building up your muscle fibers.

      The watery look you see in bodybuilders has more to do with the drugs they’re using (a lot of drugs make you hold water), rather than their training style.

  19. mark jensen says:

    Well this is the problem with doing strictly and sticking to only one program. Everyone’s bodies are different and require a multitude of different programs to get that V look we all want. As a person trainer I do use starting strength on “beginners who come to me asking for help but have no solid foundation to start from. Starting Strength gives a newbie a solid foundation to work from. At the same time I personally make their macro spread for them so they don’t end up getting fat. Any Macro counting program such as http://www.iifym.com/iifym-calculator/ could have prevented you from getting “fat”. How ever after you use the starting strength program to develop that foundation it is very important to branch out and do routines to work for your body. What i am trying to say is starting strength is amazing for new people to the gym that don’t have solid foundation, but as a tool and not lifestyle/defined program

  20. Starting Strength is a novice strength training program. Novice is defined as a trainee who has the ability to increase weight lifted in a linear fashion (i.e. from one workout to the next). One one plateaus and cannot increase weight linearly, one is an intermediate lifter and Starting Strength is not the program for you. It is impossible, therefore, that you were truly on Starting Strength as a novice program for a year. Since you squat 3 times per week, and add 10 lbs for the first few workouts, then 5 then, say 2.5 then 1, after about 8 weeks you would increase about 100 lbs. At 1 lb increase per workout you would gain 3 lbs per week, so after 30 weeks be at about 90 more pounds. So, you must have stopped making gains in SS after about 5-6 months, which is quite normal. Many SS then move on to a bodybuilding workout rather than an Intermediate Powerlifting workout such as TM. There is nothing in your experience that contradicts the notion that heavy barbell training 3 times per week for 3-5 months creates a good base of strength to move on to other strength or athletic endeavors. I completely agree that TM is definitely not for everyone and is more specific to powerlifting athletes. Gaining familiarity with barbell training, however, is, in my opinion, extremely valuable for all athletes of all body types. But once your gains slow to less than 5 pounds a week in the squat or deadlift, it is time to find another program, as even Rip, I think, would agree.

  21. As a counterpoint…

    My skinny 5’11” 24 year old son and I have been on a 5×5 program for six weeks now. In that time, he’s gone from 144 lbs to 152 lbs with no visible fat accumulation. His goal is 180 lbs. I’ve maintained my weight at 175 lbs and my wife contends that I’m losing my belly fat (corroborated with looser fitting pants). My goal is to stay in a range of 165 to 175 lbs.

    We are both still making the prescribed lifting gains and getting stronger. When the gains cease, we plan on graduating to an intermediate program. So far, we are very much in line with a vast majority of other beginner strength enthusiasts. Our only goal is to be lean and stronger, not be the strongest.

    As for your results…

    I don’t see where you state the number of (or worse, the type of) calories you consumed other than you tried different calorie intake levels with different results. You did indicate you took in ~190g of protein. That’s 760 calories. Assuming you ate 4000 calories during “big surplus” and split the remainder, that’s 180g of fat and 405g of carbs!! That’s a lot of sugar to be dumping into your body. If the skinny-fat folks ate in a similar fashion, it’s not hard to imagine why they got fat.

    In the end, you do what works for you. But to make a blanket statement that a beginner strength program is not suitable for a beginner (who stumbles across this article) is dishonest. SS and StrongLifts works for thousands of people.

    “Eat to control your weight, exercise to get fit”

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience. Keep in mind though that this website is dedicated to skinny-fat people who are in a very different situation compared to skinny guys. I did SS with a skinny friend and the program worked well for him (he progressed as he should because he was able to eat a ton of food without gaining a lot of body-fat).

      To put it in perspective, I recommended SS to him when he started lifting and he achieved my 10-12 months of progress in just 3-4 months without gaining too much fat and he was drinking about 0.5-0.7 gallon of milk per day.

      SS is a good program if you’re a skinny guy who wants to gain strength, but it’s not optimal for a skinny-fat man who trains for aesthetics. There’s not a single SS skinny-fat success story out there and there are hundreds of people on this website who did SS and SL with similar results to me, so it can’t possibly be that all of us did the program wrong.

      • I am a skinny fat success story. But i also did my own macros and on the off days I worked out without barbells

  22. If you haven’t done the program properly, you are hardly in a position to criticize it.

    Bench: 30 kg x 5 to 50 kg x 5
    Press: 15 kg x 5 to 30 kg x 5
    Squat: 30 kg x 5 to 70 kg x 5
    Deadlift: 47.5 kg x 5 to 80 kg x 5

    ^^Is pathetic and you couldn’t have been doing anything even remotely close to SS to get those results. Sad thing is there are actually people out there stupid enough to think you know what you’re talking about…

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      I did get those results on the SS program, and my results are not unlike other skinny-fat men who have done the program.

      Here’s a video of one of my clients who got much better results on my free bodyweight program compared to doing a progressive heavy lifting program:


      The guy in the video is just one out of many skinny-fat guys I coached with similar experiences to my own.

      I’m not saying this to convince you that my program is the best out there. There are many better programs than my own.

      I’m saying this because SS isn’t good enough and it’s the most overrated training program out there. It does work for a few people, but these people would have gotten even better results on other programs.

    • Sammie Wilkinson says:

      Believe it or not Oscar’s physical progress is typical of SS.

      Hell even Rippetoe’s poster boy Zach went from a weak fat ass to a strong fat ass, he still looked like shit.

      My biggest regret in training is following this garbage SS program for a year.

  23. Thanks for this article. I began Starting Strength after 4+ years of weight training and competing in powerlifting. After 2 years I started to get fat so I began doing more bodybuilding/hypertrophy movements and bodyweight exercises with great results. I was able to lose about 35lbs in 8 months while increasing my max squat, bench, and deadlift (425 squat, 285 bench, 520 dead at 190lbs). I felt and looked great, and for some reason decided to re-shift my focus to just lifting as heavy as I possibly could, mostly because I was impatient with my bench press. A good friend and trainer then recommended Starting Strength to me, which was the beginning of my demise. I read SS and Practical Programming, “fixed” my squat/bench/deadlift form, and starting doing Rippetoe’s 4 day Texas Method split for intermediates. At first I smoked every lift. In fact, the workouts were incredibly easy (compared to the 5 day workouts I had been doing) and I starting making PRs every week. After about 3 months, though I started having problems with horrible leg and lower back cramps and with excruciating tendonitis in my right elbow (a common problem with the low bar squat, which can be fixed; however, I found it very bizarre that squatting could injure my elbow, a stupid problem I never had when I did high bar squats for years). The advice I received from a SS coach regarding the cramps was to “stop being a pussy” and “eat more.” The result was that I gained 40-45 lbs in 5 months. My totals still went up a little though, so I thought I was generally on the right track. However, after a powerlifting competition around the 5 month mark, my gains plateaued for the next 2 months. I dropped the weight down on my workouts and found that the same weight 4-5 months ago was much, much easier to move. Then it dawned on me: SS actually got me out of the great shape I had been in. I did the math and found that, whereas my max totals had been 6.7x my bodyweight at 190lbs, they were now only 5.2 times my bodyweight at 235lbs. I just figured all this out a week ago, and needless to say, I’m pissed. I’m mad at myself for pissing away all the hard work I had achieved and mad that I put up with constant leg and back pain for 5-6 months just so I wouldn’t be “a pussy” in the eyes of my fat powerlifter friends. After reading your article, I have been doing a strict bodyweight routine out of Josh Bryant’s Jailhouse Strong, the same routine I did a few years ago when I didn’t have access to a gym for a few months (which was much easier to do back then, even though my powerlifting total was about 250-300lbs less back then). I already feel great and think I can get back in shape in 4-5 months since I do have a solid strength foundation. Thanks again for your article. It confirmed my suspicions about SS. I know I am just one guy, but it seems like SS may be good for neither beginners nor intermediate lifters. It seems like there’s a lot of good science backing SS, but if you feel and look like crap when you do it, what the heck is the point?

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      Thanks so much for this comment J.R.

      I will paste your comment into the article so other lifters don’t waste their time and get injured.

      SS is an extremely poor program because it assumes that complete beginners can just start lifting heavy weights 3 times a week and make progress every training session.

      It sounds good in theory, but is completely unrealistic unless you want to eat like a horse while risking getting injured.

      And, for intermediates and advanced lifters there are many many programs out there which are far better than any of Rippetoe’s cookie cutter programs.

    • 1. SS is for novices. If you had been training for 4 years and competing in powerlifting, you are not a novice, and the program won’t work well for you.
      2. You’re not even supposed to be doing starting strength for 2 years. It’s for 6 to 9 months max.
      3. No doubt you, an experienced lifter, noticed significant gains when you increased the volume of your lifts. That’s standard advice for experienced lifters.
      4. Your opinion is that SS is not good for beginners, because you had problems with it, even though you weren’t even close to being a beginner when you did it. Why would you think that makes any sense?

  24. So you gave Starting Strength a half-effort that dragged on for a year, getting your squat up to only 245 and not really seeing the muscle mass it can build, as evidenced by your nearly identical before and after photos. Then you pumped up with bodybuilder-style high rep low weight exercises. That’s totally okay but what’s the problem with a skinnyfat guy doing SS for 3-5 months to redistribute his mass into more of a masculine shape, and then doing alternating bulk/cuts and strength/hypertrophy routines? The past is the past, but realize that would be much more efficient than this 2-3 year process you put yourself through.

    I was the epitome of skinnyfat (all the men in my family have small arms and legs and huge guts) and after two years of SS / Texas Method I’m on a slight (2900 calorie!) cut under a diet coach and fat is coming off almost too fast. Really I’m realizing now that you don’t ever have to get chubby on Starting Strength if you are willing to track intake and maintain a caloric and macronutrient intake enough to build strength and mass but not so much that you grow your fat stores. Getting fat to get stronger just makes things easier. Nobody said it’s efficient or necessary.

    Honestly I’m sure your program, whatever it is, gets results, but I know a lot of guys who are attempting what you succeeded at and they’re just failing miserably, they’re still just small and underweight and look like your original photo. If you think a complicated bodyweight routine is easier and more efficient for a brand new beginner than the five main lifts and a proper diet…

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      So you would have a guy who can’t do 10 push ups and 5 pull ups with a complete lack of basic mobility do heavy squats, benches and deadlifts?

      Also, there’s no complexity to my BW routine. It has less exercises than SS, is faster to complete and is much easier to recover from.

      • “heavy squats”.
        You never start heavy. The progress comes from 60% of your RM5. If it’s empty barbell so it is. After 2-3 months it gets very heavy, but also the technique should be much improved.
        SS is not an hypertrophy program, it is a program that focus on strength and the ability to teach beginners the basic most best exercises for your body. After you complete SS (which should take no longer than a year for most people), you can move for hypertrophy and other routines. That’s the idea you failed to understand.

        Of course that someone who is looking for a great shape and body, can skip starting strength and advance (slower) with hypertrophy programs and such, and probably he will more muscle, tho he will be weaker compared to strength programs..

        • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

          I clearly mentioned I started at very low weights, but the weight did get heavy for me already 1 month into the program.

          Regarding SS and hypertrophy: You don’t need to do heavy barbell training for 1 year before moving on to hypertrophy routines. You can build a sufficient strength base for hypertrophy training and add muscle mass in the right places with basic bodyweight exercises in just 3-6 months. I do this all the time with my clients, one of which you can see in the video below:


          Keep in mind, most beginners and people reading this website don’t care about their squat and deadlift max. They just want to get lean and muscular, even if that means they aren’t able to lift a certain amount of weight.

  25. It appears to me you should be praising SS. You did give some positive feedback towards SS but not as much as I feel is needed.

    Judging by your numbers and pictures It appears SS did indeed provide you with great gains and a great foundation.

    SS is wonderful for newbies like yourself starting out because of the rapid neural adaptation which feeds your muscle gain later down the road. You would not be able to make such gains as a extreme newbie such as yourself when you started as quickly as you did simply doing BW exercises. Consider how long it would have taken you at your start time to get a significant amount of workload on BW exercises. Skinny fat people cant do dips, or pull ups.

    Also you state you can still lift the same weight you once did using SS. Which in turn says you have not made any progress in 2 years and have merely been maintaining your progression made by doing BW exercises.

    The only big difference I see here is body fat levels.

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      SS did provide med with a solid foundation but I could have built that with any program out there.

      I use BW training and BB training for all my clients who are skinny-fat and all of them make way faster progress than I did starting out with SS.

      Also, it’s not true that I’ve only maintained my muscle mass after SS. After my slow 18 month SS cut where I did a lot of bulking cycles in between, I ended up at 177 lbs. I’m now close to 210 lbs. My arms are several inches bigger, my shoulders are like 5 inches bigger and I have way more muscle mass than I ever carried from strength training.

      The conclusion is that if you want to gain muscle mass as fast as possible, 8-12 reps work much better for most people, than 5 reps. There are some exceptions, but you can find that with everything in life. Also, the people who do make good muscle gains with 5 reps would most likely gain even more with 8-12.

      • You could have built a solid foundation another way but simply not as fast or effectively as you can with a SS type program. If any program will get you the same results as SS then I will write you a program or find one out of the newest muscle magazine and what do you honestly think will happen?

        It is not a fair comparison to use your body now after on addition 2 years of training to you’re body with 2 years less training. Who is to say you would not be bigger and we know for almost a fact you would be stronger now if you would have stuck with a SS type workout. You you’re self admit to not making any strength gains since switching to body weight exercise

        However another point to make, SS is a STARTING STRENGTH program you should not be on that program for 4 years. It is strictly for beginners and has been proven to make the most success training that style with newbies then any other way just as you have proven with you’re own success however choice to invalidate that for you’re own benefit.

        A flaw I see in your training ideas is you say that best progress is with 8-12 reps. What skinny fat newbie and do 8-12 reps of any body weight exercise? It would take a newbie months of training to achieve 8-12 reps pull ups for any significant amount of volume.

        The main idea behind the SS type workouts is neurological. That is the large increase you see from newbies and you simply can not produce that amount of neural adaption doing a handful of pull ups or dips. The volume just isn’t there. That adaptation is exactly what drove you to further gains down the road. Using a tool like SS will get you closes to your full neurological potential far faster than newbies doing a handful of 2 to 3 pull ups a few times a week.

        I find it offensive you discredit a SS type program that has clearly served you well and laid down the foundation for further success, give credit were it is due.

        Anyways good luck to you. I think you should incorporate all newbies on a SS type program for at least 12 weeks and periodically work solely on strength. As we know not one program is the best and you must continue to adapt your training style.

        Make your money selling this program but do not do it discrediting another. If you’re program was really that good allow that to show in the results.

        • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

          You’re right, SS is a good program to gain strength, but strength and muscle size are two different things. You don’t need a strong deadlift, squat and bench press to build a lean and muscular body. Most people reading my blog don’t care about whether they can deadlift 60 KG or 150 KG. They just want some basic strength on bodyweight exercises, shred fat and gain a bit of muscle to get a V-taper. SS is not good for that goal. If it was, SS would produce good skinny-fat transformations, but it never has and never will.

  26. Why does everyone complain about SS not doing anything for aesthetics?

    That makes about as much sense as yelling about at a minivan or a pickup not being a good at off-road racing: neither makes that claim!

    It’s called Starting STRENGTH and not Starting Skinnyabs for a reason.

  27. Your gains are minimal, maybe you werent pushing hard enough..

    Ive been on the program 4 weeks (and for the past few years havent been doing anything)… I was 160 lbs and gained 5 lbs in the last 5 weeks, so yea, im only 165 lbs now and 6 feet tall…. my squats..just today did 3 sets of 5 reps of 220 lbs, my last bench press was 165 lbs 3 sets of 5… and todays was deadlift 245 lbs 1 set of 5…. my deadlift is lacking, but at a month in and my squats are almost what you were at after a year? really?

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      Great job Mike.

      Obviously, I did push myself hard, otherwise I wouldn’t have the physique I have today.

      Were you skinny-fat before starting SS? This site is targeted at skinny-fat men.

      • Rozay West says:

        You are treating skinny fat men as if they are another species.
        Skinny fat is simply a look. It means you have no muscle with a layer of fat.
        It does not mean they have an issue with hormones; I am skinny fat and my hormones are fine. There are skinny guys with bad hormones and skinny fat guys with good hormones (me).
        It does not mean they have to follow a specialized program like body weight training.

        The only thing skinny fat guys have to do differently is their DIET. They must count their calories carefully since they get fat easily. They have issues with insulin. They should also do a little bit of cardio to reduce fat intake.

        However when it comes to to weight lifting programs, they are just like any other guy.
        Starting strength didn’t make you fat. that makes no sense, a weightlifting program cannot make you fat. You simply ate too many calories.
        If you say SS didn’t work for you, it’s because:
        – You ate way too much
        – You used improper form/You have poor mobility
        – You didn’t recover properly (sleep and other things)
        – You have VERY low testosterone (which is fixed with diet, lifestyle, and reducing stress, fixing other health problems. However there are guys with low testosterone that can still build some muscle. Look at women who lift, for example…Women have low testosterone levels, obviously, yet they can still build impressive physiques and become lean.)
        These are not exclusive “skinny fat” problems and are problems anyone can experience.
        And simply adapting a body weight routine will not fix these problems. If you have poor mobility, do you think you can do a pullup with perfect form? No way. At least with barbell exercises, you can start out with a light weight to learn proper technique.

        Beginners MUST get strong to make gains. Have you ever seen a skinny fat person who could bench 225, squat 315 and deadlift 405? Have you ever seen a very muscular guy who could only bench 135 lbs? No. Strength and size go hand in hand. It is physiologically impossible to gain strength without gaining size.
        Guys who benefit from doing high reps/volume have good genetics or are on drugs.
        A beginner with average genetics MUST get strong to build his first 20 lbs of muscle. You don’t need to get crazy strong, but you need a BASE foundation of strength (225 bench, for example).

        I think it is a good marketing strategy to label skinny fat as a “syndrome” that needs a special “prescription” as the solution.
        In reality, “skinny fat” guys just need to make sure they don’t eat too many calories, eat clean foods and lift with proper form. Calisthenics is great (although I don’t know why you are so biased to them), but do not discredit strength programs. If SS didn’t work for you, don’t blame the program, blame yourself and the mistakes you made.

        • By your own admission, you’re still skinny fat though. If you perhaps had a long training period under your belt, you’d know that Starting Strength and these other 3×5 or 5×5 programs aren’t remotely optimal for muscle building. It’s just marketing, which is what you’re being critical of Oskar Faarkrog for. They can both market to their heart’s content, but my primary interest in training has always been what is optimal.

          Programs like SS are better for guys who already have some muscle (i.e. college/high school American Football players) to get them back up to their old strength standards. That’s what the linear workout-to-workout progression was originally used for. Those people were already muscular and needed a program to make their muscles efficient for power in sports and to avoid muscle loss eventually.

          Now SS can be used for lifelong sedentary guys to peak the efficiency of their existing muscle mass whilst adding a few pounds of (primarily lower body) muscle by virtue of going from zero training volume to a bit of training volume. Upper body volume on SS is laughable, hence the T-Rex and Quadzilla memes online.

          Whilst I totally agree with you that strength and muscle size usually correlate, nobody ever did get jacked entirely off a 3×5 unless they were using additional PEDs (contrary to your point about higher reps/volume being for drug-users). Muscle is made by training the muscles, causing breakdown and supercompensation, rather than only pushing the CNS to maximise on what it already has available.

          Starting Strength is laughed at primarily because it’s a strength peaking program designed to make your body very efficient at moving heavy weight for low volume, but it gets marketed as a mass builder.

          If a new lifter has never done anything, they can build a bit of muscle on it, but in all likelihood they’re going to need way more submaximal volume to build up size, which equates to better strength numbers when you train with heavier weight. You’d just throw a few heavy sets into the mix to keep your low-rep strength up to avoid plateaus. That’s what a lot of bodybuilders (enhanced and natty) do.

          So my view is that SS is putting the cart before the horse in many respects, because it’s marketed at the exact opposite demographic to who it’s appropriate for. Same with a lot of the other popular 3×5 and 5×5 routines.

          Volume builds muscle, then you plateau, then you do a period of strength training to make those muscles efficient, then you go back to volume with slightly more weight on the bar. It was ever thus. Mark Rippetoe is guilty of mis-marketing yet you’re letting him off the hook, even promoting this program that was never actually originally designed for the people it is now being marketed to!

          • Rozay West says:

            I was not recommending mark rippetoes starting strength program in particular, rather I was speaking about strength programs in general. I would personally never do SS as there are better programs out there, however the idea is they all focus on gaining strength with mostly compound movements, and low-medium rep range with heavy weight.

            As for your argument about SS being designed for former athletes, you are probably right however again there are other strength programs out there, some designed for people who have never stepped in a gym. Check out Alpha Destiny Novice Program (free) or jonnie canditos 6 week beginner program (free as well). I would recommend these programs to any beginner.

            The idea that body weight workouts are a magical cure to skinny fat is simply a clever marketing ploy.
            A skinny fat guy will benefit from many programs, not just BW.
            BW workouts require good form and mobility just like traditional strength workouts. ANY sort of resistance training will require mobility and proper technique.
            While it is good that Oskars BW routine is 3 days full body allowing for optimal recovery, there are some traditional strength programs that are also full body 3 days a week. These are better than BW routines because by doing all of the major compound movements you will target more muscles. Do you really think doing only pushups and pullups will develop all of the muscle fibers in your upper body? The arms WILL be lacking.

            Oskars fitness philosophy is good, and it works. However , to say it is the ONLY way to overcome skinny fat is false, and a marketing tactic.
            Skinnyfat men will benefit from lifting some damn weight and getting stronger, whether that is from doing a bodyweight program or a strength program.

            • Oskar Faarkrog says:

              I have never said bodyweight is the only way. Most of my clients do both bodyweight training and weight training.

              I do however believe that bodyweight is the easiest way to get those who don’t have a trainer to get started because it’s simple and works for both gaining strength and muscle mass, while keeping injury risk very low. You can’t say that about heavy barbell training which requires a lot of work on technique, mobility and a muscle foundation.

              You can see this in practice in ANY gym. It’s so rare to see guys in the gym who can do proper squats, deadlifts and overhead presses — most of them are just waiting for an injury to happen.

            • Actually I should have mentioned the whole mobility thing. I think it does tend to carry over to barbell training pretty well. It’s good to see some posts from the other side of the “belief system” when it comes to lifting though.

              I looked back at my previous post and it came out as more ratty (not intentional – sorry!) than intended, so I’ll try to articulate my concerns better.

              I find myself pretty fervently against the messages that SS and associated communities send out, largely because:

              – the aggressive progression on SS (and similar programs) sees the weight go up too quickly without a coach there to call time on a set or an attempt. Formerly inactive people who don’t know their own bodies (or underlying injury potential) can be less adept at knowing that an extra 5-10lbs would be all it took to pop something in their knee or something.

              – “eat ur way thru sticking points”. Pretty common. I never did SS but when pointed to those forums in another online discussion, this was often the answer — telling some guy at 25% bodyfat to get fatter when he could only bench 150lbs or something like that. Pretty nuts when he was after a muscular-looking body with some decent strength numbers to complement it.

              – A culture of limited or no “accessory” training, like curls, pushdowns, dips, chins, side raises for shoulders, band pull-aparts, etc. I always considered them go-to exercises for improving rows and presses, but the SS community has demonised them for years.

              I echo Oskar’s criticisms of 90% of that community and super-abbreviated training in general. for all but those with at least a solid 6 months or so of lifting at moderate intensities under their belts or an existing athletic base.

              Your suggestions like Candito’s would be a solid upgrade for someone who really wanted to improve their mass efficiency, because it’s only 6 weeks (I believe) which is pretty realistic. I also think Candito himself has a better attitude towards nutrition and an awareness of aesthetic goals that a lot of SS-guys really couldn’t (and shouldn’t) advise on.

          • Oskar Faarkrog says:

            Thank you for your comment James. I couldn’t have said it better.

        • By your own admission, you’re still skinny fat though. If you perhaps had a longer training period under your belt, you’d know that Starting Strength and these other 3×5 or 5×5 programs aren’t remotely optimal for muscle building. It’s just marketing, which is what you’re being critical of Oskar Faarkrog for. They can both market to their heart’s content, but my primary interest in training, and online discussions about training, has always been what is more optimal.

          Programs like SS are better for guys who already have some muscle (i.e. college/high school American Football players) to get them back up to their old strength standards. That’s what the linear workout-to-workout progression was originally used for. Those people were already muscular and needed a program to make their muscles efficient for power in sports and to avoid muscle loss eventually.

          Now SS can be used for lifelong sedentary guys to peak the efficiency of their existing muscle mass whilst adding a few pounds of (primarily lower body) muscle by virtue of going from zero training volume to a bit of training volume. Upper body volume on SS is laughable, hence the T-Rex and Quadzilla memes online.

          Whilst I totally agree with you that strength and muscle size usually correlate, nobody ever did get jacked entirely off a 3×5 unless they were using additional PEDs (contrary to your point about higher reps/volume being for drug-users). Muscle is made by training the muscles, causing breakdown and supercompensation, rather than only pushing the CNS to maximise on what it already has available without enough of a reason to build new muscle.

          Starting Strength is laughed at primarily because it’s a strength peaking program designed to make your body very efficient at moving heavy weight for low volume, but it gets marketed as a mass builder.

          If a new lifter has never done anything, they can build a bit of muscle on it, but in all likelihood they’re going to need way more submaximal volume to build up size, which equates to better strength numbers when you train with heavier weight. You’d just throw a few heavy sets into the mix to keep your low-rep strength up to avoid plateaus. That’s what a lot of bodybuilders (enhanced and natty) do.

          So my view is that SS is putting the cart before the horse in many respects for many people, because it’s marketed at the exact opposite demographic to who it’s appropriate for. Same with a lot of the other popular 3×5 and 5×5 routines.

          Volume builds muscle, then you plateau, then you do a period of strength training to make those muscles efficient, then you go back to volume with slightly more weight on the bar. It was ever thus. Mark Rippetoe is guilty of mis-marketing yet you’re letting him off the hook, even promoting this program that was never actually originally designed for the people it is now being marketed to!

          • Sorry – please delete duplicate posting! :)

          • “Programs like SS are better for guys who already have some muscle (i.e. college/high school American Football players) to get them back up to their old strength standards.”

            And how did they get that strength in the first place? With SS and similar programs.

            “nobody ever did get jacked entirely off a 3×5”

            And nobody ever got more athletic off of a slow-movement bodybuilding program. Doing a bodybuilding routine for looks without caring about strength is like a woman getting breast implants – you want to have the appearance of function, without actually being concerned over having that function. Might as well just get liposuction and inject yourself with synthol, and save yourself a bunch of time.

            “Volume builds muscle, then you plateau, then you do a period of strength training to make those muscles efficient…”

            That’s not how it works biologically. With high volume, you’re building a lot of slow twitch muscle cells. When you switch to high weight, you’re building new fast twitch muscle cells. And it’s the slow-twitch muscle that is more efficient, not the fast-twitch muscle. Older marathon runners have fairly little fast-twitch muscle, but their muscles are very efficient.
            But when it comes to the performances most people associate with athleticism, it’s the fast twitch muscles that do the work. They think of someone throwing or kicking a ball fast and far, of someone jumping very high to dunk a basketball, of a boxer landing a crushing combination of punches his opponent could hardly see coming, of the sprinter bursting off the starting line, of the gymnast executing a dizzying twisting jump. It’s the muscle built by high-intensity, low-rep activities that build explosiveness and speed. Bodybuilding exercises can make you look capable of that sort of athleticism, but that’s all it will do.

  28. .

  29. I’m recently doing a very common workout given to me by my programmer at my gym which is working back+biceps on day 1, chest+shoulder+triceps on day 2 and legs+abs on day 3. Cardio (HIT) on the following day. And I am skinny fat. Have about 22% body fat though i dont look very fat. Have some of that waist fat,etc. I read a lot out there to do compound weightlifting though eat less so as to not increase fat. Right now I am eating less, having a low carb diet and following the above workout. I do these session with high intensity( lesser gaps between sets) as I read on bodybuilding.com so as to lose fat and not muscle.
    Is that going to help me? I feel leaner though its too early to say right now. Also, how different is calisthenics from low weight high rep training? I mean once I get to those 15 pushups/pullups, do I just increase reps? Can u clarify that? Quite sure low weight high rep training is not effective. Also can you comment on my current workout program. ✌

    • I have the same question. How is low weight high rep training effective to get lean? I mean even women are recommended nowadays to lift proper weights as their muscle growth will be dependent on how much they eat and not on how much weight they lift.

  30. Very contradictive to what is true. Quite a lot of experts are providing information that is true and explaining how it is true with proper scientific reasons. You are the only person who recommends not to do starting strength and also suggests overtraining, in other articles. Please research more. It seems much of your information is about what you think happens to our body and what you have experienced with your own. Your articles are not something which share information to the depth and many a times people want to hear the WHY behind things. Along with sharing people’s experiences following your advice, start focusing on why we should follow your advice and how it is true. You may make some changes in your articles then..
    You have experienced changes, others may not.

    About this very article, starting strength training doesn’t make you fat. And if you wanted to get rid of fat and then build muscle after, you could do a moderate calorie deficit, HIIT cardio,have plenty of proteins, and lift heavy weights.
    It is quite obvious that as a beginner yoy dont lift extremely heavy weight. After your muscles are loosened you start increasing weight after about 2 weeks.

    Also, in a skinny fat transformation process, if you are doing high volume low rep compound exercises, you WILL add pounds to your body weight and that is because your muscle is dense and it will increase body weight, though fat loss is less.
    Keeping calories in control, HIIT and weightlifting will make you lose fat and not muscle.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Experts and science. Lol. I’m still waiting on all these amazing SS skinny fat Transformations

      • Sammie Wilkinson says:

        You’ll be waiting a while because there’s no such thing, they all literally go from being skinny fat to full blown fat with slightly more muscular legs and zero upper body haha.

      • Lol? Okay.
        I just want to say that I couldn’t find anyone else out there who suggests not to do compound weightlifting for skinny fat guys. And doesn’t getting fat depend on your calorie intake? I agree with you that bodyweight exercises can get you lean and make your muscle flexible, lay a good foundation, but what about strength training alternated with HIIT cardio sessions? Are you saying that yours is the only solution to skinny fat?
        Bodybuilding.com, Michael Matthew’s muscle for life, even my own personal trainer suggests doing strength training with HIIT cardio, keeping a not-so-aggressive calorie deficit.
        Please read Michael Matthews 3 step skinny fat solution as he has explained this quite well there.
        I am keeping an open mind. You tell me.
        Also, there is Gain muscle and lose fat at the same time forum on bodybuilding.com.
        Though I am not sure about that coz l believe thats not possible. Its either gain muscle or either lose fat. Well I dont know about that. Is that just simply wrong?

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:


          I understand your arguments. I would have made the same ones 2.5 years ago.

          However, take a look at Michael Matthews. Has he ever been a truly skinny-fat guy?

          Has he ever been so weak he couldn’t shoulder press an empty barbell at 200lbs. bodyweight?

          (This is not to disgregard Michael Matthews’ advice, he has a fantastic blog).

          Regarding compound movements: Push ups and pull ups are compound exercises. They train several muscle groups. Push ups train the chest, front shoulder and triceps. Pull ups train the back, rear shoulder and biceps. Both exercises use abs for stabilization.

          From all the people I’ve met in my 5.5 years of training, the guys who do calisthenics have the most aesthetic bodies. Just look up Barstarzz, Bar Brothers or any other calisthenics group. Pretty much all guys who are part of these groups have great bodies. I know, because I’m part of a calisthenics group in Copenhagen myself, and pretty much all the guys there are ripped.

          With that said, I suggest you try both approaches like I did, and then you can make your own argument based on experience.

          • I am sure about calisthenics. They are great. A couson of mine told me he achieved ripped muscles with only calisthenics. I apologize for my first comment bcz i was kinda bewildered when I came across something contradictive to what I have been hearing about. You have done online research too when you started and Im sure you understand how it sucks when you are following a particular program and someone tells you its not to do it. Its kinda difficult whom to trust and what to follow. Hope you understand.

            • Oskar Faarkrog says:

              I understand completely. That’s why I don’t get mad on people who don’t like my advice. I was the same way 2-3 years ago, so I can’t blame others for being like that.

              When it comes to trusting someone, always see their credentials, their own transformation and the kind of success stories they have produced. Mark Rippetoe (the creator of SS) has credentials to get someone strong, but do you really want to look like him or some of his success stories (guys who basically got fat like I did)? He’s no body transformation coach. He’s a strength coach.

    • I would define myself as a beginner in the field of training but for what I have read and watched the last 15 months, I see Starting Strength as very suitable for powerlifting, wheightlifting-sport purpose. That could be the reason while the strongest power-lifters, wheight-lifters are huge guys, with good amount of bodyfat and can lift crazy heavy weights. But definitely they are not aesthetic. Its simple logic that skinny-fat guys should not start with a program such as SS, but they could go for such training program later, as they are in a better body composition – where gaining fat along with muscles would be acceptable for the duration of the program.

      • Oskar Faarkrog says:

        This is a great comment. I could see myself doing strength routines later on in my training, since I’m happy with my body now. I also think the added muscle and flexibility I have now will make it much easier to progress and stay injury free.

        • ..so you built strength and mass with the barbell and then switched to bodyweight as you leaned out!
          That’s just one way among many to get strong and ripped. It doesn’t mean that one mode is superior to the other. Every exercise serves a purpose depending on the training goal!
          The problem with most fitness advice is that everyone is trying to sell something. Starting strength makes exaggerated claims for gains which is why many newbies on the program overeat compared to their goals.
          On this site there’s the idea that “skinny fats” are some kind of special case. But pretty much everyone who starts training wants to gain muscle and loss fat, whilst contending with a poor hormonal environment due to typical Western lifestyle factors.
          There’s really no secrets getting ripped. Hard work on basic strength exercises (weights and/or bodyweight) coupled with adequate nutrition, recovery and conditioning.
          The only “problem” is that people’s results don’t match their unrealistic expectations caused by the hype of whichever program/guru they’ve fallen for. Anyone can get ripped but its hard and takes a long time for most folks. Except drugs, there’s no magic method to fast and easy gainz.

          • Oskar Faarkrog says:

            Andy, I agree with everything except for “building mass with barbells”. After cutting down from SS, I looked like a skeleton at 6’2″ and skeleton. I could deadlift 400lbs but I barely had any mass and looked starved.

            Skinny-fats are a special case. If they weren’t, people wouldn’t be reading to this site. Almost all advice caters to regular fat guys and skinny guys. There isn’t much advice for the people with horrible genetics.

            Most guys reading this site can barely do a push up or shoulder press an empty bar, and many of those who can do a bit more have been training for years with almost nothing to show for it.

            As for expectations, what you just wrote has been one of the core messages of my website. It will also be one of the core messages in my upcoming free ebook which is coming out this Sunday.

  31. The Guy That Exposed You says:

    This is the only site that recommends not to do starting strength. You don’t let the comments that contain truth through, as you won’t with this one.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Read the comments before you comment.

      I accept all comments except those that are abusive

    • Pierre-Marc says:

      ”This is the only site that recommends not to do starting strength.” No it’s not. A lot of them do the same, like Chaos and Pain and B&D. Starting Strength is shit. Such a low volume is for people afraid of overtraining and not afraid to get fat.

  32. Why do all workout websites have to be so cultish about other forms of excersize? It is defiantly possible to gain muscle doing a 5×5. It’s obvious by your results that you did not have a tight enough control of your variables to gain the physique that you desired. Starting strength is just what it sounds like, a strength building routine (that does build muscle too). The fat you gained had nothing to do with how you were training and everything to do with the crap you were putting in your body to recover. That’s not a problem with the routine, that’s a problem with your diet. I’ve done a 30 lb body recomposition on a 5×5 and had no problems with injuries if you deload when needed. Calithenics are an excellent form of excersize but the explinations for your points in this article were inaccurate and smell of product salesmanship.

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      So, you’re speaking of my website as a cult and accuse me of bashing SS to make money, and then you go on to defend SS.

      Now here are the facts:

      I have thousands of visitors each day on my website, yet I don’t sell anything on it. SS sells seminars and books.

      I have a much smaller following than SS and I don’t have decades of experience in fitness, yet my readers get better results with my free programs than with SS.

      I believe that SS is a decent program for strength, but not for aesthetics. Besides that, I’m open to new approaches and recommend DIFFERENT training routines and diets to people depending on their goals and genetics. In contrast, SS is a “cookie cutter” program that assumes everyone is the same and that everybody will progress linearly like a machine in the gym.

      Now, tell me who has a “cult” and who’s great at “salesmanship”. It seems like YOU’VE been sold to.

      Finally, your comment is extremely biased since you don’t know whether you could have gotten the same or BETTER body recomp results on another program such as GreySkull LP (a much better strength program in my opinion). And remember, just because something worked for you, doesn’t mean it will work for most people. I work with people who want to transform on a daily basis for over 2 years now, so I have a pretty good idea of what types of programs worked for them, and which did not.

      • You are building audience. I know how website businesses work.

        “Better results” is subjective

        I haven’t been sold to anything because I routinely give different programs a try and track all that needs to be tracked so that I understand what my body is doing.

        My problem with your delivery is not your approach to fitness. It is the points in which you focus your attention on.

        You brought up valid points on hormones and nutrition but then shifted the article off of the factors that actually effect those things and instead twisted it to blame the excersize routine.

        You also brush off any strength gains achieved by a strength program and try and compare apples to oranges by showing hypertrophy gains from the body weight workout.

        You can get all defensive if you’d like. It is your website. I’m just trying to point out how illogical your presentation is. That’s why I mentioned the unfortunate cult following for most programs like these, starting strength included.

        Why not spend your influence actually educating people on the real factors in body manipulation instead of using their lack of knowlege as means to gain more traffic.

        That’s just my input as a veteran fitness enthusiasts. Im not interested in butting heads and playing who has the bigger ego.
        Feel free to delete my comments but it is a shame if you choose to go down that road because you do offer value on your website. You could just use a little adjustment in your delivery, that’s all

  33. What a crock. You are no fatter in picture 2 than you are in picture 1. You simple had no muscle so your body was able to hide the fat easier. A woman who is 16% bodyfat looks leaner than a man who is 11%. Why? Because they have less muscle. Have you ever even seen an elite bodybuilder in the off season. They look really fat even though they are probably only around 10%.

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      I will keep that in mind, you’re probably correct. Thanks for your comment.

  34. Abdulrahman says:

    How about lifting weights with little cardio and bodyweights for a skinny fat guy, with limiting intake of fats and carbs, will this cut some fat ?

  35. ThomasP says:

    Hey Oskar, I really appreciate your blog and all the work you do.

    I was thinking about doing Starting Strength on a maintenance diet, but now I’m not so sure.

    Is there any way I can send you a picture of what my body looks like now so you can help determine if I am in-fact skinny-fat? Because if I am, I will definitely head your advice and start doing body-weight training to get lean first.

    Have a nice day. Thanks anyway if you don’t see or reply to this comment!

  36. TheOneFromTheFuture says:

    Dude, I had the same problem with starting strength. I have also the shitty fat distribution you talked about. I went from a small skinny fat to a fat skinny fat on the program and wasn’t able to keep adding weight like it was programmed. I think a skinny fat person should first try to cut the fat to very lean body and then do strength training. I would recommend 5/3/1 program for gaining strength as it is set up to progress slowly you can lean bulk. You won’t have to eat your face out and get fat. I will have to check out the body weight training you recommended.

  37. I think you just forgot to cut; bodybuilders generally bulk up and then cut in order to reveal the muscle underneath. You simply bulked and forgot to cut. Also, your goals were more aesthetically oriented. Some of us care more about strength than aesthetics. I am a female and yes, even I would rather be strong and deadlift 2.5 x my bw and not be lean. Starting Strength is not a bb program; it is a STRENGTH program. It’s perfect for those who want to pursue powerlifting. Also many beginners can still build strength while eating in a slight caloric surplus and even at maintenance. As for females not caring about how much you deadlift; it’s the first thing I notice in the gym and yes I do judge guys who do not deadlift/squat properly and wear gloves while doing curls. I only respect those who train for strength; not aesthetics.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      You’re an exception then. Very few girls care about how much you lift.

      And yes, I train for aesthetics and to be healthy. Don’t need heavy compound lifts for that.

    • ”yes I do judge guys who do not deadlift/squat properly and wear gloves while doing curls. I only respect those who train for strength; not aesthetics.”

      and nobody gives a fuck what you think, especially if you’re a fat bitch that doesn’t want to look good.

  38. Hey oskar,

    I have never read starting strength by mark rippetoe but i will give it a look because it seems like a good book for acquiring some more knowledge.

    I think that the problem with “starting’s stregnth” program was that it tells you to train ONLY in really low reps. That’s why you had a huge progress in your strength gains but no noticable difference in your aesthetics. The orher reasons they have told you was just stupid arguments.

    I think that if you had combined with starting strength some higher rep training (7-12), training with low rest periods and dropsets you would have triggered 1) myofribrillar hypertrophy so you would look bigger and 2) sarcoplasmic hypertrophy which would have resulted in more fluid in your muscles= look even bigger.


    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Damian, I did assistance exercises too with higher reps at the end of the workout, but by the time I did those I was exhausted from the heavy lifting.

      The book is the best out there for learning proper technique on the lifts so definitely get it if you wanna master the basic compound lifts :)

  39. Thank goodness for your website and the aim to spread some sanity.

  40. Mayukh Sen says:

    Hello Oskaar,I love your website and absolutely love reading your articles,I am actually kinda addicted to this website,anything that deals with calisthenics is downright alluring to me.However,Starting strength has worked amazingly well for me,I would do 3 sets till failure of diamond push ups(eventually straight bar dips),ring pull ups and one set of feet elevated push ups amrap within 60 seconds.I actually gained 50 lbs of fat free mass within a year and a half with this approach,majority of which was definitely upperbody mass.Actually I did 5/4 rather than 5/3,while keeping the squats 5/3.but still its nothing major of a tweak,your advice on eating is ingeniously accurate and effective though.Infact I made these gains on a vegetarian diet of eggs,milk(peanut butter choco milk smoothies),peanut butter and bread and lots of white rice with veggies and pulses,typical Indian foods.By the way,I love this website because of such non bullshit honest convenient and effective advices you give.Also,I wanted to share these amazing vids http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHvMDlQ8Zyk,www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Qwqqyj4jkk,tell me what do you think of them,and I actually want you to make articles on advanced calisthenics variations in future.

    • Mayukh Sen says:

      I meant I would do calisthenics sets in the end of my starting strength lifting sessions.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thank you, and congrats with your progress. I have already made articles on handstand push ups and muscle ups. Unfortunately I can’t perform anything more advanced than that.

  41. Hi Oskar,
    I am a regular reader of your articles as well as a skinny-fat beginner. I have started one month ago weight training. Basically I am doing the machine alternative of the compound movement of Starting Strength training + Lat Pulldown , 3 times a week. Rep range target for 3 sets is 8-10.

    Currently its like:
    1. Seated Leg Press / Machine vertical chest press / Cable rows
    2. Romanian Deadlifts / Lat-pulldodwn / Machine overhead press
    (First, will introduce the Deadlifts instead of RD soon)

    So here is my question – have you been barbell-training in this rep range (8-10) when you were a beginner and do you think it could be more beneficial in terms of gains then strictly following the Starting Strength type routines?

  42. Hi! First of all, great posts! They were quite insightful. I read a few pages of this site but haven’t read all the comments in each since they are so many! I see that you are still actively writing so hopefully you can help me as well. Many times I’m not sure if to subscribe to any forum of fitness/bodybuilding and ask there, but well, I’ll start here.

    My ultimate goal would be to be better looking I guess. Right now I’m 34 y/o, 179cm and 85kg. No signs of muscle and visible signs of tummy and hip fat. I sleep 6 hours a day because of job/family/kids. Work in a cubicle and take lunch time to do some activity.
    Two years ago I was doing StrongLifts, but only gained weight and it didn’t seem like muscle weight.
    Last year didn’t do exercise until three months ago where I started a new job and signed up to a gym as well. My routine:
    Monday: 30 min. Group class doing a weightlifting circuit with not much weight, but many repetitions in 45 seconds each exercise with only 15 seconds to rest. It really exhausts me.
    Tuesday: soccer with coworkers. This is my cardio day, although I feel tired past the first half already.
    Wednesday: Pilates. Need to do this because I also have a really weak core.
    Thursday: Rest day.
    Friday: 30 min. Group class that focus on core exercises.
    Don’t have time to do gym on weekends. Also spending the day with family tires me enough.
    Food: breakfast: latte. Mid-morning: yoghurt with cereal. Lunch: usually rice with curry and chicken. Afternoon: whey protein with water. Dinner: whatever my wife cooks: beef, chicken, salad, pasta.
    I’m not sure if this is enough, but it tires me. The only progress in these 3 months that I found was to go from a 40 seconds Plank to 100 seconds. The rest I have the same weight and look the same.
    I feel that I need to improve my endurance, so for now I’ll continue doing the same, maybe varying the group classes on Mondays and Fridays to avoid doing always the same. Most of the other group classes are bodyweight ones (like TRX) or HIIT (which looks overkill to my fitness level). Any advice?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Read my article strength training and the 5 ideal phases of a skinny-fat transformation – it explains everything clearly.

  43. I don’t see you stating anything about deloading on SS. Did you deload when you experienced stalling? One of the best and recommended ways for breaking through plateaus…

  44. James Scot says:

    Why were you doing starting strength for a year? I read the book, it says from 3-9 months. Then you move on to the more advanced stuff. Sounds like it worked exactly the way its supposed to. He also clearly states in the book its not going to make you look like a bodybuilder, its going to make you stronger, which your own words confirm. It seems it worked VERY well to make you stronger as a beginner.

    Did you even read the book?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I did madcow at the end.

      Yes and i still have the book. It’s the best books written on barbell exercise form.

      James, youre right, but youre missing the purpose of this article: to inform skinny-fat guys who train for aesthetics that SS is not the right routine for that goal.

  45. comeone, i just bought a barbell and now you saying it will just make me look fat, that is not what i had in mind :(

    i guess i wount go heavy on Barbell then as i had planned , will incorporate pullups in the regime.

    Bodyweight exercises seem like very slow way to gain some results..

    • Barbell training will not make you fat, eating too much will ;-)
      Bodyweight training is easier on recovery so you can train more often, therefore the speed of the results are comparable.
      But no need to do either/or. A combination of weights+bodyweight+cardio/sports/recovery work is effective for most people.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Barbell training doesn’t make you fat – diet does.

      However, training and diet go hand in hand.

  46. SkinnyFatDad says:

    Interesting read. I am a skinny fat beginner. The question for me lies around what is a “skinny fat” person. Your physique in the beginning and mine looks different. To me you just looked fat … not skinny fat. Then you got …. FAT.

    When people see/saw me at my heaviest they would call me skinny … or slim … etc. But I had a layer of fat around my belly.

    I’ve been strength training for a couple months now. I’m down to 135 and have had large strength gains as well as have my belly fat drastically reduced. My arms, chest, and shoulders are noticeably bigger …

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Good job!

      There are two types of skinny-fat men:

      Those who are SKINNY-fat and those who are skinny-FAT. Does that make sense to you?

      About me: I was somewhere between skinny-fat and fat. I didn’t look like a regular fat person since I was at a normal bodyweight and didn’t have a huge belly, but I was soft all over without any muscle mass and had a huge butt and thighs.

  47. Advice bud. I’m going in to the 5by5 program right now, following the same routine as you, same 5 lifts 3-4 times a week. But unlike you, i’ve a bit of age on my side (31), a bit more knowledge than when you started I think and my plan is to use the 5/5 routine for 12 weeks, get a decent foundation of strength and then switch to a hybrid of powerlifting and hypertrophy routines. Essentially that’ll be keeping the squats and deadlift in the routine on a 5 by 5 or 3 by 5 basis but adding drop sets at the end once a week and then moving over to 3-4 sets of 8-10 for a mix of other lifts, both compound and isolating (i’m after functional strength so isolation alone won’t work for me) and changing the time-under-tension from 3-1-3 to 3-0-fast as I can. But I think the 5/5 will work as a decent platform for getting some weight on the bar before moving to bodybuilding. Thoughts?

  48. Congratulations bro,you did a very good job. I did read some websites which told that you can gain muscle and losing fat simultaneously with strength training. So the diet will be like high protein and almost zero carb. Those websites also told that in order to make it happen,our body burn fat as fuel to build muscle etc when no carbs to be absorbed. Did you ever did some ‘researched’ there when you were in skinny fat form? is it good to stay in high protein diet and do weight training with added weight every weeks to cut and bulking at the same time?what u’ll recommend me?thnx bro

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      You can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time but it’s not a good goal to have. When you chase both you will most likely end up achieving none of them. Instead, get lean first, then build muscle while staying lean.

      Furthermore, there’s no reason to do low-carb, low-calorie or low-fat. All of them are unhealthy and will mess your hormones up. Aim for a balanced diet. A diet that is low in something is a fad-diet. The key is to eat a balanced diet and be in a slight caloric deficit so you lose the weight in a healthy way. By doing this, you can keep the weight off once you lose it, rather than regain it like most people do after running a fad diet.

  49. Thank you for putting everything together for us skinny fat blokes, Oskar. I keep coming back to your site for information. I started doing basic calisthenics 5 months ago–pushups, squats, and chinups/pullups. Sometimes I do lunges, planks, and mountain climbers. Progress is really slow for me. I started from from zero pushups and chinups to 15 pushups and 4 chinups/1 pullup. But I went back to 8-10 pushups because of sore rhomboid muscles. Chinups and pullups are a real challenge, especially for someone like me who never had any sport or fitness training. I started doing negatives and then incomplete chinups. Only last month was I able to do a full chinup. Someone told me it’ll take time to wake my body up from years of laziness. LOL. That was spot on.

    I wish I knew all this stuff when I was 20. It sucks to be skinny fat when you’re 30. I should know. I’m seeing small changes now. I still have belly fat and love handles, but I’ll see where this attempt at transformation will take me in a year. Nonetheless, these bodyweight exercises are fun and addictive.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      “Someone told me it’ll take time to wake my body up from years of laziness. LOL. That was spot on.”

      Great comment here. A lot of people think that you can just revert years or even decades of damage done to the body in a few months. That’s unfortunately not the case! Even for me, I had to put in years of hard work and I was just 17 when I started. One thing that people forget is that transforming is just as much mental as it is physical. You need to develop discipline, persistence and a positive attitude. Those things are much harder to develop than to find the perfect diet and routine.

      Remember, progress is progress. As long as you keep going forward you will eventually build a good physique.

  50. Seriously!? What the hell is everybody arguing about? Got damn there is some got damn stupid sheep out there!

    Strength training is for strength athletes, to develop strength. Often times these people are fat from eating +calories than needed. Alot of them don’t even look like athletes. Some have so called powerbellies which looks just like beerbellies.

    Here is a strength athlete:

    Starting Strength:

    Another sport is Powerlifting, some of the fattest guy’s are in to this sport. Here’s a pic:

    Then there is Olympic lifting which involves taking the bar from the floor to reach the top of you head. These guy’s look fit for their sport. Pic:

    Also we have bodybuilding, they use weights to define their muscles. This is the most steroid oriented sport of them all. Pic! (Like you didn’t know it):

    These are all different sports. There is a cult out there, and it is the starting strength cult. Somehow people think that this will do everything for their physiques which is horseshit. BTW: Rippetoe didn’t even originally design the SS program and he was never even that muscular.

    Bodyfitness is another growing “sport” which uses bodywieghts to define the body. Of course this works better for muscledefinition than starting strength.

    Also we have crossfit which combines all kinds of sports and weightlifting philosophies:

    Here’s a great website/blog with some other sources and info.

  51. Hi there, first time on this site. Thought I’d share my limited experience with SS. I started the program 4 weeks ago. I am 5’8″ and weighed 240lbs when I started. 4 weeks in, I’ve lost 5 lbs and I feel like I’ve gained muscle mass and that some areas of my body have tightened up (back, triceps, chest and the legs). 240lbs means that I am a fat guy and I do have weight distributed more densely on my thighs, hips and chest area. I must also add that I am relatively more muscular (have always been) than other people I know with similar weight and height statistics. I feel like doing SS has definitely helped me in this minimal amount of time and the 5lbs I lost is a reflection of both fat lost as well as muscle mass gained. So I have probably lost more than 5 lbs worth of fat in 4 weeks (and I missed 2 days! New dad here, have sleepless nights sometimes, so getting enough rest is an issue). I eat a slight calorific deficit. I do cardio twice or so a week (just 30 mins on an elliptical) and that’s it.

    Do you have any advice for me going forward? Thanks!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey VS,

      It sounds like you’re doing it right! I wouldn’t change whatever you’re doing now, because it obviously works for you and that’s the most important.

      Keep up the good work!

  52. Lol. Oskar, I’m sorry but I think you’re misinformed about a few things. The whole craze about having optimal testosterone and GH levels has little to no effect on your body composition, in fact there are several journals and pieces of literature that prove that fluctuations within the normal range have little effect on MPS (muscle protein synthesis). The idea of calorie cycling and carb cycling may have an effect on those who are at the bottom of the genetic bucket but it’s very slight in its efficiency.

    Now, you praise bodyweight training but too be honest if you went on a structured intermediate program with intelligently planned accessory work, you would have seen gains close to if not surpassing those in your training. I haven’t read more of your articles, but, as far as I’m concerned, your body doesn’t discriminate between exercise specificity so long as the need for growth is placed, your muscle will grow. It doesn’t matter if it’s a chin up or a row, similar mycrofibular and/or sarcoplasmic hypertrophy will occur.

    I think because you did that body weight routine in the time that you saw drastic improvements in your body composition, you attributed those gains to the program you followed. Now, there’s something called nutrient partitioning, in other words how your body takes micronutrients and partitions them to either muscle growth or fat gain. You’re right about skinny-fats having bad muscle-gaining genetics in that their calories aren’t partitioned optimally. However, when an individual is lean, ideally 10-15% in a natural athlete, the partitioning of calories becomes SIGNIFICANTLY more favorable for muscle growth. There’s something called a p-ration which Lyle McDonald expands on which is about this phenomena that your body will put on muscle more favorably based on your body fat percentage.

    I think your article or rather your site is misinforming beginners! However, I agree that starting strength is a bad program, even if you’re concerned about strength. I’d probably prefer GreySkulls LP or a less taxing version of ICF 5×5 for beginners, NOT SS. Your bodyfat in those pictures was probably 23-26%, meaning that whenever you did gain weight, it was mostly fat (based on the p ratio thing I expanded on).

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      The whole craze about having optimal testosterone and GH levels has little to no effect on your body composition, in fact there are several journals and pieces of literature that prove that fluctuations within the normal range have little effect on MPS (muscle protein synthesis).

      Are you serious? Testosterone levels have no effect on body composition? Take a look at the average guy with levels of 200-400 ng/dl, then compare that to the average guy that has levels of 800-1200 ng/dl. If testosterone didn’t have effect on body composition, professional bodybuilders wouldn’t inject it.

      Perhaps I would have seen the same gains. Perhaps not. It’s all guess work. This blog is based on MY experiences with training and nutrition. So far, a lot of people have told me that they’re finally making progress in their training, after years of doing programs that are similar to SS. In the end, that’s what matters to me.

      I do know about nutrient partitioning, and yes, my gains were largely because of my improved partitioning at a lower body-fat level. However, that brings us back to the start: SS requires you to eat a caloric surplus to consistently make progress when you’re a skinny-fat hard gainer, thereby making the skinny-fat hard gainer fat, since he has poor partitioning. (Keep in mind that training and nutrition go together, you can’t just separate them).

      I agree, GreySkull LP looks like a great routine, and I’ll most likely do a write up on that in the future.

      • Allen is right—several well-controlled studies have indeed failed to find any evidence that increased acute T- response post-workout has a significant effect on muscle/strength gain in the medium term.

        However as Oskar has pointed out, if your hormones are out of whack—as is generally the case with so-called “skinny-fats”— it’s smart to address that first. You need to train your body to burn fat rather than to store it. This is done by controlling insulin (not T-)—see Bob Seebohar’s work.

        In a nutshell, eat animal protein, veg & fruits and a modicum of healthy fats, and establish a good aerobic base. With that in place, consistent, balanced exercise with adequate nutrition and recovery will get you ripped. Body weight, barbells, low reps, high reps … it all works in time if you do the work.

        Folks get confused and dissappointed when they expect to achieve the shredded physiques of cover models without recourse to anabolic drugs. The over-hyped claims of folks peddling their programs (case in point: SS) only obfuscate the truth even further.

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          Allen is right—several well-controlled studies have indeed failed to find any evidence that increased acute T- response post-workout has a significant effect on muscle/strength gain in the medium term.

          I see that we have been talking about 2 different things then. I’m well aware of the fact that the short-term post-workout increase in testosterone is insignificant.

          What I wanted to say was that going from low testosterone to decent/high testosterone has a lot of indirect benefits in regards to your training. When you have higher testosterone you feel more positive, driven and energetic. This makes you want to workout more and you believe in yourself. This change in mindset and mood has a HUGE impact on the long-term progress you make.

          I agree; pretty much all workouts work as long as you do them consistently and progress.

      • ::Are you serious? Testosterone levels have no effect on body composition? Take a look at the average guy with levels of 200-400 ng/dl, then compare that to the average guy that has levels of 800-1200 ng/dl. If testosterone didn’t have effect on body composition, professional bodybuilders wouldn’t inject it.

        Response: Lol. You can find several studies on ncbi demonstrating that testosterone of ~350 vs testosterone of around 700-750 (the lower and upper range of normal) literally make very little difference in muscular gain. Think of testosterone vs muscle synthesis as a non-linear graph, in other words it’s pretty flat within the normal range, it spikes up when exogenous hormones are introduced, and it dips at harmfully low levels of testosterone (anything below 350 would be fair game for ‘low’ish testosterone). Professional bodybuilders have 3,000-15,000 ng/dL of testosterone in their body. These are individuals who are pinning half a gram to a gram of test WEEKLY. I don’t think any bodybuilder on gear would be dumb enough only to pin to the upper ranges of normal. And using your logic by extension, why isn’t everybody on TRT big and jacked? Most doctors prescribe dosing that will bring their clientele to the 600-800 level.

        ::Perhaps I would have seen the same gains. Perhaps not. It’s all guess work. This blog is based on MY experiences with training and nutrition. So far, a lot of people have told me that they’re finally making progress in their training, after years of doing programs that are similar to SS. In the end, that’s what matters to me.

        Response: Right… that’s your PERSONAL experience. My problem is that you introduce scientific inquiry to your idea that ALL skinny-fat individuals will not bid well on a Starting Strength program. With all biological factors in light, somatypes do not exist. Again, the only naturally produced “hormones” you discuss that are statistically significant revolve around insulin sensitivity/resistance, not testosterone.

        Now, the main issue is that the claim is that: Starting Strength is BAD for ALL skinny-fat individuals or people who are in that somatype. Your solution is that: ALL skinny-fat individuals should go on a body weight routine. When you mention ‘guess work’ and ‘individualized experiences’, you shouldn’t speak in absolutes.

        ::I do know about nutrient partitioning, and yes, my gains were largely because of my improved partitioning at a lower body-fat level. However, that brings us back to the start: SS requires you to eat a caloric surplus to consistently make progress when you’re a skinny-fat hard gainer, thereby making the skinny-fat hard gainer fat, since he has poor partitioning. (Keep in mind that training and nutrition go together, you can’t just separate them).
        I agree, GreySkull LP looks like a great routine, and I’ll most likely do a write up on that in the future.

        Response: Okay, this is a decent point. In my opinion, people with poor nutrient partitioning in the very beginning of their training would not be too affected by excessive fat gain, and I’ll tell you why. The adaptation mechanism to weight training stimuli is so significant at the beginning of you’re training (the first 3-5 months) that’s it’s nearly impossible for you to not gain muscle (unless you’re in the bottom of the genetic bucket and are a ‘no’-gainer, I can expand on that later). So it would be ideal for a skinny fat to do one real bulk, slim down to 10-12%, and then do mini-bulk/cut cycles while maintaining his 10-15% bodyfat.

        This is the best way. ^

        • Also, Oskar, I encourage you to go on MadCows or TM at a slight surplus, and see how that goes. Now that you’re lean you could give a more objective presentation on the matter. If you feel like that’s not stimulating or strength-oriented training isn’t giving you that ‘umf’ factor, go on HST –


          It’s a brilliant program. And if you need any help, I’d be glad to help.

          • Oskar Faarkrog says:

            I’ve previously tried MadCow 5×5, and I liked it better than SS.

            Currently, I’m not much about gaining overall size. I only want to gain a little bit of size on my upper chest, arms and shoulders.

            Thank you for offering the help though!

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          You can find several studies on ncbi demonstrating that testosterone of ~350 vs testosterone of around 700-750 (the lower and upper range of normal) literally make very little difference in muscular gain. Think of testosterone vs muscle synthesis as a non-linear graph, in other words it’s pretty flat within the normal range, it spikes up when exogenous hormones are introduced, and it dips at harmfully low levels of testosterone (anything below 350 would be fair game for ‘low’ish testosterone).

          I actually didn’t know about this, interesting stuff! (I just started studying for personal trainer recently, so I’m building theory on my practical experience now). With that said, you have to keep the indirect benefits of testosterone in mind. When you go from having low testosterone to decent testosterone like I did, you start feeling more driven, positive, energetic and you believe in yourself. Those benefits are priceless when it comes to building muscle. You start enjoying workouts more and you start looking forward to hitting the gym, rather than forcing yourself there. You also believe in whatever you do, which enables you to stay consistent with your training. In the long-term, this means that you get more GOOD workouts in and you stick to your plan, thereby giving you a better physique.

          Right… that’s your PERSONAL experience. My problem is that you introduce scientific inquiry to your idea that ALL skinny-fat individuals will not bid well on a Starting Strength program.

          You’re right, I do not have scientific evidence that starting strength is bad for skinny-fat guys. In fact, I don’t have any scientific evidence for 99% of the content on this blog – there are no scientific references in my articles. However, I do know 2 things: 1) Since this article has been published a year ago, dozens of guys have emailed/commented/messaged to me that they have previously done a low rep strength routine such as SS/SL/Madcow/Bill Starr and all of them except one were unhappy with their results. 2) My own experience is almost identical to that of the other skinny-fat guys who have messaged me.

          In contrast, many guys have started doing my simple bodyweight training routine while cutting their excess fat, and are extremely happy with their progress. Some even said that they’ve been training for YEARS without results prior to following my simple advice, but now they’re finally making progress. In the end, helping people is what matters to me, and I know that my blog is doing that, despite the lack of scientific evidence.

          The adaptation mechanism to weight training stimuli is so significant at the beginning of you’re training (the first 3-5 months) that’s it’s nearly impossible for you to not gain muscle (unless you’re in the bottom of the genetic bucket and are a ‘no’-gainer, I can expand on that later). So it would be ideal for a skinny fat to do one real bulk, slim down to 10-12%, and then do mini-bulk/cut cycles while maintaining his 10-15% bodyfat.

          I partly agree with this. Your “best way” is definitely a way that will work for some skinny-fat guys. The truth is that every skinny-fat guy has a different situation. Some are more fat than they’re skinny. Some gain muscle and strength faster than others. However, from what I’ve seen so far, the majority of skinny-fat guys (including myself) have an extremely hard time putting on muscle. They probably fit your ‘no-gainer’ category. At the same time, they carry a lot of body-fat. This situation makes bulking very ineffective. They will end up fat and gain a tiny amount of muscle.

          • Haha, you’re a good guy, Oskar. Most people are very ignorant in argumentation and don’t concede points for he sake of their own pride. I do want to make a few clarifications though.

            1) When you said you have low testosterone, did you ever have your free testosterone and Sex-hormone binding globulin(SHBG) tested? When you gain fat, the inactive testosterone (SHBG) is mostly armotaized (converted to estrogen) into fat. Free testosterone, which determines your ability to put on mass, your sex drive, your vitality, etc only makes up 2% of the overall testosterone in males. That’s why we have this societal misconception that the average 18 year old male NEEDS to be at 700 ng/dL. A good example is myself. The first time I did bloodwork I came out around 577 – and I thought that was terrible, 1 SD below a conclusive study’s mean – but what I didn’t see is that my free testosterone was actually 1 SD ABOVE the study’s mean. And that’s very typical in young people to have very low SHBG and very high free testosterone, as you grow older that proportion changes. That’s why unless you have Klinefelter’s, Delayed-onset puberty, a rare genetic condition ,perhaps testicular trauma, or a pituitary problem/tumor, it is impossible for a young man to have low testosterone.


            I agree with your point about the blog. I applaud what you’re doing.


            No, a no-gainer is a specific demographic individuals (maybe 0.5% of the population) who just don’t respond to weight training at all. A no-gainer wouldn’t be able to put 10 lbs on their deadlift in a year, much less than 225. They just don’t have the adaptation mechanism to respond to weight training; it’s just non-existent. There was a study on ncbi where they took a large sample size and put them on a strict routine and measured their 1RM as far as curls before and after very rigorous dieting and hypertrophy work. There were some people who after 12 week period regressed in their training. You’re not a no gainer :)

            • Oskar Faarkrog says:

              1) I had my free testosterone and SHBG tested several times.

              Results in September 2010 where I had low testosterone:
              – Total testosterone: 10.3 nmol/l (range: 10.3-27.4)
              – Free Testosterone: 0.3105 nmol/l (range: 0.24-0.69)
              – SHGB: 20 nmol/l (range: 24-77)

              Results in July 2012 where I had increased my total testosterone with over 100%:
              – Total testosterone: 22.59 nmol/l (range: 10.3-27.4)
              – Free Testosterone: 0.5095 nmol/l (range: 0.24-0.69)
              – SHGB: 43 nmol/l (range 24-77)

              I had my pituitary checked and I was tested for genetic conditions, but everything was ok.

              2) Interesting. I didn’t know that there were people out there who didn’t respond to weight training at all. I knew there were hardgainers with a very low response, but not actual no-gainers.

              • Okay. Your bloodwork the second time is good.

                What did your doctor say about your first bloodwork?

                • Oskar Faarkrog says:

                  He said that I’m in range and that there’s nothing to worry about.

                  Luckily, I didn’t listen to him and got him to print my bloodwork. I looked up my levels online and found that I have very low t for my age.

      • I just want to comment on the idea that SS requires a caloric surplus. Theres no need to keep such a heavy intake of calories. Any program, strength training or otherwise will make your body more susceptible to carb and protein intake, not because you need more calories, but because it wants a certain level of those nutrients. Simply put, if you’re storing fat in any scenario, either you’re not getting the proper macronutrient , you’re missing your metabolic windows, or both. Making sure you get a full profile of amino acids is just as important as eating .8-1.2g of protein per lb of LEAN body mass. If you don’t have your aminos then your body isn’t doing anything with the food you eat besides wasting it and storing it as fat.

        Aside from that, solid transformation!

        • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

          Great comment David. What you say makes sense. Can you expand on the amino acids, and how you ensure that you get as many as you need? Thank you.

    • I believe what Oskar advocates for a skinnyfat individual is high frequency, high volume, low intensity training; calisthenics allows one to do that. SS did not work for him because the volume may have been too low and at only three times a weeks, well, it wasn’t enough. Likewise, perhaps back then if he would have reduced the weight and done more of it and more often then the results could have been similar as his gains from bodyweight exercises. At any rate, I’d venture to say 5×5 variant programs aren’t enough stimulus for our somatotypes.

  53. I did SS for approx 2.5 months and started with an empty barbell on all lifts…I added 5-10 lbs p/workout to squats and deads and 5 to all other lifts. I must say it worked well for me…I went from 5’11 185 lbs (not fat/not slim) to 200 lbs in that time and it wasn’t all or even mostly fat. Squat/Deadlift each up to 250 bench, bench 150, OH press was 110-115… I did due diligence in reading the SS book and watching the SS workout DVD multiple times. I believe its a great plan (without the nutritional advice) if you study and perfect the proper form (squat especially) for your body type. Technique is supreme and I think a lot of us get lost in ego trying to just keep adding weight and increasing the chances for injury…p.s. Bodyweight workouts are supreme too! I put down the bigger weights, did body weights, came back and the big weights weren’t so big lol

  54. Summing things up from what I understand, you changed to the bodyweight training instead right? However, you stated on the ways you ate, and none of them worked for you. So, how did you eat now?
    I’m a girl, and is it okay if I still do some bench presses and so on? I don’t eat surplus, though, but also could you tell me your bodyweight routines? Thank you!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey Valerie,

      I made great progress with bodyweight training, and I believe it’s the best way to start for most people who want to get in shape.

      Read here to see how I currently train and eat: http://skinnyfattransformation.com/gain-muscle-while-staying-lean/ (keep in mind that I’ve trained consistently for +4 years, so my way of training is not for the beginner or intermediate)

      I have never coached a female, so I’m not the right person to ask about that.

      For bodyweight routine, take a look at my basic bodyweight routine.

      • Thank you! Hahaha, I understand… thanks for reminding about genders as well… And yeah, currently I’m following New Rules of Lifting for Women, eating at surplus, and I’ve gain some weight already… It’s just two weeks, and I was freaking out, but everyone told me to be patient and wait a little longer.

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          Definitely give it more than two weeks. If you switch up your routine now, you will never know what works and what doesn’t.

  55. Most ppl who claim to be skinnyfat are just plain fat. They just dont realize it. Skinnyfat is when you’re underweight and yet you have a fat stomach etc. A guy who weighs 175 pounds at 5’7″ couldn’t possibly be skinnyfat since his weight is normal (or even a bit extra) for his height. So if such a person has a belly, he is just fat. Not skinnyfat.

    Remember … skinnyfat = underweight + big belly. So if you’re a good weight and still have a big belly you are just fat. Not skinnyfat.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      This is my definition of skinny-fat: http://skinnyfattransformation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Are-You-Skinny-Fat.png

      I believe there are 2 types of skinny-fat guys:

      The ones who are SKINNY-fat and the ones who are skinny-FAT. One group is skinny, but has a little bit of fat, primarily on their love handles and hips. This is the group you’re referring to. The other group is skinny, but has more fat in the same areas.

      However, both groups share one trait: they have a VERY difficult time putting on muscle mass compared to the regular fat guy who has a thicker bone structure and more natural strength.

      In other words, the skinny-fat guy has the genetics of a skinny guy (ectomorph), since he has thin bones and a difficult time gaining muscle mass, but at the same time he has the slower metabolism of the fat guy (endomorph), since he carries excess fat.

  56. Sammie Wilkinson says:

    For what it’s worth since starting my new upper / lower split (upper 2x a week, lower only once) my upper body has exploded, in only 6/7 weeks my bench has gone from 165lbs for reps to 245 for a triple, deadlift’s gone from 335 to 400 for a reps and squat’s gone from 275lbs to 310, I’ve also added 2 inches to my arms and taken them from 14.5 inches to 16.5 and I actually have a set of lats now.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Wow Sammie, that’s great progress in 6-7 weeks! Would you mind sharing your routine, and do you have any progress pics?

      • I followed this routine here: http://www.aworkoutroutine.com/the-muscle-building-workout-routine/

        I put my progress down to the supercompensation effect; I had cut and been in a prolonged deficit for 5 months so the anabolic rebound from that helped me progress VERY fast, combine that with a completely new routine with new exercises, significantly higher volume for upper body and a new rep range my body responded extremely well.

        I’ve went from 182lbs at 18% to 210lbs at 22% so I’ve added a fair bit of fluff in the process but an aggressive 12 week cut taking into account LBM losses should put me at around 185lbs at 15%, not too shabby at 5ft 7 :-)

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          I’ve seen that site before, interesting! Gonna look into your routine.

          I know what you mean about the supercompensation effect. I’ve tried it once and managed to go from something like 177 pounds to 190 pounds while my waist barely changed in about 1 month.

          Wow, so you added about 15 pounds of lean mass in less than 2 months? That’s impressive! Also, good thing that you’re prepared for some LBM losses, since that will make you stick to your cut.

  57. It’s called “Starting Strength” for a reason.
    It’s a strength routine that’s aimed at getting stronger. Not leaner, not more muscular (well, we know there’s some relation, but it’s not linear)

    Starting Strength is an exceptional routine and you yourself pointed out how great it worked for you.
    So the only mistake you really made was choosing the wrong workout for your goals.

    If you just want to build lean muscle with very little focus on legs in it, then yes, BW exercises are a great way – maybe even the best to achieve that. But most guys in BB want more than that ;)

    • Is there not a chance that some people starting out physical training won’t realize what you stated until much time has passed?

      • Sure, i just wanted to point out once again that Starting Strength is a great program if your goal is to move lots of weight – so what it was designed for.
        As you could get the impression from the article that no skinny-fat should ever use it.
        Although it’s clearly one of the best if not the best routine for getting stronger – and if that’s the only goal of a starting athelte – even a skinny-fat one – then it’s the right program for him/her.

      • Oskar Faarkrog says:

        Great point, most skinny-fat beginners do not have that knowledge. (I was one of them).

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Yes, it worked great to gain strength, however I expected those huge strength and bodyweight gains to translate into more muscle. That’s what I was told would happen when I started training, and that’s why I wrote this article; so skinny-fat guys who want a better body avoid making the same mistake I did.

  58. It’s called Starting Strength

    Not SFat2Ripped

    Yes, I understand your website’s purpose.

    Yeah, you have to eat, and eating enough is important. At the end of the day, regeneration of muscle tissue requires an increased caloric intake in order to maintain progress. But at the end of the day, as a new athlete your body is probably insulin resistant, your CNS is weaker and less coordinated, and your body isn’t used to moving heavy loads. The point of SS is not sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. The goal is to pick up something heavier. Muscle growth is merely a side effect of strength gain. It’s a strength program, plain and simple.

    I don’t think the problem is so much people not believing in Skinny-fat individuals, it’s more that some, especially athletes, have a difficult time understanding why you would lift with any other priority than higher work capacity. The type of people who will defend SS to the death are people who used it to build solid strength gains, probably as the cornerstone of a large physical fitness program. Many of them were probably athletes, for whom the strength program was a means for them to build strength and sustainable size to support them on the field. To them there’s no reason to use SS for any other purpose.

    Also, there is no way you can call rows a substitute for Cleans. They are not even remotely similar.

    Suggestion for skinny-fats: conditioning. Go for a run on day 2 and 5 or something.

    • I think the point of this post is for neophytes with not much knowledge on training who begin with SS wanting different results. I also agree with Oskar that calisthenics is probably the best way for an undermuscled skinnyfat; my largest gains were via low intensity (bodyweight, of course), very high frequency (28 consecutive days of daily full body workouts), and high volume training (only 1-3 reps per set). I’m not saying every SF individual should do this but I like experimenting. I now stick to 3-5 days of full body training a week; moreover, I had to use less reps per set because I was too weak to do more than 5 reps per set. My nourishment wasn’t dialed in either.

      Newbie gains? Very likely. But at least I didn’t need a calorie surplus and was able to keep lean — I had leaned down about six months prior with a disjointed bodyweight training routine and a “paleo” diet.

      Although I haven’t done SS myself, I feel the most who benefit from it already have a decent (average) base of muscle to work with. Being a skinnyfat with little to no muscle and having that extra bodyfat for leverage while being very weak to begin with does not bode well for the results we want.

      Lastly, cardio is not necessary for a skinnyfat. Circuit routines with no rest are more productive, in my opinion.

      • Oskar Faarkrog says:

        Your experience/advice is very much in line with what I’ve found to work. If I want to gain strength on the compound lifts, I’ve benefitted much more from doing a lot of sets with 1-3 reps, rather than a few sets of 5 reps. After switching from 5 reps on the shoulder press to 1-3 reps, I managed to add over 20 pounds to it in a month, after being stuck at around the same weight for almost a year.

        “Although I haven’t done SS myself, I feel the most who benefit from it already have a decent (average) base of muscle to work with. Being a skinnyfat with little to no muscle and having that extra bodyfat for leverage while being very weak to begin with does not bode well for the results we want.”

        Back when I was skinny-fat I did SS with a friend who had a good muscular base and a lean body. He benefitted greatly from SS, however after some time his legs started getting out of proportion.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      You summed up very well how SS is supposed to work, and I don’t mean to bash the “strength” aspect of the program. However, most skinny-fat guys don’t have the knowledge you do, so they blindly follow programs such as SS and end up disappointed. I was one of them, therefore I wrote this article to prevent it from happening to other beginners.

  59. I’m so glad i am not skinny fat.I’m a naturally skinny guy and i am at 10 – 12 % body fat.I can see my abs as just as you described in the good light it looks really nice.I really want those abs where you don’t even have to flex but idk how to get there without losing muscle.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I haven’t gotten that either, but let me know if you manage to achieve that! I know just 1 guy in real life who has those kind of abs, and he’s naturally VERY lean, with no visible fat at all.

  60. As a former skinny fat guy I agree with this article.


    Everybody I know who lifts told me to clean bulk first and I see plenty of others giving that same advice to skinny fat guys all over the internet. So I started a clean bulk but quit after 3 weeks to start a cut because during the short bulk I felt unmotivated and like crap. I didn’t like how I looked. I felt like I needed to get rid of most of the fat first to look more toned. I did have muscles, they were small muscles, under the fat. Most skinny fat adult males have muscle under the fat so what we need to start with is a cut not a bulk to look more toned. I’m not saying to cut down to a single digit body fat % where you have a six pack. But you should cut first to get a majority of the fat off the muscle you have. Then you start a clean bulk and you won’t have to worry as much about fat gain and will be much more motivated to bulk up when your skinny and toned instead of skinny and fat.

  61. If you are into body transformation you HAVE to eat on a caloric deficit, theres just no way around it. You will very likely stall on the lifts (as you say you did) at some point but if you are into losing fat, that is no big issue.

    Just lift on a deficit until you stall, deload a few % and build up again until you stall, then deload and build up again. Your lifts will not increase as fast but aesthetics will improve.

    A different way would be to do what you did: Bulk up and gain lots of strength first, then go on a cut and lose that extra fat.

    Regarding the hormones I am quite sure that heavy compounds are more benificial for testostorone levels than bodyweight exercises.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:


      Heavy compounds do increase your testosterone more than BW exercises, but the effect is negligible.

      Large muscle movements like squats, leg presses, deadlifts, etc., do result in higher blood levels of anabolic hormones like Testosterone, but these transient and acute increases do not lead to greater overall muscle mass.

      Read more here: http://www.t-nation.com/training/does-lifting-boost-testosterone

  62. Starting strength really worked well for me. Within less than a years time, my lifts went to:
    squat: 405 5×3
    benchpress: 305 5×3
    deadlift: 565 1×5
    overhead press: 205 5×3
    row: don’t remember

    I used supplements but no steroids/prohormones and got really great mass gains. I did also get fat, but it was more of a bulky fat. I started at about 200lbs and went up to 250lbs. I never ended up cutting, but if I had, the muscle gains would have been clearly visible upper and lower body.

    I took 4 years off and am back at it now, my strength is in the toilet but muscle definition has been coming back rapidly.

    Just my experience with starting strength, not disagreeing with anything you’ve written.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Wow, those are some great lifts you achieved in a year. Did you compete in powerlifting?

      • No, I never did compete. Thinking back I really should have. If I can get my lifts back up in that range, I will probably give it a shot.

  63. Hey Oskar! Great post! Your Transformation is really impressive. I am myself a big fan of bodyweight-exercises.
    I posted a similar article on my blog: http://moveoveraverage.com/starting-to-lift/ , however its less personal and more general and its not as detailed as yours. I would appreciate if you could drop me a message or comment and tell me how you find it.
    Anyway, Nice article and keep up the great work!!

  64. Oskar,

    Apparently, most people don’t know how to read very well. A skinnyfat person shouldn’t be criticized for prioritizing an aesthetically pleasing physique over a strong and misshapen one. I sincerely believe that most of these negative commentors don’t comprehend that skinnyfat people exist and may require different nutrition and training protocols to acquire respective goals.

    To all the naysayers, not everyone is naturally muscular who only needs to shed bodyfat.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Great comment. The name of my website should indicate that it is for skinny-fat people who want to transform their physiques, so the articles here are targeted at those people.

  65. Hey Oskar, so according to you,’Starting Strength’ is a good workout for a skinny guy right?
    I am 6″1 tall and I weigh 60kg
    I would very much value your response, I have never worked out before in my life and now I want to start; my goals are to gain weight, get stronger, and build a decent amount of muscle.
    Thanks a lot,

  66. In my opinion and from my own experience Starting Strength is a terrible program for upper body mass.

    After getting subpar results for my first 6 months of lifting (came in at a skinnyfat 158lbs at 18% BF, 5ft 7) out of frustration I decided to do GOMAD and Starting Strength.

    After 3 months, my squats were at 275 3×5 and deadlifts were at 332lbs x 5 (could do 2×5 at one point), my legs were also only an inch off 30inches, not bad right? WRONG.

    I became a fat tub of shit sitting at 207lbs at 25% bodyfat and my bench press was a pathetic 163lbs 3×5, AT OVER 200lbs bodyweight!

    My arms barely hit 15 inches, my chest was barely over 40 inches and to top it off I had a 41 inch waist.

    5 months of a gruelling diet later and I’m at 175lbs at 17%, my strength’s stayed the same but my arms are barely 14 inches now, not even a bodyweight benchpress and 14 inch arms after a year and half of lifting!

    I went on the bodybuilding.com forums ranting but hurr durr I must have been doing something wrong, nope, I damn well followed linear progression just fine, but the volume just wasn’t there to stimulate upper body growth, and no isolation meant it lacked even further.

    Sure it’s partly because of me dieting and unable to progress on lifts but that’s not the point, the issue is the MASSIVE difference between upper and lower body strength, I’m deadlifting twice what I bench for God’s sake.

    I’m now switching to a 4 day upper lower split but I’ll probably chop a lower day off as far as I’m concerned my legs don’t need touching for a while and quite frankly I’m sick of getting under the bar for a brutal set of squats for lackluster results.

    I’d strongly suggest a newbie to the lifting game to consider other programs but if you’re deadset on running this run it for 3 months MAX with a moderate surplus and get your form nailed down correctly then move onto better programs out there and honestly, that won’t be too hard to find.

    • Although I’ve got Starting Strength and found the book useful, reading some of these reports I’m glad I never followed the program to the letter as suggested by all the Nazis on the SS forums! The dietary advice does seem highly questionable at best.
      A couple of good reads about the drawbacks of a traditional bulk/cut approach:

      @Sammie…in the book, Starting Strength prescribes Pull-ups/Chin-ups every second workout and has a whole chapter on assistance exercises including key upper body exercises such as rows, curls etc. presumably the intention is that you add in some curls if you value big guns. The book states, “Since you’re going to do them anyway, we might as well discuss the right way to do curls.”

      • Eventually I did add in bicep curls and weighted pushups but in all honesty after reading some of the glowing testimonials from Rippetoe’s private army I was convinced that doing these big fullbody movements would add slabs of mass to my arms, oh how wrong I was.

      • Oskar Faarkrog says:

        You’re right Andy, the SS book is probably the best book written on the basic compound exercises.

        I did actually add in exercises for my arms at the end of workouts, but I didn’t benefit much from them since my body was completely trashed after the compounds. I had a very hard time progressing on them because of that.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Great comment Sammie. I have the same experience. My lower body grew fast on SS, but my upper body pretty much stayed the same, while I gained a lot of fat. My upper body needs a lot of volume and intensity, while my lower body can be trained infrequently and stay a good size.

  67. Hi Oskar,

    Congratulations on your personal transformation.

    But perhaps you should stick to saying what worked for you rather than giving inconsistent, incomplete or deliberately controversial advice.

    Maybe you know already, most readers of sites like yours are looking for a quick fix. They are expecting to be told exactly what to do by following a “cookie-cutter” program from a stranger on the internet, rather than investing in a competent coach or in educating themselves in the basic principles of resistance training.

    As with dieting, the key to getting lean and muscular is compliance. Any program works (bodyweight, kettle bells, barbells etc) with beginners as long as the focus is gaining strength through progressive overload (of weight/resistance, reps/volume etc) whilst allowing adequate recovery.

    Failure is almost always due to inconsistency and/or “program hopping”—which folks tend to do when reading random blog posts such as “How to get ripped with Exercise X”, “Why program Y doesn’t work for skinny fat guys”, “No need to work hard to gain muscle”, “How to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time” blah blah…

    If you must give advice, do your readers a favour and encourage them to work hard on the basics … once they are entry-level strong they can start to worry about seeing their abs …

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Andy,

      Thank you!

      I agree with most of the stuff you say, and I do actually recommend beginners to focus on the bodyweight basics before they think about hypertrophy training.

      About the abs: I never cared much about them, but I do recommend people to stay between 10-15% bodyfat to be lean and healthy.

      • Hi Oskar,

        In fact I agree that basic bodyweight exercises are a good way to start. It’s also good to “cut” before starting a “bulk”. And personally I would then add in kettlebells to address flexibility and conditioning/recovery issues whilst learning the basic barbell movement patterns (squat, press, hinge, pull). For example, very few Westerners have enough flexibility to squat properly without training.

        But once the basic movement patterns are in place, there’s no quicker way to add serious muscle than loading up the big barbell movements like the squat, deadlift and press. Men have been getting strong/big by lifting heavy stuff since the Stone age.

        Starting Strength contains arguably the most detailed descriptions of the basic barbell exercises and introduces the all-important concept of linear progression (adding weight to the bar!). It’s an excellent first barbell program. It’s even better if customised intelligently, although it should be noted that the author strongly discourages this! But anyway, SS is an excellent resource for beginners, regardless of whether they want to get stronger, bigger, faster or better looking…

        Perhaps this post should have been titled “why beginners should start with bodyweight”, but I guess it wouldn’t have got half as many views/comments… ;-)

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          Great comment Andy. I actually agree with all you say here. If you work on flexibility, lose fat and get some respectable numbers on the basic bodyweight exercises, you will be in a great position to do SS. Unfortunately, most skinny-fat guys haven’t reached that level yet, and this article is targetted at skinny-fat guys. To be honest, I never expected this article to get a lot of views since it was one of my first articles, and I had few readers at the time. It was made as a response to emails I got from skinny-fat readers who did SS and didn’t get good results (similar to my experience).

  68. Mark Taylor says:

    Very interesting information and different programs work for different people.

    Please don’t take this the wrong way, but the fact you are now so ripped and above say have Geno in your nipples. are you using some, erm enhancing substances by any chance? I am not judging you at all, but need to know for my own sanity the full picture :-)

    If I were doing for ‘look’s I’d chase the juice as well as the studies speak for themselves.

    Just interested, not an attack at all mate – keep up the good work and glad you got to a program that suits you. Mark.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I have never taken any enhancing substances.

      I have a minor case of gyno, but after filling out my frame with muscle and getting lean, it’s unnoticeable to anyone but myself and people who are into bodybuilding.

      I’m not offended at all, I take it as a compliment. Anyone can build a physique similar to mine as long as they’re consistent for years. I’ve never been below 10% bodyfat, and I’m usually 185-190 lbs at 6″3, so I’m by no means huge. I just built muscles in the right places, stay relatively lean all year and have a very small frame which may make me look wider than I actually am.

  69. Oskar,

    Congratulations on your amazing transformation. My current (skinny fat) physique is almost identical to yours when you started SS. I am 6’1 and 190 pounds. I just started your beginning Bodyweight Training Program today and I have a few questions;

    Chin ups: For the first set I was able to do 3 good form chin ups and then I did 2 negatives to do a total of 5 reps. Second set I did 2 full extension chin ups and 3 negatives…Third set 1 full extension chin up and 4 negatives..Fourth set, 5 negatives.

    Pushups: I started with 4 sets x 5 reps of good form push ups

    Squats: 4 sets of 10 reps

    Abs/core: Instead of doing leg lifts and superman’s I opted to ending the workout with a 12 minutes Ab ripper X program. Because it is such a strenuos program I complete about half the reps and I feel completely destroyed at the end.

    If I follow this routine and try to progress 1-2 reps on each exercise weekly do you think I will achieve the aesthetic results I am looking for? Also, If I include a half our of cardio/jogging in the evening every night of the week will that help or hurt me while following your program?



    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thanks Mikey,

      You can definitely transform your physique with nothing else but bodyweight training (take a look at my newest article).

      Cardio is unnecessary in the beginning, but if you really want to do it, then go for a long walk or do some low impact cardio on the elliptical machine at the gym.

  70. Nice transformation to start with.

    I haven’t read the book yet but I will to gain more knowledge about compound movements. Now, if you were looking to tone up and gain strength I could’ve told you that you were headed in the wrong direction. Every form or type of exercise has it’s purpose. Compound movements are usually what power lifters and strong men use to build strength.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thank you.

      You would be surprised about the huge amount of skinny-fat beginners who have been advised to do SS despite having a primary goal of looking better.

  71. Is that Primrose Hill Park gym area in your photo?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      No, first photo is in Copenhagen, second is close to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

  72. lordy, i see you’ve had a good run-in with the rippetistas – they beaver rest, roaming the web to snuff out any indication that their beloved master and his message may not be all that. i admire your patience and courtesy in dealing with them, but don’t know why you bother.
    ss is a crap programme, designed for gullible teens who are just starting out and have no idea about anything and above all lack the inquiring mind to approach weights and strength in a trial and error fashion. rippetoe’s absurd claim that you can reasonably expect to add 31lb of muscle in 11 weeks is pure fantasy and his ludicrous diet advice amounting to thousands of calories a day is mind-boggling when you consider that the actual workout volume is so pathetically low that even a thai lady-boy will spit at your feet in disgust. but the worst thing for ss to have done is to install an almighty and crippling fear of incorrect form and overtraining in impressionable minds, robbing them of any impetus to enjoy and maximise their training and to just go out there and mess around with stuff to see what works.
    yes, of course you will make strength gains on ss – but so you will on any programme, even if you’re training with a pair of rusty dumbells in your bedroom. what matters is consistency and sheer foot-to-the-pedal effort and a willingness to enjoy yourself.
    still, at least ss is good for one thing – slagging it off will give you some serious traffic to your website, chuckle chuckle!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Tim, that comment made me laugh.

      yes, of course you will make strength gains on ss – but so you will on any programme, even if you’re training with a pair of rusty dumbells in your bedroom. what matters is consistency and sheer foot-to-the-pedal effort and a willingness to enjoy yourself.

      You’re absolutely right. A lot of guys argue that SS is the holy grail because you make strength gains on it. However, the reality is that beginners would make strength gains on pretty much any routine as long as they are consistent.

  73. Patrick says:

    I would also be interested to see Robert Santanas photo, did he send it Oskar?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Yes, I received his photos. I will shoot you an email so you can ask him for his photos.

  74. Adolfo Cortez says:

    Oskar, brother I had the same experience as you. I’m a rather short skinny person with about 18-19 BF%, I was 5’5 weighing 135lbs when I started SS. After 5 months I ballooned to 155 lbs and was fat as crap, there was no muscle definition in my body. Heck I even did the 1 gallon a milk a day like Mark recommend in his book. Don’t get me wrong I gained massive amounts of strength in that 5 month period. My squats went from 3×5 95 lbs to 3×5 210 lbs, deadlift 3×5 135lbs to 3×5 235lbs, military press 3×5 55lbs to 3×5 90 lbs, PC 3×5 65 lbs to 3×5 115 lbs, my BP went from 3×5 135 lbs to 3×5 155lbs. I was already regularly doing bench pressing for months before I started SS hence why I believe I didnt get a big gain.

    Went to visit my family for the holidays and they said I looked fat! I was a rather skinny person to begin with, now I was fat with like 22-23 Bf%. I said screw that and went back into the gym and did some cardio and joined a soccer team. I’m back to 135 lbs and could care less If I can lift a whole ton of pounds, I did not like how, I looked I felt nasty in my own body.

    I’m trying to get back into lifting but I would rather have the aesthetics ( i.e abs, arms, chest). Any good workouts for achieving this?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Take a look at my newest article. This is basically how I train for aesthetics. Basically bodyweight training and light-moderate weights.

  75. I’m a bit incline to disagree with this article. Mainly due to how it was done. I used to weigh in excess of 205 pounds. At 5’5 I was fat as shit.

    I then went on a strict diet, and cardio regiment ( No lifting et all) and went from 205 to 135 in around a 5 month timeframe. (EC/A stacks man, fucking magic)

    Once I finished that. I then started SS. Now I’m about 170 and on my first cut on Bill starr’s 5×5 program. I think as other’s stated. starting this program when you already are somewhat high in BF is asking for trouble, or at least, the calorie’s portion anyway.

    In regards to injuries, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hurt myself. I ended up pinching a nerve and felt a shit-ton of tension in my lower back. But this was easily remedied with a week long deload and a form correction (which was quite easy to do with 20 to 45 pounds of the weight dropped.

    SS is a fantastic beginner’s program mainly due to how it utilizes the basic principals of lifting in general, if you hurt yourself, you can, and most likely will recover, which in turn teaches you how valuable deloading is. On top of that, it’s great for learning some of the bigger compound lifts, Squats, Deadlifts, Benchpresses, Shoulder/Overhead Presses. And Rows (and or P.Cleans) in an easy to follow format, it also teaches you to not to get greedy with adding the weight, I mean shit, I was microloading When my Squat and Bench were struggling.

    And what’s even better is the ADVANCED portion that you diddle around with for about 2-3 months before going to something like Starr’s or the Texas method. Which introduces ramping sets. Light days, and more emphasis on Power cleans.

    Right now I run a modified 5×5 with Row’s and Cleans switching on and off and week long breaks at the end of cycles. It’s been fantastic, And I am quite happy with what I achieved with SS.

    I believe SS needs to be done by any beginner, because running into a split right off the bat is going to take far too long (mainly due to correcting weak links)

    Now, I do fiercely believe that SS needs to only be done as long as you can keep making PR’s, if you stall on all of your lifts twice, it’s time to advance, and go to something a little more plentiful in terms of volume.

    Just my two cents, I’m happy you made headway on other programs, but SS is still the goto program for someone who has no idea how to get into lifting, either for aesthetics or strength.

    And it really should stay that way.

    I also always suggest mastering the art of counting calories and macros and consistency with Cardio before even suggesting SS for anyone looking to lose weight though. Mainly because people are less likely to quit a program if they’re not doing too many things at once.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thanks for your comment Tony. I agree that splits are useless for beginners that have no strength base. Also, I agree on SS being a good program for most beginners.

      However, this article is specifically targetted at the skinny-fat guy who needs to lose fat before doing a routine that is best done in a caloric surplus. I and many other skinny-fat guys that have done SS or similar routines from the get-go ended up fat because of the calorie requirements to sustain linear progression.

  76. Robert Santana says:

    Ok there are way too many comments to go through but I got the general jist of it. My main questions for you are:

    1) how much did you sleep?
    2) were you microloading the bench press, the press, and the barbell load (meaning using less than 5 lb jumps per workout)
    3) most importantly I see that you ate a lot but how much protein per day were you eating and what is your height and weight? I have a trainee that was “eating a lot” and stalling on the lifts and gaining a lot of fat weight. As it turns out he was eating a lot of fat and carbs and not enough protein. As soon as we upped the protein and did a reset his lifts climbed, weight stabilized, and waist got smaller.

    I was historically skinny fat and starting strength fixed that. I have two women on this program and one of them is currently pressing 69 lbs at 5’5″ 140 and the other presses 65 lbs at 5’2″ 105 for 3 x 5 and still moving up in weight. It is highly unlikely that you did the program and finished with a 66 lb press. As fat as your injuries go i would have to see a video bc if you perform the lifts wrong things get messed up and if you do them right those mess ups tend to undo themselves. Anyone who has done the program and has had their form evaluated by a SS coach will tell you that.

    Anyhow, I think it’s great for skinny fat people as long as the upper body lifts are Titrated slower, the protein is kept high, and the other macros are Titrated more gradually.

    • Robert Santana says:

      Barbell row* not barbell load my mistake

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thanks for your comment Robert,

      1) It’s over 3 years ago now, but I don’t remember having any major issues with sleep.
      2) Not during SS. I started microloading after SS with MadCow 5×5 and gained around 10 lbs on my bench press and press, then stalled.
      3) I was 6″3, 200 lbs. I ate around 200 g of protein per day. I tried eating a deficit, maintenance, slight surplus and big surplus. I could only maintain LP with a big surplus (with lots of milk), but then I got fat. When I ate a slight surplus, my waist would get bigger, but my lifts would stall all the time.

      Can I see your skinny-fat progress pictures?

      • Robert Santana says:

        200 grams of protein is not enough for an adult male who is 6’3″. You would fare better eating in the 250-300 range. I am coaching a guy who is 6’3.5″ skinny fat also….He was also stalling on his bench and press and is now PRing every workout like he’s supposed to…doing 2.5 jumps on both lifts, about to move to 1 lb jumps on the press……All wed did was bump up his protein to 250-300 and he has added 10 lbs to his bench and still climbing, PRed his press, and is deadlifting 315 without any issues…..I’m telling you that you would have done much better with a higher protein diet with less fat.

        Shoot me an email and I’ll show you my history of photos.

        • Robert Santana says:

          Sorry, I accidentally deleted some of that post. The 315 deadlift was in reference to the fact that on his prior run he had to deadlift every 5th workout and got stuck at 290 with 5 lb jumps. He is now doing 10 lb jumps, deadlifting every other workout, and pulling 315 without anywhere close to the struggle he previously had at 290.

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          Robert, I’ve been eating 100-120 g of protein for the past 18 months or so, and I keep gaining muscle, so I have a hard time believing that eating 250-300 is required for me.

          When I ate 200 g of protein per day, I had a hard time digesting all that. I was always constipated and I felt “heavy”.

          With that said, I would be very interested in seeing those photos. Gonna email you tomorrow.

  77. Isnt squatting 3 times a week the thing that gets you high testosterone?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      As far as I remember from my last meeting with my endocrinologist, exercising results in a temporary increase in GH and testosterone, with the increase being proportional to the stress you impose on your body. With that said, the increase won’t get you to high testosterone levels, if you naturally haven’t got high T. Just look at my body during SS – does it look like a “high testosterone body”? Also, my measured testosterone levels after SS were very low, so squatting 3 times a week definitely didn’t do much for me.

  78. Surely you’re not claiming that you got to the size you are now without eating at a calorific surplus?? You must have needed the same excess protein that you did on starting strength – would this not also make you “fat”? There are good ways and poor ways to bulk. Eating anything and everything will help you make strength gains but naturally would add extra fat too.

    In your “How to Bulk From a Lean Base Without Ever Getting Fat” article, you explicitly state,

    “You should stop your bulk once your abs stop being visible”.

    So using your strength program you still put on fat, but you only lift for 2-3 weeks then cut for one. This probably takes just as long to build strength (and therefore muscle) as if you just did starting strength properly for 6 months then cut for a couple to lose the fat again?? Seems like you’re suggesting a different but no more successful way of getting strong and staying lean.

    I’m no expert. I just find all of the arguments above annoying and felt I needed to add my 2 cents.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I gained my size by eating a lot, I won’t deny that. However, the problem is when a skinny-fat guy eats a lot to bulk. The result is getting fat.

      By getting lean and never getting to the point where you’re fat, your body has optimized hormones to make muscle gains, and you feel better throughout the process. That’s why I recommend short bulking and cutting cycles.

      By doing SS first, and eating enough to sustain linear progression, most skinny-fat guys end up fat, then have to spend months getting lean.

  79. Thanks for writing this man. Excited to dive into more posts. Can’t believe I’ve wasted years training with little to show for it – just now learning about hormone optimization.

  80. Worst…advice…ever.

    I’m only months into SS, I’ve gone from barely being able to DL 135 to DL’ing over 300, all my lifts have progressed well, and I’ve not gained fat, I’ve lost it.

    If you gain fat while doing this program, you ate too much. Plain and simple. I eat intelligently, cycle my calories between lifting and rest days, and have had no problems progressing despite dropping BF%.

    You do not need to eat in a massive surplus for linear progression when you’re already overweight. More importantly, body composition is 80% diet – you can do just about any program and lose fat, and any program and gain fat, depending upon diet.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Matt, you’ve called me out for giving the worst advice ever, so I call you out on your statements:

      1) You stated that you gained 175 lbs on your DL while losing fat. Can I see your before after/pic?
      2) How many months did it take you to make that progress?
      3) Were you really skinny-fat if you could make that progress?

      I’m still waiting on that before/after pic of a true skinny-fat guy that did well on SS. The SS forum had over 200 comments on this, but not a single pic was posted.

      • Robert Santana says:

        I will post mine for ya. I bulked and cut many times in the past including on the program. The issue was too much fat/carbs not enough protein. When I finish my LP I will post photos from my training history.

  81. This just seems like the typical complaints from somebody who cares more about looks and physique than they do about strength. The program isn’t intended for you to be ripped and have hypertrophy in your upper body. Furthermore, you are supposed to get to 18-19% body fat and LOWER YOUR EATING at this point to get back in the 15-16% range. This article is a simple YOU DID NOT FOLLOW THE PROGRAM. Rip is very clear in that you should not worry about body fat for the first year; its not that hard. Also by the way you look waaaaaaaay better in the second picture. You look like a weak skinny guy in the first picture.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      This just seems like the typical complaints from somebody who cares more about looks and physique than they do about strength

      This website is called skinny-fat TRANSFORMATION. Most of my readers want to get lean and muscular – they couldn’t care less if they squat 115 or 145 kg.

      Also by the way you look waaaaaaaay better in the second picture. You look like a weak skinny guy in the first picture.

      In the first picture I’m skinny-fat. In the second picture, I’m FAT. I look like shit in both pictures. Lifting heavy and having a good squat/deadlift is no excuse for being fat. 15 % bodyfat is pretty much what I’m at during the end of my bulks nowadays.

  82. Epaminondas says:

    lmao, you must have body dismorphia to think that’s fat. Stop making excuses, do the program and eat or remain weak. But don’t trash the program because you have a warped idea of what is fat and aren’t doing it right. When you get strong you can worry about losing fat. Gaining strength is far far more difficult than losing fat, which is much easier.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I hope this is a joke, if not, I believe you are the one with a “warped idea” of what isn’t fat.

    • Wow this is a spot on comment. Gaining strength is very difficult and requires hard work and some weight gain. You can lose fat so much quicker and easier than it is to gain that strength initially. Quit bitching and do the program. If you’re injuring your hip flexors and lower back, your form is off (knee slide in the hole).

      • Oskar Faarkrog says:

        This website is not about getting a huge squat at the expense of being fat. It’s about building muscle and getting lean to lose the skinny-fat look.

        Squatting heavy 3 times a week and bulking may work for the skinny guy who wants to fill out his frame and gain some strength, but not for the majority of my readers.

  83. Oskar,

    What are your recommendations for rest periods between sets. I’ve always used a more “intuitive” structure . . .When I feel my muscles are ready to max out on the next set, I go, but I’ve never been a “timed” rest period trainer . . .????



    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Use the intuitive structure until you have built a solid strength base. Once you’re strong (all relative), you can experiment with lower rest times. For instance, it’s pointless to use low rest times on chin ups if you can do 5 reps, since you will burn out way too fast. But, if you can do 20 reps with ease, then you can do sets of 12 reps with lower rest times to get a better workout.

      Those were just 2 examples, but I hope you got the idea.

  84. Did you keep a lifting log or anything while following this program? I’d love to see your progression – I will concede to being sceptical that you diligently followed a progressive overload barbell regimen for a year and got the results you did.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Jake,

      Yes, I have 2-3 old notebooks in my archives. It would take too long time to scan all the pages into my PC, but my progression was basically like this:

      For a few weeks I would add weight, then I’d stall, do a deload, and add a bit more weight to my exercises – this would continue for a few months. In the meanwhile, I got slightly fatter, so I cut back on the calories and increased protein intake. This resulted, in me getting nowhere – I would stall again. Finally, I decided to just try a full out bulk since I had seen absolutely no change in my body in 7 months, and I gained like 50 lbs on my deadlift in 4 weeks, but I looked like a teddybear.

      Also, I asked the SS-forums for examples of true skinny-fat guys who had success with SS (from an aesthetics point of view) and I’m yet to receive a single example despite the topic having +200 comments.

  85. You have failed the program mate, in many ways but kudos for posting this so others can learn from your mistakes.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      That’s what all SS fanboys say. I added almost 300 lbs to my DL in 1 year, so I think it’s safe to say I was doing something right, yet my physique looked like complete crap.

      • You seemed more concerned with your figure then your strength. Your looking for more sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (non functional) rather then myofibrillar hypertrophy. Your analysis of the program is comical, since you wanted more show then go, which is not what SS is about. How did you base your caloric intake? If you were getting fatter, maybe you should have adjusted your caloric intake since you were obviously putting on more fat than muscle (your fault). You got stronger on all the major lifts did you not? Plus, 12 months on SS is a long time, you didn’t read the book as stated. You should have moved on to advanced novice, or programs in his Practical Programming in the intermediate section. You hurt yourself, not SS. You need to learn to listen to your body and know when its time to progress before you start giving advice to others. I did SS for 6 months, then moved to the intermediate phase where heave/light days are manipulated during the week. But why would you care, your more concerned with your figure. Which is why you should’t bash a program on STRENGTH when your goal was ONLY SHOW!

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          I never bashed SS for being a poor routine to gain strength. I bashed it for being a poor beginner routine for the skinny-fat guy that wants to transform his body.

          And, I moved to intermediate routines late, because my lifts were still at a novice level 7 months into training (according to the standards I’ve seen on the net).

  86. Hii!

    does this count for skinnyfat girls too? LOL
    been trying to gain muscle like forever and I do see some results, but the fat won’t go awayyy (and I only eat foods that are good for you & workout 5-6x a week)
    now i’m reading all this stuff (bodybuilding.com) that I should eat more to reach my goals, blablablah…and I tried that, but it’s not really helping me in the way that I hoped it would

    If I try this, “loose the fat first”- should I cut calories & do my workouts? or eat the amount my body needs & do my workout, maybe add more cardio to it? (I now do cardio 3 times a week for 10-20 minutes)

    Hope you still anwser the questions on your blog (since the last one was in November :P)


    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Lisanne,

      I don’t know how women should train, so I’m not the right person to ask about that.

      With that said, you need to focus on eating less if you want to lose fat. It’s possible to lose fat through cardio, but the main focus should be on eating less. It’s VERY difficult to outtrain a bad diet.

  87. Bench: 30 kg x 5 to 50 kg x 5
    Press: 15 kg x 5 to 30 kg x 5
    Squat: 30 kg x 5 to 70 kg x 5
    Deadlift: 47.5 kg x 5 to 80 kg x 5


    Seriously? That’s it in 7 months? Then you make a bit better gains in the last 5 months? You weren’t doing it right, period. You may THINK you were, but you weren’t. Genetics isn’t an excuse for your lack of trying. You had all those mental blocks that were really weighing you down. “Fat this” and “estrogen that”. You weren’t grinding it, and you weren’t consistent. Skinny-fat or not, I just don’t see how if you were doing it right you’d only end up with those numbers in a year. Your progression, if done right, should’ve ended in 6 months, or 8 months tops.

    Another thing that’s bugging me is your mention of “upper chest”. There is no upper chest. The closest thing to an upper chest is the clavicular head on your chest, which, yes, is targeted more in incline positions on push exercises (so are your anterior delts), but your sternal head (or “lower chest”) of your pecs is still being worked on 95% as hard. Diamond pushups, if anything when done on a level surface, is in a very slight decline. Gaining an “upper chest” is a combination of losing weight (getting rid of the fat on your chest), and causing hypertrophy in your chest in general. Please, you can rag on starting strength all you want for all I care, but for the love of god and all that is holy, stop spreading the “upper chest” myth.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      “You weren’t grinding it, and you weren’t consistent.”

      I gave the program almost a full year, because I sincerely wanted it to work for me. I was convinced throughout the whole year that starting strength is the best beginner program out there. I logged every single workout, got experienced lifters to help me with my form on the lifts and I went to the gym during holidays.

      I added weight to the bar evertime I completed 3 x 5, however I would plateau on a regular basis. I did the deloads, and built back up to my regular weight and added weight for a workout or two, then stalled again.

      To counter this, I bought small 0.5 kg plates to reduce the increases in workload. This worked for a short amount of time, before I was plateauing regularly yet again.

      During all this time I have tried to eat a caloric deficit, maintenance, slight surplus and big surplus. When I was in a deficit, maintenance or slight surplus I stalled all the time (this is basically the first 9-10 months on the program). At the end of the program I tried to eat a big caloric surplus, and finally I was able to sustain linear progression but at the expense of gaining fat rapidly and thereby going from skinny-fat to just regular fat.

      That’s what I call inconsistency and lack of grinding, I hope you feel the irony.

      The caloric requirement of the program is the main reason why it’s not suitable for a skinny-fat guy. The best approach for a skinny-fat beginner is to focus on losing the fat first, while doing a program that doesn’t require a huge caloric surplus to sustain progression.

      I believe that starting strength is a good routine for MOST people, just not skinny-fat beginners that primarily focus on aesthetics.

      As for the upper-chest, that’s just bullshit and I’m a living proof of that. I made my chest look decent despite having gynecomastia, and the only reason why that was possible is that everytime I trained my chest, I performed exercises that EMPHASIZE the upper chest. You’re right though, it’s not possible to isolate the upper chest, but it’s possible to emphasize it.

      Dr. Clay Hyght wrote an article about the anatomy and biomechanics of the chest for T-Nation: http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/building_a_bodybuilder_chest

      Maybe he’s wrong about chest anatomy and biomechanics and I’m just imagining that my upper chest has improved a lot?

      • “As for the upper-chest, that’s just bullshit and I’m a living proof of that. I made my chest look decent despite having gynecomastia, and the only reason why that was possible is that everytime I trained my chest, I performed exercises that EMPHASIZE the upper chest. You’re right though, it’s not possible to isolate the upper chest, but it’s possible to emphasize it.”

        You gained an upper chest because your overall chest filled out and you lost weight, that’s all. There’s no “hitting every angle of every chest exercise”. It all works the chest regardless! Doing incline bench press is not such difference of chest fiber recruitment compared to flat bench press to make much of a difference at all! Also diamond pushups are possibly the worst example you can give to work the upper chest as well since you do them on a flat surface. Your advice for gaining an upper chest through diamond pushups is just bad advice. Doing pushups on an incline (your feet on a higher surface), would make more sense. Also, diamond pushups actually emphasize the triceps more (think close-grip bench press).

        Can’t think of anything else to say on the matter. About starting strength… If it didn’t work for you then so be it, I’m not gonna continue debating that.

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          I know that diamond push ups target the triceps, but just because an exercise targets one muscle, it doesn’t mean that other muscles cannot grow from it. Bodybuilding is just as much a science as it is an art; some things just work for people even though they aren’t supposed to. My posts are based on what worked for me, but I will make sure to edit them if people find that my advice doesn’t work. So far people have reported nothing but positive changes by implementing the advice here.

          “You gained an upper chest because your overall chest filled out and you lost weight, that’s all.”
          That’s not true. Here’s a picture comparing my chest from November 2012 to May 2013: http://skinnyfattransformation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/diminishing-returns.jpg

          In the first one I’m 177 lbs and in the second one I’m 190 lbs. During this time I focused 100 % on my upper chest (I didn’t do any lower chest work) and as a result my upper chest increased in size while my lower chest measurement actually decreased by almost an inch. Overall my chest looked smaller despite weighing more, however it looked much better. Also, at the start of my upper chest training I was able to do something like 50 regular push ups and only a handful of diamond push ups, but at the end I could do over 40 diamond push ups while my regular push up number barely improved.

  88. The Starting Strength programme includes powercleans, not rows. You didn’t do the programme.

    The Starting Strength programme requires that if you complete the target reps, you add weight to to the bar next time, generally 2.5kg unless you have microplates for the press and bench and need them. If you miss the target reps 3 workouts in a row you drop the weight 10% and build back up. Your earlier figures have BP 30 –> 50 which is 8 steps up of 2.5kg, SQ 30 –> 70kg for 16 steps, and so on. 7 months is 30 weeks which should be 90 workouts.

    So you have done one or more of the following,
    – ignored the planned progression, making the target reps but being too scared to add weight next time, or even dropping the weight
    – failed target reps repeatedly and not done a deload
    – missed a lot of workouts, weeks in a row, due to illness, laziness, etc

    The last is the most common. But any of them would mean you didn’t do the programme.

    You have not read the book, any articles on the SS website, followed the programme, or eaten properly.
    “I want to get to Smithtown.”
    “To get to Smithtown, follow the M6.”
    “I went along the M6 but didn’t like the view, I took the M10 instead. My god, what a horrible road, and I never got to Smithtown! You are a terrible navigator.”

    If you did not do the programme and did not get the programme’s promised results, this is not the fault of the programme.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hello Kyle,

      Your comment has a lot of assumptions considering that you don’t actually know me:

      1) I read the book twice prior to starting the programme and I often brought it to the gym to improve my form on squats and deadlifts. I also read the free articles and forums on the SS website.

      2) During 4 years of training I haven’t had any serious injuries and I have a thin bone structure so my form is definitely not bad.

      3) I didn’t ignore planned progression and I can count the amount of workouts I missed during my transformation on one hand.

      The reason why my progress was so slow was that I stalled all the time which required me to do deloads UNLESS I ate a crazy amount of calories, which in turn would make me fat. In other words, starting strength created a lose-lose situation for me.

      Finally, I checked your personal training website. I’m curious to see before and after pictures of skinny-fat clients you have trained with starting strength.

      – Oskar

      • If you read it, you obviously didn’t absorb it.

        Starting Strength is not a body transformation programme. It’s a strength programme. This fact is cunningly hidden in its title. Your body may transform as a result of getting stronger in combination with your diet, but the aim is to get stronger.

        If you stalled and deloaded that many times, you were not doing the programme.

        My assumptions come from experience. Most people training on their own stop when their squat is around their bodyweight. That’s when it starts getting hard. My centre has 5,000 members, around 2,000 of whom come to the gym at least once a week. Any healthy adult male under 50 can get a 100kg squat within 6 months, but only 20 in my gym have done so – all of them had some coaching.

        At some point it’s just fucking hard, and few people get past that on their own. The body rarely fails before the mind does. This is a normal protective mechanism of our body, if we always pushed ourselves close to our limits we’d eventually zip past those limits and get injured. Evolution has taught us to take it easy. This is why with coaching most of us can go far further than we can on our own.

        I don’t do body transformation photos, because I train people for health and strength. For example, a woman in her 60s with herniated discs in her back has a year’s training and does a powerlifting competition [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syB-QcqfHh4]

        What is common is that 60kg guys become 70kg guys in 4-6 weeks, and 80kg guys in 4-6 months. 80kg guys who are fluffy around the middle find that their weight doesn’t change much, but their chest, arm and leg size go up while their waist stays the same or drops a bit; again, 4-6 months.

        In those 4-6 months, 60kg females become 70kg females, their hips, thighs and shoulders become bigger while their waist stays the same. If they’re 80kg or more, their weight stays the same but their thighs, hips and waist get smatller, their arms and bum less jiggly.

        All these numbers represent a body composition change – more lean mass and fat for the little ones, less fat and more lean mass for the ordinary sized ones – but this body composition is driven by the strength increases. People who are training on their own reach a certain point where it gets hard, stop putting weight on the bar, and their body stops changing.

        The men get to numbers like a 120kg squat, 60-80kg bench and 120-140kg deadlift, plus some chinups. The women achieve 60/40/80, though the bench varies hugely for the women depending on their builds and physical training backgrounds, likewise for chinups.

        These gains come from their doing 2 half-hour sessions a week. This is not Starting Strength, since SS supposes 3 sessions a week lasting 60-90 minutes, shorter when you’re starting and the weights are light, longer some time in when they’re heavier and you need more rest. I use the principles of SS, not every detail, I adapt it to the circumstances of training – people coming in for half an hour at 6 o’clock in the morning. The numbers I put above are about as much as anyone can get from 2×30′ a week, to go further you need to spend more time.

        Obviously working out on your own the same workout will take longer, my own workouts with the same workload as my 30′ clients take 60-75′. Nothing physically stops me doing it quicker, I just don’t have someone standing there telling me to hurry up. Likewise I don’t push the weights much. At the moment I don’t have a trainer or coach – I’m focusing my efforts on my clients and gym members, not myself.

        All of the males in my gym achieving the numbers above have had some coaching, not necessarily every workout, but someone’s coached them and continues to do so at least weekly. The only females in my gym achieving those numbers are my clients.

        Your body did not change because the weight on the bar did not change. The weight on the bar did not change because it got hard and you wussed out. Don’t feel bad, everyone wusses out, including me. I’ve trained dozens of guys exactly like you, they usually achieve a personal best lift in the first session – having a few pointers to improve technique usually adds to the lift, and having someone standing there saying, “you can do it” adds more, so you lift 5-10kg more than you ever have.

        Starting Strength is nothing magical, there are many programmes which work, provided they contain the basic movements of squat, push, pull and hip hinge. But all require effort, and all require progressing the resistance over time. All require that at some point you say, “fuck it!” to your wussy self and just give it a go.

        That’s hard to do on your own.

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          The goal of this website is to help skinny-fat guys gain muscle and lose fat. Apparently starting strength is not a body transformation program as you stated nicely youself, so it seems like we agree on that point.

          1 year of calisthenics only, no routine, eating when and what I want: http://skinnyfattransformation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/backprogress2013-1024×735.jpg

          CLEARLY calisthenics worked better than starting strength.

          We can keep arguing forever about how good starting strength is, but pictures tell more than 1000 words.

          • Again, you don’t understand. SS is not a body transformation programme. Nor has it ever been advertised as such, except inasumch as people who get stronger will tend to get bigger, and will stall in their strength gains if they don’t get better.

            Your goal was not strength, it was changing your body. You chose the wrong programme. It’d be like me doing P90x then complaining I couldn’t deadlift 200kg afterwards. That’s not the goal of the programme. But of course you didn’t do Starting Strength, you just did some of the exercises in it, not all of them, didn’t progress the resistance, etc. Thus as a healthy young male you achieved overall less strength in 7 months than does the typical female following the programme.

            You didn’t follow the programme, so you didn’t get its advertised results, nor any other results you were looking for. Again, the fault lies not in the programme but in you. This is quite hard for most of us to face. But again, this is why most of us who achieve anything much have coaches.

            Calisthenics worked better than Starting Strength for YOU for two reasons:
            1) you didn’t do Starting Strength, and
            2) you wussed out with the barbells, but did not wuss out with the calisthenics

            Effort and consistency are key to any programme. A shitty programme you make a consistent effort with will give you far better results than an excellent programme you were inconsistent and lazy with.

          • Oskar Faarkrog says:

            As for inconsistency and laziness, read my reply to Jim below.

            I believe that my choice of program was the best at that time given what I had read about building a solid strength foundation before moving onto hypertrophy training.

            The main critique of my program is however not that it doesn’t work in adding strength, but that it requires a huge caloric surplus to sustain progression for people with a thin bone structure – something that will make a skinny-fat guy become fat and thereby mess up the hormonal balance.

            A lot of skinny-fat guys with aesthetics in mind have asked me about starting strength so I wrote this article to help them avoid making the mistake of doing this program. For example, I’m not discouraging the average skinny guy from doing starting strength, since he’s in a perfect position to eat a lot of calories and build a solid strength foundation before moving onto an intermediate program. I’m also not discouraging the average overweight guy from doing starting strength, since he most likely has an easier time maintaining and gaining muscle in a caloric deficit/maintenance compared to guys with a smaller bone structure. My advice is only aimed at the skinny-fat guy who wants to get lean and muscular.

            Hope it cleared up some of the confusion.

            – Oskar

  89. Hi Oskar!

    I’ve been on Starting Strength for the past 3 months and all I’ve noticed in size has been my legs and buttocks, which I must say look pretty damn good! However, my upper body is severely lacking. My arms are still at the same miserable size of 35cm and my shoulders and chest haven’t grown much either. I have noticed an increase in my back however. In my experience, squatting three times a week with heavy weights will primarily build up the glutes and buttocks as that’s the target muscles.

    I’ve posted on Starting Strength and similar forums about this and I’ve gotten the same reply every time: ‘You just need to keep increasing the weight’, ‘Squats build up the entire body’, ‘You need to eat more’ (I already eat like a horse and my waist has started increasing again after I lost the weight during the summer by doing a shit load of HIIT) blah blah blah… I think I’ll give your programme a shot. What advice would you give me?

    Btw, I love Denmark. It’s a beautiful country. I was there for two days when I was visiting my friend in Sweden. Greetings from Ireland! ;)


    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      It sounds like you had an identical experience to me, ignore the starting strength forum unless you want to keep getting the same results you have gotten until now.

      Focus on getting lean first. Read why here: http://skinnyfattransformation.com/benefit-of-getting-lean/ and how to get lean here: http://skinnyfattransformation.com/lose-fat-without-starving/

      While you lean down do bodyweight training mimimum 4 times a week. Try a minimalistic approach where you do nothing else than close grip chin ups and diamond push ups (every training) and single legged squats (once a week to maintain leg size).

      Once you’re lean I would advise you to do diamond push ups and close grip chin ups everyday to bring up the arms, shoulders and upper chest and single legged squats once a week to maintain leg size. While doing this eat as much as you need and implement high intensity training techniques on a regular basis to push yourself – this will make your weak muscle groups grow.

      Combine this kind of routine with the advice in this article so you can stay lean while building size in the right places: http://skinnyfattransformation.com/how-to-bulk/

      I’ve been to Ireland aswell cool country! I have to say though, Denmark sucks because of the constant rain, but I’m glad you like it.

  90. Ringer3333 says:

    You were more like a female before Starting Strength when you were benching 65 pounds.

  91. Considering your repeated statements about your initial refusal to consistently adhere to the recovery aspect of the program and the associated stalls you experienced – I thought others may find this article written by Rip to be a useful companion to your post:


    The strength gains you posted within the comments section for your first 7 months should’ve been achieved within the first three weeks had you in fact been fully doing (i.e. the recovery part of) the program.


    Your Quote:
    “…your training must match your eating, and to progress on those exercises everytime you need to eat a lot. Imagine squatting with weights that are close to your max 3 times a week for 3 sets of 5 on a CALORIC DEFICIT OR MAINTENANCE. This absolutely CANNOT be done if you want to increase the weight. Even as a beginner when I couldn’t even shoulder press an empty 45 lbs bar I had to be in a caloric surplus everyday to progress. ”

    Couldn’t have written it better myself.
    If someone eats insufficiently for recovery in their strength training program, they will not see the associated gains in muscle/strength of doing said program.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Gabriel, I completely agree with what you’re saying, however the point of this post is to point out that this program is not optimal for a skinny-fat guy.

      I know it works for ectomorphs since they can eat tons of calories to fuel growth and it works for endomorphs because they tend to be naturally strong with a thick bonestructure and thereby have good recovery capabilities. And finally, mesomorphs: pretty much everything will work for a mesomorph.

      But how about the skinny-fat guy who gains tons of fat in a caloric surplus which is required for starting strength?

      I have done this program in a caloric deficit, maintenance, slight surplus and huge surplus. When I was in a caloric maintenance, deficit or slight surplus I stalled all the time. When I ate a huge surplus I actually made very good progress on this program (added something like 60-70 lbs to my deadlift in a month) BUT I also got fat.

      I’m not bashing this program based on 3-4 months of half hearted effort. I put almost 12 solid months into it with more effort than into any other program I have done so far, but I got the worst results DESPITE being a novice.

      • Ringer3333 says:

        Okay, so then you spent TWELVE months on the program. What were your final lifts on bench, deadlift, squat, and press after those 12 months?

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          After 12 months I could do 340 lbs x 5 on deadlift, 155 x 5 on bench, 220 lbs x 10 on deep squat and 120 lbs x 5 on press.

          I did gain a decent amount of strength on the program, but the gains were VERY slow to non-existent unless I ate like a pig.

          • Ringer3333 says:

            Okay, so here’s your starting and finishing weights on Starting Strength:

            Squat: 65 lbs to ~250lbs x 5

            Deadlift: 105 to 340lbs x 5

            Bench: 65 lbs to 155lbs x 5

            Press: 33lbs to 120lbs x 5

            What exactly is the problem? In the 5-7 months that you actually did the program PROPERLY, you gained about 225 pounds on your deadlift, almost 200 pounds on your squat, and about 90 lbs on your bench press and press. It sounds to me like you did a strength program and you got significantly stronger. Wow! I’m pretty sure you’re the only person on the Internet writing a negative review on a STRENGTH program that put over 500 pounds on their core lifts.

            Okay, so you didn’t LOOK jacked as soon as you finished the program. Who cares? Nobody looks jacked as soon as they finish Starting Strength. That’s not the purpose of the program. The problem here is that you don’t understand how your significant strength gains actually helped you to shed bodyfat once you started cutting. And I’m not even going to bother getting into that with you because I’m pretty sure at this point you’re just trolling.

          • Oskar Faarkrog says:

            It seems like you are only considering the strength gains I got on the program, but how about all the negative aspects?

            Starting strength requires you to optimize recovery.
            In a skinny-fat guys case that requires a huge caloric surplus to sustain progression.
            What happens then? You gain a shitload of fat and mess up your hormones in the process.

            Maybe to you health and looks don’t matter but to me and most of the people I know they do.

            I had the hormonal balance of a female as a result of my bulk on starting strength. Doctors almost put me on TRT, but I managed to get my hormones under control by getting lean.

  92. Hey Oscar,

    Thank You so much for your quick response. Anyway, I already read that and I am 100% agree on that. However my concern is I think i hit a weight loss plateau. Because it’s been a month now that I couldn’t break the 80 kgs wall. Have you experience that kind of scenario? and also do you have any idea on how to get rid of stretch mark? and how to determine a lose skin?


    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I experienced the same scenario at 90 kg. If you aren’t losing weight you are simply eating too much. You need to either reduce the amount of meals you eat, or reduce the portion sizes or both.

      I never cared about my stretch marks and I don’t have loose skin so I’m not the right person to ask about that.

  93. Hey Oscar,

    “I would still do compound lifts to maintain my strength, but I focused on fat loss which resulted in a 60 lbs fat loss.”

    Can you give me idea on how to focus on fat loss? I mean what kind of diet and workout did you do during that time. Your answer will be more appreciated and sorry for my English bro. Anyway great article as always brother keep up the good work you never cease to amaze.A big shout-out here from South East Asia!!!

  94. Ringer3333 says:

    What were you starting and finishing weights for bench, squat, deadlift, and press after your 7 months on the program?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Bench: 30 kg x 5 to 50 kg x 5
      Press: 15 kg x 5 to 30 kg x 5
      Squat: 30 kg x 5 to 70 kg x 5
      Deadlift: 47.5 kg x 5 to 80 kg x 5

      The starting numbers are precise, however the finishing weights are just rough estimates. I can try to find the precise numbers in my old log books if you want.

      • Ringer3333 says:

        So after SEVEN MONTHS on the program you finished with a 155lb. x 5 squat and a 175lb x 5 deadlift? Oskar, that doesn’t make any sense. If you’ve ever actually read Starting Strength, you’ll know that the average trainee usually finishes the program somewhere in the neighborhood of 275 – 330lb x 5 squat and a 300lb+ x 5 deadlift.

        Let’s forget about aesthetics for a second. Why do you think you were so unsuccesful at gaining STRENGTH on this program?

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          Keyword: Average trainee.

          I definitely have below average genetics, which is the case for most skinny-fat guys.

          And no, let’s not forget about aesthetics. Any program works if you eat like a pig and don’t mind having 0 visible abs.

      • Oskar,

        I appreciate you taking a reasoned approach to this, but I have to agree with Ringer and state that your progress is not just atypical…it’s way outside of the normal.

        My guess is that you did not follow the program, and it was probably a more severe deviation than just substituting rows for cleans. I’d be interested to see your training logs. Though we are past this, I’d be interested to see your form for the lifts as well.

        Be careful about redefining the program and then stating that since it did not work for you (sample size 1) it must not work for all people with similar characteristics. Do you see the fallacies present?

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          Hi Nichloas,

          My progress is atypical for an average guy, however keep in mind that this website is targetted at skinny-fat guys that have below average genetics.

          I’m visiting my girlfriend in America right now and my logs are in my appartment in Copenhagen, so send me an email after the 25 November and I’ll send them to you.

          I don’t train at a gym anymore so I can’t record a video of my barbell lifts.

          About the small sample size: this is a personal blog, not an exercise science research paper.

          – Oskar

          • You keep stating this “below average genetics”.

            Unless you have an abnormal hormonal profile attributed to an inherent disease or syndrome, this means absolutely nothing and is proven to be false by the fact you have made progress on a largely callisthenic-type routine. Genetics determine your maximal potential, the rest is down to work ethic, determination and knowledge.

            Add my scepticism to the pile. I don’t think you were doing the routine correctly, and if you were then you were eating far too much and/or not doing enough with the rest of the hours in the day when you weren’t working out to negate the caloric load you were taking.

            Many people say not to take Rip’s advice on nutrition and I’d echo that.
            Whilst you do need a surplus while running SS, you need far less of a surplus than the young men Rip is used to training.
            As a skinny-fat guy concerned with losing weight and body recomp, you shouldn’t have even been running SS, you should’ve been running some sort of GPP or S&CP (like CrossFit) you can do in a caloric deficit. SS is for gaining mass, and you did (though at a poor rate, which leads people to believe you weren’t doing the program properly). You can see from your progress pictures that your quads were getting bigger. I’d be interested in seeing your workout logs, too.

            I say this as a guy with “below average genetics” who gets sick of hearing others say they can’t progress when they’re perfectly healthy. I started out with an actual hormonal imbalance due to a benign adrenal tumour (since removed), and what’s known as grade 4 proximal muscle weakness and central obesity as a result. My T levels were horrifyingly low. I dieted and cardio’d my way to skinny-fat territory.

            In running SS for just 8 months my recovery astounded my doctors, from being unable to squat a 20KG bar (and needing to switch to a 15kg “female” bar to even get started) to a 120KG 5RM, and finally naturally producing average T levels for a man of my age. I still have about 15-20kg of excess weight on me, but I am much larger and more defined in the limbs and have a much better muscular base for efficiently losing that amount of body fat.

            • Oskar Faarkrog says:

              “Unless you have an abnormal hormonal profile attributed to an inherent disease or syndrome, this means absolutely nothing and is proven to be false by the fact you have made progress on a largely callisthenic-type routine.”

              There you go… I do have naturally low testosterone levels. A perfectly healthy 18 year old doesn’t have a test level of 297 ng/dl, gynecomastia, IBS and an inability to shoulder press an empty bar.

              Why are you bashing calisthenics training? It’s known as one of the best ways to build a great physique. Just look at people like Lazar Novovic, Dusan Djolevic and Frank Medrano.

              “As a skinny-fat guy concerned with losing weight and body recomp, you shouldn’t have even been running SS, you should’ve been running some sort of GPP or S&CP (like CrossFit) you can do in a caloric deficit. SS is for gaining mass, and you did (though at a poor rate, which leads people to believe you weren’t doing the program properly). You can see from your progress pictures that your quads were getting bigger. I’d be interested in seeing your workout logs, too.”

              I completely agree with your recommendation on running a program that is suited for a caloric deficit. This is the main reason to why I do not recommend skinny-fat guys to run SS. There’s no point in running SS when you have fat to lose. Even when you’ve lost the fat, and built some good basic strength on pull ups etc. SS is a poor routine since it lacks volume and isolation exercises.

              Congrats with your progress, keep it up.

      • This cannot be real. I was at these numbers after FOUR DAYS on the program! 5’10” 145lbs. Worse genetics than you, 5.9 inch wrists Asian.

  95. I agree with your views on Starting Strength Oskar. I would also like to add that going to the gym knowing that I have to squat x kilos while at the same time I know that I am tired, because of exterior factors is mentally challenging. At some points in the program its like choosing between going to the gym knowing you will fail or skipping the workout – what to choose.. I experienced the same situation as you – i had to eat a sufficient amount of surplus calories to stay on track, I of course gained a lot of fat too. Futhermore I had a knee injury due to the high intensity squat exercise.

    I really would never do starting strength again – it fucks with my mind.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Good points bro. I dreaded a lot of training sessions on starting strength because there’s no room for an off day.

      Also, you need to fuel starting strength with a caloric surplus to progress and what happens to a skinny-fat guy that wants to fuel his training with excess calories? He becomes fat instead of skinny-fat. Remember, the point of this article is not to say starting strength is a bad program for everyone, but to say that it’s a bad program for skinny-fat people that are new to training.

  96. Greg Esres says:

    Seven months on Starting Strength is a long time; I would expect that linear progression would have stopped before then, so your photos above don’t really show anything. If linear progression has stopped, you’re no longer are a novice and need intermediate programming, which isn’t Starting Strength.

    I will also point out that the major selling point of Starting Strength or any other LP program isn’t simplicity, but the fact that it’s the most effective way, bar none, of getting strong quickly. The simplicity is simply bonus.

    Starting Strength is not a body building program, it’s a strength gaining program, but a body building program is more effective if you begin it with a good foundation of strength, which is why Starting Strength has “Starting” in the title.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      1: I never really experienced linear progression on starting strength. I stalled every 2-3 weeks.
      2: After starting strength I did madcow 5×5 for 2-3 months and stalled again all the time.
      3: Starting strength is not the most effective program, at least not for people with skinny-fat genetics. If that was true, then how come I gained much more strength and muscle mass in my past year of training than I did as a novice on starting strength (gone from 10 chin ups to 22 chin ups at roughly the same bodyweight)?
      4: I agree, a bodybuilding program is more effective once you have the strength. However, starting strength is not the best way to build up that strength.

      • Greg Esres says:

        “10 chin ups to 22 chin ups”

        Because that isn’t strength; that’s more of an endurance thing. Strength is a measure of force production and it’s unlikely that you doubled your force production in that time. In fact, your strength didn’t necessarily increase at all, depending on how strong you were to begin with. You might have gotten weaker.

        High rep training produces different results from low rep training; you should choose whichever meets your goals.

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          This website is called skinny-fat TRANSFORMATION. The name should imply that the main goal is aesthetics – not getting strong at the expense of having no abs to show.

          And are you serious about me getting weaker when I went from 10 chin ups to 22 chin ups at roughly the same bodyweight? It sounds more like you are just trying to argue for the sake of arguing, rather than just admitting that starting strength isn’t as good as you would like it to be.

          I’ll give you another example to satisfy your argument of high and low rep ranges. I learned to do my first muscle up 1 month ago. I’m at 5 muscle ups now at 6″2, 190 lbs bodyweight. Do you still think I have gotten weaker?

          • Greg Esres says:

            I didn’t say you had grown weaker, I said you “might have”. If you started out strong from a low rep program, such as doing weighted chins, then moving to a body weight program at high reps probably would result in a loss of absolute strength. Doing more chins than about 12 is not very effective for gaining strength. Your muscle ups are probably more effective in that, if you can only do 5, but it is a maneuver that requires a lot of skill, so some of your improvement will come from that, rather than strength.

            My larger point is that your criticisms for Starting Strength are off-base because 1) you really didn’t do the program if you were concerned about your fat, and 2) you don’t seem to have a clear idea of what strength is if you think that high rep bodyweight exercises will give it to you. Bodyweight exercises can certainly make you fit, but there’s a pretty low limit in the amount of strength they can develop.

            FWIW, I’m not defending Starting Strength, I’m really defending a basic concept in exercise science. There are many other similar programs to Starting Strength that rely on the same concepts and Mark Rippetoe would be the first to tell you there’s nothing special about his own program. I currently follow a 5/3/1 program because I quickly ran into recovery issues with SS, since I’m a lot older than the program is designed for.

            • I’m sick of reading this crap and am going to put in my two cents before I block this page from sending me emails as it’s very annoying. I, like many others, am not trying to argue that starting strength works or doesn’t work – only that what you are pushing is your own programme which you claim to be amazing but have no real evidence for or against.
              1. You say starting strength made you fat as you had to eat to gain. You then admit that you still have to eat more doing your program, just you bulk then cut in very short cycles. You could have bulked then cut with starting strength. Yes, you may not have got linear progression but every time you bulked you would progress and every time you cut you stall. Still does the same job as your programme.
              2. You strictly advocate diamond push ups and will not agree that the progress you made could be replicated in other ways, like using a bench press. Which is rubbish. As long as you are lifting a heavy enough weight, you will build muscle (provided you are in calorific surplus).
              3. If you honestly were becoming better at push ups while in a deficit of calories you must have been losing weight, making them easier. If you believe you were becoming better because of gaining muscle, you must have been in surplus to build.

              It’s not that you’re wrong – what you did obviously works. It’s not that your programme’s wrong – it must be ok. What people get annoyed at is the way you claim to have found some new secret, and that another very well known programme cannot get people like you good results. It can. You just have to be clever about it, which you obviously were in your bulking and cutting.

              • Oskar Faarkrog says:

                I’ve never claimed that I have a secret program that will get people amazing results. I have stated several times on this website that no matter what, progress is slow as a skinny-fat guy.

                1: If I bulked with starting strength, I would get fat. Starting strength isn’t optimal for hypertrophy. Look at my current program, and compare it with SS. There are almost no similarities.
                2: I’m not all about gaining size, I want size in the right places. Regular bench presses build the lower chest. Most skinny-fat guys lack upper chest and inner chest, which make diamond push ups ideal.
                3: Yes, I ate surplus calories to build muscle and deficit to lose fat.

                It’s a very well known programme, yet all I get is emails from skinny-fat guys who didn’t have success with it and similar programmes such as Stronglifts.

                In contrast, bodyweight training seems to work well.

                Feel free to stop reading this “crap”. In the end, it’s all about how many people you help. I know for sure, that this site has helped a lot of people.

          • Oskar Faarkrog says:

            I did the program and I put a lot more effort into it than any other program, but the results were far from encouraging considering that I was a novice lifter. That’s the main point of the article. No matter how you put it, my results sucked, and it wasn’t because I didn’t do the program correctly.

            About strength: I did an experiment where I didn’t squat heavy for 6 months and only did bodyweight squats. After 6 months I was lifting the same amount at the gym, despite doing bodyweight squats no more than 1-2 times a week.

  97. hi I am a skinny fat too what program do you suggest I start off with?
    I have heard good things about push pull legs programme I am 6 ft tall 19 years 159lb skinny fat I look very much like you in the 7 months in picture

    I am thinking about eating at maintenance until I get some mass (7_8 months) go on a small cut then go on a bulk with 300 calls surplus what do you think :)

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Justin,
      I would do diamond push ups, chin ups and some kind of bodyweight squats everyday. About 2-4 sets of each just to build the habit.
      How you should eat depends on what YOU want. Do you want to lose the fat or gain more muscle (along with some fat)?

      • hey oscar its just my personal opinion based on various stories I have gone through that people with a skinny base develop better looking body in the long run,so I would prefer to build some muscle under my fat first on maintenance levels then cut to get a good base first do you recon its a good idea?

        also what is your opinion on 5 day splits vs 3 days full body routine most people su
        gest a full body but I think that the best looking ones started with splits,splits allow to control the proportions of the body so I am in a fix programmes like starting strength all all pros focus on compound movements but I feel that they are not enough I want to develop a adoinis belt so I want to incorporate exercises like hanging leg raises and other ab/chest work please help me out :)

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          I would get lean before bulking because when you have a high bodyfat, your hormones are crap. Your estrogen levels are high and chances are that your testosterone is low. With crappy hormones, it’s difficult to build a good amount of muscle – just look at my progress when I bulked in my first year of training compared to my progress this year.

          Diamond push ups will give you a good chest, you can add hanging leg raises at the end of the workout if you want to.

          I don’t do splits because a typical split only trains every muscle group 1-2 times a week, so to get good results from that you would need to absolutely destroy that muscle and that will increase the chance of injury (especially for a beginner). Everyone I know who did split programmes got injured within 1 year of training.

          I already wrote my opinion about starting strength above. If you really want to do something similar to starting strength, then check out the routine at the bottom of this article: http://skinnyfattransformation.com/skinny-fat-beginner-part-1/

          • thanks man
            I am not interested in doing starting strength I want a programme that maximizes hypertrophy I would rather look big and aesthetic than strong considering that ss is aimed more towards strength can you point me towards a programme that focuses on growing muscles over everything else

          • Oskar Faarkrog says:

            How big do you want to be? If you want to have a lean and muscular look, then all you need to do is the 3 exercises in this article: http://skinnyfattransformation.com/the-3-most-important-exercises-for-a-skinny-fat-guy/

            Do them once a day, and do 2-4 sets of each (stop each set 1 repetition before failure besides the last one where you want to go all out).

  98. Well, to be honest… you say you didn’t gain muscle in your first year but I don’t agree. You had gained a decent amount of muscle but because of your bodyfat you didn’t see the progress. A lot of the muscle that you started to see on your body in the ‘loosing weight phase’ you had to thank from the starting strength program.

    At the time you started your goal wasn’t building muscle or strength, so you picked the wrong work out if I may say so. You should have lost the fat first. Why? Because building muscle while loosing fat is nearly impossible and muscle gains aren’t that visible if your chubby.

    I do agree that stating you should eat 5000 or 4000 calories is bogus, it will work to gain muscle but will also gain more fat than it should. Work out how many calories your body needs to maintain it’s weight and eat 300 to 900 calories (and from the right food!) a day above that to bulk. Bulk a while, then do a cut.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Mitch, I agree, I did gain a small amount of muscle, that’s not the problem. However, most of that muscle was gained when I was in a huge caloric surplus (so I gained tons of fat aswell). When I ate a small caloric surplus I stalled all the time on starting strength. I would progress for a week or two, then stall and be forced to deload – in the end training was a huge burden rather than a pleasure. Furthermore, I barely gained any muscle in my shoulder, upper chest and arms, because there’s too little emphasis on those areas.

      After switching to bodyweight training almost everyday without any fixed program, I can eat pretty much anything I want and most of it goes to muscle or gets burned. In the end I don’t care much about whether I lift 300 lbs or 400 lbs, I want to look good naked. By training almost everyday I see positive changes regularly, something I didn’t on starting strength despite being a beginner back then.

      Finally, yes I should have lost fat first, but that’s not what I was advised back then so I bulked. When people ask me what to do nowadays I advise them to lose the fat first.

      • Dude, your progress has been amazing, what you have done is an incredible transformation. But .. :) You did a strength training routine then after making excellent strength gains (which also created muscle) you moved to a more classic body building routine. Weightloss 101. With out having done the strength routine you wouldn’t have been able to perform most of you body weight exercises and having more strength allowed you to lift more when exercising for hypertrophy allowing you to build bigger muscles and burn more fat. Going by how you’re looking, starting strength was a very good base for your transformation :)

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          Hey Rus, thank you for the compliment!

          I completely agree on doing strength stuff before you do hypertrophy training. In fact, my beginner routine is based on adding reps to bodyweight exercises.

          I also agree that starting strength helped me develop a very good foundation of strength.

          The reason to why I wrote this article is that I believe starting strength is a poor routine for a skinny fat beginner who can’t even do a chin up and has a lot of weight to lose. I believe that a beginner should master basic bodyweight stuff and lose the fat before doing heavy deadlifts and squats.

          What happens to most skinny fat guys who do routines like SS, is that they focus so much on the weight on the bar, that they eat to support strength gains and end up fat instead of skinny-fat, just like I did.

  99. How can you say you made no gains after 7 months when all of your lifts went up? Muscle burns more calories than fat and if you stuck with it you would have achieved the same results

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I gained a bit of strength, but close to no muscle. My body responds better to the 12-20 rep range to gain muscle.

      I don’t see the point in sticking with a program if it doesn’t provide the results I’m after? My main goal at that time was aesthetics.

      • Yellow Viking says:

        Dude, This program is for STRENGTH GAINING its not a BODYUBUILDING program. Youre stating that Starting Strength is not good …of course its not good for a guy who wants to be just a bodybuilder. Its close to statement that “i lifted many weights with this program but its not good because my musical skills didnt improve”…

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          I stated the program is not good for a skinny-fat guy who wants to transform his body. You’re trying to make it sound like it’s obvious, but it really isn’t. I get emails every week from guys who did SS/5×5 type of training with little to show for it, ending up disappointed, despite training for months. This article was written with those guys in mind.

          • What you don’t seem to understand is that those same guys would look like shit regardless of what program they did. Diet is everything.

            • Oskar Faarkrog says:

              Diet is not everything. Diet alone won’t build muscle mass. You need a decent diet and a program that your body responds to. My body didn’t respond to SS, but it responded to other types of training.

              • Pick a program, stick to it. It’s 80% diet and 20% training is what I say. You had your diet part completely messed up. Don’t blame the workout program.

                • Oskar Faarkrog says:

                  Diet and training goes together. SS requires you to add weight to the squat 3 times a week. This requires you to eat a caloric surplus. In my case, that surplus had to be fairly big, otherwise I was not able to “follow the program” and add weight.

                  • If you eat in a huge calorie surplus, you will put on weight. That is but natural. You need to only be on a slight calorie surplus as a beginner or even eat at maintenance to follow the program. You are not expected to add weight at every step. When you stall there are measures to deal with that as well. Fitness is a lifestyle not a race. That seems to be a key point many people miss out on.

                    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

                      I stalled all the time unless I ate a lot on SS. Being in a slight caloric surplus didn’t enable me to make consistent progression. I do agree, fitness is a marathon, not a sprint.

  100. Wow, good on you for not reading up on the program. I don’t wan’t to praise it, but nowhere does Rippetoe state, that you should eat that much if youre already fat. Going 5k calories when you’re fat is moronic.

    Besides 1: You did not do the power cleans. These help your entire body and will help on the deadlift
    2) Auxillery exercises can and most likely should be added; Dips, chins and pull-ups.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I bought and read his entire book. I had full faith in the program and did it from day 1 with proper food and rest.

      1) I never said that Rippetoe stated that.
      2) I couldn’t progress on this program unless I was eating a lot. The first picture is 7 months into starting strength where I ate a slight caloric surplus, and even though I never skipped workouts and pushed myself I barely made any muscle gains – pretty much all of it was fat.
      3) The deadlift was by far the lift that I progressed the most on, and I can’t see how power cleans would have changed the outcome significantly.
      4) I probably should have made this clear, but I did add auxiliary exercises 3 months into the program, however I wasn’t able to progress properly on chin ups and dips after being exhausted from the main lifts.

      I’m not saying this program is bad, I actually recommended my skinny friend to do it and he gained about 25 lbs in 6 months while staying lean and gaining tons of strength. My point is, that it’s not something I would recommend for a guy that is skinny-fat.

    • Dr. Sex says:

      He covered this in the article. Probably the best, most complete description of the skinnyfat/SS dilemma I have read. I raised the same points on /fit/ and I got the same arguments.

      Eating is part of the program. You are supposed to eat to maintain linear gains, if you don’t, you’re not doing the program.

    • All I see here is a guy who did starting strength as a novice, cut before becoming an intermediate, and ended up with an ‘awesome’ physique (which I personally consider extremely mediocre).

      You don’t have enough evidence to say ‘Starting Strength is bad for your physique,’ since you developed your physique only after doing (albeit, somewhat inaccurate version of)Starting Strength.

      What you don’t understand is that Starting Strength gracefully solves the novice condition – a critical, indispensable part of athletic training. You don’t pour the concrete formwork for a house, put up the wooden frame, and then complain the house doesn’t look good.

  101. I agree to Oskar. I tried to follow the suggest like “if you are a skinny guy, eat like an horse!”.
    Actually the only result of that was a big amount of fat over my hips and in the belly area :(

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Exactly, good to know I’m not the only one that experienced this. Starting Strength might work for regular skinny guys that don’t gain fat at all, but not for a skinny-fat guy.

      • Starting strength is a fine routine for a)learning proper form b) gaining strength rapidly and by doing those 2, building a solid foundation to work later on. Research on topic clearly states that complete novices benefit from 3x week training, with no difference between 60%RM or past 80% range, since adaptations are made in a way faster fashion during this stage. Your stall might have probably been because of the lack of planning and periodization of this program. You would have benefited way more from a linear periodization programming, combining strenght, hypertrophy, endurance & recovery work rather than just strenght. Starting strength has its advantages for a short period of time, that’s it. Further programming needs to be done in order to break trough the different plateaus resulting from sub par planning as in the case of this routine. And diet wise, you would have been able to make strenght gains and lose fat in this stage, however proper diet prescription was necessary since this is a very low volume training program.

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          I agree, I would have benefitted from adding hypertrophy and endurance to the workouts, but I didn’t have that knowledge at the time.

          • Yeah man, however you turned out ok, and I am pretty sure the strength gains you made were the foundation of your current physique. I only disagree with you on the part of BW exercises being more optimal lol

            • Oskar Faarkrog says:

              Yes, the strength gains definitely made it easier to progress in my training once I lost the fat, however, I’m just arguing that there are better ways to do this.

              By the way, I still use weights today. However, I believe that beginners with no base at all (most skinny-fat guys), are better off with a simple bodyweight routine, before they transition into weights.

            • i believe BW training is more optimal…….gymnasts build their impressive physiques by only doing BW training…… i am not against heavt weight training it has its benefits….. but if you ask me to vote for the optimal training technique i would vote for BW training.

      • I was overweight for most of my life and decided to lose weight and get in shape as my job is very physically demanding (I’m a paramedic). I went from 230lbs to 175 at 5’6, so I’m still about 20% body fat. I really want to get lean, but have struggled to get down past 175. My main objective is to be strong for my job, but I want to look good as well. Any thoughts on how to get there? I did the strong lifts program for 6 months and got great gains, but didn’t lose any weight, and I think it must be my body type after finding your website. I switched to body weight training this summer and it helped my physique a little bit, and helped shed a few pounds, but I have lost strength. I would love some tips.

        Also, despite doing 3 days a week of body weight training, I seen almost no increase in the number of push ups, and pull ups I was able to do. Any thoughts?

  102. I used to do starting strength when I began lifting, and all I can say is that I got a lot stronger but just like you I had nothing to show for it and I injured my knee from squatting heavy 3 times a week. My knee has never been the same since. This article is spot on, starting strength will get you stronger and it’s simple, but that’s it.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Damn, it sucks that your knee never recovered. Fortunately I got through my injuries and recovered. Can you do any kind of leg training nowadays?

    • Stefan Rasmussen DK says:

      Well. . .its also designes to prepare and/or train for rate of force development, something that has very little in common with with trying to look good, or build larger impressive looking muscles :)

      But yes, it seems to be a common problem with this kind of program, that people gain weight, and that kinda ruins the relative strength part of it, since it makes you less “strong” if you at the same time gain weight, then you need to develop even more force o_O

      • brian adams says:

        Hello, fifty year old fat ass here ( I was 290 now 227) I can’t do certain exercises due to old injuries ( squats and pull UPS hurt bad) HOWEVER I do drag weights , HAS ANYBODY HERE CHECKED INTO DRAGGING WEIGHTS ???? Its considered pre hab which means it eliminates the negative portion of the rep which causes muscle damage and their are awesome studies on the strength increases with metabolic enhancement and cortisol levels returning to BELOW baseline within 3 hours, there’s no harder exercise BUT SAFER THEN any movement out there.Recent studies show improved sprint times with SLOW TIRE DRAGS lol go figure, all that while the carry over strength to other exercises increases and it doesn’t destroy your joints, dragging and pushing weights guys !!!! ( go research and let me know what yall think) GREAT SITE FOR NON STEROID lifters with reasonable results, I’m very glad I found this site.I also like farmers walks, and interment fasting occasionally.

    • VoiceOfReason says:

      Doing squats 3 times per week does not mess up a knee unless you are:

      1. Doing them wrong
      2. Have some type of injury and aggravated it.(Warning signs are usually given prior to breakdown.)
      3. Have some type of muscular imbalance/abnormality that should be accounted for.

      It seems like most of these issues presented above could have been avoided by simply listening to your body. Part of Starting Strength is learning your body’s recovery and calorie needs. If you measure bodyfat monthly or every 6 weeks, you should have a pretty good idea what you need to change.

      Starting Strength only recommends 4-6k calories per day for trainees that NEED to gain weight. Once you are gaining weight, you should obviously scale back the calories and try to gain 1-3 lbs per month since you can’t gain more than about 15-30 lbs of muscle per year naturally.

      You say that when you didn’t eat a large surplus your increases stopped? That’s life after the first 5-6 months. You can:

      1. Deload and work back up. (Usually works at least 1-3 times.)
      2. Work on form and make sure you are not limiting yourself by weaknesses.
      3. If you were still super low on body fat, you could try eating like a madman and see what happens. Otherwise, you switch to intermediate and do whatever the hell you want to do, bodyweight stuff, body building, powerlifting, etc.

      Lastly, you could be surprised how much muscle you put on under the fat. Within reason, (maybe 20% near the high-end.) if you get say 20-25 lbs. over where you want to be, watch the transformation when you end your first cutting phase and end up at 12-14% body fat.

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