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Time to move on from Starting strength? (And what to move on to?)

by (20)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:39 PM
Created February 24, 2012 at 3:14 AM

I've been doing Starting Strength regularly (sometimes just 2x per week) for 5.5 months. I've seen huge gains and am extremely happy with the program. My question is whether I should move on to a new/more advanced program, add in my own assortment of training, or start Crossfit?

BACKGROUND: I am male, 16 (almost 17), 5' 10", and I race mountain bikes, mostly Downhill, with a fair amount of XC riding. I've always been fit with pretty good endurance. Ending summer in 2011, I was weighing 130, mostly because I've been stuck in a mindset since freshman year wrestling that I need to eat hardly anything and starve a lot to be healthy. I did a program called "MTB Ultimate Strength Training Program" which has combines strength training (with circuits), mobility, and sprinting needed to have good endurance and strength on the trail. The problem was that I was still most likely semi-starving myself (trying to be "low carb" healthy while not eating much fat), and didn't get much stronger and was always tired. (I was ripped as hell, but scrawny. Felt like shit a lot and didn't have the energy to pursue relationships or do much of anything) Obviously something wasn't working, so I decided I wanted to change myself this winter, and have been going hard in Starting strength. I've got a gym in my basement and I've been eating like a pig (like I should have been eating for the past 3 years) and I've shot up to around 167 lbs now. I'm noticeably less "ripped," but I don't care at this point. (Currently my deads are at 355, squats at 305, I maxed bench yesterday at 190, cleans at 165, press at 135, dips with 75 lbs, and chins with 65 lbs.) Obviously I'm extremely happy with my progress thus far (I was injured twice in these 5 months though: hurt a ligament in my back and couldn't squat, dead, or clean for a while, and hurt my shoulder with chins, just now getting better), yet I'm wondering if it's time to move to a different program.

I feel more winded riding trails or riding road bikes lately, and it could be that my endurance has suffered lately or that I'm always fatigued from my constant workouts and growth. With SS, I'm always too tired to ride very much or ride hard Xc on the weekends. I feel like I need to move on to a program that adapts well with my riding or allows my to have the energy to hit the BMX track frequently and have fun riding this summer. During the summer I basically race every weekend (friday, Sat, Sun with the actual race on sunday) This has lead me to consider Crossfit, since it mixes the olympic power lifts that I need to stay strong with the endurance I need for riding Downhill trails all day. Is Crossfit really just overrated? Should I pick a different program that I can do at home that mixes in other lifts? Or return to the MTB strength training systems? I like the "no bullshit" heavy lifting programs, instead of the circuit training, exercise balls and dumbbells though. (most "sport specific" programs seem to involve bosu balls and stretching...) If It did move on to a new program, I don't know of any others to move on to. I'd honestly like to just do bodybuilding programs, and get aesthetically big/ripped for summer. However, my love of outdoor sports (mainly biking) keeps my from doing that and requires that I mix in other activities, which I need to do soon since race season is about to start. Any advice?

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372 · July 08, 2012 at 7:35 PM

Also, when you do chins and pull ups, make sure to keep your shoulders back and not to round them to get higher up to the bar. Think of trying to make your shoulder blades touch. Your shoulders will thank you.

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372 · July 08, 2012 at 7:27 PM

Also, if you're still gaining strength from Starting Strength, why fix what is not broken? :)

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20 · February 24, 2012 at 7:34 PM

Actually never got the book... based it all on this: http://www.startingstrengthtraining.com/workouts/

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566 · February 24, 2012 at 4:52 AM

Crossfit comes down to the quality of the gym. I'd stress refining your technique and pursuing MovNat to help further gains.

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15966 · February 24, 2012 at 3:39 AM

Idid SS solid for about six months too. Then I went Wendler 531. It's good stuff. Nice break in routine

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11 Answers

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321 · February 24, 2012 at 10:37 AM

My suggestion would be to continue as you have been doing as your have been gaining lots of size and strength. I would however add a few caveats;

If your primary focus is biking make the strength training more like 'practice'. For instance Practice chins/squats etc below maximum and that you're not aching thus effecting bike work.

Focus weight training on pulling and dead-lifting as biking doesn't load the lumbar region so weakness can become an issue in the lower back. Similar issues can happen to the shoulders when benching and shoulder pressing a lot plus the stretched out XC stance on the bike.

In respect to you feeling more gassed, this is due to so much extra weight, muscle and fat, being added. It will take so time for you to become adapted to supply the extra kcal and oxygen to these muscles. I found this to take several months !

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100 · February 25, 2012 at 11:58 PM

Or take a break accessing heretofore excluded or little used other facets of genomic potentials. For example, Gironda's Volume Training - ten sets of ten reps with a weight you could normally get 20 reps with - rest between sets is cut to 15 seconds. Or go to Matrix Principles or J-reps/Zone, using lighter resistance, greater density, with mitochondria biogenesis the outcome.

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21400 · February 24, 2012 at 7:24 PM

Well, you read the first book.

Now read the second, Practical Programming for Strength Training.

Written by the same guy, with a very cool, experiment-friendly (and goals aware) structure.

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20 · February 24, 2012 at 7:34 PM

Actually never got the book... based it all on this: http://www.startingstrengthtraining.com/workouts/

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1906 · February 24, 2012 at 5:06 PM

Have you read After Starting Strength and completed the Advanced Novice Program? If not, that may be a logical next step.

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372 · July 08, 2012 at 7:27 PM

Don't go the crossfit route unless it is a really good CF gym.

I recommend add in hill springs or regular sprints as a HIIT 2x a week and you should see some cardio improvements.

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372 · July 08, 2012 at 7:35 PM

Also, when you do chins and pull ups, make sure to keep your shoulders back and not to round them to get higher up to the bar. Think of trying to make your shoulder blades touch. Your shoulders will thank you.

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372 · July 08, 2012 at 7:27 PM

Also, if you're still gaining strength from Starting Strength, why fix what is not broken? :)

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606 · February 27, 2012 at 8:21 PM

I used, and recommend, the Texas Method, found in Rip's Practical Programming.

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641 · February 25, 2012 at 1:45 PM

I did Crossfit for a couple of years. I took a year off and did SS pretty much exclusively.

The only place to go from here, IMO, is Gant's Hybird Program, which essentially combines SS-style linear progression strength training with "old school" Crossfit (that is: short, intense, mostly-body-weight workouts).

From what I've been reading, you can reach exceptional levels of fitness by following this program.

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2765 · February 24, 2012 at 2:00 PM

There is always Starr's 5x5... the "original" rather than the beginner's adaptation that "Starting Strength" is.

It wasn't actually original though, it's also the way the Bulgarians were kicking the hell out of everyone in the strength sports up until the '70s when Starr wrote his version...and it still works today.

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289 · February 24, 2012 at 10:44 AM

Have you read Arthur De Vany's book/blog? The "evolutionary fitness" things he put together had a big influence on a lot of early paleo adopters e.g. Mark Sisson's first foray was guest posting on Art's site and Robb Wolf started off there.

His strength training techniques are interesting. The idea is to build a varied semi-random program, targeting fast twitch fibres (with heirarchical sets, alactic exercises and some other things). It's a very different approach, and stops any overtraining. He combines that with interval training/sprinting. From what I've heard people switching from other schemes feel more energetic, and seem to gain some physiological reserve for big events. That would free that energy for enjoying life a bit more.

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15226 · February 24, 2012 at 5:50 AM

If you've plateaued on the starting strength beginner program you could try the intermediate programs (you may also wanna read the 'practical programming' book), something like the Texas method.

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0 · February 24, 2012 at 4:24 AM

If your primary goal is strength, go do Wendler 5/3/1. It's long term with smaller gains but well worth it.

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