This has been in my mind for a while, so thought I would post here. I have some introductory stuff for people who somehow don't know the programmes, then some questions for experienced people Stronglifts and Starting Strength are beginners' barbell programmes. They both have you alternating between two workouts, done three times a week. Each workout has you squat, then do one of the main upper body pressing movements (bench or overhead). In Starting Strength, you then either power clean or deadlift, while in Stronglifts you are either do a barbell row or deadlift. In Starting Strength, most of the work is done for three sets of give, in Stronglifts it's 5 sets of 5 (the schemes for power cleans and deadlifts are different- in particular deadlifts are done for one set of 5). They also work on a system of daily progression- you are meant to succesfully complete all your reps each day, and add a little bit of weight the next time. And no assistance or secondary exercises- just the three main exercises. Here are links for those who aren't familiar: http://startingstrengthmirror.wikia.com/wiki/FAQ:The_Program#Three_Flavors_of_Starting_Strength http://stronglifts.com/5x5/ Now, here are a few things that are notable about the programmes: The volume is low, with the partial exception of squatting. As far as I know, 45 reps done at working weights in a week is okayish, 75 reps of squats is decent although not high. But for the rest it's low- with the alternating upper body presses, in SS you average 22.5 of each press a week, which is very little, and in SL you average 37.5 which is also fairly low. Deadlifts... you average 7.5 reps per week. Wow. The frequency of everything except squatting is a little low. You basically squat three times a week, and do everything else 1.5 times per week. Now, some people do get strong doing a lift only once a week. But many people say that you really need to do a lift at least twice a week to improve significantly. And there are many people doing a lift more than twice a week. So as I say, doing something less than twice a week- that's low. The intensity becomes very high. With the daily progression, the sets of five soon become very close to the maximum of what you can actually do. So it becomes three sets of five or five sets of five close to your "5 Rep Max". These become very very hard, you end up having to rest five minutes or more between sets. More experienced lifters don't do that sort of thing that often because it is so incredibly taxing. Important flip-side of this: after the initial period, there is no work at medium/medium-high intensity- the levels which count as heavy or hard, but not ball-bustingly hard. That's important. So in, sum, they're programmes with low volume (or medium-low volume for squats), lowish frequency and very high intensity. If you didn't know much about lifting, you'd think this looks weird. (If you know a lot you probably think it looks weird too.) So what's the rationale? The main rationale for these programme is this: A lot of people find the selection of exercises imblanced- e.g. the programme is so squat-focused. But I will not focus on that, I just want to look at the basic approach of being high intensity, low volume, low frequency. Here are a few issues I see: First, the SS/SL hypothesis is treated as a near religious-truth by advocates of the programme; but I don't know if it's actually true. I certainly am not aware of any empirical evidence supporting it. Second, while it's a complex issue, it is extremely unlikely that high intensity, low volume, low frequency is optimal for hypertrophy, compared to something with more volume. Lifters and most athletes in the developmental stage will want to develop muscle. Third, a personal concern with very aggressive progressions like SS/SL is that the level of weight handled can increase much faster than the strength of connective tissue. Connective tissue does get much stronger, but you are talking about progression over multiple months, not weeks. Fourth, it's hard to get good technique when every rep is done as part of close to near-maximal sets. If you are a beginner and all your squatting is super-hard, there's a good chance you are cutting the depth short and that your form is breaking down. That's hardly going to give you good squatting habits. Now certainly, I think I feel pretty safe in saying that nointermediate or advanced lifters wouldn't train that way. And that's sort of the point- programme advocates say that there is something special about beginners that lets them train that way. So how do more advanced lifters train train? Well, in lots and lots of different ways. But some general themes: more frequency, more volume, more variety in intensity. This last is something that needs emphasizing I think. Variety in intensity doesn't just mean they do high reps for the pump. It also means that they tend to do a lot of work in the "heavy but not bull bustingly heavy" levels, which are usually said to be around 70-85% of your maximum. These are, as I understand it, especially important in strength training. The reason is that at this level you are getting a high level of activation of muscles and the nervous system and are therefore triggering the adaptations to train strength. It's also subjectively hard enough that you need to concentrate and try hard- if you don't, technique will break down. But... it's light enough that you are unlikely to fail, you can use good or very good technique with every rep as long as you trying really hard, and you can do a tonne of volume. I've never done the programme myself, but I believe this is part of how Sheiko programmes work- an absolute boatload of volume in this really, really important intensity range. (Example Sheiko programme here). Now here's my question... if there's no actual evidence for the SS/SL hypothesis... and the intensity is too high to learn good technique... and the volume is too low to develop muscle optimally... and it creates injury risks... why use high intensity, low volume, low frequency for beginners at all? Why not use the basic approach to lifting that works for more experienced lifters- higher volume, higher frequency, range of intensity including plenty of work in the 70-85% range? (And, even if there **is** some evidence that the SS/SL hypothesis is true- it seems to me very plausible that it's still not necessarily best for your development in the longer term, because of how poor it is for learning technique and developing muscle and connective tissue.) So what do you guys think? Do you believe that high intensity/low frequency/low volume really does develop strength most efficiently? If not, what do you recommend for new lifters? I had it in mind to try to design a beginners' programme based on the principles above, but I feel like it should be someone much much more experienced and stronger than me who does that. Especially interested in hearing from strong folks and coaches! If I said anything wrong, happy to be corrected.