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As recommended by SS (Starting Strength) I am running workouts A and B, alternating every other day. However, with only a two day break in between squats I feel like I haven't fully recovered most of the time.

I was stuck on 112.5kg for about a week, then I had to miss a training session. I came back with 4 days rest (an extra 2 days) from squats and completed 112.5kg relatively easily because I was fully recovered. Should I keep with my schedule or change it to increase gains?

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3 Answers 3

The importance of rest cannot be overstated. Your case is the perfect example of why rest is needed. In the beginning of the book, I believe the author stated that, even though the book is called "Starting Strength", he expected the reader to be in good physical condition. Even if you are in good condition, perhaps your body is not use to the types of exercises you are doing. Furthermore, the book is only a guide and will not work exactly the same for everybody.

If you find yourself stuck on a plateau you need to change something. In your example, resting helped. You could also skip doing squats for a couple days and focus on different exercises like leg press or other leg exercises. You could also try switching to front squats as that can help you bust through tough spots.

The moral is listen to your body and get enough rest. If you're getting enough rest and still find your progress trailing off, change something.

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Yeah I just don't want to skip squats if it may affect my gains long term. I just needed some reassurance that rest is a good idea even on starting strength which pushes squats very hard (so hard that it makes me think twice about skipping them even for rest), thanks. –  Moz Apr 6 '11 at 13:17
    
There's different ways to increase intensity, reduction of rest periods, increased weight, increased sets/reps....each person is an individual and needs to 'listen' to their body and adjust the workout plan as needed. –  Meade Rubenstein Apr 6 '11 at 13:30
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I'm not familiar with this particular book so I don't know what specific workout he is doing but it sounds like the intensity of his workouts are too much. I can't imagine that they are advocating that he lift legs at full intensity with only 48 hrs between sessions. Switching up exercises may be an effective way to break a plateau but it's not going to help if he's not recovering adequately. Either he needs to do as Sparafusile suggests and increase the rest time between training sessions or he needs to reduce the intensity of the workouts (probably by reducing the weight). –  matt Apr 6 '11 at 17:09
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This answer is right on. The rest/eating aspect of strength training is AS IMPORTANT as ANYTHING you do in the gym. You build muscle while you rest, not in the weight room. –  parkker007 Aug 30 '11 at 20:13
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Sparafusile does have a good, longer term answer. However, I think there is some confusion with @matt with the purpose of a beginner program and when it is no longer appropriate. Basically, when the linear gains from increasing lift intensity every session is no longer sustainable, you need to move to an intermediate program. Intermediate programs have periods of relative rest that the OP would benefit from. I believe he is ready to move on. –  Berin Loritsch Aug 31 '11 at 20:30

I've been reading Starting Strength 2n Edition: Basic Barbell Training since last summer, including the awesome book about training plannings, Practical Programming and I've been following Mark Rippetoe's very own Starting Strength site ever since then. Lots and lots of useful infos to be gained there! Now, I'm following the program since two weeks.

While I don't lift anywhere close to the weight you're handling, I've certainly learned a few things, since I got in touch with SS, especially about recovery.

The thing is, when one is in the novice phase (meaning, the body adapts fast, between 48 to 72 hours, which is enough time to allow an increase of workload in the next workout), you need to do some active recovery, if you want to be able handle the continually increased workload.

Those Workouts A + B, which you mentioned, are meant to stimulate the most rapid growth in strength for a novice. It's not self-sustaining, however. For this model to work the novice needs to do everything he can to ensure, that he is getting enough sleep, protein and calories (and obviously vitamins and the like). Then he will recover just about enough to make through the next workout. It's quite possible, you're not doing enough active recovery to get ready in time for the next workout, namely the squat. It's not exactly a bad thing, it just means, you will need longer to get the most out of the Novice's ability to adapt fast, and you won't be able to put additional weight every other workout, but maybe only every second or third workout.

There's something else to consider: If you've nearly exhausted your ability to adapt for a higher workload between every workout, you might be close in approaching Intermediate level (which now can handle so much workload, that the recovery time needed to adapt now exceeds the time between two workouts).

Either way, 48 hours is enough time for recovery, if you do most things right (like eating lots and lots and sleep good and thorough) AND if you're still in the Novice phase. AND if you don't do silly, exhausting stuff in between. Then I would keep my schedule. If you don't do everything right, you should consider adding weights maybe every 2nd workout or so, to account for the slower rate of strength growth in your body.

And just to make sure, everyone understands it right: the term "Novice" DOES NOT stand for how much or how long you've been lifting weights. It stands for the ability to adapt fast enough to be able to handle higher weights after 48-72 hours - meaning, getting stronger within this timeframe.

It's also the same for pretty much everyone, from the big young lad to an old lady, since it (the adaption I talked about) is a fundamental biological mechanism of the human body. Of course, the capability to handle weights differs for everyone.

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112.5kg is almost 250lb, which depending on your body weight can be quite a bit. For example, if you are 75kg (~165lb) that's 1.5x your body weight. In which case you really can't be considered a beginner any more.

There are a few ways to deal with stalls and such:

  • deload and rebuild (increases rest time while still actively building strength)
  • lower volume (if you can't get 3x5, you may have to lower to 1x5 to keep increasing)
  • change programs (Wendler 5/3/1 or Texas Method recognizes the additional time you need to recover as an intermediate lifter)

You may try combinations of the first two bullets until you've maxed out all the gains you can get from that. Remember you are no longer a beginner if you can squat 1.5x your body weight.

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