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I've been doing Starting Strength for a month now and am still progressing fine. However, I'd have time to lift every weekday, and really want to. Is there a similar, well-tested program that I could switch to?

I suppose trying to make my own would just end in disaster.

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4 Answers 4

Lift to get strong, don't lift for the sake of lifting

Make sure you don't add lifting workouts just to feel like you're staying busy. The point is to actually make progress, not to do busy work. Investing more time in strength training will take time away from the real thing giving you progress: rest. You don't get strong by working out, you get strong by recovering after working out.

At the moment, a month into the program, I bet you're feeling underworked. That will change drastically if you follow the program and keep adding weight to the bar every workout. That's when you'll understand why it has three weekly workouts and not five.

Off-day gym workouts

That said, a three-day-a-week lifting program can easily be made into a better version of itself by going to the gym on one or more rest days. Those additional gym visits should be spent on active rest and mobility.

For example, if you're doing Starting Strength on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you could definitely hit the gym on Tuesday and Thursday with something like this plan:

  • Double-length warm-up (e.g. 10 minute run instead of 5)
  • Full-body joint prep, rolling out each joint from the toes to the neck
  • Yoga or other stretching for half an hour to an hour, focusing on your most immobile areas. This probably means a lot of attention to your hamstrings, hips, shoulders, and back. Impeccable posture and flexibility is the goal.
  • A brisk or incline walk for a short while. If your goal is pure strength then your off days should be more restful, but if you have broad goals then a short-to-medium metabolic workout would be fine here. That could be a mile run, a set of bodyweight calisthenics, or something more challenging like AMRAP kettlebell clean-and-presses.
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If you're a novice, I recommend my other answer, to wit: keep doing orthodox Starting Strength. But there is an alternative.

Normally used only in Olympic lifting programs (snatch and clean & jerk), Bulgarian programming is designed for working out every day, usually multiple times a day. They work only with very heavy weights and use very few exercises. It requires a lot of dedication and I don't think it's normally recommended for novices.

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It doesn't matter how much time you can invest, there's simply no point to it. Your body grows muscles while you're resting, as long as there's a sufficient impulse. Maintaining that impulse does not require a lot of time.

The reason many strength programs are not 5-day programs is not because most people don't have enough time, but because it can actually be more effective to train less. And I do not mean more effective per time investment (that would be more efficient), but more effective overall.

When you train what you do is you strain your muscles to the extent that your body needs to repair them (just like a small wound). This repair process overcompensates so that your muscles are larger and stronger than before. The repair process is what grows your muscles, and it takes several days. Now of course you don't have to wait for the repair to finish completely (otherwise you couldn't train more than once a week or so), but you need to wait long enough to make sure that muscle growth is maximized. If you continue to damage your muscles too early during the repair, you risk losing strength instead of gaining it, and your risk of injury increases.

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Rest is as important to your progress as the exercising itself (if not more). If you added in any extra workouts you'll just compromise your progress. This is even emphasized by Rippetoe in the book.

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Agreed. I'm not looking to train all my muscles every weekday. I'm certain that there are programs that work fine and give each muscle group appropriate rest by carefully scheduling different exercises. –  Andreas Nov 9 '11 at 10:33
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@Andreas If you are still progressing with Starting Strength, I wouldn't switch. I'm sure there are programs out there, but I doubt they'll be as effective as SS. –  VPeric Nov 9 '11 at 10:36
    
Maybe not as effective per time investment, but don't you think there's a program where I can invest more time and get better gains? –  Andreas Nov 9 '11 at 10:42
    
@Andreas I actually don't think there is. At the very least, I don't know of one. –  VPeric Nov 10 '11 at 23:25

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