Starting Strength is a excellent resource for overall strength training and invaluable for powerlifters. However, I feel for the majority of people who are new to fitness, Starting Strength is an unrealistic guide. While greater than bodyweight bench presses and double-bodyweight deadlifts are admirable achievements, the effort required for them is more than most people will put in.
Also, despite the detailed descriptions in the book on how to correctly and safely, perform the three main movements are not without their risks (especially when they are performed without supervision or a spotter):
- Barbell bench press can lead to shoulder impingement and poor shoulder girdle development if the bar is brought too close to the chin.
- Deadlifts require excellent form until failure, otherwise there is a serious risk of disc herniation. This is very hard to self-diagnose as a lifter is encouraged to look forward, which limits the ability to see form during a motion.
- Back squats again require excellent form, and have no easy failure technique without equipment. Again, due to the motion the lift is hard to see in motion and if a lifter is stuck in the low position, without safety rails recovery can be difficult or dangerous.
This can be verified by the number of videos (including those by Mark Ripptoe) that reinforce how to lift with good form. This fact, and the fact that many people require form checks on these movements, shows they are skilled-tasks that beginners have problems getting right from just written instruction.
Lastly, apart from strength for the sake of strength (which is an admirable personal goal in itself), Starting Strength offers quickly diminishing returns. While strength is important in day to day life, someone who can deadlift their own weight (which is considered novice or lower in many online communities), is strong comparative to their peers and more than likely strong enough for day-to-day activities.
Given there are some downsides for unsupervised fitness novices, why is Starting Strength considered by the online fitness community as the most important fitness regime?