I recently started doing the Practical Programming Novice Program from Starting Strength. Program below:

3x5 Squat
3x5 Bench press / Press (Alternating)
Chin-ups: 3 sets to failure or add weight if completing more than 15 reps

3x5 Squat
3x5 Press / Bench Press (Alternating)
1x5 Deadlift

3x5 Squat
3x5 Bench Press / Press (Alternating)
Pull-ups: 3 sets to failure or add weight if completing more than 15 reps 

I've found that I actually enjoy doing all of the exercises on each day. From what I've read, giving a days rest between working out a particular muscle group is fine, so what are the potential draw backs of me modifying the program to the one below?

3x5 Squat
3x5 Bench Press 
3x5 Press
3x5 Deadlifts
  • Have you intentionally left out power cleans? The Practical Programming version of the program still alternates deadlifts and power cleans. Also, it alternates a bit differently than you've written. Have you taken this from page 155?
    – user3085
    Aug 13, 2012 at 3:58
  • Yes I have intentionally left out power cleans. I'm hoping to include them at some point down the road, but I'd like to get someone who knows what they are doing to help me make sure i'm doing them correctly. The workout above is not in the book as far as I can tell. The closest version would be on page 296 of the 3rd edition. The one I posted is from the Starting Strength website. You can get to it through the link I posted.
    – Broham
    Aug 13, 2012 at 4:13
  • 1
    Rippetoe does suggest getting your deadlift established firmly above your squat before adding in power cleans, so that's probably fine.
    – user3085
    Aug 13, 2012 at 4:22
  • VPeric's question (and advice) is spot-on. "How far along in the program are you?" is the essential question here. Aug 13, 2012 at 14:35
  • 1
    Yeah, I don't know where the Wiki got that program. Nowhere in the book is a program without power cleans, and nowhere in the book is a Monday/Wednesday/Friday program... there is only A/B alternating programs. Perhaps they mis-read week 1 of a 2 week cycle on page 162 as a complete program on its own.
    – user3085
    Aug 13, 2012 at 16:54

3 Answers 3


Go ahead if it floats your boat

You can do anything you want. You are a free-willed being. As Jean-Paul Sartre notes, you are in fact condemned to freedom, and the responsibility that unavoidably comes with it. However, Sartre also insists that "freedom itself is not free. We are compelled to act freely; there is no way to avoid being free." Modifying the program is your inescapable right.

If you want to do all the Starting Strength exercises in one session, plus curls, plus hitting the heavy bag, and run a marathon on your off-days, that's your call.

But the cost is that you will burn out quicker than if you stuck to the program. Right now it feels fine because you're not yet lifting heavy enough, but with more weight you will hit a wall very, very fast.

The whole point of Starting Strength is to add weight every workout for as long as possible. The lifts are designed to be as maximally heavy while remaining as minimal as possible, so that you can continue to get stronger while maximally delaying the inevitable wall of grueling workouts, failed lifts, and the slogging stupor of under-recovery. Per the program designer's words:

My program is 3x/week barbell training until the strength gains produced by linear progression are exhausted. That's it, the whole program. Adding a bunch of other stuff in, or even adding a little other stuff in makes it NOT MY PROGRAM, because it fundamentally alters your response to the stress. Do what you want, of course, but it won't be my program if you do it your way.

Squatting, benching, deadlifting, chinning, pressing all on the same day will work for a little while. Then it will be too heavy and you will probably have to backtrack and restart your progress. All five lifts is simply too much to recover from once you're lifting significant weight. In fact, I would argue being able to do all five is a sure-fire sign that you're not working close to the edge of your strength, and you need to add weight. (Which is part of the program.)

So you think you're a better coach than Mark Rippetoe?

I don't mean to criticize. I did the same thing in your shoes. But we all need to realize that it's a little strange for someone who is just picking up a barbell to make dramatic changes to a well-worn program. I understand the mentality. Again, I did it too. I'd bet that seventy five percent of people reading Starting Strength have similar thought processes. It's just that experienced coaches and widespread programs are generally better than a total beginner's ideas. For me, I got better results when I followed the program.

Working around the particulars of your schedule is understandable. Modifying or omitting lifts because of an injury or condition is reasonable. But rearranging the lifts to nearly double the workload is neither of these things. It's more akin to doing a totally different program of your own devising.

Furthermore, fundamentally altering a program as a total novice for the sole reason of "enjoyment" is perhaps not the best way to achieve your goals. But I say that because I want to train, not to exercise. Rippetoe talks about this fundamental distinction in his article on T-Nation, The Biggest Training Fallacy of All:

Exercise and training are two different things. Exercise is physical activity for its own sake, a workout done for the effect it produces today, during the workout or right after you're through.

Training is physical activity done with a longer-term goal in mind, the constituent workouts of which are specifically designed to produce that goal. If a program of physical activity isn't designed to get you stronger or faster or better conditioned by producing a specific stress to which a specific desirable adaptation can occur, you don't get to call it training. It's just exercise. For most people, exercise is perfectly adequate – it's certainly better than sitting on your ass channel-surfing.

You have to ask yourself: are you lifting because it's fun, or to achieve a goal? Do you want to fart around in the gym, or are you there to achieve something? If you want to exercise, modify away. Do the exercises that are fun, arrange them for maximum enjoyment. But if you are training, if you are working towards a goal, if you want to get somewhere long-term by picking up the barbell, I recommend being diligent and consistent and sticking as close as possible to the program as written.

It's your choice. You are inevitably burdened with the responsibility of choosing freely.


The downside is that you're doing two exercises every workout that need tricep strength (bench press and overhead press).

You may be okay doing them in the same workout right now, but when you get to your limit weights, this won't be possible. If you lift heavy enough that you'll be stimulating adaptation on the bench press, you won't be able to lift your 5RM for 3 sets on the overhead press in the same workout.

The reason squats and deadlifts (or squats and power cleans) don't conflict to the extent that press and bench press conflict is because they use much larger muscles and muscle groups.

Also, deadlifts is supposed to only be 1x5 at the work weight, and you definitely shouldn't do it every workout. If you're doing it heavy enough, this will result in overtraining. You may be able to get away doing them Monday/Friday for the first while, though.

  • So if I started alternating press and bench press you wouldn't see a problem?
    – Broham
    Aug 13, 2012 at 4:14
  • You mean alternating which one you do first in the workout, but still do them both in each workout?
    – user3085
    Aug 13, 2012 at 4:16
  • No, doing them on different days.
    – Broham
    Aug 13, 2012 at 4:18
  • 1
    Yeah, that would be better then. I added a comment about not putting deadlifts everyday also. Basically, I'm pushing you back towards the original program :)
    – user3085
    Aug 13, 2012 at 4:19
  • lol yeah, it looks like it
    – Broham
    Aug 13, 2012 at 4:20

How far along in the program are you? I suggest waiting about a month and re-evaluating. Novices can increase the weight quite fast on SS (I know I did) and very soon you won't be able to recover in time, thus hurting your goals. Pushing yourself too hard might result in more downtime down the road - focus on adding weight to the three exercises you do.

It should be ok, though, to up the deadlifts to twice a week (so pull-ups just once). You'll probably manage this for a good while, and once you can no longer keep up, hopefully you'll be able to replace one day with power cleans.

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