I've now done four Starting Strength workouts and admire the linear progressive nature of it and really look forward to each workout. I'm not sure however it's the best choice for addressing my primary goals of broadening my upper body to offset my child-bearing hips and large thighs (I'm male btw). I'd also like to drop from the current 25% BF to at least get the waist narrower.

I'm now feeling StrongLifts with its bent-over rows as a primary exercise instead of the power cleans might have been more appropriate (but @3x5, not 5x5). I want my thighs and calves to get smaller, not bigger, and my lats, delts and biceps bigger. The standing press in SS looks after the delts, but as I think about the exercises, it's only the assistance exercises that really attack the lats and biceps.

Or is there another popular, non-broscientific program designed more at aesthetics than overall strength?


Three very helpful answers and I got a lot out of each and I really can't pick the tick at this stage. I'm going to keep on SS but keep calories on my workout days at TDEE instead of the 500 extra I was doing to feed the growth. I tried bent over rows today found them quite hard to maintain good form with so I'll stick with deadlifts/cleans. The GreySkull LP program has attracted me the most so I'll start reading that and see what I can extract from it.


It sounds like you want whole-body exercises to lose fat mass, and you want upper-body exercises to improve aesthetics by improving the ratio of upper to lower body size.

One option in this scenario is to use a program that is more specific to your upper body, such as GreySkull LP (Linear Progression). It is still a novice's linear strength progression, but focuses more on hypertrophy as opposed to Starting Strength's focus on athletics.


  • Bench/ or Press (A/B) 2x 5, 1 x 5+
  • Curl 2x 10-15 (bench days)
  • Squat 2x 5, 1x 5+
  • Neck Harness


  • Bench/ or Press 2×5, 1x 5+
  • Weighted Chins 2 x 6-8 (press days, and only if you can do at least 6-8 BW chins)
  • Deadlift 1x 5+ (with or without power cleans as warmups)
  • Neck Harness


  • Bench/ or Press (A/B) 2x 5, 1 x 5+
  • Curl 2x 10-15 (bench days)
  • Squat 2x 5, 1x 5+
  • Neck Harness

Bodyweight Chins are done every day. [Use] 5 lb jumps on Squat and Deadlift [and] 2.5lb jumps on pressing movements and curls (when rep ranges are satisfied). When reps on last set fall below 5, take 10% off of bar and begin process over (on that lift only)

Here's a variant:

Greyskull LP variant by Phrakture

And this description of the program, from reddit, is also fairly good, but basically I'd just buy the book if I were going to do the program.

This might be a good fit for you, but I would caution you to recognize that fixing a high-body-fat situation is more dependent on consistent diet and diligence with your program than the specific program you're on. It may be that Starting Strength (or Starting Strength plus conditioning work) with the goal of body recomposition would be the best option for looking better.

  • 1
    I read GreySkull LP and couldn't stop reading as the author effectively confirmed, then addressed every concern I have had with SS for my particular goals. So I'm going to merge over.
    – jontyc
    Nov 14 '12 at 4:14
  • That's awesome! Run with it. Nov 14 '12 at 4:16
  • Phrak's variant - I'm glad you posted as it gives me confidence I've pieced everything together well. I like to hit 13+ reps before doubling the weight increase as I don't wish to eat for optimal strength gains. I see he does rows where I do Ez-curls, I may have to consider that at some stage.
    – jontyc
    Dec 5 '12 at 6:07

Step 1:

Detail your goals, and prioritize them. You will find that building a good base of strength will help take you a long ways toward your goals.

Step 2:

Figure out how you should be eating to address your immediate goals. While you are a beginner, you can cut body fat and gain strength at the same time. However, you may start hitting plateaus sooner on a cut. Depending on the higher priority goal, the cut may take precedence or strength may take precedence.

Step 3:

Plan your programming for each goal. I think you will be best served by continuing on with the Starting Strength protocol, particularly because the power cleans burn more energy than the rows. If you want to lose fat, you have to take in fewer calories than you burn.

Bottom Line:

You aren't going to be able to satisfy every goal all at once. There are plenty of good programs that are customizable for your goals at the moment once you've gone beyond what the beginner programs can do for you. These programs have slower gains, more variety, and allow you to address the aesthetic issues.

My personal recommendation is this:

  • Be patient and let the program work.
  • Continue with Starting Strength, the power cleans will do more good for your goals.
  • Change your diet to lose weight. Keep protein up, but watch your fat and carb content so that you stay under maintenance levels.
  • When you aren't making any more progress with Starting Strength, go with a different program--I think Paul Carter's Strength-Life-Legacy e-Book will be right up your alley.

There are plenty of good programs if you want to continue pushing the boundaries of strength such as Madcow, Texas Method, Jim Wendler's 5-3-1, etc. Just as an FYI, both Wendler and Carter are friends, have programs that can be tailored for aesthetics, strength, conditioning, mobility, etc. The reason I recommended Carter's e-Book over Wendler's for you is because Carter has a lot more specialization templates to address what you think might be problem areas. He also has some pretty decent points about how to eat that are a bit more useful than Wendler's advice.


Sounds like you are the classic endomorph body type.

The answer seems pretty simple to me. I would just lose your fat down to about 15% (within healthy range) and then re-evaluate your weight training program. Its a bit hard for a beginner to work out what is muscle and fat sometimes at > 20% body fat - especially in legs. You may find that when you lose the majority of your excess fat, you will be happy with size of your legs, especially if the upper body (delts, biceps) swell up. I've seen many people (girls & endomorphs mainly) complain they don't want to train legs because they will get too big, only to find that they shrink as they lose the fat :). Also remember, since you can't spot reduce fat, don't worry about specific areas of fat storage, just get your overall body fat % down and you will definitely become happier with your physique.

I would give GVT (German Volume Training) training on just arms a go. With arms, a lot of it is about getting a huge pump in the gym to stretch the fascial sheath which enables hypotrophy. Train 10 sets of 10 reps on bicep barbell curl interlaced with 10 sets of triceps (rope push down, skull crushers) with 60-90 seconds rest in-between. By interlaced I mean once you've done 1 set on biceps, immediately do the triceps. Rest & Repeat. This will be a combined total of 20 sets - 200 reps.

You need to be getting big pumps on arms to get anywhere. You can't get huge biceps/triceps by trying to push up max weight like bench press. Its more about VOLUME. Do this once per week within your Strong Lifts program. In 2 months or so, you should really start to see more definition and size popping out in your arms. It certainly worked for me.

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