Is it possible to alter Starting strength to lose weight ?

Basically I have three questions :

  1. In the existing program how can a person lose weight ? There are many success stories available on the Internet where people claim they lost a lot of weight on the original program. How does the body burn fat in the original program ?

  2. If I increase the Reps from 5 to 6 and slowly to 7 will I lose body fat OR will this turn into too much volume ?

  3. Like in point 2 will adding assistance exercises help me lose Fat ?

I have been doing this program for close to seven months now and have put on a lot of muscle mass on this program. To be honest I love this program and it seems to me the only program that works for me. However now I have started to look Fat :-( So over the last two months I tried a few variations to the program as mentioned on SS Forum like keeping the weights constant + reduce calories + workout twice a week. Sadly I have gained 4 Kgs and the last 4 kgs seem to be fat :-( In fact it seems that I might have lost some muscle.

Some additional points : I can workout only 3 times a week + can't do any sprinting because my left knee hurts. All my lifts are close to body weight apart from overhead press.

Please suggest.


  • How have you been doing the program and still only lift bodyweight? How many times have you deloaded? Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 14:11
  • Hi Dave, I am not sure about no. of times I "deloaded" ? To be honest I gained 5-10 lbs easily on each lift per week so I didn't care. Whenever I failed it was mostly because of an external factor like "sickness" or "fatigue". Also I never wanted to reach 300-400 lbs on any lift, all my current lifts are close to 190 lbs(bench, deadlift, squats), 40 pullups (8*5), 110 lbs overhead press. I have also been distracted in the last 2 months trying to fool around with the program because of my increased weight.I am happy with my current strength OR should I say I am afraid of putting on more fat :-(
    – Geek
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 14:31
  • I do two sets of warm ups and than 3 sets of actual exercise. I eat 6 times a day. Do you think if I start going beyond body weight in my lifts, I will start losing some extra fat ? The trouble is I first want to lose the excess fat and later I am willing try to go with increasing lifts again with surplus Calories.
    – Geek
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 14:35
  • 3
    Starting Strength is defined by increasing the weight on the bar in every session. Doing the program for five months should put your squat somewhere close to 350 even if you started with the empty bar. So I'm a little unclear as to what program you were doing. Where did you read how to do it? Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 14:40
  • 1
    This question about losing weight with StrongLifts could be helpful. So could this one. Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 14:48

2 Answers 2

  1. A person loses fat in the original program by eating correctly. From "A Clarification":

Eating correctly may mean 6000 calories/day with a gallon of whole milk, or it may mean 3500 calories/day on a paleo-type lower carb no-dairy diet, depending on your initial body composition.

The program should result in:

a 225-245 x 5 x 3 squat workout after 6-7 weeks of training for our novice male, IF HE HAS BEEN EATING CORRECTLY

I'm not in the demographic he's talking about in this article (novice males between the ages of 18 and 35), so my gains have been slower, but they're not far behind. Every time I've failed to increase the weight, I can track it down to not eating properly. I think the idea is that you're continuously trading fat for muscle. It would better for you to track body fat percentage, and keep your lifts increasing on the program.

About question 2, and 3, I think if you just stick to the goal of increasing strength, and eating just enough to do that, you'll end up with a body fat percentage in an acceptable range. If you want even lower body fat percentage, you'll have to do some very close tracking of nutrition needs and intake, but I don't think it changes how you should be lifting.


I've been doing a SS variant for the last month and are trickling down in weight ever so slightly (about 3 pounds @ 215 pounds), despite becoming substantially stronger, looking firmer to the eye (I and others have noticed, no placebo), I've lost a pant size and a couple of % body fat.

Reading Wheat Belly and Why We Get Fat opened me up to weight gain not being about strictly about calories in versus calories out. If you can ensure more of your calories come from fat and protein and regulate carbohydrate intake to avoid blood sugar spikes, the insulin provoked fat storage response can be tamed.

Then I'm following Tom Venuto's Holy Grail Body Transformation which is all about building strength and losing fat at the same time. Basically it's to have a caloric surplus on your workout days and a deficit the other days, but he goes into good ratios of surplus to deficit days depending on your main and secondary goals.

I've only started dropping out foods of high glycemic load this week so can't report too meaningful results yet.

Update: Fat loss definitely starting to accelerate after a good week now, after reducing any food I have with a high GI to an amount where its glycemic loading is low. No longer getting mid-meal cravings.

  • Thanks Jonty, what variations do you try ? How does less Calories on a non-workout day work for you ? IMO that hampers recovery at least for me :-(
    – Geek
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 14:37
  • The variant is GreySkull LP, if that's what you're asking, but only for the training side--I didn't purchase SWOLE, their eating plan to pack on muscle without fat.
    – jontyc
    Commented Dec 8, 2012 at 0:25
  • Although Rippetoe recommends GOMAD for those wishing to put on weight, I have 2L (0.5 gallon) of low-fat milk on workout days for the protein. I rarely reach 1g protein per pound body weight but don't mind having non-optimal strength gains. I don't feel my recovery is hampered but I'm only squatting and deadlifting around body weight at this stage, so it's probably not an issue yet.
    – jontyc
    Commented Dec 8, 2012 at 0:30
  • One other thing recommended by GreySkull that I do is a 30-45 minute walk first thing in the morning, before eating. Although the calories burnt here are trivial, getting up earlier and being active carries through the day, making it easier to do non-tiring sets of chins or push ups and remain motivated to eat well.
    – jontyc
    Commented Dec 8, 2012 at 0:45

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