It took a long time, but I think the online muscle consciousness has finally reached an agreement that the popular training program Starting Strength does not promote as much muscle growth as it was originally believed. You are certainly not gaining 60 lbs of red meat during your first year of training, even if you drink your milk.
I am truly sorry, but that’s life, dear baby mammal!
Question is, does this make Starting Strength a poor routine for hypertrophy gains or maybe the disappointment comes mainly from having exceptionally high expectations due to brainwash and propaganda?
Is Starting Strength bad for muscle growth because of its low volume?
First of all, I don’t think Starting Strength is exactly a low volume routine as far as some muscle groups are concerned. The hips get hit with great intensity (heavy weight) 3 times a week, and that’s certainly enough to cause some growth in the area. The same is true for the front deltoids which are worked pretty hard by the bench and overhead press three times a week. Therefore, I don’t see why the volume of Starting Strength would be an obstacle stopping your bottom and front shoulders from growing considerably.
Back in the day I used to believe that you need enormous amount of volume (reps and sets) to gain muscle mass, because that’s what all bodybuilders were saying on the Internet and in the gym. That’s why I did some pretty crazy stuff like Serge Nubret’s training routine which consists of enormous amount of sets and reps. It didn’t work for me. I would get a great pump, but that’s about it. There was no actual growth to report after about six months of similar training. Zero.
To be fair, I won my minuscule muscle mass (mostly in the back) thanks to the low volume routines I followed when I first started training with weights in an actual gym. During those few months I definitely gained some real muscle tissue, which today feels as unbelievable as traveling to a parallel universe.
I am inclined to believe that the main reason for my gains was the fact that I was just starting out and finally eating a little more. In other words, I enjoyed my small share of noob gains, which were never replicated afterwards – regardless of high or low volume training. That’s why I believe there are much more important factors for muscle growth than exercise volume. One of those are our natural testosterone levels.
Obviously, girls can fallow crazy high volume routines while still being smaller than men. Why? Because high volume does not overcome low testosterone. The body produces a limited amount of test, which is the main limitation natural bodybuilders face. After a certain threshold, you are not allowed to gain more muscle regardless of training. To get to that point, you can follow low or high volume routines – it does not matter, as long as you put some decent effort into what you are doing.
With that said, Starting Strength can definitely benefit from a few high rep back-off sets here and there. Adding some assistance exercises such as chin-ups, pull-overs, calf work, rowing variations, curls…is also fine in my book. Don’t worry! Similar additions will not steal your strength progress, as long as they are programmed correctly.
I thought squats and deadlifts were able to increase testosterone levels. Did you lie to me?
I don’t remember ever saying that. Anyway, I don’t believe there is any evidence suggesting that squats and deadlifts increase your test levels to the point where you “grow like a weed”. That never happened and anybody telling you otherwise is either a liar or simply delusional. Starting Strength’s diet of squats and deads will not raise your testosterone levels to the point where your big musculature is ripping clothes and turning heads. I would be one of the happiest people on Earth if that was true, but it isn’t.
At the end of the day, I don’t believe Starting Strength is the worse routine for muscle growth, although I would definitely change many things about it without feeling guilty that I am “not doing the f**** program” as the popular quote says.
What people forget, however, is that since Starting Strength is designed for beginners, it will always work to some degree regardless of its flaws.
Imagine the following: You are are trying to learn a new language, but at the moment you don’t know a single word. At this stage any teacher, even one that’s not very qualified, will get you to a certain level that’s a lot higher, as long as you do your homework. This essentially means that in the beginning almost any program will give you the so-called noobs gains. Whether it’s Starting Strength or a bro routine, you will see some gains.
Who has the best routine for muscle growth?
I am not a science guy, as you can probably already tell. I am also not the type of guy who will quote five different studies just to prove a simple and obvious point.
I can still tell you with certainty that nobody has the complete blueprint to building muscle mass as far as the training part is concerned. Some say go for the pump, while others prefer the so-called heavy power-building style. The truth is that nobody knows what’s the best way to cause hypertrophy. Both, light weights for reps and heavy weights for less reps, have their advantages. You can’t say one is always better than the other.
At the end of the day there are two main things to remember.
1. You have to put in some serious effort to expect results and progression.
2. As a natural you are very limited in terms of muscular potential which makes hypertrophy discussions and analysis like this even less productive. We can talk all day what’s better for your muscles, but would you still care if you knew that you will only gain 5 pounds more until the end of your life? Probably not.