Starting Starting Strength

In the Fall of 2017, I was determined to make a change. I had spent the Summer trimming up quite a bit using the usual one-two punch that I’ve used multiple times before: calorie counting and running. At one point, I was running a 5k in the morning, a 5k at night, and multiple long runs through the week ranging from 5-12 miles. For anybody who claims not to know how to lose weight – let me assure you. That works!

As I was nearing my target weight, I talked to my coach Garrett about lifting. I knew he was in the gym quite a bit and he really was the only person I knew that spent any regular time lifting. He was gracious enough to provide me a routine and encouragement to break up some of my running with some lifts. I didn’t have any equipment at the time so I went to Facebook Marketplace to buy a terrible bench, equally terrible weights, and eventually a monstrosity of a combination machine that took up dang near my entire “gym” that I was building in my basement.

The routine was about 20 movements across 5 days a week. It was basically a whole lot of activity but not a lot of focus on increasing the weights. Garrett has done amazing things in my life, including getting me into lifting, but I knew his style wasn’t going to work for me. That’s the great thing about variety though right? What works for him (clearly it does!) didn’t work for me.

Around this time, I started listening to the Barbell Logic podcast. Matt Reynolds and Scott Hambrick launched the podcast in the summer of 2017 and I can’t say for sure when I started listening but I’m thinking it was within the first few months. I would typically listen to podcast while I was running – after all I was spending 10-20 hours a week running! I remember vividly multiple times running on the treadmill listening to them, getting so excited for what they were saying, that I just jumped off the treadmill and starting lifting right then!

Matt and Scott presented a venn diagram overlap of many of my interests while introducing me to something that would change my life forever. They would talk about business, bourbon, economics, with even a touch of theology sprinkled in amongst the curse words. All the while, they taught me about the Starting Strength method that emphasised simplicity, progressive overload, linear progression, and even had a paper notetaking aspect to it. That was surely the icing on the cake!

At its core, Starting Strength focuses on four primary lifts: Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, and Overhead Press (links to Barbell Logic tutorial videos). The lifter sets a baseline for the first session, and every single session after that, for as long as you can go, you add pounds to your last session and keep pushing the weight up. This routine, called the Novice Linear Progression, was amazing to me. I find it similar to the Ramsey Debt Snowball – you rack up small wins along the way and build confidence while you build strength.

Each session I would write down in my Field Notes notebook. I’m now on my second lifting log after two years and a quarter. Those books showcasing my lifting career are some of my most prized possessions. They show the change in numbers but what they don’t show is the change in me. Undergoing the voluntary hardship (a topic Matt and Scott talk a lot about) of lifting refined my mind and spirit just as much as the weights refined my body.

Today as I write this, I set four new one rep max PRs. I was meant to do it amongst my friends cheering each other on but as I write this, the Covid 19 virus is making it’s way through our society forcing us to practice social distancing. During my first Starting Strength session, I did squats at 135, deadlift at 195, Bench at 135, and Press at 95. I couldn’t even finish all of the press lifts. Today, I set these max reps:

  • Squat at 405
  • Deadlift at 415
  • Bench at 250
  • Press at 165

I’m amazed at what a difference lifting has had in my life. I’m thankful I have the room and resources to have a small home gym that I can keep this up even during this time of quarantine and increasing lockdowns. I am grateful to Mark (the creator of Starting Strength), Matt and Scott, Adam (my coach at Barbell Logic Online Coaching who I worked with for a few months), Garrett, and many others who helped me along the way. Finally, I’m thankful for you who took a couple minutes out of your life to read this.


  • Barbell Logics Getting Started series of Podcasts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
  • Starting Strength Book by Mark Rippetoe
  • Barbell Logic episode about Covid19 that I listened to this morning
  • This Is Who We Are album by Sean Watkins and The Bee Eaters album I listened to while I wrote this post
  • Future post on about my home gym
  • Tandem Nutrition is Garrett’s online coaching practice

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