Having seen only a few YouTube videos and maybe an article or two by him on the bodybuilding site T-Nation I know little of the man outside of seeing his name often bandied about the internet but his first chapter would certainly look at home in any number of paleo/primal exercise books. We are animals, products of evolution and our bodies are poorly adapted for modern life. Just as dogs need to walk, horses run and monkeys climb, we need…. Well, at least according to Rippetoe we need to stimulate our bodies sufficiently the way they expect to be after countless millennia of evolution.
With that in mind he sets about thoroughly describing a range of staple barbell exercises; the squat, press, deadlift, bench press, power clean and a handful of assistance exercises, but still manages to run to 347 pages such is the level of detail that he applies to each movement.
Each of the main lifts gets its own chapter in which Rippetoe delves thoroughly into the mechanics and musculature, running through the movement in a stepwise fashion which is both detailed, yet easy to follow. Though it may take a second or third read to understand the mechanics, his writing style allows you to get out of the book and under the bar in very short order.
This book isn’t about getting ripped or looking like the cover of Muscle magazine and that’s no bad thing at all for as Rippetoe states himself in the chapter dealing with programming and diet,
“You have seen pictures of big bodybuilders at 6% bodyfat in contest shape so often that you think it’s normal, desirable, and always possible. Don’t forget that there are drugs involved, along with enough other odd dietary behavior that Mr. Weider should be flogged for forgetting to mention that part. It would be much better to become realistic about these things and to stop letting the physique magazine and supplement industries make you stupid.”
This book is also not about countless variations or isolation exercises for, again, in his own words,
“…..we are training for strength, to increase the force we produce in a big, general movement pattern; we are not training a “favorite muscle.” We are not concerned with our favorite muscles. We do not have favorite muscles.”
What this book is really about is developing solid strength using general compound movements in a fashion that will make you strong enough to deal with just about any situation you might encounter. It goes into much greater detail than many books I have encountered over the years even going so far as to provide specifications for barbell racks.
His chapter on programming and diet is the one that has probably raised the most discussion on internet forums and whilst some have decried it for building a T-Rex body (big legs, small arms) it’s a pretty solid basic routine that can easily be modified should one wish to.
The recommendation to drink a gallon of milk a day, too, may seem a little strange with many complaints that his diet is a great way to get fat. He himself points out that the goal of the book and the program is to develop strength and with a longer term goal of around 1-2 years you will gain fat as you progress but that you can also begin to taper the milk and carbs accordingly.
There are as many training routines as there are trainers out there and day in day out new articles appear across every type of media with some new, better way of working out or getting in shape. If you are just beginning or even if you are somewhat experienced, at the very least, I would suggest that Starting Strength is worth a read through or two.