Fitness Starting Strength

New Weightlifting Routine

A few weeks ago I got the green light from my physical therapist and sports medicine doctor to resume full physical activity. If you’ve been following my posts, you’re aware of my 5 month fight with insertional achilles tendonosis. Basically, I had (may still have) a very small ‘hole’ in my achilles tendon, right at the insertion point. This happened the first week in January and for close to a month I could barely walk without a lot of pain. After x-ray, failed physical therapy (most PT’s (and especially runners) think all achilles issues are the same and must be treated the same – with heavy duty stretching and eccentric heel raises….they’re correct to a point, but for insertional you must not go below parallel with the ‘dip’ part of the heel raises until it’s mostly healed!), and plain old rest, I finally found a great sports doctor and he referred me to an awesome physical therapist who got me going. I’m now happy to report that I am pain free and have been for a while now.

Regardless, from January through May I tried to be active as I could but the one thing I stopped doing was the Starting Strength routine that I was doing leading up to the injury. A couple of weeks ago I started back on a different program, and so far the results have been great and I am progressing well:


  • 5 minute warm-up (usually either on an elliptical, or lately skipping altogether because the foam rolling and stretching warms me up)
  • Stretching – primarily hamstring/gastroc stretch and some others
  • Foam Rolling – I started doing this last week and, as painful as it is at first, it is *awesome* and has made my squats much better


  • Barbell Squats
    • Same old barbell squats but I don’t count sets – I basically keep track of my max (the amount of weight I can squat for 3 reps) and work up to it. I typically start with a bar + 20 pounds on it, do 5 reps, then jump to 50 pounds for 5, then 75, etc. My current max is 190 lbs. All in all, I probably do between 6 and 8 sets, each for either 3 reps (if it’s heavy) or the goal of 5 reps. I am certain I could lift quite a bit more for a 1RM but my flexibility is still an issue in my shoulders, and so ‘bailing out’ is something I am not comfortable doing and my gym is not exactly the type of place where I can practice that without raising eyebrows. But that’s something I’m going to work on next.
  • Dumbbell Chest Press
    • I had surgery in my hand when I was in my late teens – a metal pin was inserted into the back of my hand, at a hospital in Hong Kong by a Harvard trained surgeon (long story as to how I wound up in that position…). Because of that, barbell chest presses never quite felt right. The angle of the bar in relation to my wrist has always been an issue – one wrist felt weaker. So I switched to dumbbells for it and am *loving* them. I start out at 35lb bells and then move up 5 pounds each set. My current max is 50, but yesterday I’m doing 7 or 8 reps with those pretty easily so it’s time to jump up again. So glad I switched to dumbbells. I struggled with the bar and was always held back by my wrist.
  • Pullups
    • I would rather do chin-ups but there is only one true chin-up bar at my gym – the rest are pull-up bars attached to weight machines (so they’re not ‘bars’ but just grips to jump up and grab onto with each hand). I can do 3 or 4 unassisted pull-ups max (and then have to rest for quite a bit), but have been doing 3 sets of 5 assisted pull-ups.
  • Deadlift
    • Once per week I also have added the deadlift. But it’s only if the opportunity arises, because there usually isn’t a proper or socially acceptable space to do them at my gym’s weight room. When I do do them I start at about 100 lbs for 3 reps, then jump up to 160 or so, etc., to my max. Currently it’s 225 but I should be able to get back to my SS max, which was around 260, pretty quickly, particularly if I stop dicking around and treat this as a prime lift. I treat this as a ‘nice but not necessary’ lift right now, as by the time I get to it I’m pretty spent from all the squats that have had time to sore up my legs, but I know the deadlift is just as important and soon I hope to focus on it more.
  • Tricep pulldowns
    • I know what you’re likely thinking. I did too. This isn’t a compound movement and, as a dreaded ‘isolation’ exercise, it is inefficient. I think it probably is, but at the same time the guy recommended it and it does seem to finish off the full body routine nicely.

I am going to keep with this routine for a couple of more weeks and then, if I continue to progress and am up to it, then I want to start mixing in and focusing on a single oly lift at the end for fun, with a focus on form – power cleans, push presses, snatch, etc.

Foam Rolling

I mentioned earlier that foam rolling is awesome. I urge you to try it if you have flexibility issues. Caution: it is painful. It can be really painful the first few times you do it. For me, my quadriceps are really tender. The first two times I tried it I used the standard black/gray high-density 36″ foam roller that is common. I could tolerate it fine everywhere but my quads and my lats. So I returned it after two tries and ordered what I thought was a slightly softer version (shown in the image below – note, I bought the green textured one), but I immediately regretted it.

The thing is, the first couple of times I foam rolled it was really hurting, but then my body got the ‘kinks worked out’ I guess everywhere but my quads. So for my quads, this new green roller is great. But everywhere else it is too soft. I’ll likely go back to buying one of the true high density ones.

2 replies on “New Weightlifting Routine”

Hey there. I checked out your blog the other day after I saw you comment on a post on (Go Birds!). I’m a 27-year-old male and have been low/no-carb for a while now (following Tim Ferriss’ “slow carb” diet) and have lost about 20 pounds over the past 6-7 months with minimal exercise. I weighed up around 190, now I’m around 170, and my ideal weight (without adding muscle) is probably around 150.

Carbs really are the enemy and it’s disheartening to still see/hear people so concerned about avoiding fat. Sad part is, lots of “low fat” or “non-fat” products make up for the loss of flavor with additional sugar. Sigh.

Anyway, I’ve been perusing your posts – good stuff, man! Two quick things:

(1) I’m not sure your links to the foam rollers are working right. I clicked them and it just took me to a small banner ad (I don’t know what you call them, but it’s close enough to a banner ad) for Amazon. Then clicking the ad just takes you to Amazon’s homepage.

(2) I’ve heard before that stretching before a workout isn’t a great idea. I am curious as to your thoughts on this. What I have heard/read is that static stretching (dynamic stretching seems to be more okay) weakens the muscle prior to a workout. The result of this is at worst greater chance of injury but also decreasing your force production so you won’t be able to lift as much weight. I do a half-mile jog to warm up and save my stretching for after my workout.

Thanks for the comment!

I fixed the images – not sure what happened there. Amazon apparently has made it impossible to link directly to their images the way I prefer (not the cheesy embedded ad style I wound up changing it to). Thanks for the heads up. On that note – if you’re going to buy a foam roller, order it online. I bought one of the high density black ones from Sports Authority and it was $45. Got home and checked Amazon and same ones go for $20!

As for the stretching – you’re correct – the vast majority of people should not be stretching pre-workout. I do it only because both my Physical Therapist and Sports Medicine docs told me that guys with an achilles issue like I had should stretch. They did mention that normally only post-stretching is advised but not for me.

I could get away with just doing some quick wall/gastroc stretches for my achilles, but my flexibility is so poor that doing barbell squats is very difficult and painful if I don’t stretch beforehand. Particularly my shoulders, but also my hips and ankles for the squat.

I read a study recently on this topic – the results were pretty clear – stretching before lifting weights results in a reduced 1 rep max. In other words, people can’t lift as heavy if their muscles/ligaments are stretched out. It wasn’t a huge difference but it was significant enough.


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