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Bill Starr Background

Bill Starr is a Strength Training icon and a former Olympian and Olympic Team Coach. He was one of the original York Barbell pioneers in the 1950's and has inspired thousands of lifters and Strength and Conditioning guru's over the past 70+ years. To name a few; Louie Simmons, Mark Rippetoe, and Jim Wendler.


Bill Starr, born on January 18, 1940, was a highly influential figure in the field of strength and conditioning. He gained recognition as a former American football player, coach, and author.


Starr's impact on the world of strength training was significant, and his contributions continue to be revered and followed by fitness enthusiasts, athletes, and coaches around the globe. Starr's career began as a standout football player at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he played as a linebacker.


After college, he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1959 but unfortunately suffered a knee injury that ended his professional football dreams. Although his playing career was cut short, Starr shifted his focus to strength and conditioning, ultimately becoming a pioneer in the field.


He stressed the importance of strength training for athletic performance, emphasizing its ability to enhance power, speed, and overall physical capabilities. Starr's innovative methods and training protocols laid the foundation for modern strength and conditioning programs. In addition to his coaching and training expertise, Bill Starr was also a prolific writer.


He authored several influential books, including "The Strongest Shall Survive: Strength Training for Football" and "Defying Gravity: How to Win at Weightlifting." These publications showcased his deep knowledge, practical training methods, and extensive research, providing valuable guidance to athletes and coaches alike.


Throughout his career, Bill Starr had a profound impact on the world of strength and conditioning by bridging the gap between traditional weightlifting and sports performance. His training philosophy, which emphasized simplicity, consistency, and progressive overload, continues to shape the training practices of countless individuals across various sporting disciplines.


Bill Starr's legacy lives on as his teachings and principles remain as relevant as ever. His dedication to improving athletic performance through strength and conditioning has inspired generations of athletes and coaches, cementing his status as one of the most influential figures in the field.


Program Details


Rep Schemes

The normal rep scheme used is five sets of five reps whereby the first three to four sets are ramping set's leading to a top-heavy set. However, Bill Starr recommends other rep schemes such as:


  • Three sets of Five reps + three sets of three + one set of eight to ten (3x5+3x3+1x8-10)
  • Five sets of ten reps (5x10)
  • Five sets of five reps (5x5)
  • Five set of five + one set of eight to ten (5x5 + 1x8-10)
  • Five sets of three reps (5x3)


Progressive Overload Weight Increments for Original Bill Starr

A lot of the programs online claim you make a linear weekly progression by increasing the top-heavy set weight on the 'Heavy Day' by 2.5% each week. This is not true; Bill Starr claimed the progression for the lifts are as follows:


  • Bench Press and Military Press: 10lbs (5kg)
  • Power Clean: 10lbs (5kg)
  • Squat: 20lbs (10kg)
  • Leg Extension, Leg Curls, Hyperextensions: 5lbs (2.5kg)


Progressive Overload Weight Increments for JH Variant

  • Pressing Exercises: Strict Overhead Press/Bench Press/Behind the Neck Press/Incline Press - 5lbs (2.5kg)
  • Pulling Exercises: Deadlift/Power Clean/Shrugs/High Pull - 10lbs (5kg)
  • Squat Exercises: Front Squat and Back Squat - 10lbs (5kg)


Bill Starr mainly focused on the "Three Main Lifts" which for him were the: Power Clean, Squat and Bench Press. However, he also recommended other variation lifts, especially for more advanced lifters.


In addition, Bill Starr recommends a small number of hypertrophy-based isolation exercises performed for higher volume but lower intensity. Bill Starr limits the hypertrophy-based exercises because his routines are designed for American Football players.  


A Football players goal is to become stronger in the weights room and dedicate the remainder of their time to improving their performance on the field. They are not bodybuilders!


The variation exercises are normally aligned and assigned to specific days based on their intensity level, for example:


  • Heavy Day: Back Squat, Bench Press, Power Clean, Shrugs
  • Light Day: Front Squat, Behind the Neck Press, High Pulls
  • Medium Day: Shrugs, Back Squats, Strict Overhead Press, Power Clean


YouTube Tutorial Links


Bill Starr 5x5 Program JH Variant

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