The next six months turned out to be among the strangest and most liberating of my athletic life. On day one, I did like you're supposed to, starting with light loads in the squat, dead lift, and bench, doing five reps, adding weight, doing five more, and so on, until I'd reached the highest weight I could do five times. Then I quit, came back two days later, and made sure to work up to a slightly higher final weight. Week after week, and for the first time in all my years, I got steadily stronger. On a given Monday, I'd squat 135 for three sets of five; Wednesday, I'd hit 145; Friday, 155; the next Monday, 165. No drugs, no steroids, no whey-protein isolate. Before Starting Strength, I didn't even know what a dead lift was, but my dead lift went from 135 pounds to 335. My bench press went well over my body weight. At age 42 – 6-foot-2 and gangly and 20 years into complaining about a bad back and bum knees, and right when any doctor or physical therapist would have told me it was time to embrace the low-impact elliptical – my back squat hit 275, going below parallel. My thighs got so big I couldn't fit into most of my jeans, and I had to start shopping for new T-shirts.