Starting Strength Weekly Report

August 10, 2015

  • The Big Picture: Revisting the Map – Don't lose sight of the Big Picture and get caught up in workout to workout or other piecemeal approaches that derail your training.
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squat michelle Michelle squats 75 x 3 x 5 at the WSC Barbell Club.[photo courtesy of Inna Koppel]
deadlift finish approach Approaching the finish of the deadlift at a recent Starting Strength pulling camp.[photo courtesy of Nick D'Agostino]
strength training squat Dan is the latest in a long string of nurses working to get stronger. Here he works with Starting Strength coach Jay Mund at Fivex3Training in Baltimore.[photo courtesy of Emily Socolinsky]
clean first pull Over the bar at the end of the first pull of the clean during the second session of the training camp.[photo courtesy of Nick D'Agostino]

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Best of the Week

Purposely using adrenaline to finish reps?

I started doing a 5x5 with only 1 work set at the max weight (the 5th set), increasing weight once a week. Same lifts as starting strength. I chose this over [the] Starting Strength [novice linear progression] because I compete in jiu jitsu and I have a hard time recovering from the aggressive novice program and volume along with my sport (and I can't overeat due to competing at a certain bodyweight).

Lately I've been doing something that I feel is like "cheating". When I come to the 5th set, the max weight for 5 reps, I'll imagine really vividly my family being kidnapped and being told that they will die unless I do all 5 reps, which will free them. This causes a massive adrenaline rush, and up till now, I've been getting all 5 reps with almost ease every single time.

For example, today my 4th set of bench press was 5 reps at 190 pounds. 5th rep was kind of difficult. My 5th set (hardest set) at 210 pounds made for an easy 5 reps (could have done 6 or 7 even) due to the adrenaline rush.

I’ve come to a point where I'm pretty sure I'd stall on the 5th set if I don't do this.

Is what I'm doing to force my body to finish all 5 reps dangerous and not recommended? Should I just go at the set normally, and if I fail, deload? Or should I take advantage of this technique to set PRs for as long as it works for me?

Mark Rippetoe

If you treat every workout as a "performance", your potential to "train" the lift is limited to your ability to reproduce the excitation you're depending on for the performance. And you have somehow arrived at the conclusion that the stress obtained by an excitation-enabled 5RM effort is easier to recover from than 3 sets of 5. My recommendation is that you do the program as written.

Best of the Forum


I am a singer and I was wondering if you ever worked with any singers in your time as a coach. Singing and lifting seemingly are polar opposites, and every time I lift my singing seems to suffer. I was wondering if you have any advice. Maybe I just have to pick one or the other?


I’m a brass player, drummer and singer and get paid decent money for it. Lifting has absolutely improved my playing on all instruments for different reasons (I play 2-3 hours a day) - my main gig is a 35lb sousaphone, then have to sing while I have it on my back. The weight of the horn is a slight impediment to relaxing into it, not much (I do mostly jazz/latin/funk and ethnic stuff - your genre reqs might be different) but the postural improvements you get from having a strong back are pretty helpful. I am often in outdoor situations where I have to play loud as shit, again, lifting, valsalva maneuver etc - it all helps against fatigue. If you are a classical musician it may be different - but I cant imagine how except y’all have to be extra relaxed in the body. I don’t see how lifting would hurt that.

If your musical skills are on par, then there is no way lifting will do anything other than enhance endurance, (posture) projection (your torso is relaxed, diaphragm strengthened) and, oddly, being relaxed while you play.

I don’t understand how you think singing is polar opposite to lifting. Maybe I’m missing something, but I do several hundred shows a year and I’ve only gotten better since training.


I sang semi-pro Opera as a bass-baritone for a number of years, before the being-a-Dad thing interfered too much. I still do a bit of stand-and-sing regional oratorio stuff, (Haydn's Creation, Stainer's Crucifixion, etc.), though no Opera these days.

What's the problem you're finding?

Grunting during a heavy set will irritate the vocal cords - which will mess things up for sure. But you really can minimize that. Arguably, the bigger problems in classical technique could come from carrying added tension in the neck and upper chest, but so long as you focus on that during your (singing) technique sessions, that's not insurmountable either. Lower resonance is all about relaxing open the throat into a tube with a bigger diameter ... and relaxing the tongue and soft palate. That's just as easy (and as difficult) when you periodically tense all that stuff up while doing squats or deadlifts ... as when you mostly laze around on a couch.

Upper resonance mostly comes from placement in the masque, and that's not affected by lifting-generated tension one way or the other.

FWIW, if you're wanting to sing for a living, you'll be a much more believable (and hireable) character on stage if you somewhat look the part. I remember singing in Trovatore with a (professional) tenor who used to be a football player, and still worked out. He had no trouble with ripping off the repeated high Cs in Di Quella Pirra, and when he brandished his sword during the aria looked like he meant it.

OTOH, if you sing Death Metal rather than Opera, I can see how learning to grunt, swear and yell during limit sets of squats might be a real advantage.


Strength training has helped me feel more grounded and solid when I sing, especially since I started adding squats and deadlifts to my regimen. Dealing with tension is a regular issue for most singers, but there are lots of tense singers who don't lift, and lots of relaxed singers who do.

Because singing (at least operatically) requires strength, stamina, fine muscle control, as well as mental focus, I find it works best if I schedule my lifting AFTER whatever singing I need to do on a given day, or lift on days when I'm mainly doing silent study. (Although sometimes a bit of soreness or fatigue seems to help me zero in on the offending muscle and relax it when I sing.)

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