Starting Strength Weekly Report

August 24, 2015

Video (and etc)

Under the Bar

black iron loft squats Jana Fiorello squats 135 for 5 sets of 3 in the Black Iron Loft. [photo courtesy of Adam Skillin]
deadlift powerlifting dylan radler Dylan Radler competed in her first meet, making a 225kg/518lb total as a 57kg lifter. Here the start of her 97.5kg/215lb deadlift. [photo courtesy of Rori Alter]
powerlifting squat tyler tan Tyler Tan's 610kg total, including this 222.5kg squat, takes Junior 2nd Place/Open 3rd place and qualifies for USAPL raw Nationals. [photo courtesy of Rori Alter]
strength training power clean Ashley catches some air on her third session on the power clean at Fivex3 Training. [photo courtesy of Emily Socolinsky]
powerlifting deadlift starting strength SS Coach Rob Israel sets a new meet PR with this 463# deadlift. The 48 year old won the 83kg Masters 1 division at the USAPL NJ State Championship with an 1,130# total. [photo courtesy of Rob Israel]
powerlifting records starting strength Rori Alter totaled 892lb with a 303 squat/203 bench/386 deadlift and broke all 4 NY state records in the 63kg weight class. [photo courtesy of Rori Alter]
powerlifting starting strength squat Marvin buries 205 in his first meet this weekend at the USAPL 19th Annual Bull Stewart (in orange shirt) Alki Beach Classic. [photo courtesy of Andrew Jackson]
powerlifting starting strength Matt Vogele squats 230kg on his way to new PRs of 230/130/245 in the Melbourne Cup. [photo courtesy of Matt Vogele]

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Best of the Week

How do I deal with a partial patellar tendon tear?

I have had chronic knee pain for years, but recently noticed that my right patellar tendon (attachment at patella) has been worse and hasn't been getting better. When squatting I could feel moderate-severe pain and I wasn't able to use my right side effectively (even with knee sleeves and 2x advil). Was getting pain when sitting and using stairs. Decided to get an MRI.

MRI showed 6mm x 6mm x 12mm partial tear in the patellar tendon (and mild patella alta and patella subluxation, edema).

After I got MRI results I tried taking two months off from squatting followed by doing my own rehab (light single leg leg presses, light leg extensions, later light squats) but neither the pain nor the strength in my right side appears to have improved when applying load. Stairs and sitting did improve substantially however.

Saw a sports medicine doctor who wants me to do physio. I also have an appointment with an ortho but it's months away and am not optimistic about that either.

I would like to eventually squat heavy again (or at all). I know you have experience with patellar tears. My question is what should I be doing? What is safe to be doing? What should I expect to be able to achieve?

Mark Rippetoe

If this were my knee, I'd want the partial tear repaired. Think about the edge of a piece of paper...

John Petrizzo

I agree with this completely. Unfortunately, with your diagnosis I don't think there is any amount of PT that will get you back to heavy squatting again. The only conservative treatment that may be worth a try would be PRP injections. Ultimately I think you should push to get this thing repaired sooner rather than later if your goal is to get back to productive training.

Joe Tandy

What about a partial tear in a shoulder?

John Petrizzo

If it is a rotator cuff tendon (such as the supraspinatus), you can train through it for a while. If it develops into a full thickness tear, then you should get it repaired. The difference between the shoulder girdle and the knee is that there are so many muscles with attachments around the glenohumeral joint that they can compensate pretty well for one partially torn muscle. For that reason, even if the tendon of one of the shoulder muscles ruptures under a load, the result is usually not catastrophic (with the exception of maybe the pec during the bench press). However, a partially torn patellar or quad tendon that ruptures under a load can turn into a very bad deal because they are the only tendons that attach all of your knee extensors to your tibia. If you lose the function of your knee extensors under a load, you lose control of your knee.

At my last meet a lifter blew out a quad tendon on their third attempt squat. The sudden loading of the opposite leg resulted in a quad tendon rupture on the contralateral side, and the resulting anterior shearing of the femurs and tibias from the loss of control of the knees secondary to the torn quad tendons lead to bilateral ACL tears. Very nasty (and unusual) injury that delayed the meet for about 45 minutes and sent this lifter to a rehab facility following his surgeries.

That is why Rip and I both recommended the OP get his patellar tendon repaired. It is not worth the risk of developing a full thickness rupture under a load. However, your situation may be different depending on the muscle involved as Rip has already indicated.

Best of the Forum

Stretch reflex \ Dead stop, what’s better and how it was decided which one to use?

One of the differences between the 2nd edition press to the 3rd, is the fact that now every rep starts at the bottom. Also, you mention that the deadlift has a great quality since it starts at the most difficult part of the movement, which is a dead stop. It's mentioned at the book also about the Pull ups / Chin ups, that the "golden rep" starts from a dead stop.

So my questions are:

  1. In general, what's better for strength gains, movements that start at the top and uses the stretch reflex to bounce up from the bottom, or movements that starts from a dead stop? And does it vary between different movements?
  2. If the answer to 1 is a dead stop (which maybe made you change the Press a bit), why don't we start also the Bench press and the Squat from a dead stop at the bottom?

All I could think about is the logistical problem, and the fact that there's nothing ideal to "rely on" at the bottom at the Squat and Bench press. But I'm not sure these are the reasons.

Mark Rippetoe
  1. Both are necessary for strength training. The squat probably works as well as it does for gaining strength and bodyweight because it incorporates the stretch reflex, and the deadlift is as hard as it is because it doesn't. The traditional way to squat has the bar walked out of the rack, so an eccentric/concentric order is natural given the typical equipment with which the squat evolved. If you want to start a squat with the concentric at the bottom, you must use boxes or a power rack, although you wouldn't need as many plates because this cuts your squat weight almost in half. The deadlift is obviously dependent on the floor, which is usually available. One is not better than the other -- they are merely different exercises that the barbell made possible.
  2. BBT3 discusses the variations you mention as assistance exercises in the power rack. They are valuable, but they will never replace the parent movement. As for our interpretation of the press, with all reps of the set done from the bottom position start, we recommend it this way because it satisfies the criteria we have established for exercise efficiency.

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