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I just wanted to thank you for your work, your tough as nails approach, your methodology, and your willingness to create (and put up with) a community of people who have adopted this program.
I started this program last year and I was a mess--physically and emotionally. I had experienced a significant career setback and was not dealing well with the emotional letdown. I spun into clinical depression and as a result I got fat (really fat) and out of shape. My lower back began to deteriorate due to my desk job and was in constant pain from sciatica and arthritis (at 37 years old).
Last January (2015), when my back went out, I decided I had enough, but I didn't know what to do. Then the thriller author Brad Thor posted a link to an article about Starting Strength and I had to try out the program.
Since that time I have gone from a 115 lbs squat to 400 lbs and a DL of 150 to 415. There have been setbacks (I should be higher) and frustrations (my upper body strength is progressing much slower. BP has gone from 95 to 215 and PR from 75 to 165).
More, though, what has changed is my demeanor and confidence. I don't take any prescription meds for depression any longer. I am happy again. I am less angry (my wife and eight children said I was unbearable). I feel good physically and I can think more clearly.
I feel like a man once more. I have taken responsibility for my actions and have not let the pain of disappointment destroy my life. I can work through pain, I can keep going.
Again, coach, thanks.
There has been a lot of discussion through the years on this forum about the use of the belt and what it does for the abs, back and power of the lift. I forgot to wear my belt on one set this week on light squat day and I had a very hard time completing the set even though the weight was only 85% of my heavy day. I had to think about why that was.
I've read here that it helps to have the belt for the abs to push against and thus they can push harder. Sure, but why does that help? What is the actual mechanism by which tighter abs helps you lift? This might also explain why the valsalva maneuver is so helpful.
The clue to me was that when I was at depth in the squat without the belt, my pelvic girdle felt "loose" and "hinged." It felt like my posterior hip and thigh muscles didn't have a solid anchor to pull against.
So here's the setup of my theory: When the glutes and hamstrings (and muscles in the anterior chain) are in strong contraction they will tend to rotate the front of the pelvis upward toward the chest with the pivot being the lower spine. This is countered by the lower back muscles. (Big powerful leg and hip muscles countered by much smaller muscles in the lower back.) However, with a valsalva maneuver the abdominal pressure provides a strong force against the upward rotation of the pelvic girdle, holding it in place against the powerful contraction of the leg and hip muscles. This is countered somewhat by the abs which create the valsalva pressure, pulling up on the front of the pelvic girdle, but it seems that the net force is to help keep the pelvic girdle static against the pull of the posterior hip and thigh muscles.
My theory: Adding a belt increases the abdominal pressure you can create, providing even more pressure against the hip/pelvic girdle providing a very stable pelvic girdle platform from which to contract the powerful muscles of the hips and thigh. (While, to do this, you contract your abs more against the belt, this added upward rotational force is more that compensated by the additional pressure created in the abdomen pushing against the pelvic girdle.)
It's good, but I think you're unclear on the role of the abs. If the extended lumbar position is established by the erectors on the posterior, the abs and the other circumferential muscles around the spine, ribcage, and pelvis contract isometrically AFTER the lumbar erectors establish extension. There is no tendency for the abs to pull the system into posterior pelvic tilt/lumbar flexion unless you perform this setup incorrectly. And this would be an excellent argument against doing situps if you're physically stupid: if you learn a lumbar flexion in a situp or a crunch, and if you're physically stupid, the tendency might be to allow it to carry over into the squat or pull. But the lumbar extension is easy to teach, and any coach with any experience in this method should be able to correct even a physically stupid person who does this.
This is the only information I could find on why a belt means more kilos on the bar. From the Baby, Bathwater, Gear article:
'Higher ab tension means higher internal abdominal pressure, which means a more rigid spine which means a more secure spine that transmits energy to the bar more efficiently.'
I can't wrap my head around the last part, maybe I just need it explained to me a different way. My two guesses prior to reading that were that the more rigid trunk means it's harder for you to collapse over (explaining why a belt benefits low bar more than high bar) which would throw the bar in front of the midfoot/cause the hips to rise too fast in relation to the chest. That or that the increased tightness has a knock on effect, like how getting tight everywhere else benefits the bench press.
The belt helps because it allows you to actively generate more pressure against its constraint. More pressure helps with improved force transmission. But it also helps because your nervous system will recruit better in a stable environment -- improved stability = more force production. Better production, better efficiency, better training effect.
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