Starting Strength Weekly Report

January 11, 2016

  • The Valsalva Maneuver - Stef Bradford, Ph.D., discusses the role of the Valsalva Maneuver (holding your breath against a closed glotis) in strength training and why it is not only safe, but why you should do it.
Training Log
  • Strength is Not Specific - Rip on why you should avoid the current fad in modern strength and conditioning to make the exercises look like the sport in which you plan to use the strength.
  • Tom DiStasio and Mary Peck join Mark Rippetoe to discuss the “contentious” topic of strength in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting.
From the Coaches

Under the Bar

coaching power clean rack position Starting Strength Coach Brent Carter cues "elbows up" in the power clean. [photo courtesy of Brent Carter]
barbell press fives Pressing sets of five at Feral Fitness in Saratoga Sprints, NY. [photo courtesy of Feral Fitness]
starting strength coach intern deadlift Gena, our WSC intern, pulls a 165x5 deadlift. Going through the linear progression is a requirement for interns as they learn the Starting Strength method. [photo courtesy of Inna Koppel]
bob antis deadlift training Fivex3 Training intern Bob Antis pulls 380# during his session this past Thursday. Training, eating, resting, and coaching are his main priorities. [photo courtesy of Emily Socolinsky]
jenni pertuset 225 squat pr sets Jenni Pertuset started the Starting Strength novice linear progression last year at age 40. After October seminar form and programming corrections, she hit a PR 225 lb squat for 5 sets of 3 at the beginning of the new year. [photo courtesy of Jenni Pertuset]
breaker hits 200 lb deadlift Carla Smith's teen class at CrossFit Big Rock finished out 2015 with heavy singles in squat, press, and deadlift. (1 of 3) 15-year-old Breaker performed his first 200 pound deadlift. [photo courtesy of Byron Smith]
sydney press technique (2 of 3) Fellow lifter Sydney worked on her presses with coach Carla Smith. [photo courtesy of Byron Smith]
henry presses 45 (3 of 3) Henry, 13, pressed 45 pounds for a heavy single. [photo courtesy of Byron Smith]

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Best of the Week

The role of the Olympic lifts in training programs

Apologies if this has been asked before, I couldn't find anything using the search engine, which worries me because that makes me feel like this might be a dumb question.

Anyways, after that whole 10+ page Olympic lifting thread we had on this sub-board, I decided to reread the chapter in The Book about power cleans. In it you say:

"The power clean is used in sports conditioning because it trains explosion, and done correctly it is the best exercise for converting the strength obtained in the other exercises to power.

"... the clean and the snatch are unique in their ability to be incrementally loaded with an increasingly heavier weight, making it possible to develop a more powerful explosion in a simple programmed way."

While, for example, in the olympic lifting thread earlier, your position is that explosion is not really trainable to any significant degree, and the olympic lifts are primarily a skill, as opposed to a developer.

If this is the case, why would non-olympic lifter athletes even perform the power clean? If strength is the only component of power that can really be trained, why would a coach have an athlete even bother training anything other than the pure strength lifts?

Mark Rippetoe

We deal with this every weekend at the seminar. The power clean is a way to make the display of strength as power keep pace with the increase in force production in the same incremental fashion as the strength increase is programmed. Explosion is minimally trainable, while strength is quite trainable for years. The explosive lifts allow the expression of explosive strength to be practiced.

Bill Been

Let's hypothesize that your deadlift to clean ratio is 65%. It just is.

Let's say you train SS without doing any Power Cleans, and you increase your deadlift to 400.

Theoretically, your Power Clean should be 400 x .65 =260lb. But it's not, because you haven't practiced the lift nor have you practiced exploding your new strength into action rapidly. So despite having the potential to clean 65% of your dead, at this moment you're only able to clean maybe 50%.

Now let's say you ran the linear progression and included power cleans, and again increased your deadlift up to 400lb. You now have a pretty good shot at realizing (expressing) your full genetically-endowed ability to call motor units into action quickly and hit the 260.

Bonus Math Points if you can answer this question: which is likely to be both the faster and the surer way to increase the Power Clean to 280:

  • endeavor to improve power clean technique thereby raising the percentage to 68%, or;
  • increase maximal deadlift strength to 435 while settling for the 65% ratio?
Mark Rippetoe

As concise an example as is possible to draw. They will still not believe it.

Best of the Forum

Starting Strength combined with sports

For athletes who do sport specific workouts outside of weight lifting, do you usually still have them do the typical SS routine? If the typical SS routine with sport specific training is too demanding, what are valid ways of fixing the problem to allow a combination of those workouts?

Mark Rippetoe

Younger trainees – high school freshmen and sophomores – can effectively do a novice progression during sports specific training, because their recovery capacity is such that sports training will not interfere with strength gains. Most other athletes will need a different approach.

A novice linear progression doesn't take that long to do, a few months at most, and most athletes benefit quite a bit from being significantly stronger. Given this, I feel as though it makes good sense to approach a linear novice progression in the off-season, when sports-specific training will not interfere with what will be an extremely important addition to athletic ability. Once this is accomplished and strength levels have increased to the point where linear progress slows, the athlete is an intermediate lifter and strength training can be effectively integrated into sports-specific training without compromising important initial strength acquisition.


For the sport specific training to not interfere with weight lifting, are you suggesting to do a very small amount of sport specific training and focus more on weight lifting during the off-season? And will you give your opinion on how to incorporate sprints into off-season training (frequency,volume,intensity – not numbers but an explanation) to, once again, not compromise results from the weight lifting program?

After one has finished the novice phase in the off-season, are you suggesting they should seek consistent progress during the intermediate phase when their sport is in-season, or should they just maintain during the season and wait until the off-season to begin progressing with the intermediate phase?

Mark Rippetoe

I am suggesting that, for the novice, the linear progression model should be followed for the few months that it will work without any other training at all. There will be time later for sport-specific training, and the strength gains are beneficial enough that other training should be avoided during this phase to let the trainee get as strong as possible. No sprints, no nothing.

In-season training for an intermediate should be designed primarily to maintain the gains that have previously been acquired. This is in contrast to what a novice can accomplish during in-season training if he is forced to both play the sport and pursue a linear progression: the novice can make progress while the intermediate will have trouble, and the intermediate is strong enough that maintenance of that strength keeps him functional in the sport while the novice must get stronger to be functional.


I don't want to assume, so I want to ask you if the best way to maintain the gains from off-season weight lifting is to do the same workout throughout in-season as was done lastly in the off-season? For example, the athlete finished the off-season doing X frequency with X exercises with X weight, etc., should he just do that same workout throughout the entire in-season?

Mark Rippetoe

For an athlete for whom in-season strength maintenance is appropriate, I advise that each major lift – squat, press, deadlift, clean, bench press – be done one/week, with no assistance work.

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