Starting Strength Weekly Report

June 08, 2015


Under the Bar

deadlift kyle mask Kyle Mask pulling 500 for an easy set of five at the June Starting Strength Seminar in Wichita Falls. [photo courtesy of Tom Campitelli]
powerlifting bench press stocklager At the First Annual Carroll County Public Schools powerlifting meet the male best lifter award went to 16-year-old Steven Stockslager of South Carroll High School. The 252 lb lifter went 8 for 9 squatting 520 pounds, benching 340 and pulling 540 for a 1400 pound total. [photo courtesy of Dave Munch]
squat training Charlie Barham Charlie Barham squats 225 for 3x5 at WFAC. Coach Carmen Phillips pushes him to gain weight and keep his numbers going up, even at 62 years old. [photo courtesy of Nick Delgadillo]
teaching squat jay mund Starting Strength coach Jay Mund works with a new client on her squat and deadlift. She came to Fivex3 Training looking to get stronger. [photo courtesy of Emily Socolinsky]
deadlift jessica moore Female best lifter at the Carroll Country Public Schools powerlifting meet went to Westminster High School senior Jessica Moore. She was 9 for 9 squatting 270 pounds, benching 150 and pulling 300 for a 720 total.[photo courtesy of Dave Munch]

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Best of the Week

Road Through Perdition, or, Notes from a Weak Man’s Journey to a 500lb Deadlift

In case it can prove useful I’m typing up some notes on the path I took to a 500lb deadlift. Who are these notes most likely to help? I would guess someone with circumstances similar to my own. Lots of days I didn’t have time to do to the program as written. Often my priorities (family, work, school) displaced the time I would otherwise reserve for lifting. After I finished the linear progression I had to experiment and find intermediate programming that worked for me. (That was probably the greatest challenge, and was ultimately achieved through a combination of the all but the first tip provided below.) Hopefully these notes will help you mitigate these challenges in your own life allowing you to make the best of your circumstances.

  1. Ride out Novice Gains as Long as You Can: This can’t be overemphasized. You’ll never make gains again like you make with the novice Starting Strength programming. Add 5 lbs for as many weeks as you can. When you fail two workouts in a row, drop your work sets 10%, and start adding 5 lbs again. After you’ve done this two or 3 times in a row start using micro-weights. […] Do not quit when this novice gains are hard. Grind them out as long as you can. Quit only when the novice gains are done.
  2. Form: Dial in your form. If your form is sub-optimal you won’t be able to ride out the novice progression, or advance in any program for that matter, as far as you otherwise would.[...]
  3. Backoff Sets: After you’ve reset a few times on the novice progression try adding back off sets. If your work set of the deadlfit is 315 x 5, add two sets of 5 reps at 80% after. This would be 255lbs x 2 sets x 5 reps. You’ll be amazed how easy it is. It will only take a few minutes. The additional volume will allow you to get more of a strength adaptation with a very minimal investment of time and effort. [...]
  4. Power Cleans: Do you do them? I didn’t for a while because I was lazy. It was easier not to. I thought nothing would carry over to the deadlift better than the deadlift and so, with that flimsy logic, I avoided power cleans since my goal was a 500lb deadlift. Rather than do power cleans I just deadlifted more often. This was a mistake.
  5. Assistance Exercises: After you’ve burned out your linear progression, after you’ve been using the back off sets and have begun stalling, after you’ve implemented a day in your training where power cleans substitute for deadlifts, if your deadlift gains stop then throw in an assistance exercise. It may, initially, be too much work for you to do back off sets and an assistance exercise. It was for me in the beginning. Ultimately, I increased my work capacity and did both back off sets and an assistance exercise, but there were still days, especially if I had squatted heavy, where I didn’t have it in me to do more than one assistance exercise. As with everything, you’ve gotta feel it out for yourself.

    It may or may not be at all relevant to your training, but when I deadlifted 500 I was doing bent over rows with 275 lbs for 3 sets of 5 reps. I never went heavier than I felt comfortable.

    Remember, these are assistance exercises, they're not competed, there’s no reason to get hurt doing them.
  6. Make The Best of Shitty Circumstances: There were a lot of days where I worked late, a family member was sick, I had to study, whatever. The result might be that I would only have 30 minutes in the gym. Rather than seeing this as a day to write off since you can’t get your whole workout, get yourself under the bar. Get your squats in. Do whatever else you can as well, but first, and definitely, get your squats in. Getting your 3 sets of 5 reps of back squats, even if you do nothing else, will move you toward a heavier deadlift. Writing off your workout, letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, will not.
  7. Consistency: Don’t skip workouts. Paraphrasing Rip, reasons to miss a training session are things like the kidnapping of a friend or the death of a good dog. If you feel lethargic, are depressed, you’re angry, you’re just not in the mood, then all the more reason to get your training in. It’s rare that you leave the gym feeling worse than when you entered. Reasons to miss your workout exist, but they’re not common. Get the training in.
  8. Psychological: You’re not curing someone from a disease. You’re not competing against a more skilled opponent. You’re not getting a handle on the past pluperfect subjunctive. Achieving a 500 lb deadlift is something that lots of dumber people, with less resources, have accomplished. You need to understand this. You need to know that if you put in the work, in an even half intelligent manner, that the goal will manifest.

Buy the ticket. Take the ride.

Best of the Forum

Press – Multi-rep Sets

How much am I missing out on by doing my multi-rep press sets with only the first rep starting from the bottom and the others coming from the top and utilizing some of the stretch reflex?

Should I reset the weight and focus on starting from the bottom on each and every rep? Starting Strength 3rd ed notes the approach but does not come out and say always start from the bottom.

Michael Wolf

In order to do the Press 2.0, you need to re-set at the bottom of each rep. This is the best way to do it and the way I recommend learning and then progressing upwards.

Many of us who learned the regular press (Press 1.0, if you will), never transitioned over in earnest. The two styles are sufficiently similar that it takes quite a bit of work to get the new way when you learned something similar but not quite the same. Many good lifters and coaches simply didn't want to take the time and weight off the bar that it would require to transition over to the Press 2.0 for an already proficient and strong presser in the 1.0 style.

Personally I did transition, but it took me a while and I never got quite as used to it as I was to utilizing the stretch reflex. When I do a set of 5, my first and last reps are Press 2.0 but the middle three I breathe at the top and use a stretch reflex at the bottom. One of my clients refers to this jokingly as the Press 1.5. When I do a single, it's ALWAYS Press 2.0.

In all honesty, I'd probably be best off in the long run by doing what it took to transition fully even for sets of 5. This is how I coach all new lifters I work with, and I highly recommend it since you're still doing linear progression and aren't all that strong on the press yet. Do it now, while the transition is much easier. If you get strong using the stretch reflex, it'll be a lot harder to switch later.

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