Starting Strength Weekly Report

May 11, 2015


Under the Bar

Byrce Wat press Bryce Wat, weighing 180 pounds, successfully pressed 222.5 pounds on his third attempt at the 2015 Oakland Strengthlifting Meet. [photo courtesy of Tom Campitelli]
starting strength training camp squat Jonathon Sullivan and Chris Kurisko coach the squat at the May 9th Starting Strength Training Camp in Lansing, MI. [photo courtesy of Chris Kurisko]
double bodyweight squat Winnie Abramson, training for nationals, coming up with a double body weight squat. [photo courtesy of Kelli Nielson]
warm up strengthlifting meet Bianca and Becca warm up at the Oakland Strengthlifting meet May 3rd. [photo courtesy of Jose Julian Rosas]
Black Iron Training squat camp Black Iron Training's Chris Kurisko watches a squat while other Training Camp participants observe the platform action. [photo courtesy of Chris Kurisko]
training USPL Nationals Leah Jones training for softball and the USPL Nationals at Gardiner Athletics in Gardiner, NY. [photo courtesy of Peter Nathan]

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Best of the Week

Range of motion allowed to decrease as barbell shrugs get heavier?

I've been curious for a further explanation as to the reason(s) behind this. My question stems from the fact that all the major lifts in our training (and even accessory work like chin ups) do not allow for smaller/shorter Range of Motion, simply because the weight gets heavier.

For example: How can/does a 405 shrug with, say, a 0.5"-1" ROM produce value compared to a 'deeper' shrug at 225 with a 2.5"-3" ROM?

Also, at what point is the ROM so small for barbell shrugs that you're technically not actually doing a shrug of any worth?

Mark Rippetoe

Interesting question. It has to do with the nature of the ROM in the exercise. In a squat, the ROM of the motion is defined by the hips and knees. If by the ROM of a shrug you mean the elevation of the AC joint, your criterion is quite different. This is why shrugs are not considered a major exercise. They are useful for the deadlift for a couple of reasons.

  1. The short ROM eventually becomes so short that it's actually isometric as the weight gets up above the deadlift 1RM. Since the role of the traps in the deadlift is isometric anyway, this is fine because it overloads the trap function.
  2. Since the shrug starts above the knees to permit the heavier weight, it acts as an overload for the hip extensors and the erectors too.

Many record deadlifts have been performed without this overload, so heavy shrugs are optional. But they do make your traps grow, and the overload is useful for the reduction in perceived "heaviness" during a big pull. A 405 shrug is not "heavy," and 225 is not a shrug weight for a male lifter.

[See Barbell Shrug video]

Best of the Forum

Physical Education in the Soviet Union - a follow up

This is a follow-up to this thread (which I read about in Mean Ol' Mr. Gravity)--it does not seem to have been revisited. I actually happen to have some inside knowledge of how PE was organized in the Soviet Union, so I thought I would share.

Soviet children had to meet a certain level of fitness to get a passing grade in PE class. This included pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, a 60 meter sprint, the high jump and the long jump, rope climbing, and a tennis ball throw. Both boys and girls were expected to do all of the exercises, though the expectations were different for girls--incline pull-ups (reverse rows) were substituted for strict pull-ups, and knee push-ups were allowed, and standards were a bit lower for running and jumping. In order to get a grade of 5 (A) in PE, you had to do a certain number of reps in each strength exercise and make a certain speed in the speed exercises--the standards were set at the national level. These standards increased progressively each year--the 60 meter dash was replaced with a 100 meter dash, 400 meter runs were added, and so on.

If the school had access to a ski track or an ice rink, the PE classes moved outdoors for the winter. You would lug your cross-country skis to school twice a week and go into the woods for the duration of the class, and do your 1 or 2 km race. You practiced for a while and then did a race to get your grade for the course--that was the exam. In warmer areas without snow, other sports such as bicycling and swimming were practiced outside.

As you can see, the focus was mostly on track-and-field stuff and body weight strength. This was basic physical education, not a system set up to feed gymnastics and Olympic lifting training. For these more specialized sports, kids were recruited. My sister and I were both recruited for a basketball team. I was approached by a volleyball recruit on the subway later and explained that I was already playing basketball. I remember recruits coming in to test shoulder flexibility for swimming. Smaller stature kids with natural flexibility were drafted into gymnastics. All of the training was done on an extracurricular basis--I had to commute to basketball practice, and in the summer, there was sports camp where you did nothing but sleep, eat, and train. Regular, non-sports summer camps also ran some track-and-field competitions, and they gave out medals to top jumpers and runners.

In about 4th or 5th grade, one could take a test for a GTO badge ("gotov k trudu i oborone", or "Ready for Labor and Defense"). This fitness cert required passing higher benchmarks than those required for an A grade.

Primary and secondary schools in the Soviet Union were run on a centralized model, in contrast to the school district-level management and funding you find in the US. So all of the children had to meet the standards, and the schools received the funding to equip gyms. There were no school varsity teams for sports like soccer or hockey--the funding went to equipping gyms and to finance more specialized extracurricular training.

Sports received thorough TV coverage. Olympic lifting championships were on TV constantly, and you got to see the entire competition beginning to end. Everyone knew what the snatch and the clean and jerk referred to, and events such as the shot put were no mystery to the Soviet public.

Oh, and they taught us how to shoot. There was a shooting range in the basement of the school, and everyone got some target practice. The GTO requirements for older kids included good marksmanship. Teenage boys received more training, but both boys and girls knew how to handle a rifle. There were more specialized "sports schools" at the secondary level, not unlike the vocational schools you occasionally still find in the US. There were specialized secondary schools with other foci--physics, math, foreign languages, and so on. You find some remnants of this approach in Russian immigrant communities--in the Boston area, Russians took matters into their own hands and established an extracurricular math school because they were dissatisfied with the level of math education in American schools. Anyway, you had to be pretty good at your sport to get into a sports school. Perhaps you would be especially likely to go to such a school if you were not well endowed academically. You trained pretty much full time.

And we still lost the Cold War. Go figure.


I remember those days. PE in high school, which was grades 9-11 was even more hardcore, and involved gymnastics, and basic military prep such as throwing dud grenades for a grade.

In the 7th grade, from what I recall, to get an A you had to do 8 pull-ups. Mind you, chin-ups were not allowed. You had to climb a metal pole inside the gymnasium to the top. It was about 30 feet high (there was a mat about 2 inches thick to catch you should you fall). You had to perform a front roll on a mat, without your head touching the mat, and with a landing on both of your feet so you can stand up. You had to perform a backwards roll, also with the requirement of landing on your feet and standing up cleanly. You had to perform a run and jump into a side roll, also cleanly. You had to sprint, run 1km, play soccer, basketball, and dodgeball, all for a grade. This is all middle school, which is as high as I got while over there. Good times.

Interesting thing is, I was in this extracurricular weight lifting class, from age 9 to 11, and I don't remember ever touching a machine. I was taught to do pull-ups, push-ups, barbell bench press, dumbbell shoulder press, EZ bar curls, barbell squats (I think I did ~65lb for reps), rope climbing, etc. In fact, there were barely any machines at the gym.

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