Starting Strength Weekly Report

November 02, 2015

  • From the archives: Rip on the critical nature of Deep Squats.
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crystal riner strength training Week 2 of Starting Strength at a body weight of 210 Crystal had just started squatting the bar. Week 70 of Starting Strength at a body weight of 141 she deadlifted 262.5lbs. Read her story: Report #1, Report #2 [photo courtesy of Crystal Riner]
judging the starting strength fall classic meet Chris Kurisko sits as head judge at the Starting Strength Fall Classic meet in Chicago. [photo courtesy of Chris Kurisko]
Nikki squats 325 Nikki of Fivex3 Training went 9/9 at the Starting Strength Classic last weekend. She hit PRs on all three lifts, including this 325lb squat. [photo courtesy of Emily Socolinsky]
inna koppel deadlift PR Inna Koppel with a 270lb deadlift, a 10lb meet PR, at the Starting Strength Fall Classic at Crossfit South Gantry in NY. A big shout out to Ellen Stein for her meet-day coaching. [photo courtesy of Inna Koppel]
leah lutz squat raw nationals Leah Lutz was coached by Jordan Feigenbaum to 147.5/77.5/152.5, for a 377.5kg/830.5lb total at the 2015 USAPL Raw Nationals. She won 2nd place in the 72kg M1 division, 18th in the Open. [photo courtesy of Lenny Feigenbaum]
deadlift PR starting strength meet Elesha Nichole deadlifts 275lb for a PR at the 2015 Starting Strength Fall Classic in Chicago. [photo courtesy of Karl Schudt]
Laurie presses 92.5 Laurie, another Fivex3 Training lifter, presses 92.5# for her 3rd attempt at Starting Strength Classic 2015 at Westminster Strength and Conditioning. [photo courtesy of Emily Socolinsky]
Deena deadlifts 2015 x 5 Niki Sims coaches Deena to a PR 205 x 5. Click image to watch video. [video courtesy of Niki Sims]

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Best of the Week

Advice on handling lifters at a first meet
King of the Jews

So it looks like I have at least one person competing in a USAPL meet in December. Good chance of another doing it, and maybe 1-2 more.

I've only done the Strength Meets, but have been to a few USAPLE meets. I told the lifter this will be a learning experience for both of us, and to just stay focused on training. I helped my gf prep for the Fall Classic (choosing numbers, focus, when to warmup, etc).

I've already read a bunch of feedback from different sources. She will be lifting raw, and her belt and sleeves are approved. There will no weight cut and she is light for the class. I'll begin adding in commands this week

What advice do you, and others, have to offer?

Mark Rippetoe

Defying Gravity: How to Win at Weightlifting

A good place to start.


Many new lifters don't know how to properly time their warmups and either have to rush to warm up in time or warm up too soon. Keep your lifters calm and focused during warmups. It's difficult to concentrate in the warmup room if you have to keep going out to the main area to see how far out you are. Be responsible for timing their warmups so they don't feel rushed. Know how many more minutes until their flight starts, and how many lifters out they are in their flight.

Practice the commands in the gym well before the meet. I've seen new lifters miss a command at every single meet I've been to. I've found it helps to yell at your lifter to "hold it" when waiting for the rack command, or "lock it up" when waiting for the squat command in squat, or just "wait for the command" when waiting for the start command in bench.

Make a checklist for your lifters so they remember what to pack on meet day. Get to the meet early so you can claim a spot to sit. Get your rack heights and weigh in so you have some time to relax.

Know the USAPL technical rules and remind your lifters. E.g. squat must start and end with knees locked. New lifters tend to have soft knees and have to wait for a squat command. On bench you're required to have your head on the bench and feet flat and not touching the supports. Deadlift remember to lock your knees at the top; many newer lifters get in the habit of having soft knees in the gym.

Lastly, expect a long day and bring enough food. Meets tend to take awhile.


I agree with elVarouza. It is vital to practice the commands, and I do almost all of the competition lifts, and not just the last few weeks, with the pauses and commands in my head. I was red lighted for that at one meet. If you're going to compete it is not fun to have to take weight off just because you failed to consistently bench with your butt on the bench and a pause on your chest.

I'll tell you some of my "most awesome coach/handler" tips. I have worked with two guys that are awesome.

  • A great handler is confident and calm. I will want to freak out, he can't.
  • He times my warm ups (I will always warm up too early and with too many reps if left on my own).
  • He looks at my warm up rep and tells me it is good (hopefully). I do not want much coaching at that point unless it's a big problem and can be fixed with an understandable cue. This is pretty rare. Otherwise it's too late and too many words will mess with my mind.
  • He tells me to sit down, drink water, eat, to stop being distracted by other lifters.
  • And a BIG help is being so on top of the flight that I don't have to keep looking at the flight list to figure out how many lifters out I am.
  • He doesn't actually talk to me much during my flight, but offers perspective between flights and before the next lift.

It kills me to watch a handler interact nervously with a lifter, tell them to do "more" warm ups, or give them a bunch of directions right before heading out for a lift. All of the best handlers I have seen are focused and will NOT get flustered by their lifter's meet day nerves.


Being calm and on top of the timing of the meet is probably the best thing you can do for a newer lifter. Remind your lifters that even though they might be nervous, once they get their opening squat in and see three whites the nerves all go away.

On that note, one of the mistakes I often see is a handler or coach make is not having a good plan for the lifters attempts. People get psyched up and want to hit big numbers immediately, take huge jumps, try a PR on their opener, etc etc. I'd recommend making a game plan before the meet, or at least before warmups, of three planned attempts for each lift. Especially for a new lifter, the opener should be a walk in the park. At my first couple meets I opened with my 5RM. Then, have two numbers for each of the second and third attempts: one to take if the last lift felt great, one to take if not so great.

Tailor the warmups accordingly. I see tons of people over or under warm up. I've seen nervous newer lifters hit their opener or more in the warmup room because they're afraid they won't get it. Openers should be easy but not easy enough you want to do them twice.

Some more thoughts in no particular order:

  • Load the bar for your lifters in the warmup room. Don't have them worry about running around trying to find plates.
  • If a new lifter misses a lift on a technicality it's best to repeat it. Here's an example of what not to do: I was side judge at a meet in July. A young guy (JRs) is there with a handler. Opens his squat with 407. Squats it fast but about 3" high. 3 reds for depth. I told him he had a few inches to go. 2nd attempt, 452. Fast, 3" high. 3 reds. 3rd attempt, 501. His handler is cheering him on, psyching him up. Grinds it out, about 5" high. Bombed out of his first meet. ...Don't be that handler.
  • A last minor point is it never hurts to double check the weight that's been loaded on the bar for your lifters. Misloads do occasionally happen but are easy to catch if you know some kg plate math.

Best of the Forum


A little while ago there was a documentary on the BBC called "The Truth about Exercise". Among other things it claimed there were some people (~20% of the population apparently) who show minimal or no response to exercise. The context was aerobics and generally came across as an advert for HIIT, but just recently I had a look at some of the scientific literature on this and it seems similar claims are made for weight training.

So I'm curious: in your professional experience, have you ever encountered someone who 'did the program' (or at least enough of it you'd expect some response) and yet failed to gain much strength or lean mass?

Mark Rippetoe

No, I have not. Everyone who is still alive has the ability to adapt to stress, if the stress is appropriate and adequate, and recovery is facilitated. Most peer-reviewed studies do not use exercise protocols that meet these criteria, and might therefore show no net improvements.

As a general observation, anything presented by the BBC as "The Truth" should be met with skepticism.


There is no independently verified evidence that the program does work (as stated in the programming section of the book pp. 310) for the majority either. Rip says it works based on his extensive experience. Fair enough, BUT he's the guy selling the book. Hardly unbiased. Exaggerated claims are the norm for the fitness industry. Why should Rip be any different?

Questioning the program seems to be taboo here. The logic is - it works; if it doesn't work for you then you aren't doing it right. It is always possible to 'prove' someone is not doing program. Eating 4500 calories -> you should be eating 6500. Sleeping only 7 hours a night. You need nine. Shagging your wife three times a week; you're doing too much cardio. It is a false logic.

Anyone who thinks about this critically and without a pre-conceived bias should realize that the ability to respond to training stimulus is on a continuum across the human race; a very wide continuum. Some of us are better than others. The 'norm' Rip describes is necessarily a small (and selected) percentage of the total. If you were selling a book which subset of people who you write about and which subset would you conveniently ignore? It's exactly the same as a teacher promoting the achievements of his best pupils. Perfectly understandable, but it doesn't mean your child will do that well in his class.

Mark Rippetoe

The Spaniard is absolutely right. The bottom 10% of the physical human race does exist, and he is probably a part of it. I hope he understands that I was previously reluctant to assign him to this category.

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