Starting Strength Weekly Report

October 05, 2015


Under the Bar

learning the barbell squat
learning the bench press Starting Strength coaches Diego Socolinsky and Jay Mund work with new client (and 8th nurse!) Bob, age 62, on his squat and bench. Bob came to us to what else? Get stronger. [photo courtesy of Emily Socolinsky]
bench press technique The Adlerstein family trains together at WSC. Father and son learn the basic barbell lifts and how to help spot one another. [photo courtesy of Inna Koppel]
deadlift los angeles Tom S., age 59, pulls 375 for a set of five at Horn Strength & Conditioning in Los Angeles. [photo courtesy of Paul Horn]
deadlift personal record Lee, 69 years old, sets a five rep personal record at 150 lbs in the deadlift at Silverback Strength and Conditioning. [photo courtesy of Adam Lauritzen]
500 pound squat walkout Focus Trainer Luis Tejada testing how 500lb feels. [photo courtesy of Brent Carter]

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Best of the Week

Lost 13 inches of bellyfat, 67 lbs and learned to meditate.

Things at the gym have changed quite a bit in a little over a year. When I began the Starting Strength program I couldn't perform an un-weighted squat, and when my coach wasn’t there I would all but get run off of the equipment. It's been a while now since anyone has tried to give me unwanted advice or interfered with my workouts, even when training alone. Now, in between sets, I get asked about my program and lift technique.

After I answered a couple of her questions, a younger and overweight woman replied that what I was doing would not work for her. It would, of course, make her bigger and bulkier, and I could not possibly understand because I didn’t know what it was like to have a weight problem. She is smaller than I was when I first started training and her trying to skinny shame me was hard to wrap my head around. It is beginning to sink in; I am no longer the fat chick trying to do squats.

I used to meditate in a quiet room with candles and incense searching for calm and discipline. That was fine, and l cherish my quiet candled room. However calm focus is needed every day in life and life is seldom quiet. I meditate now when I am under the bar.

The harnessing of the mind and the body, breath held and all the noise in your head stops and the only thing that exists is you and the weight. In all my years working in the “Alternative Health Field” I have sought the mind body connection, the grounding, the centeredness, with only slight success. Now I am beginning to understand, beginning to understand why I lift, how simple life really is. All the candles in the world aren't going to teach you that type of focus and discipline.

I have noticed in my business dealings I am viewed differently, approached differently, and their opinion is much less important than before. I navigate there the same way I do in the weight room.

Several of my friends train with me now, all women. Others interest in what I simply saw as me getting healthy is humbling. 210lbs girls don't think people are interested in them working to lose their 'fish bowl' as my friend so lovingly calls hers.

62 weeks of strength training have flown by. My most recent program was the Texas Method and it saw me through my Great Grandmother’s fast decline, her death, and a car wreck. It also pushed me to my 1 rep squat PR of 225.

This is not where I saw this trip taking me. And why I decided to listen to that strong old guy is most days beyond me. I do know that now I am stronger than I have ever been. I dropped 13 inches off my waist and close to 5 inches off each thigh. I weigh 143 lbs., lighter than I have been since I was 12 years old.

Rarely am I asked how I got stronger. Much more often I am asked how I lost so much weight and kept it off. It doesn’t matter, the advice is the same. Buy the book and do what it says.

Best of the Forum

Squatting and pelvic alignment control

My wife, due to posture, has a lordotic lumbar curve. It seems that the balancing force for pelvic tilt as it relates to the spine/upper body comes primarily from the frontal abdominals (more so the lower abdominals) against the spinal erectors. Is this true? If so, is attempting to coach a harder isometric effort in the frontal abdominals the cure for fixing this? Would the use of a lifting belt provide sufficient assistance for isometric contraction of the abdominals to correct?

The "ass back" cue in the low bar squat seems to cause a relaxation of the frontal abdominals and further contraction of the spinal erectors (causing unwanted pelvic tilt) during the beginning of the squat as the hips and knees unlock instead of allowing the hips, knees and ankles to hinge naturally. As I understand, this is bad for a number of reasons:

  • Reduced efficiency of force transference.
  • Increased risk for sacrum/lumbar spinal injury.
  • Unwanted movement in the bottom of the movement as the pelvis rotates back into position (usually causing a forward bar path at the bottom). This movement and forward bar path causes obvious issues due to moment arm increase, and the pelvic rotation seems to remove a lot of the benefit of the "bounce" from elastic tissues in the posterior chain.

Assuming I am not horribly off in my assessment, where does one begin to coach this loss of isometric abdominal contraction out of a trainee?

Mark Rippetoe

The more logical explanation for her inability to maintain spinal extension is that the erector spinae muscles are either not strong enough or that she doesn't know how to keep her back flat during a pull. Since the lumbar muscles set the position of the lordosis, I am unconvinced that the abs are responsible.

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