Starting Strength Weekly Report

February 22, 2016

Training Log
Starting Strength Channel
  • Ask Rip #21 - Topics include the strongest individual Rip has ever witnessed, whether a hamstring pull is a terminal condition, how and when Rip met Bill Starr, what data novices should track, and incredibly important appearance advice.
From the Coaches

Under the Bar

coaching the bench press In preparation for the May Starting Strength Seminar, FiveX3 Training intern Bob coaches an out of town guest on the bench. [photo courtesy of FiveX3 Training]
kristen squat pr Chris Kurisko's newest intern, Kristen Everhardt, hits a squat PR of 195 for 5. [photo courtesy of Black Iron Training]
spencer irvin squat training Spencer Irvin with 315 5x3 - slowly adding weight to the bar. [photo courtesy of Black Iron Training]

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Best of the Week

Texas Method programming, female

I'm 5'4", ~120 lbs, female, in early twenties.

I started TM a couple weeks ago using the template for women in Practical Programming. This week my volume day squat was 190lbs (90% of Friday's intended 210 3RM PR) for 6x3 but I was only able to complete 5 sets, not 6, and it was *very* difficult (and this is at the low end of the 90-95% range for VD in the book). It's mentioned in the book that a set can be dropped on volume day, but the sample progression for women also shows an increase of 2.5 lbs each week on the squat VD and ID rather than 5 lbs, which is what I've been doing. I have 1/2-lb microplates so I can increase in 1 lb increments.

My question is: should I drop a set on volume day and only do 5 sets of 3 (seems low volume to me) or change my progress to, say, 3 lbs per week instead of 5? Also, should I still attempt Friday's intended 3RM PR this week? With no coach, experience, or even any experienced friends, I'm nervous about tweaking the TM for myself. Thanks for any help.

Andy Baker

5x3 is plenty of volume. Is your Intensity day increasing? Remember, the whole goal of the TM is go generate progress on the low volume / high intensity work that occurs on Friday. The volume day is just a "calibration knob" that either turns the heat up or down to generate optimal results on Friday.

If you experience regression on Friday, then you volume might be too high or your numbers are all just off. If you just get stuck then you might need to dial up the volume a bit on Monday.

Tweak all you need. That's how you learn. In your 20s you still have time for mistakes.

Best of the Forum

Gaining strength with minimal muscle hypertrophy

Do people with bigger muscles, (aka strong muscle heads who don't run marathons and 5ks and do insane amounts of cardio), use more oxygen (air) than those with leaner muscles, (aka kenyan types who don't ever want to touch a barbell and all they do is run and do situps and eat like rabbits), during strenuous activity?

I am a Probationary Firefighter, and as such have been bombarded during this first year of entering my profession with multiple different theories of the way to exercise. There is a video that has been widespread in our department that talks about air consumption and out of air fire-ground emergencies. There is a part of the video that states in essence that a "leaner, more physically fit" firefighter is more effective than a firefighter who is more muscular due to the aforementioned increased use of oxygen by the muscles.

Mark Rippetoe

If you want to get strong the hard way – without growing – just train without eating enough to grow, and the process will limit itself. The more interesting question about VO2 efficiency is probably out of my bailiwick, but I'll take a stab at it. Oxygen utilization is probably more dependent on biomechanical efficiency than it is muscle size. Learning to efficiently haul the hose up the stairs will reduce the effort required, and thus drop the O2 consumed. Submaximal efforts do not utilize as much muscle mass as more maximal efforts, since submaximal efforts utilize lower numbers of motor units. Therefore, a strong, efficient firefighter will be more effective under the mask at whatever bodyweight his strength is developed most efficiently. This probably argues for strength development at the expense of the added bodyweight.

But here's a better question, derived from our military interests: what is the worst-case scenario in the field, and what physical attribute mitigates it best?

Steve Hill

What Mark is asking here is "How much does your friend in all his bunker gear weigh, and can you carry him out if you need to?"

Mac Ward

The question that comes to mind is, "How much more oxygen is a 220lb strong guy using than a 185lb not as strong but still somewhat strong guy using?" Further, is this difference enough to give the 185lb firefighter another 30 seconds? A full minute? Two minutes? How much more time is it worth? Which in your job is more important – strong enough to do whatever task is thrown at you, or the extra amount of time (which may be relatively miniscule) to do it? Tough questions, and I imagine that it is largely dependent on the individual and not universally the same.

I imagine that a firefighter's oxygen consumption is up regardless of BW as he runs into a burning building, wearing a shitload of gear, sweating his ass off, trying not to get killed. Mine just jumped a little thinking about it.

Certainly if you can't breathe, you can't do much else, but if you're standing there breathing and looking at the task you are incapable of performing...


Having been a Career Firefighter (admittedly for a short time) I have a couple things to say here.

  1. the number one factor in real life affecting how long your air supply lasts is your attitude and breathing control. I have seen HUGE 225+ lbs. veterans who stayed fit make their air last way longer and accomplish way more on the fire ground than the fresh 170 lbs. pound rookie who had the training class record for making his SCBA last the longest (incidentally he loved to run marathons). With that said the worst guy is always the one who's a fatass.

    Learn and practice controlled breathing. Learn to rebreathe. Keep that mask on until it sucks to your face and you start to gray out (have some one watch you in case you pass out). Subway drills are AWSOME!

  2. My gear alone without any tools or SCBA weighed 55 lbs. The SCBAs weighed either 23 lbs. or 45lbs. (for the Tower guys) and these where the lightweight fiber glass ones which was just the cylinder. add to this your door chalks, Pliers, Wire Cutters, Spanners, Flashlights, and tools and your easily carrying over 110 lbs. on your body.

  3. Everybody, I mean EVERYBODY that I know who's good at their Job is big, everyone from my training class gained weight and the only skinny guys are the paramedics who don't get a lot of fire suppression time. I've never seen a female officer who wasn't svelte (in a Hot way) or didn't become svelte after getting promoted. It's not just having muscle either. Having an extra 20 or 30 pounds of mass to throw into pulling that 2" or holding it when it's flowing (ever see a guy under 190 pounds try and control a 2" line by himself? It's hilarious!).

    The number one physical quality a Firefighter needs is work capacity. With that said Strength is the base for increasing all other physical qualities, it is the raw material from which all others are forged.

    Strength train first then finish your workout with some conditioning such as Prowler Pushes, Sled or dummy drags, or intervals but your workout should always be only supplemental to putting your gear on and practicing drills!

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