Starting Strength Weekly Report

January 04, 2016

  • Rip goes through the First Three Questions he asks someone who's stuck to get them back to adding weight to the bar.
  • From the Archives: Training with a Hangover, a timely article to bring to the attention of some on New Year's day.
Training Log
  • Rip coaches a new lifter on the difference between hip flexion vs spinal flexion to teach him to hold his back in rigid extension during the deadlift.
  • Leah Lutz joins us on the Starting Strength Podcast. Leah discusses the mental and physical challenge of becoming a competitive powerlifter in the USAPL while dropping over 100 lbs of bodyweight.
From the Coaches

Under the Bar

first squat day vicki Vicki, age 52, started her linear progression this past week, squatting 85# on her first day with Starting Strength Coach Jay Mund. [photo courtesy of FiveX3 Training]
Angelica warms up her squat Angelica setting up for her first warm up set working up to 185 during the Focus Barbell Class under the tutelage of Starting Strength Coach Brent Carter. [photo courtesy of Brent Carter]
deadlift sue Sue, age 64, works on her deadlift with Starting Strength Coach Emily Socolinsky. 2016 is going to be a strong year for both women. [photo courtesy of FiveX3 Training]
suri PR squat Suri squats 200x3x5 for a PR. She has put over 100lbs on her squat in 2 months at WSC. [photo courtesy of Inna Koppel]

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Best of the Week

More Olympic lifting stuff

Perhaps Rip has mentioned this elsewhere, but do you have any idea how being stronger (i.e. heavier press/squat/deadlift) somehow became a bad thing to weightlifting coaches?

If you can press more...can't you jerk more?

Mark Rippetoe

The problems with Olympic weightlifting as it is coached and practiced in North America have been discussed quite thoroughly on this board, several times. You'll need to search for the threads. But the board is slow today, so I'll type.

In short, Olympic weightlifting coaches fail to understand that explosive power is a function of two things: strength, which is trainable, and genetic neuromuscular efficiency endowment, which is not trainable to a significant extent. Olympic weightlifting coaches think that the snatch and the clean & jerk get better if you just snatch and clean & jerk a lot. A whole bunch. They don't seem to understand that these two lifts are strength displayed quickly, and that in the absence of the strength, it cannot be displayed, either quickly or at all. As you point out, nobody jerks less than they press, and nobody snatches or cleans more than they deadlift, so how do you have a conversation with a guy who thinks that a 700 deadlift slows down a 450 clean for an athlete who is explosive enough to perform the lifts?

They also fail to appreciate the different training effects of performing the snatch and the clean & jerk between athletes with a 36" SVJ and more normal humans, and the implications this has for team programming. Not everybody on the team reacts to the same training stimulus in the same way. Obviously the lifts have to be practiced, as do all sports movement skills. But practice does not constitute training, and merely going up to a heavy single miss several times a week is not productive for the vast majority of lifters, even though it works for some. I'll let you figure out who, and why, and how this is different from training.

AND, they don't seem to understand the precise definition of good snatch and clean & jerk technique. Many of them believe that a curved bar path that starts forward of the mid-foot is more efficient than a straight vertical line directly over the mid-foot, although they cannot say why and they cannot quantify just how much curve it should display. They seem to assume that the bar starts forward, so obviously it has to move back, and that since most people do it that way, that's the way it should be done. The physics and illogic of this error is explained in my book.

So, we're not going to go on and on about this, since we already have. But this is a summary.

Best of the Forum

Rest and failed reps

I some have confusion related to working to failure and rest between sets.

I generally err on the side of resting more than I need to due to a couple of things I noticed/observed, and I was wondering if this is more in my head or if there may be a biological/mechanical reason for them.

First and most obviously, if I do not rest enough between work sets, I do not hit every rep in my work set. So if I do a hard set of 5 on bench, and get back under the bar 1 minute later, I'm not hitting all 5 reps. I'm not sure I really get the science behind it. I've read something about VO2 or some-such, but that it doesn't take a super long time to replenish most of it or something. Additionally, it does feel like conditioning does affect to some degree the ability to recover faster, as well as obvious stuff like smoking.

Second, I feel like if I fail on say the fourth rep out 5, somewhat regardless of a reasonable rest period, I will not hit the fifth repetition on that weight in that session. It doesn't seem to happen necessarily with 1RM. So If I try for a 160 press, and don't make it, I can rest for a couple minutes, hit it again with better form/focus and lock it out. With higher repetitions though, and I've tried, it's never happened. So I hit a set of 5, don't rest enough, comeback and get 4. Rest longer, and I can only get 4, or sometimes 3. So I feel like I've exhausted the necessary muscles for the exercise.

Third, Any sessions that end up doing "reps to failure" due to an inability to complete my sets feel harder to recover from, and often agitate individual muscles more. I am assuming due to breakdown of form occurring from gassing out. This may also account for what I am seeing in regard to my second observation.

Fourth. Larger muscles seem to recover faster/easier than smaller muscles. I'm not sure on this at all, but if I miss a rep on a 5x5 squat I can do 1x5 and then 4x5. Once I miss a rep on press though I seem to lose a rep with each successive set. 1x5,1x4,1x3 etc.

Do any of these observations mesh with your experience? Am I off base, or are there other things I may want to know/account for? For example, if smaller muscles recover slower than larger, I may want to make sure I give more time after my last warm-up with the press than I may feel I need for squats.

Mark Rippetoe

These are all reasonable observations, with the exception of:

“So if I do a hard set of 5 on bench, and get back under the bar 1 minute later, I'm not hitting all 5 reps.”

One minute? Try 7-8 minutes. We are not doing conditioning.


I've noticed some of these things too. No question that a failed set is a physically stressful experience. Even if it's a weight you could have handled with another two minutes of rest, it means that for that given set you recruited as many motor units as your body could and it still wasn't enough to do the job.

So if your goal is three sets of five, the third set will be easier to accomplish if set two was a grindy set of five versus if set two was a failed 5th rep due to inadequate rest. You're the same trainee, but you've used up some reserves and accidentally made the second set needlessly harder than it had to be.


I have read (I think in a post by Jordan on this forum) that something in the range of 7 minutes is required for muscle cells to re-phosphorylate ATP and phosphocreatine after intense efforts. If you start this seven minutes from the time your heart rate returns to normal after the set, then you need about 10 minutes between sets. You can use less rest if you are still in the early stages of progression, but increasing rest between sets toward 10 minutes should be one of the first responses to missed reps.

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