Starting Strength Weekly Report

July 13, 2015


Under the Bar

squat training tina tyrell Tina Tyrrell pauses a set of 4 as she prepares for the Starting Strength Fall Classic in October.[photo courtesy of Beau Bryant]
deadlift training emily Emily, who attended a Starting Strength Seminar previously, pulls a set of five deadlifts in Sydney, Australia.[photo courtesy of Thomas Campitelli]
deadlift pr tim mayheu Tim Mayheu PRd his deadlift with 405x3 last week in Atlanta, GA.[photo courtesy of Lisa Bell]
deadlift learning A new 61 year old lifter learns the pull at FiveX3 Training's weekend clinic.[photo courtesy of Emily Socolinsky]

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Best of the Week

Impact of strength training on athletic performance

I have been competing in international level for three years now, and I’ve tasted the requirements to excel in competition. Athletes are required to develop many physical qualities (endurance, speed, mobility, etc.). But the physical trait that I have found to have the greatest impact on my performance (besides technique), was strength. ''Conditioning-wise'' I have done many things coaches asked of me, countless rounds of circuit training, complexes, long distance runs, many other things, and even though I did it without complaining, I don't think many of those things helped my performance. Until I started strength training, all the damn conditioning in the world besides hard randori didn't do much for me. When I was fighting a guy from Russia or Azerbeijan, their strength and technique overwhelmed all of that.

I was lucky enough to find this community, and take advantage of the information provided to follow an effective training program. I have been strength training effectively for 2 years+, and strength training certainly has had an impact on my skill. It has been a long time since I gassed in a fight, or since an opponent dominated the match physically.

I can't seem to understand why sports training coaches don't seem to take notice of these facts. I train with olympic level athletes, and their coaches (and my coach too) have them doing kettlebell swings while standing on bosu, partial bench presses, very high rep hang-cleans with empty bar and crossfit workouts. And what I can't seem to understand how some athletes get away with this type of training. It seems that the physical demands of the sport have been thrown out of the window, and that coaches are misapplying principles of training specificity.


You are wise beyond your years. I can confirm your detailed observation about the benefits of increased strength in martial arts. I've been a Judoka for >30 years & coach at my club, but never competed internationally. Strength training was actively discouraged by most of my coaches (even scary good practitioners), but I've been able to convince a few of my students to start a strength program like Starting Strength - and they like the results as much as I do.

For me, the biggest benefits included deeper reserves to tap into when needed - now I don't shy away from doing a shoulder throw on a guy 100lbs heavier than me, and I can finish it (kake/kime) with good form. Ground work also got a lot easier. When you pull to off-balance your opponent, that pull is much more effective when your body can brace against it (and you can resist your opponent's efforts more easily). Recently a big guy pulled with all his might to turn me over, but I just valsava'ed and he could not budge me. My knees (had a few surgeries) are more stable, and I can do throws that require a deep squat without worrying about injury.

Of course, for a skill based sport such as ours, good technique is essential and remains front and center, but strength forms a critical base that's too often underdeveloped even in high level athletes. Strength training gave me a big boost in my favorite sport that I did not expect after such along time practicing it. A big challenge for me is programming Judo & lifting workouts such that I optimize use of limited recovery capacity at my advancing age - and keep weight gain in check - but that's a whole other topic.

Best of the Forum

Hook grip and nerve damage

I tried hook grip (quite successfully) on the deadlift for the first time today, and I think I might be a permanent convert. My only concern is that I've seen warnings on the good-old-reliable-internet-where-every-thing-you-read-is-true that hook gripping can eventually cause nerve damage or permanent numbness in the thumbs. As far as I can tell, no credible sources have made any such allegation; I'm sure this is a myth on par with "squatting is bad for your knees," but I thought I'd ask anyway.

So my question: have you known or heard of any lifters suffering permanent thumb numbness or other dysfunction from using the hook grip? Or am I just being paranoid?

Mark Rippetoe

Never seen it happen.

Sean Herbison

Depends what you mean by "numbness." If you mean it gets less sensitive to the pressure, that's certainly true. If it weren't nobody could ever adapt enough to use a hook grip on a heavy deadlift.

But if you mean that you can't feel anything with the thumb anymore, I've never known anyone to have that problem.


An afternoon of lab work with a stack of 96 well plates and a hamilton repeating syringe yielded 9 months of numbness to one thumb. Turns out that smashing the interphalangeal joint over and over into steel after becoming too cramped up to use the thumb normally was not a good idea. It took 9 months to get back to normal.

You shouldn't get this sort of crush injury with the hook grip as the tip is trapped against the bar, not the joint, and the pads move in better position to cover as you grip.

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