Starting Strength Weekly Report

May 04, 2015

SS Coaches' Updates & Blogs
  • Inna Koppel presented a poster at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research outlining a project to explore the impact of strength training on cognitive impairment and frailty related to Alzheimer's disease.

Under the Bar

Scott Acosta competition squat Scott Acosta makes his 3rd squat attempt at the USAPL North Florida Open on 26 April; 195kg (429.75 lbs) for a 45 lbs PR and 3 white lights on his way to 3rd place in the 93 kg with a 1,289 lbs total. [photo courtesy of Scott Acosta]
Linda Kephart deadlifts 220 x 5 Linda Kephart pulls 220 for a set of 5. Linda is the director of Physical Education for Carroll County Public Schools in Maryland. Over the last three years she has worked to add barbell training to the curriculum in our schools.[photo courtesy of Beau Bryant]
Alexis' USPA squat Alexis Glascock squats at the April 26, 2015 USPA Powerlifting Championship. [photo courtesy of Athletix Gym]
John Irwin PR deadlift John Irwin with a PR 511.5 (but not 1RM) deadlift at the same event. [photo courtesy of Athletix Gym]
Matt McConnell trains the squat Matt McConnell has taken his squat work sets from 115-265 and improved his quality of life/back pain in just a few months of training. [photo courtesy Chris Kurisko]
Jim benches 225 x 5 Jim benches 225 for 5, a lifetime PR at Silverback Strength and Conditioning. [photo courtesy of Adam Lauritzen]
Susan pulls the axle Susan pulls the axle, 220lbs, for 21 reps at the 2015 May Queen Strongwoman Contest in Lancaster, PA.
Jayme tire flip Jayme gets 7 tire flips with the 425lb tire at the same event. [photos courtesy of Emily Socolinsky]

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Best of the Week

Get to a Seminar
Pierce Brennan

I hope this finds everyone well. I am a first time poster and just finished up the Starting Strength Seminar in Brooklyn, NY. I am posting because anyone on here who is serious enough about their training to video their sets, post them, and seek advice, NEEDS TO ATTEND A SEMINAR. It was the most useful thing I have done for my training and coaching over the past 12 years. You cannot replicate the experience doing anything else, period. I have read the books and articles several times over, filmed my training, coached the model over the past several years, and this seminar provided as much useful information, and more, than all of my past experiences combined. Not just for my own training, but coaching as well. The staff is there to make YOU better. I cannot say enough good things about the experience. Make whatever sacrifices in your life that you need to in order to get to a seminar.

I cannot thank Rip, Tom, Dana, Brent, Wolf, stef, and the CFSBK staff enough for the experience this weekend. I cannot wait to use this information on my athletes this afternoon to improve their training. Once my body recovers from being wrecked all weekend in a day or two, I will be back under load and it can't happen soon enough.

Best of the Forum

Implicit vs Explicit learning and Constraints approach
Simon Nainby

Having watched the Coaching Eye video and stef’s points on implicit learning from watching others, I wondered if you or stef had any views on constraints based approaches to coaching and the issues of explicit vs implicit learning?

About halfway through stef mentioned that some athletes cannot explain very well what they do, they just do it.

This struck a chord regarding the theory of constraints based coaching (as I understand it and I have only just started addressing this topic so I may be wrong) which states that when the coach manipulates the athlete, environment or task in order to achieve the correct motor pattern, without explicitly telling the athlete, they bypass the conscious awareness of the athlete.

An example would be using the block of wood to prevent forward knee slide. If the learning was truly implicit you would only tell the athlete to touch but not to knock the block over and never mention, even in feedback, forward knee slide, its effect on mechanics or any explicit cues/information. The block will be knocked over initially but eventually the athlete will find the correct movement to stop this happening and thus correct knees sliding forwards. They will also only have one thing to think about (touch but don’t knock the block over) rather than many things (keep weight through rear of foot, shove knees out, shove knees forward but only in the first third/half of descent to a place just in front of the toes while moving the hips back and down).

The continuation of the theory is that as a result, although the pattern can take longer to develop correctly, once formed it is much more stable under pressure as the athlete does not have a raft of explicit cues and information to fall back on and overload their working memory in competition (what is termed reinvestment). They simply execute the motor pattern on an autonomous level as they have in training as they know no different – hence, when asked, they are unable to explain how they do what they do but are very good at doing it no matter how pressured the situation.

This seems to make sense to me based on experiences I had as an athlete and some of the things I have seen as a coach but most of the literature is careful to say these are mostly theories only with not much evidence so I am keen to know your thoughts on this as a coach of competitive athletes and in the context of the seminars you conduct given the attendees act as coach and athlete. As coaches they need to be aware of every single fault, fix,cue etc. but as an athlete can this ultimately hinder their performance?

The explicit form of coaching seems prevalent and there are clearly a great many athletes who have succeeded in pressure situations in spite of this. Are they just too thick to take in the cues and overload themselves or is there nothing wrong with explicit coaching?

It seems quite a few of the Starting Strength coaches also compete and you did, so was/is this ever an issue? Do you purposely use limited and implicit feedback working with someone who only wants to compete? I’d be very interested to hear your and stef’s thoughts.

Mark Rippetoe

I'm not familiar with your terminology. We always try to minimize instructions and cueing because it's more efficient and saves time. But the entire method is explained in detail over 25 hours to our seminar attendees.


As Rip says above, we minimize instructions and cues because that is a more efficient way to teach and correct movement.

A learned, embedded movement means that the movement is not consciously directed through every aspect in a top-down sense. Too much thinking can certainly interfere with movement during the learning process. But we have not seen anyone with an impairment of any sort because they learned the movement in a "more intentional" way than needed or learned to analyze the movement afterward.

The "when asked, they are unable to explain how they do what they do but are very good at doing it" just means that the person has not put the work into learning these aspects of the movement. Many athletes have not ever been required to do this sort of processing and/or lack the interest in doing so and have not learned these skills.

Coaches have to be able to do this. The main problem we run into (other than a simple lack of experience as both lifter and coach) is that lots of people lack basic analytical skills and have a enormous difficulty in systematically approaching a problem.

It is easy for us to coach someone into performing a movement and learning it. Getting that same person to be an effective coach is a different matter and a much, much more difficult and longer process.

Simon Nainby

As regards the athletes who haven't put the work in/aren't interested in learning the technical aspects would you take the view that this is not a problem as long as they are able to perform the skill?


As long as they're performing well, that's what they're judged on.

You should note that few trainees of any caliber learn very much in the way of technical aspects of movement. That, like coaching (and anything else), requires deliberate practise to get beyond the basic level.

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