Starting Strength Weekly Report

April 20, 2020

  • Join Starting Strength Live on Facebook this week for a discussion of Preparing for the SSC Platform Evaluation with Brent Carter on Tuesday, April 21; Fixing Common Mistakes with the Texas Method with Paul Horn on Thursday, April 23; and Common Bench Press Errors and Fixes with Rori Alter on Saturday, April 25.
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In the Trenches

coach inhyuk eun and puppy
Starting Strength Coach Inhyuk Eun is joined by his handsome friend on the platform of his gym in Korea.
power rack pocen strength and conditioning
Inhyuk Eun has just added a custom-built power rack to his gym, Pochen Strength and Conditioning (포천 스트렝스 앤 컨디셔닝).

Best of the Week

Will Low Testosterone Impede My Progress on Starting Strength?
Dalton Rankin

I encountered a problem in my work sets in the squat last Monday at 305 pounds. After having some pinching in the anterior hips due to a leg length discrepancy, I shimmed my platform (and later my shoe) to fix the problem. I reran an LP starting February 25 at 135 pounds and gained 20 pounds of body weight in the process. By the way I am 5'9" and 190 pounds as of this morning and also 17 years of age. Anyway, in this training session my warm-up squat sets felt perfectly natural and nothing out of the ordinary, and this was the case until the first work set. This set itself felt fine but an intense headache was immediately felt after I racked it. The pain originated solely on the left side of my head and radiated down to the base of the skull by the neck. Throbbing is the best description of the type of sensation I was feeling, and similarly, I could feel my heartbeat in my throat. As I started the inter-set rest, I began to feel a bit nauseous and almost vomited my breakfast on the platform. I gave myself additional time to recover (12 minutes instead of my typical 10 minutes) and then proceeded to my second set. The results were largely the same except I kept my nausea at bay. Once again, I rested for 12 minutes to get myself in order to lift the last set. The last set moved well, but the last rep was a bit of a grinder. Walking back from the rack was pretty indicative of what I was feeling. My headache was worse now than it was after both of my previous sets, and after reviewing my video I could tell that I was staggering slightly. The throbbing grew really intense, and I decided to curtail my workout for that day. Two of my lifters that I am coaching currently came to my weight room after that, and one of them brought a heavy dose of ibuprofen, which brought total relief within an hour. Throughout the day, however, the headache came back, but it was dull and not relatively close to the intensity of what it was after squats.

On the following day (Tuesday) I elected to finish my workout from Monday, which included bench press and power clean. Bench press gave me mild symptoms of what I had experienced squatting the previous day, but power cleans did not affect me whatsoever. I proceeded with the week's workouts on Wednesday with a light squat, press, and deadlift. The light squat elicited the same type of headache as my squats on Monday but to a lesser extent. Press was worse than the light squat but not as bad as Monday's squat, but surprisingly, deadlift did not result in any headache. I was unable to lift on Friday because I had to help my dad on the farm more than we both had anticipated, so I did Friday's workout this morning. The results were significantly better than last Monday. The headache was relatively miniscule and very manageable; although, the nausea returned but not until I completed all of my work sets at the end of my training session. Today is definitely a step in the right direction, but I would rather not chance an injury to my dome and risk becoming a tube-fed artichoke. What would have caused these headaches to happen and why? Should I be concerned about moving forward with training? I definitely do not want to halt progress and stop training if at all possible. I have never had a headache like this inside or outside of the weight room, which is even more concerning given that it came on so quickly. If you could shed some light on what might be happening to me, I would be very grateful.

Mark Rippetoe

I don't know. Get it checked immediately.


When I first started "squatting", back in my mid 20s (before I knew how to squat), I developed a devastating headache that sounds similar to yours, except it was bilateral. Absolutely awful.

After doing a bit of reading, I came to the conclusion that it was probably an exertion induced headache, brought on by a sudden increase in blood pressure.

For the next few workouts, I popped a couple ibuprofen (I think 800 mg) about an hour prior to the workout, and the headaches never returned. After a few workouts, I stopped taking the ibuprofen, and to my delight, discovered I didn't need it anymore.

Mark Rippetoe

That's probably what this is too. But it could be an aneurysm, and due to the nature of aneurysms, he needs to rule that out before he assumes otherwise. If he's "allowed" to, since a headache is "non-essential."

Dalton Rankin

I greatly appreciate both of your responses and will take this matter very seriously. In my immediate family alone my mom is a PT, and my oldest sister is a PA. Both of them have some connections that we could exploit to try to get a consultation with a neurologist and possibly some imaging done. If not, maybe my situation will actually be "essential" after I blow a fuse in my head, but I would rather not take that risk given the clusterfuck of authoritative action happening now. Thank you for your advice.

Best of the Forum

Will Low Testosterone Impede My Progress on Starting Strength?

Backstory: I have had type 1 diabetes since birth. I just started lifting weights 4 months ago and have just been toying around with weights and doing cardio and made some good progress so far.

I am 5 ft 9, 160 lbs. I'd say about 15% body fat and have recently been tested for low testosterone by my endocrinologist since I suffer from low libido and low energy. My results came back at 116 ng/dl for total testosterone which is below the range of 250-1100 ng/dl. I am 22 years old so this is a concern. My endo wants to schedule an appointment to discuss treatment options in a month. She thinks it is due to my history of diabetes as diabetics are prone to low testosterone levels.

I would like to be put on testosterone replacement and if I do, I would like to know how much impact that will help me with Starting Strength. I am pretty weak, but I have made some good progress so far in the gym just doing a typical 3 day split routine in the 8-15 rep range.

I can bench 115 for 10 reps, I can squat 135 for 12 reps and I have never deadlifted before. I can do 8 pull ups, my back is my strongest body part by far and I've noticed the most muscular gains in it too. As I said I am 160 lbs morning weight.

So I really want to do Starting Strength, but want to know if I should start it after I get testosterone treatment or should I start it now with my low testosterone? I would like to make the best results possible on the program.

Mark Rippetoe

116 would be a concern if you were your mother. Go ahead and start the program, and try to obtain some information that would explain why your endocrinologist wants to wait an entire month to correct a situation that could be addressed within the next hour at a TRT clinic.

Giri Kotte

Mark, given he's 22, wouldn't TRT affect fertility down the line when he's older, gets married etc.?


I never understand this line of reason. "It's probably this thing you've had since birth. Let's wait a month and see if it clears up."

Mark Rippetoe

It might, I don't know the literature. Typically, hormonal manipulation that results in lower sperm counts is quite reversible. It would make for better male birth control if it wasn't. But I'm with you, giri -- let's just leave him depressed, weak, listless, tired, and uninterested in getting laid at the age of 22, and just hope he meets a nice girl to have his kids later.


Anecdotally, it happened to me. Had two kids, then got put on TRT (with levels pretty similar to OP, but at age 40 or so). Tried for kid #3 right after, no success for about a year. Had heard about the potential for TRT to affect fertility, so I saw a fertility doc just so we didn't wind up wasting a lot of time. Lo and behold, my sperm count was zero. The doc was very irritated by the issue, he noted he had many, many folks he's seen who had the exact same complaint (TRT interfering with making rugrats) and had never been remotely told by the prescribing doc that it was a possibility. I stopped the TRT, and ~3-4 months later sperm count was low but non-zero, and ~3-4 months after that things were back to normal. Fast forward 3 years, had two sons in that time.

In fact, per Rip's comment, I asked the endo why TRT wasn't supremely popular for any and all men - increased libido and energy and muscle, plus it functioned as birth control? Wouldn't millions sign on for that? He chuckled and noted that his reading of the literature was that it was only 70-some-odd percent of guys who experienced any fertility issues, and thus a birth control method with ~a 30% failure rate wouldn't be very popular, to say the least....

That said, I have had reasonable novice runs of DTP both on TRT and off, and the differences were minimal (both cases, got up to mid-300's on squat in my 40's at 6'0 and ~200 pounds before getting sidetracked by various crap and two new babies) - OP, get under the bar pronto.

Will Morris

Typical TRT doses shouldn't affect fertility. If homeboy here bumps his dosage up from 200mg every 7-10 days up to 500mg 2-3x per week, he may end up with fertility issues. At 116, his levels are almost as low as mine which is impressive. I'm surprised he is able to get out of bed in the mornings.

Mark Rippetoe

I wonder if guys with very high natural T levels are infertile. Maybe sperm counts go back up after a period of supplementation. Maybe guys that are worried about this should try it and see what happens.

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