Starting Strength Weekly Report

February 18, 2019

Starting Strength Channel
Training Log
  • Eye Gaze Direction for the Bench Press – Mark Rippetoe on how staring at the ceiling and using it as a reference point improves the accuracy of the bar path in the bench press.
  • From the Archives: Diego Socolinsky explains how being coachable will help you get the most out of your training.
Gym Spotlight
  • The Strength Co. - Villa Park: The Strength Co.'s second location was opened in Villa Park, CA at the end of 2018. The Strength Co. owner, Grant Broggi, is an active duty Marine currently stationed at the Naval Weapons Station in Seal Beach California who's been a Starting Strength Coach since 2016. If you are in the area and want to "Get Serious About Getting Strong," drop in and get started.

In the Trenches

starting strength and ft worth police academy
Nick Delgadillo, Darin Deaton, and Brent Carter put on a Starting Strength workshop for the physical training instructors at the Fort Worth Police Academy. The Fort Worth PD Academy puts all cadets through a period of strength training during the 7 month long academy. [photo courtesy of Nick Delgadillo]
gretchen davison deadlift lockout position
Gretchen Davison finishes her deadlift at The Strength Co., a Starting Strength Affiliate Gym with two locations in California – Costa Mesa and Villa Park. [photo courtesy of Ronald Mitchell]

Best of the Week

Training With Heart Rate Restrictions

Long story, but I was diagnosed with a rare heart defect that affects the right ventricle and can cause dangerous arrhythmias. I was diagnosed in October 2017 and I'd been lifting for about 1.5 years then. I was told to stop all exercise except walking. Needless to say, this was a tough adjustment. However, after a recent surgery to address the arrhythmias, my doctor has encouraged me to start lifting again. He just said to try to keep my HR under 130. I've been back at it for a couple weeks, starting over with my LP. I've actually been surprised that my HR has been manageable. DL and squat is approaching 300. My last heavy set of 5 on DL my HR shot up quickly. I'm worried this will be a limiting factor as the weight goes up. Also, I have a implanted defibrillator so I've been worried about trying cleans as I don't want to hit my device. It also seems like the explosiveness of the exercise would elevate my HR.

Could I switch to triples on my DL? I imagine this would limit my progress at some point. Also, curious if anyone knows their HR on a heavier set of squats. It's nothing I used to pay attention to in the past so I'm not sure what to expect. I feel like the HR restriction will limit my progress eventually, but I'm just thankful to be able to get back in the gym.

Mark Rippetoe

If I were you, I'd take all sets down to doubles or triples and make up the volume with more sets. Take plenty of time between sets, at least 10 minutes. No cleans or snatches, and no conditioning other than your lifts. You will probably have no trouble if you keep your reps down. But I'd like some professional input on my opinion.


Thanks for the reply Mark. Are you talking all sets on all lifts or just deadlift? I squatted 260 3x5 my last workout and with moderate rest periods my HR rate never got over 120. I am on a beta blocker though, which helps.

Thanks for the help.


OP, I’m sure that you’re never going to get a definitive medical answer on this one. Mark’s advice seems both conservative and extremely reasonable to me. However, I’m an internist and not a cardiologist.

Here’s my take without knowing your condition specifically: it sounds like you have a cardiomyopathy, probably congenital, that is likely causing certain other issues and that predisposes you to cardiac dysrhythmias hence the AICD in your chest. A heart rate that’s very high, e.g. higher than 130 (even transiently) can increase the irritability of your heart’s conduction system thereby triggering a ventricular dysrhythmia.

I assume your cardiologist has you on a beta-blocker or similar med which should mitigate the risk of activity causing an excessive heart rate.

I have two thoughts here.

1) given the above, you definitely need to do everything in your power while training to keep your heart rate down. Doing more sets with fewer reps and avoiding explosive Olympic lifts seem like reasonable ways of accomplishing this.

2) your AICD may give your physicians the ability to interrogate your heart rate over time. Ask your cardiologist if it’s possible for him to actually monitor your heart rate as well as the morphology of your cardiac impulses (what we call QRS complexes) WHILE you’re lifting. This would be done after the fact, not real time.

This ability (if your device is capable) may give you and your doc a bit more security with your training. See if this is feasible. Either way, I’d take Mark’s recommendations to your cardiologist for approval. He sounds like he wants to work with you and is tolerant of some level of risk in order for you to achieve your goals.

Good luck!


Wow. Thanks for the thorough response. I really appreciate the input. You are correct, I have Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy. This causes me to go into Ventricular tachycardia, hence the AICD. It took two years to get diagnosed and all that time I was lifting. Never had an episode while lifting but had several while playing basketball. I underwent a VT ablation in November that was successful. I'm working with a doctor at Johns Hopkins where they have a dedicated program for ARVC. He's confident we have the VT under control with the surgery. He thinks the risk of me being sedentary is greater than the risk of doing some exercise. After 1.5 years of being sedentary I agree. I've packed on some LBs and missed the work. I'm on in-home monitoring for my device so reports are regularly reviewed by my doc in between office visits. I'll discuss reviewing my heart activity during workouts. Thanks for the advice and encouragement.


No problem. You sound like a survivor. Again, Mark's advice sounds sensible to me. I'd just run it by your cardiologist who sounds like a mensch.

Best of the Forum

Personal Trainer horrified by Starting Strength

I wanted to ask your advice on something, since I'm apparently going to be called on to explain why I think SS is worthwhile to a personal trainer. Someone I know recently went for an assessment at the gym she signed up at. They asked her about "goals" and all that, and she told them what kind of program she was doing.

Anyway, the personal trainer in question said it was a bad program because it "wouldn't tear up the muscle properly," would make her bulky, and wouldn't help her lose weight, her overall goal. "Come see me in six weeks and you'll see why the program wasn't good," he said. Not only wasn't it a good idea for a young female, but neither would it work for a young male, he explained. He suggested circuit training instead.

I have to do an "assessment" of my own, and I'm sure I'll argue with this guy. That's not to say I'm going to be rude about it--if he can give me a better program to build strength as a novice, I'm willing to listen. But the main thing I want to explain to him is why I think a young female who wants to lose weight should do this program.

My main talking points are:

  • building a strength base is worthwhile for anyone. Weight loss is best accomplished by eating less (especially when it's only a few pounds) and in any case, the most effective ways to lose weight by exercise require you to be strong in the first place.
  • Doing compound exercises for sets of 5 is superior to circuit training because it is the most effective way to get someone stronger in a short time. It is also easier to measure results. By contrast, circuit training will make a novice mediocre at a bunch of different things and improve strength only marginally.
  •  Weight training rarely makes women "bulky" without steroids. Besides, the SS program focuses on building strength rather than straight hypertrophy.

What do you think? Am I presenting the proper facts about the benefits of the program for a young female trainee?

Mark Rippetoe

I think you have obviously got several good arguments, but WHY IN THE HELL WOULD YOU FEEL OBLIGATED TO MAKE THEM TO A PAID CONSULTANT? Have you lost your mind? Why would you feel compelled to educate the boy? Or do you really feel compelled to educate her?

Starting Strength Weekly Report

Highlights from the StartingStrength Community. Browse archives.

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