Starting Strength Weekly Report

January 11, 2021

Edge Effects Edition

On Starting Strength

From the Coaches
  • It can be difficult at first to locate the correct bar position for the squat, so Phil and Becky Meggers of Testify Strength & Conditioning discuss and demonstrate how to do this.
  • The new year has come and gone, and although you meant to kick everything off with a bang and get after that training, you somehow haven’t gotten it started yet. What to do? No worries, you’ll start training on Monday, right? Wrong - Mondays are the worst, and Phil Meggers explains why.
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In the Trenches

rip coaches dave at the starting strength camp
Rip gives Dave some pre-rep instructions during the Self-Sufficient Lifter Camp held at WFAC last weekend. [photo courtesy of Nick Delgadillo]
erin learning an efficient deadlift start position
Erin Flynn Maccall learns to pull with high hips using the Standard Pulling Position at Saturday's camp. [photo courtesy of Nick Delgadillo]
jacob training squats at WFAC
Jacob training hard and knocking out some squats at WFAC. [photo courtesy of Bre Hillen]

Best of the Week

Starting at a powerlifting gym

I've cancelled my membership at a popular commercial gym because they told me I can’t use chalk anymore. After making lots of enquiries, I've realised most gyms in my neighbourhood don't allow chalk either. So I'm starting at a powerlifting gym next week that allows it, but there's a problem - the guys there don't like the way you teach the lifts (particularly the squat) and they tell me to do the lifts their way, in a really persistent annoying way.

I've already met a couple of guys that train there while at another gym, and they were immediately giving me lectures about how I should squat, bench press etc their way instead of your way. They squat with a wide stance and a wide grip, bench press with a huge arch in their back, etc. Most of the guys there are huge, very strong, and some are on steroids. They regularly say stuff like "if you wanna get really strong you gotta do this", "you shouldn't be doin that", "Watch me then you try" etc.

Anyway I don't want to do the lifts their way, I don't want to listen to their lectures and have them telling me what to do...but I’m a bit stuck because it's the only proper barbell gym around. Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with the unsolicited advice/them trying to change the way I lift, without getting into awkward arguments? I have issues with anxiety, and every time I start explaining the reasons for your techniques they just say stuff like "yeh but look at how many elite powerlifters have actually been trained by Mark Rippetoe or use his methods...none."

Sorry if this sounds ridiculous, but I've already got into numerous arguments about this stuff and I don't want to deal with it anymore. I haven't got good coordination or proprioception and I know my technique is not perfect, but I just want to be able to go to the gym and do my lifts without having to deal with this shit.

Mark Rippetoe

This is the classic example of a time to build your own gym. Why not?

Oso Rojo

Just smile and say thank you and put your earbuds back in. They will get the hint. You also need to hitch up your big boy pants and stop worrying about what "they" think or say.


Those guys are annoying, it's best not to try and debate them though. Especially not after a set of heavy squats, which is when they usually choose to annoy you about how you need a more vertical back angle or something. If you squatted "their way", you might indeed be capable of bigger numbers. But lifting a big weight is only one of the criteria used in selecting exercises for a solid strength program. If it were the only consideration, we'd all be quarter squatting. Competitive powerlifters ultimately just want the big weight. They want to get stronger too, but lifting is also practice for them, and to get the best scores at their meets, they need to practice lifting the way that will get them the biggest numbers while staying within the rules of the competition. The squat isn't the only lift for them that they may do markedly differently from you. They are probably gripping their bench presses wider than you do, and you may see a lot of them sumo deadlifting if the meets they go to allow sumo deadlifts. These differences are there for the same reason they squat differently, because their concerns are skewed almost exclusively to weight on the bar.

Justin Smale

Endure it for a month and once you’re a regular there (and the assholes have all gone through their attempts to impart their “knowledge” on you) they’ll probably leave you alone. And keep the earbuds in and pretend the music is loud even if it isn’t, most people will realize they’re interrupting you if you make it seem like they’re interrupting you. I’ve been there, but I’m also the asshole who will argue back to my own detriment. The best was showing the guy that was deadlifting 700 lbs that was telling me my “hips are too high” that his hips rose to the point where the SS model teaches when got through all his silly bullshit setup and actually started lifting.


I know this isn't the "right" answer, but coming from someone who also has gym/social anxiety and would just not be able to get through a workout if I was nervous about constant corrections... Is not being able to use chalk really that much of a deal breaker? If you're hook gripping you could try taping your thumb instead.

I also do better when I remember that these people aren't actually interested in learning through debate like I do. They just want to win the argument. So I just don't waste my precious gym time acting as their free entertainment.

Mark Rippetoe

Liquid chalk?


It's actually quite hard to find a gym with a good culture without some kind of bullshit. Large over ear wireless headphones are a good way to show you are not there to chat.

Best of the Forum

Do I correct my posture before I continue with the program
Kallum Dickson

After a conversation with Will Morris regarding using SS as a method of gaining strength after having my elbow surgically repaired, I was set on using your linear progression.

After taking a week to figure out form before putting on a substantial weight and completing week 1 of the program. I have discovered that issues with my posture may be sabotaging my form with weight on the bar. For clarity, I have a very rounded back and shoulders from working at standard desks and chairs in highschool as a 6'5 male, nerd neck and, as I was recently told, anterior tilted pelvis.

While I have found that my posture doesn't decrease my ability to carry out most of the lifts, I find it does with the press. When I do the press, I find that at my work weight I can't get the 4th or 5th rep out without the pelvis slipping back and rounding my lower back quite a bit.

I am due to meet my doctor in a couple weeks for other issues, but am planning on asking to see a physiotherapist to ask about corrections besides what I've seen on the internet. However, I'm curious about what you have to say. What would you suggest I do to fix this poor posture and/or should I halt the program until my posture is in better condition?

Mark Rippetoe

Are you under the impression that "posture" is involuntary?

Matt James

My two cents, based on my own experience: Focus on form, especially in the press and in finishing the deadlift, and your upper body posture problems will improve on their own. As your back and shoulders get stronger it will be easier for them to hold your body in proper posture as you go about your day-- but like Rip says, you still need to be conscious about it.

I'm confused about what you describe with the press, though. If you have anterior pelvic tilt, your spine will be slightly hyperextended already. If you're "rounding" your lower back, that sounds like spinal flexion...and that's not likely caused by your pelvic tilt. So, clarify?

I also had a moderate amount of anterior pelvic tilt and found that I had to stretch my hip flexors fairly regularly for a while in order to allow it to resolve itself. But honestly, getting weight on the bar and strengthening the lower back with squats and deadlifts did wonders for my pelvic positioning.

Kallum Dickson

To clarify what I meant about the press firstly, when I set up I consciously try to get my pelvis and back into the best form I can before beginning the pressing motion. However as I press, the pelvis tilts further and my lower back rounds more as my muscles that maintain the posture fatigue due to being underused, as my rudimentary logic puts at the cause. Could I possibly get some advice on how to prevent this from happening?

I will continue the program and make a more conscious effort with my posture.

Matt James

Well, specific to the press, I'd suggest videoing it and posting it in the technique forum. Because based on your description I'm still not able to visualize what's happening.

Generally speaking, though, any form breakdown in the lower back is best solved by 1) firmly ingraining what the proper position feels like, and 2) getting your lower back stronger. The best way to do that is to keep doing the squats and deadlifts as laid out in the program.

As far as the pelvic tilt. Your body has gotten used to an exaggerated lordotic curve (ass out, belly protruding a bit) and you'll have to actively fight that. Get used to keeping your chest up and shoulders back, and your hips tucked forward. Squeeze your glutes a bit to keep your hips forward as you are standing or walking. And if you spend a lot of time sitting, get up and stretch your hip flexors every hour or so, because they have gotten tight over time and will keep pulling your pelvis down if you let them.

With regard to your lifts, focus on leaning over more in the squat than you want to. Nipples point to the floor. Pay very close attention to the deadlift chapter where it discusses exaggerated lordotic curve. Work on eliminating that and getting used to what proper spinal extension feels like. Once you understand the position, learn to set your back hard in order to maintain it through the movement.

With the press, work on the hip rebound as described in the book. It's very difficult to achieve this with your pelvis tilted forward. This is where I found stretching to be the most helpful. I did a stretch that is basically a lunge, but with the rear foot resting on a flat bench. That gets your hip flexors loose enough to actually get an effective hip rebound for the press.

It may take a couple of months for it all to come together, but following the program and getting stronger should create marked improvements in your posture. Then it's just a matter of maintaining that posture when you're not in the gym.


You are going to discover, in bits and pieces, what good posture feels like when doing the exercises correctly.

Strength training IS corrective exercise.

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