Starting Strength Weekly Report

January 15, 2018

Training Log
  • Consistent training takes The Girl Who Fell Down from no athletic background, very little coordination, and no experience with barbell training to working toward competition and 300 lb deadlift.
Starting Strength Channel

In the Trenches

matt reynolds coaching
Coach Reynolds gives Charity Hambrick last minute cues and encouragement before her final deadlift at USSF Nationals. [photo courtesy of Starting Strength Online Coaching]

Best of the Week

Buffalo Bar Squats

After three weeks of no weight training due to illness, then New Years, more illness, etc., I'm rolled back the weights by 85% and started a linear progression.

I decided to experiment with the Buffalo bar. I did a couple of sets of Coach Paul Horn's low bar shoulder stretch with a conventional bar, then warm ups and 3 x 5 using the Buffalo Bar.

I was able to get into the low bar position fairly easily. Best of all, my shoulders didn't bother me at all, like they usually do with the conventional bar.

I don't think it perturbed my form to any great degree.

I'd like to know your opinion on the buffalo bar.

Michael Wolf

I don't have any personal experience with them, having never had access to one at a gym I regularly worked or lifted at. The only time I ever tried one was winter 2016 as a guest at a gym in Phoenix, when I still couldn't get my hands in place for low bar squats after my labrum tear, and it didn't help at all. So take this for what it is, and maybe people who have used it will chime in.

Generally it's better to try to do the low bar squat, especially as a novice and early intermediate for whom squat variations other than low bar are almost always unnecessary complexity and less effective than just low bar squatting. People who can't low bar squat can usually get themselves to where they can, with focused stretching. It requires a period of discomfort but usually they get there.

If, even after doing the low bar stretch, and hanging, and maybe dislocations - consistently and enough to actually make a difference - you still can't low bar squat, or can't do so without inflicting yourself with shoulder pain that effects your other lifts and activities in life, then you just accept that, and maybe try again at some future point.

I don't know how bad your shoulder pain is. Some discomfort is worth it, if it doesn't rise to the level that it effects your other lifts or activities. If it does, OK. I also don't know how much you've tried to improve your range of motion beyond a couple sets of the Horn low bar stretch. It has acute effects, yes, but it's the chronic effects of doing it a bunch, several times per week or more, that add up over time to get you to where you can low bar squat. Based on your post, I'm not convinced you did that.

Usually we just use high bar for people like this. But if the buffalo bar allows you to use low bar mechanics, then yes, I'd think it would be a preferred option. Since I don't really have experience with it though, I don't know - is that the case? My only concern is that it looks like that kind of bar wouldn't sit stably and still in place while lifting. It looks like it'd be unstable. But since I haven't really used it, I don't know - and I know lots of powerlifters use it, so maybe not.

Best of the Forum

Flexibility question
Tony Vino

I have an unusual question to ask somebody who lives in Texas, but as a Canadian I might be in this situation and I'd like to know your opinion.

Let's say I train a 16 year old who plays hockey. He decided that strength was important and everything. After 6 months, the season is about to restart and he tells me he want to play goalie and want to increase his flexibility to attain a better level of play since flexibility around the groin and hip area is important to goalies (I don't know if you've seen a hockey game, but they often do rapid lateral movement and continuously stand and go back into a kneeling position).

So I guess my question is would you then recommend stretching or something else to increase/help with the flexibility to play at a high level or would you just put it as a skill that will get better through practice?

I would think that since you want to prevent injuries, is there something that we can do as coaches to help?


I have wondered this question myself. I took a five-year hiatus from Muay Thai, and now that I'm back into it, I cannot kick nearly as high as before.

So, I am not as flexible as I need to be for Muay Thai, and have been curious how to fix it. Is it better to statically stretch, dynamically stretch, or just practice the sport?

Tony Vino

Can we use the same stress/adaptation principle we use for strength training and use it to ''train'' his flexibility or since we classify his flexibility as a specific skill, we kind of let it grow by itself through the practice of the sport?

Can connective tissues and muscles bellies be stressed in a way that would create an adaptation that would result in better flexibility? Or is flexibility more of an innate skill/capacity that we can't train to get a lot better like the standing vertical jump?

Mark Rippetoe

Is he flexible enough to play goalie now? If he's not flexible enough, he needs to stretch. This should be obvious.

Tony Vino

Fair enough but since there is no quantitative way to measure the progress the athlete makes since stretching is more a "feeling" kind of activity, is their a way to know how much stress we put on a joint and then make sure the recovery time is adequate? Is static stretching enough of a stress to gain moderate to big "gains" in the long term? Am I overthinking the stress/adaptation principle by applying it to every activity?

Mark Rippetoe

If you can't quantitatively measure an increase in flexibility, you're not stretching effectively. If you need recovery time from your stretching, you're overdoing your stretching. Static stretching has worked pretty well for a couple thousand years. You are overthinking all of this irrelevant stretching shit.


Stretching can be trained and it can be quantifiably measured, I can attest to this through 10 years worth of martial arts doing that damn stuff. Now, I don’t play hockey but I’ve seen what good goalies can do both in field and ice. He will need to stretch because of the required hip/groin flexibility for that position. Mark is correct, if he pulls up sore after stretching then it was done far too vigorously; there is no need for that. Stretching should be relaxed into and although will cause some obvious minor discomfort should not hurt. Pulling angry faces is a sure tell you are stretching too hard. The key with stretching is to do it often.

Mark Rippetoe

The key to stretching is to not do it if you don't need to. If this hypothetical kid is flexible enough to play goalie already, he just needs to get stronger. And that is all. Because playing goalie works the ROM the goalie uses, but it doesn't make him stronger.

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