Starting Strength Weekly Report

January 30, 2017

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  • Ask Rip #41 - Rip and coaching staff on supplements, training people who are in pain, awesome lifters from the 80s, and the commercial gym problem.
From the Coaches

tarn pulling 180 kg in competition
Nithit Chamnong-arsa "Tarn," 11 months into Starting Strength, pulling a PR 180kgs in his first powerlifting competition at a bodyweight of 68kgs. [photo courtesy of Troy May]

Best of the Week

Clothing advice

I'm planning on purchasing a fitted suit for weddings and some other fancy things I'm going to this year. I am nearing the end of my Starting Strenght Linear Progression with plans to transition into the Texas Method. I was wondering: how many years (or months) do you think I might get out of the suit before it doesn't fit anymore? I figured maybe you've seen enough folks through the Texas Method to possibly make an educated guess.

Mark Rippetoe

You'll need an "Olympic" sized suit, with a 10" drop (the difference in inches between the coat size and the pants waist size). Buy a size larger than you wear, have it altered down to fit, and it can be let out to the original size when you get there. Take the waist slack up with your belt. Buy a nice dress belt.

Brodie Butland

Keep in mind too – a given fitted suit should allow you at least 10 lbs either way. So you will still get some use from it even if you put on a little weight.


Suit jacket

  • Many parts of a suit can be altered about 2" in either direction, including midsection, chest, and pants waist without distorting the proportions too much, so don't feel like you need to wait.
  • The one part part of a jacket that more or less cannot be altered is the shoulders, as a ton of complexities intersect there. However, since you are at the end of your LP, you can proooobably get away with something that fits there now, but YMMV: for all we know you might get huge on TM. I didn't but then again I am a pussy that can't even press BW, so there's that.
  • When you put on a jacket, the shoulder seam should hit where you clavicle and scapula meet. Any bigger and you'll have an ugly overhang.
  • Jacket collar should sit flush against your shirt collar with no gap unless you're leaning your head forward.
  • A jacket with smaller armholes (the hole where the tubular structure that is the sleeve connects to the torso section) will be more comfortable. Larger armholes means when you raise your arms, you'll look like a flying squirrel, and the whole jacket will shift around awkwardly. I like to feel the armhole just cutting slightly into my armpit.
  • A primary feature in nicer jackets is the presence of a canvas chestpiece sewn inside, which over time will drape more elegantly on your chest. Cheaper suits have a gluey later inside, which does not perform as such. If you don't expect to wear this much though, then there's no real point. Some will say that glue doesn't hold up well in dry cleaning, but newer polymers don't really have this problem.
  • Don't let some jerkwad sell you a 3-button jacket, as those wrap around a torso like a barrel; no one looks good in one of those. Go with two buttons, with the top button near your natural waistline, usually slightly above your bellybutton. That should also be the narrowest point of the jacket. If you're feeling like a dandy, go with a one-button, but those are very rare off the rack.
  • Lifters usually do better with two side vents behind the jacket. One central vent and it'll be split apart by your glutes and look like a broken stage curtain. Besides, one vent is usually considered more casual, as it was originally put there to facilitate horseback riding while wearing a hunting jacket or a rugged sportcoat, whereas a proper suit is not supposed to get near the stables.
  • Proper jacket length should just cover your butt. More casual jackets and ones from fast-fashion vendors (H&M, Express, Uniqlo) will be shorter. These are just general guidelines and ultimately proper proportion depends on your torso length and leg length. At 6' though, I imagine a traditional R -length jacket will do fine.
  • See what the lining (the smooth silky layer inside the suit jacket) is made out of. Cheaper suits will use polyester, which can get really stuffy really fast. Bemberg/cupro/rayon is much more comfortable, but tend to only be available on pricier items.


  • The waist usually has the same 2" or so that you can work with in either direction before the back pockets look mispositioned.
  • For thighs, turn the pants inside out and see how much excess fabric there is at the seam; nice brands will allow about 2" while cheaper brands, to save fabric, will include as little as 0.5", which sucks.
  • If the pants come unhemmed, ask your tailor if he can save the extra material and make side tabs out of them for the waistband, which are much more adjustable than a belt.
  • Also consider suspenders, which look dorky, I know, but are much more comfortable than a belt, as it hangs your pants from your shoulders, your body's natural load-bearing structure, whereas a belt acts mostly by increasing the friction against your torso, an inherently uncomfortable proposition that we've accepted as normal for the past 100 years.
  • Speaking of dorky, consider pleated pants for additional butt/thigh comfort. They have taken a bad rap because they only look good when worn high-waisted and current trends are low-waist pants, but there is nothing inherently wrong with them.


  • Suit wools come in many weights. Pick one that is appropriate for your climate. No one really needs a heavy flannel suit like Don Draper wears, and an all-linen one will make you look like a 1980s coke dealer. Wool was made for use in coldish England, so if you run hot as lifters tend to, try a wool-linen or wool-cotton blend. They are cooler than pure wool, but will not rumple as easily as an all-cotton or all-linen suit. Avoid polyester blends as those get sweaty quickly and don't hang on your body as nicely.
  • Your first suit should be the versatile dark charcoal or navy with no pattern, which fit the widest range of formalities.


  • Traditional makers like Hickey Freeman, Samuelsohn, Hart Schaffner Marx, and Brooks Bros will all include nice suit features in modern but not overly slim cuts. You'll have to pay a bit more than the $200 at Jos A Bank but it's well worth it for something you expect to use a lot.
  • "Designer" makers like Hugo Boss, Armani, CK, Hilfiger sell for gargantuan markups and are almost never worth it unless you can find them for like 80% off.
  • The trendier brands (Bonobos, J.Crew, Banana, Suitsupply, Combat Gent to a certain extent) generally also avoid the problems of cheaper suits, while also not charging you as much as Hickey and such, but one fatal flaw: they usually come with pants that don't fit lifters' thighs, even after you go one size up. You can go two sizes up but then you have that problem with taking in the waistband too much.
  • J.Crew Factory (their outlet) carries a line of relatively affordable "Thompson" suits that might work well for you. The pants are sold as separates and in both slim and regular fits. Get the regular fit.
  • It's blasphemy in #menswear discussions to mention the 800lb gorilla, but I've found that the "modern fit" suits at Mens Wearhouse are okay fit-wise, right off the rack. Try to get one of the Joseph Abboud Made in USA ones if you can; the rest of their wares don't have a great quality/price ratio, even when on sale.
  • More blasphemy: my favorite sportcoat right now is actually a $50 thing from JCPenney's Stafford slim-fit line. They make suits too; check them out.

I wrote all of this off the top of my head; let me know if anything is unclear or inconsistent.

Best of the Forum

EMG Bullshit

What's up with this EMG activity studies contradicting any biomechanical analysis??? For example, a study published by NSCA claiming hamstrings get worked the same in front squat and the squat. I know you addressed this topic here on forums and on t-nation, but it would be interesting to see you talk about that in a podcast perhaps. I know NSCA is BS, but many people read their studies and tell us their claims are scientifically proven. This has to stop.

John Petrizzo

The reason you see a lot of these studies that show similar EMG activity between exercise variations is because they are generally requiring the participants to work at or near their maximum in the given exercises. Because of this, all of the involved musculature is working at or near their maximum. This is why a max FS and max BS will show similar EMG activity across all of the lower extremity musculature. However, what gets lost on the authors of these studies is that the varying joint angles between exercises is the key to the differences seen in the loads that you are able to use.

They don't seem to understand that a 400 pound 1RM BS requires more total force generation and thus produces a greater overall strengthening effect than a 300 pound 1RM FS despite the fact that EMG activity is similar between the two. You can back squat more weight because of the joint angles that must be assumed in order to correctly perform it allows for the involved musculature to produce more total force than a front squat does, not because it will necessarily show greater EMG activity because in both cases the musculature is working at their maximum capacity in that particular movement pattern.


I'm sure they are NOT doing a SS Low Bar Back Squat and then comparing to a front squat.

Probably NSCA doing high bar squats for the back squat, then comparing that to their shitty looking torso-hunched-over-toes-facing-forwards-front-squats (which mechanically look like the high bar squat they just performed).

Add in the fussy-ness and +/- error factor of those EMG sensors . . . not surprising the same-ness of the hamstring involvement.

John Petrizzo

This is a good point. There was a study published recently that compared EMG activity in the FS and BS where they literally used a stopper so that all subjects across both conditions only flexed their knees to 90 degrees. If you are performing two different movement patterns how does it makes sense to artificially make them more similar? This is typical when the involved researchers have no practical experience in the field.

Many of the studies on "squats" that I have read provide very little description of the type of squat that was used in the study (bar placement, depth, joint angles, etc.) which would all be very relevant in any discussion of EMG activity across different movement patterns

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