Starting Strength Weekly Report

January 06, 2020

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Starting Strength Channel

  • Performance Shooting and Strength – Justin Nazaroff discusses physical aspects of shooting that affect performance and the importance of training:"If you haven’t put in the training time, you will not magically turn into John Wick in the event you are placed in a life-or-death scenario."
  • From the Archives: Mark Rippetoe on what to expect in your first two weeks of strength training.
Training Log

In the Trenches

mike minigell coaches the squat at the strength co
Starting Strength Coach Mike Minigell coaches Reid Bradshaw through a set of 5 in the squat at The Strength Co. Costa Mesa. [photo courtesy of Grant Broggi]
chase lindley ssc at starting strength houston
Congratulations to Chase Lindley for earning the Starting Strength Coach credential, upping Starting Strength Houston's SSC count to 3. [photo courtesy of JD Shipley]

Best of the Week

Skis and knees

I just got done watching the HBO documentary on Lindsey Vonn and I can’t help but wonder if this athlete’s career might have ended differently if she were strength trained properly.

I spent a large portion of my childhood and adolescent years on the slopes for alpine ski racing. I stopped at the age of 17 before ever having injured a knee, which seems to be the inevitable outcome of pursuing a career in alpine ski racing. But even at the age of 17 I had creaky knees, an exaggerated Q angle, and an underdeveloped posterior chain in comparison to the anterior.

In alpine racing, the bindings on the skis have an adjustable “DIN” that controls the amount of force it takes to release the boot during a crash. Heavier people and ruttier skiing conditions require a higher DIN. ACL, PCL, MCL injuries are abundant because of the inherent high force twisting and torquing that occurs during a crash before the boot is released from the binding. But is that the root cause for knee injuries on ski racing, or is it possible that this is a posterior chain strength issue? Would stronger, more balanced muscles around the knee to prevent injury to a greater degree during a crash?

Ski racing is an extremely quad dominant sport - The first day of hard training on the slopes will leave your quads on fire after every run. In the offseason, every dry land or strength training program I’ve seen for ski racers is SPORT SPECIFIC BULLSHIT. Meaning a shit ton of quad work: half squats, leg extensions, wall sits, crouching unilateral stability shit, etc.

I was disgusted to see every workout Ms. Vonn was put through in this documentary focused on quad work and stability/endurance training - As if the sport itself doesn’t overwork that shit? Meanwhile she fucks up one knee or another practically every crash. This is a 35 year old woman and possibly the most dominant ski racer of all time being trained by some dude who looks like he just got a NASM cert.

I’d be willing to bet that almost all of the top tier athletes in this sport have never even heard of a low bar back squat and haven’t approached strength training in a method anywhere near what you have established with starting strength. I would bet that knee injuries would decrease dramatically if these athletes were exposed to your program. The “strong” people in this sport don’t really look all that strong and there are no weight classes.

I’d be interested to hear your opinion on the matter and any other experts who want to weigh in - would a program like SSNLP dramatically reduce the frequency of knee injuries in the sport ski racing?

Mark Rippetoe

This is what you get for watching HBO Documentaries. Look:

“Meanwhile she fucks up one knee or another practically every crash. This is a 35 year old woman and possibly the most dominant ski racer of all time being trained by some dude who looks like he just got a NASM cert.”

Why hasn't the most dominant ski racer of all time done her homework? Why haven't all women's soccer teams adopted our proven method of strengthening the posterior chain, this protecting at least the ACL? Why do pro football teams do absurd shit like this? Terribly absurd shit

I don't know. It's obvious to us, but not to them, that this bullshit doesn't work, can't work, and displaces that which can work. I guess we haven't spent enough time selling, because we're too busy working. Your thoughts are welcome.


I haven’t watched the documentary, but I do live in a “ski town” with a population of 20,000 people and a local Orthopaedic surgeon who regularly performs 50-60 ACL surgeries a year + a number of people who travel 4+ hours to larger cities for the procedure.

Here is what I notice as a serious snowboarder who rides 60+ days a season:

  • I am one of three people in town who low bar back squats and the only one of those three that ski/snowboard.
  • My back squat erodes considerably over the course of the season, typically 50 pounds or more, however, my quads grow noticeably in size. I really should measure my quads before and after the season as some kind of case study. I tried employing some front squats leading into the season for 2 consecutive years and that didn’t seem to help in any noticeable way. I still got just as sore following hard days and early season sessions. I have since ditched front squats entirely. In fact, low bar Back squats seem to allow me to squat with more frequency and intensity while simultaneously snowboarding 3-4 days a week since there are significantly larger muscles employed that are less directly fatigued by a quad dominant sport.
  • When I’m sitting on chair lifts next to a wide variety of other people and it’s easy to visually compare leg sizes, I’m often amazed at how overwhelmingly scrawny the vast majority of skier/rider legs are.
  • while knee injuries are obvious and widespread, there seems to be little discussion of back injuries which are likely more common, more debilitating and probably affect more casual enthusiasts at a higher rate over a longer timeline than knee injuries, but are generally attributed more to having “back problems” than being skiing/riding injuries.
  • even the people who do very moderate resistance exercises in any capacity at all (kettlebells, dumbbells, half rep high bar squats...) seem to fare much better injury wise (at least as an observation in my social pool) and this association seems painfully obvious to me, but good luck convincing anyone that they should be doing deadlifts and low bar back squats. All you can really do is look out for yourself and hope that it sets some kind of example as people living a very similar lifestyle go down regularly (and often long term) due to injuries and yet you seem to keep going with little maintenance and only minor tweaks.

Best of the Forum

What helps my elbow
Eric Schexnayder

Nothing seems to alleviate tennis elbow better than a set of heavy presses, both overhead and bench. What seems to be crippling pain while loading the barbell is completely gone after pressing.

Do you or anyone else have any speculations as to why this would be? Did you experience this prior to when you came up with the chin up pin firing protocol?

Mark Rippetoe

No idea. You have an odd elbow.


I get crippling golfer's elbow from bench presses. Opposite of your problem.

Mark Rippetoe

That sounds awful. God, how do you persist?


You are mocking me, but I'll answer anyway. I skip bench and only press. I've tried every grip width variation possible for the bench, nothing works. Pin fire chin ups works, but the pain always comes back during bench progression.

John Watson

Do you think that the passage of time, rather than the pressing could be a bigger factor? Your elbows got sore while squatting, and felt better by the time pressing was finished?

Will Morris

Likely not tennis elbow here. If you get substantial relief from pressing, you more than likely have distal biceps tendon pain. Nothing remedies that like some heavy presses.

Eric Schexnayder

Yup. I warmed up the squat pain free, squatted and ended up with pain, had some serious pain while loading the plates. Then after my top set of fahve, everything felt fantastic. Happens every workout.

You are exactly correct. I notice the discomfort starts where (I think) the epicondyle is located, but it really radiates in the biceps, right at the elbow. I'll massage the epicondyle area and have a little irritation, but if I rub "above" my elbow around my gunz, mostly laterally, then fuck.

Total shot in the dark here: is this perhaps from unconsciously supinating my hand during the squat grip?

Will Morris

Combination of forceful isometric supination (driving the outside of your hand into the bar) and isometric elbow flexion from pulling down on the bar.

Eric Schexnayder

Yep, this is exactly what I feel when at the bottom of the squat. My upper back rounding is probably the culprit. It rounds over and then I do the above to control the bar.

I’m working on the upper back, but it’s been a battle.

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