Starting Strength Weekly Report

January 09, 2017

  • Dr Austin Baraki reviews Clinical Testosterone - it's regulation, the diagnosis of "low T," treatment, and monitoring.
  • In Cardell and Dr. Coleman Rip shares his biggest regret and why it was such a significant mistake.
Training Log
Starting Strength Channel

In the Trenches

barbells and the michigan state police
Jonathon Sullivan and Chris Kurisko explained the benefits of barbell training to a group of 80 women at the Michigan State Police Headquarters last week. They will return soon to spread their message to more of the organization. [photo courtesy of Chris Kurisko]
205 squat
Jacque squatting a set at 205. [photo courtesy of Lane Strength & Conditioning]

Best of the Week

Range of movement

I have a question regarding your recommendation as to the range of motion to be performed in the basic lifts. While generally it is outlined in the book and in various Starting Strength videos that one should aim for maximum involvement of muscle mass over the full range of motion, with respect to the deadlift you advise to choose a relatively narrow stance and (consequently) grip in order to reduce the range of movement. Obviously this leads to heavier loads that can be handled, but this would also be the case in the other movements, as e.g. partial squats can be performed with much higher weights than below parallel squats, but are strongly rejected. What is the reason for the different view on the deadlift-ROM?

Mark Rippetoe

The four criteria for exercise efficiency are:

  1. The greatest amount of muscle mass that can be involved in the movement
  2. Over the longest effective ROM
  3. So that the heaviest weight can be lifted
  4. So you get stronger.

The criteria are additive, i.e. #2 must still satisfy #1, and #3 must still satisfy #2.



So, I understand that an extended ROM in the deadlift would not be effective, therefore it makes sense to go for more weight over a shorter ROM. In contrast, squats should be done full ROM (not necessarily ATG but below parallel) although this leads to lower loads as compared to higher squatting techniques. Thus, effectiveness is apparently not determined by the amount of weight that can be handled. What determines the effective ROM of a lift?

Mark Rippetoe

#1 determines the ROM. You'll enjoy the seminar, and the book.


It would be fair to also say that these criteria and their additive application define the difference between strength training and strength sports. A powerlifter would shorten the effective ROM in order to achieve a higher weight or a weightlifter might forego 1. in order to catch the bar at the shortest point along the bar path to achieve 3. Not sure if I would call bodybuilding a strength sport but they often manage to ignore 1., 2., 3., and 4. in order to achieve jackedness.

Best of the Forum

Eyes Looking Up and Force Production

A fellow strength coach saw a video of me deadlifting and advised I "look up" by keeping a neutral spine and head position while looking towards my eyebrows. He is far more versed in physiology than I am and we wound up debating the topic at length. I did find (and use) two quotes where you had discussed both the head position and the eyeball position. However, the part you never addressed is the possibility of an increased force production due to the eyeballs looking up. This was an extremely long conversation. I will keep it as streamlined as possible:

Libertas Di Alogues: Most people change the position of their head/tilting it back to “look up”. While looking up does stimulate the CNS to increase the force of extension movements, just as looking down does flexion movements, we look with our eyes, not our head. The position of the eyes need to change, not the head, if you tilt your head back to look up then your eyes are still more forward then up. A good way to look at it is, head neutral and stare at your eyebrows just prior to pulling.

I first learned of the role that eye placement plays in achieving optimal movement efficiency about five years ago when I traveled to Chicago for a week long seminar/certification for Z- Health’s, “Essentials of Elite Performance.” The seminar was completely based on neurology and the role that the CNS plays during human movement as well as the developmental process of an athlete. During the visual, vestibular, and proprioception segment of the seminar we covered many topics; one specifically was “eye placement.” Dr. Eric Cobb, the founder of Z-Health went into great detail, but for the sake of time, the summary was as follows, eyes up: facilitates extension, eyes down: flexion, eyes right: right rotation, right extension and left flexion, eyes left: left rotation, left extension, and right flexion. Over the course of many years of further investigation/research and implementation I learned that this understanding made significant differences in movement efficiency which ultimately improved an individual’s athletic ability, regardless of the specifics of their given sport.

Me: I tried this over the past 2 workouts and with 2 clients. I used the cue of "look at your eyebrows." It was very difficult for both clients to keep their heads from coming up (similar to what Rip said would be the body's natural reaction.) After some work, they kept neutral spines. However, they both felt unstable. This is of course not "evidence" of anything, other than the learning curve of the suggested technique might be very high, especially if the lifter is already used to other ways. Similarly, I'm sure you know how hard it is to break someone from the head up habit to neutral position if it's something they've been doing since 9th grade football.

I had similar results of feeling unstable, especially in the squat. However, today I was doing Barbell Rows, and I was alternating reps between looking down and at my eyebrows. I must say, I'm pretty sure I felt a difference. It felt slightly smoother/faster. Now, there is the huge variable with your eyebrows being a non-moving object in the row. I will toy around with this a bit, see if I get more comfortable and what I think. I'll experiment with a few of my more seasoned, adventurous clients.

At the end of the day though, you keep only wanting to discuss the force generated-- the positive response. Every time I've mentioned any possible negative reactions (balance, head moving up, etc) you've just responded with "that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about force production." Well, no... We're talking about its affect on weightlifting, and we should consider all reactions of the technique.

My questions:

  1. Have you ever heard of force production and the position of the eyeball in its socket?
  2. I have interacted with some people extremely learned in the neuromuscular junction. They all have some technique that is supposed to make you stronger, yet I never hear of this at an elite level in weightlifting. Do you have any experience with the indirect ways our body sends signals and is connected on the neurological (I think this is the right word) side?
  3. I also mentioned that I have never seen any elite weightlifters use this technique. Have you ever seen this technique used?
  4. Do you want to see the whole 37 comment long conversation?? (I kid, I kid)
Mark Rippetoe
  1. I am familiar with the fact that there has been a study done. Being an exfizz study, I am quite sure there are methodological problems with it. Without having read it, were the eyball positions quantified, and were the exercises used in the study quantified?
  2. I have a rather large amount of experience with human movement, and with eyes down/eyes up variation in barbell training. I have no idea what "the indirect ways our body sends signals and is connected on the neurological side" means.
  3. I have seen all possible techniques used. This does not mean that they were all efficiently used.
  4. Please, god, NO.

Starting Strength Weekly Report

Highlights from the StartingStrength Community. Browse archives.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.