Starting Strength Weekly Report

July 11, 2016

Training Log
Starting Strength Channel
  • Episode 29 - Feelings vs Data: Niki Sims discusses subjective feelings that clients and trainers conflate with useful, objective data with Mark Rippetoe. In short, it doesn't matter how you or something you're doing feels.

Under the Bar

chase warms up his deadlift Chase warms up with 405 at WFAC as he continues to get stronger in preparation for college football at Howard Payne University in the fall. [photo courtesy of Nick Delgadillo]
miriam training at wfac
A very strong new member, Miriam, trains at WFAC. [photo courtesy of Nick Delgadillo]
aliza aryeh sets up to pull Aliza Aryeh sets up to pull a 120x3x2 deadlift in the WSC barbell club for women. [photo courtesy of Inna Koppel]

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Best of the Week

Today in the “online fitness community”

I don't think I need to tell anyone here just how backwards, contrived, ridiculous etc etc the "online fitness community" is. Rather, I think I stand to learn a lot about this from people on this forum. However, today I found this gem floating around through the channels. Someone liked a post that shared this video and it showed up on my Facebook feed of what is apparently called a "barbell rolling squat".

You perform this squat variation by placing the plates on the bar against a wall behind you and then squatting down without having the plates lose contact with the wall. The idea is to "get jacked quads" and you'd perform this movement if you "don't feel regular squats a TON in their quads" (direct quotes from the FB post). Of course, to keep the plates touching the wall behind you and still get depth with this narrow stance (narrower than shoulder width and toes pointed forward), you have to place your feet out in front of you. In short, this is a squat you see performed in the smith machine, but without the smith machine.

Yes, you heard that right. Fitness gurus and "online coaches" (as coach Niki put it in the recent podcast) have found a way to peddle squatting in the smith machine to audiences that mostly steer clear of smith machines. According to Mr. Gentilcore, the person who recommended this squat variation to him is none other than Greg Nuckols; a person many believe to be a strong and knowledgeable fitness guru. The FB post by both Nuckols and Mr. Gentilcore have, of course, received nothing but support. In this way, we have come full circle. Making fun of the smith machine and the people who use it is still a laudible pastime, but the "rolling squat" and those who perform it receive nothing but praise and admiration, regardless of the fact that they've literally reinvented the smith machine.

Other than my short diatribe above, I'm speechless. I know I shouldn't expect better-and I'm not saying I'm only now disappointed-but they find new ways to make themselves look stupid every day, it seems, and it baffles me every time.

Not entirely unrelated as a question: why is it people find it more reasonable to tack on multiple squat variations to "fix premature rising of the hips in the squat" instead of just lowering the weight and using good form? Because it's easier if they don't have to work hard and variation in lifts performed is fun?

Mark Rippetoe

Your last question is the reason I approved this post. The entire basis of the Corrective Exercise phenomenon is that an assistance exercise that supposedly emphasizes the allegedly "weak" or "not-'firing' " portion of a basic movement's kinetic chain will strengthen that piece of kinetic chain so that the basic movement can be performed correctly. This is in lieu of backing the basic movement off to a weight that can be executed correctly with that component of the kinetic chain included in the movement, and then coaching the movement correctly so that the lifter can actually learn to maintain correct technique at a heavy weight, and so that the weak piece of the kinetic chain strengthens within the movement pattern in which it has to function, which was the problem in the first place. Because, of course, not coaching is easier

CJ Gotcher

I see this mechanic all the time. A coach shifts someone to a goblet squat or trap bar deadlift and commends themselves on social media about how much better (more vertical) their client's back position looks in the new exercise (Of course it's straighter and more vertical! You made it easier!) After a period of entertainment programming gets the client marginally stronger than they were before, they go back to the bar, look a little bit better, and voila! Problem solved! Of course it only took a sessions/weeks/months of "owning the movement"... and it'll go back to hell when the weight progresses up to 'heavy' again because they were never coached how to fight for a solid back position under a heavy load... requiring a new cycle of accessory work to make up for 'imbalances'... but it sounds sophisticated and sells well.

Even worse is the "spray and pray/plug and play" coach approach:

  1. Equip yourself with a virtual armory of options and try them all until you find the one that looks "good enough" without having to coach it.
  2. Make a case to the client (and on social media) that Insert-Variant-Here (pistols, split squats, trap bar DL, etc.) is actually better than squats/deadlifts/bench/press/chins/etc. for... reasons.
  3. Profit.

It's better than nothing, I guess, and the client will get stronger, but it's an exercise in cowardice: "when the coaching gets tough... abort."

Best of the Forum

How long did it take you to perfect your squat form?

I was just wondering how long it took you until you finally had it figured out.

Some days I feel like I'm doing great - Back arched, eyes down, knees aligned with toes, driving up with the hips, wrists straight, etc... Great form altogether.

Other days, like yesterday, I kept having the feeling that my back was rounding and I was leg pressing the weight up. And other days I can't seem to find a comfortable stance width.

It's weird. I watch lots of videos on here, and carefully listen to your critiques. I keep going back to the squat chapter in Starting Strength too to try and pick up more useful tips and tricks. I also practice all the time in the gym and out of the gym with no weight. I just can't seem to get the feeling of perfect squat form. I have a feeling that other people may be in the same boat as me on this one.

I ask some of the more experienced people at my gym to critique my form, and they usually say that it looks good, but I don't know how credible their opinions are.

I keep trying though, and I'm going to get it one day. Who knows when? But I was just wondering how long it took you to learn how to perfectly squat. Also, how long does it usually take the typical, new-to-squatting, trainee to learn?

Mark Rippetoe

My personal squat form is not perfect, and neither is anybody else's who is not constantly coached. I know what is supposed to look like, but because I can't see it while I'm doing it, my form will drift over several workouts from good to bad. It will settle into a stable, bad technique and will remain there until I get it corrected again. This is called "form creep", and affects all uncoached athletes to varying degrees.

Everybody needs a coach, no matter how accomplished they are. A coach provides a good set of eyes and the experience to know what to say to get you to do a movement correctly. This is the primary problem with training alone at home, not the lack of some asshole yelling that it's "All you, man!" You can't see it as it's being done, and you can't correct it as it happens if you can't tell what's wrong. Video is useful, but it's no substitute for a coach's correction in real time, your feeling the correction and incorporating it into the movement pattern, and then your feeling the difference the correction made from wrong to right during the set.

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