Starting Strength Weekly Report

June 19, 2017

  • From the Archives: Rip on Barbell Basics – different kinds, what to look for when purchasing one, and basic maintenance.
Training Log
Starting Strength Channel
  • Rip reads The Belt and the Deadlift, revealing why most people have no business wearing a 4-inch power belt for the deadlift.
From the Coaches

In the Trenches

Muneyong Van Luen squats 135 kg
Muneyong Van Luen at the bottom of a 135 kg squat at the IPF World Champtionships in Minsk Belarus. She went on to win second place in in the Masters 1, 52kg division. [photo courtesy of Tom Campitelli]
squat bounch
Catching the bounce at June 11th's Starting Strength Training Camp at Woodmere Fitness Club. [photo courtesy of Inna Koppel]

Best of the Week

79 year old mother refuses to train

I got her a good (non-SSC) trainer. I had him do things like you did with Gus – stand up out of chair with out using hands, etc. She loved it.  Then her arthritis started acting up. Sent me this email today:

"Just saw orthopedist. He gave me exercises and told me not to see trainer because exercising is activating arthritis under knee caps. I told him that on Saturday we only worked on upper body because of knee issues and now I couldn’t hold a coffee cup with one hand. He thought I should have figured out that these exercises weren't working for me. I will do the exercises he gave me to strengthen my knees. Also told me to take Aleve instead of Tylenol. Saying good bye to the trainer. That was my instinct. He also said that I should walk every day. Most important thing to do."

Now I agree that walking is incredibly important, and she needs to do more, but can you suggest any counterarguments to this ortho?

Mark Rippetoe

No, I can't. And neither can you. I'm sorry, but we lose this one. This is the way things are. It's tragic, and until her doctor grows the fuck up it will stay this way.

Brodie Butland

There are very few ways to respond other than to state that the doctor is completely talking out of his ass and knows absolutely nothing about barbell training. But as others have said, you're going to lose that argument every time. Because he has a medical degree, and you don't. And that medical degree gives him an automatic presumption of correctness even when he's talking about something that he has no experience with himself.

Until barbell training in older populations becomes mainstream, it will be irrationally feared and discouraged by the medical profession as a whole. And despite the yeoman efforts of many SSCs to bring barbell training to older populations, I suspect we're consigned to narrowcasting for a while yet.


It's really bad that her doctor talked her out of a training program. But it also sounds like she was looking for a way out already. I have a hard time with this one, because I meet virtually zero patients who are willing to do what it takes to stop being in pain and start having a life that doesn't consist of cruising around the house like a toddler (cruising is what toddlers do when they first learn to walk - hanging on to things as they go. Old people start doing this when their strength starts to fade below a critical threshold that makes simply walking across the living room floor a terrifying experience for them). They all like to say that "doctors" can't figure out how to make them stop hurting. Maybe most can't, but my thought on that one is that I can tell you what would help, but you won't do it, so ...

And these are just the old people. The younger people in their 30s, 40s and 50s ... where to even begin?

Best of the Forum

No more spinal loading?

This past December I injured myself while deadlifting, I let my ego get in the way and tried to lift more than I should have. The MRI results showed that I had a crack in the L4, L5 spinal columns. Not quite a spinal fracture, but still bad enough to cause some of the worst pain I've experienced. The doctor didn't seem to think too much of it and said I was cleared to do anything.

I went light for a while, but probably not long enough. It's June now and I still sometimes get an aching, dull pain in that section of my back the day after heavy lifting sessions.

I've figured that the best way to rid myself of this pain for good is to drop all exercises that involve loading the lumbar spine. Unfortunately, that seems to eliminate 3 of the 4 major lifts.

Is this advisable? Or should I just try doing lighter loads with higher reps for a while? If no to the last question, what exercises would you advise to replace them? Single-leg squats? What about cardio? Would HIIT be too stressful?

Sorry for all the questions there, I just want to cover all my bases. I hope I'm not overreaching by asking you all these.

Mark Rippetoe

If you drop all exercises that involve spinal loading, you can't do barbell training and the spine will never have to adapt to being loaded. You'll have to decide.


I don't get this. Your lumbar spine is loaded just with walking around with your own upper body. Are not going to bend over anymore?

There must be some weight that you can squat, press, deadlift that doesn't cause pain. If it's not that much weight then do it often. The more you can stimulate (without aggravating) it the better/faster it will heal. Bone injuries heal slowly so be prepared to be patient.

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