Starting Strength Weekly Report

June 08, 2020

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In the Trenches

jamison braces for a set of squats
Jamison gets braced tight for his 315x5 set at the Starting Strength Training Camp this past weekend in Savannah at Studio Fit.  [photo courtesy of Rhea Butler]
scott acosta coaches the deadlift
Scott Acosta works on the setup position for the deadlift with Sarah during the same event. [photo courtesy of Rhea Butler]

Best of the Week

Coaching while doing NLP

I was really making progress on my third NLP when COVID-19 hit. I screwed around the first time and, in a non-training incident, I damaged a nerve in my foot the second time. There is a squat rack at work that's been locked up for months now, but they've finally allowed us to train with it. I've never liked training at work because of the distractions, but since my gym is still too worried about opening, it's my only opportunity to train. Taking Rip's advice from the podcast the other day, I did some warm ups and did a gentle intro to 155 to "knock the scabs off."

Afterwards, I had a coworker express interest in my squat technique. I told him about SS, the program, etc... and how it works the greatest amount of muscle mass over the longest range of motion. Being a smart guy, he lit up and wanted to know more. He got out of the hospital a year ago and lost a significant amount of weight (mostly muscle) after a two week stay and now he's missing half a lung. He's had issues gaining the weight back ever since. He's 6'0" and 178 lbs. He asked me to show him how to squat. I referred him to Rip's videos and the blue book, but I truly get the sense he isn't interested in reading/watching any materials. He wants me to coach him.

I am ambivalent about this because I still am not confident in many of my lifts. Hell, I've failed the NLP twice already and I struggle with depth! I've been studying as much material as possible over these last few months to learn everything I can about the lifts, what to watch for, etc... I watch a lot of the technique submissions, and read what Pete Troupos, et al. have to say. Still, I feel like I miss a lot and that I am very unqualified to train him. That said, today he pressed me to show him the squat and I did so. I truly enjoyed the process of explaining it to him and watching his technique change with adjustments. I was able to spot some things like telling him to stop looking up or to keep his chest down, but I also feel like I missed a lot too. My coworker was very receptive to all my input and truly willing to let me teach him... He just doesn't seem to be the type to retrieve the info himself.

Is every new client handed the blue book and YouTube video links of Rip on the platform? Surely, there must be some folks that want a coach to just feed them. How do you all handle this? Also, I don't mind doing this, but I feel wholly unqualified in doing so. I'm actually a little embarrassed about bringing this up as I don't feel like I've "earned my stripes" yet either. I completely understand that one has to start somewhere, but I also feel like I would be better suited to doing this towards the end of my NLP or after it. Any words of wisdom or advice? Should I continue to help train him? Am I overstepping my boundaries?

Thank you guys and I want to be clear that in no way am I trying to disrespect the program or coaches by pretending like I know it all or that I am remotely close to being as capable as the coaches I've seen on here. It's a program I trust and believe in and hope to do right by.

Mark Rippetoe

Any coach worth paying is capable of matching his coaching to the client's situation. Do not pay a coach that hands you a template to follow.


Both of you will learn a lot by coaching each other. I was in your position with my brother, and at the end of the day, the question I asked myself was "will he be better off with me helping him than without me helping him?" He was either going to have me help him or he was going to do it on his own, he wasn't going to hire anyone, so I decided to help him when I could and learn as much as I could in the process. I fucked up a lot of stuff and his training wasn't as good as it would be now if I were coaching him, but it was better than him trying on his own, I believe.


Thank you, Rip. I’m going to do my amateur best with him and if we’re stuck on something, I’ll post it to the form checks. He squatted 95 pounds the day before yesterday. Pressed the bar and deadlifted 115. When I saw him at work yesterday he said, “You know, I can tell every muscle in my body got worked, but it’s not like when I do a whole bunch of lunges!”

Then he asked me if we were going up to 100 lbs. tonight. I don’t know who is more excited... Him or me!


Thanks, Andrew. This is really good advice. I expect to make mistakes, but I do think You’re right. Some coaching is probably better than no coaching at all for the both of us.


Well, you may not be a professional, but he's also not paying you any money. So it evens out. I took a crack at coaching my girlfriend even as I was trying NLP with her the first time around, I found I really enjoyed it and she started to catch my issues sometimes too. You might think it's only fun to improve yourself, but it's also fun to help improve others.


True! I'll consider the enjoyment of it as payment enough. We just added 5 pounds to the lifts and let it rip about an hour ago. Seeing him get jazzed over increasing the weight is really frigging cool. I am also finding that trying to explain the lifts to him and walking through each lift is filling in a lot of gaps in knowledge that I didn't realize I had. Sometimes explaining it to someone is the best learning tool there can be.

Best of the Forum

Was my weight gain a total waste?

I started lifting 6 weeks ago and began SSLP a month ago and gained 20+ lbs but I’ve been doing some or all of the lifts so wrong (as far as form/technique) that I’m worried I’ve gained little to no strength on the squat, bench and maybe more lifts. (I’m addressing the form problem on the technique forum and I’m seeing a SS coach next week)

Assuming my strength hasn’t improved much on my lifts this past month, was gaining the 20 lbs any benefit or was it all a waste? If I get my form corrected next week and continue SSLP correctly, will that additional 20 lbs be a benefit? I almost want to lose that 20 lbs before starting SSLP again.

Robert Santana

Thanks for reaching out! Unfortunately (or fortunately?) you can do it wrong and still gain muscle mass. Novice effect at its best. Height and weight?


Thanks Robert. I'm 6'2", 203 lbs, 32 years old. In mid Dec 2017 I weighed 182 lbs and started eating around 4,500-5,000 cal/day and lifting. Started SSLP properly on Jan 1. Pretty healthy bulking: milk, eggs, peanut butter, veges, oatmeal, protein shakes etc. I’ve stalled on multiple lifts, probably started at too high of working weights, form is bad, and today decided to stop lifting until seeing the SS coach soon.

It’s good to know I might have still gained some muscle. I’ve also read about the "novice window” and wondered whether my first month of LP (where the fastest strength gains happen) was wasted and can’t get it back.

Robert Santana

Nope. Now those muscles you didn't train when you were doing the lifts incorrectly can have their own novice effect. Anytime you introduce a novel stressor your body will adapt to it quickly.


Awesome, thanks. That's a relief. I didn't know that was how it works. I'm looking forward to seeing the coach and getting better form.

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