Starting Strength Weekly Report

March 13, 2017

Training Log
Starting Strength Channel

In the Trenches

doug refines squat
Doug squats an easy 290x5x3 at the Starting Strength Squat Training Camp coached by Niki Sims at Atlanta Barbell on March 4th. He is on is way back from an injury and scattered training and has promised to DTP (Do The Program) this time around. [photo courtesy of Niki Sims]

Best of the Week

“Special Snowflake,” a phase we all go through?

Been thinking about the apt term “Special Snowflake.” As I understand it, it applies to anyone who discovers some personal anomaly that is preventing them from continuing the program as written or precludes them from typical results.

Parents in the ‘50s and ’60s confronted by their kids’ stupid thoughts, words or deeds would often say “it’s just a phase you’re going through”. Having completed linear progression, discussed Starting Strength with so many friends and acquaintances, and now dealing with my wife as she starts the Novice Program, I have an observation to make.

When I started, I was convinced SS was just another program that probably wouldn’t work because nothing else had in the past. Why think otherwise? I kept expecting to go along for a while and then bump into whatever had made building muscle impossible for me, a “special snowflake,” to not get the results other guys were getting. I was (eternally doomed to be) an “ectomorph.” My shoulder hurt too much to bench press. I couldn’t get down low enough on squats because my leg/torso ratio was wrong.

Having experienced all the benefits of lengthy application of the program I can look back and see how misguided all those reservations were. Now my wife is saying “but my hip hurts, just on this one side” and “my knees keep popping, that can’t be right” and “my hands get so sore”, as if she’s found her unique fatal flaw. I tell her that she just hasn’t allowed herself to come to the conclusion that this stuff works, and that her body is fighting back against the new demands doing the program imposes, and that these things are typical and temporary.

Conditioned to a world abundant with phony solutions, we spend a long time asking “is this true?”, believing our quirky little pains are proof of some unresolvable individual flaw, expecting another shoe to fall any time now; until one day, after pressing on and seeing undeniable results in the mirror we say to ourselves “this is universally true, and I’m one more point of proof”. And that’s when the “special snowflake” phase comes to an end.

Mark Rippetoe

This is important, because it affects so many people that try to use the program. The Program, as it is known, is based on the basic concepts of biology and arithmetic. As such, it is adaptable with very little variation to all humans, the variations being largely a matter of degree, not structure. The minute you decide that you're so special that The Program cannot be adapted to you without your insightful input into your fascinatingly complex personal circumstances, you have become a Special Snowflake. It's far more productive to just remain a human.


Sadly some people never make it through to the end of the "special snowflake phase," as you put it. One of these guys I know has a master in physics, yet is adamant about the fact that his rounding lumbar spine on the deadlift is caused by weak hamstrings and strong lumbar erectors, something Rip not only directly contradicts in the blue book, but also doesn't hold up to any form of basic scrutiny whatsoever. Yet he has a master in physics, one of the hardest schools of scientific thought, and I'm on my way to getting a bachelor in English literature. This has been going on for a full year now; his deadlift has progressed maybe 10 pounds and stay around an ugly 315 on Texas Method after 3-4 years of training. I use 315 as a safe deload weight while he couldn't do a full set reliably if he wanted to; round from rep No.2 and sometimes earlier.

Another one of these "special snowflakes" is a guy the previous snowflake knows from some kind of dodgy pickup artist group. He's been training with us for about 6-8 months and pulls about 275. I coached him for a while and I tried to keep tabs on his bodyweight, but he's gained maybe 6kg (~13 freedom pounds) the whole time he's been training. All the while I sent him Reynolds' article on eating till you're sick, waiting a minute, then eating again, Alan Thrall's eating videos including a more recently published one where he specifically outlines a 5,000 kcal diet for people to follow, the To Be a Beast article by Coach Feigenbaum etc. etc. etc. Always was I presented with "but muh goals," "but muh skinny fat" to which I always responded with observable facts; that these things work themselves out when he's strong. But he never listened and at one time told me he "knew I considered him my personal project," at which point I told him to go fuck himself. Now all of his lifts have, of course, stalled and have been stalling for well over a month, but he's still hesitant. My guess is he'll switch to P90x or Crossfit or Bodybuilding and "lean down" to a buck 30 if he has to, all the way down from good ol' 175. And the story continues.

People who aren't destined to be snowflakes go through a phase of temporarily being snowflakes. It's not a phase for everyone else, it's reality. I sincerely hope your wife's not "everyone else," Bestafter60, because I'd hate to be the one to have to force myself through that disillusion.


I think you make a good point that "snowflake" can be a permanent condition, and I would add that it’s a chosen state, because it requires denial of the mounting proof that you are experiencing personally and witnessing all around you. There is always another reason for that.

My wife is burdened by a belief system instilled by an early diagnosis as “asthmatic,” which kept her from any sports engagement; plus membership in a family not inclined towards athleticism. She’s trusting me to be right when I tell her to work through each new twinge of pain or other issue that surfaces, and that puts me at odds with her doctor, who told her only to walk on soft surfaces and never on inclines when she reported knee pain at age 52. This will not be a short “phase” for her but I’ll get her through it. Looking forward to the day she calls me a pussy for complaining I have a sore elbow or am too tired to lift!

Best of the Forum

Clean and Press
John W

Rip, have you ever written how to properly clean and press?

I tried to C&P in the past, and kind of messed it up.

I guess it's a (former) Olympic Olympic lift, and beyond the scope of your work in strength training, and I guess these lifts are best trained separately, but there was a point where I my cleans and presses were very close in weight, and I wanted to do them together to save a little time.

I could probably figure it out, but my problem was that my clean grip was wider than my pressing grip, and was unsure whether to catch the bar elbows up, and on my shoulders, and then how to transition from the catch of the clean to the start of the pressing position, with a shoulder width grip and forearms vertical.

Mark Rippetoe

We know how to clean. If you're going to clean and press, you just have to learn how to rack the clean using the press grip and start position. See Serge Reding's 502 on Youtube.

John W

Serge's 502 C&P is a thing of wonder.

I see a narrower grip clean, a press 2.0 hip thrust and perfect rebound timing where the bar is launched exactly when the bar unbends.

He launches the bar from the resting on the front deltoid position, with wrists back, and a small amount of layback.

I'll work on racking the clean in the press position. Definitely not being habituated doing this is what threw me.

Mark Rippetoe

Yes, it's best to merge the two positions slowly, or you'll tweak your wrists.

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