Starting Strength Weekly Report

March 21, 2022

Red Flag Edition 

On Starting Strength
  • Classic Episode Re-run: B-52s and The Strategic Air Command – Mark Rippetoe and Scott Davison talk about Scott's experience as an Air Force pilot flying B-52s during the Cold War.
  • Starting Strength for the Elderly – Earlene, a member of The Strength Co, talks about starting barbell training and the importance of building strength as you age. Earlene is 74 years old and coached by Grant Broggi.
  • Improve Your Squat by Narrowing Your Grip – Starting Strength Coach Ray Gillenwater explains how a more narrow grip during your squat will help keep the bar locked into place.
  • Put Your Plates In The Rack – Basic weight room organization requires that the plates be organized off the floor – on the plate racks. This may sound like a picky detail insisted upon by clean freaks, but...
  • Weekend Archives: A Hierarchy of Variables in Strength Training by Andrew Lewis – The more frivolous the subject, the more fervently people will argue about it. This is especially true about fitness. People get so bogged down in the details...
  • Weekend Archives: The Profession of Barbell Coaching by Mark Rippetoe – What difference does a 2-inch stance width adjustment make in the execution of a squat? What happens if...

From the Coaches
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In the Trenches

coaching the snatch olympic lifting workshop
Greg Herman coaches John Chung during the Starting Strength Gyms Olympic lifting workshop held at Starting Strength Austin. [photo courtesy of Nick Delgadillo]
practicing split jerks
Starting Strength Austin coaches practicing split jerks at the workshop led by Josh Wells. From left to right: apprentice Jeff Bernitz, Mark Diffley SSC, Aaron Frederick SSC, apprentice David Laws.[photo courtesy of Andea Mates]
group photo texas starting strength gyms coaches and apprentices
Texas Starting Strength Gyms coaches and apprentices at the Olympic lifting workshop. [photo courtesy of Nick Delgadillo]
father and daughter deadlifting at testify strength and conditioning
John and Millie get some quality father-and-daughter deadlifting time in at Testify Strength & Conditioning in Omaha, NE. [photo courtesy of Phil Meggers]
mother and son deadlifting at starting strength katy
Mother-Son Deadlift challenge at Starting Strength Katy! Alexanne Albert and her son Trey Hunter enjoying a training session together. [photo courtesy of Josh Wells]
chris teaching the jump position in the power clean
Chris teaching Carlos the jump position in the power clean. [photo courtesy of Jon Fraser]
katherine squatting 140 at starting strength houston
Katherine Trakhtenbroit squatting 140 at Starting Strength Houston. [photo courtesy of Matthew Gemmill]
oren deadlifting at starting strength katy
Oren Niskin pulling 240 pounds. [photo courtesy of Nick Bousley]
turbeville training at starting strength oklahoma city
Dr. Turbeville has been training at Starting Strength OKC for several months now. As a local chiropractor, he understands the importance of keep your body healthy and strong. Starting Strength had provided him with additional knowledge he can bring to his patients. [photo courtesy of Chase Lindley]
starting strength katy signage
Starting Strength Katy just got its permanent sign in place. [photo courtesy of Nick Bousley]
group photo at the march self-sufficient lifter camp
Group photo from the Self-Sufficient Lifter Camp at WFAC on Saturday. (Bre, Nick, Hans, Jeff, and Aaron) [photo courtesy of Devek Frech]
trio of red gym shirts
Jim, Tanner, and Victoria all chose red to wear at class today! [photo courtesy of Joseph Rodriguez]
happy st patrick day
Happy St Patrick’s Day ya filthy animals! [photo courtesy of Brent Carter]
weight tree with new plates at wfac
New The Strength Co. plates arrived at Wichita Falls Athletic Club. [photo courtesy of Bre Hillen]

Best of the Week

Fried lower back


I'm 22 years old and doing the NLP. Even though I can progress, my lower back seems to be the weakest link in the chain and feels extremely sore every single time after I do squats or deadlifts. It is not painful, but prevents me from progressing the way I should be.

I read the first 3 questions and I am eating more than enough, sleeping enough and resting enough between my sets. I genuinely have no idea what it could be. I deadlift once a week, do back extensions with added weight once and power clean once. Do you have some advice, sir?

Mark Rippetoe

Numbers? What about the pain is keeping you from adding 5 pounds to the bar and lifting it?


Around 130-140 kg squats, for fives obviously. Deadlifts 155kg for 5, Power Clean Something between 85-90 kg for a triple. I can assure you that I'm not a pussy, I always try to do the weights I have to lift but my lower back feels so fatigued that I can't manage to complete even the first set of 5. This is really weird; let's say I managed to do 135kg for 3x5. The next workout with 137,5kgs fails at rep number 3 or 4. This happened pretty often unfortunately, and I deloaded by 5-10% every time that happened.

I tried the light day method you explained in practical programming, where you use 80% on squats but that just made me weaker for the next squat workout. I feel like I have to squat "heavy" every workout in order to make progress but that seems impossible with being sore all the time. I know you don't give a fuck about muscle groups, but it feels like my legs could take way more punishment but my lower back cannot.

Mark Rippetoe

Tell us about the First Three Questions. Details.


I am 22 years old, sleeping around 9 hours a night, I am resting around 10-12 minutes between sets when training squats. I am eating at least 4000 kcals a day. With 10 eggs and bread and chia pudding in the "morning" later pasta with vegetables and so on. When I do not feel satisfied, I’m drinking half a liter of milk. Was there more?

Mark Rippetoe

If your lower back is "fried" you are not recovering. Figure out why.

Best of the Forum

Friend going into federal law enforcement won’t do the program


One of my best friends is finishing up a masters degree in criminal justice and he wants to work in federal law enforcement afterwards. I've been trying to talk him into doing the NLP but he's too caught up in "functional training" and preparing specifically for the physical assessments they do which involve pushups, sit-ups, and a timed run. He is under the misconception that in order to prepare for those he needs to just do those things as his workouts. I tried to explain to him that being stronger will help him do more pushups, situps, and run better as well as improve every aspect of his life. I also explained to him that the best way to get strong is to perform barbell exercises that use the most muscle mass over the longest effective range of motion. But for some reason he doesn't want to squat and he doesn't want to do the program. He said lifting 3x a week isn't doable with the additional sprint work, long runs, stretching, etc he wants to do. He just wants to continue that and for his lifts to do whatever "functional exercises" he's seen the functional fitness influencers doing for their latest workout on Youtube like split squats on a smith machine.

I don't think I can explain to him more clearly why his thought process is wrong and I'm trying to figure out what the root of his pushback is. I don't know if he doesn't want to squat because it's hard, if it's because he's weak and embarrassed (I'm not sure he could even do 225 for a set of 5) so he just lives in denial and chalks it up to being "functionally fit", or if he has been utterly led astray and confused by the fitness BS out there. Maybe I haven't explained it clearly enough to him that he can get stronger and still have good cardiovascular conditioning...especially considering he's a novice and has never really lifted at all. I'm considering just recording myself doing the absolute joke of a physical fitness test that he is "training" for and maybe that will convince him? I have a powerlifting meet in 9 weeks so I'd rather not waste my time but I don't really know what to do at this point. I'm getting pretty frustrated that he just won't accept the simple logic I am laying out for him. He's been so brainwashed by the functional fitness community along with various military and federal agents he's talked to when it comes to fitness that nothing is getting through to him. It amazes me that we grew up together and he's watched me gain about 50 lbs and get my squat and deadlift into the 500s and he still doesn't trust me for advice. He'd rather listen to someone in his career field who runs all the time and is built like a stick or his favorite fitness influencer. I don't know how much it's worth pushing him on this but it could potentially save his life one day. Any advice you would have for me?

Mark Rippetoe

I'd leave him alone. Sounds like he's the perfect candidate for federal law enforcement. He can be counted on to follow orders.


Asking someone to switch fitness or diet structure without them looking to do so is like trying to convince someone to switch religions.

I’ve found that you can explain the logic of the program to someone and they think it’s too simple and therefore doesn’t work. Again, it doesn’t involve Bosu balls, 6000 sq. ft. of isolation machines and $25k in personal equipment and gear. Clearly it’s a stupid program.

James Rodgers

It's beyond your control, big guy. At the end of the day, you can only do you.

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