Starting Strength Weekly Report

March 08, 2021

Bird's Eye Edition

On Starting Strength
  • Q&A Episode - Unfiltered and Unculled – Mark Rippetoe answers questions from Starting Strength Radio fans.
  • How to Set Your Rack Height for the Squat – Starting Strength Coach Pete Troupos demonstrates how to set the bar height for the squat and how to properly unrack and rack the bar.
  • Gallon of Milk a Day - When and Why – Starting Strength Coach and Registered Dietitian Robert Santana discusses the world famous and poorly understood recommendation to drink a gallon of milk a day for underweight males.
  • Teaching the Deadlift to Groups by Capt James Rodgers – The purpose of this article is to provide guidance and advice to junior military leaders who want to use barbell training to develop their students during group Physical Training (PT) sessions...
  • “Locked” Knees in the Squat by Mark Rippetoe – One of the things we occasionally see is the tendency to leave the knees in slight flexion at the top of the squat...
  • Translation: Le soulevé de terre : 3 raisons by Mark Rippetoe, Etienne Chaudron – Le soulevé de terre est sans doute l’exercice de musculation le plus simple à apprendre. Il vous suffit de soulever une barre du sol puis de la reposer, en la gardant en contact avec vos jambes tout le long...
  • Weekend Archives: Strength Training & Stroke Recovery by Todd Peters – It was Thursday, October 29th, 2008 and I had evening no-gi practice at my local Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club. My neck had been sore for a few weeks, but...
  • Weekend Archives: Strength Training for People My Age by Mark Rippetoe – I was born in 1956. That makes me “old.” Granted, I'm pretty beat up these days. I've had my share of injuries, the result of having lived a rather careless active life...

From the Coaches
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In the Trenches

stephanie set up for squats
Stephanie sets up for her final squats during the Squat and Deadlift Training Camp at South Tampa CrossFit this past weekend. [photo courtesy of Pete Troupos]
willicia locks out 205 pound deadlift
Willicia locks out her last deadlift set at 205 during our Squat & Deadlift Training Camp in Tampa last Saturday. [photo courtesy of Pete Troupos]
matest coaches the power clean coach development camp
Andrea Mates takes Gretchen Geist through the teaching progression of the power clean during last weekend's Coaching Development Camp at Starting Strength Houston. [photo courtesy of Chase Lindley]
pr squat starting strength austin
Franklin Sarkett at the bottom of a PR squat at Starting Strength Austin. [photo courtesy of Nicole Rutherford]
raina butler deadlift pr iron moms
Raina Butler, co-host of Iron Moms USA podcast, pulls a deadlift PR of 275. [photo courtesy of Inna Koppel]

Best of the Week

Emphasis on Strength as Proxy for Health vs. Muscle

I am familiar with the maxim or motto that strength is the most important thing in life. My question is why isn't, say, skeletal muscle tissue (somewhat relative to overall weight) not the most important thing in life?

I am an intermediate trainee, unlike most posters on this internet admittedly lazy at times & not especially tough mentally, and liking to indulge in food, not work out for various periods and vote for moderate Democrats - but I followed the program quite well during coronavirus May-August in my garage, and my maxes were B 245 / S 345 / D 420. At the end of that run of some modicum of discipline I was barefoot 5-10 190, eating so much that all the minimum macros any nutrition plan would suggest were met without thinking about it including 190 g+ protein.

I began to feel fat in the thighs, double chinned, a little bellied and very slightly tittied - maybe even pink, clothes not fitting. The rate of progress on the lifts had really started to slow, and anytime we were away from the home gym at the lake or beach, when I came back the resets were big so I was spinning my wheels. I also had to take two breaks from some or most lifts due to tendonitis in my bicep and knee - I am 44.

As a result of this, I more recently downloaded myfitness pal, and lost 17 lbs with disciplined dieting (much easier than strength training, creating about a 500 cal deficit between food and exercise). Body Fat scans and other measurements were done more than once, at both beginning and current, and suggested I had at least 152 lbs lean mass before the diet, and at least 150 after. We can debate the accuracy of these things but my point is that change was small relative to strength loss. (I still have significantly more lean mass than when I did not work out in mid 2010s, about 20-25 lbs, but I had lost some gains I made lifting some in college and that came back quickly).

I continue to lift weights including the four major lifts and the chin-ups during the diet.

At the 173 bw, all the physical appearance problems went away. I did lose a lot of strength. Those lifts, while not tested (feeling lazy due to 2000 kcal day diet), are around 215 lb B / 295 S / 345 DL, by my best estimate - I have not tested 1RM because I am quite tired. I think I could get those numbers up significantly before new weight gain began by eating maintenance for a week or so, but still far below my summer personal bests other than chin-ups)

So I have lost this strength, but the amount of muscle loss is pretty low. 2 lbs of lean mass lost relative to 15 pounds of fat give or take.

In addition to my own qualms, I got some inspiration by Mike Matthews who I saw on your Youtube. He told me in his own videos "Don't ever let fat people tell you you shouldn't be lean." It was almost as straightforward as "strength is the most important thing in life."

Isn't keeping 150/152 lbs lean mass good enough (in percentage terms, even if you think it is not enough for someone 5-10)? Why should I care about deadlifting another 70 lbs? Isn't the muscle more important than the strength, when the strength is realistically already in the top 10% of the US population for that bodyweight?) It is easier to play basketball with the kids, run when needed, and just generally not feel so heavy. Resting heart rate and other cardiovascular markers also improved.

I am trying to decide whether to get back on the real strength progression, or just keep close to this weight if I can make some progressive overload progress, even if very slow.

Mark Rippetoe

It's fine with me. Enjoy your exercising.


Thank you for the response Rip and I know from watching the videos what you mean from this response. It really has been very beneficial to me but I'm just torn over the tradeoffs of pushing it further.


You haven’t been doing this very long and you don’t see the big picture. You are not so old that you cannot continue to increase your physical strength for many years to come. A caloric surplus is recommended for most trainees during the NLP because this best facilitates lean body mass gains. Nobody has told you to stay fat all year round if you want to continue getting stronger in the long run.

I continue to strength train even when I’m in a caloric deficit even though I know my chances of getting stronger are highly unlikely during these periods. Among many benefits, doing the heavy compound lifts helps me maintain muscle mass during a deficit and more importantly, the lifts make me less of a pussy and more of a capable, grown-ass man.

If you actually want to get stronger (and you should because physical strength is the enemy of entropy) be in a caloric surplus. If you want to cut down efficiently, continue the heavy barbell lifts as they will help improve your submaximal performance and aid you in maintaining more muscle mass than you would without them. You can also become more skilled at the lifts and progress them despite the caloric deficit, especially given your level of experience.

Trying to stay close to a bodyweight of 173 isn’t a good strategy for becoming a better version of yourself over years and years of training. If you don’t appreciate the process of having to work hard at something for a long time then maybe just go do a booty bootcamp or some shit.


Every 50lb I have added to my squat and deadlift, I've noticed an improvement in my life. When I was squatting 315, I didn't think 365 would make my life different. I felt the same about 405 at 365, and I felt the same about 455 at 405, but I've been wrong every time.

You may like being lighter and leaner. There's nothing wrong with that, but being stronger will always be better than weaker. You'll have to weigh the costs and benefits of each.

Best of the Forum

Supraspinatus Tendon and bench

I recently spoke to a DPT who loves your shit. He did the NLP back when only the first edition was out and the guy reminded me a lot of Doc Morris here.

He mentioned that he has his patients with shoulder impingement contract their traps and shrug a tiny bit on bench press to clear the acromion process away and allow some room for the supraspinatus tendon.

Do you see any risks of injury or performance issues here, or is this a relatively safe way to bench for trainees with shoulder impingement issues?

I was wondering how this change of technique would scale with heavier weights since it doesn’t feel like I can get as tight with the shoulders slightly shrugged.

Mark Rippetoe

Doesn't seem like a good idea to me, since the impingement occurs between inferior AC surface and Superior surgical neck of the humerus. I can't picture a shrug in any direction that would unimpinge the joint with the humerus in anterior adduction. We use the humerus at 70 degrees to unimpinge, and we've never had any problems. This is brilliantly illustrated and explained on pp 157-59 of the blue book.


Roger that. I’m slowly re-reading the blue book and taking notes so I’ll be sure to pay close attention there.

Interestingly enough this technique seems to have worked for one of my clients with shoulder impingement, but it may have been caused by the elbow angle to which you are referring, occurring when he contracted his traps.

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