Starting Strength Weekly Report

May 01, 2017

Training Log
  • Mark Rippetoe teaches Hip Drive in this segment from a recent Squat Training Camp.
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From the Coaches

In the Trenches

mike and flat rip
Mike deadlifts 470 pounds under the watchful eye of Coach Flat Rip. [photo courtesy of Horn Strength and Conditioning]
andrew jackson teaches the squat
Andrew Jackson leads Ryan through the squat teaching method, showing hip and knee positions in the bottom of the squat at this past weekend's Starting Strength Squat Training Camp. [photo courtesy of Eastside Strength and Conditioning]

Best of the Week

Squat flexibility advice needed

I'm 37, been sedentary almost my whole life, and ready to do something about it. I started the program recently and ended up hurting my back due to poor form. I was trying to squat deep enough and instead of holding my back position, I leaned too far forward and created too much of a moment arm on my lower back. As I came out of the hole, I felt a lot of strain on my lower back and felt something pop. Now, a month and a half later my back feels much better (still hurts a little), but I'm ready to get going again. I'm trying to follow your advice to "back off a little, shove your knees out and keep your back locked in lumbar extension, and let the weight provide the stretch, which it will. If you are not below parallel in 2 weeks, you are not holding your position correctly."

Two questions:

  1. Should I go down and hold the weight there, in order to provide the stretch, or should I just go down and come back up like a normal squat?
  2. Should I post a video of myself attempting to follow your above advice, and ask for my form to be critiqued even though I can't get below parallel yet? I'm concerned about whether or not I'm even holding my position correctly while I "let the weight provide the stretch."
Mark Rippetoe

In the 11 years we've been doing our seminar, we've seen about 5 people who we're unable to squat properly below parallel with the correct coaching. FIVE. You are not one of these people, because there is essentially no such thing as a flexibility problem that affects squat depth. I'm sorry, but this is simply a matter of the correct positioning of feet, knees, and hips, and not flexibility.


Thank you for your comments Rip, I appreciate it. That statistic puts it in to perspective for me.

Will Morris

What about your "back injury" do you think is special compared to the other 80% of adults with back pain?


Thanks for asking Will. I don't really think my "back injury" is "special." I'm guessing you're wondering why I think it's an injury related to lifting.

Actually I didn't think it was at first. I just noticed a slight pop in my low back when coming up out of the squat. I thought, "that's strange, maybe it's time to start wearing a belt." So I put the belt on and finished two more sets with some slight discomfort in my low back. It was later on at work that pain started setting in. I wouldn't say I couldn't walk or anything, but sitting at my desk became REALLY painful. I ended up leaving early because I couldn't focus on work. That was on March 3rd. Today most of that pain is gone, but there is still some lingering pain that wakes me up at night. There is an ache in that area of the low back that I didn't have before March 3rd. I'm not comparing myself to the other 80% of adults with back pain. I'm just comparing me to myself prior to that morning in the gym. There is a significant difference.

Will Morris

Actually, brother, there is something that makes your back injury special compared to the vast majority who have back pain. What makes it special is that your back pain was born in the gym. Pain that is born in the gym dies in the gym. Pain that is born out of being a lazy sack of shit will outlive you. That is an important distinction. At least the onset of your pain gives you a puncher's chance of getting better. Stay the course and get a coach. In three months, you will understand the reason.

Best of the Forum

Fiber length and range of motion

This isn't keeping me up at night or making me ponder my training program, I still squat deep and do the lifts over the longest range of motion possible, but my question is the following. In the book you mention that if muscles get trained over a partial range of motion, then they will get strong only over that range of motion. This is obvious when you compare bottom bench presses to full ROM ones - the pecs do the bulk of the work without giving the triceps the chance to participate more by locking out at the top.

I'm referring more to your example in the book with leg extensions. If muscle fibers run the entire length of the muscle, from origin to insertion, then how is it possible that a muscle will only get strong over a portion of the ROM and not the whole thing?

Mark Rippetoe

For a full-ROM movement, it would be a combination of the anatomical contributions of the various muscles that participate in the movements as the skeletal position changes, and the additive effect of the overlap of the actin and myosin filaments at points within the different muscle bellies at their respective strong positions during the movement. This is why we rely on full-ROM for the squat, so that all the muscles that are anatomically capable of contributing to the movement get worked in the part of the ROM where they can participate.

Your example of the single-joint "open-chain" leg extension is probably explained by the existence of the "strength curve" in measured efforts on the equipment, the result of differences in intra-sarcomeric overlap and mechanical advantage at various angles of attack in the ROM. Different positions within the ROM involve different amounts of actic/myosin overlap, and if the muscle is only trained at one position in isolation, the other positions of actin/myosin interaction and overlap – and therefore contractile force production – will not be trained or developed. Why an isotonic-isometric contraction performed at the specific peak of the strength curve would not strengthen that muscle belly over its entire contractile potential, I don't know precisely.

Jonathon Sullivan

It may clarify the question if we change the language, and think in terms not of training a particular muscle or muscles, but of training a movement.

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