Starting Strength Weekly Report

May 14, 2018

Training Log
  • Mark Rippetoe explains how Knees Out/Toes Out works for execution, muscle mass involvement, and safety in the squat.
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In the Trenches

taylor shields squat
Andrew Jackson coaches Taylor Shields at this past weekend's Training Camp in Bellevue, WA.

Best of the Week

Power Clean form and teaching progression

I believe there is a step missing from the power clean teaching progression.

Summary of my point: The book contains a strong implication that, during the power clean, the bar is in contact with the body all the way up to the jumping position. However, this is not possible. I believe that the jumping position can only be reached after the jump has already been initiated and that the bar must travel past the knees in a vertical line for some distance prior to initiating the jump (double knee bend).

Support: The following are citations from the book where it suggests that the lifter must drag the bar from the starting position to the jumping position (mid-thigh) prior to initiating the jump.

  1. pg 187 of the book discusses the jumping position and how one must feel the bar on their thighs prior to catching the bar on their shoulders. 
  2. Fig. 6-13 on pg 188 shows the jumping position with the bar touching around mid-thigh.
  3. Step 1 of the power clean teaching progression: from jumping position (pg 187) – “from the jumping position, with straight elbows, jump straight up in the air with the bar hanging from your arms…”
  4. Step 2 of the power clean teaching progression: from just below the knee (pg 189) – “from this position just below the patellas, slowly slide the bar back up to the jumping position, jump, and catch the bar…”
  5. Step 3 of the power clean teaching progression: from the starting position (i.e. bar is on the floor) (pg 190) – “slowly drag the bar up the shins, past the knees, to the jumping position, and then jump and catch the bar.”
  6. The 5 step summary on pg 191
  7. First paragraph of pg 192

The only deviation from the above is on page 194, which seems to address the above by saying that the knees have to bend in order for the bar to touch the thighs in the jumping position. To quote: “When you heed the reminder to touch your thighs with the bar at the jumping position, you are re-bending your knees to do it. So instead of thinking about a sequence of events sometimes considered too complicated to even try to teach, you accomplished this double knee bend by merely touching your thighs with the bar.”

Figure 6-15 (figure on the left) also shows the correct jumping position (i.e. mid-jump – knees already bent) but the book does not really address arriving at this position.

II – My Analysis

Arriving at the jumping position is only possible once the double knee bend has completed.  In other words, the jumping position (i.e. the bar touching mid-thigh) is only possible after the lifter has dragged the bar past their knees. Once past the knees, the bar continues upward for a bit (without touching the body), the lifter initiates the jump which forces them to re-bend their knees (now the bar touches mid-thigh), the lifter jumps and extends, and racks the bar.

Even though pg 194 mentions that re-bending the knees occurs naturally, this statement now seems like a big deviation from the teaching method above. Especially since the movement has so much in common with the deadlift where the lifter drags the bar straight up with zero knee bend after clearing the bar above the knee. This would lead the lifter/reader to believe that they must drag the bar up all the way to mid-thigh (jumping position) before even initiating the jump.

III – Conclusion

There seems to be a crucial middle step missing between dragging the bar past the knees and reaching the jumping position. I.e. when to actually bend the knees after the bar clears them.

If the double knee bend is to happen naturally, the lifter/reader must know when to initiate the jump. However, that initiation cannot happen when the bar is in contact with the thigh.

It also cannot be that the lifter instantly re-bends their knees after the bar clears them. There is definitely a space after the bar clears the knees and before the jump is initiated (i.e. the double knee bend) where the bar is ahead of the lifter (or still traveling in a straight line from the floor).

Mark Rippetoe

The power clean teaching method and the post-instruction power clean are not the same thing. If you teach it the way we do, the result is the correct clean with a correct second pull. This is demonstrated and discussed at every seminar.


Your main point is lost in your main post. You begin by talking about the teaching method and how one crucial step is missing. Assuming that "bend your knees again above the knee" is a crucial step, verbatim, you go on to say that this step isn't in there. However, the book acknowledges the double knee bend and argues that it is more efficient to think about keeping the bar in contact with the thighs along the way than to think mechanically about your knees and hips. In other words, it is not as efficient to think "ok, now I need to bend my knees a smidge." But then you say that people can't keep the bar in contact all the way, which is false, as anyone who has deadlifted/cleaned/snatched or watched others perform this lift will know. So this point only seems valid if you rephrase it to "the book doesn't advocate you think about bending your knees again above the knee," but then this doesn't seem to be a problem to me.

Best of the Forum

My Mum – 80 years old

My Mum has always been health conscious and tried various exercise routines. She still works as a child minder and walks several miles per day. In the last year or two she has started to have falls. Her balance is going. The result has been several breakages – foot/arm. Even with a foot support and bandaged arm she managed to get on a train from London with her suitcase and travel to our house for Xmas.

She wants to stay independent and as I was concerned with her increasing vulnerability to breakages, I suggested that she ask the doctor to get her some therapy time in the local gym. She started a 12 week course at the gym two weeks ago. They have put her on the usual machines and cardio bikes which is better than nothing, but won't get her strong. I've had her doing unweighted box squats at home which she manages and has already noticed improvements to her balance. I've also advised her to increase protein and calories generally.

After the 12 week course she can move on to any gym she wants and can then use more serious weights. She hopes to visit me in July and has asked if I can show her the ropes. Obviously, I'm not going to have he get under the bar and load it up, but what would be the best routine? I'm thinking dumbbell seated press (she has good mobility), goblet box squats, unweighted trapeze DL?

Karl Schudt

The answer is going to be "that depends." What can she actually do? How close can you get to incrementally loadable full body lifts?

Almost everyone can deadlift with a regular barbell, although you might need to make some modifications.  You won't know what your mum can do until you get her in the gym.

Sully wrote a book on this: The Barbell Prescription.

Pete Troupos

Karl's correct in that you're going to have to get in there and see what's what. I'm not sure what an "unweighted trapeze DL" is, but one I do with fairly untrained Masters that age is a rack pull of some sort. You can do something like start with a training (5 kg) bar set above the knee on the rack safeties, teach her the grip, and how to put her back in extension, then have her stand the bar up for a few sets of 5. Then gradually lower the pins and/or add a kilo or two over time.

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