Starting Strength Weekly Report

November 07, 2016

  • The winner of the October Under the Bar prize drawing is Ness Oszast.
Training Log
Starting Strength Channel
  • Ask Rip #34 - How to make progress after following questionable nutrition advice, why the Westside Dynamic Effort isn't doing what they think it's doing, the mental preparation required for a heavy workout, and military fitness testing.
From the Coaches
  • Via Paul Horn: Congratulations to Barbara Taylor, 59, for winning 1st place in her masters division, 3rd place in the open division, and the Best Lifter award at the 2016 USAPL Southwestern Regionals.
    Barbara Taylor

Under the Bar

Hannah Schrier squats Hannah Schrier squats 190 in her first meet at the Starting Strength Fall Classic 2016 this past Sunday. [photo courtesy of Inna Koppel]
Nick D'Agostino pulls 700 Nick D'Agostino pulls a lifetime PR of 700 lbs at the Starting Strength Fall Classic in New York, representing the Woodmere Fitness Club team. [photo courtesy of Inna Koppel]
Raina Butler squats 210 Raina Butler squats 210 for a PR in her first meet at the Starting Strength Fall Classic 2016. [photo courtesy of Inna Koppel]
mike deadlifts 405 Our new client, Mike, deadlifts 405 for a set of five; an increase of 160 pounds in a month and a half. [photo courtesy of Horn Strength & Conditioning]
Gwyn Brookes 3rd attempt Starting Strength Coach Gwyn Brookes at the bottom of her third successful squat attempt of 108 kg (238 kg) in the Oakland Fall Classic. [photo courtesy of Tom Campitelli]
Libby Butler prepares to squat Libby Butler is about to begin her second successful squat attempt at 86 kg (187 lb) in the Oakland Fall Classic. [photo courtesy of Tom Campitelli]

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Best of the Week

High calorie diet for 40yr old

While eating lunch today I started going through the first forum posts on the website going back to 2007. I read them all before, but it's always fun to go back and re-read them every once in a while. I learned a lot and laughed a lot. Good to see your sense of humor hasn't changed.

Anyway, you had the following response to a post about people saying how unhealthy it was to eat so much.

“You really think a young man, between 18 and 35, really needs to be conscious of his "health" for a year while he gains muscular bodyweight? What do you think can happen to him in a year of 7000 kcal/day eating?”

What are your thoughts around a healthy 40 year old eating like this to maximize their strength for a few years?

Mark Rippetoe

Same thing. Healthy people who train don't develop heart disease in a year.


Again, I know you are not a Dr or a nutritionist or anything like that, but what are your thoughts on having to eat at a high calorie surplus over a few years as you progress from Novice to Advanced? I'm about 210 now and it took a ton of hard work and hard eating and time to get here. I think I'm going to have to get to 235 to get to where I want to be and I don't think that's going to take a year. More like 2-3. My thinking is that if I'm training hard and taking my fish oil I'm fine. Family, friends and colleagues say different.

Mark Rippetoe

I think that gaining muscle mass is undeniably healthy, more so as you get older. Whatever facilitates this is therefore healthy too.


People just see you eating a shit ton and think you're going to get fat and die within the next 30 days.

I get it man. It gets old. I constantly get comments like: "Oh my, how can you eat so much and stay so skinny!?!".....First of all, I'm not skinny, I'm 205. I should be 225 so in a way you're right.

Or my personal favorite: "I wish I could eat like you and still stay in shape"....You probably could if you weren't lazy, weak, and passive aggressive.

Bottom line: don't let the uninformed mediocre populace get you down. My uncle drank a gallon of milk a day before it was cool for the better part of two decades, had north of a 400lb bench and a chest most men still couldn't get their arms around. He's in his mid 60s now and he's still a force to be reckoned with. I see no reason he won't sustain his high quality of life for another 10-20 years.

Best of the Forum

A stupid question about the deadlift?

I understand why the lats pull the humerus best at 90 degrees and I understand why we want to pull the bar close to the body over the mid-foot. I really understand why the lats are stronger in the 90 degree angle position. I just can't figure out what the hell pulls the bar forward, with such force that our LATS can't pull it backwards with the same force if they don't have the best moment possible. What pushes it forward that if we won't pull it backwards it will just move ahead?

I mean, we pull the bar up. I use my anterior deltoid to push it away from my body. I apply force only upwards. I think so.

Can you solve that mystery to me?

Mark Rippetoe

The fact is that the bar can indeed be held in position against the legs by the lats at any lat angle of attack on the humerus if the weight is light enough. And by lat angle we actually mean the back angle, since the back angle controls this if the bar is over the mid-foot -- see figure 4-26 in BBT3. So the question is, why does this particular back angle – the position that places the lats at about 90 degrees to the humerus, with the shoulders slightly in front of the bar and the bar over the mid-foot – establish itself at the point of pull in every heavy deadlift, no matter what back angle you try to use?

The answer is, I don't know for sure, and I don't know anybody else other than me and my staff who has even considered the question or discussed the phenomenon. And my explanation has changed a couple of times over the past few years, as I've thought about it and discussed it more. I THINK that what's happening is that in a deadlift, more of the mass of the lifter is behind the mass of the bar, and as the weight goes up the ability to control the position of this mass becomes more critical. Since the direction of equilibrium for the body's mass in relation to the bar's position is more forward, the hips rise and the back angle becomes more horizontal to rotate the torso into this position. Lat strength and efficiency is tested in this position because if the arms hung straight down vertically, the bar would drift forward of mid-foot, pulling the lifter off-balance and rearranging the mass distribution relative to the bar. So the lats stabilize the system in balance at heavy weights, and as the weight gets lighter the more divergence from this model the pull can tolerate. The bar must obviously travel upward in a straight vertical line, and the lats function to control this position of shoulders forward of the bar until almost the top of the pull, where the arms finally get vertical. We don't see this happen in a clean or snatch, for obvious reasons.

So essentially, nothing is pushing the bar forward. You just can't pull it from any position other than back when it's heavy enough. When it's light, you can do anything you want to with it. There are other factors we will discuss as the questions start rolling in.


I may be wrong, but I'm reading this as two questions.

Instinctkiller's question about what pulls the bar forward is, I believe, answered in detail in BBT3. Gravity pulls it forward since the arms aren't vertical. As Rip has done, treat the arm as a rod connected to a shaft at the shoulder. The bar will swing forward (to a point directly under the shoulder) unless the lats hold it back (balance the moment about the shoulder). I think BBT3 also explains moment (torque) very nicely, and makes the point that the lats act at 90 deg to the humerus because the torque is greatest at 90 deg (where the sine of the angle is 1).

Rip's question is puzzling! I have no answers, just more questions. Rip, is the body's COM really behind the center of the foot (which I'll shorten to "center") when the bar breaks the floor? The most efficient pull is when the bar travels a vertical path over the center; therefore, the bar's COM is always over center. Shouldn't the total system's (bar + body) COM also always be over center? If so, since the bar is always over center, the body's COM must also be over center and that means the head and shoulders (along with a little of the knees) have to go forward of center.

You seem to be arguing here that the total system's COM does not start over center. If the body's COM is behind the bar to start, when the bar breaks the floor, how does the lifter remain standing? Can the muscles of the foot and lower leg keep the lifter from toppling if the system's COM gets "far" from over center? (Maybe you're saying it isn't that far, the moment isn't so great.) Are you saying that the momentum from the body's COM moving toward the bar (toward center) somehow contributes to the vertical portion of the pull?

I want to believe that the total system's COM must be over center when the bar breaks the floor; however, I don't know if my belief is correct. The truth is whatever is shown by heavy deadlifts - the experiment (done many, many times).


Savs is saying that noting that the COM of the lifter must approximately be in line with the COM of the bar, if the bar is to travel vertically, and thus, efficiently. Because if it wasn't, the system COM wouldn't be over the midfoot, unless the bar is very heavy indeed.

Since you implied that the COM of mass is actually behind the bar at some light weight, Savs is wondering how the lifter stays standing when he lifts the bar off the floor (with a system COM behind the midfoot), instead of falling over backwards. Which is what humans do when their COM isn't over the point of balance on their feet. Thus his question regarding whether the muscles of the lower leg can balance out the tendency to fall backwards.

At least, I think that's what he's saying.

The answer, of course (he says, hoping he's not wrong), is that the lifter doesn't fall over because the COM of the lifter – and thus that of the system – shifts over midfoot pretty shortly after the bar starts to move. This seems to be why everyone passes through the position you described pretty soon after the bar comes off the floor. They can't help it.

The exact biomechanics of it might be complicated, but it's a basic fact that a human being can't maintain any position in which their COM (and/or the COM of the system they are part of) is NOT over the balance point(s) of their feet (or hands, or whatever part of the body is touching the object supporting their weight). Same as how you can't balance a four legged chair on one leg unless you can line it up it just so. It's just how things work. Gravity will yank on anything that isn't lined up over its balance point correctly, until it assumes a position where there is no moment arm between the COM and the point of contact with the supporting surface. There's no avoiding it.

I bet our local Australian weirdo acrobat could expound on this point at length.

It might be that people have a weird feeling that they need to lean back to lift up the heavy thing, in order to "balance it out," but their bodies know that this is stupid, and will put itself in the proper position once the movement starts, whether they like it or not.

Which is why you should just start there in the first place, even though it may feel like you are leaning way forward until the bar is actually moving.

So, yes, you could avoid assuming The Position by trying to deadlift like an idiot (and keep your COM behind your midfoot, with the weight of the bar keeping you from falling down), but you'd either fall backwards on you ass or never be able to get the bar past your knees and have to set it back down. And the bar could never be actually heavy.

I bet there are videos of this happening, of someone failing a pull from the floor because they get themselves in a biomechanically stupid position where once they've lifted the bar a little bit, resist getting their shoulders in front of the bar and the COM of the system is now in a position they simply can't apply force to effectively (because they can't pull the bar through their lower leg), and so they fail the lift and fall over backwards.

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