Starting Strength Weekly Report

September 11, 2017

  • From the Archives: Rip discusses training female lifters with a focus on how differences in neuromuscular efficiency affect stress, recovery, and adaptation.
    Bill Starr on Doc Ziegler, a man he credits as having the "greatest impact" on strength sports.
Training Log
  • Nick Delgadillo on leaning to grind, a skill every lifter must develop as they progress.
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In the Trenches

racking a clean
Demetra racking a clean at the Wichita Falls Starting Strength Seminar. [photo courtesy of Tom Campitelli]

Best of the Week

Training with Phenylketonuria (PKU)

Does anyone have experience training or working with trainees with PKU? He has been treated properly his whole life, and has no mental problems. He is fairly active, or at least able to be. He just graduated from police academy. He just wants to get a bit stronger. His body cannot break down amino acids, so he has to be on a very low protein diet or else he will suffer terrible health defects. I'm just wondering how strong a man who can only consume 8 grams of protein a day can become. The only thing in his diet that is similar to protein is his specially prescribed amino supplements that already cost him 1200 a month. Nice guy that just wants to be stronger to be a better dad and cop.

Kent Berry

I do not, however my daughter has PKU. To be precise, it's not a problem with all amino acids - it's a deficiency of the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase which synthesizes tyrosine from phenylalanine. The classic PKU patient will have high phenylalanine levels and low tyrosine levels. The formula he consumes daily is essentially an amino acid slurry with the phenylalanine omitted and tyrosine added. Tyrosine is not an essential amino acid for us, it is for them. The natural protein in his diet will provide the little phenylalanine he actually needs.

Elevated phenylalanine levels while the brain and CNS are developing produce irreversible mental retardation. Interestingly, the conventional wisdom in years past was for people with PKU to go "off diet" at about age 13 or so, but the resulting high PHE levels have been found to contribute to various behavioral problems even in adults and the trend now is for the PKU patients to make the diet a way of life.

Having said all that, there's nothing fragile about these people and his formula will provide the equivalent of a certain amount of protein each day. I guarantee he can get stronger, but may have to progress slower. I'd just run the LP with him and see what he can do.

Outside the specialty of endocrinology, even most doctors know little or nothing about it. My wife had to educate our pediatrician, who had never had a patient with the condition.

If I correctly understand your first post, it seems you're training this individual or considering training him and you have spent a few days educating yourself about his metabolic disorder. If so, you'll make a great coach. Carry on.


To add more to Kent's great explanation, I've got a family member who did PKU clinical work for her entire career, and she just said that PKU has no impact on physical activity (provided you comply with the diet).

Side note: there's also reversible mental retardation, based on diet compliance. That is, if you're off diet for a limited amount of time, you'll lose some mental function, but can regain it by getting back on diet. So, she'd get to know kids she treated over time, and be able to tell how compliant they were with their diet just by having a random conversation with them.

Best of the Forum

Question from “recovering” long distance runner
Cody Annino

I am a former long distance runner. I was a high school Cross Country Runner that weighed a mere 138lbs but could run a 4:13 mile at 18 yrs old. Today at 25 years old, I have since come to my senses after reading Starting Strength. I have gotten to a body weight of 195-205lbs (depending on the day) and have recently squatted 405 for 5. However I have seen many strength coaches claim that a past career as a long distance runner permanently stunts your ability to produce power and become a high level strength athlete due to too many slow twitch muscle fibers. Is this true? Am I unlikely to ever be able to squat, say 500 for 5 reps, because of my past as a distance runner?

Mark Rippetoe

What is your Standing Vertical Jump? This is more predictive of your power potential than past misguided activities.

Cody Annino

Best I have ever done is around 24 or 25 inches.

Mark Rippetoe

You're a little better than average, so your power production will not be freak-level. But you can get pretty strong on the primary strength exercises if you don't fall off the wagon and start running again.

Cullen Baldwin

How much does size affect SVJ? Looking at NFL combine numbers, the top guys are usually wide receives, running backs, or defensive backs who will hit 40"+ whereas linemen will cap out at 30" or so. But linemen will also be 6'5+ and over 300 lbs versus some of those others being below 200. Some of it is that guys who are super explosive got put into those speed dependent positions but at the same time if you get a guy who's 6'7 you're almost certainly putting him on the line.

Mark Rippetoe

Shane Hamman had a 36" at 365. The lines are not speed dependent?

Cullen Baldwin

Shane Hamman was exactly who came to mind as a counterpoint. Getting off the snap quickly is vital and that's directly tied to explosiveness/power. Not so much speed dependent though, as the 10 second split time for a lineman is more important than the 40 yard total time, unlike the others. But looking at NFL combine numbers, the best lineman in the past decade was a 35.5 at 315. The top two all time are 45" at 197 lbs and 213 lb.

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