Starting Strength Weekly Report

September 02, 2019

Starting Strength Radio
  • The Olympic Weightlifting Episode – Mark Rippetoe presents a logical approach to getting into Olympic weightlifting that involves getting strong first while learning and practicing the lifts in Starting Strength Radio #19.
Starting Strength Channel

  • Leg length discrepancy? Andrew Lewis demonstrates how to shim a weightlifting shoe in this step-by-step guide.
  • From the Archives: In Physical Training Against Brain Aging, Guy Forer makes the case that "properly-prescribed progressive physical training can be a major factor in facilitating cognitive improvement in seniors of all ages and in any cognitive situation."
Training Log

In the Trenches

adjusting bar position on the squat
SSC Diego Socolinsky adjusts Tony’s bar position at the Squat and Deadlift Camp at Capricorn Fitness in Moray, Scotland this past Saturday. [photo courtesy of Fivex3 Training]
diego socolinksy coaches fiona on her deadlift
Diego Socolinsky coaches Fiona on her deadlift set up this past Saturday at the first Scotland Starting Strength Training Camp. [photo courtesy of Fivex3 Training]
jason locks out a 180kg deadlift
Jason finishes his final deadlift with 180 kgs at event in Moray, Scotland. [photo courtesy of Fivex3 Training]

Best of the Week

“Balance” of physiological adaptations

I get the whole thing about strength being the holy grail of physical fitness, I understand the reasons and I of course agree with them because they're true.

The thing I'm wondering is why, theoretically, strength specialization isn't optimal for everyone? I think the answer is quite simple and obvious but I have to double-check.

I saw you talking to the Onnit guys. Aubrey said something like "so in sport X, one would have to find the balance... getting stronger results in increased muscle mass and thus bodyweight. So one ought to get stronger to the point prior to diminishing returns and that point is the one at which the added bodyweight consumes too much oxygen for the added strength to be valuable. Strength means more submaximal contractions which means that one can go longer/harder. But there's a sweet spot which is when the mass requires so much oxygen that it overrides the benefits of the added strength."

You talked about climbing and said that if you made a 165lb climber 180lbs, he'd be a better climber. But that You wouldn't make him a 295lb elite powerlifter.

My question is Why?

I mean, my best guess is the "sweet spot" thing. At some point he's strong enough to make the climbing movements easy enough to be able to scale the rock without fatiguing, at which point added strength just means a heavier climber, which is a bad thing of course.

But, my question is a bit broader than that in that, well, first of all you also said that a heavier engine doesn't slow the car down. Unless one gets fat, one's strength increases with the added mass, and there doesn't seem to be a point at which one's weight increases more than one's strength, so to speak. Is it perhaps that climbing a high wall requires adaptations in muscle & liver glycogen and other stuff? Is this hampered by extremely big muscles? Theoretically, if a day had 100 hours in it, is there a reason why an endurance athlete couldn't also be a strength specialist? Is there some point of diminishing returns that isn't only about time and recovery? Obviously a cyclist needs to undergo "endurance" adaptations (and become stronger!), but again, assuming that he could maximize his endurance adaptations while also maximizing his strength adaptations, is there a reason why maximizing strength would be bad rather than good or neutral? If it is, is it the added weight? If there's a sweet spot where one's strong enough and has the other physiological adaptations to complete the race at a certain pace, added strength -> added weight would seem to be stupid. Is it that simple or am I missing something?

You also told them that one either has punching power or not. Explosiveness is as we all know innate. So that makes perfect sense. Assuming equal technique ("making oneself heavy" by sitting on the punch), the velocity of the punch is all that matters (which means acceleration which means motor unit recruitment because a punch takes very little time to perform and a fist offers very little resistance). BUT, I also remember reading a thread in which you said that it's important for a boxer to be strong assuming that it's important to be able to hit hard. I wonder why? Is it the added bodyweight i.e. added weight of the thrown projectile? Because I think you'd agree that one's punches don't become faster from added strength. Maybe it's the follow-through?

That's it.

Mark Rippetoe

It has to do with several asymptotic approaches to limits. Discuss.


Imagine you are doing a pull up: in order to pull yourself up you have to produce enough force to overcome the force of gravity. However, both your own force production and the gravitational force is a function of your bodyweight, and your own production has diminishing returns after some point.

I've illustrated the scenario in this graph. The force generated is asymptotically approaching the red dotted line as bodyweight, and therefore gravitational force, increases linearly. Peak performance occurs when the force generated minus the gravitational force is maximized.


It’s a mistake to consider strength qua strength as being an absolute in competitive sports.

Strength is an absolute for living life and competitive sport is an occupation. If the aim is to be as strong as possible, then competitive sport, as an occupation, must take second place. If, on the other hand, competitive sport is your livelihood, or your addiction, then strength becomes a necessary, but not a primary aim.

The only way to know if strength training improves competitiveness is to add it into the specific sport training and measure the result. If the numbers go backwards, then it's clear that strength training isn't helping. The thing about serious strength training, is that it isn't even considered by many competitive sportsmen, which it clearly should be.


Right. If one theoretically had the training and recovery time to get to approach one's genetic strength and endurance maxes to the point of almost touching them, would the athlete be able to run the Marathon in under 3h? I'm guessing that No. Because it doesn't take long for a person to reach their genetic limit for VO2max. Sure there are other factors, other more permanent adaptations. But it still seems like a huge powerlifter who's got great endurance would lose to the skinny runner. Hence there seems to be a point of balance between the different physiological adaptations at which optimum performance is attained. I'm just curious as to what factors cause that point to be.

Each stride is very submaximal for him. Yet there's a lot of mass to move around, but again, it becomes more submaximal the stronger he is ... It feels as if it makes sense that he wouldn't be optimal for a marathon, but I can't nail down exactly Why.


An asymptote is just a function's limit. Like the function y = 5 - 1/x has an asymptote at 5. As x increases towards infinity, (1/x) approaches 0, and the function itself approaches 5, but never actually reaches it. That's an asymptote. The red dotted line in the graph in my previous reply is the blue function's asymptote.


Thanks moargainz, this was very helpful.

Yeah, I thought as much. The point of diminish returns would have to mean that the engine becomes too heavy to propel forward. But one thing I'm wondering about this is, sure, if bodyweight increases linearly (then ofc gravitational pull would increase linearly as well), isn't that referring to getting fat? Or does more muscle at some point give diminishing returns in this way? Muscle is what produces force, so I would have to guess that No. That's why, in the OP, I said something along the lines of If one gets heavier (in muscle mass) then one becomes harder to move, but, that mass which has to be moved is what makes moving it more submaximal ... I of course get the point, I'm just wondering if there's ever a point where force producing tissue aka muscle becomes harder to move with increased muscle, or if we're talking about fat and water.

Yes the bodyweight plays a role. It can be pictured as throwing a collection of particles at the target. The more particles, the higher the impact, as you say. Besides that, it's about the velocity at the moment of impact (and throughout the follow-through). But ... at some point max speed will have been attained (probably at the first training session, since explosiveness is an innate quality) and technique will have been polished. Sure, a thicker guy will hit harder, but then we have the diminishing returns with regards to endurance to consider, as well as weight classes, range vs punching power, etc. Point is that I remember Mark saying in that thread that strength is important for hitting hard. However, more strength doesn't make the fist fly faster, so isn't it then the bodyweight that's in question? Now sure it's better to put on muscle than fat. Both are heavy, but as long as strength is increased at least speed isn't lost, while that would be the case with fat.

In short, I know that weight classes in PL are really height classes in disguise.

Muscle is that which moves weight. One would think that the more muscle you gain (assuming you don't gain fat), and the higher the percentage of your bodyweight that is muscle mass, the stronger you would be in relation to your bodyweight.

So although I get the point of maximizing the ratio between your force production ability and the force of gravity on your bodyweight .. it just seems as if that ratio always improves, as long as you keep adding muscle WITHOUT adding fat. I believe you when you say that there is indeed a point, I just don't really see how that's possible.


Rip's covered this in a number of podcasts. Recent one posted "mind of the warrior".

Best of the Forum

Introduction and Burning Question
B. Smith

First post. My name is Brent Smith. Not really a big social network/forum guy, but when I do lurk, this has been one of my favorite places. A little background, I'm 34 years old, I've been training for about 5 years. My best lifts are a 525lb deadlift, 445 squat, and 340 bench, as well as a 220 press, which at the time was within 5lbs of my bodyweight (close , but not close enough). Most of my twenties were wasted 'working out'. I've enjoyed reading all of your books. Have hard copies of Starting Strength and Practical Programming and bought the Kindle versions of Mean Ol' Mr. Gravity and Strong Enough?. I'm a Steamfitter by trade, and training has made even the most difficult physical parts of my job a walk in the park.

At the risk of boring you, on to my question. I was diagnosed with testicular cancer last Monday and had a radical inguinal orchiectomy Friday. Naturally, since the disease and its spread is currently out of my control, I started thinking about barbell training which will be back in my control with a little time on the couch. The surgeon said I'd be at higher risk of inguinal hernia because of where the incision is. Through my own research, it looks like they cut through the oblique fascia. I'm not asking for medical advice, and realize the implied risk in giving it, so just your experience in coming across people with damage to these kinds of structures, specifically damage by scalpel. Will this increased risk be permanent, or just until I'm healed? Is there a way and time frame to come back to training, other than the standard linear progression that would take place after a long layoff? They're telling me 2-3 weeks before 'heavy lifting' which for the general population probably means anything more than a remote. He recommended not returning to work during this time because of the nature of my job. I was considering walking about two miles a day while slowly adding weight into a weight vest over the next 2-3 weeks. My weight vest maxes out at 90 lbs. Seems like this would get the area re-conditioned to the bearing down, valsalva maneuver-type stress while still waiting the appropriate time for heavy lifting.

I respect and appreciate your input and apologize for the long winded post. If it's any consolation, I'm usually a man of few words and won't be cluttering up your forum much. I have a lot of spare time right now and keeping my mind busy seems to be helping to keep things positive while waiting for the unknown. Hopefully I'll bounce back quick and meet you at one of your seminars in the future. By my approximation, you seem a very intelligent and simple man, two refreshing qualities you share with my late grandfather, and that I try to emulate in my own life in this world full of fluff.

Mark Rippetoe

Interesting situation, to say the least. Did they mesh the repair? If not, why not?


I will leave specific training prescriptions to the professionals, but I can speak a bit to some of the OP's other questions. I am not a surgical oncologist or urologist, and radical inguinal orchiectomy is outside my scope of practice, but I've done a fair number of inguinal hernia repairs. The approach to a radical inguinal orchiectomy is essentially identical to the early phases of an inguinal hernia repair. You are correct- in order to expose the spermatic cord (which carries the vas deferens and blood vessels that supply the testicle) the external oblique fascia needs to be divided, thus "unroofing" the inguinal canal. The vessels and vas are ligated, and the testicle is removed. The external oblique is then sutured closed. Mesh would not routinely be used for closure, and to understand why a little anatomy is in order. The spermatic cord exits the abdomen via a defect in the abdominal wall called the deep inguinal ring. It then traverses the inguinal canal, a natural weak spot in the abdominal wall (essentially where the internal oblique is absent; the "floor" of the canal is only formed by a single layer of fascia), and exits the canal at the external ring, a hole in the external oblique fascia. The cord then drops over the pubic tubercle of the pelvis to enter the scrotum.

Inguinal hernias come in two types (simplifying a bit), indirect and direct. Indirect hernias protrude via the deep inguinal ring, and as such the hernia "sac" runs within the spermatic cord. Direct hernias protrude right through the floor of the inguinal canal, due to weakness of the fascia making up the floor. The external oblique is a bystander in all of this. Weakness of the external oblique does not typically predispose to inguinal hernias. When an inguinal hernia is repaired, either with mesh or without, the external oblique closure does not significantly contribute to the strength of the repair. I would have to imagine a similar consideration is at play during orchiectomy. Unless there was some specific subtlety of your case that would predispose to hernia (e.g., if the deep ring had to be opened to facilitate ligation of the cord, or if the dissection of the cord off the floor of the canal was difficult and led to weakening of the floor), or unless you had a hernia discovered at time of surgery, I don't see that mesh placement would have been indicated. I also am a little unclear why your surgeon would feel that your risk of inguinal hernia would be higher. That said, standard surgical dogma, based on fairly old research, is that fascia that is cut and then sutured never regains its full strength, but only about 80% when it's fully healed. Half of that healing occurs around 6 weeks, barring issues such as infection, malnutrition, or immunosuppression. I have no data regarding the effect of weight training on wound healing or scar maturation. So, I guess it's theoretically possible that you are at higher risk of hernia, but I really don't know for sure.

Insert standard medical disclaimer here (I'm not your doctor, this is for general information only, no medical relationship, etc), but my usual post-hernia advice to my healthy, more active patients (sadly, a minority in my patient population) is to gradually resume normal activity at about the same point as your surgeon said (2-3 weeks), take it slow, and if it hurts, back off a bit. The way I see it, the goal of surgery, whether for hernia or for cancer, is to allow a return to as normal a life as possible, not to make an invalid out of a previously healthy person. Only you can decide how to balance the risk of hernia (largely speculative) vs the risk of not training (which has been amply documented on this site). Best of luck to you, I hope your recovery is uneventful and complete.


I was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer about 4.5 years ago (I'm 42 now). Welcome to the club! I have been told, if you're going to get Cancer, this is the one to get...

I can talk from personal experience and the feedback from my urologist and oncologist. After surgery, I was lifting after 2 weeks with the encouragement of my urologist. He was confident that I was not going to do any damage as long as I "started light" and didn't "over do it." Light for me was a 225 pull for a set of 5. My advice. Give it time to heal. Give yourself a big deload and run an LP.

In regards to treatment, I was lucky. I caught it early. It was the seminoma type (slow growing) and, as far as they could tell, had not spread further. 3 months after surgery I did 5 weeks of radiation. I trained through radiation. In the last 4.5 years, I have gained 65 pounds (I was fat, then got too skinny, now I am about 15 pounds too heavy). My oncologist and urologist have encouraged me to continue strength training throughout my treatment. My oncologist calls me his star patient and has said repeatedly he wishes all of his patients would do what I have done, train and get stronger while gaining weight. My last visit in November, he actually paraded me into the waiting room and began bragging out loud to the nurses up front about my progress and increases in strength and bodyweight. He has told me BMI doesn't apply because of my muscle mass and has made numerous comments about the thickness of my abs when reviewing CT Scans.

My advice: Train. Train for as long as you can throughout the process. Both my doctors encouraged it. I believe both for physical and psychological benefits. Good luck!

B. Smith

Thank you all for your replies. A little late getting back, sorry. Recovery seems to be doing well, just got back from a two mile walk with the dog. No mesh was used during the surgery, and thanks, PKShah, for shining more light on the situation. Biopsy results show stage 1, mixed seminoma, and embryonal carcinoma. CT scan tomorrow and follow-up next Tuesday to discuss what further treatment will be necessary. My reading of cancer related cachexia, and strength training's positive influence on it actually brought me to another thread on this forum first and reaffirmed by decision to train through every phase of this however little or long the treatment(s) might be. Crookedfinger, it's encouraging to hear from someone who has gone through this successfully, and I echo your sentiments regarding training. I don't expect to hit any PR's in the near future, but training will certainly keep my head on straight. It's good to focus on the things you can control when there are other elements at work in your life that you can't. I will start light here in another week or so and proceed with caution.


You'll come back man. You'll come back stronger. I pulled 615 last night and will be squatting 500 Saturday. Life throws us shit. Training helps us get through it.

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