Starting Strength Weekly Report

September 09, 2019

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tully dog starting strength dallas platform
Tully settles in for some quality platform time at Starting Strength Dallas. [photo courtesy of Brent Carter]

Best of the Week

Handling College
Devin Morrison

College, for many reasons, is a stressful environment. I don't want to find myself halfway through the semester sacrificing time under the bar for time in the library.

What are some methods you used in college to balance time in the classroom and in the weight room? Furthermore, did you have any methods for keeping stress in check from the classroom so it had minimal effect on your recovery?

Mark Rippetoe

It has been 40 years since I was in college, and I don't remember. We'll ask the board.


Went to college from 2008-2012, including summer sessions, resulting in a degree in mechanical engineering. I found it helpful to decide on what time of day I wanted to go to the gym during any given semester, and then block my classes around that time as best as possible. I went to the on-campus gym (which had an actual power rack) and rented a locker so that I could always shower after. I found that being a male in my twenties made recovery a non-issue, regardless of stress. I note that I was not, in fact, doing the program as written at that time: I subbed rows for power cleans because the on-campus gym didn't permit Olympic lifts or similar.

Regarding keeping stress in check: I was much more stressed from grinding endlessly at the books than from training. In fact, if I slacked off on lifting, I was worse-off all around. It was a good mental break for me, and I wish I'd had the sense to stick with training past the initial novice progression when I had 23-year old T levels.


Physical exertion is complementary to mental concentration in my experience. And you might find that the gym becomes a welcome relief from monotonous bouts of studying. You can't spend 12+ hours a day focussing on intellectually-challenging material anyway. My advice would be to join a sports team to provide structure and a sense of team pride and obligation. Training alone is good but training alongside others with a common goal in mind is better.

I chose rowing because I was never any good at hand-eye coordination. I don't think it was just correlation that the rowers tended to do above average in exams despite spending so much time on the water and in the boathouse gym. Early morning training may have helped; the realisation that you've accomplished more before 9AM than most of your peers will accomplish during the entire day encourages you to continue being productive for the rest of the day.

Mark Le Comte

It’s all about scheduling. Take advantage of quieter times to get, and stay, ahead of your book work. Treat college like a job - take full advantage of the time between classes.

Brodie Butland

You simply have to carve out time for yourself. I wished I could give a more profound answer than that, but really there isn’t one. Figure out when you can consistently make it to the gym. Maybe it’s 8pm, maybe it’s the early afternoon, maybe you’re one of those sick individuals who can stomach early mornings in your 20s. But the point is, you have to make it a habit, and you have to treat it like an appointment that is every bit as important as studying, meals, and personal engagements.

The most consistent training in my life was during law school (pre-SS, so shitty programming...but still put on 30 lbs in two months), which was several times more work intensive than undergraduate. Four to five days a week every week, rarely missing a beat. Even during exam study periods I carved out time three days a week for my own sanity. It’s not even that I was great at time management (I’m just okay at it overall), but I treated my hour/hour and a half in the Iron Temple with the same amount of importance as studying, eating a real breakfast or dinner, writing my law review article, or whatever else was going on. Because it is just as important, and it’s necessary to keep a balance. I also carved out a half hour immediately after my last afternoon class to watch Ninja Warrior (the original Japanese version), because it was my way to relax.

Stress will always be there, and that’s natural and okay—you just can’t let it run your life. This requires planning and being honest with yourself. If you have to pull an all nighter for a midterm or final exam, either you got really unlucky because they all hit in the same two or three day period (very rare...never happened to me in four years undergrad or three law school), or more likely you did a piss poor job of managing your time leading up to the exams or are overcomplicating things. If you are writing an entire term paper in two days, it’s almost certainly piss poor time management. Buy a paper calendar and learn how to use it—plan your weeks in advance just like you do training sessions, and if life throws you curveballs then do your best to prioritize. I always had a designated fall-behind class in case things got rough...basically the class I knew I could skip the reading for a week or two and catch back up quickly when things calmed down. If you don’t know where to start, talk to someone you know who is good at juggling lots of things and ask them what they do...maybe you’ll get a few good ideas. Hell, you can even PM me if you want, though most of it will be me telling you how to learn from my mistakes.

But above all...remember that for any test you take, it’s just one test of the many you will take throughout your life. And no academic test you take, or entrance exam, will ever be as important as future tests you will do when you enter the real world. You probably won’t appreciate that now, but ask anyone on this board who has experienced some time in the school of hard knocks. I think Sully would tell you that the medical boards pale in importance to many other things he’s done in his professional and personal life. I can say the same for the bar exam or the LSAT or any final I ever took...I’ve had many more higher stakes tests since the bar exam than I had before it, and that will likely never change. Law school exams involved fake clients doing fake things. I’ve had to recommend whether to send someone to the execution chamber and had to argue cases with a life sentence on the line. Yeah...suddenly that mediocre LSAT score I got doesn’t seem so bad anymore. Good luck.


College will challenge different personalities / different strength and weakness constellations differently. You have both freedom and opportunities to learn, socialize and generally progress in a way you likely have not had before (especially when it involves any immediate adult supervision other than your own) and likely in ways that won't repeat themselves in this particular form (you are at this weird point where all your peers are dealing with the same ultimately self-directed and surprisingly freedom-filled transitional state at the same time - most of life is either more controlled by others or more mixed in terms of where everybody else is at/ what they are dealing with).

If it were just about classes or just about working out — or whatever other well-structured activity you can imagine it wouldn’t be as maddening or as fun/useful. The social side may be the most mysterious and challenging, in some respects (the academic side is mainly challenging in terms of your ability to structure it and/or fuck it up *all on your own* — with the social side of life being one of the main things pulling against but also happening along side those efforts).

"Social" doesn’t just mean the bar on the cheap drink nights — it means exploring the world alongside folks who are at a similar level of development and just about everything you do that you do alongside them (from the boring and every-day to the sublime). You are all sorting out who you are and where you fit in the grander tapestry of life with a completely unprecedented (in your own lives) freedom to think and behave according to your own standards (which you will all need to from/hone for yourselves - which despite what you may think has aspects of group activity as much as lone thinker activity when it is done best). You will mess this all up and will also be learning how to come back from mistakes. So, start where you think you are (plan to work out 3x week and get A+’s in all of your classes), but stay open. Learn as much as you can *on all fronts* in these years and you will have used them the best way possible.

The lessons from weightlifting that regular application to the task is what makes progress and that recovery (good sleep and adequate nutrition) is as important to the endeavor as the weight you lift will put you ahead of most of your peers when it comes to applying yourself successfully in almost any domain I can think of -- but the crazy stuff that this frame will only make you more resilient to enjoy without bombing out may well be the point of these years, in retrospect. Aim, foremost, to respect yourself and try to say "no" as infrequently as you can tolerate within that frame. At the other end of the spectrum, don't get freaked out or intimidated by boredom -- it's never infinite and often a part of passages to growth.

Best of the Forum

The BIG P WORD, LP in the HS sports world...

Hey Rip, just thought I'd drop some food for thought from SS in action at the high school ranks.

Nobody and I truly mean just about nobody understands that the average person especially a teenage male IS able to simply add weight to the bar over a decent amount of time.

What we do is very very similar to what John did at Longview. After quick daily speech about why being strong is badass, We set a clock, tell them the reps, and let em go!

At the beginning of offseason we treat the kids as novices and allow them to add weight a couple times a week as long as they are technically sound, solid reps. No percentages or any of that bs, all the kids have to do is lift!

When they slow down a bit, (which takes longer than most coaches would assume) we switch them to an intermediate-esq program. With our group setting we can control 3 variables, 1 the amount of time they do a particular lift (volume), the number of Reps in a set they do, or the variation of the lifts they are doing (power clean instead of dead, FS instead of squat, etc). They now add weight to the the given variables on a weekly basis just as an intermediate does. It essentially becomes HLM but in a group setting.

Coaches love to collaborate and ask what we do and how it's working, as well as shoot the idea of an LP down! The BIGGEST fallacy we hear is "how do you do that? I just don't see how your kids don't PLATEAU?... You guys have done this for 1 year now.. They're gonna PLATEAU.. We do this to keep our kids from hitting a PLATEAU.. “, or hit me with their bullshit NSCA lingo about how this just won’t work..

I can't tell you how many times I've heard this exact statement. I was in the office with a coach on Monday who made these claims, Ironically after I'd just got done coaching a group of about 70 kids of whom about 65 had added weight to the bar and made progress.

Why do people have to make something so easy seem so complicated?

Why in the hell does everyone think it's so easy to just PLATEAU??

Why is everyone so scared of the big P word when very rarely have I heard you talk of it?

I honestly don't think I've ever heard or read that word come out of your mouth on any amount of information I've gathered from you, stall maybe... plateau no.

Everyone who thinks they're someone seems to drop that word immediately upon seeing an LP in action.


I find this interesting.

The "plateau" is talked about a lot in skiing. Beginners can usually get around in about a week. After that they are supposed to improve so that they can get around on harder terrain efficiently, but they often don't.

The state between completely useless and competent skiing is often (wrongly) deemed "intermediate."

There are specialist courses to help people off the "plateau" and into the world of skiing like a person who can actually do it well. Some make an improvement during the class and then lose it again, and keep harking back to the days when their technique was better and how their current instructor is contradicting what they were previously told.

The truth is that their problem is two-fold.

First: They don't bother to train, somehow the instructing session is supposed to infuse them with skill by osmosis as the coaches words permeate their nervous systems. They might spend a few minutes on drills in the morning and then go off trundling from café to café like a sack of spuds on a pair of fence planks.

Second: They are too damn weak. Hoping that a sport will get you fit is okay for a beginner, but if you want to progress in something that requires you to handle G forces, you either need to do it a lot or find an exercise that enables you to support more than your body weight while bending and straightening your legs as you balance over your mid foot, preferably one that allows you to progressively bear more weight as you progress.

I occasionally get asked how I got so good. I'm not, I'm an instructor and a middle intermediate at best. I'm still better at what I do than most of those I teach. It’s simple. I got a lot of coaching and still do. Skills are practiced slowly on easy terrain with correct technique and then gradually quicker and on harder terrain.

The "plateau" just means it got difficult. You can either go and do something less difficult and more fun, or keep grinding away at the same old thing and accept that progress takes time.


I think it is awesome that you are doing the program in a high school. That's got to be a huge advantage and I bet after a couple of years of doing it the other coaches won't be using the P word. They'll just be asking you how you did it and how they can replicate your success. I'm a high school coach myself in a sport (rowing) where many "elite" programs do NO weight training even at the collegiate level. The governing body of the sport includes some advice to do functional training in their coaching certification which manifests itself as a bizarre circuit of body weight "core" exercises. A few really progressive coaches just send their kids to a cross fit box once or twice a week. I'm in the process of doing a novice linear progression myself and very slowly introducing the team to the press, squat, and deadlift. Trouble is we are a coed team that spans 8th-12th grades and has 24 kids sharing a single squat rack. Where there's a will there's a way. I'll figure it out eventually and we'll be the strongest kids around (which I don't think will take a lot of effort). I guess I should be happy no one is standing in my gym telling me my kids will plateau or that they are headed to snap city lifting heavy weights.

John Janecek

You're on the right track coach making this work in a school setting. Keep it up!!   I'm probably underestimating this but I'd say about %99.9 of the sports coaches I've worked with just don't have a clue when it comes to getting kids strong. I've heard some pretty silly bullshit in the last 27 years. It's not even fun to debate/correct them as they can't even back up the stupid comment they just made.

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