Q&A – 11

Happy PR Friday
Post your weekly PR’s or training updates to the comments. Be on the lookout for a nice Christmas post this weekend. Happy Festivus in the mean time!

Kyle S. asks on the Facebook Fan Page:
What are some cues I should keep in mind for teaching my wife (or anyone) to high bar squat? I’ve looked on YouTube but I never know who is full of shit.

Dear Kyle,

I briefly answered this in the wall thread, but figured it would be good for others to hear too. Irre-fucking-gardless of type of squat, the knees need to be shoved out. This will prevent hip impingement — a pinching of the femur and the ASIS (hip bone) that can prevent full ROM, prevent the lumbar from maintaining extension, and can pinch tissues like skin, fat, tendons, or muscles. There’s no point in explaining it further when a comprehensive article has already been written. So “knees out” is an important cue for any squatting, including the high bar squat.

The chest also needs to be up so that the thoracic spine is held in extension from the time the bar is un-racked until it is re-racked. I’ve been meaning to do a post on this for a while, because I see a lot of you fucking it up. Think “chest into chin”, which is the cue that means, “pull your chest up as high as you can, as if you were going to try and touch your chin without actually lowering the chin”.

The eyes need to be forward. Some look up, but this puts the cervical spine in extension and I’m not a fan of that. Eyes straight ahead will help maintain proper positioning throughout the entire spine.

Those last two things (the chest and eyes) are passive cues — the lifter shouldn’t have to think about them at all because they should be automatic every time. Assuming “knees out”, “chest to chin”, and the eye positioning is all correct (or at least the passive cues are automatic), then “heels” can be cued. That’s the cue to imply “drive the heels out of the bottom” in order to prevent any forward torso inclination during the ascent as a result of shifting the weight to the balls of the feet.

And for fuck’s sake, if you’re trying to high bar squat without weightlifting shoes then that’s the first thing to correct. Here’s the gear post.

Victor L. asks on the Facebook Fan Page:

Quick question…on 70sbig.com what do you put first when describing work sets…sets or reps? Does 5×3 mean 5 sets of 3, or vice versa? I think Rippetoe uses reps x sets in his books, but Gym Jones guys and some of my friends use sets x reps. Opinions? What’s more popular? It’s always been confusing translating people’s whiteboard scribbles on diff. sites/blogs! Thanks in advance.

Dear Victor,

We’ve already had a chat about this on the wall thread, but this is something else that would be interesting for other people who are wondering the same thing. Read 3×5 as “three sets of five” (we say “three by five” verbally). Read 405x5x3 as “405 for three sets of five”, but it literally reads “405 times five reps times three sets”. The 405x5x3 example makes the most sense for inputting data in your training log. It helps to say it out loud. You don’t ever say “five by three” to insinuate “three sets of five”, so we say “three by five” which is literally written as 3×5.

Michael Loucas asks:

I’ve always pressed with a pretty wide grip. I’d measure with my thumb from the beginning of the knurl and press from there. I’ve been reading though (from SS 3rd Edition) that you really want to have a narrower grip, like hand starting right at the beginning of the knurl. I tried that today with some light weight. Started with the bar, and worked up to about 70% of my 1rm, and did a few sets of 6.

I find it really hard to get into position. I’m about 5’11 229lbs. I feel like it causes a lot of stress on my wrists. I checked my form from the side and front via video to come to this conclusion. The only way I can get the bar to touch my delts/chest is by hyperextending my back a little bit. Another thing about the side view, its really hard for me to get my forearms under the bar enough to make my forearms vertical from the side. (and not be behind the bar)

I was hoping you had some tips for getting into a good press position. Maybe some mob tips? Work through it until I get used to it? Wrap my wrists? Lose some damn weight? All/some of the above? (Planning on doing more conditioning/dieting to lose weight again, in January when I’m finished with Smolov intense). I must say though this definitely feels stronger on the ascent for the rep, but at the bottom it is just so incredibly uncomfortable. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks Justin!

TL;DR: He finally learned that he needs a more narrow press grip and is hyper extending his back in order to get the bar to touch his delts/chest.

Dear Michael,

I’m being a dick to you, but this is important and I want people to see it.


I see this ALL of the time and I’ve been meaning to make a video/post on it. I don’t have the third edition of SS, but I’m almost positive that it doesn’t say the bar should be on the delts and chest. Some people may be able to press like that, but it’s dependent on anthropometry (body dimensions).

If the bar is going to be primarily in the heel of the palm (my workshop attendees know this as the Nic Cage) with a closed compact wrist joint, then the bar will most likely not sit on the delts because of how long the forearms are. If you’re lanky or have long arms, assume that you fit this category. You’ll find that most guys who have the bar touching their delt’s and chest have a really shitty wrist position. A shitty wrist position will not apply force as effectively and start distributing force throughout the shoulder joint instead of directly through it; this can result in overuse injuries with prolonged exposure.

Funny thing: I just wrote the previous paragraph before seeing a few comments down that if Michael keeps the bar off his chest, then his wrists hurt. Re-read the grip portion of the press chapter and standby until I create a video on this. It’s possible that Michael needs to address some mobility issues (like front rack and overhead external rotation — these can also help the mid-ROM external rotation of the press), but it sounds like he’s not mechanically sound.

gumbo asks:

Justin – I had a follow-up question after Friday’s Q&A. You were advising not to alternate cleans and deads every workout in a LP, and perhaps instead do cleans Monday and deads Friday. Roger.

So, can you briefly elaborate on this? “RDLs on Monday will do more for you than cleans will.” I’m intrigued – do you mean they’ll do more for my deadlifting performance, or for overall strength/size development? And are you suggesting dropping cleans?

Dear gumbo,

Despite there being a plethora of books, videos, and websites dedicated to optimal lifting technique — and despite some people doing the lifts for at least a year — I still see trainees who have learned to do everything without the use of their hamstrings. Even when they are low bar squatting two or three times a week and deadlifting once a week, they manage to do it improperly for a variety of reasons (I could write several paragraphs on that alone). The majority of trainees think that if they have a decent or big deadlift, then their posterior chain is solid. Not so.

If every new lifter did RDL’s twice a week for 12 weeks, then the musculature and tensile strength of the hamstrings would be so much more improved that it would augment the squat and deadlift. Or, if now deadlifting was done in that period, it would allow that lifter to do them optimally when they do start deadlifting (since they have an exceptional awareness of their hamstrings).

So, yes, I’m suggesting dropping power cleans — for a little while. Another problem with most programs is that the trainee does too much. If you did RDLs Monday, power cleans Wednesday, and deadlifts Friday, that may be too much if you’re a stupid person and don’t ratchet back the work when you need to (I’m guilty of this too; I did power snatch/deadlift/power clean on M/W/F on my LP). You could do something like 3×5 the RDLs, 4×2 the power cleans, and work up to a HEAVY TRIPLE on the deadlift. But if you’re a linear progression cherry, then keep the deadlift at a set of five for a couple months.

Paul Sousa asks:

Justin, I fit this description (Edit: he’s referring to Tuesday’s Foot Awareness post), but only in my right foot/leg/hip. I was thinking it was a glute imbalance of some sort causing me to externally rotate my leg, but maybe its bad foot positioning?

Dear Paul,

I admit that biomechanics of the feet is not my forte, but I have some educated opinions. I’m not so sure that there are foot issues as a result of hip imbalances. Why would it be so crazy to assume the opposite? It would depend on the history of the person. Let’s assume it’s someone who started lifting again in life after having a layoff (maybe a break between high school sports and getting a job in the mid twenties). If that person has a funky gait, then the structures in the hip would adapt as a result of the funky gait. Then, they have mobility issues as a result of being wonky for years, and this is represented in their lifting. The lifting probably exacerbates the existing problem by drilling through hundreds, maybe thousands of reps with this subtle weirdness.

It’s a chicken-egg kind of deal, but I don’t think that imbalances cause it, I think the imbalances are the result of weird feet articulation, but the reverse can certainly be true. In your case, there’s no way of knowing. But if you have a hip funkiness and a foot funkiness, then the foot is definitely causing or exacerbating the hip because you’re in a fucked up position. Address it.

IRregardless of what caused what, we need to fix it. As with anything else, there is no quick fix. You’re not squatting 600 tomorrow in the same way you won’t fix your funky foot tomorrow. Foot issues are interesting because you use your foot every single day. Imagine the hundreds of thousands of repetitions your foot has had walking around year after year. If you’re trying to straighten your toes in your gait, you’ll have to get at least a few thousand reps just to feel somewhat comfortable. Then you’ll have to consistently mob all the structures in your lower extremities. We’ll get into this more in some upcoming posts.

Brian S. asks

(Asking Shannon):For grip strength, do you typically work grip independently or does it tend to get strong enough just by committing to doing the PL and SM lifts?

Dear Brian,

Shannon’s answer: “I found doing extra grip work did nothing for me, but know of other people it has worked for. The biggest things that improved my grip were – D.O.H deadlifting, Power Cleans with the Axle, tyre flipping and farmers. For deadlifting we warm up d.o.h till we can’t grip the bar, then hook grip till we can’t grip anymore, then mix the grip.”

48 thoughts on “Q&A – 11

  1. PRs all ’round!

    Squat 160kg x 3 – form is better than ever these days.
    Dead 192.5 x 2 – easy.
    BW 95kg down from all time high of 106kg and 102kg 6 months ago.

    Justin, your TM eBook and especially your advice from the Sydney seminar is paying solid dividends! Thanks mate!

  2. Did my Christmas 1RM test day. This also marks the 6 month mark for me since I started lifting.

    SQ PR: 440×1 beltless, nice ‘n low. More in the tank.

    Bench PR: 265 paused ezpz.

    Pulled 485 (beltless, hook grip) ezpz as a final warm up but ran out of time and had to rush an attempt at 530, which I missed. Given more time/rest I would have pulled over 500 no doubt. I’m ok with this though as it leaves me hungry for that 500 PR in the new year.

    I’m hoping Santa puts a CoC #2 in my stocking on Sunday morn, which I’m hoping to crush like a beer can.

    Lifting Album of the Week – Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison (1968).

    Track to sing after PR-smashing celebratory beers – “Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog.”

    And that photoshop is a work of genius. A true masterpiece of modern art!

  3. Squat 175kg x 1. I was really hoping for 180 but the 175 was a grind. I’ll hit 180 in Jan.

    Followed up with 100kgx25 ATG and 100kgx20 SLDL. Now I’m taking a week off!

  4. “I still see trainees who have learned to do everything without the use of their hamstrings”

    That’s me. I guess I’ll start doing RDL’s. May Odin bless my posterior chain.

  5. Justin,

    Thanks for replying to my post, I appreciate it. Since then I actually re-read that section in 3rd edition, and it did say that it doesn’t have to rest on the delts, especially if you have longer forearms. I learned I was bending my wrists back and that was causing the pain.

    I did find the most comfortable position (actually about half an inch out from the knurl rather than the beginning of the knurl) and have the bar resting on the heel of my palm.

    I haven’t done any really heavy weight yet, I’ve been doing light 5-6’s, and I feel much better than that first workout when I switched my grip.


  6. My grip has improved a lot recently and I’m up to 180kg on my deadlift double overhand, which is a shade over twice bodyweight. My all time PB was 200, and I’d like to get back up to that and pull it double overhand as well. Not really done any accessory work for that, other than a few hangs from a pull up bar, for whatever that’s worth.

    Also, if you don’t like this song you’re probably a communist.

  7. Justin, to be clear, when PUSH pressing (not talking strict press here), the bar is preferred to be on front delts/chest so as not to transfer energy from legs all the way down shoulders to arms, etc. Is this correct? I believe I remember you and Pendlay discussing this in a previous podcast….AND i believe you recommended a slightly wider grip closer to a jerk, since the dip and drive is samesies?


  8. Hit 151kg Front Squat PR last night.

    Top numbers this year are:
    Start Finish Lift

    90kg 106kg Snatch
    125kg 132kg CJ
    130kg 151kg FS
    168kg 170kg BS
    112kg 117kg Push Press
    130kg 138kg Jerk
    105kg 123kg Hang Clean
    80kg 94kg Hang Snatch
    100kg 115kg OHS

    92 94kg

    First full year of dedicating all of my training to the lifts. I learned a lot and still have a lot to learn and a long road to reach my goals. Lots of ups and downs, but I have pushed through and feel more confident and more consistent with my lifting.

    Have a kick ass XMAS!

  9. DL 385×5 PR

    Thought I was gonna yack during this set. Note to self: give yourself more than an hour between eating 6 eggs and a sweet potato and going for a DL PR…yikes.

  10. I was feeling RECKLESS today, you guys. PRs:

    Bench: 120×5
    Pressed 90 for a single, which sucked, but is still a PR.
    Squat (HIGH BAR): 160×2. This also sucked, but I have real lifting shoes in the mail so it’s ok.

  11. 370lb squat PR – not 70s big quite yet, but after only 3 weeks of consistant heavy squatting I was pretty psyched about this. 25 lb increase from 2 months ago.

  12. No PRs for me this week, but looking through my training log, its been a god year!

    1RMs at the end of 2010
    Squat – 315
    Dead – 335
    Press – 140
    Bench – 225

    Squat – 415
    Dead – 445
    Press – 182.5
    Bench – 285

    Thats just 1RMs, I have improved even more on the 3 and 5 rep sets!

    Thanks for the great posts Justin! I will be buying more t-shirts and sending anyone who will listen to the site!

    Merry Christmas all!

  13. Today is a rest day, but tomorrow is my heavy day, so hopefully I’ll have some #’s

    4 days ago I hit my old PR’s in the

    power clean (195#)
    front squat (195#)
    & press (145#)

    but couldn’t hit 5# more on any of them for a PR…maybe tomorrow…

  14. If Paul Sausa has unilateral “duck footed,” pronation, or weird positioning, it could very likely be a leg length descrency. To find this out take a tape measure and go from the ASIS to the medial malleolus. Make sure you pick the same spot, I normally go just inferior to the medial malleolus…

    PR’s this week:

    Weighted pullup-35 x 5
    Barbell curl 85 x 6

  15. Finally managed to inch past some squatting woes. 305 for 3 sets of 5. Been doing RDL’s as well, using a snatch grip sometimes. Hopefully I’ll see some big numbers next year.

  16. Life PR – Welcomed my first child (a beautiful baby girl) into the world last Wednesday. This actually caused me to miss 2 workouts during the week and lose lots of sleep, but I went to the gym last Sunday and smashed 2 PRs.

    Squat – Old PR 365, New PR 405#

    Bench – Old PR 255, New PR 275#

  17. Hit 312.5×5 in the squat on Monday and then messed up my lower right back somehow so haven’t attempted to go more; nothing but light weights to try and loosen up the erectors since. I hadn’t front squatted in a while, so I worked up to a 195×5 today, which is a PR.

    Hit 207.5×5 in the bench on Wednesday.

    I love eating. I cut for a while this fall, and just in the 6 weeks I’ve been eating big my bench has shot up almost 20 pounds.

  18. Haven’t been lifting that long, and previously followed a bodybuilding type routine. Only about 3 months of a barbell routine.

    Squat: 235x3x5
    Bench: 155x3x5
    Press: 100x3x5
    DL: 290x3x5 (also did 315 for an easy 1 after that set)

  19. I’m a kid who has a USAPL meet who wants to hit 407/209/440 on march 24th. With a current 375/185/425.I’ve considered redoing SS, with some changes. Squatting only twice a week(monday/friday) and deadlifting on wednesdays. My hamstrings/asshole are weak. How would y’all suggest adding RDLs into my routine? Much thanks.

  20. HBBS on christmas eve:

    155 kg (2.5 kg pb):

    160 kg (pb again!):

    Great and simple explanation of the hbbs, think I got it right even though I´m tipping forward on last lift. But hey, that´s really heavy for me! Merry christmas yall!

  21. Justin – thanks for the advice, I’ve already started playing with the RDLs. Strong medicine.

    PRs: 280lb LBBS(65lb PR)
    200lb front squat (25lb PR)

    Both belted.

  22. High-Bar Back Squat PR: 365
    Clean PR: 255
    Crossfit Total PR: 995 (365 squat, 435 deadlift, 195 press)

    I jumped from 365 to 385 on the back squat trying to rush it and ended up dumping it. Felt like I was good for 375 to be honest, but was having trouble keeping my head in the game and just moved on after the failed lift.

  23. Hey – New to the Olympic lifting scene.

    Is there a resource to understanding the 2012 Olympic Weightlifting Trials at the Arnold? I am having issues understanding what is going on with 2012 and the USA. We didn’t get spots but what are the trials for? Are there several opportunities to get spots?


    The link you posted is just saying they won’t be doing it at the same time as the wrestling qualifications.

    It was said that the USA didn’t have any spots to the Olympics, but I think Sarah Robles is going. I’ll have someone confirm. Since there are no other spots than Sarah’s, that means the “Olympic trials” that were supposed to occur at the Arnold mean precisely dick.

    However, USA Senior Nationals are occurring earlier in the year (compared to a mid summer date) at the Arnold Classic. So it’ll be a standard national meet that will have a separate session for each weight class and potentially B sessions for some weight classes with a higher number of lifters.


  24. Clivestaples if you haven’t already take a peak at this e-zine, from USAW, It explains a lot: http://content.yudu.com/A1uynn/USAWeightlifting0112/

    Basically, the trials will take place for the women, to determine who will actually get the two spots they earned at Worlds. Since the men did not earn a spot at Worlds, they can potentially earn only one at the Pan Am Championships where our top 8 men compete.

    Justin, Sarah participated in a London Prepares Test Event in November. While she has a good chance of qualifying, the trails should prove for some amazing competition.

    CURRENT 2012 OLYMPIC GAMES RANKING LIST: http://assets.teamusa.org/assets/documents/attached_file/filename1/52183/2012_Olympic_Games_Ranking_List_Post_AO_Summary.pdf