Q&A – 16

Greetings lovely readers. I hope you had a jolly week. It’s PR Friday, so share your weekly PR’s and training updates. Today I want to hear what mobility concerns you have. In other words, what structures/joints do you need to work on the most?

Also, we will continue yesterday’s poll. If you already voted, please refrain from doing so.
[poll id=”36″]

This week started with a short video on Push-up cues that can specifically help females augment their strength training within the confines of a good externally rotated shoulder position. We then discussed what I call “Antagonistic Motivation” to provide long-term motivation in a program. On Wednesday we discussed the importance of keeping a good training log and Thursday we explained and discussed pulling styles in Olympic weightlifting.

Thanks to Jay for the pic


This first question is related to the “Antagonistic Motivation” post in which I said the following in a comment reply: “The “Antagonistic Motivation” method isn’t a requirement, but the most succesful people in any realm are driven by an undying need to be the best they can be.
They have some kind of specific motivation for doing so, and if someone’s training was so-so, this is a way to heighten their focus.”

meangene asks:

^ So do you think this kind of ‘next level’ motivation is something that can be taught, or is it something that you either have or don’t have?

I tend to believe it’s the latter of the two.
Great feedback on this post, I love reading about what motivates people deep down.

Great feedback on this post, I love reading about what motivates people deep down.
I thought my response was interesting enough to re-post:

I believe it’s innate in every person, but they need a reason to unleash it. Have you ever read Alas Babylon? If our country was attacked by nuclear weapons and we all had to depend on ourselves (or local population) to actually survive, then everyone would be motivated to do so. Circumstance will dictate the reason. In today’s society we are fortunate enough not to have to worry about survivability because of technological development. It’s possible to live life in a set career field and not do more than what is asked. Motivation is reduced when people get comfortable. The difference in truly successful people and comfortable people is that the successful are never comfortable, and to them, they equate surviving with success. Failing is dying. Sometimes this is literal (imagine oppressed third world populations) and other times it’s symbolic.

Because of this inherent complacency, training can grow a bit stale. It doesn’t make us pathetic or lower quality humans, but we can amp up our training by creating a motivational stimulus. Today’s focus was creating an enemy. By forcing and developing an enemy, we can inject purpose into training and life. Undying craving for success in a sport will undoubtedly carry over and augment motivation in life. And even if it doesn’t, we are better people for having that drive, even in some small way.

Paul S. asks on the Facebook Fan Page:
Which shirts for my next competition?

Dear Paul,

Obviously the Rick Rude one. Remember this pic?

Josh M. asks on the Facebook Fan Page:

Is there any measurable utility in doing heavy rack pulls, yoke walks, pin presses, etc. or are they simply tools to measure ones dick? Also, when discussing items similar to what I mentioned above it’s discussed in concert with “stimulating the nervous system.” What exactly does that mean and how does it benefit the individual?

Dear Josh,

RE: Utility in movements.
You know I love saying “utility”. It depends on which movement we are talking about. The most relevant and effective movement on your list is the rack pull. The rack pull is what I use in programming to develop the “resistance of fatigue” in the hamstrings for deadlifting in competition. Whereas in the squat, if you only squat a few heavy reps, you can adapt to squatting multiple sets and it can improve meet performance. In the deadlift, that practice doesn’t work as well since deadlifting is so stressful to the system and local structures.

Instead of doing multiple sets of heavy deadlift, I love programming rack pulls from right below the knee. I talk about rack pulls extensively in the Texas Method Part 2 e-book (which I’ve been working on), and they are useful because of this concept. When doing them, the lumbar muscles hold the pelvis in place which maintains tension on the hamstrings. Then the hamstrings receive very high amounts of tension which allows them to adapt to this lockout stress. By doing a set of three to five reps, it forces the lumbar and hamstring musculature to maintain tension to hold their position while fatigued. This improves lockout ability in a meet. Once a lifter gets experienced with rack pulls, he can use them for greater weights with fewer reps (i.e. Chris just rack pulled 700 after doing 675×2).

As for the UTILITY in the other movements, it depends on the activity and the context of the trainee’s adaptation, program, and goals. Yoke walks are cool and hard, but are most useful to strongman competitors. I don’t program pin presses and don’t they have as much UTILITY as other programmatic methods, but I would consider using them in advanced programs. However, I they would be a last resort; in late intermediate or advanced type lifters, it’s typical to work on a specific part of a lift’s range of motion. In general I’d rather work on the problem ROM while doing the full movement (with the exception of rack pulls as a priority) or use a small list of assistance exercises to improve the strength and musculature of the weak ROM.

If someone is just randomly doing these movements as heavy as possible, then they are probably a dick measuring type of lifter or on a program like Westside that depends on movement variation.

RE: “stimulating the nervous system”
This is a fucking bullshit term that over simplifies the function of the body. I absolutely hate the term because it makes it seem like our central nervous system is getting “tired” from a given activity. It’s a disgusting simplification that is a small piece of what matters. It probably originated by guys who were trying to simplify concepts for other people on a discussion board, and it became a buzz word.

When you train, you work specific structures. “Structures” is a term that includes any relevant musculature as well as tendons, ligaments, fascia, and bones. Even though you don’t feel anything occurring in your bones, they receive and distribute stress and need to adapt just like every single structure in the body. Training places a stress on these structures, and I sum that up as a “localized” stress to imply that what you specifically target is typically worked (i.e. squats will focus on the hips and legs, deadlifts on the back and posterior chain, etc.). As a result of these local structures receiving stress, there is a related systemic stress. This is includes the nervous system and endocrine system, summed up as the “neuroendorcrine” system (since the functioning of one is closely related to the other). This is when the body controls the release and inhibition of various hormones in order to produce the adaptation relative to the stress you just imposed. When we simplify and say “you recover and adapt”, it’s the neuroendocrine system that does all of this behind-the-scenes work.

So if you cause more damage locally, then you will have a higher systemic stress. If you cause moderate amounts of stress too frequently (e.g. by doing a CrossFit workout six times a week), then the system will be pushed into deficit. When the person is run down and unable to complete a something that is normally easy when fresh, they will say, “Man, my CNS is so fatigued,” when in fact they mean “my system is depressed”. It’s better to think in terms of “the system” because it’s interrelated with every system in the body. If you induce too much stress on the body too often, then your immune system (which is closely related with the neuroendocrine system) is also depressed. The reverse is true; if your immune system is depressed, then your system cannot handle stress. Simplify it by thinking in terms of your system, and your system is dependent on your health and all of the recovery concepts (like diet, sleep, mobility, rest, etc.). So stop saying “CNS” because that’s like saying the mail clerk at Google is on strike; it’s just one little piece of Google that hardly tells the whole story.

Matt M. asks:

Having trouble with keeping my elbows up during my front squat work. Any tips/assisstance exercises that can help with this?

Dear Matt,

This is a bit vague since I don’t know exactly what you’re referring to, but work on your external rotation in your shoulders. You might as well work on the internal rotation since if the internal rotators are tight, they won’t stretch as easily when you go into severe external rotation. Do soft tissue work on your external rotators (i.e. roll them with a lacrosse ball). Become a student of shoulder work on MWOD. When in doubt, start with the 5 way shoulder. Start with this search query. Also, roll your thoracic spine (particularly between the scapulae/shoulder blades) with two lacrosse balls taped together.

As for the rack position itself, think “elbows up and in”; many people leave out the “in” part and it makes things difficult. Lastly, I often need to correct the grip width; if you have long forearms, you’ll need to have a wider grip than you think to facilitate the “elbows up and in” position.

J.T. M. asks:

Any opinion on knees over toes when squatting? Rip says avoid, other people say it’s fine. What say you?

Dear J.T.,

Toe angle when squatting will is dependent on mobility of the hips, knees, and ankles (and everywhere in between). In my opinion, the reason that the “toes out” style of squatting was developed was to account for poor mobility in lifters; pointing the toes out allowed the lifter to get his knees out and avoid hip impingement and achieve proper positioning. If the lifter has the mobility to use more “toes in positions”, then they should do so. The toes won’t be straight forward, but just outside of forward. A lifter should never put them at 45 degrees with 30 degrees being the outer limit.

I’m starting to understand the mechanics of why the toes forward position improves “torque at the hip” (a phrase that Kelly Starrett uses on a regular basis). Reference this post; it explains how a toes out position facilitates a collapsed arch (“navicular drop”) which shifts the positioning of the ankle and subsequently the knee and the hip. To put it simply, when the mobility exists to have the toes more forward and avoid the collapsed arch, the force is distributed more efficiently through each structure in the chain from the feet on up. It will specifically reduce medial stress on the knees, distribute more stress to the lateral thigh and hips, and produce better tightness in the posterior thigh and hip.

However, it’s all dependent on having the mobility to do it. That’s why I say mobility will dictate the foot angle “right now”. You may need to squat with your toes out today because your overall mobility isn’t capable of shoving the knees out effectively with the toes forward, but it is probably possible to subtly move them in over a few months of time (as you improve mobility).

The End
All right, it’s been fun. Some of you asked some smaller, quick questions on the Facebook Fan page, so I answered them in the thread. Have a good weekend. Is the Pro Bowl worth watching?

61 thoughts on “Q&A – 16

  1. Vid from last Saturday.

    Competed as a HW in a small strongman show…first one of the year. My next show, in Feb, the LW weights are heavier than this, so I decided to compete as a HW for fun. Kind of goofy/CF related events, but fun none the less.

    log PR in contest- 220# 13″ clean and press 7 in a minute.

  2. Great weekly wrap up.

    Stoked that one of the very first things I posted got mentioned. That was easily one of my favorite write-ups I’ve read on here, so keep up the great work.

    I’m off to spread some hatred around the gym.

  3. Training Update:
    Deadlift: 415 9×1; 340 2×3
    Squat: 375 5×1; 310 4×3
    OHP: 160 9×1; 140 5×3
    Bench: 285 6×1; 240 5×3
    Row: 215 3×5

    We are at DEFCON1 at my work right now but I’m still managing to train. Squats, bench and barbell rows tonight.

    Regarding mobility, I’m definitely consistently tight in the hips as a result of sitting a lot at work. I do the three stretches you suggested in that video in your living room with your dog (that just about narrows it down lol). They help and I probalby just need to do them more.

    I keep this fantastic book sitting on my toilet called “Exercises for a Gentleman: 50 Exercises You Can Do With Your Suit On.” It was originally written in 1908 and has all kinds of awesome silly medical advice, but it’s also interesting to read that in those days people didn’t really make a distinction between exercising and mobility. Most of the exercises are mobility work. Do 70sBig people have any ideas for mobility work that can be done with a suit on?

    I can only think of joint approximation stuff, but that requires a band and will probably crumple the suit. If it were me, and I had a closed office, I’d lock the door and strip to my underwear.


  4. Training Direction P.R .

    Finally started an official Olympic weightlifting focus in my training, feels awesome to have a direction to take things in. I’d really like to compete in something in early 2013 so a year of hard training commences. Needless to say yesterdays post was perfect timing.

    C+J PR 70kg
    Snatch just getting to know the feel of things and working on technique so only light stuff and lots of overhead squats.

    Also went and got a log book yesterday, wrote down exactly what i’m eating at the moment because training is going well so i can refer back to it.

    Over and out.

  5. Justin,

    I have a question related to the deadlift. We know a cerain amount of muscle has to get used to deadlift 500 pounds. When someone does this without properly setting their back however (back loses the “battle of the pelvis”), you imply that this means their posterior chain isn’t as strong. So what muscles ARE being used to get the 500 pounds deadlift up with bad form that aren’t used with proper form? I’m guessing the hamstrings are taken out of the equation with extra work going to the lower back, but in a less than ideal manner? We’d prefer the lumbar spine is used isometrically, but when done incorrectly, it’s actually forced to extend mid-lift (or more likely at the end of the lift)? Is that analysis correct?


    The lack of setting the back doesn’t imply the posterior chain is weak, my primary point is that a mid-heavy deadlift isn’t indicative of a strong posterior chain (there are people who assume their posterior chain is good because of their max deadlift). I would gauge posterior chain strength more by the heaviest deadlift they can do with pretty decent form (grading out with a B on my subjective coaching scale, I guess).

    If the lumbar is rounded, this doesn’t mean that all of the posterior chain is shut off, but it’s obviously not used as much and won’t become the limiting factor in the movement. I point out what musculature would be used here: http://www.70sbig.com/blog/2012/01/qa-13/
    But, the spine receives quite a bit of a load as well as the lumbar muscles as they are stretched over the hip joint. The quads will push the floor away and once the bar passes the knees, the knees often shift forward. The torso will quickly move to a vertical position with the lumbar still rounded, and the quads will press the bar up as the knees extend. Lastly, the lumbar will have to “uncurl” itself as the lower back straightens (in a meet you aren’t white lighted if the back is rounded at lockout). It places most of the stress on the lumbar musculature while the quads do most of the force application, and that’s another reason why it’s more injurious (aside from the fact that the flexion in the spine pinches the vertebral segments down on the front and opens them in the back, which can aggravate the discs); it doesn’t distribute the force application across the hips and thighs.

    Good question.


  6. Thanks for taking the time to answer my question on the foot position thing. It was prompted in large part by the Kstar video you posted on the FB fan page the other day. I’m combating a lifetime of bad mobility and duck-walking (partially due to obesity, partially to genetically inherited fucked-up hip mechanics).

    PRs this week: Have lost 30 pounds since Thanksgiving with only about 5 pounds max loss in LBM. Beat my old 5k time untrained after not running in months in prep for a race in a few weeks. Continuing to unfuck my squat with mobility work and unfuck my deadlift/correct kyphosis. Feels good man.

  7. No real PR’s to boast of. Been an off week of training. Tomorrow I squat, so I’ll be going for a rep max with 350. Hoping for 7 or 8. And considering the hip issues I was having not too long ago, I’ll be happy with that.

  8. Still no Lifting PRs currently, however I’m down 6.5 pounds in the leaning out process, and everything is feeling good.

    Life PR: Had an excellent medical school interview. Should hear back from them next week!

    Gym: Deadlifted and Pressed three times this week, still at pansy numbers but working on technique. Squatted and benched okay. Regular Mobbing has really improved my bench setup and my external rotation all around.
    Squat: 385×1
    Bench: 205×3
    Press: 120×5
    Deadlift: 305×5

    As far as mobility stuff goes, I need to start incorporating more serious lower body stuff. I’m going to give the super squat series you posted on FB earlier a go, because couch stretch alone just isn’t cutting it. I’ve got about three different series I use for upper back/traps/pecs/tris and they’ve been feeling golden.

  9. @bandicoot

    The way I understand it: when the hamstrings relax and the “neutral” lumbar position is lost, you’re basically relying on the strength of the posterior spinal ligaments. The erectors are extending, and the posterior spinal ligaments are being relied upon instead.

    Sumo deadlift PR – 385×3 (sumo is a bit behind)

  10. I went on vacation for a week, and coming back was hell. I had a full week where I felt like I totally forgot how to lift, and I just could not stand up anything worth mentioning. But, I apparently have my legs back, so that is fucking awesome.

    So, no PRs this week. I did snatch to 59 kg and clean and jerk to 80 kg today, which was a pretty decent training total for the day, I must say.

    Coaching PRs:

    The newest member of my gym is 67 years old, and he learned how to do below parallel squats today. It was awesome.

    I spent last weekend down in Atlanta as a member of Rip’s Starting Strength Staff, which was amazing and exhausting. It has been an interesting process to progress from coaching other lifters to coaching other coaches. There is a lot to learn, but it was a great weekend.

  11. Two PRs this week.

    5’8″ 178 lb

    Bench 235×5
    Squat 330×5 – Failed after the 2nd rep on my first attempt. Used a little antagonistic motivation and battled through on the 2nd attempt.

  12. As a follow-up to the topic of motivation, Socrates and the Secret to Success has always resonated with me . . .

    “A young man asked Socrates the secret of Success. Socrates told the young man to meet him near the river the next morning. They met.

    Socrates asked the young man to walk with him towards the river.

    When the water got up to their neck, Socrates took the young man by surprise and ducked him into the water. The man struggled to get out but Socrates was strong and kept him there until he started turning blue.

    The young man struggled hard and finally managed to get out and the first thing he did was to gasp and take deep breath. Socrates asked ‘What you wanted the most when you were there?’ The man replied ‘Air’.

    Socrates said ‘that’s the most secret to success. When you want success as badly as you wanted air, you will get it. There is no other secret’.”

    You may think this tale is totally cheesy, but I dig it and it has really encouraged with my business. I have found that the more comfortable I am with my situation, the more lazy and complacent I become. I perform best when I take risks and have no choice but to fight for success and survival.

    Oh! and I just benched 137 for a double. Woop woop!!

    Can we talk about curlzing programming?? Countdown to the Arnold is in full effect and my guns are . . . underwhelming :/ Regarding mobility – I know that you have touched on this in the past, but can you discuss how to combat HYPERmobility?

    Danke schön!!! Happy weekend!!

  13. Tried front squatting for the first time, managed a single at 370 without too much difficulty, guess its a PR technically. Looking forward to using them more often, they’re pretty fun.

  14. Shitty training week, only got in once and I generally feel beat down and don’t have much hunger to lift.
    Squat 310x5x3
    Press 155x5x3
    Chins – 7 consecutive.

    My press is half my squat. Is that weird?

  15. Future shoe PR: I’m pretty close to having weightlifting shoes for the first time ever (as soon as I can find some 15s). When I get them I will do such a squat session that the sky will turn dark, old men will rend their garments, and women will throw themselves on the ground, screaming at the sky “take me instead!”

  16. @Lefty, I think he’s getting at the notion that the knee position is related to how far out the foot is rotated. I am a noob and may be wrong about this, though. What I’m trying to prevent is having my knees way far over my toes at the bottom of the squat position.

  17. @ellee: You reminded me that I forgot to do curlz today! How could I?!?!?! Also, have you checked out that speech set to video? It’s pretty badass and motivational and stuff: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7X38PCf7kao

    PR: benched 130x2x3. That’s all I’ve got.

    Mobility: My hips are just always consistently fucked. It’s getting better with tons of mobbing, but everything is always “brutally tight” (KStar speak). Yesterday I broke down and paid up for a massage, and it was well worth it. Today’s squats felt pretty good.

  18. @mando: Your knees should definitely be coming past your toes at the bottom of the squat barring any really strange anthropometry. I’ve squatted the “verical shin” way for a long time and have been working really hard to break that habit because it causes a lot of excessive forward lean, good morning-ing and bad bar path problems.

  19. Justin,

    It seemed to me that J.T. was asking not about toe angle, but the distance of forward knee travel over the toe. If he wasn’t, then I’d like to know that anyway!

    I’ll have to take a look at it. If I got it wrong, then oops. But I’ll get to your question as well.


  20. @mando: I use Fitocracy, which I really like, but it’s not a great log tool. As far as I can tell, they store your cumulative points and achievements, but not your workouts. Those only seem reviewable for about a month or so. I think that’s related to their small size, and may improve as they grow, but for the moment it’s not ready for that kind of use.

  21. Finally got back in the gym after having to recover from bronchitis. I lost about 2.5 weeks. No PR’s this week, but a fairly decent intensity day:

    Squat 320×5
    Bench 275×5
    DL 355×5

    K-Star’s bottom position drill you posted on Facebook has helped immensely. Hip mobility is my biggest challenge.

  22. RE: Mob concerns….I am another desk jockey and every day my hips, hammies and glutes/piriformis get tight from sitting for 7-8 hours. Also my IT bands and hip adductors are tight like a tiger.

    I work on the above regularly, but any new tips/ideas would be gratefully received.

  23. Justin,

    When you say, “It will specifically reduce medial stress on the knees,” do you mean MCL, medial meniscus?

    While I agree with this above, do you think it would put MORE stress on the medial patella? I hypothesize this, because the relative internal rotation of the tibia to the femur would create the tibial tuberosity to rotate more medial. Thus, the pull of the patella would be over the medial and odd facet.

    Obviously, a lateral tracking position is wayyy worse (When knees come in and navicular drops). Would you think that excessive medial compression could be just as bad?

  24. New raw pause bench PR:

    425 x 1 (pause PR)
    440 x 1 (new pause PR)

    I have a PL meet in 3 weeks. I plan on lifting in the 242 class (110kg). Things are looking good…

  25. Trap bar deadlift


    Tested my grip strength with my friends last weekend, going to start training it more and test again in a few months.

    pinch grip with a block- 40# 22 seconds

    1 arm deadlift straddling the bar – 95#

    v-bar lift (goal was at least 3 inches off the ground) 105#

    strict barbell curl- 51#

  26. really appreciate the answer on the toes out question. Having problems with getting one knee out so I’m looking in to the ankle and hip mobility. And the answer helps to understand what considerations you have to make.

  27. @Josh

    Your best bet is to get a standing desk. Go back and forth between sitting and standing all day. If that is not possible, you need to take a short walk at least once an hour. Even just standing up for 2 minutes helps. You have to break it up.

    I just installed a program on my computer to remind me to stand up every 45 minutes. It makes the screen gray. It’s helping.

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