Q&A – 20

Well blow me down with a fart, 20 Q&A sessions! That’s about a 4 on the “take it or leave it” scale. It’s PR Friday, so post your weekly training PR’s or training updates to the comments. I enjoy seeing how people train and it definitely helps me a lot when you add tidbits of programming by either giving me ideas or confirming others.

Week Review
On Monday I thanked my DC homies and discussed the topic of coaching the female gender. Tuesday I traveled, and Wednesday was a post on being brief when coaching. Thursday was a reminder that there’s no easy way to success.

My reading list this week included:
Gant Grimes “Hybrid Programming” — This is by my dear friend, Gant Grimes, who is an exceptional man. All of these new CrossFitters don’t really understand that strength training was taboo several years ago, and Gant’s post on the CF discussion boards was monumental at the time. It had a large effect on my development and programming, and I just read through it all again last night. It’s something everyone here should check out. While there are some things that I’m sure Gant would change, the overall message still applies. (This was originally posted on the CF discussion boards, but it was summarized nicely in this post — all of it is Gant’s writing)

Judo tips by Gant — Since we’re talking about Gant, he coaches Judo and other martial arts, and is a very, very good coach. I’ve gotten to learn from him briefly, and need to get back on a judo mat somewhere. Here are tips if you decide to give it a go.

Bulgarian Training on Weightlifting Exchange — If you’ve heard of Bulgarian training but never really understood it, this will give you some good background. It’s focus is high intensity with specificity, yet is dependent on an advanced trainee with balanced musculature. In other words, lesser advanced trainees would need to adapt the concepts to their needs.

Biological clock graph — I thought this was interesting. I was reading about sleep cycles on Wikipedia when I saw it.

Beta-Alinine Dosing — Some new research is showing that dosing for beta-alinine is probably relevant to body weight (unsurprisingly), but more importantly beta-alinine may be a good supplement for short, intense, anaerobic endurance training. Interesting.

Now onward with the Q&A! Keep in mind that while some questions are specific, they will include general concepts applicable to everyone.


This is a shortened (TL;DR) version of a question from CriedTheFox. The whole thing was really funny.

TL;DR I was pretty fucking fat, then wasn’t, now I’m much stronger but a little fat. That’s like the PB&J of stories…classic.
TL;DR #2 I weigh 193lbs at 5’6″ and squat 315lbs, what do i need to do to squat 455lbs and weigh 175lbs?

Also: For example. How the FUCK. does Brent weigh sub 160 at 5’5” and squat well into the 400s?

Dear CriedTheFox,

I like you, you’re funny. Let it be known that if people comment on the site regularly, I will go more out of my way to help them. It is known. There are various points of emphasis to make here.

The first is that your acknowledgement that Brent has trained longer than you is very relevant. Consider the differences of both of your histories. Brent was a skinny teenager who fucked around with stuff and then fucked around with weightlifting. He was okay, then got decently strong, then learned about proper nutrition and is much stronger at lighter body weights (and undoubtedly healthier for it). You were, as you say, fat, and then used a calorie deficit and calorie burning program to lose weight. Then you started training. I can assure you, there was a time when Brent only squatted 315. We all have an expression of our genotype, but what we do in our lives will have an effect on the phenotype. In other words, given your genetic predisposition, you can still alter the process to adapt, even if your adaptation won’t be as significant as someone who a) was born in a way that would make them better than you or b) who has been trying to adapt longer than you.

The second concept is that I’m unaware of your training program. That will definitely play a role in your success. To be honest, the main aspect is going to be “consistency” over time. Squatting twice a week for the next 18 months is going to have a profound effect on your squatting, even if we weren’t concerned with the weight. However, altering the rep ranges will have an effect on the strength/size ratio of development. Fewer reps results in strength increases without size increases. There is a really good discussion complete with program examples (including “low repetition programs”) in “FIT“.

However, I know that your goal isn’t to not get bigger muscles, but instead to decrease body fat. You mentioned that your diet is not optimal, and this will clearly have a profound effect on your body fat, but also your program success. One important aspect is insulin sensitivity. If you are not sensitive to insulin, then your whole hormonal situation is fucked. Things won’t work as well as they need to, and this is why I give a shit about quality. Besides, if you have quality sensitivity to insulin, then you can generate a better anabolic response to improve training. I’m actually going to do a nutrition post next week on the concept of insulin sensitivity. But if you wanted specifics I suggest a consultation; I’m going to be vamping up the consultation process and am bringing someone in that has similar methodology for nutrition consultations.

The basic tenet is train and eat smart consistently over time. Align the program and nutrition to meet your goals. Solidify the foundation before focusing on the minutiae.

Craig R. asks,

I was thinking about something today regarding lever arms, hopefully I can make sense of this over email. A more efficient lever arm seems to be one that has more muscle mass on each lever. If that holds true, would a taller lifter benefit more from a higher rep scheme 3×8-10, that would produce some hypertrophy in addition to making strength gains, versus an average lifter who has normal lever arms. Or should 5 reps be enough to elicit strength and mass in most lifters.

On one of the Starting Strength roundtable vids on Tall Lifters it sounded like for someone 6’5″, such as myself, I would have to weigh close to 300 pounds to be an effective powerlifter, based on the lever arms. I weigh 255 right now at probably 20%bf. I don’t want to weigh 300 nor be a powerlifter, but I would like to do a competition sometime for squat or deads and maybe a highland games. Am I stuck being a tall freak that should stick to basketball?

Dear Craig,

Yes, the longer a segment length is, more musculature would need to surround it in order to have similar angles of attachment compared to a shorter segmented lifter. It’s a result of the lever arms in mechanics. However, the repetition continuum still applies to taller guys. A rep range of 8 to 10 would focus on hypertrophy, or muscle growth, while three reps or less would have more of a strength focus. Using 5s is usually a balance between the two. However, if you were to use 8 to 10 reps per set, you are going to limit the amount of weight you can use and also not gain as much strength as you could had you used sets of 5. It may be relevant to use various assistance exercises in that repetition range to grow a group of muscles, but that would apply when the group of muscles will directly augment a more important lift.

An “effective powerlifter” is kind of vague. If someone were going to maximize their mechanical advantage with respect to their segment lengths, then perhaps 300 is a weight that would maximize that, but the discussion is arbitrary. Especially because it doesn’t apply to you. I think you are worried about the wrong things. Continue doing squats and deadlifts, throw in some power snatches, and start throwing. Throwers are typically tall with long limbs because the angle of release results in better throws (read up on angular momentum and consider buying/reading this book — it’s very good). People would kill to have your height, so don’t be the guy who’s complaining about owning a chest of gold. Take what you have, and do something with it.

Generic second-hand question from a soldier in Afghanistan:

I’m curious as to your opinion on additional assistance work that might be considered more “bodybuilding” or “isoloation” style exercises. Things like leg press, calf raises, and flies. Do you think they are a relevant assistance work? What about for an underdeveloped lower body?

Dear Ranger,

Isolation or “bodybuilding” type stuff has its place depending on the program. There are people who support this type of inclusion for the sake of hypertophy and aesthetics, but I know that your job requires more than sitting around (though you comically probably do a bit of that, too). For someone like you, I would simply say, “Squat.” If you squat three times a week for the next 8 weeks, then you’ll see the difference. As you know, squatting has a greater neuroendocrine response that is going to to create an anabolic response of growth much better than the leg press. It isn’t that leg press is bad, it’s just that squatting is so much better.

Plus, given the nature of squatting, it will translate well into moving through rough terrain with a load. Not to mention leg pressing would have more a net anterior force at the knee and could potentially irritate the knee when considering the other activity you are accountable for.

As for building up a lagging body part, whether for muscular size or strength purposes, I always prefer compound free weights. Think RDLs, barbell rows, and weighted pull/chin-ups, and dips. Once those are used regularly, you could utilize more isolation stuff like round back extensions, nosebreakers, french press, or curls.
If you are using each piece consistently for at least one to three months, the trend would be:
Frequency of primary lifts > Compound assistance > Strength-isolation assistance > Sprinkled BB movements

If you’re worried about squatting with respect to your job — some guys are understandably worried that fatiguing their legs could interfere — then I have some second hand information for you. I know some guys from OEF-8 who were in the (in)famous Korengal Valley. That fear existed, yet they trained anyway (though they weren’t squatting 3x/week). Some of the guys would even have races in full kit to get back to the OP — some ungodly climb of 800m or so (the PR was around 17 minutes I believe).

In light of your job, I would say squat. You could always hit up front squats as assistance, but if you’re squatting two or three times a week, you’re gonna see the difference. Just make sure they are deep with your knees out. Don’t even worry about the weight, just make it a bit challenging.

75 thoughts on “Q&A – 20

  1. Longtime reader, first time commenter
    Hit PRs this week of:
    Squat 350×1
    Deadlift 460×1
    Bench 305×1
    Also did my first sets ever on the Glute Ham Raise and am still sore 5 days later.

  2. Going to take a week off from back squatting. I slightly tweaked my low back deadlifting 2 weeks ago (I think my hips were too low and I got almost no hamstring involvement. My back stayed flat but it was just toast afterwords, and feels weak right now more than painful). Tried to work back up with light squatting/deadlifting, and it’s gotten better but not to my liking. Front squats feel great though, so I’m going to focus on those for a little bit and massage the shit out of my low back.

    Pressed 165×5 finally which is nice.

    Also decided to do some zercher sets yesterday in place of back squats. Worked up to 225×5 which was awesome, and the expressions from people around me half squatting half that on their back was well worth it.

    Anyone got any nifty exercises or mobility things I could do to get my strength back quicker? I’ve been doing bodyweight back extensions as well.

  3. PR in the deadlift without utilizing the stretch reflex with touch and gos. 405×5
    Hit medium grip bench 275×5
    Squat 455×1 working on using my knee wraps. Dont usually train in them and they are throwing me off

    Justin or anyone else for that matter Does it appear that I have good lumbar extension in my deadlifts? I feel as if I do when Im doing them but when I watch it appears that I should be more extended.

  4. @willey
    Do whatever you can that doesn’t irritate your lower back and then finish your training session by doing straight arm pull-downs until you want to fucking DIE! Seriously, stand in front of the pull-down station for 2-5 minutes. Do an AMRAP, beat it next time, whatever. Get creative. The best thing for your lower back will be lots of ab “stabilization” work and (if it’s muscular) maybe lots and lots of super light hyper extensions, reverse hypers, etc. My sciatica from a disc herniation improved most quickly by doing lots of silly pilates type stuff and straight arm pull downs.

    Shoulder Pain PR. That shit is nasty. Started MOBing a bunch this week and felt overly tight today. Worked up to 375, hit a double (instead of 5), and immediately dreamt of a morphine drip. Taking a solid month off of back squatting and going to the Yoke bar twice a week. Maybe some 20 rep press sets and tons of back and ABZZZZZZ.

  5. Some relevant Q&As for me this week–nice!

    Finally got a pair of weightlifting shoes two weeks back. Took the first few squatting sessions easy in them to focus on building/working the different musculature, as opposed to squatting in chucks. But damn, they are more stable than I could ever imagine. The lift that benefited most dramatically from the added stability were my presses, which I felt I hit a big wall on prior to the new kicks.

    PRs across the board this week:
    Squat: 415×1

    Press: 165 5×3 (gonna start cutting down on volume, thinking ascending sets)

    Bench: 250 5×3

    Dead: 485×1 (went for 500 but was a bit tired from the squat PR. Probably going to vary my programming in this regard, so I’m not hitting squat/dead PRs on consecutive days.)

  6. Spent the week squatting 3×5 with 315, focusing on hammering out some technique faults. Right around rep 4 or 5 things start to deteriorate, but now I’m feeling pretty confident and push to the end of my squat LP.

    Wanted to hit clean 5RMs, but this week I managed these PRs:

    Bench 285×4
    DL 365×4

  7. @Maslow – It took 7-10 days before the GERD set it, and it was nasty. If you aren’t experiencing any issues by then, maybe you don’t react like I do. If I go back to fish oil, it will have to be soy free for sure. Unfortunately, the soy free stuff is way more expensive.

    Justin – I’m digging your response to CriedTheFox’s question. My main goal is to get much stronger than I am right now. If gaining weight is a by-product of my efforts, then so be it, but I realize this isn’t just going to happen. I used to feel pressure to hurry up and eat a ton and train a ton and put on weight. I find it reassuring that training and eating consistently can also be a path to success. I plan on lifting for the rest of my life, so I’m not in such hurry. It is also encouraging to see someone like Brent, who weights like 6lbs more than me, can attain impressive levels of strength without being huge. Thanks for the post.

    I still think muscular growth is awesome or necessary, but shorter guys will start filling out faster than taller guys.


  8. Finally got up a power c&j PR of 200#.

    I strained my adductor while squatting in late December. As a result, I can’t perform a full squat or deadlift without pain. I’ve been sticking to the power version of the oly lifts. After the injury, I realized my mobility was shit so I began watching the KStarr vids that were linked and foam rolling more often.

    I still feel some soreness after training so that may be messing with the rehab. I do ice the area. Justin or anyone else, any ideas on how to rehab without sacrificing training?

  9. PR’s
    BW – down to 177 @6ft.
    Coming off a lousy cold, so nothing major.
    Pullup: +26#x8x3.
    Press: 165#x1x2, followed by 115#x10.
    Lameness PR: over reached on Incline bench while sick and needed a spot from a complete Gordon.
    Started barefoot running again to prep for physical fitness test (Navy). First time running at all since low-ab/hip flexor pull in August. Calves smoked from running barefoot, plus I just started incorporating calf work since I am chicken legged.

  10. Got my previous squat max 405×2 ….. 5×3 @ 275 Front Squat with 60 seconds rest between sets that kind of sucked however I want to start clean and jerking over 300 lbs. So I am signed up for the CF open and did the god forsaken burpee workout I got 108 in some sweet Ranger Panties, I think i was making the other dudes un comfortable but they were all skinny dudes and my 215 lbs hamhocks gave me first place for my gym. However I am pissed cause i tweeked my knee and cant get in a full depth squat and today was squat day fml it took everything in me not to train.. This does raise a question when to suck it up and train or when to just put it off to recover whether it be from a cold or a tweeked knee or hand to hand combat with zombies ?

  11. I wanted to post a PR and its my first here….my wife finds my shenanigans unmotivating.

    My squats have been progressing well. Below is my february log. I’ve been trying for a while to finish my workout with a 1x455lb squat. Got that bad boy today!

    1×455 got it!








    60s rest between 10 sets








  12. PRs this week:

    1) Unbelted squat of 360

    2) Benched 220 x 5r x 3s

    3) Overhead Pressed 155 x 5r x 3s (This was a goal that had been eluding me for WAY too long.)

  13. question about protein intake –
    trying to gain strength yet lose fat.
    I’ve used different methods of calculating how much protein (and thus, how much fat and carbs) to eat, and come up with wildly different numbers.

    Some require age input, some fat% or lean mass input, some require height. ALL require my weight to go into the equation.

    So, I’ve gotten a range of these, from 130, to 250, 320, all the way up to 420 grams per day.

    What’s recommended here?

    I recently did up my protein to about 300g per day and could immediately tell that my recovery was better. Not sure if I should go higher. About half of it daily is from lean chicken, the other half from various lean or fatty proteins, depending on the day.

    thx- Valued Rug

  14. Pingback: Hybrid Strength CrossFit Gymnastics Oly Program - All Things Gym

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