Q&A – 41

If only he squatted…

PR Friday

Post your training updates and PR’s to the comments. More importantly, tell us how you are joining the fight for La Revolución de Pantalones Cortos! The fight for the right of manliness! (source)

Weekly Challenge

Last week’s challenge asked you to “Learn about a specific muscle group that gives you problems in training. Learn how it functions as well as what you can do to improve the problem.” Share your findings in the comments.

Next Week’s Challenge: If you do not own a pair of short shorts and you qualify to participate in The Revolution, then buy a pair. Proudly wear them. Report your experience in next week’s Q&A comments.

Week In Review

Monday was a bullshit government holiday called Labor Day, so there wasn’t a female post. Tuesday was a post about Lance Armstrong and PEDs. I started the article by talking about Armstrong because I felt bad, but I think my opinion has changed on him. He’s allegedly a dickhead who still used drugs when he was told not to, and then lied about it. I still think overcoming cancer and fundraising hundreds of million dollars are redeeming qualities, but I guess I’ll file this into the, “He’s a dickhead who does some nice things” category. Wednesday talked about the benefits of foam rolling as part of a warm-up and how using a hard foam is usually better than PVC.

Finally, Thursday, WE STARTED A REVOLUTION. Read about The Short Shorts Revolution

Story Time

Yesterday in honor of The Revolution, I wore my short black shorts and a black tank top with shoes out into public. This is standard ops for short excursions, yet for longer trips I usually wear shorts with pockets and a belt. I think the site of a guy in short shorts with shoes is particularly alarming to the public than a guy in flip-flops. I guess it’s because such a guy made a deliberate decision to go out in that attire instead of just easily throwing on some flip-flops. Make no mistake: you will receive stairs when you do this. Assuming your shorts aren’t dangerously short (to show ass cheek or scrote), ignore these stairs and proudly go about your business. Most of the In-N-Out customers were wearing pants, but their stares didn’t register on my “give a fuck” meter. Because we’ve got a god damn Revolution to run, that’s why.


ashkanjah sent 16 hours ago
Hello, Justin. I’m currently going through the archives of your website, and it is incredibly informative and inspiring. I am in the middle of linear progression after a bout of fuckaround-itis. I weigh 156 pounds. I am 17 years old. I made a bet that I could become 190 pounds by March 4th. I am eating at least 5 or 6 hamburgers, innumerable bananas, a pound and a half of wild salmon, and half of a chicken every day (I take psyllium husk, creatine, and vitamin-d. Fish oil rarely if I run out of money for salmon for a few days). Please tell me this is not only possible, but with a strong devotion to constantly performing compound lifts, it will be mostly muscle. On a side note, you have convinced me that a belt and shoes are practically necessary tools despite how much lifting barefoot feels badass. But how often do you use the belt? Every time you train? Thank you very much, and sorry if I’m bothering you.


Dear ashkanjah, 

I’d be pretty impressed if you were eating that much. How much is this bet worth? It’s entirely doable to reach 190 by march; people have gained much more in much less time. I don’t know if you’ve read the recent dietary advice on the site, but it revolves more around a “meat and potatoes” regimen and is modeled after the paleo diet (with the occasional allowed splurge).

That being said, you have two strategies: a) get to 190 ASAP or b) steadily gain quality weight and see where you’re at in the beginning of 2013. In the latter example, if you were, say, 10 or 15 pounds under, you could just do a dirty bulk for a period, hit the 190 weight, collect your winnings, and then clean it up and reduce your body fat.

You have plenty of time before March 4th, so distribute the necessary gain per month and stay consistent with that. Most of all, be sure to train consistently.

As for the belt and shoes question: training efficiently and safely is more important than subjectively feeling like a badass. “Badass” is squatting 500+ pounds weighing 190 pounds, not squatting 250 pounds barefoot at any body weight.

P.S. I, like most people, wear a belt on work sets. I don’t wear one during snatches, but I do when front squatting or clean and jerking. Sometimes I do for rows. Presses, squats, and deadlifts, I’ll wear one.


Hey Justin-

I’ve noticed more so lately that I tend to be extremely quad dominant in my squatting (my FSQ #s are basically equal to BS, primarily HB squatting) and feel like I am having trouble activating the hamstrings on those lifts.  I’ve partially attributed it to some ankle mobility and inability to stay in my heels, do you have any tips for making sure I get the full utility out of the hamstrings in those lifts?
Thanks, Roy

Dear Roy, 

First, it sounds like your front squat frequency is pretty high relative to your high bar frequency (or you have some technique limitations). I’d make sure you’re high bar squatting twice as much as you’re front squatting. Second, when people use vertical styles of squatting I like to have them put in a heavier posterior chain exercise, and the best for this purpose is the RDL (Good Mornings can’t be loaded as heavy). While I amusingly get mocked for the high frequency of RDL recommendations, they are extremely beneficial for people that are more in the “beginner” stages, as Roy is (I’ve met him before, he trains at CF East Decatur with my homie Shana). Third, if you’re having trouble staying in your heels, then I want to double check that you’re wearing lifting shoes (I assume so).

Fourth, make sure that you’re working on your ankle and hip mobility. If you don’t have the mobility to hit proper positioning, then you won’t have proper muscle activation. Work on your ankles, anterior hip, and external rotators (ask Shana if you’re at a loss). Lastly, the two most important fundamental cues for vertical squatting (high bar or front) are “knees out” and “heels”. If you are not maintaining either of those, then reduce the weight so that you can do so. If you’re allowing your knees to bow in on the ascent, that’s not training the musculature correctly and, in the long run, will be worthless. You can also think about keeping your weight on the outer third of your foot — this cue can help effectively bring in the external rotators and prevent the knees from coming in.

I’m curious what your thoughts might be regarding pre & post op exercises for a herniated disc surgery. I’ve got a herniated L5-S1 disc and a bulging L4-L5 disc. I’ve been working with my chiro for several weeks in the hopes that the herniated disc would start to move back into place, but no such luck. It looks like surgery is unavoidable. It was recommended that I focus on ab and stability work going into the surgery to help lessen the load on my spine coming out of the surgery. Do you have any recommendations for pre and post op ab or stability work that might benefit? This will be my second discectomy, and I don’t want to do this again. I’m looking to get my torso as strong as possible to avoid any future disc problems.

Dear Jonathan,

This is a fuzzy topic since it’s a bit out of my forte and it seems to be a reoccurring issue. Primarily listen to your doctor, because I don’t have all of your information in front of me.  Right away I have two assumptions: a) your mobility is not good and b) your lifting technique is not good. I would start daily mobility work on your anterior hip, external hip rotators, and rotational based mobility. Also hit up any other areas that you know you are lacking in (potentially thoracic spine and ankles); other areas can cause problems whenever you do start to lift or exercise again. If you think your mobility is bad, then it’s probably very bad, and I would have you work on it twice a day.

As for your lifting technique, you’re gonna need to find a good coach. If you are not currently lifting (due to the injury), then you can still do some basic stuff like planks, side planks, Pallof presses (google it) and possibly some torso rotations. Even if you do not want to or can’t squat or deadlift, I would think you could still do light RDLs.

I’m actually surprised surgery is the only solution. It’s not uncommon to have disc issues (some folks aren’t even aware of it) and I’ve had some people come back from herniated disc, didn’t have surgery, and squat and deadlift easily over 225×5 (this person was a female). However, that is dependent on quality coaching and proper technique.

As for post-op, do the standard approach of taking it through a full ROM when you can, lightly load it (this would be body weight initially), and then when ready, start with light, properly executed lifts. I can’t really be more specific without seeing you in person.

My name is Zach. First off, I’d like to say that i appreciate your posts, they’ve helped me out a lot with my training and have granted me a lot of knowledge. I’m writing to ask for help on a recent issue I’ve been having with the lateral side of my gastrocnemius. My issue is that in the bottom of my full squat, I’m experiencing slight pain and numbness in my left calf as I ascend upward. It spreads from the knee down to above the ankle on the lateral side. I don’t have any pain other than when I’m in that position. I tried to do some research to the best of my abilities and what i found that described the symptoms the best was intermittent claudication, a peripheral artery disease that is common in runners. This however seems a little intense of a diagnosis, I’d like to not jump to an extreme conclusion nor be a hypochondriac. Have you had any experience with this problem, or can you think of a simpler diagnosis?
Thanks for your time,
Zach P

Dear Zach, 

Thanks for the kind words and I’m glad the site has helped you. Point blank: I don’t think you have a peripheral arterial disease. You would probably  have a host of other symptoms other than “I have pain down my leg when I squat”. Instead, this is probably a nerve issue.

The sciatic nerve is the major nerve that travels down the back side of the thigh. It then splits into the tibial and peroneal nerves. The peroneal nerves travels by the lateral head of the gastrocnemius (your indicated area), winds around the head of the fibula (the lateral bone in the shin), and then travels down the leg splitting into superficial and deep nerves on the lateral (outside) part of the shin. It’s actually hard to get a good picture of this, but this pic shows you how the tibial and peroneal nerves split (this is a pic of the left leg, the split on the left is the peroneal nerve). You can kind of see how it travels down the outside of the shin in this pic.

In any case, when you’re going into full knee flexion, you’re probably clamping down on that peroneal nerve and just reverberating pain down your shin. A friend of mine in the Army has a similar thing going on, and he has recently dealt with a lot of sciatica pain (RDLs helped make this go away, by the way). Anyway, my suggestion to both of you is that you should “mob” above and below the knee, especially below it. If you have some tight, inflamed, and swollen tissues, knee flexion would press into the tissues which would press onto the nerve to create your pain. The following video is what I recommended to my friend, and it is a good starting point for you:

108 thoughts on “Q&A – 41

  1. 6′ 2″ 217.7 lbs
    Hang power clean & press: 125 lbs x 5 singles otm
    LB Squat: 255 lbs x 5 singles otm
    40 yard hill sprints x 5
    Ezpz, could be in better shape, though.

    Blew $105 on tequila and strippers Saturday night.

  2. Where can i find the recommended loose paleo diet prescription for good weight gain? I read that there may be an article on here.

    PRs. Zercher squat 245×2
    Second time trying these.

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