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Guide to Novice Barbell Training, aka the Official Rippetoe-Starting Strength FAQ

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Old 01-14-2007, 10:03 PM   #1
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Default Guide to Novice Barbell Training, aka the Official Rippetoe-Starting Strength FAQ

I. Introduction
**A. Purpose, Scope, Target Audience
**B. Why Should I Do This Program?
**C. Program Basics
**D. Credits
**E. The Original Threads

II. The Exercises
**A. The Main Exercises
*****1. The Squat
*****2. The Bench Press
*****3. The Deadlift
*****4. The Power Clean
*****5. The Press
*****6. The Row
**B. Accessory Exercises
*****1. Abdominals
*****2. Arms
*****3. Dips
*****4. Back extensions
*****5. Pull-ups/Chin-ups
**C. Other Questions

III. Programming
**A. The basics
**B. Stalling and Resetting
**C. What to do after Rippetoe
*****1. Basic Rippetoe Adjustments
*****2. Advanced Rippetoe Adjustments
*****3. Other Intermediate type programs
**D. General Questions
*****1. How much weight should I use?
*****2. What about sets and reps?

IV. Nutrition and Supplements
**A. General Questions
**B. Chubbies
**C. Skinnies
**D. Athletes

V. Cardio Questions

VI. Routine-Specific Questions

VII. Will This Program Meet My Goals?

VIII. General Weight Training Questions

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Old 01-14-2007, 10:04 PM   #2
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I. Introduction
** A. Purpose, Scope, Target Audience
** B. Why Should I Do This Program? Why Shouldn't I Mess with This Program?
**C. Program Basics
**D. Credits
**E. The Original Threads

Purpose
The purpose of this writeup is twofold:
General - to provide a repository of useful information for the novice trainee
Speciifc - to provide a coherent, linked guide to the Rippetoe Starting Strength training "theory" and to answer the 100s of questions that have been asked on this incredibly simple program

Scope
This is primarily intended for the novice trainee who is new to the weightroom. There are many statements which apply to novices only, not intermediates or advanced/elite athletes. The program can be used by individuals of varying training levels, but the writeup is directed to the newb.

Target Audience
The exact intended target audience of the book Starting Strength is the coach of pubescent/teenage kids who want to get bigger and stronger, frequently for a sport. The book, and the program contained within, emphasizes the gradual but consistent progression in weight of a handful of basic exercises with specific and incredibly detailed recommendations on proper technique. As a result, it is very useful for any newcomer to the weight training game, as well as anyone who is making a "comeback" to the iron sport. If you haven't trained in awhile and want to get back into weightlifting, then the Starting Strength program will probably be ideal for you, as it will help get you back into shape rapidly. If you are new to weight training, then this program, as simple as it is, is arguably the ideal method for the first several months of your training.

Again, this program (and the book) is for:

1) Strength training coaches
2) Newcomers to the weight room
3) "Old timers" looking to get back into lifting shape
4) Anyone who hasn't mastered the squat, bench and deadlift, but would like to.

If you have been using exclusively nautilus machines, Hammer Strength machines, or bodyweight-type workouts, then this workout will also be a great introductory weight training program to teach you the "zen of the iron."

The book itself contains a wealth of information and detail on the "big 3" exercises, as well as power cleans and standing overhead presses. The detail and exacting cause/effect relationships with technique and technique flaws that is described in the book is, in my opinion, priceless. So in addition to the above-mentioned individuals, even non-coaches who are advanced in their weight training can learn quite a bit about the most important and useful exercises being done in the weight room.

Why should I do this program?
Why are there so many questions on this program? Some say it is a fad, nothing more, nothing less. However, it is a fad that, along with Bill Starr's training methods, is now going on 3 decades of use. That is pretty long lasting for a 'fad'. It may be a 'fad' to the small fishbowl of training that is the bb.com Workout Program regulars, but to weight trainees worldwide, it is anything but a fad.

The program stresses the tried-and-true basics of effective compound exercises and weight progression on those exercises with an emphasis on exact technique. There is nothing "magical" about the program. It works because it is rooted in common sense and decades of experience.

It is a beginner's weight training program. As such, many of the specifics of the program (no machines, barbells only, very few exercises, very low complexity) will simply not work for someone who is more experienced or has a specific goal in mind (i.e. increase vertical jump, increase speed, win a national-level powerlifting contest or a bodybuilding contest). When reading through the program, ensure that you keep a sense of the Target Audience in your head, so you know to whom the information contained within is address.

In the end, the newcomer should do this program because it will get him strong and will teach him what he needs to know to form a basis of a "successful career" in weight training. There is no single "best way", but any different way Not everyone wants to be a professional bodybuilder/powerlifter/weightlifter/strongman. Most guys would like to be stronger and have some muscle. This program will help them take the first, crucial steps toward that goal, and the program ensures that those steps are solid, aimed in the right direction, and can set you up for further success in your weight training endeavors.

Why shouldn't I mess with it?
The majority of this is from Madcow2, with my own interjections and statements thrown in for good measure. So quote madcow, but understand that I threw my own $0.02 in there as well, and I did so in a majestically seamless manner.

__________________________

The reason why people really don't like guys altering Rippetoe's novice program is because the target audience of this program doesn't know anywhere near enough about training to make appropriate adjustments. You'll see newbs who are 135 lbs complaining about their "bicept peaks", and they want to train their upper-inner chest because it's a weak point. This is laughable simply because their entire body is one big weak link! In reality, they aren't really weak, they are simply untrained.

The flip side is that anyone who actually needs any type of specialized instruction is already well-trained and conditioned, and they have identified true weak points...well, they shouldn't be using this program's template! They have specific needs that require addressing. The novice's only "specific need" is to get bigger and stronger overall. The target audience is not someone who actually has weak points, the target audience is someone who hasn't been training long enough to know what a true weak point is.

On BBing.com, those issues are brought to bear multiple times on a daily basis again and again, and every single person thinks they are special or different. So many clueless kids seem to somehow have some gem of knowledge to share from an uncle who used to squat 1000lbs or a PT at the gym they just joined who got his "official personal trainer certification" out of a cereal box, but they lack the knowledge and experience to apply said gem to the appropriate trainee in the appropriate context.

The reasons against deviation from this program are very logical - an untrained guy is untrained, he is one big weak point. He won't know what his true weak point is until he has spent many months (and possibly even a few years) training and learning how his body responds to overall training. Is his upper chest REALLY a weakpoint? Yeah, his upper chest is a weakpoint because his entire chest is weak! He needs to spend time training his chest with the basic pectoral developing exercises before he decides to specialize in incline DB flies and cable crosses and reverse pec dec inverted flyswatters.

Does he honestly have a "poor biceps peak"? Definitely! He honestly has a very poor biceps peak, and that is easy to understand because he is a buck thirty, soaking wet, with 14" arms. Yup, his biceps peak definitely sucks!

Honestly, how can one know anything about training if they themselves are untrained. They have no experience, no point of comparison, no idea of what truly works because they simply haven't experienced training themselves. You can read a science book and learn that a shark is in a specific genus/species. That is knowledge and is easily applied, because it is based on factual science. Training is NOT factual science, it is an artform with a VAGUE and unproofed background in science.

How would an automotive engineer take the advice of a 13-year old who had never driven? The 13-year old is convinced he knows the best way to design a transmission so that it shifts smoothly because he reads Motor Trend each month, yet the 13-year old has driven nothing more challenging than his grandfather's golf cart. As a general rule, a woman will be resistant to taking the advice of a man when it comes time to dealing with the emotional events that occur during "that time of the month", for reasons that should be quite obvious. Are we seeing the connection here?

While the "don't mess with the program!" attitude is dogmatic, and "everyone responds differently because we're all individuals, blahblahblah", the idea of sticking with the program for its intended audience is, in fact, logical and in 99% of the cases it is doing the perspective trainee a favor. Just about every single person who wanted to change the program but didn't has been very very happy they stuck with it. The ones that seem to complain are the ones that have tried to change it to the point that it bears little resemblance to the original program.

Now, since 90% of the people that come to bb.com are novices, Rippetoe's program gets recommended a lot because it's good, it drives home proper understanding and fundamentals, gets them started on the right foot, they learn what is important in programming, and it provides a plan as to how to execute and how to adjust the weights on a session to session basis. Truly, this is really the key to all successful programs even though this information is totally absent or for most people on BBing sites and in magazines.

Ripp's way certainly isn't the only way but it's a damn good method that is as good as any. It is simple, it works, it provides an ideal foundation, and it SHOULD be easy to follow.

Of course, if it were truly that easy, I wouldn't be re-writing this thread and it wouldn't have so many pages worth of information and explanation, but that is another story…
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Old 01-14-2007, 10:06 PM   #3
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I. Introduction
**A. Purpose, Scope, Target Audience
**B. Why Should I Do This Program? Why Shouldn't I Mess with This Program?
**C. Program Basics
**D. Credits
**E. The Original Threads

Program Basics

There are 3 "Starting Strength" programs presently.

The "original novice program", as written in Starting Strength, is as follows:

Workout A
3x5 Squat
3x5 Bench Press
1x5 Deadlift

Workout B
3x5 Squat
3x5 Standing military press
3x5 Power cleans

You train on 3 nonconsecutive days per week.

So week 1 might look like:
Monday - Workout A
Wednesday - Workout B
Friday - Workout A

Week 2:
Monday - Workout B
Wednesday - Workout A
Friday - Workout B

If you choose Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday or Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday as your workout days, the planets won't get knocked out of alignment, so don't sweat this one, as long as you get in 3 workouts on 3 non-consecutive days each week. NO, YOU CANNOT TRAIN 2 CONSECUTIVE DAYS, so don't ask.

In Practical Programming, due out the 1st or 2nd week of December 2006, Rippetoe recommends that a set/rep scheme of 5x3 (5 sets, 3 reps, instead of 3 sets, 5 reps) can be performed on the power clean, and is possibly advantageous, especially once power clean technique improves.

He also allows for replacing the clean with the bent row, with certain technique caveats (again, see the Exercise section in this write-up, as always, check the Table of Contents) He prefers the power clean, but in many cases, the power clean is not safely performed, or is impractical.

This is the format that I have used and recommended for the majority of peeps new to weight training. I suppose we can refer to it as "Kethnaab's novice program adjustment"

Workout A
3x5 Squat
3x5 Bench Press
1x5 Deadlift

Workout B
3x5 Squat
3x5 Standing military press
3x5 Pendlay Rows

Essentially, the programs are the same. Day 1 is a squat, a press, and a heavy pull from the floor. Day 2 is a squat, a press, and a lighter pull from the floor. Simple, easy, basic and effective.

All sets listed are "work sets" in the format "sets x reps per set". The nomenclature does not include warmups (discussed in Section V - Specific Routine Questions - look in the Table of Contents). All sets are done with the same weight (known as "sets across" - look in Table of Contents, Section VIII for further info). You should be working quite hard by the last set of each exercise, but ALL exercises are done with perfect technique (look in the Exercise section of the Table of Contents)

What? Were you looking for some incredibly complex training program? 3 exercises per day, 3 times per week? That's it????

Considering all the discussion on this program, you may have been expecting it to contain intricate details and incredibly complex variables, and all you get is a full body workout, 3 days a week?

Yup, it's that simple. These are the 2 base programs that everyone should start with. Pick one that suits your abilities/goals. For more info on the why's and wherefore's, and the specific details, read on.

Credits
This program, in no way, shape or form, is a representation of MY independent work. The writeup is a representation of information contained within the book, Starting Strength, the brainchild of Mark Rippetoe, with assistance from Lon Kilgore. It is, as it reads on the front page, a "Simple and Practical Guide for Coaching Beginners". However, the knowledge contained within is far-reaching in potential impact when dealing with anyone who is new to the weight game. If you aren't a coach, you can benefit immensely from this book from the incredibly detailed and exact descriptions and advice given on 5 of the most important lifts in weight training.

There are 8 chapters, 5 of which are dedicated to providing pictures, visual, physical and verbal cues, and incredibly detailed descriptions of the proper (and also improper) methods of performing the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press and power clean. You thought you knew how to do these exercises until you read up on them, and you learn more in those pages than you knew in the first place. There is also an intro, as well as chapters on programming (i.e. planned progression) and mistakes/fallacies with regards to youth weight training.

If you give a crap about training, I highly recommend you buy the book. Apparently, I'm not the only one that recommends the book.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Wendler
(Starting Strength) should be owned by just about everyone. It’s a shame that this book hadn’t come out sooner. In an age where complexity and overcomplicated training has become the norm, this book is a breath of fresh air. I honestly believe that this book, more than just about any other book on lifting weights or training, should be in everyone’s bookcase, office or gym bag.

Anyway, all credit goes to Mark Rippetoe, as I stated earlier. I simply took the ideas contained within the book and attempted to promote the ideas because, quite simply, they work. Sometimes a very complex idea requires a very simplistic solution. Starting Strength details that simplistic solution, and Practical Programming follows up with information to maintain the trainee's progress.

The Original Threads
If you spend 5 minutes in the Workout Programs or Workout Journals sections of bb.com, you will be inundated with a rush of "Rippetoe" threads and journals. Granted, 1/2 of the threads spell the guy's name wrong, but you get the message.

How did it become such a popular and widespread method of training? Why are 2 of the 3 most viewed and responded threads in the Workout Programs section devoted to this simplistic program? Is it magic, or a fad?

This thread was the first time I posted what became the "final version" of the Rippetoe novice program writeup. For the previous 5 weeks, I had responded to countless skinny teenagers who were new to weight training. They all wanted to gain some strength and muscle mass, and put on bodyweight. Some of them wanted to get strong for football, some just wanted to look like something other than a beanpole. Rippetoe's novice program is going to be the perfect fit for 95% of them (or perhaps more), so the write-up was "born".

After seeing the above linked post, Matta114 asked if he could use my writeup to create his own thread. I said yes, but I didn't think he'd follow through, so I created the Newcomer to the weights looking to add muscular bodyweight thread which has become the basic Rippetoe/Starting Strength FAQ.

As it turns out, Matta114 also made a thread, but had the foresight to name it "Writeup for Rippetoe's program", which was a better "search" for those looking for the Starting Strength template. As such, it garnered quite a bit of attention, and unfortunately, quite a bit of clueless people.

Matta114's started the thread with good intentions, but unfortunately, he used some "poetic license" that was inappropriate, i.e. he added some stuff that was incorrect. The thread also was mostly "unmoderated" by experienced people, so several individuals who really didn't know what they were doing gave advice that wasn't appropriate. As a result, the thread contained quite a bit of factually false information, and the thread was, thankfully, locked.

Out of those 2 threads arose a several questions which were asked over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Each time the question was answered, it would be asked again, usually within a page or two.

Answering the same things over and over again ad nauseam gets old, and when something on the internet becomes very popular and generates a lot of questions, it becomes time to write up the almighty "FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions."

With this thread, I hope to bring the answers to all the questions that have been asked in the last 10 months on this program, in a format that is both easily and intuitively searchable and has a linked Table of Contents. I'm going to do my best to answer every conceivable question, and I would respectfully request that all peeps who wish to help out the newbs asking questions on Rippetoe's program...please direct them to this thread with the instruction to search and use the Table of Contents.
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Old 01-14-2007, 10:06 PM   #4
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I. Introduction

II. The Exercises
**A. The Main Exercises
*****1. The Squat
*****2. The Bench Press
*****3. The Deadlift
*****4. The Power Clean
*****5. The Press
*****6. The Row
**B. Accessory Exercises
*****1. Abdominals
*****2. Arms
*****3. Dips
*****4. Back extensions
*****5. Pull-ups/Chin-ups
**C. Other Questions

III. Programming
IV. Nutrition/dietary Questions
V. Cardio Questions
VI. Routine-Specific Questions
VII. Will This Program Meet My Goals?
VIII. General Weight Training Questions


Section II – The Exercises

This section will give a relatively detailed description of the exercises performed. It includes videos of proper (and improper!) execution of most of the exercises, as well as a variety of links. If you want a more detailed description, go by Starting Strength for yourself.

Make sure, if you wish to have your technique assessed for any particular exercise, that you post a video of yourself to youtube, putfile or google video. You will get several people willing to help you with your technique. If your technique sucks, then admit it. If a ton of knowledgeable people tell you that your technique is jacked, listen to them. Don’t be a dick and argue.
__________________
You want to get big? Then get good at the squat, bench, pull and deadlift. The rest is between you, God, and your dinner plate. -me

Hypertrophy = Potential for Strength
Strength = Potential for Hypertrophy
-FortifiedIron

Newbie's Guide to Weight Training - aka the Rippetoe/Starting Strength FAQ-
http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=998224
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Old 01-14-2007, 10:07 PM   #5
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II. The Exercises
**A. The Main Exercises
*****1. The Squat, Part 1
*****2. The Bench Press
*****3. The Deadlift
*****4. The Power Clean
*****5. The Press
*****6. The Row
**B. Accessory Exercises
**C. Other Questions
**D. Exercise Substitution Questions

The Squat, Part 1

Question - How do I properly perform a squat?

The basics:

1) Get under the bar with your chest high and your upper and lower back tight.

2) Ensure your position is balanced from left to right, grip the bar, ensuring your grip is balanced from left to right.

3) Grip the bar as close to your head as possible. This will test your shoulder, elbow and wrist joint flexibility. The closer your hands are (within reason, your hands shouldn't touch your ears), the tighter your upper back will be, and the better the bar will sit on your back. Use a thumbless grip. You aren’t supporting the bar with your hands. You’re holding the bar DOWN against your back. Your wrist should NOT bend in either direction. It should be a straight line from your forearm across the wrist onto your hand.

4) Place the bar on your back across the low portion of the traps and rear delts (low bar position). Elevate your elbows as high behind you as possible, while keeping your chest upright. If your pectorals are sore, you will feel this as a deep stretch in the pectorals and possibly delts.

5) Inhale as deeply as possible, ensure your back is tight, bend down a bit and squat the bar out of the rack. Do NOT LEAN FORWARD and perform a good morning to get the bar out of the rack. You will lose tightness this way and, as a novice, expose yourself to injury.

6) Stand fully upright with the bar across your lower traps and rear delts, and clear the bar from the rack in 3 steps:
** Take 1 step backward with one foot to clear the rack
** Take 1 step backward with the other (trail) foot so that your feet are even
** Take 1 step sideways with the trail foot so that you get your heels to proper stance width.

Do NOT perform a "backward walk" with the bar. No more than 3 steps are necessary, total. Fidgeting with a few hundred pounds on your shoulders gets tiring. Squats are difficult enough as it is, no need to tire yourself needlessly prior to exercise execution with needless steps.

7) Make necessary adjustments so that stance width is proper, i.e. heels at ~ shoulder width, feet pointed in a "neutral" manner, ~30° outward. ~30° is "neutral" because as you widen your stance, your toes need to point outward in order to maintain proper patellar alignment with the thigh bones. When your heels are at approximately shoulder width, your toes will need to be pointed ~30° outward.

8) Keep your chest high and the bar balanced above the midfoot, take a deep breath, hold it, and squat down all the way. Do not look up, do not look down, do not look side to side. Keep your eyes focused on a point that is ~ 6-10' ahead of you on the floor, or if you have a wall close enough, focus on a point a few feet above the floor along the wall.

9) 4 basics of execution:
** Sit back (stick your butt out!)
** Squat down (bending/flexing the knees)
** Balance the weight by keeping your chest and shoulders upright while your upper body leans forward slightly to keep the bar above the midfoot
** "Keep knees tight" - i.e. don't relax your quads and simply "drop" into the bottom position, keep your thigh muscles tight throughout the motion

10) Once you have squatted down all the way into "the hole", without pausing or bouncing (more on this later), stand back up.

11) As you raise out of "the hole", you will be doing 3 basic things almost simultaneously:
** You will be pushing your butt upward
** You will be pushing your shoulders upward
** You will be extending your knees
** You will be forcefully contracting your upper and lower back muscles isometrically to maintain tightness in your torso

Do not begin to exhale (blow out) until you are near to completion of the repetition. This will cause you to lose tightness.

Some videos for observation:

Squat:
click on proper box to the right

Excellent written description and video demonstration of the back squat with athletic (medium) stance

Tom Platz squats 500x23 reps - athletic stance

Francis Tournefier Olympic squats 641 and 661 (ignore the GMs at the end)

Question - What kind of squat should I do? ATG? Olympic? Front? What stance should I use?

The "back squat" is the general term for ANY exercise where the lifter performs a deep knee bend with a barbell across the back of the shoulders. Differentiation of the depth of the squat, the amount of bend in the knee, the positioning and width of foot placement and the use of various other implements provides for a host of squat variations, each with their own advantages, each to be used in certain specific situations.

The athletic squat is a back squat performed with the feet at a width that is generally just slightly wider than the shoulders. The feet are angled out in line with the knees. This foot positioning will be the one with the most carryover to the majority of athletic endeavors, and does the best job at ensuring full thigh development, both in the front of the thigh (the quadriceps) and the rear of the thigh (the hamstrings and glutes). It is the squat variation this is performed in the basic Starting Strength program.

The olympic squat is a back squat where the foot positioning is closer than shoulder width and the toes typically point nearly straight forward. These tend to be more quadriceps-dominant, and are very useful for Olympic lifters (hence the name). This is an excellent exercise as well, but it will not be used until the trainee advances further and chooses to specialize in Olympic lifting or physique competition.

The powerlifting squat refers to the extremely wide "sumo" stance that powerlifters favor while performing the squat. It generally allows them to use more weight, but this is due to mechanical advantage rather than even, overall muscular stimulation of the thighs. This variation is not used in the program.

The box squat is a phenominal exercise for an aspiring powerlifter. Details of this exercise and its execution are outside the scope of this program. Box squats are not to be used in this program. They are outstanding, but not appropriate for the purposes of this discussion.

The ATG squat (ATG = ass to grass/ground) makes reference to ANY of the above squat variations whereby the trainee lowers his body as low as he possibly can. This can be both advantageous or dangerous, depending upon the individual. Generally, hamstring flexibility will limit the absolute depth because, in the lowest portion (the "hole") of the squat, the hamstrings get stretched hard, and will pull the hips under the body, which can cause severe strain to the lumbar area. That being said, you should ALWAYS go as low as you can without causing that hip rounding to take place, because this will stimulate the best overall gains. "ATG" is a term that will be different for each person due to hamstring flexibility and structure, as well as overall musculature. Endeavor to stretch your hamstrings frequently to avoid lower back injury, and to allow for the most complete ROM (range of motion). Also note that some people say they do "ATG squats", when in reality, they barely hit parallel. The opposite end of the spectrum are those that go incredibly deep as an excuse for using very light weight.

The front squat is an outstanding variation of the squat, except that it is performed with the barbell resting across the FRONT of the shoulders, in front of the neck. It is a variation which will maximally stress the quadriceps, but can be very difficult to perform from a mechanical perspective. If possible, front squats are added in the Wednesday workout once more advanced periodization and exercise selection is necessary for the trainee.

The athletic squat is a basic, medium-stance squat that will be used in this program for a few reasons.

1) It tends to do the best job of developing the entire thigh (quad, hammie and the "little thigh muscles") evenly and in proportion. Front and Olympic squats tend to be a bit quad-dominant, powerlifting and especially box squats tend to be more ham/glute-dominant

2) The medium-stance "athletic" squat has the most natural carryover to athletics and sports. Rarely will you purposely use a stance that is extremely wide or close while playing any type of sport.

3) The medium-stance "athletic" squat will give you the most "bang for your buck" as far as overall strength development. You might be able to lift more with a powerlifting style stance, but that is due to physics, not additional muscle involvement (in fact, one could say it involves a reduction in muscular involvement)

So there you have it. The stance should be approximately shoulder width, give or take an inch or three.
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Old 01-14-2007, 10:08 PM   #6
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II. The Exercises
**A. The Main Exercises
*****1. The Squat, Part 2
*****2. The Bench Press
*****3. The Deadlift
*****4. The Power Clean
*****5. The Press
*****6. The Row
**B. Accessory Exercises
**C. Other Questions


1. The Squat, Part 2

Question – Where are some other videos of the different squats?

Medium-stance "athletic" squat - the squat of choice:
Tom Platz rips 500+ for 23
Technique Notes
1) Notice how tight he gets under the bar before he lifts it out.
2) Note stance width and knee tracking - stance is just beyond shoulder width, knees track over the toes
3) Note depth of squats
4) Note how he has a slight forward lean, but he keeps his chest and shoulders "square", i.e. they are elevated and pointed forward at all times

Powerlifting squats
Sam Byrd takes 1-grand for a ride at a BW of 198.
Mike Miller's 1220-lb record powerlifting squat.
Technique Notes
1) Note how wide his stance is. I don't provide this as a demonstration of how you should do them, I provide this as a demonstration of a very wide stance.
2) Yes, the depth is rather questionable
3) 1220-lbs would crush me before I even tried bending my knees, so who am I to complain?

Olympic Squat
Here is bb.com's own Hola Bola performing them.
A few technique points:
1) Notice that his heels are close together, and his knees track inline with his toes
2) He goes to parallel and slightly beyond on a few of the reps, but doesn't stop above parallel (don't be afraid to hit depth)
3) His first 7 reps are the perfect example of how the hips begin the motion out of the hole a split second before the shoulders drive upward. On his eighth, he fatigues (imagine that, fatiguing after 8x405!) and he has to fight hard to drive his shoulders upward

ATG Squatting
Here is some insanely deep and heavy "ATG" style squatting.
A few technique points
1) Deep...deep...deep! Note that his heels are approximately shoulder width. This could pass for "classic" Olympic style, although it is somewhat wider than typical for a straight Olympic squat. I'd be inclined to lean toward "medium/athletic" stance.
2) At the very bottom his knees track inward slightly. This is very typical when the weights get heavy, as well as very typical in the untrained athlete. It's not because the thigh adductors are too strong for the thigh abductors, either. In the untrained newb, it's typically because the adductors aren't strong enough as compared with the glutes, and the quad ends up taking over thigh adductor function, which tracks the knees inward. With heavy weights, it is insanely difficult NOT to do this, unless you take a very wide stance.
3) Don't end your set like he ends his 3rd set...the gym owner will get pissed.
4) Ignore the good mornings, he does them differently than you need to

Front squat
Here is a video of Hossein Rezazadeh front squatting 617 for 2 easy reps.
Check it at 54 seconds for some sweet front squats
Here is bb.com's own W8isGR8 demonstrating a front squat to incredible depth.
Technique notes:
1) Deep as heck and perfectly balanced
2) At bottom of motion, sacrum area looks like it "tucks" underneath and forward. Most people aren't going to be flexible enough to perform them so deep without serious pain in their lower backs. When you go this deep, your hamstrings tend to pull hard at your sacrum, causing it to tilt posterior and also causing your spinal erectors to go into a fit trying to keep your lower back in its natural lordotic arch.
3) Bar didn't travel forward or back, it remained over the midfoot
4) Despite incredible depth, the heels stayed down

Box squats
Good description, guy sits back too fast during the video[/quote]


Question - Do I really need to squat if my legs are already big?

First off, 3/4 of the people who ask this question are pussies. Don't be afraid of the squat. Learn to embrace it.

Having said that, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and we'll assume you are part of the 1/4 that isn't afraid of the squat. Determine what your goals are. If you want to get as big as possible, all over, then you will most definitely want to become a master of the squat. Your physical structure might not be ideal for the squat. You may have zero aspirations of becoming a powerlifting squat champion. You might not really give a flying fig how much you squat.

But if you SERIOUSLY want to be as large as you possibly can, all over, then yes, you will squat, even if you already have big legs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe, pg. 19, Starting Strength
There is simply no other exercise, and certainly no machine, that produces th elevel o fcentral nervous system activity, improved balance and coordination, skeletal loading and bone density, muscular stimulation and growth, connective tissue stress and strength, psychological demand nd toughness, and overall systemic conditioning as the correctly performed full squat.

Squats spur full body growth when combined with full body training much better than full body training without squats.

If you want to look like some Abercrombie model, then find another program and enjoy your nice, easy training style. If you are serious about adding muscle to your frame, then get under the damn bar and make it happen.

Question – What about the leg press?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe, pg. 61, Starting Strength
...(the leg press) restrict(s) movement in body segments that normally adjust position during the squat, thus restricting the expression of normal biomechanics...(it) is particularly heinous in that it allows the use of huge weights, and therefore facilitates unwarranted bragging. Please slap the next person that tells you he leg-pressed a thousand pounds. A 1000-lb. leg press is as irrelevant as a 500 lb. quarter-squat.

The leg press is an excellent tool for an intermediate or advanced physique athlete to use for quad and/or glute and/or hamstring development. However, it has NO place in the routine of a novice trainee, and it has no place in this program, despite its uses and advantages.

Question - Can I use a manta ray when squatting?

If you have had shoulder problems, the manta ray can be a pretty useful piece of equipment. It's use is certainly not advised unless absolutely necessary, because it lengthens the lever arm between the weight and the rotation point (i.e. the barbell and the hips), which can cause problems with the lower back. It can also "wobble around" atop the shoulders causing a load shift affect, which also can cause problems with the lower back.

However, if you are experienced enough with the weights to know you NEED a manta ray, then by all means, it is better to squat with one than to NOT squat without one.

If, however, you simply want to use a manta ray for comfort's sake, then don't bother squatting at all. The amount of pain tolerance from a hard, heavy set of squats will be too much for you if you can't take a little bar sitting across your shoulders. Perhaps you should take up a different hobby...knitting, for example.

Question - Can I use a safety squat bar or a buffalo bar while squatting?

Assuming you have had an injury of some sort, or you have shoulder joint flexibility problems for whatever reason, then absolutely. The buffalo bar and safety squat bar both are outstanding pieces of equipment, especially for the lifter who has had shoulder problems *raises hand and points to self*. They certainly can create a different training affect than squatting with a conventional bar setup, but the training affect can be quite beneficial, especially for those with shoulder injuries who cannot squat otherwise.

Understand, however, that the novice trainee should NOT choose these devices over the basic barbell back squat. Their use should be limited to those who have injuries and cannot perform a barbell squat.

EDITOR'S NOTE - Both the buffalo bar and the Safety Squat bar are used by knowledgeable powerlifters as assistance lifting devices. Obviously my statements do not apply to them, as they would have no reason to read a "novice training program description" for anything other than mild curiosity's sake.
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Old 01-14-2007, 10:09 PM   #7
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II. The Exercises
**A. The Main Exercises
*****1. The Squat, Part 3
*****2. The Bench Press
*****3. The Deadlift
*****4. The Power Clean
*****5. The Press
*****6. The Row
**B. Accessory Exercises
**C. Other Questions

1. The Squat, Part 3

Question - Are deep squats bad for the knees?

Deep, controlled squats not only are NOT "bad for the knees", they are, in fact, good for the knees. Properly performed, they evenly and proportionately strengthen all muscles which stabilize and control the knee (in addition to strengthening the muscles of the hip and posterior chain, upper back, shoulder girdle etc). When the hips are lowered in a controlled fashion below the level of the top of the patella, full hip flexion has occured, and this will activate the hamstrings and glutes. In doing so, the hamstrings are stretched at the bottom of the motion and they pull the tibia backwards (toward da' butt) which counteracts the forward-pulling force the quadriceps apply during the motion. As a result, the stress on the knee tendons is lessened since the hamstrings assist the patellar tendon in stabilization of the knee. A muscle supporting a tendon which supports the kneecap is going to be better than the tendon having to take up the entirety of the strain by itself.

Think about Olympic lifters. They squat VERY deep (almost ridiculously deep) all the time, frequently 5 or 6 times weekly, with very heavy weight. If deep squats were so bad for their knees, they wouldn't be able to squat that deep, that often, and that heavy.

Partial squats, however, will NOT activate the hamstrings, and the amount of shearing force on the patellar tendon increases exponentially. What WILL happen if you do partial squats is that your quadriceps will become disproportionately strong as compared to your hamstrings, and the following are likely results:

1) In partial squats, the hamstrings aren't activated, which means the patellar tendon takes up all the strain/stress/pull during squats. As a result, fatigue and damage to the tendon can accumulate because tendons recover MUCH slower than muscles. Any type of action involving knee bend can then cause further stress and strain during daily activity. This is asking for trouble. If the hamstring is strong, it drastically reduces the amount of stress on the patellar tendon. Full squats make the hamstrings strong. Partial squats allow the hamstrings to become weak. Weak hamstrings are bad Bad BAD.

2) Partial squats develop the quads and neglect the hamstrings. Weak hamstrings coupled with strong quads result in hamstring pulls while sprinting, starting or stopping suddenly, playing sports, etc.. They frequently occur as the result of muscular imbalances across the knee joint. Strong quadriceps and weaker hamstrings result in a knee joint that is unstable during rapid acceleration and slowing, and the hamstrings are unable to counteract the powerful forces that occur during sudden stops and starts. In other words, you do a sprint with extra-strong quads and weak hammies, and you are begging for a pulled hamstring because your hamstring isn't as strong as the quads and isn't able to perform an adequate eccentric contraction to keep your knee joint from hyperextending during a sprint. As a result, you strain the hamstring because, although it isn't strong enough to do the job, it will hurt itself trying.

3) In sports, your acceleration will be weak, as will your jumping ability, as a result of underdeveloped hamstrings and hips. Poor speed/acceleration = poor performance

4) You will end up using stupidly heavy weights in the partial squat due to the mechanical advantage afforded by partial squats, and you put your back and even shoulder girdle at risk due to the extreme loading of the spine.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe, pg 18, Starting Strength
If it's too heavy to squat below parallel, it's too heavy to have on the back.

Besides, everytime you do partial squats, Jesus kills a kitten. Don't be a pussy, save the kittens. Squat deep.

Question - Are there light days, or do I lift as heavy as I can all the time?

The idea of this program is to maintain "linear progress" at all times. Once your technique is proper, EVERY SINGLE WORKOUT should be an increase in weight on each of your exercises, even if it is only a few pounds of increase at a time. You, eventually, will be unable to add weight to the bar each time you train. At this point in time, you may need to either take a rest, "reset" your squat (discussed in Section III) or perform a "deload" (also discussed in Section III). Until this time, you should try to add weight to the bar and maintain your technique.

That being said, "old farts" like me simply cannot squat hard and heavy 3x per week. If you are older or have had problematic knees, you may find it necessary to make adjustments and make Wednesday a "light" squat day, or perhaps skip squats on those days altogether and perform another exercise (not recommended).

Now then, before anybody gets any wise ideas, if you aren't old enough to have voted G-Dub into office the first time, DO NOT SKIP SQUATS ON THIS PROGRAM.

Get it? Old dudes can make those adjustments. Young snots cannot. Suck it up.

Question - Can I deadlift first, instead of doing squats first? Do I really need to squat everyday?

Deadlifts are an outstanding exercise, however, squatting before deadlifting is necessary for a variety of reasons

Squats serve as a more efficient and general "warmup" and preparation for your weight training sessions than deadlifts.
Deadlifts will fatigue the upper and especially the lower back muscles prior to beginning the squats, which can definitely be hazardous to the health of a trainee, especially a new trainee. The last thing you want while squatting is a set of spinal erectors that are unable to bear the load. You can still frequently deadlift to near-limit poundages after squatting, but you will NOT be able to do that on your squats if you deadlift first.

Squatting first and squatting everyday is also ideal because it sends a strong growth signal to the entire body.


3 sets of 5 != (does not equal) a set of the fabled "widowmaker" 20-rep squats, where after you're done with the squats, you are done with the training. Your lower body will get taxed during the 3 sets of squats, but a novice won't be able to squat enough weight to leave them unable to properly perform their next exercise, which is a bench press or a deltoid press (the standing press or variation). The lower body rests as you work the upper body with the pressing exercise.

So, as mentioned elsewhere, perform the squat properly as often as possible, and you will maximize growth in your entire body (assuming you train your entire body). Just make sure you do it everyday, and you do it first. If you have bum knees or you're an old fart like me, then you will possibly need to make adjustments. See Section III for some other ideas.

Question - Can I use a back pad while squatting?

Meow.

No. Don't use the "puss pad".

If your back hurts excessively while squatting, then chances are good you aren't flexing your upper back muscles sufficiently to "pad" your skeleton. When you grip the bar, you must keep your hands in toward the body as closely as possible while gripping the bar BEFORE you unrack the bar and start squatting.

In other words, get under the bar, bring your hands in as closely as possible along the bar, grip the bar with a thumbless grip, lift your elbows back and up, and step under the weight. By keeping your hands close and your elbows back and up, the muscles of your entire shoulder girdle, as well as your trapezius muscles, will all "bunch/hunch up", which will provide significant padding for the bar. Ensure the bar is kept in the "low bar position" at the lower-rear portion of your traps and rear deltoids, and you should be fine.

The main problem with the pad, in addition to making you look like a wuss, is that it tends to throw the center of gravity off. For an experienced trainee, this won't be a problem, they can compensate (and they probably wouldn't ask to use a pad anyway). For a novice trainee, this can be VERY detrimental to proper technique and balance development inherent in the learning process of the squat. So, all joking aside, the pad might help your upper shoulders "feel better" while squatting, but once you get to heavy weight, that little pad won't do jack squat, except for throw off your technique! If you have a shoulder injury, then the pad won't help at all. Look into using a Buffalo Bar, a Safety Squat Bar, or a Manta Ray
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Old 01-14-2007, 10:10 PM   #8
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II. The Exercises
**A. The Main Exercises
*****1. The Squat, Part 4
*****2. The Bench Press
*****3. The Deadlift
*****4. The Power Clean
*****5. The Press
*****6. The Row
**B. Accessory Exercises
**C. Other Questions
**D. Exercise Substitution Questions

1. The Squat, Part 4

Question - Should I use a block under my heels while squatting?

No, for a variety of reasons.

When you raise the heel substantially during a squat, you shift the weight of your body forward, and as a result, your knees can end up taking a disproportionate share of the load.

Experienced physique athletes sometimes do this so they can get better development in their quads, although they generally will not perform squats this way for long. The average joe does this because they lack the flexibility in their hamstrings to perform a squat to depth without rounding their lower back, and by keeping their heels on a block, they are able to reduce the stretch in their hamstrings.

Here's a little test for you...if you have lower back pain when you try to do deep squats wearing a flat soled shoe (i.e. Chuck Taylor's or wrestling shoes), and you DON'T suffer this same lower back pain when you wear work boots (with a heavy heel) or you squat with your heels up on a block, then guess what?

Your hamstrings are too tight. Don't use a block. Stretch your hamstrings instead. Your knees will thank you in the end. By using a block, you merely mask the symptoms without treating the cause.

Question - Should I be leaning forward a little bit during the squat, or do I try to stand straight up and down?

Some amount of forward lean is natural, and in fact, is necessary. It is impossible, with a free weight barbell, to keep your upper body at a 90 degree angle to the floor. You cannot maintain any form of balance this way and if you try, you will fall onto your rump.

The bar, as it rests on your back, must remain above the midfoot area throughout the range of motion. It is common for a new trainee to lean back too far or, more commonly, lean forward too far. However, some amount of forward lean IS NECESSARY in order to keep the bar over your midfoot. The lower on your back you hold the bar, the more forward lean will be necessary.

The problem is that people have a tendency to lean so far forward that their heels come off the ground, or they end up putting far too much stress on the glutes and lower back and their squat turns into an impromptu good morning. Keep the bar tracking above the midfoot area, and you will be fine, as long as you don't round your back.

1) Work on calf and hamstring flexibility
2) Do NOT go up on your tiptoes
3) Stretch your hamstrings
4) Do a better job of warming up
5) Stretch your hamstrings.

Your lower back is rounding because your hamstrings are inflexible and your lumbar spine is weak. Maybe only one is true, but for most new trainees, both are true. Your heels came off the ground because you allowed the weight to pull you forward. Again, weak spinal erectors and tight hamstrings are the most frequent culprits.

Sometimes, you simply lose your balance. Until you can correct these issues, don't add weight to the bar. Stretch your hamstrings.

Do this stretch, except keep both legs straight. The lower leg stays flat on the floor with your knee straight and your foot straight up and down (in other words, don't allow your leg to rotate laterally/outward). The other leg also stays straight. This will help "stretch your hips apart" as well as loosen up those banjo-string hammies.

You can also do this stretch with a towel. Same rules apply, keep your legs straight. Another variation is to do these in a doorway. Your lower leg stays flat on the ground and runs through the doorway. The upper leg is held flat against the door frame.
Another necessary stretch will be to start in a full squat position with your hands flat on the ground about 2 feet in front of you. Straighten your knees while keeping your hands flat on the ground. You should feel a VERY powerful stretch in your hamstrings. Keeping your knees straight, walk your hands inward toward your feet until you are able to touch your palms to the ground without bending your knees.

Question - Should my knees stay in, or should I push them outward as I squat down?

Most people will need to think about forcing their knees to stay outward during the up and down motion of the squat. It almost feels unnatural for the novice trainee to keep his knees tracking along the proper "groove" when the motion is very new. Your knees, technically, should track at the same angle that your toes do. Yes, powerlifters, you keep your legs wide and point your toes forward because this tightens your hips on the way down and up from the hole, but we're not talking about that. Figure 56, pg. 56, Starting Strength demonstrates this graphically and gives an excellent explanation.

Question - Should I lower the weight for my next squat workout? Today's workout was so hard I thought I was going to give birth.

Squats are INCREDIBLY difficult to perform. They aren't just physically challenging, they are mentally and emotionally challenging. If you perform 3 sets of 5 reps using a weight that is challenging, nearly EVERY REP will be difficult.

As long as you perform all 15 reps (3 sets, 5 reps apiece) with proper technique (i.e. full depth and proper balance), then you SHOULD strain like mad, and next workout, don't lower the weight. Add 10 lbs.

Wait...I thought this whole "3 sets of 5" was easy?!?!?!?!

Question - I did squats for the first time and my legs are insanely sore, I can't even walk normally now, what should I do?

HAHAHAHAA!!!! Welcome to the world of the "newbie waddle", a.k.a. "Potty Flop". Go home and tell Mom that you're a man now. *cackle*

On a serious note, the "newbie waddle", which is the name given to the adjusted gait of a poor novice who trained his squats hard for the first time, is probably nothing more than DOMS of the thigh and glute area. It is very common, and is not dangerous (although it IS very uncomfortable)

the most dangerous thing about the "newbie waddle" is that you must exercise care while transporting yourself from point A to point B using the method of mobility known as "walking". You must also be careful when sitting down onto a toilet to do your business, else you learn what "Potty Flop" means.

Take special care if you are anywhere near steps. These can truly be hazardous to your health.

You probably didn't injure yourself. If you felt okay, just tired, after your workout, then the next morning, as the day wore on, you began to dread sitting down, and then standing up, then it's Potty Flop syndrome. This is especially insidious because it tends to be far worse "the day after the day after", even moreso than "the day after".

Don't skip your workout, whatever you do. Yes, your legs will hurt like hell, so don't worry about trying to set PRs, but do your 3 sets. On your day off, you might want to do some stationary bike riding or a stepmill/stairclimber to get some blood into the area to help with recovery and to ease the pain.

Question - How come my glutes get sore, but my thighs don't when I squat?

This effect is relatively common, and it can generally be attributed to one of a variety of things.

1) Weak glutes

2) Too much forward lean (inflexible hamstrings and/or a weak lower back are frequently the culprit here)

3) A stance that is too wide

4) Physical structure that simply is not conducive to squatting


Far too many people jump immediately to #4 and decide that they aren't "built for squatting". This is a convenient excuse which makes them feel better about the fact that they are, in reality, just cowardly twats who are afraid to squat. Does this mean that all people who don't squat are cowardly twats?

No, but probably most of them are. (I keed, I keed!)

As a newbie, you are not qualified to make the determination that #4 is appropriate, so stick with #1, #2, and #3 as the reasons. Stretch your hamstrings, close your stance a bit (just outside of shoulder width or slightly closer) and work them squats!

EDITOR'S NOTE - Calm down. Some people honestly can't squat. Some people have injuries that prevent them from squatting, so don't get all worked up about my statements. They were said in jest. If you honestly got mad at what I said, then don't worry. The corner grocery store probably will have a new stock of feminine wipes so you can get the sand out of your vagina.
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Old 01-14-2007, 10:10 PM   #9
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II. The Exercises
** A. The Main Exercises
*****1. The Squat
*****2. The Bench Press, Part 1
*****3. The Deadlift
*****4. The Power Clean
*****5. The Press
*****6. The Row
**B. Accessory Exercises
**C. Other Questions
**D. Exercise Substitution Questions

2. The Bench Press, Part 1

Question - How do I properly perform a bench press?

Quick, down and dirty. If you want more detail, go buy Starting Strength. This is not a bodybuilding bench press, nor a powerlifting bench press. This is a basic bench press. Don't point to westside-barbell.com or Metal Militia's site and tell me that I am explaining the bench wrong. Don't point to one of Bob Chik's video posting/explanations and tell me that I am explaining the bench wrong. This is the standard bench press for a novice.

1) Lie flat on the bench, ensuring that you are evenly balanced from left to right. Falling off of one side of the bench in the middle of a press is embarassing and decidedly non-anabolic.

2) Your feet need to stay on the floor at all times, and not move. If you need to get blocks or use plates on either side of the bench so your legs can reach, then do so. Don't lift your feet in the air or rest them on the bench. Your knees should be bent at approx. 90 degrees, and your feet should be on either side of the bench, with your legs spread at approximately 30 degrees to either side. An extra wide stance will generally be uncomfortable, an extremely close stance will not allow for proper stability and can encourage the lifting of the butt off the bench, which is a no-no. Find a comfortable stance and foot width, and maintain it throughout the motion.

3) Your glutes should stay in contact with the bench at all times, and should be contracted during all repetitions to help maintain a stable base.

4) Tuck your shoulder blades underneath your body and pinch them together and down. This will elevate the ribcage and stabilize the shoulder girdle. Maintain this state of tightness in your upper back/traps during all repetitions. This will also create a natural arch in the lower back, and will create a stable platform out of your upper back muscles for you to press from. This is called "shoulder joint retraction" and will make your rotator cuff very happy when benching.

5) Without protracting your shoulders (allowing them to roll forward/upward and lose tightness), reach up with each hand and grasp it equidistant from the center of the bar. Use the outer "smooth ring" as a reference point. You should use a hand spacing that places your pinkies within an inch or 2 of the smooth ring. Wrap your thumbs around the bar and allow the bar to rest along the heel of the hand, rather than up near the knuckles (which will cause unnecessary stress to the wrists)

6) Unrack the bar and move it so that the bar is directly over your lower chest area. Do not unrack the bar and immediately lower it to your chest from the rack in a diagonal line.

7) From a stopped position with the bar directly above your lower chest area, take a very deep breath, maintain tightness in the upper back and "pull" the bar to your chest in a controlled fashion. Your elbows should not flare or tuck excessively. Ideally, your upper arm bones (the humerus) will form an angle that is approximately 40-60 degrees from your torso. If your elbows flare out wide to the sides (~90 degree angle) then you hit your pecs incredibly hard at the risk of your rotator cuff's health. If your elbows tuck into your body (20-30 degree angle) then you will place too much emphasis on your triceps and delts, and not enough on your pecs.

8) Touch the bar to your shirt, not to your chest - if you visualize this and then try to perform it, this will pretty much guarantee that you don't bounce off your chest.

9) Press steadily and evenly to complete lockout without hyperextending your elbows or protracting (lifting) your shoulders from the bench (i.e. your upper back/traps should stay tight even at the top).

10) Lather, rinse, repeat

11) On the final repetition of the set, do NOT press directly toward the rack. The last rep should look identical to the first. Once you lockout the final repetition directly above your lower chest, then allow the bar to fall back toward the rack.

Bench press videos - good examples
Excellent description and video
Mendy pauses and nails 875
unknown guy cranks 405x12
675x1 raw Bench Press @ 15 seconds

Bench Press videos - very bad examples
The hip-hop bench press
The bounce press - note the guy was wearing a large bulletproof plate in the front of his shirt
Tank Abbott bounces 600 lbs off his chest...that's gonna leave a mark

Bench Press assistance videos
Ronnie Coleman reps 200lb Dumbbells
close grip bench press (CGBP)

Question - Can I do bench presses without having my thumbs wrapped around the bar, i.e. a "false" or "thumbless" grip?

Absolutely. In fact, if you decide to use a thumbless grip, I wholeheartedly recommend you do like this guy did and videotape it.

That way, when the Yearly Darwin Awards candidates come out, you can have video evidence of your stupidity to accompany your nomination.

The thumbless grip is used by people who have issues with their wrists. This can be obviated by simply resting the bar along the heel of your hands and wrapping your thumb properly around the bar, rather than holding the bar up near the knuckles, which will cause the wrist to bend backward uncomfortably.

Question - Can I do DB presses instead of barbell presses?

DB presses are outstanding. Many physique competitors, as well as strongmen, prefer the DB variation to the barbell variation. Interestingly enough, Mark Rippetoe himself feels that the DB may ultimately be a better alternative.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe, pg. 68, Starting Strength
...the dumbbell version of the exercise...is probably a better exercises for most purposes other than powerlifting competition.

There are a few reasons why the barbell version is the preferred "initiation" to the supine press (as the bench press used to be called). The primary one is simply that it is more appropriate to start with the technically easier exercise.

The learning curve for the barbell is much smoother than for DBs. Picture a complete novice trying to do a bench press. The bar wobbles everywhere, it is lowered at a variable rate of speed, it is pressed crooked, the left side flops forward, the right side flops backward, etc. Very few things are as humorous as watching a complete newb try to perform a bench press.

Now...add the aspect of unilateral balance and symmetry to the equation, both of which are required for dumbbell use...both of which are completely lacking in the untrained athlete-to-be. Since the majority of people are either right OR left-hand dominant, they will not have unilateral balance and symmetry. As a result, trying to teach a novice to do the DB press is a train wreck in the making.

You could possibly spend weeks just trying to get the trainee to learn how to balance the DBs. Those precious few weeks are going to be when the trainee is most adept at adding muscle and strength. Better to spend it with weight progression, rather than spending it trying to iron out balance and symmetry issues.

First learn walk, then learn run.

A good analogy exists when one compares barbells and DBs to automatic and manual transmissions.
Learning to drive a stick shift will undeniably make you a better driver. You'll learn more about driving, cornering, slowing and accelerating, etc using a stick than you will while driving an automatic.

However, the pain, aggravation, and lost time from trying to teach a 15-year old how to drive WHILE teaching him how to use a stick is probably going to be similar to the amount of pain and aggravation (and lost time) from trying to teach that same 15-year old to bench with a pair of DBs before they've even managed to perform a barbell press correctly. The trainee will definitely want to incorporate DBs into their routine, and eventually may end up with a routine that is predominantly DBs. Not only will they probably not suffer, they could possibly flourish. That, however, is better left to the more experienced trainee rather than the novice.

So yeah. I said all of that so that I could say this:

Don't use DBs in this program. Their use is wholeheartedly and enthusiastically endorsed by Mark Rippetoe and me (and any experienced strength athlete who has used them). However, their use is not warranted on this program.
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Old 01-14-2007, 10:11 PM   #10
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II. The Exercises
** A. The Main Exercises
*****1. The Squat
*****2. The Bench Press, Part 2
*****3. The Deadlift
*****4. The Power Clean
*****5. The Press
*****6. The Row
**B. Accessory Exercises
**C. Other Questions
**D. Exercise Substitution Questions

2. The Bench Press, Part 2

Question - Should I do inclines instead of flat bench? I don't want to overdevelop my lower pecs or injure my shoulder

The overdevelopment of the lower pectoral and the possibly for shoulder injury are not 2 things that a novice need concern himself with as long as their technique is proper.

Your lower pecs aren't presently overdeveloped when compared to your upper pecs. You don't have either upper or lower pecs, so neither could possibly be overdeveloped relative to the other. Both, however, are definitely UNDERDEVELOPED. With the tools at your disposal, the flat barbell bench press is the preferred introductory exercise for upper body chest pressing strength when compared to the incline press. The incline press is an outstanding exercise, and its use is encouraged as training and conditioning progresses, but the potential pectoral and strength development of the flat barbell bench press is simply higher than the incline press, and as such, use of the flat press should be thoroughly explored before making the decision to refocus your supine pressing efforts elsewhere.

As for the shoulder injury issue, the vast vast vast majority of pectoral tears occur in one of the following scenarios

1) The injured party uses steroids, and has developed his strength faster than his connective tissues can safely support.
2) The injured party uses weights that are far too heavy for him, and he uses them far too often.
3) The injured party uses poor technique, frequently bouncing the weight off his chest
4) The injured party has poorly developed upper back musculature, which makes all supine pressing a relatively precarious event.

Assuming you do what you're supposed to do in this program, it will be years before you would ever need to even worry about a potential pectoral or shoulder injury arising from bench pressing.

Question - Can I do hammer strength or machine or smith rack bench presses?

No.

Machines of any sort are not used in this program. The basic fundamentals of balance are not learned on machines, the overall neural response is lesser, and the muscular stimulation is ultimately less.

More advanced trainees can and probably should incorporate useful machines into their training for various reasons. Machines have no place in the training of a novice, however.

If you've already been defeated by the barbells, then don't bother with this program. If you want to use machines as a novice, then go get a membership at Curves or Bally's and do whatever the trainer there tells you to do.

Question - Should I pause while benching?

Pausing at the chest during a bench press is the primary technique adjustment of the powerlifter. In order to get "3 whites", the powerlifter must lower the bar to the chest and hold it there briefly until the official signals him to press. For a powerlifter, it is a necessity to pause their bench press during a contest.

During training, there are advantages and disadvantages to pausing (or not pausing). For now, those advantages and disadvantages are irrelevant. Lower the bar to your lower pectoral region, and "touch your shirt" without touching your chest. In other words, touch very lightly without bouncing. Don't worry about pausing. That is beyond the scope of this discussion.

Question - What are the most common errors in benching, and why do they occur?

1) Hip hop bench press - see the video of the schmuck above. This occurs because you shorten the ROM by several inches when you pop your hips off the bench, and also allows for hip drive to actually assist. You won't see too many people doing a "hip hop" without doing a bounce off their chest.

This results in the joyously humorous movement known as the "Hip Hop Bounce press". Don't correct people that do this. You simply can't fix "retarded".

2) Bouncing - This occurs because people want to be able to use stretch reflex as well as the flexibility and rebound properties of the sternum and ribcage to help get the bar up. The alternative, "using their pectorals, delts and lats", just obviously isn't their preferred method.

3) Lifting one leg while benching - this usually occurs in the novice who has asymmetrical strength/coordination/flexibility. The stronger side arm presses the bar too fast, and the bar tips toward the weaker side. In an attempt to "rebalance" themselves, they lift the opposite leg, which, of course, doesn't work.

4) Lowering the bar/pressing the bar unevenly - happens for the same reasons as the "lift one leg". One side will be stronger or more flexible, so the bar will typically be lowered farther on this side than the weak/tight side. While pressing, one side will shoot up and the other side (the weak side) gets stuck. This is a shoulder joint wreck waiting to happen. If you have issues with this, and you have been working on your barbell bench press technique for a few months, then IMMEDIATELY get rid of the bar and do 2 exercises: DB presses and dips. If you're crooked on these, you will be forced to correct the asymmetry.

5) Not tucking your shoulder blades properly - this leads to a whole host of problems:

** If one shoulder blade is tucked and the other isn't, then one shoulder joint is stable and the other is loose. Again, this is a shoulder-joint train wreck waiting to happen.

** If your shoulder blades aren't tucked, then your base will NOT be stable, and you will be pressing from a big pile of mush. Imagine standing on a row boat in a calm pond. If you are balanced properly on the rowboat (stable), you can jump straight up into the air without too much issue. Now imagine standing on the rowboat, but you are offbalance. One side is lower than the other side. Try and jump...you can't generate any type of pressure or force when you press off of an unstable base. Your shoulder blades are the same way. If they are loose, then they can wobble around, and you cannot press properly or with any power, not to mention the rotator cuff injuries you open yourself up to with this kind of unstable position.

Question - I have a sticking point in my bench press, how do I fix it?

In a normal person who is doing a standard grip bench press, the lifter will get usually stuck a few inches off of their chest. At the very lowest point in the lift, the lats and anterior delts are going to be strong relative to the pecs and triceps, which will be weaker at this point in the motion. As you press the bar from your chest, the pectorals begin to take over the motion, and eventually "hand it off" to the triceps.

People make the mistake of assuming that they can automatically determine the weak point just by knowing where in the motion the sticking point occurs. Professional powerlifters who use bench press shirts know that a poor lockout is caused by triceps that aren't strong enough (relative to the spring in the shirt and the strength in their pecs). However, in a non-assisted athlete, this determination can NOT be made without examing the technique across a full range of motion, as well as examining strength in the various muscle-specific strength benchmarks.

In other words, if someone tells you what your weak muscles are just by reading where in the bench press motion you get stuck, then they are full of shite. There is a lot more than meets the eye. Something can look like a pork chop, but smell and taste like chicken.

Regardless, your sticking point exists not because one muscle is weaker than another, but simply because you are untrained. Spend at least 4-6 months of steady, consistent pressing, both supine (Bench press) and overhead, and then we can worry about where your sticking point is.
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