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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Starting Strength - An Alternate Approach

First of all I would like to state that the topic "Starting Strength" has nothing to do with the well-known, excellent book by Mark Rippetoe on teaching the powerlifts plus the overhead press (but I would recommend everyone read this book, which can be found here; and no, I am not making any money off promoting M. Rippetoe's work - I recommend the book because it's great).

What I have been playing around with recently is developing the most important part of any lifting movement - the commencement of the lift. This would be the racked position in the overhead press, the bar placed on the chest in the bench press, "the hole" in the squat, bar on the floor in the deadlift, etc. In all the mentioned examples except the deadlift, the lifter performs an eccentric motion before the concentric part and makes use of the stretch reflex to assist him/her in the concentric portion. The overhead press performed from the rack does not benefit from this effect, but if the weight is pressed after a clean some of this stretch-shortening does occur. In the bench press and the squat this effect is especially prominent. As a consequence, the starting position (e.g. push off chest in the bench press) is often undertrained.

I believe that were a lifter to improve his or her starting strength (i.e. the power developed in the start of the motion), the "regular" full-range lift will increase too. More power off the bottom in the squat equals better bar acceleration, hence the easier overcoming of the dreaded "sticking point". This is by no means my idea, as it has been espoused for years in the writings of authorities like Brooks Kubik. I have selected the following exercises to help me develop better "starting strength":

Bench press - press from the bottom position to lockout
Overhead press - press from racked position to eye level
Squat - deep squats several inches below parallel alternated with bottom-position squats (both work very well, especially with a pronounced pause at the bottom)

Today's training:


Warmup 1 set
130 lbs x 5
150 lbs x 5
170 lbs x 12 reps

Press from "rack" to eye level:

135 lbs x 5
165 lbs x 5
185 lbs x 4
205 lbs x 3

Pullups 6 sets x 5

Dips 5 sets x 10

Incline bench DB curls 5 sets

Tricep pushdowns 3 sets

Preacher curl machine 4 sets

Incline abdominal board situps 1 set


gymratbeth said...

hey man, thanks for checking out my blog. your workout here is gymratbeth approved (as well as chuck norris approved)- you listed some of my all time favs. nice post.

Fatman said...

Thanks! If you're interested in resistance cable training, I wrote a brief manual on cable use that you can find and download here:

It is absolutely free and safe (no viruses). If they ask you to sign up to download or something, let me know and I can send it to your e-mail address. I'd appreciate a review!