I Lift. Therefore, I Am.


Resuming lower body training today.

359x5, 386x5, 405x5x2 -
vid is the final set of 5
 Small ramp-up and then two sets of five @ 405. All were pretty easy, moved well. This seems to be the easiest I’ve ever transitioned back into training after a meet. Perhaps it’s simply that I’m so much stronger than I was before that weights that I expect to be heavy - not based on what I can actually do, but based on my mental perception of those weights throughout my training history - are just not stressors anymore. Which is a pleasant surprise. This has happened on all of the lifts I’ve done so far. We’ll see about the DL at the end of the week.

Power Clean
45x6, 89x3, 111x2, 133x2, 155 x1+1x2, 177 x1+1x3, 199 x1+1x2
Notes: Stayed light and easy, focusing on waiting for the jumping position and staying out over the bar, two things I tend to be early on.

Versa Climber
75ft climb / 75s rest x 4
Notes: Conditioning sucks. A lot.

(Source: startingstrength.com)

Re: Pressing - Part Deux



jevanses said: I can send you old vidjas because I have been instructed to halt pressing by the PT until my tendinitis chills. My grip was quite wide, hands just outside my shoulders. I would strongly doubt that my form was healthful.

Ya, definitely send me the old vidjas so I can see….

So, you’re kind of a big deal and this is amazing.  Thank you.

This is all I got, from two years ago right before my bicep head tendinitis started.  My start looks like pic C.  I can already see problems from reading your post, but I certainly never “activated” my shoulder at lockout.  I also know from x-rays that my acromion type is 1, so that’s nice.

What’s so cool about that video is that you can literally see some of the mechanics at work.  Though you start with the higher elbow rack position, because The Universe has decided that gravity and moment arms work the way they do, you are forced to drop your elbows in order to initiate the press.  I’m not sure if you did this consciously or not; could be that if I asked you where you initiated the press from, you’d have showed me the higher elbow rack position.  But a look through the video (slo-mo if you don’t see what I mean) shows your elbows dropping into that vertical alignment in order for you to actually press the bar overhead.  Man, this stuff is so cool!

 Your wrists were also bent, and basically stayed bent throughout the movement.  Most people would get some wrist discomfort from that, but not all; if your wrists are flexible, it might not have been painful.  But it’s inefficient, for the same reason as the high elbows is.

What you can also see is that you’re pressing the bar around your face, rather than in a straight line up.  One of the reasons we now use a bit of a hip-start in the press  (Press 2.0) is to manage this problem, but you can press strict as well, if you squeeze abs hard and do the slightest lean back at the start of the press, then pressing straight up, keeping the bar close to your face as is humanly possible, then when the bar passes your head, getting your torso back under the bar.

I can’t really see from this angle if you’re shrugging, but I’ll take your word for it that you’re not.

So let’s do this, jevanses: try with the empty bar.  Find your grip width, and your correct rack position, noting that depending upon your forearm length, the bay may or may not rest on your shoulders and upper chest.  If you have longer forearms, it may “float” above your shoulders and be borne totally by your arms and that’s OK.

Press the bar overhead (whether 2.0 style with hips, or just strict), and shrug hard into the lockout.  See how it feels.  If it’s ok, do a set of 5.  Do this with a 15kg women’s bar, if you want to try with a lighter weight first.  If it feels OK, do a few sets of 5 with the empty bar and call it a press workout for the day.  See how you feel the next day.  If you’re not having any tendony problems, next time do a set or two with the empty bar, and then another set or two with 3-5lbs more on the bar.  And so on.

Our explanation for Pressing this way is primarily geared towards avoiding rotator cuff impingement and the resulting problems.  Bicep head tendonitis isn’t exactly the same thing, even though part of the tendon of the long head of the biceps runs almost right below the supraspinatus, if I remember my anatomy correctly.  Definitely one of the cuff tendons.  So be cautious and smart, and don’t keep doing it if it aggravates your problem.

If that’s the case, we can definitely talk alternatives.  But since this is SUCH a great exercise with so many benefits that the alternatives and replacements just can’t match,  it’s worth exploring to see if you can do it with these form tweaks.

Lemme know how it goes!

(Source: startingstrength.com)

Re: Pressing - Part Deux

jevanses said: I can send you old vidjas because I have been instructed to halt pressing by the PT until my tendinitis chills. My grip was quite wide, hands just outside my shoulders. I would strongly doubt that my form was healthful.

Ya, definitely send me the old vidjas so I can see.  But the wide grip and lack of active shoulder/shrugging hard at the top of the press is definitely a culprit in the damning of the press by many PTs and some well known strength coaches.   Changing these two things, along with proper positioning of the barbell in your hand, generally turns the press into the best overall exercise for shoulder health and strength.

So I’m gonna use this as a launch platform to discuss the Press.  Based on what you’ve told me, they’ll likely be helpful for you and allow you to resume pressing basically immediately, assuming correct implementation (though I can’t say with absolute certainty without being there to go through with you in person, and without seeing the video of how you were previously pressing).

Anyway, that said, here’s some fixes.  The pictures are from SS:BBT3 and the text is a mixture of adaptation from there, and my own stuff:

Thing 1 - Grip Width

The grip for the press is determined by basic mechanics. The width is such that it places the forearms in a vertical position as seen from the back or front:


The grip will likely be narrower than you want it to be.  I’m a pretty big guy and I put my index finger *just* outside the border between the knurl and the smooth (on the Rogue B&R Bar, which I think has a slightly wider smooth than standard).  Take the bar out for yourself and adjust your grip till your forearms are vertical.

Too wide a grip creates moment arms between the grip position on the bar and the elbows, between the elbows and the shoulders, and between the grip and the shoulders.  These moment arms are extra leverage you will have to overcome that doesn’t need to be there.  The weight is heavy enough; no need to move it inefficiently.


In the pic you can see the moment arms that are created by an incorrect grip. In Pic A, between hand and shoulder, and between elbow and shoulder.  In pic B, between elbow and shoulder. In Pic C, between wrist and bar.

The right side image in pic B is one you’ll see some weightlifters do, especially if they’re used to jerking with a high elbow rack.  Setting aside that discussion for a moment, it’s not optimal for pressing.

Thing 2 - Grip Position in Hand

A correct grip puts the bones of the forearm directly under the bar, to eliminate any leverage produced against the wrist from having the bar too far back in the hand. The best way to position the grip efficiently is to set the grip width at your index fingers, and then rotate your hands down into pronation by pointing your thumbs down toward your feet. Then lay your fingers down on the bar and squeeze the fingertips into the bar. Don’t try to wrap your fingers around the bar; doing so will tend to put the bar further back in your hand towards your fingers, and will lead to the bent wrist seen in figure B below.  Just lay your fingers on the other side of the bar and squeeze.

When you take it out of the rack, the bar will be on the heel of your palm and directly over your forearm bones:


A is good - no unwanted moment arm between wrist and bar.  B is for bad!  Strain on the wrist and inefficiency in the moment arm between wrist and bar.

(Bonus: See this article for more on press grip position and relevancy - Gripping Matters)

Thing 3: Active Shoulder

During the press, once the bar is over your head correctly, lock your elbows and shrug up your shoulders to support the bar. The arm bones are lined up in a column by the triceps and deltoids, the shoulders
are shrugged up with the trapezius; and the arms and the traps must work together to support heavy weights overhead. Imagine someone behind you gently pushing your elbows together and pulling them up at the same time.  As if you can’t possibly press the bar high enough.  Try to push it all the way up into the ceiling with your shrug.

The combination of locking the elbows out and shrugging the traps up at lockout, with the bar directly over the ears (and over mid-foot, if you continue the line straight down all the way), produces a very firm, stable position at the top that involves all the muscles of the shoulder girdle and prevents impingement.

And here’s where we get annoyed at the well meaning PTs and Strength Coaches who say not to press.  The thought is that the tendency of the rotator cuff muscles to become impinged - trapped between the humeral head and the coracoid and acromion processes - makes the press a bad choice.  

Let’s delve into this more to see why a press performed and described above, with the Active Shoulder, avoids this issue entirely.

The coracoid and acromion overhang the head of the humerus where it articulates with the glenoid.  The supraspinatus and infraspinatus overlay the head of the humerus and underlay the subacromial bursa.  So the thought is that pressing will mash the bones together, thus trapping the tendons in between, impinging them.

But this ignores the fact that the scapula attaches to the shoulder girdle only at the AC joint.  It’s otherwise free to float through its range of motion in a sheath of muscle and fascia, so its position relative to the other structures of the back and arm can change.  For example, it can be fully abducted (like in a bench press), fully adducted (like in a barbell row), or shrugged and rotated (like at the top of a press, as described above).

Shrugging not only actively reinforces the traps’ support of the shoulders and bar, but also pulls the scapulae together at the top, rotating them medially and pulling them upward.  This motion makes the glenoid cavity point upward to support the humerus directly from below, and pulls the acromion and coracoid processes away from the humerus.  So the shrugged scapulae are basically in a position in which anatomical impingement of the cuff tendons is impossible.

However, this assumes a correctly performed press.  If you don’t shrug into the lockout, impingement is quite possible.

Does this mean we shouldn’t press?  That pressing is dangerous?  As Rip says, driving your ca is dangerous if you drive into a big rock.  You don’t get to redefine the exercise and then claim it’s dangerous.  Just like incorrectly performed squats can be bad for the knees or back, incorrect presses can be bad for the shoulder. 

The solution, of course, is to press correctly, just as the solution is to squat correctly.

Hopefully this has explained how and why to do so.  This info can be found with much more detail and many more pics in the 3rd edition of Starting Strength.

Re: Pressing

jevanses said: srs question… strict pressing w a barbell makes my shoulder flare. bad. what would you recommend for shoulder strength if strict pressing is out?

I’d like to see some good footage of your press first, jevanses, to eliminate the possibility that it’s something you’re doing (or not doing) in the press, rather than inherent in the exercise itself, that’s causing the issue.

My guess is - though I could be completely wrong - that you’re taking a wider grip than I’d put you in, and perhaps not fully utilizing the “active shoulder” at the lockout.  Both of those could cause shoulder issues but could easily be adjusted to make pressing possible for you.  But maybe you are already doing those things?  I don’t know, so I’d like to see.

Getting Back in the Press of Things

Getting back into the swing of the 4-day training schedule this week. I’m gonna take a few weeks to ramp things back up, so this week and next, at least, will be used for that purpose. Give myself a slightly more prolonged recovery period from the last ~6 straight months of pushing myself with 3 de-load weeks mixed in, while re-acclimating to volume and intensity.

No certain plans yet, but thinking about the USAPL American Open in December as my next meet.

Bench Press (Intensity)
: Went up pretty fast, easier than I expected. Chose a weight that was still heavy, but not a stressor in and of itself just yet. It’s somewhere around 20-25 lbs off what I’d estimate as my 5RM prior to the meet. I’ll plan on 345, 350, 355 over the coming weeks. 355 will be a PR for 5.

Press (Volume)
179x5, 184x5, 190x5, 195x5, 190x5
 Relatively easy. Rested a quick 2 minutes, maybe 3 tops, between all the sets. It was weird being so easy. Looking forward to the push for a 275 press this year.

Bodyweight Chins
8, 10
Notes: Hadn’t done chins in 2.5 weeks, so just eased back in with a couple sets leaving plenty in the tank.

Cable External Shoulder Rotations

Some pics from yesterday’s Squat Camp.

HUGE congrats to @strongfirsthc ‘s young Pena on his record breaking 727 lb #squat today at #usaplrawnationals   And he is only 15 years old!  Big things to come.  His form looks familiar, doesn’t it? #startingstrength #rippetoe #rippetoeknows #welookdown #hipdrive #kneesout #powerlifting #usapl #strength  (at USAPL Raw Nationals)

HUGE congrats to @strongfirsthc ‘s young Pena on his record breaking 727 lb #squat today at #usaplrawnationals And he is only 15 years old! Big things to come. His form looks familiar, doesn’t it? #startingstrength #rippetoe #rippetoeknows #welookdown #hipdrive #kneesout #powerlifting #usapl #strength (at USAPL Raw Nationals)


A 15 year old SHW squatted 727. Dem cornfed boys.

Am I right in guessing this was Pena?  His dad came to the SS Seminar about two years back, pretty strong guy himself.  Soon after, I hear about his 13 year old kid squatting 500+ and I’m like whaaaaaaat?   Now he’s 15, squatting 700+, and basically ready for world domination.

So proud of #startingstrengthcoach @rorimegan ! 9/9 today at #usaplrawnationals with a 140kg #squat 90kg #benchpress and 182.5kg #deadlift (308/198/402 for us Americans) for a 412.5 kg / 908 lb total in the 72 kg weight class.  Big meet PR on the national stage! The 402 third attempt deadlift shown here. #startingstrength #girlswholift #girlswithmuscle #usapl #powerlifting #pseudosumo (at Red Lion Hotel)

Finkel is Einhorn? Einhorn is Finkle?!?

OK, so this is dumb but I have Titanic on in the background while preparing my lecture for Sunday’s Squat Camp that I’m holding here in NYC.  (I had Thor 2 on but it finished and I would be too distracted and not get anything done if I had any of the LiveStreams from any of the three big lifting events going on this weekend.  Anyway.)

How many people don’t even realize that the Captain of Titanic = Theoden King?  Seriously.  Most of you didn’t know, admit it.  You ignorant cretins!