Book Notes – Starting Strength – Mark Rippetoe

Book Notes – Starting Strength – Mark Rippetoe


  • “exercise is substitute cave-man activity, the thing we need to make our bodies, and in fact our minds, normal in the 21st century. And merely normal, for most worthwhile humans, is not good enough.”
  • “Our strength, more than any other thing we
    possess, still determines the quality and the quantity of our time here in these bodies.”
  • “Properly performed, full-range-of-motion barbell exercises are essentially the functional expression of human skeletal and muscular anatomy under a load.”
  • “A straight vertical line is also the most efficient bar path for a barbell moving through space in a gravitational framework.”
  • For the squat and the deadlift that means: “Weight is moved most efficiently directly over midfoot”.
  • “There is simply no other exercise, and certainly no machine, that produces the level of central nervous system activity, improved balance and coordination, skeletal loading and bone density enhancement, muscular stimulation and growth, connective tissue stress and strength, psychological demand and toughness, and overall systemic conditioning than the correctly performed full squat.”
  • Lower position of the squat:
    • The spine will be held rigid in lumbar and thoracic extension.
    • The bar will be directly over the middle of the foot.
    • The feet will be flat on the ground at the correct angle for the stance width.
    • The thighs will be parallel to the feet.
    • The hip joint will be in a position lower than the top of the patella
  • Use your hips! “The complete concept of the correct use of the hips in the squat is best understood as the use of both an actively locked lumbar extension and actively shoved-out knees, resulting in a below-parallel squat that incorporates a stretch reflex, using all the muscles of the posterior chain in the most optimal way possible. This movement pattern gets the thighs out of the way of the pelvis so that good depth can be more easily obtained. At the same time, it makes the squat stronger because the active use of the external rotators holds the femurs in a position that enables both the external rotators and the adductors to contribute to hip extension. This hip extension produces a more effective use of more muscles over a wider range of motion.”
  • “For example, if you are tall with very long femurs and relatively narrow shoulders, you need a wider stance than is usually recommended.”
  • “A mirror is a bad tool because it provides information about only one plane of the three: the frontal, the one that gives you the least information about your position and your balance. The most important reason to squat without a mirror in front of you is that you should be developing your kinesthetic sense while you squat.”
  • “As a general rule, the more of the body involved in an exercise, the better the exercise. The press produces strength in the trunk muscles – the abs, obliques, costals, and back – as well as in the shoulders and arms. It trains the whole body to balance while standing and pressing with a heavy weight in the hands and overhead. It uses more muscles and more central nervous system activity than any other upper-body exercise.”
  • In the (shoulder) press: “Lean back slightly by pushing your hips forward. This slight movement must not be produced by bending the knees or the lumbar spine. Rather, the movement is a function of only the hips. Without the bar and with your hands on your hips, push your pelvis forward and back a few times, keeping your knees and your low back locked in position.”
  • “You will have to take a new breath before each rep, at least for a while, or you risk a “blackout” at heavier weights.” – Unfortunately I have experienced this once in the form of an exertion headache.
  • “For the vast majority of lifters, the deadlift should be an essential part of training. It is the primary back strength exercise, and it is an important assistance exercise for the squat and especially for the clean (for which it is an important introductory lesson in position and pulling mechanics). The deadlift also serves as a way to train the mind to do things that are hard.”
  • “The deadlift starts at the mechanically hardest part of the movement and requires the lifter to generate the entire explosion necessary to break the bar off of the floor and get it moving up, without any help from a negative or anything else.”
  • Deadlift grip: grip the bar in the hook of the fingers, not in the meat of the palm. Otherwise the bar will slide down.
  • “In the squat and deadlift: The back muscles and the hamstrings are in a war for control over your pelvic position, and the lower back must win.”
  • The five steps for a perfect deadlift.
    1) Take the correct stance.
    2) Take your grip on the bar.
    3) Drop your shins forward to touch the bar, pushing your knees out slightly and without dropping your hips.
    4) Squeeze your chest up, with your weight on the mid-foot.
    5) Drag the bar up the legs.
  • “Because our muscles can contract only a small percentage of their length, our skeletal system is composed of levers that multiply the distance of their contraction at the expense of an increased force production requirement.”
  • “The arms are not plumb in a deadlift because the lats do not attach to the arms at 90 degrees when the arms are plumb. The arms must slant back to achieve a position of stability as they hang from the shoulders.”
  • “If the back rounds during the pull, some of the force that would have gone to the bar gets eaten up by the lengthening erectors. If the weight is sufficiently heavy, the rounded back cannot be re-straightened and the deadlift cannot be locked out.”
  • “People with long femurs, long tibias, and relatively short torsos will have a more horizontal back angle and a more closed hip angle. Long arms produce a more vertical back angle. Long arms tend to mitigate the effects of a short torso.”
  • “The use of the full range of motion is therefore important for two very good reasons. First, it allows you to quantify the amount of work you do: if you hold the range of motion of an exercise constant, you are holding constant the distance variable in your work equation.”
  • “Second, full-range-of-motion exercises ensure that strength is developed in every position in which the joints can operate. Strength development is extremely specific: muscles get strong in the positions they are made to be strong in, and in precisely the way they are trained.”
  • Bench press: “Correct use of the legs and hips involves only the maintenance of chest and back position, with the force directed horizontally along the bench and not vertically up off of the bench.”
  • Bench press: “The proper position for the feet is flat against the floor so that the heels can be used as the base of the drive up the legs. As with most of the things in the weight room, your heels need to be nailed down to the floor.”
  • “The best assistance exercises are those that directly contribute to the performance of the basic movements that produce the most benefit.”
  • “Assistance exercises fall into three categories. These exercises 1) strengthen a part of a movement, as with a partial deadlift (either a rack pull or a halting deadlift); 2) are variations on the basic exercise, as with a stiff-legged deadlift; or 3) are ancillary exercises, which strengthen a portion of the muscle mass involved in the movement in a way that the basic exercise does not, as with the chin-up.”
  • “Your bench press strength doesn’t adapt to the total number of times you’ve been to the gym to bench or to your sincerest hope that it will get stronger. It adapts to the stress imposed on it by the work done with the barbell. Furthermore, it adapts to exactly the kind of stress imposed on it. If you do sets of 20, you get good at doing 20s. If you do heavy singles, you get better at doing those. But singles and 20s are very different; the muscles and nervous system function differently when doing these two things, and they require two different sets of physiological capacities, and thus cause the body to adapt differently.”
  • “Exercise follows exactly the same principle as getting a tan – a stress is imposed on the body and it adapts to the stress, but only if the stress is designed properly. You wouldn’t lay out for 2 minutes and assume that it would make you brown, because 2 minutes isn’t enough stress to cause an adaptation.”
  • “As a general rule, you need to try to add weight to the work sets of the exercise every time you train, until you can’t do this anymore. This is the basic tenet of “progressive resistance training,” and setting up the program this way is what makes it different from exercise. For as long as possible, make sure that you lift a little more weight each time.”
  • Exercise is specific: training a lift for one set will make you better at lifting one set. Sets of 20 will make you better able to do sets of 20.

These were my personal notes, which I wrote down based on my own strength training needs. The book contains far more information on the power clean and assistance exercises. If you liked these notes, you can support my blog by purchasing the full book on:
Amazon: Starting Strength on Amazon
Check out this book on Goodreads. I rated it 5 out of 5.

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