I’ve had Mark Rippetoe’s book Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, 3rd Ed on hold at the local public library for months. Somehow, it was always checked out or otherwise unavailable. My wife says that people who hold a book at their local branch get preferential treatment. Technically, because I live in nearby Meridian, the Meridian branch of the library is my home branch and this book resides at the Boise Main branch.
Oh well, after waiting a very long time and almost giving up hope, I received an email notice late yesterday that it was ready to pick up and today, over my lunch hour, I laid my hands on the book and checked it out.
I went through Chapter 2: “Squats” looking for something specific (pg 43).
The key to learning the correct position for the lower back is to assume a position that is correct, and then memorize the way it feels so that you can reproduce it every time. The best way to do this is to lie down on your belly on the floor, put your hands behind your head, lift your elbows, and raise your chest up off the floor.
The instructions go on from there. I was momentarily tempted to try this at the library, but thought I’d probably draw some stares. Actually, in a number of ways, Rippetoe either mentions things about squats that the Starrett book omitted, or flat out contradicts Starrett.
For instance, Starrett has the person doing squats point his/her feet straight forward while Rippetoe insists on a 45 degree angle outward. Starrett recommends but doesn’t insist upon moving the knees outward, while Rippetoe says it’s a must to get them out of the way and promote the correct back angle.
Also, Rip hates the idea of having a mirror directly in front of the person squatting and says that looking down (not straight down, but at a shallow angle) also assists in correct positioning of the back.
With my lower right lumbar arguing with my squats and deadlifts, I’ll take all the advice I can get.
The single most useful thing in this book so far is what I mentioned above about finding the correct position of the lower back. Rip says that it’s impossible to see and nearly impossible to feel the correct position, which is why you have to practice and then memorize that feeling first. He says mirrors are useless because you can only see your front, which is the least useful angle to view and, the reflection of what’s going on behind you can be incredibly distracting (and boy, don’t I know it).
Another interesting thing is that the angle of the back changes depending on the type of squat you do, which means it should be different for back squats and for zercher squats (in his example, he compares back and front squats). The barbell should always be over the center of the feet during the entire progression of the squat.
This is something that I can’t tell while I’m squatting, but I suspect that I suffer from form problems and I’m hoping Rip’s suggestions help correct my deficits.
Since I lifted on Monday and since that resulted in my re-injuring my lower lumbar region, I wisely decided on cardio and light ab work today. I could tell I’d been neglecting my cardio because my heart rate went up a little higher than expected and didn’t get quite back down as low during the five-minute cooldown at the end.
I did 3 sets of Captain’s Chair leg lifts followed by 3 sets on a Weighted Ab Crunch machine to spare my lower back of too much strain. I’d forgotten to eat before going to the gym, and doing cardio first emptied my blood sugar reserves. As a consequence, I started to feel a little puny, and only did a 15-second shoulders engaged body hang followed by a 15-second dead hang. That was all I had in me this morning.
Because of a number of commitments, I’m taking tomorrow off of work, which means I’ll probably sleep in a bit (hopefully) and either do abs and cardio again or just skip the gym altogether. I’m still planning on lifting again on Thursday, back be willing and I might even risk a few deadlifts (hopefully forcing myself to keep them light). I’ll probably substitute dumbbell bent over rows while bracing myself on a bench for my usual barbell bent over rows, again to spare my back.
Before Thursday, I’ll read Rip’s chapter on deadlifts to see what he suggests relative to lower back strain. The next chapter is on the overhead press and I can’t wait to see if there’s anything in those pages that’ll help me lift more weight (besides time, practice, and patience).
But before I do any of that, I have a dentist appointment after work today to remove a worn out crown and put a temp on until a permanent one can be made, and to replace an old, leaking silver filling (who knew I had one left) with ceramic. 70 minutes of fun-filled anxiety punctuated by piercing, shrieking pain (I’m exaggerating, but not by much).
Change has to come for life to struggle forward.