Thursday, December 16, 2021

Proportionate Strength (2) - Bill Starr (1985)

 


Bill Starr wrote so many articles that, well, here's a double of the same title. Not the same articles, but the same title. His other "Proportionate Strength" article can be found online with a quick search.
 
Okay, here we go . . . some fine storytelling with knowledgeable training wisdom imparted throughout.
 
 
Dominican College is situated in San Rafael, a most beautiful little town just a few miles north of San Francisco on 101. The campus is a splendid place in which to run. The air is clean and clear and there is a variety of hills and flat areas. At one point during the winter, there were literally thousands of robins nesting in the trees on the campus. Whenever I ran under these trees, the birds would launch from the overhanging branches with a near-deafening roar.
 
I had just completed my Thursday four-mile course, in and around the campus and town. I walked up the hill through the gate and pulled off my dripping wet T-shirt, and put on my warmup jacket to break the chill in the evening air.
 
George stuck his head out the door and called to me, "Jerry's on the phone." 
 
Jerry and I have been friends since my University of Hawaii days. Jerry came over from the University of New Mexico and became our offensive coordinator. We began training together and have kept in touch ever since. Jerry has moved me from place to place more than anyone. I always enjoy visiting with Jerry, Brenda and their three kids. A week with the family and I've satisfied my need to be around rug rats and I'm off again.
 
"Hi, Jer, what's up?" 
 
"Just checking in to see if you're okay. And to invite you for a visit. It has been quite a while since you stayed with us." 
 
"Now might be a good time. I plan to jump over to the islands soon and I want to spend some time with you and Brenda. Come get me. It's a tad hot here anyway. I can be packed and ready by eight." 
 
"Great, I'll be there." 
 
One nice aspect of traveling around the country is that I get to train in a wide variety of facilities. This affords me the opportunity to come face-to-face with some specific training problems. During December I worked out at the ultra-nice Future Fitness Club in Yuba City. Then I moved to Marin County and worked with Doctor Gourgott at his super well-equipped World Gym Marin. Now I was headed across the Bay to train in Jerry's garage, a place he has trained religiously for six days a week for the past ten years.
 
It is a complete home gym situation with: squat rack, Olympic set, incline bench, a competition bench, dumbbells to 80, chinning bar, curl bar and situp board. Anyone can get in superb shape with what he has available.
 
Jerry was at our door at 8 o'clock as advertised. We visited with George and Prince for a bit, loaded my "stuff" in the trunk of his Cadillac and shot across the Bay Bridge to San Lorenzo.
 
"It's cooler on this side, isn't it?" 
 
"It's always a bit cooler. We catch the breeze off the Bay."
 
"How's your training?" 
 
"A bit flat. If you have some time this visit, I'd like you to redo my program. I'm still on the one you worked up for me almost four years ago." 
 
"Any new injuries or new priorities?"
 
"Not really any new priorities. I like the program but I seem to be doing something wrong. My left shoulder has been bothering me for about three months." 
 
"Are you still doing power cleans?"
 
"Yeah. And that was my first guess too. The day after I do them is when it really aches. You think they are the culprit?"
 
"I would say so. I've had to either keep mine very light or not do them at all as my back got so bad. They were jamming me. So how about substituting power snatches for the power cleans. At least for a while." 
 
"That sounds okay. I'll get you to show me how to do them again. I haven't done them since the University of Hawaii." 
 
"Anything else hurting?" 
 
"Well, I don't know if this is in your department or not, but I've been getting a dull pain down the side of my left leg and sometimes the point of my hip is sore to the touch." 
 
"I have a suspicion, but let me watch you do your squats tomorrow before I say for certain." 
 
Jerry usually does his training in the early morning. He gets up at 6 a.m., runs two miles and then puts in an hour or so in the weight room. But, on this day, he waited till he came home from work and trained with my at 5 p.m.
 
As I watched him do his first set of squats I was fairly certain that my suspicion was correct. His feet were quite close together and he wasn't breaking parallel.

"Jerry, on your next set I want you to widen your stance so that you are working your hip more. And I want you to start going below parallel. Lower the weight if you like." 

Which is what he did. 

"Wow, that feels totally different. I can really feel it on the side of my hip, right where it usually gets sore. Do you think that's why my leg and hip ache; because I haven't been going deep enough?"

"I do. What we have here is a classic example of disproportional strength. Because of the way you have been squatting, your quads and leg biceps have gotten proportionally stronger than your hips and lower back. In order to alleviate the problem you will have to bring the strength level of your hips and lower back up so as to balance with the strength in your legs." 

"How strange. You really think this pain is originating out of my lower back?" 

"I'm almost positive. I've seen dozens of these cases, mostly on competitive powerlifters who let their leg strength get way ahead of their lower back strength. This formula usually does the trick if the problem is not too far advanced. Then it's off to the chiro and rest. So as not to do too much too soon on the weaker area, I want you to start doing the wider squats on your light day and as a back-off set on your medium or heavy day. You might take a lighter weight than you usually work with until you feel confident with the movement. Do another wide set so I can watch." 

He set his feet a bit wider than he had on the previous set and went up and down like a smooth piston.

"That looked good. I think you'll find that you're stronger in that wide position." 

"I like those. And I sure can feel it in my hips. I guess they were weak. I just never noticed."

"So you'll do the wide stance squats on your light day and add in a back-off set of eight on your heavy, or medium day."

"That's all? That will take care of my problem?"

"Not completely. Part of your difficulty lies in your lower back. You're going to have to build up that area at the same pace." 

"How?" 

"Tell me what you are using for your halting deadlifts and good mornings." 

"I'm using 155x8 for the good mornings and 315x10 on the haltings." 

"And you said that you were squatting 350x5?"

"That's right. But not far right and supreme. Conservative with nationalist leanings"

"You have allowed your leg strength to get way ahead. Along with the added work your daily runs provide, you are way out of proportion. You are going to have to move your good morning to 200x10 and your halting to 400x10." 

Jerry looked over at me with a deep frown. "Are you serious?" He was definitely praying that I was joking. 

"I'm serious about those numbers if you want to continue using 350x5 in your squats. You can drop your squats back to 315 or maybe 325, leave your good morning and haltings where they are now and achieve much the same results, but that's regressive thinking. I like the more offensive approach. 

"I believe it's more agreeable to strength athletes to pull the weaker body parts up to balance with your stronger ones, rather than vice versa."

"i see your point, but 200 for 10 on the good morning?" 

It seemed as if all the blood had drained out of Jerry's face as he contemplated this lift.

"You'll work up to that goal slowly and progressively, not all at once. And once you get to that level, it is not difficult to maintain. The haltings will be less severe, but they have to be moved at the same pace as the good mornings. Your haltings should be double what you do in the good morning to keep a balance in your back." 

"Then should I move my other pulling exercises up as well?" 

"A very good point. How much are you shrugging?" 

"I only have 500 pounds in my gym. I usually do 450x5. About once a month I'll load up everything." 

"Okay, let's increase your load in this manner. Start doing 25 pounds more each week until you reach the 500, for 5 reps. Then begin doing two sets with gthe 500, then three sets. Vary your grip slightly on each of the top-end sets, working from the basic clean grip on out to the snatch grip, if you can. This will enable you to cover yhour entire back and keep everything in proportion." 

Jerry was busy jotting down numbers on a yellow legal pad. 

"Well, I knew full well when I brought it up that the solution ws going to require some labor on my part. Any other suggestions?" 

"I'd start hanging from your chinning bar after each workout. If you can get your hands on some inversion boots, start hanging upside down for 5-10 minutes after each session." 

" I can borrow Les'. He's not using them." 

"I hope this helps. There's never any money back guarantees as there are always variables that we can never completely control. But lifelong fitness requires a certain amount of adapting on our part. We must learn how to adapt to growing older, to injuries and layoffs. And strangely enough we must adapt our programs when one body part gets considerably stronger than another. But, to me it's this constant changing that makes the world of strength training so interesting." 

Brenda leaned out the kitchen door and said, "You Herculoids finish up, I'm putting dinner on the table." 

"I'm glad you came over. I've rented "Time Bandits" for tonight as I know it's one of your favorites." 

Enjoy Your Lifting!   

   

 

  




     

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 





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