Starting Strength | my journey from Injury to Fitness
I heard about the Starting Strength program from one of their cult-like followers (who has since become a friend).
I had dodged my CrossFit friends years before with my usual response. Because of a lower back injury I was unable to do squats, dead lifts, or similar power lifts.
Clearly the CrossFit community and the Starting Strength community were seeing huge gains in strength and health. I wanted the gains, but my biggest concern as a dude in his late 30s was DON’T GET HURT.
Because I got an injury that never healed from squats in high school I wrote the exercise off forever. My injury was made worse from military airborne jumps, rucking over mountains with heavy weight, and a motorcycle wreck.
My spine was a wreck from injuries, atrophy, and muscle loss. But against all my protestations, my friend explained that the best way to heal my back injury was with the lifts I feared. Needless to say, he won me over and I slowly waded into the Starting Strength programming.
After about 10 months, I was genuinely shocked by the results.
My spine was feeling better than it had in a decade. Additionally, I had put on over 10 pounds of solid muscle, burned some fat, and had more energy. My deadlift, which was so sad starting off, went up by over 100 pounds, as did my squat.
After seeing such results, I decided to reach out to the Starting Strength founder, Mark Rippetoe, or “Rip” to go even further with my training.
Private Strength Training with Mark Rippetoe, aka “Rip”.
Rip is a fun collision of eccentricities. In one moment he’s crass and crotchety, and the very next moment he’s patiently unpacking complex scientific concepts. He has the no-nonsense demeanor coaches usually carry, and a fun way of saying things that is memorable and cuts through the crap. Half the time I felt like I was annoying him and the other half of the time I got the feeling he really liked me. That’s how coaches are, and I think he might be the perfect one for strength training. He came across as someone used to being right and had become irritated over the years at contradicting the copious amounts of lifting misinformation.
Rip and I shook hands and he remarked on my Leonidas styled Spartan beard while pointing out his Wyatt Earp style.
His immediate question ‘how much do you weigh’ took me slightly off-guard, but not as much as his obvious displeasure in my ‘175 pounds’ response.
“Ehh, need to get that up. You need to gain 30 pounds immediately”, Rip said.
‘Straight to the point’ I thought. Okay. Let’s do this.
We started off our weight training with Rip teaching me how to flex my lower back to get it ready to carry weight. As we went through the different basic movements of squatting and bending over, Rip pointed out that I was doing it all wrong. Apparently I have been bending over and picking stuff up wrong for my entire life. Man, what are they teaching in schools and how could I have missed out on such a basic concept. Oh yeah, we played dodgeball in gym class! It was fun, but I really wish I had known how to pick stuff up.
Throughout our training session, Rip centered on a few key things I was doing wrong. These corrections Rip gave me though were critical, I think, to keep from injury while gaining strength.
Throughout our training session, I kept having the thought ‘wow, people really need a coach for this stuff’. There are just too many ways to waste time in a gym and hurt yourself. As a great starter in addition to finding a good strength coach, or in preparation to begin lifting, the Starting Strength book is a must-read.