In this first episode, SSC’s Matt Reynolds and Scott Hambrick discuss the basics of strength training and why strength is so important.
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Contact Matt at www.startingstrengthpodcast.com @reynoldsstrong on IG, Twitter and Facebook.
Contact Scott at www.startingstrengthpodcast.com @scott_silverstrength on IG.
Read the Transcript!
Matt: Every podcast is brought to you by whiskey of the week. This week the it’s a Midwinter Night’s Dram by High West, one of our favorite rye whiskeys. You’ve got it, I’ve got it. What do you think?
SCOTT HAMBRICK: It’s delicious. Last night I had Rendezvous Rye which I think, is its younger brother which is excellent. This is even better, more complex.
MATT REYNOLDS: This is a combination of sixteen year old and six year old rye whiskies; I know one of the ryes is an M.G.P. with ninety-five percent rye and runs a little over fifty percent alcohol. It’s really good, don’t want to drink too much, just a little bit on this episode, keep the voice wet. So, let’s pour in. Right?
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Right?
MATT REYNOLDS: Let’s do it.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: This is Barbell Logic, I’m Starting Strength Coach, Scott Hambrick. I’ve got Matt Reynolds, the owner of Starting Strength Online Coaching, starting strength coach, starting strength staffer, former strongman and strength guru.
So, why Barbell Logic, Matt?
MATT REYNOLDS: Well, because somebody need to bring some logic to the barbell world. We’ve developed a friendship over the years and we think in a very systematic logical way and so I wanted to be able to bring a podcast to people that started in a very systematic, pragmatic way. We are starting with the most basic foundational pieces of strength training and move into more complex things as we record more podcast. So, we’re going to start at the very beginning, a very good place to start today.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Why are all these barbell people into whiskey?
MATT REYNOLDS: (Laughing) I don’t know, because it’s just good. I think we use it as a way….. most people who are really into barbells are type A, driven high strung people- and also at least in our world are trying to be. We enjoy the finer things in life and so, one of the things that kind of combines all of those is whiskey. It helps bring us down a little bit. We get up early in the morning. Most of us are early risers and we hit it hard and we train clients, we run businesses and so, we don’t want to drink Bud/Miller/Coors and American corporate beer. American corporate beer makes you fat and a little bit of whiskey doesn’t, or not as much and it’s good, it takes the edge off. We love it.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: I think that barbell people are drawn to intense experiences and that this lends itself to that really dark chocolate, gritty cheese, and stuff like that.
MATT REYNOLDS: Right! Yeah! You got it right. Really high, intense experiences. Yeah! We love iron, wine and things like that as well.
So, what are we talking about this week?
SCOTT HAMBRICK: We want to start covering some of these common questions that people that come to us for training asked. So, somebody will come to me or you or any Starting Strength Coach and they say, ‘Hey, I want to get fit, I want to get in shape, I’ve seen you on Instagram or whatever, I know that you’ve helped people do that, help me. So, what are we going to do coach?”
MATT REYNOLDS: Sure! We’re going to focus on strength, that’s the point and regardless of what the end goal is, for a beginner we start with strength and there’s a reason for that. You can think about all the different physical attributes that we could have, we have cardiovascular endurance, we have mobility or flexibility, we have agility, we could have power, we have speed, we have many of those things and the reality is that strength is the greatest of physical attributes because it’s the foundation of all human athletic movement. You have to have strength to perform any of those things and what that means is that strength makes all other physical attributes better.
I’m going to say, I have a forty year old lady never train before her life, overweight and she’s trying to say I want to do and she could just as easily go to hot yoga and hot yoga would actually be beneficial for her but it would only make her more hot sweaty, more flexible so you can’t go to hot yoga knowing you’re getting stronger; but the same lady who has not squatted since she was two years old and we teach her how to squat, her mobility will oddly enough, actually get better as her strength gets better or her balance would get better, her power will go up because, powers of production, is basically just a combination, its strength displayed quickly and so, if you don’t have the strength, you can’t really display quickly, there’s not a lot of power. So, we start with strength not because strength is the only thing we care about but, because it’s the greatest of his life, because it makes everything else better so, we can basically accomplish the most things with fixing, making one attribute better, makes all of the others works so, we’re going to focus on strength first.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Right! If we train strength, we can we can do more vigorous cardio, we can work on agility work more effectively, it applies to everything but, if you work on cardio, a deadlift doesn’t get up, we can’t put the lawnmower in the back of the car if we can run a 5k necessarily. It’s certainly the most efficient way to do it. So, how do you train that strength then? With rubber bands and bosu balls?
MATT REYNOLDS: We believe in barbells- and we believe in barbells because they’re really simple. They’ve been used for over a hundred years. They’re really hard and that produces an extremely effective adaptation. So, one of things that we really try to focus on in our life, and not just instruction but in general, we find value in hard things. It’s like voluntary hardship. It’s not hard to go walk on a purple treadmill and read Cosmo magazine- that’s not hard. That is, I am a person who’s trying to check exercise off a list and so when I- we talk about this in the seminars with with Rippetoe a lot, that we actually owe something, just like you and me who are coaching barbell lifts, to the P90X, CrossFit, insanity culture, because something occurred when those things came out. When P ninety X and insanity came out about the same time, and kind of before CrossFit- in the kind of late ‘90s, very early 2000s. When that stuff came out, before that fitness was about as easy as it could be.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: It was about the Jane Fonda workout.
MATT REYNOLDS: Exactly! Right! It’s like a piece of equipment you can fold up and put under your bed so that you don’t remember that it’s there and you never actually do it. Whether seven minutes abs or whatever. One of the things that we owe to these P90X or insanity people, they were the first ones that came along and said, “Now, it’s got to be hard. It has to be really hard” Now, the place where they are misguided maybe, is that P ninety X oddly enough works for about ninety days, that’s why it’s called P ninety X because, then you adapt to those things and because they’re not titrating weight up, there’s no way to actually really make it harder, it doesn’t work anymore. So, the thing we love about barbell lifts is that barbell lifts will tax the entire body, you will gain a tremendous amount of strength, you’ll gain muscle, what we call tonus, it’s muscle density so, it doesn’t have to always be a lot of size and we can titrate it up a little bit at a time. One of the most beautiful things about barbells is that I can go up one pound, if I want to, I can go up five pounds, two and a half pounds, I can go up a quarter of a pound. That’s what we love about barbell lifts.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: I have a lot of older clients, I say older- I mean ladies in their sixties and seventies and we use those barbell principles but for those folks, we often start with a broom handle, they can’t load the barbell but we can start them with that broom handle, add little quarter pound plates on the end of the broom handle and get them started right where they are and increase their strength in a measurable way. So, we often see in this older population that they’ve often frankly not had to exert themselves, maybe since they learned how to ride a bicycle. And using the barbells, really trains them to exert themselves and to tax themselves and to find reserves of mental toughness that they didn’t know they had.
MATT REYNOLDS: It’s the most under talked about benefit of barbell training. A hard strength training program, and really hard anything. I had a client a couple years ago, who shall remain nameless, who was definitely one of these people you talk about, she was a very overweight lady and she was an incessant complainer about things we did in the gym and one day I asked her, I said, “Have you have you ever done anything harder your whole life?” Now, I recognize that’s not a great question in general.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Does Sudoku.
MATT REYNOLDS: (Continues) -to ask your client. She never had any kids, she never given birth to a child. I said, “Has your marriage ever been difficult, have you ever lost anybody really close to you, needed to work- like anything, mentally tough, physically tough, anything- and the answer was really “No”. So, this is the first thing she had ever done in her entire life that was hard and so, there is obviously a real refining process that occurs with heavy barbell training and really anything that’s really difficult. When you read Aristotle, that’s not easy to read but, there’s a refining process that occurs in diving into those things and so, this occurs with barbell training. What we find is that the person who has been refined in the fire of barbell training, who has gone through an actual linear progression, starting strength sort of program-
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Sorry, I have to stop you. Tell us what linear progression is, quickly?
MATT REYNOLDS: Linear progression is just a simple program, where basically the lifts stay the same and the weight goes up a little bit, every single workout.
MATT REYNOLDS: (Continues) So, I squat forty five pounds, day one. Fifty pounds, day two or two days later. Fifty five pounds on Friday, sixty pounds on Monday. I just keep going up for as long as I can, because if I can do that, why would I do anything else.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Yes, so the graph of the weight you move in each workout, is a linear straight line, goes up from left to right.
MATT REYNOLDS: That’s exactly right. So, people who have gone through that process especially when they made it all the way through, it’s actually a really easy thing to do the first several weeks and then, after three weeks, four weeks, six weeks, two months, two and a half months and it’s get really hard and so, now you’ve got some… you have to talk about a middle aged guy. When a middle aged guys started squatting one hundred fifteen pounds, hundred five pounds, we’re somewhere there and three months later…
SCOTT HAMBRICK: I started at one fifteen.
MATT REYNOLDS: Three months later you squatted 275, 295, 305 and it’s hard. And he comes in on Monday, he squats 305 for three sets of five and it’s incredibly hard. He gets done with the first set he thinks himself, “I don’t think I can make it through the next two sets” and he rests for five, six, eight, nine minutes and he does it again and he ..that last rep of his second set, grinds and grinds and grinds then he finishes it and he thinks, there is no way I’m getting… and so, he squats what’s inside the squat rack with the safety pin set up so he doesn’t get crushed, and low and behold, he completes all five reps and it’s one of the hardest things ever done in his life and it’s Monday. Guess what he’s doing Wednesday?
SCOTT HAMBRICK: (light laugh) More.
MATT REYNOLDS: He’s coming up!
SCOTT HAMBRICK: He’s going to do more.
MATT REYNOLDS: Now, that process makes you- that refined you, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally there’s no doubt it does and I understand for people who haven’t done it, it will seem like, “I don’t get it” like it seems shallow but we’re not shallow guys. We are married, have families, we very much value our relationships with our wife, our relationships with our kids, our businesses, our church relationships things like that and there’s no doubt, we’ve seen this from decades of experience, it makes everybody better.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: There’s no question. A heavy squat is a panic inducing event. A heavy squat varies from individual to individual. A heavy squat, a 140 pound squat for a seventy year old lady is different than mine and certainly different than yours but heavy squat will induce a panic attack the first time.
MATT REYNOLDS: Of course!
SCOTT HAMBRICK: You can feel it coming or I can see it coming in the client’s face and we can coach him through that or they coach themselves through it, if they’re an online client, you know they’re by themselves, they’re changed forever. And so, dealing with the difficult client the next day or your hateful teenage kid is certainly a little easier.
MATT REYNOLDS: ….Of course! Right! So, we have lots of these stories and one of my favorite stories and I’ve talked about, this lady, she is one of my favorite clients I’ve ever had. The client’s name is Cybil. Cybil is eighty-one, She came to me when She was seventy nine. She had never stepped foot in a gym so, she had never done aerobics in a gym. Ever! Seventy nine years old, double hip replacement, knee replacement, her back was fused together. People go, “What would you do with somebody like that?” Well, guess what she did? She squatted! And she dead lifted and she bench pressed and that’s what she did. And she was seventy nine years old and her deadlifts in the beginning, we used the training bar, the fifteen to twenty pound kids training bar and put it in the squat rack on the pin so that, that was above her knees and she just picked it up and stood up with it. It wasn’t much work.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: An eight inch range of motion.
MATT REYNOLDS: Exactly right!
SCOTT HAMBRICK:(continues) -for a week or for an hour.
MATT REYNOLDS: That’s right! Exactly right! And then, what we did is we lowered the pins each week and or each workout, made her extend her range of motion, which oddly enough made her mobility better….
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Right!
MATT REYNOLDS: (continues) -while she got stronger.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Which I still call linear progression. She is moving the same weight, but for that lady adding in inches of victory.
MATT REYNOLDS: Exactly right!
MATT REYNOLDS: Then she got down to the part where the bar was basically at the place it would be, if there were plates on the bar and so, we started adding plates to the bar on the pins and when we got to where we could put ten pound rubber plates on, I pulled her out of this car rack and her on the floor and she did her first deadlift. I think She did about thirty three pound bar two ten pound plates, fifty three pounds- and today she did this one twenty five percent of five and she’s eighty one years old. One twenty five for a set of five at eighty one years old female. This lady has been her church organist for forty seven years. She’s never been in a gym… it’s changed her life. She was struggling to get off the toilet, She was struggling to get under her bed and get the boxes out. She hadn’t been in her bathtub in seven years since her husband had died. She couldn’t get in and out of her car. And now, guess what? She sold that car and bought a sports car!
SCOTT HAMBRICK: My god- what did she get?
MATT REYNOLDS: What did she get? Something that’s way low and- she got a little sports sedan that’s about four inches off the ground she gets in and out, no problem, with double hip replacements and a knee replacement. She had an inch cut off one of her Achilles tendons, she was a walking disaster and now, she’s fine. She is here today and she’s fine. Right?
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Right!
MATT REYNOLDS: She’s independent, her kids all live in the kind of the Pacific Northwest, she’s a widow, her husband passed seven or eight years ago and she is just fine because, strength has refined her. So, we see this every single day.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: You mention the bathroom complaint. All the ladies that come to me or my wife, that are over sixty, are having trouble getting off the toilet, every one of them and it doesn’t matter what their body weight is, it doesn’t matter if they’re overweight or if…. frankly a lot of them are underweight, they come to us. The bathroom deal is a big deal, most accidents happen there, but the strength we… we’ve spend a lot of time talking about these older people but younger people needed too.
MATT REYNOLDS: Yes! It’s tremendous!
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Bone density problems in the teenage population and in Call of Duty and in Cheetos, are causing a lot of problem.
MATT REYNOLDS: It fixes the millennial problem. Right! It does.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Well, it can.
MATT REYNOLDS: Right!! If they stick with it. No! absolutely and it’s the difference.. I think one of the reasons we tend to think about the older population is because we know the difference it makes in a lady like Cybil. It’s the difference between independent living and living in a nursing home. So, this really actually matters at a deeper level a lot of times. For younger kids, we don’t think about it as being important but it often a difference between somebody who sits on a bench and someone who starts for sport and that’s important too in sport for life but again, it’s more important, because of the refining process you get. When somebody is walking through this refining process at sixteen, seventeen, eighteen and that’s far better than going through it at seventy.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: The job interviews are easy after that.
MATT REYNOLDS: That’s right. Because you’ve handled things that are hard and so again, we value things that are hard. Rippetoe has said a hundred times, “When has easy worked- easy don’t work.” You don’t work for anything!
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Right!
MATT REYNOLDS: You’ve got to choose hard because there’s value in heart just like there’s value in work, for the sake of work. what we get in our careers is that we often get paid for our work, we work hard, we get paid more, we build a business but there’s actually value in the work itself because, the work itself is refining.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: What kind of human being would you be, if you didn’t do any…frankly any kind of work? What would you sharpen yourself against?
MATT REYNOLDS: You be a millenial.
(Matt and Scott laughing)
MATT REYNOLDS: That’s what you will be!
SCOTT HAMBRICK: That’s an existential problem that’s popping up. For me, I’m forty two years old, I own my own business. This is a side gig for me, frankly and I don’t need it and I don’t need the money, I don’t need the income but, it’s almost a philosophical and social crusade for me almost, to help these older people and to help these younger people that frankly, are having a hard time launching their lives and differentiating becoming an adult human being and….
MATT REYNOLDS: Yes!!
SCOTT HAMBRICK: This helps do that and that’s a topic for a four part Podcast upcoming. It’s a big help to those people.
MATT REYNOLDS: So, you think about it in today’s age, a self-confident healthy mentally tough human is no longer the norm, it’s the exception.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: In North America.
MATT REYNOLDS: Right! But strength produces that exception. That’s what’s amazing, there are other things that we value that often will also contribute here but, for the thing that we have seen day in and day out, that works for almost everybody that does it, is that strength produces that exception, it produces somebody who is mentally tough, healthy, confident, it changes your confidence, it doesn’t make you arrogant, it allows you to walk into life with a set of confidence because, you know already you’ve conquered things that are hard, you carry things that are harder than what you have to conquer in a day.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Life becomes a sub maximal rep.
MATT REYNOLDS: That’s right! Exactly right! So, one of things I think we need to talk about is we keep talking about strength and so, because this is beginning and because this is Barbell Logic, we want to go for a systematic kind of standpoint. I think we actually need to find what strength is. So, again I think the world in general has probably a different idea of what strength is, compared to you and I. Do you remember the definition of strength?
SCOTT HAMBRICK: I do. It’s the ability to produce force against a load.
MATT REYNOLDS: That’s right! It’s really just the ability to produce force. So, we often use strength…Strength is a word that is used in American culture much like the word Love, they have all sorts of different meanings and we can miss….
SCOTT HAMBRICK: She’s a really strong woman.
MATT REYNOLDS: That’s right! Really strong! Right! He beat Cancer so, he’s really strong.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Right!
MATT REYNOLDS: No! He is not strong. He is just mentally tough.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Right!
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Which is also good, it’s just not strong. Right? So, when we talk about strength, we’re not talking about an ethereal sort of thing, we’re not talking about mental toughness, we’re actually talking about physical, moving a load, strength. It’s the ability to produce force against an external resistance and for us that thing that provides extra resistance is the barbell with weights. So, we understand how valuable strength is and one of the quotes that we really latch onto that Rippetoe says is that, “Stronger people are harder to kill and more useful in general” They have to be, we want to create people who are hard to kill not even just physically but they’re just harder to kill. People who are going to walk into a surgery with an optimistic attitude “This I’m not only am I going to beat this but I’m going to prove to everybody else I can recover faster than anybody else.”, not the person that says “Oh my God, have this disease, I have this cancer, I had the surgery. I…
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Where do I sign up for S.S.I?
MATT REYNOLDS: That’s right! I’m going to shut it down, I’m going to die and so, what strength does, it produces that exception, it takes people, makes them hard to kill and far more useful. I just hired a personal assistant, shout out to Steven. Steven, my personal assistant, Herdman security, best friend. He moved in with us, Steven is a six foot five inch, two hundred ninety five pound behemoth, single, virile and what Rippetoe says is potent.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Potent!
MATT REYNOLDS: I’ll just be honest, I wouldn’t have hired him, had he not been through the fire of strength. I knew the kid knew how to work. He was raised on a farm which is a great start. He had some family tragedy, he had to work through that which again is certainly, I’m sure he would have chosen a different path but it define refined who he was.
He, out of that family tragedy had gained a lot of weight, became a kind of a large overweight kid and then, he decided to walk through the fire of strength and he got really strong and big and lean and the guy’s a soldier now, he is a the kind of soldier you want to see. So, he has here’s a twenty one year old kid, six foot five, two hundred ninety pounds, jacked, soldier, trained killer and you know what? He makes a hell of a personal assistant. He does this incredible job and so, it’s because the kid here at twenty one years old, he has already walked through this refining fire so, he’s going to make a great husband for somebody one day, is going to make a great dad, the way I watch him interact with my girls, my kids is incredible, the way he treats my wife with respect and I’m telling you is so much of that and certainly not everything has come from strength so, it has come from his tremendous upbringing by his parents, his grandparents but strength is a big piece of this.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: Heavy deadlifts will put you in your place.
MATT REYNOLDS: That’s right! It would rob you of confidence and then, when you beat him eventually, it will build that confidence back up, in a way that you never knew you had.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: And then you put some more weight back on the bar and you’re back where you started.
MATT REYNOLDS: That’s right! We celebrate P.R. for five or ten minutes and then, we start thinking about the next reps so- we’re going to rap up the first episode! I hope you guys tune in for future episodes. We’re so thankful that you’re here, we love the way we’re going to attack this barbell logic idea. We started at the beginning the foundational process of the systematic thought process behind strength and what’s important, why it’s important, how we’re going to do it. We’re going to move into the “Hows”, we will do the “whys” this week, next week we’ll do the “Hows”. We’ll talk about exactly how we get strong, how do we define it, how are we going to get there when we start laying out the plan.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: So, this has been Barbell logic, if you want help getting stronger you can go to startingstrengthpodcast.com and hire one of the starting strength coach there to help you with online coaching, where they will give you form checks, programming, and other direction and help you be more efficient in your quest for strength and you can follow us @ssonlinecoach on Instagram and I believe that is the Facebook and Twitter handle.
MATT REYNOLDS: I think that all we have to say. Easy to find.
SCOTT HAMBRICK: So, thank you and listen to us next week.