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04 Feb

Chalk in the Gym

by Mark Rippetoe | February 04, 2020

Gymnastics chalk/magnesium carbonate is a necessary part of barbell training. It drastically improves your hand/barbell interface by drying the skin of the palm and fingers, and by providing a fine grit layer that increases friction between the hand and the knurl of the bar. Gyms that provide chalk are rare, because gyms that actually care about your training are rare.

The primary problem is you. If you waste the chalk by slapping your chalked hands together, creating a dramatic, histrionic cloud of airborne dust, drawing further attention to yourself as you yell at the bar before your work set, you are being a douchebag. And you’re making a mess on the floor. Somebody has to clean this shit up, and if that somebody was you, I’ll bet you wouldn’t do the douchebag thing.

If you are training in a gym that has enough concern for your training to provide chalk, please be respectful of this. Chalk isn’t terribly expensive, but Management doesn’t appreciate your wasting it, and Management already has enough shit to keep clean without your help. Use the chalk over the chalk box only – don’t carry it all over the gym, using it where it’s convenient for you, always failing to put it back in the box. Don’t take a bath in the chalk; use enough on your hands (and maybe on your shirt) to do the job, and that’s all. If the chalk is still in a block in the chalk box, don’t intentionally break it up into little pieces and powder – if Management wanted it broken up, Management would have broken it up when Management put it in the chalk box. And don’t sweat all over the chalk block, because this makes hard spots on the block and makes it harder for everybody else to use.

If you’re training in a gym that doesn’t provide chalk, it may be that Management has gotten tired of the above problems you have created. But if they still allow you to bring your own chalk into the gym, keep it in your gym bag in a good container that won’t explode if you drop it. Use enough to get the job done, and don’t make a mess. If you make a mess, Management may ask you to train somewhere else, which you should probably be doing anyway.

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14 Jan

Keeping a Training Log

by Mark Rippetoe | January 14, 2020

Data is important in actual training. If you just go by the gym on the way home to mess around with the dumbbells and ride the treadmill, don’t bother writing it down, because it doesn’t matter what you do from one workout to the next anyway. You’re just punching a ticket, burning a few stray calories, and making yourself proud of yourself for doing something hard that you’d really rather not be doing anyway. 

But if maturity has finally set in and you have determined to actually accomplish something, you must keep a training log. Training is a process composed of separate incrementally-increasing stress events that collectively accumulate into a physiologic adaptation. Over time, this designed and directed process produces progress toward a performance goal. And each of these separate stress events are important, in that they trend in the direction of progress towards the goal. Each training workout is a critical step upward, in contrast to each trip by the gym to ride the treadmill and play with the dumbbells. 

Human memory is a less-than-perfect thing. Can you remember exactly what you had for lunch last Thursday? How about the last time you had tomato soup? How old are your gray socks? Some data is not very important, but when you start training, the data generated by the previous workouts determines what today’s workout will be, and what you should expect of the next one too. Processes generate trends, and data quantify the trends. 

Your training log is the data you will use to monitor and direct the process. It is absolutely critical to keep a log in a usable and accessible format, a durable record of the process of acquiring the physical adaptations your performance requires. It should be with you during the workout, so that you can record information relevant to the process beyond just the weights, reps, and sets – cues you stumble upon accidentally that positively affect performance, new ways to think about your focus points, things you learned from other people in the gym that day, reminders about equipment, injuries and their status, and any other information that can contribute to your progress down the road. 

Here in the 21st Century, everything is done on electronic devices. That’s fine, because the best training log is the one you will actually use. But let me show you something:

These are my training logs, back to 1982. Starting in 1986, every work set was recorded, on paper. None of these files crashed. I used to log all my sets, but switched to saving trees and just kept the work sets recorded after I learned that my warmup tonnage was of no use in the training record. Now I keep a very concise record of all work sets of every workout that allows 15-20 workouts per page, so that in an open book’s two pages I can see 2-3 months’ training. I’m not training seriously now, but I am training, and I couldn’t do it effectively without a record of what happened previously. 

If I was sharing my training with a coach, an electronic file would be easier. But this is also a shareable electronic file:

More from Starting Strength

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12 Jan

"I have discovered experienced lifters that lacked the ability to concentrically control the lumbar muscles. These guys immediately improved their pulling and squatting upon being shown how to produce the contraction – immediately meaning the next set."
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