May – Stop Pulls; A Tribute to Bill Starr

Bill Starr (1938-2015) was one of the pioneers of what is now the Strength and Conditioning profession. Two books The Strongest Shall Survive and Defying Gravity; How to win at Weightlifting are as relevant today as when he authored them in 1976 and 1981

When few knew much of anything about strength training Starr knew it all. A stellar career as a weightlifter for York Barbell in their heyday his ability to coach, instruct and share his knowledge “with an extreme ease in communicating” was his forte. His articles in Strength and Health Magazine are legendary.

I met him at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and like many my age, he forever influenced how I teach Squats and Pulls. His comments about how depth is more important than weight in the squat may be the most profound comment about squatting, ever.  Starr’s observations on how athletes should perform pulls are equally important.

Halting Clean Deadlifts where a standard movement during a 3 week USAW Training Camp at the COS OTC in August of 1987, that I was fortunate enough to be part of. Bob Takano was the Head Coach of the Camp and assisted by Dan Forrester.
Starr, himself, made the comment “When you do this correctly you’ll see the Great White Buffalo.” A reference to how difficult they are to complete. I can attest to this statement as they are as challenging as they are productive.

This is the only movement that is actually worse to watch then to do. While they look difficult, and are, once you are doing them your focus is so sharp that they only feel awful after you complete them.

STOP PULLS (Click on the Stop Pulls below my name to see the video clip)
1. Start Position: The classic static start is recommended as it is critical that the athlete establish “backward tension”. To accomplish this the athlete needs to push their hips backwards until they feel their hamstrings actively engaged. (The athlete should feel that if they release their grip on the barbell they will fall backwards.)
2. Initial Pull: As soon as the barbell leaves the platform the athlete halts the momentum. (This is similar to the Lift Off movement promoted in the USAW Level 1 Coaching Course Teaching Progressions)
3. Secondary Pull: as soon as the momentum has ceased the athlete then completes the pull finishing with a straight arm power shrug. There should be no horizontal displacement of the barbell. Keep it as close to the body as possible. 3 to 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps between 80 and 105% of a 1RM, depending upon both experience and efficiency, is the most effective way to train this movement.
4. 2 “Up” 2 “Down” approach. This is the movement demonstrated in the video clip and we (The USAW Community Training Site at Crown Barbell) have found it to produce solid results.
NOTE: MOST IMPORTANTLY the athlete must stay flat-footed, and maintain ‘backwards tension’ until they move out of the “Power Position”.

If you can accomplish this exercise you will be able to maintain better stability in the start and a greater acceleration both into and out of the power position. As Starr himself said “A critical consideration for any athlete.”

Stop Pulls

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