Joining me on the show this week is Steve Tripp, Owner of The Top Strength Project in Providence, Rhode Island. Steve is an amazing strength athlete and coach who brings all kinds of expertise to the table, so anytime I get the chance to sit down and pick his brain, I take it.
The two of us unpack the big rocks of your training and what the majority should be focused around. We dive into why using tools other than the straight bar may make more sense for you and your goals. We then steer the conversation to the role rest and recovery plays in Steve’s training and the tactics and strategies he uses for the best results.
Steve puts in the work every single day, and his results speak for themselves (e.g. his 850 lb deadlift). Steve’s someone I have the utmost respect for in our industry, so listen in as he shares his go-to fitness tips that you can take and utilize in your own training.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- [04:39] Who is Steve Tripp
- [07:54] Big core rocks that will help you get stronger and put on muscle
- [09:01] A common misconception for incorporating the big compound movements in your training when you’re “old”
- [10:30] The importance of understanding what variations are right for you
- [13:34] The benefit to offering yourself a different stimulus in your training
- [14:06] The issue with being married to one specific lift
- [15:32] Why the most important piece of your training success is optimal output
- [16:25] Mental overload and its negative effect on reaching your goals
- [21:20] Staying open-minded to different tools to use in order to reach the results you want
- [26:25] Why you should build a generalized base as large as you can
- [29:06] The reasoning behind Steve’s shift to implementing the safety bar squat
- [30:35] Developing capacity and competency in a stacked position
- [34:00] Understanding which tools and implements create higher quality work over others
- [37:50] The role rest and recovery plays in Steve’s training
- [43:47] The importance of executing small day to day tasks instead of focusing on the end goal
- [45:41] Where to find Steve Tripp
James Cerbie: All right, there we go. Now I got to try to redo this introduction that I totally nailed on take one. But we are live with the great, powerful, the only, Steve Tripp from Top Strength Project just outside of Providence, Rhode Island. And we recently ran a flashback episode with Steve. And anytime we have Steve on, we tend to always get DMs and emails from people that are just so absorbed by the energy and passion that you bring to the table for this. And so we connected and said, let’s run it back. And I think there’s a lot of value to be had here because the last time we really chatted about your training was over two years ago. And so now we can, I think, dive in and reflect. And what we talked about off the air a little bit is saying it’s always interesting to see what are the big rocks that have stayed present over those two years. What are things that were maybe eliminated because they weren’t bringing a large enough return on investment to the table for you? And what are new things that have appeared over the course of that two year journey?
And, you know, I think that the other piece here that I’ll have before we dive into our training stuff is just for people listening that don’t know who Steve is, someone that I have a tremendous amount of respect for in our industry because I think he does an unbelievable job leading from the front as an athlete, as a coach, as a business owner, just has so many good things going on. So always happy to have him on board. Steve, my friend, welcome.
Steve Tripp: Thanks so much for having me back, man. I really appreciate the opportunity, and I love doing this stuff. I do Q and A on my Instagram platform sometimes. And it’s a lot of fun just interacting with people. And it also just kind of gives you feedback on what people want to know, what people are curious about. And it’s also fun, kind of filtering through the foolishness and kind of getting an opportunity to diffuse just some of the BS that kind of plagues our industry as well. So this is a great platform to do with us. I appreciate you having me back.
James Cerbie: Absolutely, man. So let’s do this for people tuning in who potentially don’t know who you are, can we give them just a quick rundown elevator pitch of who Steve Tripp is, what you do, all that fun jazz.
Who is Steve Tripp?
Steve Tripp: So as you said, I’m Steve Tripp. I’m the owner of the Top Frank Project. It’s kind of a specialized training facility up here in New England. I’m in Providence, Rhode Island, just outside Providence, Rhode Island. I’d say we specialize in strength, definitely a massive power lifting and strawberry community, for one, because there are only so many facilities in the area that offer that. And two, because I’m very fortunate to have all of the competitive equipment all the barbells, all the strong man stuff, all the racks, calibrated plates, and when you get into niche clientele, especially powerlifting and strongman, where it’s important to get your hands on those competition barbells, the competition plates, and of course, the obscure implements of strongman that aren’t available in commercial gyms. So us being really the only place in the immediate 30 to 50 miles, say 30 miles area, that there’s a big draw for that. But we do a lot of work with General Pop. Make no mistake, general Pop definitely pays the bills. A lot of nutrition, lifestyle, et cetera, et cetera. But mostly the community is what drives what the top shrink project is. Having the best equipment is great, but it’s a community driven thing.
And it’s something that I’m very fortunate and grateful to have created over these last six years, because I benefit from it myself. I’m a competitive power and strong man. I hold a few records, won a bunch of state titles, Rhode Island, four times, New York three times, hopefully four times after this weekend. A couple in Maine, two in Connecticut, I believe, et cetera, et cetera. I just hit an 850 deadlift in the RPS, which I didn’t know was £5 under the world record in the RPS. I wish I knew I would have put another fucking 10 lbs on the bar. But just like you said, I love this shit. I live for it. I really, truly enjoy training something that you hear a lot. When you post a video or you post a transformation or you post an accomplishment. People are like, oh yeah, hard work, hard work. It’s like, this ain’t fucking hard. This is awesome. It’d be hard for me not to do this shit. So I know what they’re saying. I appreciate the sentiment, but it’s not hard. It’s enjoyable. And being a constant student of this hobby that we share, I think is really the key to continuing to grow and continuing to learn from people like you, other people in the industry that I’m fortunate enough to have at my place and also learning a lot from my clients, members, co-workers, friends.
It’s just a constant means to just continue to build. I feel like as soon as you think you know everything, it’s when you stop learning. So I’m very fortunate to have my place in my gym and I live for this stuff.
James Cerbie: Absolutely, man. So let’s start the conversation here because I think this is going to be a really important point for people to get one of the things that come up on the podcast a decent amount over the last, I think probably about eight weeks or so. Because going into the New year, right, all these people are setting all these goals and aspirations and new habits and all this other stuff. And one of the things that we try to harp on a lot is most of you are going to get really distracted by shiny object syndrome, and you’re going to just dance around a bunch of shit that probably doesn’t matter that much. And at the end of the day, there are core big rocks that work, and they work every single time. And they may not be sexy, but if you consistently execute on these core big rocks, you will get stronger, you will put on muscle. You’ll see improvement on a week by week, month by month, quarter by quarter basis. Right. So I would love to hear, if you think about the evolution of your training over the last two years, what are, I think, the core big rocks for you that just haven’t really changed much.
Right. Like, they were working then, they’re still working now, and we’re still going to get after and attack those on a pretty consistent basis.
Big Core Rocks That Will Help You Get Stronger and Put on Muscle
Steve Tripp: Well, I’m sure I hope that everyone asked that question in this landscape, in this setting, bring up just the compound lifts, the big bang for your buck lifts, the squat, or variations of which we’ll get into in a bit, the deadlift, or variations of pressing, rowing, vertical pulling and vertical and horizontal pressing. Those all have to be in there. And a common misconception is, oh, I’m old, I’m 60, I’m 70, I shouldn’t be the other thing. Yes, you absolutely fucking should. You should be squatting. There’s ways to accommodate these movements. But Loading your system is so important for everybody. That will never change. Nutrition obviously plays a huge role. I think we spoke last time briefly about the pie wheel everyone wants to create like, oh, it’s 80% diet, 20% training, whatever. I couldn’t disagree with that more. It’s 100% training, 100% diet, 100% recovery. If you have asked anything, you’re leaving some low hanging fruit out on the table. And I’m not saying you have to be a zealot and execute everything, but don’t think that any one thing is more important than the other, because it’s not. Wherever you cut corners is where you’re going to lose potential progress.
And that’s why it’s so great sometimes to sit down with somebody and go over what you’re doing, because they may notice some low hanging fruit that you’re leaving out that you could really benefit from. I think we all kind of get in our own head and we like to continue to do things that we think we’re good at and avoid things that challenge us. But your challenge should create your direction, if that makes sense.
James Cerbie: Yeah, I love that. And this is something that we harp on a lot. So I’m glad you said it.
Steve Tripp: Right.
The Importance of Understanding What Variations Are Right for You
James Cerbie: Just focus on the big compound movements, because at the end of the day, that’s where we’re going to be able to generate the most force. That’s where we’re going to be able to move the most mass. That’s where we’re going to be able to get the largest recruitment. And the question isn’t whether or not you should be doing them, the question is what variation is right for you? And that’s where I think people miss the boat sometimes. Right. We have to find places in training for people where you can shut your brain off and you can just focus purely on output. Right. Maybe for you that’s a hack squat. Like maybe if we put you in a machine that puts you in a more successful position. Maybe it’s a safety bar squat. Maybe it’s a high handle trap bar deadlift, whatever it is. Right. Like it’s finding the right thing for that person that allows them to focus on force and velocity and mass. And then we can worry about the other things in other places in the programming. But you’ve got to have that big block in training where it’s a big movement and we’re just here and we’re showing up, we’re putting out on it.
But I think too many people miss that sometimes because they get a little bit too finesse with what they’re doing. So, yeah, it’s got to be a staple.
Steve Tripp: Yeah. And you can communicate. It is as simple as in everyone’s structure, regardless whether you’re a world class athlete or 65. Just got a prosthetic kit installed. You have to get some kind of lower body push, some kind of lower body pull, some kind of horizontal push and pull, some kind of vertical push and pull. And there are many ways you can accommodate. So like you said, a hack squat or a leg press, that’s a lower body push. Everybody thinks, oh, it’s got to be a squat. And you should absolutely utilize the constraints of a machine for somebody if it’s deemed appropriate with the goal of eventually getting back out in the open chain lift. But at the end of the day, all that stuff has to be in there because we are a system. Everything works together in unison. So you can’t just develop one of these functions and take it and not develop the other, because as you continue to create these gaps, the likelihood of injury just increases right. Along with that progress on one side and lack of progress on the other, without question.
James Cerbie: And so I think you had mentioned this when you’re chatting a little bit here before we started recording in terms of some things that you have adjusted and changed in your training over the last two years. I know you had mentioned I think one that’d be interesting to get into is and you started to talk about it here briefly in terms of when we think about a squat or we think about a deadlift, obviously the first place everyone’s minds go because of the history of strength and conditioning, the history of our sport, we’re thinking straight bar, back squat, straight bar, deadlift, the two King lifts. That’s kind of what everything references back to. But you had mentioned that you’ve been starting to play around more with not getting away from the straight bar. Right. Like air quotes. It’s still there, but maybe you’re spending more time accumulating training volume off of a straight bar. Correct me. Obviously, if I’m wrong there.
The Benefit to Offering Yourself a Different Stimulus in Your Training
Steve Tripp: Well, for one, it’s nice to offer for myself, offering a different stimulus to kind of resensitize yourself to the competition. Low bar, back, squat, barbell delivery, whatever it may be that’s going to be a staple in 8910 months of my training. But taking a step back, particularly after a peak or after an injury or after a setback, offering yourself a different stimulus is going to cover a couple of gaps that may have been created while hammering the same pattern over and over again. But the point that I made earlier that you just referenced is basically for the longest time I was so married to the barbell back squat and the barbell deadlift for my clients and I basically would everybody have to get there. But that’s such an ignorant and not thorough approach. You shouldn’t be married to any one left, especially when working with such a broad clientele, rather than I would find myself queuing and queuing and queuing and queuing to try to get somebody to do, let’s say a barbell backspot. I think kind of a nice way to govern yourself is if I have to throw half a dozen cues at this person or really more than one or two to get them to execute it correctly and feel it and feel like they’ve accomplished something, it’s probably the wrong lift.
It’s probably the wrong variation of the lift. So usually I’ll get them, let’s say from a barbell backspot, taking them from low bar to high bar. The next regression would probably be you can incorporate heel elevation, but getting under SSB, the Kabuki Transformer bar, it’s a staple. It has to be at everyone’s gym.
James Cerbie: So wonderful.
Steve Tripp: It’s so amazing and it’s such a great piece, but just a classic SSB is great. Heel elevated Goblet squat searchers, basically tailoring the movement to the person so that I’ll have to throw a million queues out and these people should just be able to move. And also I think when you’re throwing so many queues at people, they get too much in their head and it gets away from the output like you talked about. And that’s something that I’ve noticed over the last three to five or more years in this industry is people are getting further and further away from realizing at the end of the day the most important piece of all this is output. It’s output. And people learn these drills, people learn these variations. There’s so much information readily available that they become so consumed with all this other minutiae and all these other things and they forget. Like at the end of the day, we’re just trying to do the most work possible because that’s what’s going to cause the training adaptation. So being able to tailor movements to the individual so they can do that, create more effective optimal output is a huge piece of something that I continue to try and become better and better at fitting the movement to the individual rather than trying to fit the individual to a specific movement that for whatever foolish reason I had some bias towards, it’s very important to get away from that.
Mental Overload and its Negative Effect on Reaching Your Goals
James Cerbie: I think that mental overload is a really important point because with social media and the Internet and I think how a lot of people in their own training approach things. Right. You cannot be strong, fast and powerful if your mental gears are sitting there trying to churn the whole time. If you’re like, okay, I need this. I need this. If you’re trying to process six or seven cues, you’re just going to be super slow and clunky. Right. Like any athlete in any endeavor, there’s going to be a divide in your training. There will be places where, yeah, we really get into the nitty gritty and focus on small details. And I want you thinking, but that output movement for us. The way we’d like to talk about it is that it’s game day. If you’re sitting on game day, sitting there trying to think about 72 different things, you’re going to get your ass run over, you’re going to be slow. Yeah, right. And so have spots in your training where you can get detailed like that. We talk about splitting training into two buckets. Right. If it’s output, it’s output. And if it’s not output, then maybe I’m looking at something that’s a little more sensory motor, if you want to call it that, where we are really going to focus more on queuing and feeling and all these little details.
It’s no different than in baseball, taking a guy who’s struggling at the plate, getting them into a cage to focus on teamwork and really breaking everything down. But it’s like when he goes back into a game to hit, if he’s still thinking like he does in a cage on a T, he’s going to be awful 100%.
Steve Tripp: I think that those modifications that you’re making, the point is to get back to the game day mentality. That’s the point. Don’t become so consumed in that sensory motor. Very conscious. I mean, of course you have to do that. But realize that that is a tool to get you back to being able to fucking go. And I see it all too often, especially after an injury or after a certain setback, they’ll identify an asymmetry or compensatory strategy. And then all of a sudden these people become obsessed with getting everything perfect and all their Ducks in a row before they can just execute. And it’s finding kind of that balance, realizing what that’s for and what it’s for is to get you back on the horse.
James Cerbie: Yeah. And get away from that fragility mindset. I think far too many people are getting themselves into nowadays. That’s a whole other topic that we can get to at another time, but to come back to this if we want to focus more on the SSB bar and then I know that you mentioned that you have been spending less time on a straight bar deadlift as well. Is it more RDLs? Are you getting on a trap bar? What implemented using there to get more of that lower pull, lower hinge?
The Issue with Being Married to One Specific Lift
Steve Tripp: For me personally, I haven’t had any issues on the barbell, so I’m able to continue to deadlift on a bar now that I don’t use a low handle trap bar and in variations of the deadlift using deficits, using wide grip. Really so much for the deadlift, specifically for me because I haven’t had many setbacks. I’ve been fortunate that my deadlift has kind of moved right along. Aside from a couple of backstands and things like that, which just kind of come with the territory, it’s kind of unavoidable, especially when you’re working with resistance above triple body weight. But as far as how much I manipulate my deadlift, it depends on what I have coming up. So for example, this Saturday I have a 15 inch deadlift. It’s on cheap tires, so it’s a higher deadlift. The barbell deadlift from the floor is still my main primary driver and I do 15 inch as an accessory. The reason why though, is because the weight happened to be very comfortable at 650. If I was behind and I felt like I had to bring up that 15 inch a little bit more, I would prioritize that.
But I can say for my clients and people I work with, I used to be married to the barbell and I would use the high handle, low handle, trap bar or variations up to get people back to the barbell. But at the end of the day, if you’re not competing in powerlifting and or strongman or whatever, there’s really no need to deadlift on a barbell. I keep them on the trap bar and when you queue in the trap bar, I try to get them to hinge and not squat their deadlift because you have the availability to do so in trap bar. I still try to coach the hinge, but a trap bar is fine for general pop or anybody, any bodybuilder or competitive athlete that isn’t specifically preparing themselves for a barbell deadlift and a powerful setting or a strongman setting. So basically not being married to that lift for everybody because it’s something that I personally feel like I benefit from.
James Cerbie: Yeah, 100% agreement. I think probably if I had to throw it to a very back of the napkin guess out there, I’m thinking we probably about 90% of our clientele probably are almost unanimously trap bar just because none of them really have the goal of stepping on a platform to compete. They just generically want to be really strong and to feel good while they do so. And it’s like that constant trade off. Right. And then every once in a while. They’ll cycle around to the point where like, hey, let’s get on a straight bar again and see what happens. And it’s interesting because we have one client in particular that just made that switch. They probably spent eight to ten months off of a straight bar. Just like high handle trap bar deadlifting, tons of high quality volume accumulated. They go back to a straight bar. And the first few weeks we’re just getting technique backed out because we haven’t seen it in a while. But by week four, we were already hitting PRS compared to previous straight bar deadlift totals. Like we were taking a previous double or triple max on a straight bar.
We also have to put in context, this is an intermediate strength athlete, right? We’re not talking to somebody with outrageously high numbers on a straight bar. We’re talking people that probably are in that 400 pushing a 500 pound straight bar deadlift. We’re looking at probably like a two and a half time body weight type situation. But I thought it was really interesting how quickly that straight bar came back. I think it’s just because of the work capacity, the general strength, the generalized power was there. After a few weeks, it was like, oh, I just took my previous straight bar deadlift max for five. And it wasn’t a high end set. It was just, oh, okay, casual. This just happened. And it’s just one of those deals where I think we have to just continue to stay open minded with the implements and tools that we’re using.
Steve Tripp: Yeah. I think people can become very consumed with the idea of specificity. We spoke about this definitely on the last podcast, specifically about the squat and how it’s my approach that if you have this continuum of squats and all the way on the hinges, then you have the low bar back squat, the competition low bar back squat, and all the way on this end, you have the heel elevated Goblet squat. And then if I were to go from my left to my right, it’d be heel elevated Goblet squat to probably some kind of circle variation, then to front squat. Ssb. I think it’s kind of in the same high bar back squat to low bar. And it’s my perspective that all of these all improve. That’s right. And the same thing goes for the deadlift. So here you have the barbell deadlift at eight inches. And over here you have probably like a kettlebell deadlift. Then you go to a high handle trap, mid handle trap, low handle trap. All of these are going to improve that. And people get very consumed with specificity saying like, oh my God, if I need to improve my barbell deadlift, I need to do a barbell deadlift.
Not really. You need to hinge. You need to hinge. And you can’t get so focused in your head and be like, oh, man, this is my first time touching a barbell in two years, just reach down and grab that thing and pick it up and the strength is going to be there. If you’ve had an effective cycle using a different implement, you should have improved. Without a doubt, the specificity doesn’t have to be as finite as people think. Strong is strong.
James Cerbie: Without question.
Steve Tripp: So New York is coming up on Saturday and I’m in my off season. I feel so foolish saying that I have an off season like I’m some kind of competitive athlete, but I have nationals, my big competition for next summer, and I just kind of peaked a month ago. So I signed up for New York nine, just kind of for fun because the events are great and Todd is a very close friend and I love his events, so I kind of just decided to jump in. But a week and a half ago, this guy named Manny Freda signed up and he’s about an inch taller than me. He’s 330. He’s a fucking animal, big boy. So I was like, it’s on now. This off season competition isn’t so much off season anymore, so how exciting. But the reason why I’m even bringing this up is he is a tremendous overhead athlete. He’s got great overhead strength, and does a lot of work with the log. He has a 400 log and a 400 axle. And if you kind of have been following along, the overhead events in Strongman are kind of becoming a little more dynamic. You’re not seeing a lot of Amrap logs and Amrap Axl anymore.
Traditionally, you’re seeing a lot of other implements. Circus dumbbells became very popular and sandbag and keg are really coming into the phrase coming up at nationals in June, the event is a sandbag to a CAG back to a sandbag, sandbag, overhead press that’s brand new. And Manny hasn’t touched that shit in years and he just ran through at competition weight a circus dumbbell to keg to sandbag after not touching them at all for two years. And he ran through it like he’d been doing it for five, but because he’s been training overhead and the carryover is there and he just put that post up and he said just that he’s like, God,
strong is strong. The specificity isn’t as necessary as people want to think. My overhead is there and the implements are there. And I try to say, I couldn’t agree more. And that’s exactly the point we’re trying to make now.
James Cerbie: I don’t think that you can create yourself a large enough generalized pool of strength, hypertrophy power and work capacity. This is what we talk to our people about a lot because that’s generally our goal, right? We think about these attribute bars, strength that perch be power, endurance, and movement. And if we are doing a good job of just continuously improving and moving out all of these attribute bars, then peeking off of this unbelievably large foundation becomes much easier. For you. Right? Because you’re just generally always ready. And then if you say, hey, I’m going to go do this event as the example you just gave, the foundation you’re working off of is so enormous, it’s pretty easy if you then just like transition and then get the specificity you need over just a few weeks in preparation for the meat that you’re going to go into. And that’s the thing, keep building the base, build that generalized base as large as you possibly can, because everything else becomes easier once that’s in place.
Steve Tripp: And the tools to build that base are the compound lists. Yeah, we spoke about this, I believe in the last one as well, where I tend to favor even when prepping for a strongman competition, I tend to lean more towards and favor still the barbell lifts, because I think that or I know from my own personal experience that developing capacity in those lifts will improve the implements of strongman. And I don’t think the inverse is true. If I continue to improve my ability to squat and front squat, it’s going to carry over and improve my yoke, my stone, and my carries given grip. But the other isn’t true. If I were to do a training cycle and put farmers carrying yolk and stone on the front end and those are my priorities and I’m trying to progress those, I don’t think my squad and others are going to improve. But if I prioritize my squat and my deadlift when I go back to a stone, it’s right there. Just to kind of give some context, 400 was the Max back in 2017 and I don’t do stones often. I do them a month or two out of a show, and now I can take a 400 stone for a set of five or a set of six in a minute.
I haven’t been doing a lot of stone, but I have been doing a lot of squatting, a lot of deadlifting, et cetera, et cetera. It’s important to get touches on these elements because they’re so obscure, so different. But prioritizing the barbell lifts and the meat and potatoes, the biggest return on investment lifts is going to bring everything else up. That’s a tide that raises all ships.
James Cerbie: I like that. That’s going to be the title for this episode. Meat and potatoes training. I got to write that down so I don’t forget it. I like it because you were mentioning that the safety bar squat, I think has made its way into your training potentially more than it has been historically. What was the reasoning for the shift? And then what are some outcomes, I guess you’ve noticed from using that particular implementation more.
Why the Most Important Piece of Your Training Success is Optimal Output
Steve Tripp: I’m glad you brought that up. So for one discovering, I don’t want to say that the proper optimal way to perform the SSB squat, but in the onset when I first got my hands on an SSB bar, I saw it as a great way to correct someone who goes into spinal flexion, someone who isn’t able to maintain neutral. Way back when I was a very extended extension based pattern, squatter, a lot of low bar, a lot of deadlifting, having this extension based strategy, ribs out, anterior pelvic tilt, compression of the spine. And I always dealt with kind of low back discomfort. But I’m like, whatever, man. My back is sore. I lost a lot of weight. It should be sore. And eventually those chronic injuries became bad enough where it affected my ability to train. Knee pain got worse, back pain got worse. So I started learning more about a neutral position. Basically, rather than getting under a barbell or reaching down for a deadlift and going into this extension based strategy, I learned about getting my ribs down, getting more oblique involvement, more abdominal involvement, having a more neutral pelvis, which brings more hamstring, more glute, just basically bringing more muscles to the party rather than relying solely upon my back.
Going back to the SSB, when I originally got the SSB, I would kind of hold it and basically the SSB would bring me forward and I would have to fight to stay upright. So I’m like that’s kind of this kind of caveman or cake approach. Like, hey, this thing’s pulling me forward. It’s hard to stay upright and extended. If I do the SSB, it will improve my ability to stay upright. Similar. It’s like a good morning, a barbecue. Good morning. A good morning on the SSB is a great variation. After digging a bit deeper, I learned about basically reaching into the handles from my serratus, not a push, not with my chest and shoulders, but reaching into those handles. And because the weight is out in front of you, I’ll Zoom out a little bit because I assume you’re going to post this video from here that brings my ribs down and also brings my pelvis neutral. So now I’m stacked. Now, before I descend into my squat, my stop position is more neutral. I have a more neutral strategy, so I have more obliques, more abs. And when I squat, I kind of have more of a Squatty SSB squat, more vertical, and I feel a ton of pressure in my abdomen.
So basically refining and developing capacity and competency in that stacked position, which is completely facilitated with the SSB. When I go back to a low bar squat or a high bar squat, it’s more squatting and I’m able to recruit more muscles. I’m not relying solely upon my posterior chain, primarily my erectors, and I’m using more abs, more obliques. I’m using my quads in a better synchronized fashion. And I’m also getting more hands and more glue. So after using the SSB in that manner, it carries over to the competition much more. I hope that makes sense.
James Cerbie: Yeah, I’m in total agreement. We talk a lot on the podcast on why we love an SSB, a transformer bar, even a Spider bar. It’s really anything that’s allowing you to get your hands in front of your center of mass so you can get this little bit of a reach to essentially stack the deck in your favor. Pun intended, because that is the goal here is can I get my ribs down, my pelvis underneath me and get this really strong cylinder position? Because when I can get this really strong cylinder position now I’m actually giving my arms and legs a better chance to work. Right. And so the extension has its time and place. It’s a powerful strategy, but it’s something we don’t want to have to rely on and use all the time. Because when we extend that spine, you start losing frontal transfer motion, blah, blah, blah, blah. All that other fancy terminology. But your rationale is 1000 for the same reason that we utilize those lifts all the time with our clients. And our question is usually, hey, for your main squat, if we can get you on one of these, this would be our top choice.
Unless you have a very specific outcome you want on a specific bar. Otherwise, get your hands in front of your body, give me a little reach to bring ribs and stern them back. Right? We can get more side abs and give you more hamstring. We can have more of this vertical displacement of the pelvis squat, and it ends up just being a really great way for people to build high quality training volume. And it seems to come from our experience thus far. The data we have comes at far less cost. Like we can move more load and do more work without getting as banged up or without as much hip, back and knee issues cropping up. So in my mind, it comes back to something we mentioned at the very beginning. The podcast is like, okay, this allows us to do way more high quality work than this other thing. So I’m probably going to use this tool as much as I can and then we can use this tool whenever we need it from a specificity standpoint.
Developing Capacity and Competency in a Stacked Position
Steve Tripp: Yeah. So kind of a way to offer some context on how do I work this into my program? Probably eight months out of the year. From day one, I tend to follow a kind of a higher frequency program while squatting twice a week, others twice a week. So if we’re looking at the squat, my day one will be an SSB squat, not as hinge as a low bar. And I don’t really take it to failure. I kind of leave a couple of reps in reserve when I’m doing the SSB because it’s more of a patterning positioning exercise and I can press it up. I press it up, but I’m really trying to really Hone in on that vertical solid, not really grindy pattern. So that’s kind of my day one and then my day two squat, be it day four and day five of the training week is my accomplishment. Low bar. So you kind of combine the two. So day one you use the SSB to kind of go back to that kind of Squatty favorable neutral pattern, and then that kind of progresses right alongside the competition lift, where when I go to the low bar, I have an easier time maintaining a neutral position when I walk it out.
And when I squat, I do a better job of sitting into my knees and staying right over my center of mass. How much my bar path has improved the last two years under maximum loads during a low bar blackspot is pretty dramatic and the SSB has everything to do with that. A low bar back spot is never going to look or feel like an SSB. They should feel dramatically different. But that SSB is going to carry over tremendously to the low bar back squat for those reasons. And I think we can kind of say that the trap bar is kind of like the trap bar is to the barbell deadlift that the SSB could be to the squat. The reason why we say general pop and the trap bar can be a more user friendly deadlift is because of the hands by the side. When you are behind a barbell, you tend to go into extension to get those hips and knees and legs behind that bar. When you have a neutral by your side grip on a trap bar, you’re able to maintain a more neutral position and have a more favorable, less costly hinge deadlift than you are on a barbell.
So being able to work both into your training or just do trap bar for a cycle before going back to the deadlift will have tremendous benefits because of the less cost, but also manipulating your position a bit so that when you go back to the barbell deadlift, the deadlift looks different. You’re a little more stacked, you’re utilizing more tissues, you’re not so extended, and that’s going to basically lift your ceiling. Great way to blast through plateaus.
James Cerbie: Love it. I love that. So we’ve got probably about 15 minutes or so here to play with. And so I know that another thing we talked about briefly off air that I wanted to circle back to, that we haven’t hit yet is the role that rest and recovery has played in your training over the last two years.
Steve Tripp: Right.
James Cerbie: Because as load increases, as specificity increases, because you just pull 850.
Steve Tripp: So I had a body weight of, I was probably 265.
James Cerbie: Yeah, exactly. And so I would be intrigued to hear how the management of recovery and rest has evolved for you over time. Just because every time that you are doing these things, like the withdrawal, if you will, from the bank account is going to be pretty significant.
The Role Rest and Recovery Plays in Steve’s Training
Steve Tripp: Yeah. So it’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re someone like myself who’s been training for 21 years. And it’s like, how do I get strong or how to build more muscle? How do I put my weight on the ball where you do more work, right? Not really, because the work that you’re doing is becoming more costly to your system, to your central nervous system. So basically, fatigue is going to accumulate, you’re going to beat yourself up, and when you step, when it’s time to perform, it’s going to mask your performance. Your ability to actually express this new strength in this new capacity that you created isn’t going to be there. So to offer a little bit of context, back in February of 2021, two weeks out from the competition, I pulled an 850 deadlift. And then I went to compete and it wasn’t there. It would have been a national record. The competition was at my gym. There were 250 people there. They’re all there to see me pull this national record. And I got off the floor and I couldn’t finish and I cried like a fucking baby. I was so embarrassed and I was so upset and I was like, Why is this happening?
And the answer is, I’m not the athlete I once was. I’m stronger. I think it’s safe to say that I have exceeded my genetic potential. I don’t think I’m someone that was really genetically supposed to be deadlifting 850 and squatting 750, close to 800. That comes at a cost. And I recently competed again and I hit? 850 in competition and I honestly probably could have pulled it for a set of three. What was different this time around? I gave myself more rest. My last heavy deadlift was three weeks before the competition and I didn’t really deadlift a whole lot after that. I think it’s also important to consider the complexity of the deadlift. It’s not that complex. You don’t have to hammer all that much. You reach down, you grab the bar, you pick it up. How much practice do you
really need? Not as much as you do in a circus, dumbbell or a squat. I’d say that’s more of a complex lift and I think it’s also not as costly of a lift. So you can work those lifts a little harder closer to the day, then you can do a deadlift, you don’t need to.
So basically giving myself that extra week, I’ll tell you, when it came time to deadlift in this last competition, I was pulling my warm ups and I felt like I could have pulled fucking anything off the floor. And all it was was just giving myself the requisite amount of rest to be able to perform on game day.
James Cerbie: Yeah, I like that. There’s a distinction here between readiness and preparedness. They’re really like two different things. And so I think that realization is really important because you had the capacity to hit 850 even though you missed it. Right? You just weren’t putting yourself in a position to be able to express that yet because it was masked by some level of fatigue that had not come out of the system at that point.
Steve Tripp: Yeah. What ended up happening was I probably could have hit it back in February. But the mistake I made was that it was two weeks out and a week out. I worked up to my openers, which is something I’ve always done, and it’s something I have a lot of my clients do, and it’s fine. But when it came to the deadlift, I didn’t need to hit 800 a week out. When I did, it was slow. It took everything I had, and I was like, well, no big deal. I hit it. I’ll recover in time, but that took too much out of me. And like I said, this time around, I still worked up to my squad opener. I still worked up to my bench opener. I didn’t work out quite enough for my squad opener. But I hit like a 600 deadlift a week out, and it flew and I called it there and I listened to my body. I gave myself the requisite rest for that particular movement. And then on the competition day, it was there. So basically, this concept doesn’t apply to all lifts. You have to be able to differentiate between the high cost, kind of low capacity lift of the deadlift versus the kind of lower cost, higher compensate of the bench and squat and basically realize that there should be a different approach to the three different lists because they are different both for how much they beat you up and how complex they are.
James Cerbie: Excellent. Well, vanilla, we’re at about 40, 41 minutes here. So let’s do this. If you could have the people that are listening to this episode walk away with one thing, like one thing they can take from this episode, or maybe we haven’t hit it yet, but if they can walk away with one thing that you would love to see them go and focus on doing or implementing, et cetera, what would that one thing be for you?
Steve Tripp: I think it is appropriate with where we are. We’re just coming out from the new year. So a lot of people are getting started there. They have their resolutions and things to follow, and they have these goals in mind. I think goals are great. I think goals are important. I think they’re necessary because they give you direction. But I can tell you that I’ve had a lot of goals and I’ve accomplished a lot of those goals. And as soon as I hit those goals, it’s kind of like, what’s next? So I think it’s important to be goal oriented. It’s important to have goals, but I think it’s very important to be very present in the day to day process, forming habits and rituals on the daily, each moment, each set, each workout, rather than being so focused upon the end goal, for one. Because when you get there. It’s whatever. But two, if you’re focused on the end goal, you kind of lose sight of the small specific day to day moments and tasks that it takes to get there. So basically just getting started and executing these small day to day tasks and realizing the reward and feedback you get from all those and just continuing to put your head down and continuing to work on all those small little pieces.
I also think people focus a bit too much on the minutiae and these small things that don’t matter. They’re like oh yeah, I’m having a lot more cinnamon but they’re not eating enough protein.
James Cerbie: Meanwhile they’re 500 800 kw off of where they need to be to break even.
Steve Tripp: It’s like never forget about the big stuff, the meat and potatoes and with so much information readily available out there, people get distracted when it really just comes back to the fundamentals. Focusing on the simplest, most mundane and it’s not sexy, it’s not exciting. To me it is the most exciting stuff. Are the big pieces, the big pieces of the pie focus upon the most important factors. Hitting your big compound lifts, getting your food in, getting your rest, making sure you’re hydrated. All of this simple stuff. You have to truly nail all of those pieces before you even think about the special stuff because that stuff really doesn’t matter. It’s the big pieces, it’s the low hanging fruit, it’s the best return on investment things that you really should focus upon rather than looking for the secret and all these little pieces that really don’t have much impact on anybody. It’s focusing on the most important things and the day to day application of those practices is what’s going to get you to reach those goals and then to go to the next and the next and the next.
James Cerbie: Excellent. I love that man. I have nothing else to add. I am 1000% in agreement with everything that was just said. So let’s do this for people that want to find you Steve. Where’s the best place for them to go to connect with you?
Where to Find Steve Tripp
Steve Tripp: I’m pretty active on Instagram at @Strippcam, S-T-R-I-P-P-C-A-M. Don’t get the wrong idea. It’s my name, Steve Tripp Cameron. A lot of people like strip cam.. They kind of think I’m like in the pole industry or something but I haven’t changed it, I’m just going to go with it. So @Strippcam is my IG handle at @thetopstrengthproject is the gym. @the Top T-O-P Strength Project, that’s the gym. We have a website, the Topstrengthproject.com, all of which are a great way to get a hold of me and to watch and kind of see what I’m doing. There’s always events and seminars and things going on at the gym so it’s definitely worth keeping up with. I have Josh Bryant coming to Jailhouse Strong on the 29th. I’m really excited to have him there. I’m actually planning to start working with him. He’s going to be coaching me excellently in New York next week. Nick Camby who’s been taking the entire strongman industry by storm, but particularly the middleweight. He’s just been so dominant. He’s coming the week before to the gym, so that’s worth keeping an eye out for. But strip Cam and the top training project are the best ways to get a hold of me.
James Cerbie: Awesome. And we’ll throw all that in the show notes for people listening. Steven, thank you so much for doing this. This was fantastic.
Steve Tripp: Awesome. Thanks for having me.
James Cerbie: All right, fans have a fantastic rest of your week family and we’ll talk next Monday. All right. Bye.
Steve Tripp: Thanks, guys. Bye.
- Explore our free training samples here: https://www.rebel-performance.com/training-templates/
- Explore our free training samples here: https://www.rebel-performance.com/training-templates/
- Follow James Cerbie on IG here: https://www.instagram.com/jamescerbie/
- Follow Steve Tripp on IG here: https://www.instagram.com/strippcam/
- Follow The Top Strength Project on IG here: https://www.instagram.com/thetopstrengthproject/
- Check out Brick Shit House in our program shop here: https://bit.ly/3GWDD83
- Want to learn more about the Rebel Performance Training Team? Click here to chat with our team: http://m.me/rebelperf
- Claim your 90-day risk-free trial to work with me and my team privately here: https://www.rebel-performance.com/
PLUS: Whenever you’re ready… here are 3 ways we can help you unlock total package strength, physique, and athleticism (without being in pain or getting beaten down by injuries).
1. Listen to the podcast.
We release a new episode every Sunday evening where we break down what to do in and outside the gym to help you become the total package (and perform pain-free) – Click here to listen.
2. Join the RP Athlete Lounge
It’s our new Facebook group where we show working professionals how to level up their strength, physique, and athleticism. – Click here.
3. Claim your 90-day risk-free trial to work with me and my team privately.
Want to work directly with me and my team to fast track your strength, physique, and performance gainz? Then go here to claim your 90-day no-risk trial: Click here.