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I have recently moved to a foreign country and find myself with a lack of things to do. As such, I've decided to finally follow a weightlifting program; I choose Starting Strength. It has just five lifts (only one of which is very technical) and very detailed explanations of all of them. Unfortunately, I don't know any of the lifts and I'm worried about learning them with improper form: while the book is very detailed, even discussing common mistakes and ways to correct them, this all relies on having a training partner/trainer to check your form.

Unfortunately, as mentioned above, I'm in a foreign country: I don't know the language, so can't ask random people for help (well, I can communicate, but explaining the nuances of the lift is beyond me); I can't afford a personal trainer of any sort (not that I'm confident a random trainer would know them well enough) and the few friends I have here are not interested in going with me so I'm stuck with going at it alone. My question is: How can I ensure I'm doing them with proper form, if there isn't anyone to check it for me?

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Have you tried asking for a trainer at your gym who speaks English? –  user26 Oct 26 '11 at 20:10
    
@Tim The gym I have in mind is sort of oriented towards students, so there aren't any trainers per-se, and English knowledge is not really widespread here. My main concern, though, is that the "average" gym trainer will not know how the right technique himself (or at least, that's the belief I got from SS the book and the assorted fitness sites I've read on the web over the years). So for now I'm not counting on it, but I manage to find someone who went through SS/knows the left inside-out, then great! –  VPeric Oct 26 '11 at 20:56
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1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted
  • Film yourself. Review the tape yourself and fix everything you can. Post it to the SS technique forum (for best results, follow their guidelines). Post it here and ask what you're doing wrong.

  • Pre-emptively use a TUBOW (Terribly Useful Block Of Wood) to make sure your knees are correct in the squat.

  • Do chin-ups instead of power cleans, per Rippetoe's slightly different Practical Programming novice program, to reduce the number of lifts you need to perfect.

  • Every time you find a significant form issue, reset ("deload") the weight on that exercise by 10% or 20%. This makes re-learning the correct version of the lift much easier, and gives previously unused supporting and stabilizing muscles opportunity to grow into their new role.

  • Recognize that the squat (not just the power clean) is also a highly technical lift. Even the presses and deadlift can easily be done incorrectly in subtle ways that will slowly cause trouble. Recognize that you'll probably do some (or all) the lifts incorrectly for several months. Continually refine your technique.

  • Don't give up looking for a powerlifting or Olympic lifting gym, CrossFit box, or knowledgable coach. Even an occasional form check-up can help tremendously.

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I'm fine with the "continual" improvement, but I'm not sure how to figure out I'm doing it right the first time. Make video, go back home, edit and upload, wait for comments, do one more squat, repeat doesn't sound like a terribly efficient method. The problem you are suggesting also doesn't seem to have any deadlifts, is that correct? Also, the gym I have easiest access to has only a smith machine, no squat racks and stuff: I assume this is a no-go and I have to find something better? There's also a Crossfit gym here, but it's ridiculously expensive.. maybe one visit down the line, though. –  VPeric Oct 26 '11 at 19:14
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1) The "video, post, repeat" is slow, but it's what works when you don't have in-person coaching. Do a full workout, film the last set of each lift, post those, try to implement corrections in your next scheduled workout. 2) The PP novice program includes deadlifts. They're alternated with the chins and pull-ups, and are only done once a week. 3) I would do a free trial class at CrossFit, then ask them if they provide coaching for the SS lifts. (That's what I did.) 4) A gym without a squat rack is not a gym. –  Dave Liepmann Oct 26 '11 at 19:26
    
2) Ah, I see now, I missed it the first time. 4) Agreed, but it's just so much more convenient. 3) Hopefully, that'll work, perhaps my financial situation can manage a few visits at least. 1) I'll see what I can think of. Thanks a lot in any case! –  VPeric Oct 26 '11 at 19:32
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I cannot stress enough that the Smith machine is of the Devil and must not be used in place of lifting a barbell. –  Dave Liepmann Oct 26 '11 at 19:38
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