Owning a Gym and Training Young Athletes with Scott Paltos – The Barbell Life 289

Scott Paltos has come highly recommended as a guest for this podcast – apparently we have tons of mutual friends.

And I can see why after this podcast. Scott has seen so much in the strength game, and he has a lot of wisdom to share.

We talk all about his experience in several different sports, owning a gym, training kids, and some advanced thoughts on speed work. I could talk to Scott all day.


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  • “Dinosaur” days and “Beach” days in the training week
  • How he uses contrast training in his own way
  • His advice for young coaches
  • The real story of owning your own gym
  • Speed training lessons from the dream team
  • and more…

A Better Way to Plan

2019 has been a roller coaster of a year for my team and for me personally. There have been some extreme highs and lows, which unfortunately seem to go hand-in-hand.

My business has noticed steady growth – something I am extremely thankful for. My baby girl, Magnolia Taylor Mash, was born in February – which was the highlight of the year. But this is not a year in review, this is more of my thought process heading into 2020 based on the happenings of 2019. I think a lot of you will be able to take this process and apply it to your own life.

Highlights… and mistakes

If I listed all of our successes this year at Mash Elite, it would appear we’ve had the best year of any gym in the world. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:

  • Two gold medalists at Junior Nationals
  • Two athletes at Youth Worlds
  • Two bronze medals at Youth Worlds
  • Silver medalist at Senior Pan American Championships
  • Best male and female lifter at the Senior National Championships
  • Two athletes at the Youth Pan American Championships
  • One gold medalist at Youth Pan Ams and Best Male Lifter
  • Great year for Tommy Bohanon in his final year in the NFL (maybe his final year)
  • Two athletes at the Pan American Games
  • Two athletes at the Junior Pan American Championships with two medalists as well even though both were still Youth Athletes.
  • Multiple American and Pan American records
  • Winning the team championships at Youth Nationals including multiple gold medal performances
  • Best overall male athlete at Youth Nationals
  • Qualifying four American, two Danish, and one Irish athlete for the Senior Worlds
  • Visiting Jamaica twice with Stronger Experts to help their track athletes
  • Tate Carney compiled 2,000 yards of offense as a sophomore in high school
  • Tate and his teammate Cam Beck were nominated all-conference
  • Cade Carney played his last season of Division I Football for Wake Forest University
  • Creating the newest University Weightlifting Program in the country at Lenoir-Rhyne University
  • Youth Athlete Ryan Grimsland won the 67kg class at the Senior American Open.

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2020...

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* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

These are just a few of the highlights. If you look at this list, you’d think I had a great year. I would be omitting a lot of the bad things that happened, but it would make me look awesome. But that would be a lie, and it wouldn’t help any of you. So I want to talk about the biggest issue I ran into this year, and I want to explain some of the steps I plan on taking to counter this snag.

Culture, Capacity, and Commitment

Our culture took a dive at the end of the year. We lost several top athletes. Of course some needed to go, and some I will miss forever. The questions are:

  1. What happened?
  2. How do we avoid this happening again?

The biggest mistake I made was bringing on too many top athletes in a year that would require them traveling all over the world. Most coaches have at most one elite athlete, which is easy to handle. Even the ones who have multiple elites normally have seniors, juniors, or youth. This year we had multiple of each age category. We had four youth qualifying for international trips, including Youth Worlds and Youth Pan Ams. We had two junior athletes qualifying for Junior Worlds and Junior Pan Ams. We had four seniors qualifying for Senior Pan Ams, Senior Pan American Games, and Senior Worlds. This doesn’t even cover the international athletes we coach – and we had youth, junior, and senior international athletes qualifying for meets all around the world.

Does this sound like a lot? Well, it doesn’t even cover our powerlifters and athletic performance athletes. Oh yeah, I’m a husband and father to four children who need my attention, and I run multiple businesses. This is not an excuse. I am simply setting up the mistake that I made. I simply didn’t consider my capacity as a coach, and it bit me in the butt.

Pretty much all of the problems originated from the fact I was too busy – causing me to ignore issues, to communicate ineffectively, and to allow things to slip through the cracks. A big part of the problem was bringing on athletes simply because they were awesome, without considering if they fit the culture of my team or me as a coach. All of this combined has caused me to think deeply about how I do things. I don’t know about you, but in my experience, an extreme trial normally precedes extreme growth.

Considerations moving forward

So what do I plan on doing about it? That’s the real question. All of us have bumps in the road, but it’s how we respond that makes us who we are. The first thing I plan on doing is figuring exactly what the values of our team are. I am not basing this 100% on what I think. I am taking into consideration what my athletes and coaches think as well – so the set of values that decides how our team will be conducted is developed from our team as a whole. I want the entire team to take 100% ownership in our set of values moving forward.

I am also having each team member hand me his or her personal goals. I am going to help them develop these goals into a macro and micro set of goals they can check off almost weekly. This will govern the way I expect them to act.

For example, if an athlete tells me he or she wants to make an Olympic team someday, then I will expect their actions to match their goals. If they are staying up all night playing video games and demonstrating terrible nutritional habits, then I am not going to take them seriously. At that point, we will either:

  • Change their behavior
  • Alter their goals
  • Ask them to change or train somewhere else

These same goals and values will follow us to Lenoir-Rhyne University and will help govern our team there as well. Each new crop of athletes will give their input – making the set of values a living document. So far I love what our team has evolved into. Everyone is working hard, focused on their goals, and ready to take on 2020. We still have multiple senior, junior, and youth athletes here in America and around the world who will be traveling to multiple international competitions. We are looking to smash American, Danish, Australian, and New Zealand records along with some world records next year.

One thing I am doing as a university weightlifting coach is allowing current coaches to remain the coach of record, so they will do the traveling with the athletes they have developed. I also plan on working closely with the coaches in regard to programming and technical cues. This will help cut down on my travel time and will help keep me focused on the training of each athlete.

Planning Ahead

I’m excited that all of this happened now – causing me to think hard about the way I plan on growing our program at Lenoir-Rhyne University. I want to develop a program we can all be proud of. More importantly, I want to form a culture that will allow the incoming athletes to have the best collegiate experience possible during their tenure at LR.

I hope all of this helps you guys as you grow your own clubs. More importantly, I hope all of you can learn from my mistakes, so you don’t have to go through a season like I just did. Twelve countries in one year was a bit too much for me.

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Making and Surviving the NFL with Tommy Bohanon – The Barbell Life 288

If you’ve been around me long enough, you’ve heard me talk about Tommy Bohanon.

He was the most powerful athlete I have ever personally trained. He was an absolute beast of an NFL player, and programming for him was my thrill.

Tommy has now retired from the NFL – but he hasn’t slowed down. He’s still training, he’s still reaching for his goals, and he’s still making a difference in the lives of many through his charitable foundation and through his newfound career.

So listen in to this podcast to hear about it – and also to hear Tommy’s insight on the best way to make the NFL and survive the NFL.


Travis Mash shows you all the details and reasoning behind the recent off-season program for Tommy Bohanon (starting fullback for the Jacksonville Jaguars)

Then you can use these principles to individualize your own programs to fit an athlete's strengths, weaknesses, age, gender, sport demands, and unique response to training.


  • How you should prepare in high school if you want to play college football
  • Insane skills at reading the opponent’s position at the line
  • The adjustment from high school to college to NFL football
  • Hidden dangers in the NFL and how many players end up ruining their lives
  • Have concussions changed the game? (And how Tommy avoided ever having one)
  • and more…

A New University Program

I found the sport of weightlifting in 1996. I was able to earn my USA Weightlifting Level 1 Coaching Certification in that same year.

In 1997 I made the move to Colorado Springs to be coached by two-time Olympian Wes Barnett. I thrived under his tutelage, and in 1998 I was invited to train at the Olympic Training Center with Coach Dragomir Cioroslan. Shortly after that I moved home to North Carolina because my father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

Thanks to CrossFit, the sport became popular around the entire world. By 2009 I started dabbling in the sport once again, and coaching a few people in my gym. By 2013, weightlifting was slowly becoming my focus as a coach. Around 2014 I started writing articles about improving the sport of weightlifting in America. I was working with Team MuscleDriver USA as a coach, which gave me a pretty solid voice in the sport.

Making the Sport Better

Some of the things I was recommending were:

  • A better culture overall – one of expecting to win versus happy to just make a team.
  • Providing financial assistance to our top athletes to motivate them and also so they would be able to focus on training.
  • Targeting all the mundane areas of performance that add up to big results – like sports psychology, nutrition, and recovery.
  • A successful university program to motivate exceptional young athletes and to get the buy-in of their parents.

Phil Andrews has taken USA Weightlifting out of the dark ages during this Olympic quad. Our athletes are winning medals at every major international competition. Our athletes are breaking world records. We are no longer happy to simply make the team. Our top athletes are receiving stipends that allow them to focus on their sport. Phil has done a tremendous job of assembling a staff of rock stars that are supporting our top athletes in the areas of sports psychology, nutrition, and recovery. Phil obviously had a similar vision – and more importantly he knew how to execute the plan.

The University Dream

My dream as a coach has always been to start a university weightlifting program that would provide athletes a place to become truly great at their sport – while providing scholarships and academic opportunities to pursue the career of their choice. If we want the parents of exceptional athletes to buy-in to the sport of weightlifting, there have to be opportunities for their children. If not, those athletes are going to choose sports like football and wrestling where there are opportunities after high school.

I have worked on this dream for over five years. I have approached four different colleges only to get lost in red tape and decision makers. Finally, Lenoir-Rhyne University answered the call with the help of Professor Alex Koch. They announced the new program last week, and we wrapped up the details yesterday. I am starting the recruiting process now, which is why I am releasing this article now. I want the other coaches in America to know where I am coming from.

First off, I have dropped my personal club, Mash Mafia Weightlifting. I don’t want any conflict of interest. I will form a club for Lenoir-Rhyne, but our athletes only have to list that team for the competitions that we attend as a team, which I am anticipating to be University Nationals and Junior Nationals. Otherwise, they can keep their current affiliation for events like Senior Nationals and the American Open.

We still have on online team, and we are still coaching athletes online. Nothing is changing there. We still want to help all of you crush your goals. The only reason I’m dropping the personal club is I don’t want there to appear to be any conflict of interest with me being a coach for two clubs.

Second, I want the athletes to keep their current coaches as their number one coach. I get what it’s like to develop an athlete to the top national or international level only to have them picked up by another coach. That hurts – and in most cases, it doesn’t work very well. If I recruit an athlete who is enjoying constant and steady improvement, I would be a fool not to collaborate with that coach. I would only ask that their programming fit the weekly structure for the team. (For example, Friday is a heavier day for snatch and clean and jerk with Saturday being focused on strength work.) This way the athletes can still benefit from the camaraderie and competition of the group.

Of course, I am going to want to communicate with each of the coaches based on what I am seeing. That way, adjustments can be made when needed. I am not trying to benefit from anyone’s athlete. I am simply trying to provide an opportunity for young athletes. If you send me an athlete and they make it to the Olympics, you will be going and not me. This brings me to the other half of this announcement.

Want to come to Lenoir-Rhyne?

Here are the benefits to being a weightlifter at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, NC:

  • There will be scholarship opportunities based on level of performance.
  • All weightlifters will have access to athletic training.
  • All weightlifters will have access to the recovery methods provided to all athletes (cold tub, hot tub, sauna, etc.).
  • All weightlifters will have access to intra-workout and post-workout nutrition and supplements that are NSF certified.
  • The facilities are beautiful.

For anyone reading this who doesn’t know about me as a coach, I am a USA Level V Senior International Coach. Since 2015, our team has produced 23 Team USA athletes. I have been the Team USA Head Coach at four major international competitions – including the 2016 Men and Women’s Junior World Team. We have taken beginners all the way to Team USA – like Ryan Grimsland, Morgan McCullough, and Hunter Elam. We have also taken athletes with some degree of success and made them even better – like Jordan Cantrell and Nathan Damron. The point is that we can help you get better regardless of your situation.

Starting in January, I will start the long process of pursuing my PhD. Here’s why! In our industry, most of the time coaches are either:

  • The great athlete turned coach
  • The great coach who wasn’t a great athlete but has produced countless amazing athletes (much like Coach Don McCauley)
  • The PhD, PT, or Chiro who has all the research and book knowledge

My goal is to combine the three and see what happens. I want to perform research in the areas that we all debate without any concrete science to back our theories up. The other complaint I constantly hear is that certain research studies were performed on non-athletic general population folks. I want to use athletes and gen pop folks to figure out these questions. I have so many questions to answer! What average intensity is best, and which is best for different populations? How often should someone squat? Are deadlifts good, bad, or indifferent for snatch and clean?

These are just a few, but I am so excited to go to work. I am excited to be challenged both academically and as a coach. I am excited to work with all of you on developing a university program we can all be proud of. I want a program that:

  • Produces champions.
  • Produces athletes with functional degrees.
  • Produces humans who make a positive impact on the world.
  • Aids in the research that will benefit all coaches and athletes in America.
  • Aids in the research that will make our practices as coaches safer than ever.

Getting Started

Here are a few final thoughts I want to make all of you aware of. In the past we have raised money that benefited our athletes for Mash Mafia Weightlifting. Starting right now, any money raised by our nonprofit will go toward scholarships and competition expenses for our future athletes. The minute I learn about the ins and outs of how this will work, I will start raising money for this program. My goal is to make this program as attractive to top athletes as possible.



* Special Facebook Group Access to the Team

* Discounts on Ebooks

* Tax Deductions

One thing I am considering is working with CrossFitters who either want to do weightlifting as well or who simply want to get better at the Olympic movements. If that is you and you are of college age, you might consider this opportunity as well. If you are awesome at the movements (like David Bradley), you might get a scholarship as a CrossFitter as long as you can compete at University Nationals. If not, it would still be a good decision. I will teach you how to be a great weightlifter, and you can still CrossFit. This is an aspect of the program I intend to elaborate on immediately, so please start considering it. Contact me if you are interested!

For now, here is what I need from coaches, athletes, and parents:

  1. If you are interested in the program or you’re a coach with an athlete who might be interested, you can email me at masheliteperformance@gmail.com and soon at Travis.Mash@LR.edu
  2. I am totally open to suggestions – so once again, email me or message me. I want this to be a program we can all be proud of.

I am excited for this new era in my life. My family is excited for the move. For all of you who I coach online, nothing will change. If I am your coach, I will continue as your coach. Of course, if you have one of our other awesome coaches, you will continue with that coach. Our gym in Lewisville, NC will continue along – and I will be present there until August of next year. Most of my athletes will be coming to Lenoir-Rhyne, and other athletes we work with will be able to train with the team at Lenoir-Rhyne. So nothing really changes there. Now we are simply able to provide more to our athletes. Wish us well please because this will be my legacy to the sport of weightlifting.

Pursuing Coaching Excellence with Crystal McCullough – The Barbell Life 287

We have a very special guest on the podcast today.

One who isn’t really a guest at all.

Coach Crystal McCullough has grown over the years to be more and more a part of the Mash Mafia. And now I don’t know how I would survive without her.

So we talk about her coaching journey, the lessons she’s learned along the way, and how she plans to continue to get better and better as a coach.

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2020...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World


  • Why verbal cues are the last step – and what to do first
  • What makes her a great coach in the back room
  • How she got to be a coach for the Mash Mafia
  • Crystal’s biggest lessons
  • A simple process and a crazy tip or recruiting
  • and more…

Is Competition Good or Bad?

It’s an interesting era we are in.

I am not sure if this is the point where I am old and simply blaming a generation for the shortcomings I am experiencing, or if this is a real thing all over. Let me dive right in, so I can catch you up on what I am talking about.

Competition – Then and Now

When I was a young strength athlete, I loved competition. I drove 90 minutes each way twice per week just so I could train with someone stronger than me. Eventually I hooked up fulltime with Chris “Ox” Mason, which is when I became my strongest. Ox and I were in the same weight class most of the time and sometimes one weight class apart. We were competitive with each other in the gym but remained the best of friends outside the gym. Heck, inside the gym we helped each other. Basically we were each other’s coach.

Westside Barbell is legendary because most people think Louie Simmons is some kind of magical programmer. The secret is that he placed a bunch of lions in the same room – and the toughest lion became the alpha. There were battles within the gym, but they were family outside of the gym. This arrangement reminds me of my home with my two sons, Rock and Behr. They fight all the time, but they won’t let anyone else pick on the other.

Recently I have noticed in my gym, as well as other gyms across America, that athletes don’t like having someone in their own weight class training with them day in and day out. I have witnessed arguments break out and cultures destroyed over this. Instead of complaining to all of you during this entire article, I am going to explain the way it should work and the advantage that competition brings. Hopefully this will enlighten some of the athletes out there so we can use this tactic to our advantage as a country.

Attitude of Excellence

Why do you think wrestling programs like the one you will find at Penn State University are so awesome? Why do countries build Olympic Training Centers? Yes, in both cases you are trying to give your best athletes the best coach and conditions – but there is another reason that trumps all the rest. If you toss the best athletes in the same room with a great coach, you can rest assured the best athlete will make their way to the top. Not only that, even the athletes who aren’t the best at first will get better. The ones who were never going to make it in the first place will fade away, and that’s fine too. You will either become the absolute best you can be – or you will realize it wasn’t meant to be.

I had an athlete several years ago named Michael Waters. He was a two-time 4A state champion here in North Carolina. He was a rockstar in this state. He could have gone to several collegiate programs in America and started right away, but he chose Penn State. He wanted to become the absolute best wrestler he could possibly be. He knew Cael Sanderson, the Penn State head coach, and the amazing tradition at Penn State would do just that. Michael is now serving in the Army Special Forces, which fits this attitude of excellence.

Here’s what you have to ask yourself:

  • Do I want to be the best athlete I can possibly be?
  • Do I want to be the best athlete on the team?

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2020...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

Competitive Environment

If your coach recruits someone in your same weight class or who plays your same position, that doesn’t mean they think less of you. It doesn’t mean they don’t believe in your abilities. It doesn’t mean they love you any less. They are simply trying to create a competitive atmosphere conducive to forming champions.

The way you react to the recruitment of new athletes says a lot about you as an athlete. If you fade away from a battle during practice, you will fade away during a battle in a real competition or game. The best athletes in the world thrive on competition. Guys like Michael Jordan will thrive when threatened or pushed. If this isn’t you, you will need to embrace competition more than the others until you are comfortable in competitive situations. Otherwise, realize you will never be a great athlete. I know these are tough words, but I am being brutally honest. However, it’s never too late to change, so you aren’t locked in to a life of losing.

Here’s what athletes should experience from competitive environments:

  • The best athlete with the best attitude will get even better as they rise to the top.
  • Athletes will feed off of each other, especially during max effort days or scrimmages.
  • Athletes will learn from each other.
  • Athletes will encourage each other during training.
  • Athletes will encourage each other outside the gym.
  • The athletes who aren’t necessarily winning right away are still getting better as they seek to keep up and surpass.

Peer Pressure

First, if you are the top dog and your coach recruits someone in your weight class or in your position, don’t get offended. You should be excited because that new person is going to elevate your level of play to a place you didn’t believe was possible. This is going to make your next meet or game way easier than ever before. Remember this: if you can’t beat this person in training, you sure aren’t going to beat them at a competition. Champions always elevate their level of play based on the competition in front of them, and now you have the advantage of having that stimulus daily versus only on game day.

This is a life lesson, which is exactly what sport is supposed to be. What if you are the top accountant at a firm, and then one day your boss hires someone with equal or slightly better skills? Are you going to quit or get mad at your boss – or are you going to use the competition to raise your level of play? Parents, remember that sports are designed to prepare your children for life – not simply to showcase their skills to make you look cool in front of your family and friends. This is something most parents always forget.

If you have a max effort day or highly competitive day, athletes will feed off of each other. If one is feeling sluggish, they will elevate to match their competition. If you want to see athletes surpass never-dreamed-of levels, put them in a room filled with lions. The weak will get stronger, and the strong will get stronger than ever! This environment will make the competition, game, or match seem easy – just ask the Penn State wrestlers.

Peer Support

One of my favorite aspects of competitive teams is that athletes will learn from each other. Coaches can’t be everything to everyone. There are going to be times when coaches are struggling to fix flaws in their athletes. Sometimes hearing it from a peer is easier to accept and assimilate than when it comes from a coach. I have seen it happen several times. Sometimes athletes will struggle with an issue their peer has already overcome, so their peer can explain how to overcome the obstacle both physically and mentally.

Sometimes training is hard. We have all experienced the moments in training that felt like we were in the middle of a desert all alone. This is a lonely place to be, so having a teammate look at you and say that it’s going to be okay is a definite asset. It’s easier to endure trials when you’re not alone.

Enduring with teammates in the gym is much easier than overcoming the temptations out of the gym. Champions are not made inside the gym. Everyone trains hard, but the champions are the ones who make the right choices outside the gym. If you create a culture filled with focused and determined athletes, you will also form a culture of athletes who will keep each other accountable. We are all tempted once in a while to break our diet, drink that beer, or stay up late. It’s nice to be surrounded by athletes who will help keep you focused on the primary goal.


The latest and greatest methods from Travis Mash as he continues to innovate Mash Mafia programming.

Weightlifting - Powerlifting - Super Total

Garage Gym Warrior - Functional Fitness - Strength and Conditioning

If you are in a gym or on a team with two other athletes who are just as good or better, don’t get upset or get mad at the coach. This isn’t a bad thing. Whether you end up being the number one or not, I promise that you will get better in those conditions. You will work as hard as possible in an attempt to get ahead or stay ahead. That’s the point of competition – it will make you better.

I am not sure what has happened with today’s athletes not embracing competition. I guess we are in the “everyone deserves a trophy” era. Here are my final words. If you quit and run away from competition now, you will carry this action with you through life. Instead of running away, I suggest making a stand, getting better, and staying number one. Are you really a number one if you run away from another potential number one? I don’t think so.


Champion powerlifter and world-class weightlifting coach Travis Mash shares his powerful neural activation technique - proven to instantly increase your strength as well as lead to more long-term gains.

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