Neurology and Coaching with Evan Lewis – The Barbell Life 331

Our bodies are amazing.

The more we progress in terms of science, the more we realize the complex connections between neurology, muscles, and performance.

And our podcast guest today, Evan Lewis, is on the cutting edge of these developments – using his knowledge to help rehabilitate athletes in pain and to help athletes perform at their peak.

There are also some great nuggets of wisdom for coaches in this one. I was blown away by Evan!



It's finally here... Learn about technique, programming, assessment, and coaching from a master. For strength coaches and for athletes, these 53 videos (7 hours and 56 minutes of footage) will prepare you to understand the main lifts for maximum performance and safety. Get ready to learn...


  • Why young coaches get fired up… and then do the WRONG thing for their athletes
  • Amazing ways of finding out what areas are not neurologically firing
  • How CrossFit has contributed to the problem
  • Getting rid of the “threat response” from the nervous system
  • Did Michael Jordan debunk the Functional Movement Screen?
  • and more…

Defying Orders and Staying Open with Ian Smith – The Barbell Life 330

You may not know Ian Smith but you may have heard his story.

He was ordered by the governor to close the doors of his gym during this time of pandemic. But Smith refused.

That rocketed him into the center of a controversy that quickly became national.

It’s a fascinating story, but it’s also a great lesson along the way about how much the barbell means to us all.

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  • The story of the shut down
  • Playing the loophole game
  • Fast food is open… but not gyms?
  • Mental health and the gym
  • What the future holds
  • and more…

Ketogenic Diet for Athletes

This week in my EXS 505 Sports Nutrition class, we were assigned two articles which discussed the ins and outs of the ketogenic diet.

Some of the findings could be of interest to a few of my readers, so I thought I would give you a peak at the findings. To be fair, I must tell you I read both of these articles with a bit of skepticism, so I am going to start with views coming in to reading these two. First, the articles are referenced at the end of this discussion (Paoli, et. al., 2015) and (Zinn, et. al., 2017). Feel free to check out both of these articles on your own if you want to take a deeper dive.

My bias

Admittedly my weak spot up until now is nutrition. I know the basics, but my passion lies in biomechanics, anatomy, programming, physics, and hypertrophy. I was definitely glad to be taking this course, and I have been nothing but pleased with the professor. For any of you who don’t know, I am on the long journey to obtain my PhD in Human Performance at Lenoir-Rhyne University with the first stop being a Masters in Exercise Science.

I am a huge follower of Dr. Layne Norton and Dr. Andy Galpin, and like most credible professors they emphasize calories in versus calories out. They don’t credit any of these diets with a lot more than just creative ways to limit calories. Most of everything I have read confirms what they are saying. However, I see now each diet has its pros and cons. Normally I am talking about small nuances, but sometimes, small nuances are all that is needed to make a big difference. Now let’s dive into what I learned.


Weight Loss (especially short term) – The biggest reason this form of diet seems to work is the natural appetite suppression as a result of the higher satiety of proteins, effects on appetite hormones such as ghrelin, and possibly a sort of direct appetite-blocking effect of KB. There is also reduced lipogenesis and increased fat oxidation, a reduction in respiratory quotient may indicate a greater metabolic efficiency in fat oxidation, and a thermic effect of proteins and increased energy usage by glucogenesis. (Paoli, et. al., 2015)

However, all of this could simply point to fewer calories. I mean, not many people can eat extra calories of just fat and protein. Obviously you can’t create fat storage if there aren’t extra calories to go around. Once again, if there aren’t a lot of calories from carbs, the body has to burn more fat for fuel. It really comes down to what one can sustain. If you lead a busy lifestyle that makes counting calories bothersome, this might very well be a great way to cut some pounds before a competition or to fit in that wedding dress.

One big reason for this being a great way to cut weight before a meet is because the initial weight reduction is related to a loss in body water through glycogen depletion. (Zinn, et. al., 2017) That is probably why there isn’t a lot of strength and power lost from this type of diet. Which of course brings me to my next point.

Athletes Maintain Strength and Power – As of the Paoli, et. al. article in 2015, there was only research study that looked at KD’s (ketogenic diet) effects on strength and power. This was a study of 25 gymnasts over 30 days. They were provided 2.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight, less than 20 grams per day of carbohydrates, and the rest from fats with that amount being unlimited. The key for athletes is an adequate amount of protein must be used. In this study, the athletes maintained strength and power, while also maintaining lean body mass.

KD and Endurance – Here we had a bit of conflict in the two studies with Paoli, et. al., 2015 showing improvements in VO2 Max, improved fat oxidation with no detrimental effect on maximal or submaximal markers or aerobic exercise markers or muscle strength. It also showed cognitive improvements, which I will go over a bit later. Zinn, et. al., 2017 showed some decreases in performance which could have come from any of these factors:

  • It takes 7 days to adapt to a KD diet, and during those 7 days there will be a drop in performance.
  • Electrolytes need to be given during KD, both potassium and sodium.
  • The amount of protein is another key because the need goes up due to glucogenesis.
  • I would add that volume needs to be adjusted during the first seven days to account for the dip in performance, and it will take several weeks to recover from the overreaching.

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Improved Psychological Markers – This one is my favorite. Here are a few of the improvements noted by both studies:

  • Improved rates of learning and memory
  • Increased synaptic plasticity, which when added to learning new skills or information, becomes a long-term advantage
  • Alleviates symptoms of depression
  • Improved sense of well-being
  • Higher rates of energy
  • Improved skin and hair

The only negative noted was Muscle Mass. A KD activates AMPK (5’adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase) which in turn inhibits mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) a mechanism necessary for regulating muscle mass. KD also blunts the IGF-1/AKT/mTOR pathway also reducing the possibility of gaining muscle mass. (Paoli, et. al. 2015) Of course all of this to say it is almost impossible to gain muscle in a caloric deficit. The bottom-line is an athlete needs to know if they way to pack on muscle, restricting calories in not a good idea.

Both articles painted a fairly good picture for KD. I am not 100% convinced it doesn’t boil down to calories, but it’s worth looking into. If you are an athlete cutting weight, it might be a good idea to spend 21 to 30 days with a ketogenic diet. You will shed some weight and stay strong. Below are a few questions we were asked to answer which might shed some more light on things. I hope you enjoyed!

Further Q&As

1 – State one surprising thing you learned from the Paoli et al. article. Note why it was surprising to you.
I was surprised to find out the KD could possibly be linked to multiple improvements in the CNS including multiple positive psychological improvements. We know the brain’s source of energy is normally glucose, so to see the body’s adaptive ability to not only survive without it, but possibly function even better, is quite mind-blowing. There were three main CNS improvements that caught my eye: improved behavioral and motor performance tests, learning, and memory, increased synaptic plasticity, and alleviated depressive symptoms. (Paoli et al., 2015)

If this is true, a KD could possibly make athletes smarter and increase the number of synapses in the brain. They are talking about increasing the network, which definitely intrigues me to read more and reach out to a few experts in the field. Athletes who need improved focus and reaction times could definitely benefit if this is the case. Also, this weekend I had the chance to work with a nonprofit, FitOps, which is an organization created to eliminate veteran suicide by teaching a three-week course designed to certify them as personal trainers, give them the business skills to be successful, and provides placement within the community. The finding regarding potential improvements in depression could be useful to the entire organization.

2 – State one thing you question (because it goes against something previously learned or actually observed/experienced) or disagree with in either of the articles you were asked to read. (Remember to use in-text citations when referencing articles.)
The comprehensive article from Paoli interested me the most due to the low participation, and the average age of 50-years-old of the other article that I was assigned from Zinn (I mainly work with athletes between the ages of 16 and 30 – not age discrimination), and I was blown away by the findings regarding muscle mass. One of my earlier mentors, Charles Poliquin, was an early adopter of the LCHF diet approach. He was also a very famous strength coach for pro bodybuilders – not to mention some of the best professional and Olympic athletes on Earth. I watched him with my own eyes add muscle mass to athletes with KD plans. Therefore, Paoli’s statement regarding muscle mass is definitely challenging.

Hence, it appears somewhat contradictory there is widespread use of KD in bodybuilders also during “bulk up” periods, while all data regarding biochemical and molecular mechanisms suggest that it is very difficult to increase muscle mass during a KD; (Paoli, et. al. 2015). I have to assume it boils down to the characteristic reduction in calories due to appetite reduction from protein satiety and the overall appetite blocking effect of KB. However, I look forward to the opinion of my classmates and especially Professor Helsel.

3 – Did either of these articles change your views on ketogenic diets? (Explain by stating “how” and/or “why”). Remember to use in-text citations when referencing articles.
The intriguing aspect of the article by Zinn were the increases in overall well-being, recovery, improved skin conditions, improved memory and other cognitive abilities, and reduction in inflammation which was enough to interest me personally to try more of a KD. (Zinn, 2017). KD is becoming more and more popular, and I believe most diets are cyclical in nature. I pride myself in avoiding such fads. However, since I am a 47-year-old grad student, I have to at least look deeper into the cognitive and overall health improvements.

4 – If you have a client or athlete who wants to try a ketogenic diet to gain a competitive edge, what approach would you take with this client? (Include your rationale and whether you would provide the same advice/approach for all, or vary based on type of athlete).
Based on the information in both assigned articles, I would consider trying out a KD for a more optimal weight cut. I am the Head Coach of the inaugural Olympic Weightlifting Team at LRU. It’s of course a weight class sport, so optimal cuts to make weight at the top of a class while maintaining strength is a big part of the sport. It’s appealing to consider making a cut without restricting water and food, without using a sauna, and without spitting.

Our team has several 2024 Olympic hopefuls, so I can’t simply “try something” at a big national or international meet. I would try a KD out at a local meet beginning at 21-days out to get over the initial performance decrease experienced during the first few days. The main thing I would be looking for in the first meet is exactly how much weight is shed without further restrictions. The key is to get a potential percentage. Therefore, if the athlete drops 2% from KD only, I can assume 2% of a cut in an athlete who isn’t restricted to a KD will come from the KD alone. That will let me know how much needs to come from other means such as increased activity or further restrictions in calories – aka calories in vs. calories out.

Here’s an example. If I have a 73kg male athlete, I normally like him to stay within 2-3% of their bodyweight or 1.46-2.19kg. If we find a KD alone sheds 2%, then we can expect our athlete to easily shed the weight – and based on Paoli, keep his power and strength. This could be a really big advantage for our athletes as well as a healthy alternative. (Paoli, et. al., 2015).


Paoli, A., A. Bianco, and Grimaldi, K.A. (2015). The Ketogenic Diet and Sport: A Possible Marriage?. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, Vol. 43, pp. 153-162

Zinn, C., Wood, M., Williden, M., Chatterton, S., and Maunder, E. (2017). Ketogenic Diet Benefits body composition and well-being but no performance in a pilot case study of New Zealand endurance athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14:22 DOI 10.1186/s12970-017-0180-0

Getting Into Walmart with Anders Varner – The Barbell Life 329

Anders Varner is about to do something HUGE.

Barbell Shrugged will soon be selling exercise programs in WALMART!

It’s a passion project that Anders, Doug Larson, and I have been working on for months now. And I’m so excited because I think this could really help bring a new level of fitness and health to communities that need it the most.

We’re not talking about people who regularly snatch at their local box. We’re talking about Walmart customers who don’t know what a calorie is, who have never worked out, who are obese and on their way to all sorts of health issues.

I think this could change the world.

So listen in to hear about it – plus HOW Anders got into Walmart in the first place… and what he’s learned along the way.


Travis Mash's guide to the mighty clean... the most valuable lift for Strength and Conditioning Coaches

Learn to understand the clean on a deep level so you can easily and confidently correct movement flaws, assess athletes, write programs, and coach them to athletic success.


  • Beta testing in a Walmart “gym” and the importance of… pharmacists?
  • Will this change what we think about “People of Walmart”?
  • Why NOW is the best time to launch something like this
  • How explaining fitness to newcomers is tougher than you might think
  • How to get products into Walmart
  • and more…

Fixing Athlete Posture

First, let me say that I am enjoying Human Movement and Biomechanics class that I am taking this semester at Lenoir-Rhyne University with Dr. Keith Leiting.

After taking a brief look at compression, tension, shear, and torsion forces and their effects on the body, we dove straight into assessment. Our first look at assessment was postural alignment. I have to admit that working with my chiropractor extraordinaire, Dr. Lawrence Gray, helped to prepare me for this section of biomechanics. However, this class has taken me even deeper, which I am applying to my athletes as we speak.


Here’s what I have noticed even with some of my top weightlifters. The majority of college students demonstrate varying levels of upper cross syndrome, which is what you see with people who have their heads forward, rounded shoulders, concave chests, and a rounded back. Now to be clear, my athletes have not become the Hunch Back of Notre Dame yet, but they are on their way.

I decided to address these issues now for two reasons: to protect the future of their postural health and to make them better weightlifters. You are also going to help avoid unnecessary injury by addressing each athlete’s individual postural alignment.

For example, if an athlete has a rounded thoracic spine with their shoulders rounded and most likely internal rotation of the humerus, they are going to have a tough time getting the bar overhead in an optimal position. If they can get the bar overhead, it’s most likely going to cause injury somewhere down the road. When the scapula elevates and rotates forwards, the acromion process and coracoid process (parts of the scapula that muscle tendons are connected to) roll forward and down.

Normally there is lots of space for the rotator cuff tendons to move around (subscapularis, supraspinatus, and to the posterior the infraspinatus) freely – at least that’s the way God designed us. There are also bursae sacs that lend help with lubrication and cushioning, labrums that line the actual rim of the glenoid cavity, and a synovial membrane that lines the joint capsule for added lubrication and cushioning. When the scapulae wing and rotate, the space for the tendons, bursae, labrum, synovial membranes, and muscles becomes limited. When space becomes limited, friction is sure to take place. With friction, you can guarantee that inflammation and tears are soon to follow.

In Athletes

In the sport of weightlifting, when the scapula deviates from its intended resting place, movement is going to be impaired. In the sport of weightlifting, optimal movement is absolutely required. Powerlifters can get away with bad posture for a bit longer, but they shouldn’t. When I was a powerlifter at the highest of levels, 90% of my fellow athletes had experienced shoulder surgery. The rest were on their way, and the sad part is they could easily avoid this injury by reading this article and applying the information.

I put some of my athletes through a quick biomechanical assessment, and I found the following four malalignments frighteningly common. I am going to explain each of them, tell you how to easily assess, and what to do about each.


Normally it is accompanied by forward head syndrome and internal rotation of the humerus. It’s sometimes called upper cross syndrome because it has a cross-section of weak muscles that are lengthened and a section that is tight from being shortened and compressed. The tight muscles include the pecs, subscapularis, and muscles of the thoracic spine. The weak (lengthened) muscles include rhomboids, lower/mid trapezius, and weak external rotators.

How to assess: look for over development of the thoracic curve, which is normally accompanied by excessive lumbar curving and either no curve of the cervical spine or excessive curve due to the head forward and the athlete excessively extending to see in front of them.

Exercise to strengthen the weakened scapula while encouraging improved posture:

  • Prone Y Rotations

Soft tissue work:

  • Peanut Drive the Bus
  • Foam roll the thoracic spine with scapula protracted

Exercises to strengthen weak muscles:

  • Band Pull-a-parts and external rotation for the rhomboids and external rotators
  • Blackburns for the lower/mid trapezius
  • Face Pulls with external rotation

Exercises to lengthen tight muscles:

  • Band Distractions
  • Pitcher stretch

Here’s a video that will explain each exercise:


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Forward Head Syndrome

Normally this comes with kyphosis, but it can exist without being a hunchback. It’s easy to assess as well. You will want to have your athlete turn to the side, so you can view them in the frontal plane (aka from the side). You should be able to hang up a plumb line that perfectly runs though the ears, ac joint, greater trochanter, mid-knee, and the lateral malleolus. If the ears are in front of the ac joint, you have some degree of forward head syndrome. You might not have full-blown kyphosis, but you can rest assured that it’s coming as well.

Weak muscles include:

  • Deep cervical neck flexors
  • Deep cervical neck extensors
  • Rhomboids
  • Mid and lower traps

Tight/Shortened Muscles:

  • Sub occipital Muscles
  • SCM (sternocleidomastoid)
  • Levator Scapula
  • Upper Traps
  • Pecs

Manual work:

  • Levator Scapula lacrosse ball
  • SCM

Strengthen and stretch

  • Wall exercise for forward head syndrome Sub-occipital muscle stretch w deep inner 3 minute hold neck extensor strengthen
  • Band Pull-a-parts
  • Angels against wall

Humerus Internal Rotation

This one is common amongst not only my college athletes but also with my powerlifting brethren. Bench pressing is all internal rotation. If you focus on bench pressing without any regard for external rotators, you can be assured that your humerus will start to be frozen with internal rotation. You can also rest assured that shoulder surgery is inevitable unless you address the issue. This one is easy to assess.

Assessment: simply look at the athlete’s hands and see if they are neutral (palm facing in to the body or facing towards the posterior of the athlete (thumbs turn in). If the palms are facing behind an athlete, that athlete has internal rotation.

Tight muscles:

  • Subscapularis
  • Lats
  • Pecs

Soft Tissue Work:

  • Lacrosse Ball pecs and subscap
  • Band work distractions


  • Baseball pitch stretch against wall (arm externally rotate)
  • Pec minor against rack w unilateral wall slides
  • Wall Slides


  • Pull-a-parts w external rotation
  • Prone Y’s on Bench
  • Lying DB External Rotation
  • Wall slide

Anterior Pelvic Tilt

This is very common from the sitting that is so common in society right now. It’s easy to spot because it looks like the person is sticking out their butt and stomach on purpose. However lower cross syndrome is actually the culprit.

Weak muscles:

  • Lower lumbar extensors
  • Abdominals

Tight muscles:

  • Hamstrings
  • Psoas
  • Illiacus
  • Rectus Femoris



After combing through the research and interviewing the experts, the result is a guide that will refine your technique and boost your squat in a safe and effective manner.


  • Half Kneeling lunge w lower leg elevate

Exercises to strengthen:

  • Planks
  • Curl Ups
  • Unilateral RDLs

Soft Tissue:

  • Foam Roll lumbar
  • Lacrosse ball or DB Psoas

I hope these exercises help to correct your athletes’ postural alignments. I am using them right now with my guys, and we are noticing daily changes in the positive. Remember, you won’t just be making them better athletes. You will also be affecting their long-term health and wellness. Don’t forget that is your job as well. Their parents trust you for that very thing. Let me know in the comments if you would like any other videos on correcting exercises.

Coaching and Entrepreneurship with Dustin Myers – The Barbell Life 328

Dustin Myers does a lot.

He’s a trainer for wrestlers and fighters, a business partner with none other than Cory G, an owner of Old School Gym, and the founder of a supplement company.

So of course we had a TON to talk about. Listen in!


Travis Mash's guide to the mighty clean... the most valuable lift for Strength and Conditioning Coaches

Learn to understand the clean on a deep level so you can easily and confidently correct movement flaws, assess athletes, write programs, and coach them to athletic success.


  • Training wrestlers – and why American wrestlers are absolute KILLERS
  • The perils of a large gym – and how their gym is doing during the pandemic
  • Movement correction for kids (to avoid problems much later in life)
  • Starting his own supplement company – and what they are REALLY selling
  • Why “fancy” coaching is a huge problem
  • and more…


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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