Category Archives for "Athletic Performance"

Performing Under Pressure by Nathan Hansen

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Performing Under Pressure
Nathan Hansen

Pressure is a common facet in life, whether you are at work, hanging out with friends, or in the gym. You can be faced with tough tasks that have time frames or expectations attached to them, causing a simple situation to turn into a whirlwind of negativity and doubt. You may try to gain control of this mental explosion by analyzing everything and relentlessly breaking down your training methodology in hopes to find your confidence. Hoping you can break out a clutch performance, when in reality all you can think about is how this will be the moment you choke.

Everyone has been through these two styles of performance. Those who continuously find themselves choking desperately and quickly try to dig their way out with their minimal tools and insight, setting them up for a never-ending struggle of frustration. This constant conflict beats you down and can quickly lead to burnout, frustration, and will have you looking to exit the competition you once loved. To understand what puts you in this cycle, we need to review how each behavioral type is learned and understand how they get a foothold in your mind.

Understanding clutch/choking type performance involves breaking down and interpreting how outside information is coming at us. Overall performance success/failure can be identified as either explicit or implicit knowledge to the tasks at hand (Masters 1992). Explicit learning is a step-by-step instruction on how to perform specific tasks like a golf swing, lifting weights, throwing a ball, and so on. There is an initial gain of success as techniques can be fine tuned, but eventually this stops abruptly as pressure develops. This stop in progress and mental wedge happens as the individual starts to hike the importance of step-by-step control of themselves and the situation. This creates the belief that if things are not executed perfectly they will fail the task at hand. The task at hand stops becoming a challenge and is now looked at as a threat; therefore increasing pressure and seriousness of what’s happening. The pressure leads to raised anxiety with a loss of control and trust within themselves. This is where you will find thoughts of “I suck,” or “What’s the point if I can’t even hit that lift perfectly?” This slippery slope is all too common among how we perceive our athletic career, our personal lives, and professional life.

Let’s look at implicit learning has and its role in performance. When individuals were taught implicitly (no step-by-step direction), they had continuous improvement through practice and in competition (Otten, 2009). This does not mean they had no coach or guidelines, but focused more on gaining knowledge of themselves and their skills through perceived control. Meaning that your focus should be less on the importance of the step-by-step process and believing that your mind and body already knows what it needs to be done. After all, you have practiced the movement. Your muscle memory puts you where you need to be; all that is missing is the trust. Those who thrive in clutch performance rely on implicit knowledge of their skill set (Otten, 2009). Look at Michael Jordan in the 1998 Playoff game. He trusted his mind to do what is needed and his body followed not bogging himself down with over analyzation, but reaction and trust that he knew what to do.

How do we make this work for you and put it into an effective practice? The key is reinvesting your skills and developing a perceived confidence of what you know. This does not mean stop taking steps to fix a weakness. However, be more purposeful towards your corrections. Build confidence in what you have worked on. Then break it down so it becomes an implicit action meaning that you no longer need step-by-step deconstruction, as your body and mind know what is required.

Baumeister, R.F (1984). Choking under pressure: Self-consciousness and paradoxical effects of incentives on skillful performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 16, 610-620.
Masters, R.S.W. (1992). Knowledge, nerves and know-how. The British Journal of Psychology, 83, 343-358.
Otten,M. (2009). Choking Vs Clutch Performance: A study of sport performance under pressure. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 31, 583-601.

Variables of Programming

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Variables of Programming

Programming is a complex beast. It’s a beast that drives me as a coach. I am in a constant search for the Holy Grail of Programming. The maddening thing is that I am almost certain that doesn’t exist. I have watched one program work wonders for an athlete, while stagnating another one. Whether you are coaching weightlifting, powerlifting, CrossFit, or strength and conditioning athletes (football, softball, MMA, etc.), there are variables that must be considered. Those variables are different depending on the sport. I am not going to pretend that I have it all figured out because no one does. If someone did, then there would be a coach that had athletes setting personal records at every meet. However to date I don’t know of one single coach that fits that description.

There are coaches that have more success than others. Those are the coaches that I gravitate towards. I try to learn from each and every one of them. My favorite part of coaching at the Pan American Games was getting to talk to the best coaches in America for hours at a time. Great coaches like Sean Waxman and John Broz are more than willing to share information. Then there are the younger coaches like Kevin Simons who is literally an exercise science bookworm. I love my chats with him as we both try to solve the mystery of Olympic weightlifting.

This series is going to be for all of you coaches and athletes trying to figure things out. I have been pretty dang successful in multiple sports. I am going to list a few of my accomplishments not to brag, but to let you know my resume. Here we go:

• I have been the Weightlifting Head Coach for Team USA three-times within the last year and a half.
• I’ve placed athletes on Team USA Weightlifting in the Youth, Junior, and Senior Divisions. (2 Youth, 5 Junior, and 3 Senior all in the last 18-months)
• I have coached one Senior Athlete in Canada to the Senior World Championships, and one in New Zealand to the Youth World Championships
• I had four athletes at the USAPL Nationals including one American Record setting Junior, and two USPA National Champions and two World Record Setters.
• I have coached over one hundred Division I Collegiate Athletes in multiple sports like football, wrestling, softball, baseball, swimming, basketball, volleyball, and soccer.
• I am currently working with an Olympic Hopeful Tae Kwon Do Champion
• Personally I played football at Appalachian State University, was a Nationally Ranked Weightlifter training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and a world champion/world record holder Powerlifter to name a few.
• I currently coach two teenage CrossFitters including one that’s been to the CrossFit Games, and one that missed the games by one spot. I am coaching Team CrossFit Invoke in preparation for the Games 2018.

I am excited to bring this series to all of you. I am going to do one for weightlifting, one for powerlifting, one for CrossFit, and one for strength and conditioning. Today we will start with Weightlifting, and then each week I will tackle another sport. My goal is to give all of you coaches and athletes some ideas that might help your own training programs. I at least want to teach all of you the different variables, so that you might take a more comprehensive approach. I want no stones left unturned.

Weightlifting Programming Variables

I am going to start with listing a few of the obvious variable, and then I will explain each:

• Total Volume
• Intensity/Load
• Frequency

Total volume is a great place to start. A great tool to use is Prilepin’s Chart. This chart will tell you the optimal reps and total volume for various percentages of maximums. Here’s a copy of the chart:

A great place to start with Volume is in the Optimal Range. You will find that most people will fall within three categories:

1. Optimal Volume
2. High Volume
3. Low Volume

I recommend keeping notes on each athlete. I like to make notes during each block of training. Some athletes crush it during the accumulation and hypertrophy phases, while others do better in the Strength and Competition Phases. My goal is to figure out how to elicit the optimal response in each block. When you find a program that elicits a good response throughout, then stick to that program or at least keep the same parameters.

Frequency and Intensity are also unique to the individual. Some athletes respond well with high frequency programs. That means they are performing competition and supporting exercises more often. You might have read my “Squat Every Day” E-Books. These books are great for people that respond well to high frequency. This type of training is great for perfecting the movements of the competition lifts. The strength gains from a program like this are more neurological in nature. Basically you are getting more efficient at the lifts because you are practicing them more often.

“Intensity” is often confused with “effort”. Intensity is actually referring to load or the weight on the bar. Some people love to go heavy every day like Nathan Damron, and high intensity works well for him. His body is designed to take the beating of load, but not really designed for high volume. High volume is better left for Jacky Bigger. If you drop the volume too much for Jacky, you will get a decrease in performance. She’s probably the most complex to program for, but definitely the challenge is paying off.

Here are some other variables that people don’t talk about as much:

• Daytime Job
• Stressors in life
• Relationships
• Age
• Training Age
• Gender
• Relationship of Competition lifts to Strength Work

Daytime Job- You have to know if your athlete is working a real jog. If so, you need to know what kind of job. Are they on their feet a lot? Are they lifting things in their work? Is their job keeping them up late and cutting in on their rest times? These are all variables that should play into your programming for them. You can’t just write a program, and then force it on your athlete. The program should fit the athlete, but many people try to force the athlete to fit the program.

Stressors in Life- Man this one is huge. What’s going on in the lives of your athletes? This is where a coach has to be more than just someone who coaches them at practice. You have to know your athletes, and you need to care enough about them to get to know about their lives. I coach because I love helping people. Yeah I love when they win Gold Medals, but I love helping them navigate life. I want them to have more success than I ever did without all the mistakes.

If your athlete is dealing with stress, it’s going to affect them. Money, relationships, work, and more can crush an athlete’s energy levels. Stress can have literal physical effects on the body like tightness, weakness, low energy, and recovery issues. When your athlete is going through challenges in their life, I suggest pulling back on the volume and intensity. Let them get through the bump, and then you can crank the volume back up.

Age- We already discussed that all athletes are different. Some will perform better with Optimal loads, some with higher volume, and some with lower volume. That might not change as they get older, but there will need to be adjustments. Whatever workload an athlete has established, it will need to change, as the athlete gets older. Every athlete is different, but in my experience volume and intensity needs to be dialed back a bit for men over 26-years-old and women over 30-years-old. That doesn’t mean that their gains will stop. It just means that you will want to be a little wiser in the approach.

There are the outliers like Colin Burns. He’s 34-years-old, and probably outworks every weightlifter in the country. Once again you simply have to know your athlete. Colin is a very unique athlete.

Training Age- This is one that most people ignore. You might be coaching a 21-year-old, but if he’s been training for ten years, you are going to have to be careful not to over work him. I coach Nathan Damron that is 21-years-old, and he’s trained over ten years. He’s going through a bit of a tough time, so we have to look at changing things up a bit. Nathan could continue to improve for the next ten years, but we might make adjustments to his volume a bit to get him to the next level.

Gender- The biggest difference is that most women need higher volume than men. This is just a safe place to start. Let’s look at three of our top girls. Jacky Bigger needs high volume the entire program. December Garcia needs high volume during the hypertrophy phases and moderate volume thereafter. You can’t drop it too low or have it too high for her to peak properly. Hunter Elam is like a darn man. She needs moderate to start shifting to low volume and high intensity and the end to peak.

Relationship of Competition lifts to Strength Work- This is the most unique one to the lifter. Some like to peak the strength work right along with the competition lifts, and others need phases that are separate in nature. For Jacky Bigger I have figured out that her squat should be peaked early on, and then maintained throughout. There isn’t volume high enough on strength movements like squats, pulls, and presses to negatively affect her. However when the volume is increased on the competition lifts, that volume affects her more negatively. The competition lifts are way more abusive on the joints, which can be harder to recover from.

I recommend taking notes on each stage of your programming. The relationship between strength work and the competition lifts is a major key to a successful program. Each program is a chance to get closer to the perfect individual program. Once you’ve locked in on a program that works best for an athlete, I suggest sticking with that format. You don’t ever want to repeat a program exactly, but repeat the basic traits of a successful program as long as that program works.

I hope this article helps you. I wish that I had read an article like this one five years ago, but hey I like being the guinea pig for all of you. My athletes put their trust in me. It’s my responsibility to design them the best possible program. The key is closely observing and making notes on each and every athlete, so that you can pinpoint the pros and cons.

Check out one of our Eleven E-Books:

• “Squat Every Day” (High Frequency Squat Programming)
• “Eat What You Want” (Nutrition, Macros, and a built-in Macro Calculator
• “Squat Every Day 2” (Part 2 of High Frequency Squat Programming)
• “No Weaknesses” (Defeat Muscular Imbalances crush the Recovery Game)
• “Mash Program Sampler” (Athletic Performance, Oly, Powerlifting, and Functional Programming)
• “Mash Program Sampler 2 (8 More 12-week Programs)
• “The Mash Blueprint for Program Design” (Learn all about Programming)
• “Performance Zone” (Defeat all Mental Roadblocks)
• “Train Stupid”(Programming and Philosophy of Nathan Damron)
• “MashJacked” (Hypertrophy for Performance and Aesthetics)
• “Conjugate: Westside Inspired Weightlifting”

Check them out here: ⇒ Mash Elite E-Books

The Three Things You Should Be Doing at the Gym by Nathan Hansen

If you enjoy this article, check out the E-Book that Nathan and Coach Mash co-authored: “Performance Zone”. The biggest element that most athletes are missing is mindset. This book will help you reach your goals. Check it out now:

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The Three Things You Should Be Doing at the Gym
by Nathan Hansen

This is not an article advising which movements, what rep schemes, or how much cardio you should incorporate into your gym program. The “perfect program” doesn’t exist because focus, goals, and fitness levels vary between athletes. But while the physical aspects of our training differ, the mental aspects are surprisingly similar.

They also translate across sports.

To a degree, we are all guilty of allowing our situations to control us—whether those conditions involve tangible items or the demeaning whispers from our subconscious. And when we find ourselves engulfed by situation, we tend to lose focus. We begin to doubt our abilities and perceive ourselves as failures. To reverse becoming a victim of circumstance, start doing these three things at each gym session: remove distractions, accept your emotions, and focus on the present.

1. Remove all distractions. What I mean is you need to put away your tech—your phone, tablet, or whatever device that may distract your focus. The post-Digital age has been revolutionary in terms of information sharing and connectivity; however, when we bring technology into the gym, we become more concerned with what is happening in the virtual world than in the present. In scrolling through social media, we are likely to compare ourselves to others: we see our failures against their achievements, which feeds our frustrations and dilutes our performance. In receiving text messages or emails, we may have the urge to respond immediately, finding ourselves either caught in an enduring conversation or the opposite: hoping the other person emails or texts back. Even using our technology to record our workouts can be a distraction, especially as many of us are prone to focus on the immediate review of the exercise or the differences between past and present performance. Technology pulls us from the now into another time, another place—anywhere except where we need to be at that moment.

Removing distractions will enhance your awareness and clear your mind, allowing you to focus on the workout and the experience—the reason you’re at the gym in the first place.

2. Accept your emotions. When failure or fear appears, we typically take two approaches: we allow the emotion to consume or control us, or we attempt to bury it and ignore it. Unfortunately, neither of these options is effective. We obviously want to avoid feeding negative emotions, but suppressing them can be just as harmful. Instead, we can unearth our emotions, study them, and use them to enhance our training.

Emotions as Guideposts. We can use our emotions to help guide our training methods. For instance, frustration with a workout may indicate that we are pushing ourselves too hard, that our focus is not where it should be, or that our desired outcome is not necessarily feasible at our current level of fitness. Instead of driving that frustration into the ground—in essence, burying it and ignoring it—we should change our perspective, reflect on the situation, and consider why that emotion may be present. And if you’re not in the state to reflect, move on and work on something else. Continuing to feed that frustration isn’t going to help you improve.

Emotions as Teaching Mechanisms. We often find it difficult to acknowledge our emotions during less-than-stellar performances. We believe that accepting our emotions means we’ve given up and are doomed to fail. In reality, recognition allows us to move forward and even use the experience as a learning point. If we can identify the causes for our emotions, we can develop solutions to address them, build upon them, and thrive. Experience is a great teacher, and these perceived failures are opportunities we can use to grow as athletes.

Emotions as Motivation. In addition to learning from our emotions, we can also use them as an unconventional form of motivation. When we approach a new experience, such as a new trail, a new PR attempt, or a competition, several emotions may arise—namely fear and anxiety—and may cause us to question our abilities. While the temptation is to suppress these emotions, this action allows them to linger and gnaw at our thoughts, encouraging error or ruining the experience altogether. Instead, we should accept the emotions, challenge them, and include them in our sport. We can turn fear of a competition into a heightened sense of focus, and the challenge can be reimagined as an opportunity for success. In essence, we can take a negative and turn it into a positive. Work on developing your own strategy for tackling fears, and you’ll be better prepared to overcome them when they arise.

The adage of turning life’s lemons into lemonade applies heavily in the case of emotions. How a situation unfolds is less important than how we react to it. There will be negatives and positives that occur during our training sessions, but we can leverage even the worst experiences to reflect, assess, and grow.

3. Focus on the present. As athletes, we are often caught moving between where we were before or what we hope to become. We linger on the achievements of yesterday and hope for the successes of tomorrow, but existing in any state save the present will lead to disappointment.

When we exist in the past, we compare our current situation to a previous one (e.g., “I made that lift last time. There’s no reason I should be failing today.”). While this thought process may not appear damaging, it allows doubt to consume us. We begin to doubt our capabilities as athletes, and we may even lose motivation to continue. Living in the past may be especially damaging to athletes suffering or returning from injury: the urge is strong to reach previous levels of performance, but returning to those levels takes time.

Similarly, when we exist in the future, we create expectations for ourselves and rely on the happiness that should be realized in achieving that outcome; however, we fail to experience the motions and processes that lead to that outcome—i.e., the work. Furthermore, we arrive at the previous expectation, only to realize that expectation—that marker of success—has moved forward. We are left unsatisfied, burned out, and with little room for celebration. Granted, we’ve grown, but we’ve been so focused on what we wanted to be instead of enjoying what is.

The present has the potential to be amazing, but with the constant shifts of focus and comparisons, what we see isn’t always glamorous. When we recognize that our current state of mind is the present, we start seeing action and growth occur—where our work has lead and will lead to more achievements. By focusing our energies on the present, we become aware of our developments, appreciate our achievements, and are ultimately happier in the process.

During your next gym session, consider applying these principles. Remove the distractions—both the technological and the mental—and focus on the present. And when emotions attempt to consume you, buckle down and make some lemonade.

About Nathan, the Author:

Nathan received his first Masters in Behavioral Psychology and his second Masters in Clinical Counseling from Bellevue University in Omaha, Nebraska. He currently is a Licensed Professional Counselor-I and a Certified Life Coach through the International Coach Federation. His education did not stop here as he frequently attends training and hold several certifications in therapeutic interventions, Crossfit, and holds several athletic accomplishments from a young age to the present. Nathan has developed a personalized therapeutic concept to use with his clients that has shown immense success. Athletes he has worked with went from struggling to perform, to making the podium and obtaining control in their life. His clientele ranges from elite athletes looking for a competitive advantage to High-Schoolers learning to balance life and sport.

Those he has worked with include Professional Mountain Bikers Kyle Warner, Lauren Gregg and others, Olympic Lifter Rebecca Gerdon, and others, several high school programs, and a diverse amount of Crossfitters.

Check out one of our Eleven E-Books:

• “Squat Every Day” (High Frequency Squat Programming)
• “Eat What You Want” (Nutrition, Macros, and a built-in Macro Calculator
• “Squat Every Day 2” (Part 2 of High Frequency Squat Programming)
• “No Weaknesses” (Defeat Muscular Imbalances crush the Recovery Game)
• “Mash Program Sampler” (Athletic Performance, Oly, Powerlifting, and Functional Programming)
• “Mash Program Sampler 2 (8 More 12-week Programs)
• “The Mash Blueprint for Program Design” (Learn all about Programming)
• “Performance Zone” (Defeat all Mental Roadblocks)
• “Train Stupid”(Programming and Philosophy of Nathan Damron)
• “MashJacked” (Hypertrophy for Performance and Aesthetics)
• “Conjugate: Westside Inspired Weightlifting”

Check them out here: ⇒ Mash Elite E-Books

Front Squat or Back Squat: Which is Better?

Guys “Conjugate: Westside Inspired Weightlifting” has dropped. The price of $29 goes up after this weekend:



Front Squat or Back Squat

A point of discussion in weightlifting will always be squatting. Coaches love debating the topic of squatting because squatting is so important to the sport of weightlifting. Heck squatting is important to all sports, and it’s probably the most functional movement on earth making it super important to all people. Today’s article is looking at the front squat versus the back squat. The article is mostly talking about the importance for weightlifting, but a lot of the discussion will interest all athletes and all people that workout.

When it comes to squatting there are two variables to look a:

1. Back Squatting recruits the most fibers. The two main aspects of squatting that affect fiber recruitment are range of motion and load. Most people can back squat about 10% more than they front squat, so it has the advantage on the load. When it comes to range of motion, it is person specific. I can naturally front squat much deeper than I back squat.

2. Front Squatting is more specific to the sport of weightlifting. Obviously it mimics the catch to the Clean. If done correctly, the athlete can work on the position and overall mobility for the Clean & Jerk. Front Squats are normally easier on the back due to their upright position, and they tend to target quads more.

Both squats are very useful. Is one better than the other? Personally I hate all of the absolutes going around without any scientific research to back any of the claims. Personally in a perfect world, I like to use a variety of the two, and I like to use different variables of each. However this is an article discussing when to use each, so we are going to look at some questions that a coach must ask when prescribing squats:

1. Does one squat create more damage than the other? I have two athletes that don’t back squat at all right now. The back squat tends to cause a lot of extra back and hip issues, which are avoided during the front squat. We could spend three months figuring out the issue with the back squat, or we can front squat and continue on. It only makes sense to front squat. They are able to snatch, clean & jerk, deadlift, and all other exercises with no pain at all. The key is not to get caught up in some dogmatic plan.

Front squats definitely make their legs stronger especially in the quads. This is more important to the standing up portion of the clean. I can work on their pulling power with the obvious pull or deadlift. We still perform GHRs, good mornings, reverse hypers, and belt squats, so we are still recruiting all the fibers and then some.

2. Range of Motion- some athletes can squat deeper with front squats. It’s probably because they aren’t loading their hips as much during the beginning portion. Either way some athletes should focus more on range of motion than strength. I am the perfect example. I spent many years powerlifting, so my back squat is way ahead of everything. Not to mention I learned to break parallel, and then stand up. That’s perfect for powerlifting, but not so perfect for weightlifting. That motor pattern is very engrained in my CNS. However with the Front Squat I have no problem getting lower, so my focus for weightlifting and quality of life is the front squat.

3. Sport Specific Position- Some people have a terrible position, so their focus should be on the front squat. I recommend using different tempos to emphasize proper position. One key element that most of you are overlooking is the grip. The goal is to catch with a hook grip. Now is that always going to happen? No, but that’s the goal nonetheless. If you can hold the hook, you can pull under the bar longer maintaining contact with the bar the entire time. That’s optimal but not 100% necessary. Besides the grip, the athlete should focus on a vertical spine, protracted shoulders, and 100% complete depth. We all love front squatting heavy, but perfect positions are the most important.

4. Intentional Reduced Load- Front Squats are a great way to intentionally reduce loads. Guys like Nathan Damron can back squat 700 pounds. At this point in his training he has all the leg strength that he needs. The amount of recovery time required to back squat isn’t worth it at this point. The front squat is normally 10% less than the back squat, so you can still go heavy without the load on the spine. Front Squats are still getting you stronger, and the body is still experiencing the advantages of the maximum effort method without the extra load of the back squat.

5. Safety Self Spot- this one is an important aspect for high schools, middle schools, and bigger groups. Front squats basically spot themselves. If a lifter can’t complete a front squat, the bar naturally rolls off the shoulders onto the floor. Back squats are a little more complicated. Most advanced lifters stay vertical, and understand how to dump the bar backwards. Younger athletes can get into some bad situations with back squat, and end up dumping the bar over their head.

6. It comes down to the ratio- If you are front squatting 95% of your back squat, I recommend focusing on your back squat. If you are front squatting 80% of your back squat, the focus should be on front squat. If you are hitting close to 90%, then refer to points 1 thru 5.

It sounds like that I am making a case for the Front Squat. The goal was to show you that there is more than one way to achieve any goal. A lot of what I am trying to say is to use your common sense. If something is hurting you, then don’t do it. I mean Mary Peck low bar squats, and right now she’s the top 63kg lifter in the country. Obviously low bar squatting can work. Am I recommending low bar squatting? No, but I am saying let’s all drop the dogmatic absolutes. If you want to low bar squat, then have at it. It works for Mary.

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Westside Principles Can be Used for all Things Strength

Guys “Conjugate: Westside Inspired Weightlifting” has dropped. Get it for only $29 during this release period at:



The Westside Method Can be Used for all Things Strength

There are so many misconceptions about the methods of Louie Simmons. Last week, I was around some of the best weightlifting coaches in the country, and of course the topic of Westside always seemed to come up. Heck I probably started the discussion to spark a great debate. I have been known to do that a time or two.

I get why some of the coaches get mad at Louie Simmons. I mean he is pretty abrasive towards them. That’s who he is. However if you can get past all of that, he just wants to help. He realizes that he isn’t a weightlifting coach. He just wants to help America become successful in the world of weightlifting. Could he do it in a nicer way? Well sure, but that wouldn’t be Louie Simmons.

Once we were past all of the being pissed about comments, we were able to have some solid dialogue. During my conversations with the coaches, the main objections were:

• It’s designed for powerlifting
• It’s designed for geared powerlifting

Well yeah, but most of the principles were taken straight from the Russian manuals translated by Andrew “Bud” Charniga. When you get down to it, Louie has taken the Russian methods and combined them with the Bulgarian methods and applied them to powerlifting. These principles could be applied to any and all strength sports or strength and conditioning.

Here are the only arguments that people have used with me in regards to the Westside Methods being designed for geared powerlifting:

1. Box Squats- coaches think that sitting back onto a box mimics sitting into a suit, and they are right. However there are other uses of box squats like eccentric control, starting strength (dynamic to relaxed to dynamic), and overload for jerk power. I cover the box squat in-depth in my new e-book: “Conjugate”. Not to mention, you don’t have to sit back, you could sit down.

2. Bands and Chains- They believe that bands and chains overload the top of the lift mimicking suits and bench shirts. Yes, that’s true, but they also do several other things. Bands increase the speed of the eccentric contraction causing a more dynamic stretch reflex increasing the speed of the concentric contraction. Both bands and chains do the following:

• Accommodate Resistance- basically as you get stronger biomechanically in the lift, the bands or chains get heavier. This teaches the athlete to push harder throughout the movement, which leads us to the next point.
• Compensatory Acceleration- This phrase was coined by the late great Dr. Fred Hatfield. Basically put, the goal is to accelerate during the entire concentric phase. “Faster as you go,” as stated by Coach Don McCauley.

3. Partial Movements- Westside uses movements like board presses and pulls from blocks. I find this interesting that coaches talk about this being more about geared powerlifting, when almost all weightlifting coaches prescribe Cleans from blocks, Snatches from block, or Jerk Recoveries. Board presses are great to get the body/CNS use to heavier weight. I use them with post-activation potentiation as I will do a board press, and then finish with a full range of motion press.

These are the only arguments that I have heard that make the system better suited for geared powerlifting. As I have explained the very things that other coaches use as their arguments are actually good for weightlifting or any strength sport. Here are the elements that make the system adaptable to any sport:

• Dynamic Method- There are days focused on the speed of the lift. However the load is still going to average around 80%, so the stimulus is more than enough to elicit adaptation. Louie uses Prilepin’s Chart to optimize proper volume parameters.
• Max Effort Method- This is my favorite part of the system because I love to go heavy like so many of you. The key is to be smart about it. This is where Louie really uses the conjugate method to use different variations of exercises to heavy on every single week. You don’t have to venture to far from the competition lift. For Example, if you are talking about Snatches, you could use: hangs, different heights of blocks, pauses at different points of the pull, complexes, no feet, power movements, and the list goes on. The same goes for squats or any other lift. The key is to get more specific the closer a meet gets.
• General Physical Preparedness- Louie uses sleds, prowlers, wheel barrows, farmer walks, overhead carries, and other strong man type movements to get his athletes in shape. This is an aspect of training that is too often overlooked by other coaches. The key is to avoid movements with eccentric contractions and movements that load the major joint, so you can recover quickly. (I explain all of these methods in my new E-Book, “Conjugate”.
• Special Exercises to Target Weaknesses- this only makes sense no matter what your sport. Heck this just makes sense for life. Louie uses the reverse hyper, belt squat machine, inverse leg curl, and a million other machines and exercises to destroy the weaknesses of his athletes. Obviously this method is transferable to the entire strength world.
• Repetition Method- Louie uses the old bodybuilding methods to get weak muscles and smaller muscles that aid the lifts to get bigger and stronger. He keeps this in the equation during the entire training program. He doesn’t cut accessory work during the last six weeks of training and neither do I. I simply avoid movements that create a lot of muscle damage like RDLs or dumbbell flies. Movements that stretch muscles under a load create the most damage, and that makes them hard to recover from.

These are just sound methods boys and girls. There isn’t anything crazy going on here. These are just some sound methods to build a plan. Louie just wants to give all of us a solid foundation, and then we can use it however we want. If you don’t want to box squat, then don’t. If you don’t want to use bands, then don’t. Otherwise use his methods in the ways that fit your needs the most.

Guys “Conjugate: Westside Inspired Weightlifting” has dropped. Get it for only $29 during this release period at:



Is the Westside System Designed for Geared Powerlifting Only?

Guys “Conjugate: Westside Inspired Weightlifting” has dropped. Get it for only $29 during this release period at:



Is the Westside System Designed for Geared Powerlifting Only?

This is an argument that I have heard thrown around by two of my good friends lately, and I can see why. They see most of the guys at Westside doing geared powerlifting, and I guess from that they deduce the system is designed for geared powerlifting. Since I love both of the coaches that I am talking about, I will answer this in a cordial way.

First I am not sure in what way that the program is designed for geared powerlifting. That’s a broad statement, and I haven’t heard the statement supported with examples. I am assuming the box squats, bands, and partial movements like board presses, but other than that I am not certain. I will start with these examples, and then I will briefly go through the system to show how it’s not just for geared powerlifting.

Let’s look at Box Squats because I am the first to say that box squats are great for geared powerlifting. Box Squats teach a lifter to sit back, which isn’t conducive to a raw squat especially that of a weightlifters. However there are more advantages of the box squat than just a squat. First they force an athlete to have a controlled eccentric contraction, which could have some major carry over to the strength, stability, and injury prevention of a weightlifter. What about pauses? That’s a great point except that most weightlifters will control the eccentric contraction during the first several inches of the movement, and once again collapse during the last few inches. Those are the crucial inches that need strengthening in a weightlifter.

Box squats are also good for starting strength, which a lot of weightlifters could use. Even as a powerlifter, I noticed that the box squats aided my pull more than my squat. I know of several weightlifters that could benefit from a stronger pull. High box squats are something that I want to try to aid the jerk. I want to strengthen the dip and drive through that specific range of motion. It has been proven clearly that high squats positively affect vertical leaps and sprinting times, so I would like to see what happens with a jerk. Once again I would urge my colleagues not to throw out the baby with the bath water. Also none of us can use the research argument because there simply isn’t a lot of research on much of our industry. All that we can do is use the research that has been done to support our decisions to try new ideas. Once again the two coaches that I am responding to are amazing coaches with amazing results, so this has nothing to do with their abilities to coach. I am just supporting my own claims as my results are equally supported.

Bands are another animal all together, and there are a lot of other coaches smarter than me that are using bands and chains to get amazing results for their athletes in the area of velocity based training. There is a lot of literature to support the use of bands during squatting and pulling, and a lot of Division I and Pro Strength Coaches use them routinely to build the best athletes in America. Guys like Coach Joe Kenn, Carolina Panthers Head Strength Coach, Ryan Horn, Wake Forest Head Strength Coach for Basketball, and Jonas Sahratian, Head Strength Coach For UNC Basketball. Of course we all know guys like Buddy Morris and Tim Kontos that also use the Westside System with amazing results. I mean doesn’t this show that the Westside System isn’t just for geared powerlifting. I mean you won’t find a basketball player at UNC (National Champions by the way) or Wake Forest using a squat suit. Coach Kenn isn’t using bench shirts with the Panthers.

Bands are great for simply increasing speed. All you have to do is use a tendo unit with and without bands, and you will see the difference. Maybe you don’t think that velocity has anything to do with strength. However in my experience it surely has almost everything to do with strength. I mean I used the system to squat over 800lb several times with just a belt on. I benched 550lb raw. I deadlifted 804lb in competition with just a singlet and belt. All of these were at a bodyweight of 220lb, so it at least worked for me a little bit.

I use partial movements like board presses and pulls from blocks on all of my raw powerlifters with amazing results. I am using the max effort method with these partial movements to prepare the CNS for heavy weight. I like to use movements that allow the athlete to feel weights anywhere from 5-10% above their maxes on the full lifts. This method is no different that snatches and cleans from blocks. Personally I normally end with a full range of motion movement, and a lot of my athletes experience a personal record from post activation potentiation.

Here’s the Westside System broken down simply:

Dynamic Effort- this day is centered around a focus on speed somewhere around .7-.8m/s. The intensity is going to average around 80% (sound familiar?). Total volume is going to match prilepin’s chart somewhere between the low to high suggestion.

Max Effort Method- this day is going to be more like the Bulgarian Method. They are going to pick a version of the competitive lift and go as heavy as possible. When it comes to the Olympic lifts, I personally stay specific 6-8 weeks out with maybe a small variation like pull+snatch or clean+front squat+jerk.

Special Exercises- this one is my favorite, and I do believe that the two coaches that I am talking about totally agree with me on this one. Louie simply uses special exercises to target any weaknesses. Make sense?

General Physical Preparedness- this is a fancy phrase for work capacity. Louie encourages using sleds, wheelbarrows, prowlers, and carries to strengthen, condition, and recover. My team uses this method on a daily basis. We use movements that are lacking eccentric contractions, low loads on the major joints, and emphasize stability in weak positions.

Repetition Method- this is a cool way of saying bodybuilding. Most athletes need this especially in the beginning. Some basic muscle mass is required for acquiring massive amounts of strength. All athletes should use this method to destroy weaknesses.

Look this is just skimming the surface of the Westside Method. I suggest that everyone that is skeptical should visit. It’s really hard to say that you have an understanding without visiting. It’s like saying that you grasp the Chinese Methods without having spent quality time with their team. No you don’t! I am pumped to take my buddy Coach Sean Waxman to Westside Barbell for a meeting of the minds. Everyone that knows me, understands that I totally respect Coach Waxman, and I consider him a major mentor. I think that him and Louie can teach each other some major concepts, and I hope to be the fly on the wall. Get ready for that Strength and Conditioning Explosion!

Guys “Conjugate: Westside Inspired Weightlifting” has dropped. Get it for only $29 during this release period at:


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