Category Archives for "Athletic Performance"

Should we be icing our injuries? by Coach Matthew Shiver

“Mash Program Sampler 2” prices increase after this weekend! 2- Weightlifting Programs (1 directly from the MDUSA Days), 1- Powerlifting Program, 1- Super Total, 1 Athletic Performance (Tommy Bohanon’s Program), 1 Athletic Speed, and 2 Cross Training workouts! All profits go to help support our non-profit Team, so thanks in advance!

Should we be icing our injuries?

Icing is a modality that has been used for both minor and major injuries. When someone hurts a joint in an athletic event, the first thing someone normally says is “put some ice on it”. So, my question is why? You’ll be surprised to hear is that there is a lack of evidence in the effectiveness of icing. Physiologically, we can even make sound reasoning that icing can actually hinder the tissue rebuilding process.

In 1978 the term “RICE” was coined by Gabe Mirkin, MD. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. It is common to see athletic training rooms and physical therapy clinics across the country give this recommendation to injured athletes. It makes sense right? To decrease swelling, we need to rest in order to allow the tissue to heal. We need to ice it because that decreases the blood flow to the area, so that must could stop the swelling production along with decreasing the metabolic process of the damaged tissue to hinder it from further damage. We need to use compression because it has been shown to work for treating edema patients for many years. It creates a pressure gradient to allow swelling to flow from a concentration of high pressure to an area of low pressure. And lastly, we need to elevate the injured area. The excess swelling may be decreased when we use gravity to pull it back down to the center of the body.

What most people do not know is that Gabe Mirkin, MD denounced “RICE” as the best acute injury treatment in 2014. While compression and elevation are still very valuable, the use of rest and ice need a little bit more discussion.

As research improved, we learned more about the process of healing. What we know is that inflammation is the first part of the healing process. If we don’t have the inflammation process, the joint misses vital metabolites needed for the healing process. The body is extremely smart. It should know how much inflammation an injured area needs to heal. When we ice an acute injury, we slow down or pause the process of inflammation. Once the ice is removed, the tissue heats back up and the inflammation process begins. We have all experienced this. We sprain our ankle playing hoops, we ice it, but by the time we get home our ankle is the size of a softball. Does icing really reduce the amount of swelling accumulation? The lack of research answers with: “We don’t know”. Many rehabilitation professionals now believe that the process of icing is just slowing down the healing process. If we can get the inflammatory response to start the healing process, we may be able to recover sooner.

Now what about swelling that has gone on for a few days or even weeks? Before making any more statements I want to ensure the importance of seeing a primary care provider if you do have or obtain an injury that lasts longer than several days or continues to get worse, or if its something of immediate concern. If you have a severe injury, it is better to get it looked at/cleared sooner than later. After making sure that the injured tissue is healing, we need to follow some simple protocols to improve the healing ability of the tissue and reduce the amount of swelling.

We know that icing CANNOT reduce the amount of swelling that is already in the joint. There is no mechanism that makes logical sense for how it could reduce swelling. Excess swelling is carried away by lymph channels, not through blood circulation. When we ice the injured tissue, it closes off the lymph channels, making it impossible for the excess swelling to go anywhere. Some rehabilitation professionals even claim that the channels can back flow causes the excess swelling to get even worse. Instead of icing, movement is the most efficient way to clear excess swelling. Movement opens up the lymph channels for the uptake of excessive swelling. Instead of icing injuries, move through a pain-free range of motion as often as you can. If you’re wearing a cast or brace, limiting your motion at that area, move the muscles around that area. Any movement is better than no movement. This is why the muscle stimulator units (Marco PRO, Compex) are so popular. They are shown to improve the recovery of damaged tissue.

With that, there are certain situations where icing is beneficial. Icing is great at reducing the amount of pain in a given area. With the pandemic of pain killers in America, ice is a safe alternative. If you are in serious pain, put some ice of the area. It will reduce the speed at which nerve impulses travel relaying information about the pain. Another time ice is beneficial is if you lose a body part. This is in fact where icing was first introduced. If you lose a finger you want to ice the finger and your hand to preserve the tissue in hopes to keep it from decomposing.

As you can see, there are few areas in where icing is PROVEN to help recovery of a specific injury. If you have a minor ache or injury, you can do other things to help yourself heal. Now that we know “RICE” might not be the best modality for rehabilitating injuries, let’s go over what we can do instead.

Move through a pain free range of motion often. Elevate an injury above the heart as high as tolerable. Compress the tissue around the joint or injury site from distal to proximal. Smash or massage the surrounding tissue to work out the connective tissue and open the lymph channels.

I hope this helps! This is a very controversial topic in strength and conditioning and rehabilitation. Icing feels good! It may directly work as a placebo or even as a calming mechanism, but physiologically it doesn’t seem to add up. Until more research is done, blindly recommending icing for an injury may cause more harm than good.

If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Mirkin’s new position on icing check out his website:

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Strong, Jacked, and Conditioned at the Same Time

“Mash Program Sampler 2” has dropped! 2- Weightlifting Programs (1 directly from the MDUSA Days), 1- Powerlifting Program, 1- Super Total, 1 Athletic Performance (Tommy Bohanon’s Program), 1 Athletic Speed, and 2 Cross Training workouts! All profits go to help support our non-profit Team, so thanks in advance!

Strong, Jacked, and Conditioned at the Same Time

Lately I get a lot of people that are new to Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting. Over the last decade the barbell has become more popular than ever thanks to CrossFit and the Internet. People of all ages, genders, and backgrounds want to learn more about barbell movements. The benefits of the barbell are undeniable: increased muscle mass, overall strength, better movement, increased athleticism, stronger bones, and stronger connective tissue to name just a few.

Another benefit of training with a barbell is the quantifiable improvements that one makes. When you can add more weight to the bar, you are stronger. However there are even more quantifiable improvements that one can make like better movement patterns and better range of motion. There are improvements that all of us can work on every time that we are in the gym, and this is what appeals to so many people.

I am so thankful for the increased popularity of the barbell. The other day someone asked to take a picture with me, and then apologized for interrupting me. They said, “I bet you get this all the time.”

I laughed and explained that yes I get asked for a picture more than I use to, but I will never get tired of people wanting to ask questions or take pictures. When people ask questions or want a picture that means they care about the barbell. I have spent my whole life’s work learning as much as possible about the movements of the barbell. It was only during the last five years that the popularity of the barbell started to skyrocket. Until then, I felt like I was all alone at times. No one really understood anything about the barbell until around 2012, and no one really cared to know. There was a time that I thought my whole life had been wasted on something that no one really cared about, and now all of you want to know about strength and fitness. So no, I will never get tired of talking to any of you about the barbell, and no, I will never get tired of taking pictures. I thank God for all of you that want to learn more.

Lately I am getting a lot of people that want to get better at powerlifting or weightlifting, but they want to be jacked and in shape as well. A lot of people are apprehensive about the strength sports because they don’t want to get fat and out of shape. Guess what? Neither do I!

I am not quite sure how the stereotype of fat powerlifters and weightlifter got started. I am assuming that most people have watched the heavyweight classes during the Olympics or maybe Strongman on television. Those men and women are the exception and not the rule. Most great weightlifters and powerlifters are jacked and tan. Well they are jacked maybe not so tan.

Guys like Ed Coan and Dan Green are ripped. Weightlifters like Lu Xiaojun look like comic book heroes. I’ve got news for all of you: fat doesn’t lift any weight. Fat is pretty much useless when it comes to strength. Muscle does all of the contracting and lengthening while lifting weights. The goal of any strength athlete is to pack on as much muscle as possible in their weight class. If you ever go to a world championships or pro-powerlifting event, you will see a bunch of very muscular men and women.

Smart weightlifters and powerlifters are also in shape. Work capacity is a big part of getting stronger. The athlete that can perform the most volume without getting over trained will always win. That’s the name of the game! Now I realize that every person has his or her own genetic make up. Some of us do better with low volume, some with high volume, and some with an in-between amount. No matter what amount of volume that fits you the best, your goal is to always up that amount. You have to stress the body to force adaptation. If you perform the same amount of volume year in and year out, you will yield the same amount of results.

Therefore, it is important to increase work capacity. There are also several studies proving that basic cardiovascular work aids in recovery, so there is a place for rowing and biking in the strength world. The big question is, “How does all of this fit?”

1. Let’s talk about being jacked! Hypertrophy should always be a part of your training. At times hypertrophy should dominate your training. No matter it should always be a part. When you are the furthest away from a meet or peaking cycle, the main goal should be adding muscle. Here are a couple of article that I have written in the past to give you some guidelines:

“Multiple Ways to Emphasize Hypertrophy”

“Hypertrophy Cycles for Athletic Performance”

However even when you are in the middle of a strength cycle, hypertrophy is still a major concern. You will always want to target weaknesses with hypertrophy. The key is identifying those weaknesses. You will also want to target muscular imbalances with hypertrophy. Asymmetries are the biggest cause of injury. You will also find that a balanced body will always be the strongest body just look at Rich Froning.

Here are a few keys:

• If you are performing exercises that are majorly eccentric in nature or active stretching with a load like RDLs, Goodmornings, or Dumbbell Flies, you will need a couple of days to recover before targeting those muscle groups. I suggest putting these exercises in when you have a day off or an active rest day is following.
• Exercises that focus on metabolic stress (fancy word for a pump) with very little muscle damage can be used more often like pec deck, leg extensions, or lateral raises. If the majority of stress comes at the peak of concentric contraction, then it is an exercise with little muscle damage. If the majority of stress comes at the peak of eccentric (negative) contraction, the exercise causes a lot of muscular damage (ex. RDL).
• The close you get to a meet or peaking cycle, I suggest limiting the exercises that create muscular damage, but keep the metabolic stress movements coming.

2. How does one stay in shape and not fat? Here are a couple of ways:

• Low eccentric and low joint loaded movements are perfect for conditioning like sled pushes, sled pulls, and carries.
• Cardio performed at 75% of maximum heart rate is perfect for strength athletes. All you have to do is read Alex Viada’s book “The Hybrid Athlete” to understand not only is this something that strength athletes can do, but it is something that they should do. By the way he runs 100 mile races and squats over 700 pounds.

Here’s an article that I wrote about conditioning for strength athletes:

“Hybrid Workouts: Strong and Conditioned”

The moral of the story is that you can be strong, jacked, and conditioned. The key is programming it all properly. If programmed correctly, all three should improve the other. Louie Simmons has been talking about this since the ‘90s, so this isn’t anything new. I am just reassuring all of you that yes, you can have it all.

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Raising an Athlete: Teaching a Child to be an Athlete from the Beginning

“Mash Program Sampler 2” has dropped! 2- Weightlifting Programs (1 directly from the MDUSA Days), 1- Powerlifting Program, 1- Super Total, 1 Athletic Performance (Tommy Bohanon’s Program), 1 Athletic Speed, and 2 Cross Training workouts! All profits go to help support our non-profit Team, so thanks in advance!

Raising an Athlete

Today I am writing about my favorite topic. I am going to answer some questions about raising athletes. My son, Rock Mash has developed into quite the two-year-old. He has been ahead of the game since day 1, which is thanks to genetics and his mother. His mother worked out during her entire pregnancy. She also dialed in her nutrition and recovery to ensure that Rock was getting all the nutrients necessary for fetus development. There are also a lot of studies that suggest working out during pregnancy gives the baby a lot of development benefits.

However this article is more about what we are doing now to ensure Rock’s development and growth. So far Rock walked at 9-months old. He was talking regularly before one-year-old. He was potty trained before he was two. Does any of this mean that he’s going to be a great athlete? Probably not, but then again I haven’t seen any studies on the matter. A lot of that is genetics, and some of that is the fact that his mother, Emily Drew, gets to stay at home with the children. Another part of that is that I am able to spend a lot of time with my boys.

We are able to give our boys lots of one-on-one attention, and that means that we can assure that they are dealt with properly. For example, we don’t use walkers or jumpers to support our children. We don’t use anything that restricts them. We sit them on the floor in a safe environment, and we let the built in mechanisms do their job. God has supplied most children with an amazing assortment of tools designed to help children move in a functional way. The key is simply allowing those tools to work.

You will notice the following:

• Your child will roll over
• Your child will start to army crawl
• They will then start to move to a hands and knee position
• They will crawl
• Then they will start to climb to a standing position
• Then they will take their first steps.

The entire process is pretty amazing when you get to see it happen. Behr Bradley is five-months old, and he is already at the crawl stage. He might beat his brother, and walk by eight-months old. I think that Behr has more motivation because he wants to play with his older brother. Believe it or not, but motivation is a huge part of the process. Rock crawled because he wanted to be a part of the action. I am writing this while watching Behr do the same thing. It’s actually pretty cute to watch. I am actually cheering him on. Go Behr Go!

At one-year-old we started Rock in Gymnastics, and that was the best decision ever. The only rule was that the child had to be at least one-year-old and be able to walk. Rock’s development has been amazing. Almost every week he is able to perform a new task or perform an old task even better. I never dreamed that at two-years-old Rock would be able to:

• Climb
• Solo walks on balancing beams
• Handstands
• Wall Walks
• Pull-ups
• Bar flips
• Forward Rolls
• Backward Rolls
• Trampoline jumps
• Toes 2 Bars

Salem Gymnastics and Swim have been so much more than that for Rock’s Development. I have watched his confidence soar (that’s their slogan by the way). At the beginning of every class each child is called by name to go to the center of the circle and perform a Ta-Da with hands overhead. At first Rock was shy, and he didn’t want to go to the middle. Now it’s no problem. That confidence shows in other areas of his life as he communicates with others. He isn’t shy anymore.

You can learn many other skills from gymnastics as well. My favorite is that Rock is learning to be patient. Sometimes there are lines to wait in for certain pieces of equipment like the tumble track. Rock has to wait in line, and then he has to wait for the athlete in front of him to complete the track. At first Rock didn’t want to wait, so I had many opportunities to teach him lessons in patience. These lessons have been invaluable in other areas of his life.

He has also learned to share. Now that’s a hard one for just about every child. Let’s be honest! That’s a hard one for most adults that I know. For example, there are hula-hoops for the children to play with. These are hot commodities for two-year-olds evidently. Once again these are great opportunities to teach, and believe me we have had many discussions.

Besides gymnastics, we make sure that Rock spends most of his day playing outside weather permitted of course. Luckily our family owns a farm, so Rock has free reign to climb, build, dig, ride his tricycle, run, and jump. He loads rocks into his wagon and builds rock walls, massive rock walls. This is the way that children build athleticism. They play, they fall, and they get back up! It’s really that simple, but it is a lost form. Nowadays kids are watching TV, playing video games, and messing with IPads. I am not saying that Rock doesn’t watch TV. I am just saying that we limit it screen time.

We also have him in swim class, which is important to his parents and grandparents. My biggest fear is water, when it comes to my children. I am sure that any parent reading this knows exactly what I am talking about. Once again he is learning to use his body in multiple ways. However in this case he is learning to survive if he falls into a pool. He’s climbing out of the pool, jumping into the pool, and floating on his back. He’s learning to hold his breath under water. These are survival skills and athleticism combined. Once again, thank you to Salem Gymnastics and Swim!

I am so thankful that we are able to spend so much time with our boys. I am also thankful that we are able to supply them with so many opportunities to learn and grow stronger. At a young age our job as parents is simply to introduce our children to as many activities as possible. You want believe how quickly that they can pick up new activities and movements when they are young.

Here’s a link to the podcast that I did with John Welbourn all about “Raising an Athlete”:

“Raising an Athlete with Power Athlete’s John Welbourn”

I enjoy this topic for obvious reasons. I want to do a series on raising athletes of all ages for all of you parents, trainers, and coaches. Let me know what questions you have, and I will research to find the best answers. Thanks for reading!

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Cognitive Fatigue and How it Affects our Performance by Nathan Hansen

If you missed it, check out our book on mindset “The Performance Zone” at the link below:

==> “The Performance Zone”

Cognitive fatigue and how it affects our performance.

Cognitive fatigue is subjective to each individual person, yet has a common ground amongst everyone. This commonality is the decline in our overall performance when you are highly stressed or an activity happens over an extended period of time. Our mind and body start to show emotional instability and moods become altered, which translates into sluggishness, constantly tired, negative affect, and animosity towards tasks or goals.

These characteristics are brutal towards the individual attempting to be prosperous. When the above symptoms start to show, what do you do? Normally our society states that you need to push through it, hide it, and get over it. So you tuck these thoughts and emotions away, in what you think is a deep spot of our mind. If you continue to do this behavior, the fatigue will continue to build. As it builds, the next time a person comes across a task, or a memory that represents what they are avoiding/hiding, one will find themselves sliding quickly back into the cognitive fatigue mindset. Now we have identified some common signs and symptoms of cognitive fatigue, as well as the commonality in which society handles it. So how does cognitive fatigue set in and what does it do to us mentally.

Our mind is a fickle thing. When you perceive a task as being strenuous you start to enter cognitive fatigue. While entering this stage you start to feel fatigued, tired, and emotionally drained, however the changes in our body are a raised heart rate and blood lactate (increase of lactic acid in our blood stream)(MacMahon, Schucker, Hagemann &Strauss, 2014). Meaning what you perceive as a higher level of effort in work or athletics is purely mental. When cognitive fatigue controls our mentality, our thoughts also start to change. Meaning that what you see as difficult currently might be viewed as an impossible task later down the road while enjoyment disappears and a task becomes a grudge to accomplish as you feel you no longer receive anything out of that task. The scary part is that when you are put in this position you feel the only fix is to jump to and from programs, different careers, and/or relationships (to name a few). People think that a change of scenery/pace will fix the slump they are in. When what they truly need to focus on is their own mentality and how to handle fatigue.

The longer cognitive fatigue sets in, the more your focus starts to be brought internal. Your focuses shift from the barbell, to your breathing or what you are thinking. Physical senses start to govern your awareness and performance. Pain and disappointment easily creep in to the picture. This is where it can get tricky, as without proper understanding of how to control this internal shift, the focus of pain and disappointment will control your sessions. Focus will continue to jump from one negative aspect to the next, furthering the cognitive dissonance with-in your body. Since internal stimuli are an important part of being human, it is important to use that stimuli and restructure it so one can break through the cognitive fatigue.

So how do you break this cycle? Well, it is different for everyone, and the easy answer is to not lose sight of the “fun”. The long answer involves two parts. The first is changing how you view yourself and your sport/career. Ask yourself what are you trying to achieve and how you are going about achieving it? If you can answer the first part but cannot answer the how, then you are going about it the wrong way. No wonder you are fatigued. Let’s revisit the goal you are trying to achieve and break it down. Good, now break it down again and again, until you can look at it and the simplicity takes over and you do not have to explain any of the steps to yourself. Now you can pick one of these new perspectives and get started.

The second is learning how to identify what your internal stimuli are. When you find yourself struggling with negative thoughts, write them down. For each negative thought you show, write down three positives. This is the easiest reprograming you can do. The only stipulation, stick with it.

The biggest difference between champions and all the rest of the field is their ability to control their mindset. In the past if you were having issues with cognitive fatigue, you would probably have ended up simply giving up on any high-achieving athletic goal or any other high-achieving goal. You would never have gotten past the cognitive fatigue, and it would have slowly taken over.

Now we can identify issues like “cognitive fatigue”, and create action plans to correct the issue. Most people look to programming, coaching, or equipment to reach their athletic goals. In my experience the biggest problem that most people have is that amazing organ between the ears, the brain. Until you can get ahold of the way you think, becoming great in sports or any other area of life will be difficult or almost impossible.

If you missed it, check out our book on mindset “The Performance Zone” at the link below:

==> “The Performance Zone”


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Hypertrophy Cycles for Athletic Performance

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Hypertrophy Cycles for Athletic Performance

Hypertrophy Cycles are important for all athletes. If they want to get faster and stronger, then adding some muscle size is the way to do it. If they want to have less risk of injury on the field of play, then they need to add some muscle. To most strength and conditioning coaches this seems very logical, but for a lot of parents and athletes the concept of hypertrophy scares them.

Parents tell me all the time to focus on speed, but please don’t add a lot of muscle. They are convinced that adding muscle will make their athlete slow and bulky. This statement absolutely drives me crazy.

Here’s a pic of Barry Sanders:

Here’s a pic of Olympic Sprinter Tianna Maddison:

Tianna Madison of the U.S. competes in her women’s 4x100m relay heat during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium August 9, 2012. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Check out Asafa Powell:

Mash Elite’s own Cade Carney:

What’s the one common trait? All four athletes are jacked. Now was Barry Sanders slow? No he was the greatest running back of all-time. Obviously the track athletes are the fastest humans on earth. Cade started at running back for Wake Forest University as a freshman and led the team in touchdowns. I think that we can now all agree that lean muscle doesn’t make you slower. It actually makes you faster.

I am convinced that most parents are talking about getting fat when they say “bulking up”. I totally agree with them. A lot of football players will make the mistake of getting fat because they want to gain weight. This is a terrible mistake, and this will slow you down.

However it is not the strength program that causes one to gain fat. You get fat by the type and amount of food that you are consuming. When parents are telling me not to make their young athlete fat, they need to look themselves in the mirror. They are the ones feeding the athlete.

90% of the time when the parents are telling me this nonsense of bulking up, they are referring to their skinny child. I have had the parents of soccer playing females telling me to focus on speed and not weight training. Here’s what I feel like saying: “Number one that’s an oxymoron. Number two, your daughter is 90 pounds soaking wet. She’s going to get killed.”

If you are a parent, you really need to do your research. Please don’t just listen to one of your buddies, and then think that you understand how to make your child a better athlete. I want you to look at the picture of Tianna Maddison. She is jacked. She is also faster than your daughter. The thing is that most of the kids couldn’t gain that amount of muscle no matter what. The genetics aren’t there, so stop worrying. If I can add 2-3 pounds of muscle, then I am happy.

OK I don’t want this to seem like one long rant, but I needed to make a point. Now let’s get into what needs to happen. Each year all athletes should go through phases of adding quality muscle mass. Adding muscle size is the quickest way to get stronger and faster. The key is to add lean muscle mass. That means you don’t want to add more fat than you are muscle.

You want to eat enough calories as not to be in a deficit, which means you want to eat slightly more than you are burning. You can’t get bigger by eating the same amount of calories needed to sustain your current muscle mass. You also want quality macronutrients. That means you want to eat quality lean meats, fruits, vegetable, and healthy fats. You should stay away from junk food and processed foods. We are tying to get you jacked no fat.

The other important aspect to consider is mobility during the hypertrophy phase. You want to add pliable muscle mass. If you start bodybuilding without stretching, you might get slower and stiff from the big rigid muscle mass. However as long as you are stretching and more importantly performing your sport, your new muscle mass will move just like before or better. Now you are faster than ever, and you can jump higher than ever.

Here’s the simply key:

1. Add 2-5 pounds of lean muscle mass per year.
2. Focus on getting stronger so the new muscle mass is functional.
3. Focus on relative strength or body weight movements, so the new muscle mass moves your body better than before.
4. Focus on mobility and stretching to keep the new muscle mass pliable and also functional.
5. Practice your sport; so the new muscle mass can perform the movements required of your individual sports.

If you follow these keys, a hypertrophy cycle will be very beneficial. You will gain muscle mass, get faster, get stronger, and jump higher. Here are some tips for developing a hypertrophy cycle:

1. Stick to the big lifts that recruit the most fibers like squat, bench, rows, strict presses, RDLs, etc.

2. Stick with rep and set ranges of 5 x 10, 10 x 3, or somewhere in between.

3. Vary those rep and set ranges in the same week like this:

Back Squat 5×10 at around 65% to start
RDLs 4 x 8 at around 68% to start

Bench Press 5 x 10 at around 65% to start
Bentover Rows 5 x 10 at around 65% to start


Front Squat 10×3 at around 80-85% to start
Glute Ham Raises 4 x 8

Strict Press 10×3 at around 80-85% to start
DB Rows 4 x 8ea arm

This is not exactly what I would do. I would add one or two other assistance exercises based on the athletes weaknesses or imbalances, but this is a great starting place. Waving the reps and intensities will help to create bigger and stronger muscles.

Hypertrophy is created in three different ways:

1. Mechanical load- go heavier over time
2. Metabolic stress- basically the pump one gets when performing high reps.
3. Muscle Damage- muscle damage is caused from heavy eccentric loading especially a stretched muscle under tension like RDLs and changing things ups forcing adaptation.

A little workout like I outlined above will do the trick by focusing on all three of the mechanisms for hypertrophy. I hope that this article has informed you about the importance gaining quality muscle size for field athletes. If you want to get them faster and stronger, then add in some hypertrophy cycles throughout the year. If you want to keep them safer on the field, then help them add some quality muscle size.

Remember we are nine days away from launching “MashJacked: Hypertrophy to Improve all Sport” and “Train Stupid: Philosophy and Program of Nathan Damron”. These drop Friday April 21st! Until then, check out my latest E-Book “Mash Method” for FREE! Check it out now at:
This book has several of the techniques that I used to set personal records and world records along with some of my latest techniques that I’m using to get my athletes and me hitting all-time numbers.
-wave training
-bands and chains contrasted with straight weight
-walk outs
-partials contrasted with full ROM
-Squats for vertical leap -Sled drags to set PR 40 yd dash times
And more!

Mash Conjugate is Maybe not so Conjugate

Check out one of our seven E-Books:

• “Squat Every Day” (High Frequency Squat Programming)
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• “No Weaknesses” (Defeat Muscular Imbalances crush the Recovery Game)
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Mash Conjugate is Maybe not so Conjugate

Everyone in the strength world knows that I love and respect Louie Simmons. I consider him a mentor and friend. I model my gym after aspects of his. I use some of his principles, but of course there are things that I do that are a little different from him.

Some trainees at Westside will totally change Max Effort Exercises each and every week. On Dynamic Effort Day they will sometimes switch the bars used on squats. The total volume on dynamic day is waved normally in three-week pendulum waves. That’s a lot of change, and this will definitely prevent the body from adapting. Louie’s biggest goal with the conjugate system is to prevent the body from adapting and stalling in progress. Obviously it works for their athletes because results do the talking.

I use the conjugate method, but I am definitely not so varied. My results also speak for themselves. I program in four-week blocks or mesocycles. Each and every exercise that I prescribe is chosen for a reason. I am not just testing the athlete. I am trying to create some adaptation because I want the body to get better at the movement.

I understand that Louie is using max effort movements to test the lifter. He uses 1-3 repetitions, and it’s designed to be completed in 2-3 sets like this: set 1 is 90% of predicted rep max, sets 2 is 5-10lb over past rep max, and set 3 is for breaking the maximum one more time if possible. Obviously he is teaching the athlete to perform under heavy load.

In my experience adaptation isn’t the enemy. Total adaptation is the enemy. I want the body to adapt to the prescribed stimulus, so it will grow bigger, stronger, and neutrally better. The body’s ability to adapt is where programming should revolve. Adaptation is a remarkable function of the body. You throw a stimulus at the body causing muscle breakdown, and the body will adapt by repairing those muscles stronger than ever. That’s the big function of hypertrophy.

It’s not only muscle hypertrophy that is caused by the body’s ability to adapt. The body also becomes more efficient over time, and this is where specificity comes into the picture. This is where I program a little differently than Louie might program.

When you first begin practicing a movement, that movement might seem awkward. I want you to remember back to when you first started playing basketball or throwing a football. The ball probably felt awkward and heavy. Once you practiced for a few weeks, you were able to rain three-pointers and throw the football for days. You became better at the movement.

Snatch, clean & jerk, squat, bench press, and deadlift are no different. They are all movements. There are several ways to alter the stimulus without completely changing out the movement. Let’s look at the ways to vary without changing the movement:

• Frequency
• Load or intensity
• Total Volume
• Time under tension
• Rest between sets

You might say that isn’t a lot of ways to vary, but there are literally hundreds of options with each of them. “Time under tension” and “total volume” can both be used with countless variations. Let’s look at each a little closer.

1. Frequency: I can squat 1-7 days per week. I could possible squat 1-3 times per day in the total volume and load isn’t too taxing on the body. That gives you 23 options.

2. Load or intensity- this is how heavy that you are lifting. You can work to one or two big sets of a 1-3 rep maximum, or you can stay with an average of 80%(percentage of 1RM) for multiple sets. You could even perform multiple sets with an average of 80%, and then work to a maximum. The possibilities are truly endless.

3. Total volume- (poundage x repetition x total sets) it’s absolutely endless in the number of ways that one could vary each of the options.

4. Time under tension- this is my favorite way to vary exercises. You can vary the isometric contraction (contraction where the length of the muscle don’t change) while fully contracted (top of a squat), the speed of the eccentric contraction (the descent of a squat), the isometric contraction fully lengthened (bottom of a squat), or the speed of the concentric contraction (ascent of a squat). I can also program an isometric contraction anywhere along the way up or down. Yes, your options are endless.

5. Rest between sets- this is an aspect of training that a lot of people don’t think about using as a variable. In weightlifting this one is a must. I want my athletes ready if they are getting their warm ups rushed. Not to mention performing sets every minute on the minute helps the athlete shut their brains off and just lift.

As you can see, I can still vary the workouts from week to week without changing the exercises, bars, or adding anything extra. Don’t get me wrong, I like using bands, chains, different bars, boxes, and boards. However, my application might be a little different. I will use specialty bars for assistance work like cambered bar goodmornings for example, and I am comfortable using exercises like that right up to a meet. As far as using specialty bars for the main lifts, I will sparingly use specialty bar 12 or more weeks out from a competition, but I will eliminate using them for a contested lift the closer to a meet that we get. I want some specificity, so the athlete can practice the exact movements of their competition.

I will use bands and chains, and I will use a lot of the sets, reps, and load that Louie prescribes. However I will always end with taking them off and performing some unloaded sets. This is obviously against what he says, but I have found that it works great for eliciting a post activation potentiation response. One more disclaimer is that I use the bands and chains sparingly because they are taxing on the central nervous system especially if you get carried away with them.

I use partial movements and overloading exercises the same way. For example, I will perform board presses during max effort bench press. However I like to end with full range of motion. I warm up with full range of motion as well. I will vary the Olympic lifts with the use of different heights of boxes, but I will eliminate or extremely limit their use the closer to a meet.

As you can see, I love Westside Barbell. I use a lot of Louie’s methods and ideas. I just know that specificity comes into play as well. I want my lifters to be the best at their contested movements. The only way to get good at a movement is through practice. You don’t get good at American football by practicing basketball the week before a game.

I program my accessory work the same way. I program movements where I can quantify that a lifter is weak. If a muscle group is weak, it is going to take some time to improve. If I rotate accessory movement, then the body isn’t going to adapt to anything. Therefore the body won’t improve at anything.

The one place that I feel is ok to be a little more random is in the conditioning/work capacity section. I am not trying to elicit muscle hypertrophy during this phase of the workout. I want the athlete to get more conditioned, so that they can perform more and more work. I won’t use any exercises that require a lot of eccentric loading because I don’t want this section of training to cause further muscle breakdown. If you want variation, this is the time to vary.

I hope that this helps all of you see the way that I use the conjugate method. These principles apply to weightlifting and powerlifting. I have learned so much from Louie Simmons that I could write hundreds of books explaining all the topics. He has mentored me in countless ways over the years, and I appreciate everything that he has done. At the end of the day, it comes down to production of athletes. He has done that. My job as a coach is to improve on the work of others. That’s all that any of us can hope for.

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