Category Archives for "Athletic Performance"

Your Questions Answered – The Barbell Life 247

On this podcast, we answer listener questions – and these are always some of my favorite podcasts.

You put out content that you hope benefits people, but you’re never really sure. But with these podcasts, we know we’re answering your direct questions.

So join us as we discuss powerlifting, weightlifting, athletic performance, programming, and tons more.

Seven of the Greatest Minds in Strength & Conditioning in One Book

JUST LAUNCHED: GRAB IT NOW AT ITS SPECIAL LAUNCH PRICE

PROGRAM SAMPLER VOLUME IV

Take your knowledge and your strength to the next level with a peek inside the minds of these industry experts.
Featuring insight and programs from Coach Cal Dietz, Dr. Mike Israetel, Dr. Stu McGill, Coach Dan John, Dr. Bryan Mann, Matt Vincent, and Coach Danny Camargo

LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • How to get your chest to grow
  • Getting a faster first pull
  • Dealing with “butt wink”
  • Increasing your deadlift by not working on your deadlift
  • Programming for a tactical athlete or super total athlete
  • and more…

Unilateral Work: A Case Study with Ryan Grimsland

I’m going to make a case for unilateral squats.

That may be surprising to many of you who have seen me debating bilateral vs unilateral squatting with Coach Mike Boyle. You’ve either seen me on Twitter, read my article, listened to my podcast, or you’ve seen the debate on Stronger Experts.

But make sure to read this article because I point out the positives of unilateral squatting. Once again, I want to be clear that I never said unilateral squats were bad. My whole point was bilateral squats are effective for improving athletic performance, and the research states they are relatively safe.

Getting Sore or Getting Hurt

When it comes to absolute strength and improving athletic performance, I believe bilateral squats taught correctly give you more bang for your buck when coaching athletes. The increased load is going to produce more hypertrophy, especially in areas that need it – like the legs, hips, and back.

Yes, I said back. I hate it when an athlete performs squats and goodmornings, wakes up sore, and then comes to a coach to say they’ve hurt their back. All good coaches understand this is soreness or muscle damage. It’s a necessary part of the strength and hypertrophy protocol. You break muscles down, and then you rebuild them stronger than ever. That’s the process of getting stronger.

I’ve never seen an athlete hurt their back while back squatting outside of powerlifting. Of course, in powerlifting you are pushing the biology of the back past its tipping point. That’s the name of the game for any sport. When people start squatting 3.5 to 4 times their body weight in the back squat, they are at that tipping point. It’s only a matter of time. However, in athletic performance we are asking the athletes for 2 to 2.5 times their body weight. This is hardly the biological tipping point.

When Back Squats Hurt

However, what happens when an athlete has a preexisting condition that irritates the back? We had a case of this during the last 13-week preparation for Junior Nationals and the Youth World Championships. Ryan Grimsland, a 67kg weightlifter, actually fractured his right hip when he was still competing in CrossFit. That injury causes his back to become irritated every so often.

Ryan’s back flared up about eight weeks ago. At first, we cut one of his squat days and added safety squat bar rear-leg elevated split squats on that day. We didn’t notice any change in leg strength or performance during the first two to three weeks. However, his back kept getting worse. We were in the middle of competition preparation and going quite heavy quite often. After talking to Dr. Lawrence Gray, Ryan’s chiropractor and my long-time chiropractor, we decided to make a few changes:

  1. Turn two of the three squat days into unilateral squat days.
  2. Make the third bilateral squat day optional, allowing the athlete to unilaterally squat instead.
  3. Trim the intensity of the competition lifts – except for Max Out Friday.

The plan worked really well for Junior Nationals. Ryan didn’t perform any bilateral squats during the final three weeks before Junior Nationals. His leg strength didn’t increase, but he maintained his strength really well. He also set personal records in the snatch, clean and jerk, and total – and he increased his lead as the number one youth weightlifter in the country.

View this post on Instagram

Obviously by now you all know that we killed it, but here’s one more highlight video because I freaking love this team. 1 overall Gold @ryangrimsland (also second to CJ Cummings for best lifter), 2 Silver @mad_lifts_15 and @reagan.henryyyyy , @hannah_dunnjoy PRed everything @nathan_clifton set PRs after a deathly illness, and @meredithalwine hit PR in the Snatch and Total and she was going lift for lift in the most epic battle in American Female history. Side note, we left with two boys on the Junior Pan Am Team and one on the Junior World Team all Youth age. We also left with two girls sitting pretty for Youth Pan Ams. I’ll take it! =================== www.mashelite.com <link in bio> for: . -Online Video Seminar . – Mash Mafia Online Team . Feats of Strength Online Meet (proceeds benefit 501c3 Mash Weightlifting Team . -Hundreds of Free Articles & Workouts . -Donate to the 501c3 nonprofit team . – 21 Awesome E-Books . -Seminars . -FREE “Mash Method” E-Book . -FREE “The Barbell Life Podcast” . . @intekstrength #intekstrength @athleteps @harbingerfitness #harbingerfitness @tfox66 #nikeweightlifting #athleteps @mg12power #mg12thepowerofmagnesium #wodfitters @wodfitters @strongerexperts #strongerexperts @leanfitnesssystems #LEANFit

A post shared by Mash Elite Performance (@masheliteperformance) on

Moving On

Before the Youth World Championships, which were three weeks after Junior Nationals, we added in one front squat day to each week of the final three weeks. At this point, his leg strength was finally starting to decrease. However, Ryan pulled off a competition PR clean and jerk at the Youth World Championships to take the bronze medal. He clean and jerked 148 kilograms at Youth Worlds, but his legs barely stood the weight up. He clean and jerked 150 kilograms in practice about nine weeks ago, and he stood it up with ease. He cleaned 155 kilograms as well during this training cycle about eight weeks out, but there is no way he could clean that weight right now.

View this post on Instagram

16-year-old @ryangrimsland with a competition PR Clean & Jerk of 147kg/324lb to secure Bronze at the Youth World Championships. Ryan is the third male in American history to medal at the Youth World Championships. =================== www.mashelite.com <link in bio> for: . -Online Video Seminar . – Mash Mafia Online Team . Feats of Strength Online Meet (proceeds benefit 501c3 Mash Weightlifting Team . -Hundreds of Free Articles & Workouts . -Donate to the 501c3 nonprofit team . – 21 Awesome E-Books . -Seminars . -FREE “Mash Method” E-Book . -FREE “The Barbell Life Podcast” . . @intekstrength #intekstrength @athleteps @harbingerfitness #harbingerfitness @tfox66 #nikeweightlifting #athleteps @mg12power #mg12thepowerofmagnesium #wodfitters @wodfitters @strongerexperts #strongerexperts @leanfitnesssystems #LEANFit

A post shared by Mash Elite Performance (@masheliteperformance) on

Unilateral squatting got us through the Youth World Championships. It also helped Ryan eliminate the pain he was experiencing. My theory is that weightlifters spend the majority of their training time squatting and extending our hips with both legs in flexion. Over time, the overuse of hip flexion can put a lot of stress on the low back. The major hip flexor is the psoas, which originates in the bottom of the thoracic spine (T12) and lumbar spine (L1-L5). When the psoas shortens, it starts to put pressure on the low back. I think cutting the load on the spine and pelvis along with the rehabilitative properties of the unilateral squatting helped to strengthen the back and pelvis in a healthier way.

FORGET OPINIONS ON THE SQUAT. HERE'S THE SCIENCE.

TRAVIS MASH'S SQUAT SCIENCE

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.

Core Training

We will continue to use unilateral squats at least once per week. We also use the “McGill Big Three” (developed by Dr. Stuart McGill) as a warm up and to encourage stiffening of the muscles which support the low back and hips. Proximal stiffness leads to a safer way to produce distal power and more power as well.

The McGill Big Three are as follows:

  • Bird Dogs
  • Side Planks
  • McGill Curl Up

Dr. Gray at Gray Chiropractic and Sports Associates was a big help with keeping Ryan healthy. Not only did Dr. Gray adjust Ryan’s spine, but also he added a new machine to his care, the AllCore 360 (which trains the core). Now, fancy machines or gadgets never fool me. I am only impressed by results, and that’s exactly what Ryan got – results. I remember the day I was sold on that piece of equipment. Ryan snatched 110 kilograms like a twig one day, just like he had on countless occasions. However, there was something different about the catch phase. It was more stable than I had ever seen it. He went on to snatch 125 kilograms that day for a 5-kilogram personal record. I attribute a big portion of that PR to Ryan’s core protocol at Dr. Gray’s.

Unilateral squats are amazing for keeping athletes healthy. They are also very specific for sport athletes, so I think everyone should use them as a part of their program. However, if you have an athlete with back issues irritated by back squats and front squats, unilateral squats are a great way to continue training without major leg weakness. They will keep you strong for standing weight up. They will strengthen you in other ways that bilateral squatting won’t. If you are a sport athlete like football, soccer, and lacrosse players, you will want to use unilateral squats simply because of specificity. You might not agree with Coach Boyle, but let’s not make the same mistake as him. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water!

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2019...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

Athletic Performance with Tim Suchomel – The Barbell Life 246

Tim Suchomel lives in both the worlds of academia and of the strength coach.

So he gets to work with great athletes and then research what will help make them even better. Then he gets to teach us all about it.

He joins us on this podcast to share tons of science about safety, velocity, loading, depth jumps, postural work, and more. We also talk about the massive importance of individualization – something that we’re all about here at Mash Elite.

LEARN HOW TO FIT A PROGRAM TO THE ATHLETE

Principles and Real-Life Case Studies on How a Master Programmer Customizes a Program to the Individual

Peek inside Travis's brain... and learn how to individualize your own programs to fit an athlete's strengths, weaknesses, age, gender, sport demands, and unique response to training.

LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • Why we absolutely need individualization
  • Can your athlete even clean?
  • What’s even more important than load
  • The benefit of half squats and quarter squats
  • Snatching instead of cleaning to produce maximal speed and power
  • and more…

Bilateral vs. Unilateral Squatting

Several of you who follow me are aware of the debate between Coach Mike Boyle and me.

If you aren’t familiar with the debate, I will give you a bit of the background. Coach Boyle’s take is that all bilateral squatting is both unsafe and ineffective for improving athletic performance. He concludes that the compressive load on the spine is dangerous, and that the spine isn’t designed for compressive forces. He also concludes that unilateral is superior because sports are played unilaterally. Specificity is king, making unilateral the best choice.

My take is that both bilateral squats (front squat and back squat) and unilateral squats (split squats and lunges) are great choices for improving athletic performance and for stabilizing the body to prevent injuries.

WATCH THE DEBATE WITH MIKE BOYLE

SEE IT FOR FREE ON STRONGER EXPERTS

This debate has prompted me to take a closer look at the research on this subject. Before I go into my findings and my thoughts on the topic, I want to say that I respect what Coach Boyle has accomplished and contributed to our industry. I have actually paid for two of his seminars, so I am in no way saying that he is a bad coach. That would be a foolish assumption on my part. I am simply disagreeing with him on this one issue. We agree on so many topics like:

  • Sport specific training should be left to the sport coach.
  • Box squatting can be dangerous – especially the bouncing and rolling box squats.
  • Cleans are awesome for power production.

With that being said, let’s take a look at what I found.

Point #1: Bilateral Deficit

Let me first explain what the bilateral deficit really is. If you test out your one-repetition maximum unilaterally and add the right max to the left max, the two combined will normally be about 10% more than your bilateral maximum. There are a lot of theories as to why that is, but the data is really inconclusive.

The two main theories are:

  1. We are wired to be unilateral creatures because we walk around our entire life unilaterally.
  2. When we perform a movement unilaterally, we are able to counterbalance or shift around to find a mechanical advantage. An example is when you perform a preacher curl with one arm; you will naturally contort your body a bit to bang out a couple of more repetitions. Obviously when you perform a movement bilaterally you are in a fixed position making counterbalance much harder.

I am going to go with the cause as just a neurological response from all of the normal day-to-day unilateral movement we all do naturally. Coach Boyle uses this finding to say the body performs better when using unilateral movements. He goes on to say the body shuts down neurologically when performing bilateral movements. However, the research doesn’t agree with him.

The research will show that athletes will narrow the bilateral deficit after performing bilateral movements for a length of time. A lot of studies show athletes eliminating the deficit altogether, and a few show bilateral facilitation (bilateral outperforming the sum of the unilateral movements). Regardless, what does any of this have to do with performance?

So far the only study performed on the bilateral deficit regarding athletic performance showed that athletes with little or no bilateral deficit were able to produce more force against the blocks at the start of a sprint. So once again, this is a great point to use both in your training. Clearly this is the stance taken by most coaches.

The other studies performed on unilateral and bilateral squats in athletic performance showed that both worked about the same regarding actions like sprints, vertical leaps, and broad jumps. Once again, the finding didn’t surprise me. This just showed that either option is fine. However, I still have to lean toward performing both due to the one study showing a smaller bilateral deficit contributing to more force into the blocks in a sprint.

Point #2: Building Back Strength

Then I brought up a point that hasn’t been discussed that often. Coach Boyle said the limiting factor in a lot of squats is the back and not the legs. I would agree that is true with most, but there are a lot of athletes who lose squats due to leg strength. I’d say 70% of people lose big squats due to back strength, which brought me to my point.

The fact that the spinal erectors must overcome a major spinal flexor moment during squats and even more in the front squat means that you are increasing the strength of your back when squatting. The load is at least 40% less in the unilateral squat, so the back is only forced to adapt to this light load. If you are a competitive football player or rugby player, you are going to need that back strength.

Here’s a crazy finding: an average defensive back in the NFL weighing 199 pounds and running a 4.56 40-yard dash is capable of producing 1600 pounds of tackling force. If you are building monsters capable of this kind of force, you better build monster backs capable of withstanding 1600 pounds of force.

Obviously even with trap bar deadlifts, the spinal flexor moment is great – but it is reduced because of the proximity to the center of the body. The farther up the spine that you move a bar will increase the spinal flexor moment. When you perform a front squat, the spinal flexor moment is even bigger because now the bar is in front of the body and ever farther away from an intervertebral joint in the spine. If you want monster athletes, use monster movements.

FORGET OPINIONS ON THE SQUAT. HERE'S THE SCIENCE.

TRAVIS MASH'S SQUAT SCIENCE

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.

Specificity and Safety

At the end of the day, specificity will always win. If you are creating athletes who sprint, run, and cut, you should perform unilateral work specific to those movements. However, unlike the popular opinion of the unilateral crowd, not all sport is performed unilaterally. Just look at vertical leap, broad jump, the start of a sprint, athletic stance, batting, a wrestling throw, the start of a swim race, and so many jumps during volleyball. Once again, using both seems to be the answer.

To date there is no research on bilateral deficit as it pertains to risk of injury. Boyle simply references anecdotal data that several of his guys either got hurt bilaterally squatting or bilateral squatting was irritating the backs of his athletes. My data would say something much different. We haven’t noticed that squatting irritates anyone’s back. However, there are two cases on our team where athletes had prior injuries that didn’t allow them to back squat or squat as much. In one case, we simply performed front squats. In the other case, we performed unilateral squats once or twice per week and performed bilateral squatting two to three times.

Before I participated in the debate, I actually called Dr. Stuart McGill. Here were a few of my takeaways. First, here is Dr. McGill’s quote:

“Everything in biology has its tipping point. Below that tipping point everything is anabolic. Everything above that point is catabolic and damaging. This goes for unilateral squatting, bilateral squatting, and pretty much every lift.”

So either movement can be helpful or damaging based on the load and the particular athlete.

Dr. McGill and I agree that bad movement patterns can also get an athlete hurt regardless of load. If you notice a lot of knee valgus or anterior pelvic tilt while performing bilateral squats, you are probably going to get hurt. If you use a wide split stance during a unilateral squat, you are going to mess with the pelvic ring and cause SI joint pain. The takeaway is to find a good coach, learn the movement, and only load functional movement patterns.

All the research points to the back squat being one of the safest movements you can perform. When you are trying to build your absolute strength in those first two to three years, bilateral squats performed heavy are great. Once you reach that threshold of squatting around twice your bodyweight, you might want to consider specificity. At that point, based on these findings, I would focus on one day of velocity based training for the bilateral movements, one day of bilateral based movement for absolute strength, and one day of unilateral movements for hypertrophy and strength.

It might look like this:

Day 1

Unilateral squats – 5×5

Day 2

Velocity based back squat

Day 3

Front squat maximum effort
Unilateral squats – 3 x 8 each leg

Results

I would like to say one more thing in defense of Coach Boyle. He coaches 1,000 athletes per year. He has to design a system to fit his athletes in their culture to get the most results. I think he has done a great job. His athletes are performing, so that’s all that needs to be said. (Of course I believe my athletes are performing even better, but I’m a little biased.)

Feel free to do your own research. I used two really great sources that led me to my research:

  1. “The Whole is Less than the Sum of the Whole” by Greg Nuckols in his online research review MASS
  2. “How to Squat: the Definitive Guide” also by Greg Nuckols

Yes, I am a Greg Nuckols fan mainly because he was one of my interns and powerlifters several years ago. He’s become quite amazing at diving into research and presenting his results in a way that is easily digested by coaches like me. I highly encourage all of you to check him out.

Matt Bergeron Brings Science to the Squat Debate – The Barbell Life 245

Maybe you’ve seen that I was recently in a little Twitter debate on the squat.

Are they safe? Should you only go unilateral?

Well, Matt Bergeron joins us today on the podcast to share the research.

We address many of the myths out there about safety and squatting – and we also talk about the important differences between exercise science and many other forms of science.

FORGET OPINIONS ON THE SQUAT. HERE'S THE SCIENCE.

TRAVIS MASH'S SQUAT SCIENCE

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.

LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • Do Mash athletes do unilateral squats? (Yes, we do.)
  • How I hurt my back squatting and what I learned from it
  • Why high performance athletes are unsafe
  • When to teach mechanics and when to not worry about it
  • Keeping football players healthy… by lifting heavy?
  • and more…

Tony Gentilcore – The Barbell Life 244

I finally had the chance to sit down and talk with Tony Gentilcore.

It seems we know so many of the same people, so it was great to pick his brain and hear about his many years as a strength coach.

In particular, Tony really had some great insights on business – not only his current business model (which had me taking notes) but also lessons he’s learned from his past with Eric Cressey.

If you’re someone who is interested in growing a platform, growing a gym, or growing a coaching practice – this one will be worth a listen.

Short on time in the gym? Here's the blueprint you need to follow.

Get Travis Mash's Guide to Building Your Own Program

If your schedule is packed but you still want to smash weight, if you want a reliable method to break through plateaus, if you want to build a strength program that works for YOU, grab the Blueprint.

LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • Having Eric Cressey as a roommate (and what he learned)
  • Why growing a business is sometimes the worst thing
  • How he’s working now based on his plan for the future
  • Why he started a gym even though he said he never wanted to
  • How a good workout should make you feel like Mario
  • and more…
1 2 3 53