Category Archives for "Athletic Performance"

Strength Science Knowledge Bombs with Bryan Mann – The Barbell Life 190

I sat down to talk with Bryan Mann in a recent podcast, and really I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that he had a long list of credentials and that he was an expert in velocity-based training. In fact, he had sent me his book when I was researching and writing Bar Speed, my guide on velocity-based training.

But I was blown away. Halfway through the podcast, I was telling everyone that this was the best podcast ever.

We talked about some particular ways that Bryan was able to get his athletes incredibly strong and fast. It’s common for new athletes to make quick gains, but Bryan was able to double this period of rapid growth. That meant that his athletes were getting stronger when everyone else was stalling – and that meant that his athletes in a mid-level school were now ranked number one.


Mash Elite's Guide to Velocity-Based Training

By measuring bar speed (simple to do with your smartphone), you can guarantee each and every training session is as effective and safe as possible.

And here’s another reason you’ve got to listen to this podcast. Part of the struggle of every athletic coach is making the transfer from the weight room to the field. If we can get athletes to squat more, it doesn’t matter unless that makes them perform better in their sport. Coach Mann broke it down for us on the latest studies, so you can listen to this one to find out the specifics of what matters in the weight room and what doesn’t.



  • Defying genetics with velocity-based training
  • How he took a mid-level team to the top with smart programming
  • Challenging conventional wisdom about what lifts transfer to the field
  • If he was starting again in strength, what he would do.
  • Selective hypertrophy vs. indiscriminate hypertrophy
  • and more…

Plyometric Training Part 1 by Matt Shiver

Plyometric training is defined as “exercise involving repeated rapid stretching and contracting of muscles to increase muscle power.” Through the definition, you can see that plyometric training is most commonly used for increasing POWER! While it can be done for endurance (jump ropes or low box jumps), we will be talking about power development in this article. We will be focusing on lower body plyometric training, also known as jump training.

Power equals work done over a period of time. To improve power, you must either do more work or do the same amount of work in less amount of time.

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Stretch Shortening Cycle

Plyometric training involves the use of the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC). The SSC is a period of eccentric lengthening (lowering into your jump) followed by a concentric contraction (exploding up). It involves not just the muscle around the joint being trained, but it also involves the ligaments, tendons, and other connective tissue. The use of the SSC allows your connective tissue to act as a spring and propel you to higher or farther distances than you could achieve without the use it.

To test how your SSC works, try jumping in place. Do a few jumps with a fast lowering down and a fast/powerful jump up as high as possible (aka counter movement jump). Measure on the wall how high you got. Then do a few other jumps with a pause in the bottom of your decent before jumping. From here, jump straight up without re-dipping. If you have an efficient SSC, you should notice at least a 10-20% difference in your jump height. If you do not have a huge difference, you should be spending more time doing plyometric training!

Prerequisites for Plyometric Training

Super Training suggests that an athlete should have a 1-1.5x bodyweight back squat and about a 2x bodyweight deadlift before beginning plyometric training. While many believe this a good standard, I have to disagree with it. I think most athletes have the ability to start some form of plyometric training early in their training history.

It’s important to start teaching them proper technique. Regardless if we like it or not, the athletes will be jumping in their sports at an early age. It is better we teach them how to jump early so they can develop good habits. However, I think the Super Training standard is a good prerequisite for depth jumps that put a large eccentric force on the connective tissues.

Jump training can put 3-20x body weight load onto your connective tissue. If you start with high depth jumps you are loading your connective tissue with HIGH loads. If you are jumping up to a box, and landing softly you are going to be putting a much smaller force on the connective tissues.

Just like any strength and conditioning movement, introduce this with technique work first. The focus should be on landing mechanics first. Land on the whole foot, knees tracking over the toes, and in an athletic position.

When the box jump is complete, step off the box. Do not jump off the box when you are teaching someone new to jump!

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Testing Plyometric Ability

We see so many people test their vertical jump by trying to jump to a max height box. This is not the best way to test your vertical jump. This is testing you hip, ankle, and knee flexibility as well as your max power output. Many people cut their extension short so that they can begin to pull their legs up so they don’t clip their legs and fall into the box. For those athletes who are limited by their flexibility, max box jumps may show them scoring much lower than other athletes who are more flexible and less powerful.

Instead, I recommend testing it against a wall. What you need to do is stand with your chest against a wall and reach as high as you possibly can reach with chalk on your middle finger to mark the wall. This is your start height. Once you have done this, get chalk on your hand do your normal jump while being adjacent to the wall. Don’t face the wall! It should be at your side. Lower down fast and explode up. Reach your hand to the side and get as tall as you can.

Now get a chair, box, or ladder to measure the distance between the two chalk marks. Give yourself one to two minutes of rest between attempts.

In part two of this article, we’ll take a look at how to program plyometric movements into your training and how to progress them based on your skill level.

Preventing Injuries with Movement Physicals by Matthew Shiver

Each year we are strongly encouraged to get a physical done by our Primary Care Physician. They access our general health and common health risks at a given age. It is our annual check-up to make sure that we are still in good shape medically. If we are not looking good, they will refer us out or have us come back in a few weeks to make sure that we are making progress. We all can agree that physicals can be extremely useful for monitoring our health on a macro scale.

One thing that is often not ever addressed until it is too late, is our movement quality. We typically don’t look at it unless we have pain or it limits us from being able to perform a task. If we hope to reduce the number of debilitating injuries we have and reduce the amount of money we have to pay for surgeries and rehabilitative services, we need to change the current strategy. Instead, we need to be proactive about it. We need to seek out our limitations before it becomes too late.

Protocols for Aches and Pains, Muscular Imbalances & Recovery

Work Harder. Train Longer. Prevent Injury.

Prevent injury, reduce pain and maintain joint health with Travis's specific corrections for your individual muscular imbalances.


Check movement quality each year

Professional and Collegiate athletes have caught onto this. If they can catch a movement problem before it becomes an issue, the team will have fewer injuries, perform better, and win more games. Where we don’t see these proactive screens is in recreational athletics and youth sports. I would argue these individuals need the movement screens the most. They most likely have not developed the proprioception and kinesthetic awareness that the professional and collegiate athletes have from competing at a high level their entire life. Athletes who are at a high level typically move well. If not, they don’t last very long in their respective career.

In the future, our coaches, athletic trainers, and physical therapists need to do a better job at screening athletes’ movement qualities during the preseason. We need to have a system in place like we have our annual physicals. At least once per year we need to be given a screen to assess our movement quality. We can monitor the movement quality to make sure that it improves and does not get worse. Like the physician refers out if the medical screen doesn’t look good, coaches should be able to refer their athletes out to a local specialist.


The Functional Movement Screen

At Duke University, I am part of a student organization that practices giving free movement screens. We go into the Recreation Center monthly to give the students, faculty, and staff movement screens. We also work with NC State’s DI athletic teams and have screened numerous professional baseball teams. We use the Functional Movement Screen as our main screen. 

It screens 7 movement patterns to allow you to find limitations. The scoring is pretty simple (0=pain, 1=unable, 2= can do movement modified, 3= optimal movement).  Those who come to screen will get an email a few days later explaining their score and giving them 2-3 corrective exercises. We encourage them to come back the next month to see if they improve their score.

The FMS test takes about 10 minutes if you have an athlete who has never done the test before, and if you have someone who has completed the screen before, it can be even shorter. The FMS screen does have a certification course, but the founders encourage everyone to use their system regardless if you have taken the course or not. They have a book available on Amazon which is a great resource. The system is not hard, it just requires some practice. I can teach someone how to use the FMS in one afternoon!

The FMS is just one of the many movement screens that have been developed in the recent past to take a more proactive approach to injury prevention. Regardless of how teams are screened, they need to be screened! The earlier athletes are screened the better. We cannot let athletes get through high school while playing competitive sports without screening them.


Screening Is Not Just for Athletes

The same goes for CrossFit gyms. We need to do a better job of screening our members as they join our gyms. This is something that should be included in all of the Foundation and On-Ramp classes. We should be able to do a quick 10-minute screen to tell them what they need to spend some time on before and after their workout so they can avoid injury and continue to come to the gym and benefit from all the great things that our gyms have to offer.

I cannot tell you how many people have told me they are scared of CrossFit because they are worried about getting injured. If we can set up something in every gym that screened all new members, it would help break down the fear of injury barrier and it would help our members improve their movement quality. We all open or work at a gym to help others live a healthy life and have fun getting fit. It is our responsibility to make them better movers!

Matt Shiver

“Don’t Brace Before You Breathe” Part II by Coach Paluna Santamaria

Don’t forget to check out part I of this series.

In Part I, I discussed the importance of posture for efficient breathing. I asked you to be mindful of your breath and practice anatomical breathing. You may have noticed that mobility restrictions affect your breathing, you either can’t get into neutral spine or feel like you can’t breathe as deep as you want to. In other words, you have no access or control over the full potential of your muscles.

In this article, I will concentrate on exercises to help you increase movement in the thoracic spine. I suggest you try them in order and regardless of whether you think you need them or not. Trust me. You will feel amazing!

I prefer to put a timer for a minimum of 60 seconds when working on mobility rather than counting reps, but do what feels best for you!

Please check the images below for reference.


1. Side-lying arm circles

Allow your head to move by following the movement of the arm with your gaze.

Breathe into your belly.

If you find stalls in the movement take a few breaths and continue the circle.

Make sure you circle in both directions for a minimum of 60 seconds per direction before switching arms.

Side-Lying Arm Circles

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This one is a popular one. Concentrate on articulating the spine. It’s easy to over push into the ground with the hands to flex the thoracic spine but then completely overlook flexion through the lumbar spine.

Imagine you are trying to create space between in vertebra in the spine when moving in both directions.



3. T-spine/rhomboid twist

Movement in this exercise will feel very restrictive. Be patient. Make sure your hips don’t shift sideways and your spine remains neutral.

T-spine/rhomboid twist


4. Moving dolphin

I borrowed the original pose from yoga but I turned it into a lat/tricep insertion stretch by adding movement to it.

Start with shoulders over elbows then send your chest back towards your thighs until shoulders are behind elbows.

Your elbows will wing out the tighter you are in your pecs, lats, and triceps. Make an effort to keep them level or re-set as many times as you need.

Moving dolphin


5. Loaded tricep/lat insertion stretch

There are few versions of this one. If you’d like to add intensity to the one in the image try the following:

1. Hold onto a dowel and “tear it apart” with palms facing you so arms are externally rotating.
2. Hold onto a dumbbell.
3. Do all of the above with your knees off the ground.

Be aware of your ribcage, and allow the ribs to flare a few times to let your chest “sink” towards the ground, then try drawing the ribs in and see how that changes things.

Loaded tricep/lat insertion stretch


Next week we will get into few exercises to understand bracing.

Let us know how it goes!


Max Out or Not? That’s the Question! by Coach Mash

Now is the best time ever to join the Mash Mafia Online Team. Our Online Team is by far the most successful Online Team in America. Two of our World Team Members are trained primarily Online. Tommy Bohanon, starting fullback for Jacksonville Jaguars is trained primarily Online. Check out the Christmas Specials at:



Max Out or Not? That’s the Question!

by Coach Travis Mash, USAW Senior International Coach

In the strength and conditioning world, coaches like to debate whether or not a program should have athletes max out or simply stick with a 3RM. This question has always baffled me because I don’t understand how a 3-repetition maximum is any safer than a one-repetition maximum. Most people can perform three repetitions with 90% and above especially the population that is most debated (high school and collegiate athletes). So let’s suppose your maximum back squat is 400 pounds. Are you telling me that 400 pounds for one repetition is exponentially riskier than 360 pounds for three-repetitions? I’m not buying it.

I have been a strength athlete for over thirty years. In my experience I have always had a better chance of breaking down during a heavy repetition maximum. It’s simply easier to keep form for one-repetition. It’s also easier to coach a one-repetition maximum. If you see things slow down, you know to cut things off. In a repetition maximum, one set can look great, but on the next set the athlete breaks down on repetition number two.

I think that this is a good time to shed some light on one major fact. It’s not usually load (weight being lifted) that causes the problems. It’s any load on a bad movement pattern that causes the problems. Repetition maximums give the athletes much more chance for technique breakdowns, and then the risk goes through the roof. Faulty movement patterns and asymmetries are the culprits for the majority of injuries in the weight room. I don’t think that I have ever seen someone get hurt with a perfect movement pattern.

At the end of the day, I don’t really care what you do. However there are two things that must be considered:

• You have to test to quantify absolute strength progress
• You have to test if you program with percentages

Notice I said “absolute strength”. If you want to focus on strength speed or speed strength, you can really test with the same weight focusing solely on an increase in velocity. Now for field and court athletes I agree speed is important. However absolute strength will always be king especially in the first two years of an athlete’s strength training life. In those first two years, if an athlete’s absolute strength increases, so will all the other zones of strength. Even after the first two years, you have to spend time in those higher percentages to get stronger. A stronger muscle is capable of being faster than a weak muscle.

If you program with percentages, there is no way around finding absolute strength increases either with a true one-repetition maximum or finding a 3 or 5-repetition maximum and using a formula to predict the 1RM. The Epley Formula is one such formula:

1Repetition Maximum = (weight lifted * number of reps lifted * .033) + weight lifted

Example: You lift 400lb x 3!

400lb x 3= 1200lb x .033 = 39.6 +400lb = 439.6lb

Predicted Maximum is 439.6 lb

However in my experience this is so varied from one person to another. I still say that finding a true one-repetition maximum is better as long as the desired movement pattern is maintained the entire time. Most coaches that have coached for any length of time simply know when athletes are about to breakdown by the speed of the bar and the body language of the athlete.

There is one way to take the guessing out of things, and that is with velocity. You can add a velocity minimum to accompany the one-repetition maximum. For example you can prescribe that your athletes max out with a .3 m/s minimum. This is a pretty safe speed for squats, presses, and pulls. Once the athlete hits a weight at or near .3 m/s, they are done maxing out. A few weeks later when you want to test a new maximum, you simply keep that .3 m/s minimum standard to keep the test equal.

Whether you want to max out or perform a 3-repetition maximum, that’s up to you. I simply recommend that you pay attention to bar speed, movement patterns, and the body language of your athletes. Trust me, they can get hurt just as easily if not easier with a 3-repetition maximum than a one-repetition maximum. If you make sure that your athletes maintain minimum bar speeds and optimal movement patterns, you can almost eliminate injuries that are typical during testing procedures.

Let me leave you with this bit of advice. No matter what you are doing or what you believe, I suggest challenging those actions and those beliefs on a daily basis. I watch so many coaches spout off during debates like this one simply answering with opinions that they conjured from listening to someone else without ever thinking for themselves. Maybe they were reading EliteFTS and a group of their favorite coaches were saying to never max out, so from that day forwards they believed that no one should max out. The biggest thing that they forgot to do in this instance is asking the question “why”.

I have heard several coaches that I respect say that maxing out with a one-repetition max is dangerous and should never be used. They went on to say how much safer a three-repetition maximum is, and so many of you followed blindly. Look, do what you want, but this one makes no sense to me. However, you know my motto. “Do what you want!”

If you guys live near Lewisville, NC or the surrounding area, we are open for business at LEAN Fitness (home of Mash Elite and TFW Winston-Salem). If you want to try us out for a FREE Week or have any questions, email us at

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2018 Coaching Changes for Sport Athletes

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2018 Coaching Changes for Sport Athletes

2017 has been a heck of a year. I have written eight books this year, and sixteen total. That means that I have performed a lot of research. I have interviewed a lot of coaches regarding those books. I have also has a lot of conversations with my colleagues over this past year regarding the way that I coach athletes, and the way that they coach athletes. I believe that we learned a lot from each other.

Yesterday I listened to an amazing speech from Coach Joe Kenn. That was pretty much the climax of the year, and it was icing on the cake for the changes that I am going to make. I am talking about the way that we are going to coach our sport athletes. I am talking about our football players, basketball players, softball players, swimmers, soccer players, etc. I am not talking about our weightlifters or powerlifters in this article.

Do Simple Perfectly– First we are going to do exactly what Coach Kenn said yesterday at our Soft Grand Opening. We are going to do simple perfectly. We are going to squat perfectly. We are going to Clean perfectly. We are going to run, jump, and land perfectly. If we can’t do this, none of the fancy stuff really matters. I mean who cares how cool your plyometric program is if you can’t do a proper body weight squat. If you can’t do a proper body weight squat, do you really think that an advanced sprint program is going to help? Probably not!

Velocity Based Training– Now when the basics are perfect, we will get as advanced as the athlete needs, but I will never put anything in front of the basics. Once the basics are perfected, I will use velocity based training to:

1. Ensure all qualities of strength are being trained.

2. To ensure that speed strength and strength speed are the focus.

3. To quantify and measure progress

4. To ensure safety

5. To teach intent

This article isn’t about Velocity Based Training, but it’s definitely a component of the way that I am going to train our athletes. There are a lot of qualities of strength, and it’s important that all qualities are trained. We will focus on all of them:

• Absolute strength
• Accelerative strength
• Strength speed
• Speed strength
• Starting strength

All five are important, and all five will aid athletes on the field and court. Some people believe that they can eyeball the bar speed, but I am into quantifying as much as possible. It’s important to get strong, and even more important to get fast. However it’s hard to have one without the other. You can read more about each of them in our latest e-book “Bar Speed”.

Most athletes will speed the majority of their time in the speed strength and strength speed zones because those zones are the ones that produce the most speed and power. Studies have also shown that strength speed velocities and higher are better for maximal speed on the field. There is a lot less involvement with antagonist muscles, which is exactly what you want when sprinting or jumping.

Don’t get me wrong. Absolute strength is still very important especially in the first two years of training. Absolute strength will improve all zones of strength, but after that, you will need the majority of your focus on the faster velocities.

Without velocity based training, the only way to track progress in the weight room is maxing out or repetition maximums. Either one comes with risk that I would prefer to avoid. So how do we avoid risk and still measure improvement? That’s easy, we use velocity as a measurement. For example, we can still go to a one-repetition maximum, but the only difference is that we set a minimum on the velocity. We could have an athlete max out in the squat with a .5 m/s minimum velocity. Most people start reaching failure when they dip below .3 m/s, so you will still be far away from failure. People normally get hurt when they approach failure. With velocity, you can avoid this all together.

I want my athletes to learn what speed really is. When people first start training, they have no idea what a coach means by “faster”. It’s much easier to learn when they can see what you are talking about. When they register a .8 m/s and see it on the monitor, they will understand what .8 m/s feels like. It’s a great tool, and it will speed progress exponentially.

More Use of the Olympic Lifts– Obviously I have always used forms of the Olympic lifts, but after talking to my friend Coach Spencer Arnold, I am finally compelled to use the lifts even more. I have always used several versions of the clean, but now I am going to use the Snatch. Why? Glad you asked.

I love the snatch for multiple reasons. When it comes to movement, nothing improves or teaches movement better than the snatch. First you will have a beautiful triple joint extension, which as we know will improve just about all things athletically like jumping and throwing. Then the athlete quickly moves around the bar like a gymnast, while finally catching the bar in a beautiful full squat with the bar received perfectly above the body. Nothing improves posture more than a snatch. You can do all the mobility tricks that you want, and yet nothing will improve your posture more than this beautiful lift. Finally nothing comes with a top velocity that beats the snatch in the weight room. The snatch involves velocities above 1.5 m/s. If you want to improve your rate of force development, the snatch is the perfect movement for any athlete.

Of course we will perfect the simple first, so we will make sure that every athlete can front squat properly, overhead squat perfectly, and push press perfectly before we add any of the Olympic lifts. We might start teaching the movements with an empty barbell or wooden dial, but we won’t load the athletes until the basics are perfects and a certain amount of general physical preparedness is reached.

These are the main changes, but you can also expect elements of:

• Mobility
• Speed training (acceleration, maximal speed, and deceleration)
• Agility work (force absorption, change of direction, and deceleration)
• Vertical leap (we will use: vertimax, soft plyo boxes, and depth jumps the most)
• Muscular balance work
• Nutrition suggestions
• Goal Setting
• Mindset

Our program is complete, and we are ready to have a major impact in Lewisville, NC and the surrounding areas. I look forward to working with all of you. We will be running specials for until January, but only for the first twenty athletes. We want to get this place hopping, so come join us at our new facility.

Check out one of our 14 Books on topics like programming, conjugate method, injury prevention, nutrition, mindset, and competition prep at:


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