Category Archives for "Athletic Performance"

The Science of Training Children with Keegan Martin – The Barbell Life 254

Keegan Martin was the original functional fitness kid.

His parents developed a very famous program for training children, and he refers to himself as the “crash test dummy” for the program.

Now he’s spearheading the Brand X Method, which trains young athletes and “builds formidable humans.” Keegan brings science into a field where he feels science is really lacking.

So we talk all about that today – about his past… and about what so many people get wrong when it comes to training youth.

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  • How almost everyone gets youth training wrong
  • The three stages of training young athletes
  • Can your kid REALLY play for a D1 school?
  • Why he made the hard decision to shut down his physical gym
  • The most important physical skill
  • and more…

The One Common Trait in Winners

Last week I was in Guatemala with Team USA at the Pan American Championships. Instead of hanging out and doing the normal chit-chat with coaches and athletes, I decided to take advantage of having so many champions in one place. I wanted to find out if there were any obviously similar characteristics between the most successful athletes. I interviewed and quizzed the coaches and a few of the athletes who I am most familiar with. The results were quite eye-opening to me, and they might be to you as well.

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

Here are the athletes/coaches I talked to:

  • Jourdan Delacruz and her coach Spencer Arnold
  • Boady Santavy and his coach/father Dallas
  • Kate Nye and her coach Josh
  • Wes Kitts and his coach, the Godfather Dave Spitz

Plus I will give some insight from coaches of a few other athletes and some insight regarding athletes outside of weightlifting.

A common bond?

I’ve been curious for a long time to see if there was a common bond between successful athletes, and I think I have found it. The common trait, which I will reveal later in this article, is something we can all work on. However, it might require a few of you to get out of your comfort zone. My hope is that all of you will read this with an open mind because I think there is something a lot of you can learn and apply. Now let’s learn about these amazing athletes.

Jourdan Delacruz

Her coach is one of my best friends, Spencer Arnold. His programming is a combination of velocity-based training, linear periodization, medium intensity (rarely going even close to maximal), and a lot of accessory work to strengthen the body with a holistic approach. He’s also known as a sort of data-driven coach, collecting as many data points as possible to predict future outcomes.

Jourdan is a calm, yet confident athlete. Her teammates joke that she is dead inside because of her never changing facial expressions. She likes a calculated approach, which she explained in a story. When she was younger, she bombed out of two big meets in a row – the youth Pan Americans and the American Open. From that point on, she vowed to never let it happen again. Her confidence comes from a feeling of preparation along with steady improvements, versus big jumps from meet to meet.

This approach has her constantly hitting personal records from meet to meet in the range of one to four kilograms, which over time adds up to massive improvements. She only goes for maximal lifts during competition, so it appears she is never truly at maximum. This leaves her knowing she is good for more. I think this approach will prove to be good for her especially when she is required to go all-out when it counts. I believe she will approach every lift with the confidence she can make it.

Boady Santavy

I got to really hang out with Boady’s father, Dallas, in Guatemala at the 2019 IWF Senior Pan American Championships – just a few days before writing this article. Dallas is also Boady’s coach, so he filled me in on their program. They train four days per week, about four hours each session. There are percentages laid out in each of the snatch and clean and jerk, but the percentages are there to ensure enough volume is being performed to get better at the lifts. There is an element of the Bulgarian Method or Max Effort Method because Boady has a green light at all times to push the percentages to as close to 100% and above as possible. It’s actually encouraged to push past the programmed percentages.

They stick to the main lifts of snatch and clean and jerk, and mainly from the floor. They will use variations only if there is a movement flaw or weakness that is standing out. They are very much sport specific to the sport of weightlifting.

Boady’s biggest quality that sticks out is his confidence and mindset. He doesn’t look at other Canadians. He compares himself to other weightlifters from around the world, which is exactly what other athletes should be doing. If your ceiling is other athletes in your country, you definitely will never get past those numbers. Boady actually seeks out some of these lifters, and then he travels to train with them. For example he traveled to Qatar to train with Meso Hassona. This allows him to learn, and it puts him in the same room with one of the best weightlifters in the world. Most great athletes will rise to the level of performance of those they are around. Boady has done just that. His expectations are that of a 182kg/400lb snatch. Most good weightlifters in America or Canada think about 160kg or 170kg as the big number. That mentality keeps them from ever excelling on the platform.

Kate Nye

I talked to Kate and her coach Josh the morning of her massive performance at the Senior Pan American Championships. She totaled an American Record of 245kg, which is mind-blowing. Her coach told me they definitely go heavy the last few weeks before competition. It appears he programs with a type of linear periodization along with an element of the conjugate method. They use a lot of boxes and blocks for maximum effort work leading to the full movements, and without a doubt it appears to be working. Her 110kg snatch and 245kg total is the highest in American history.

What impresses me the most about Kate is her ability to perform on the platform. I’ve personally watched her miss a 90kg snatch three times in warm ups – and then she went three for three in that same meet, hitting an all-time PR. Her face literally transforms when she walks onto the platform. She goes from a nervous girl to a fearless killer. If you are going to beat her, you are going to need to go six for six and straight up out-lift her. If you’re hoping she misses, you are probably going to lose.

Wes Kitts

I’m Wes’s number one fan because of his attitude. I am also besties with his coach, Dave Spitz. Dave is probably the most popular weightlifting coach in the entire world along with the most well known gym in the world, California Strength. It’s easy to identify Russian and Bulgarian influences in the Cal Strength program. Wes rarely maxes out the lifts during the majority of his training. However, during the last few weeks of his training program, they will spend a solid block of four or more weeks going up near Wes’s maximum and sometimes above. I’d definitely say they use the conjugate method, using different variations to target maximum effort. They will use a lot of block jerks, cleans/snatches from blocks, and some clean-only variations.

The advantage Wes has is he has been a high-level athlete his entire life. He played running back at a Division I University, and he made a close run at the NFL. He is used to winning – and that’s exactly what he did last week, snatching 176kg and clean and jerking 223kg for an American record total of 399kg. Wow! Wes approaches the bar with a calm yet focused demeanor much like a star quarterback approaches the Super Bowl. I believe this approach will lead him to an Olympic medal someday soon.

The Athlete’s Advantage

As you can see, the only similarity between these athletes is confidence and attitude. Each of these coaches works with other athletes who are nowhere near the level of these athletes. These coaches also work with athletes who sometimes bomb out, go three for six, or worse. A solid program is absolutely crucial for the success of an athlete. However, if the athlete doesn’t have a good mindset, it’s not going to matter. It won’t matter if the athlete has the most potential of any athlete in the world. It won’t matter if the program is the most scientifically based program in the world. It won’t matter if the athlete is the most technically proficient athlete in the world. If the athlete isn’t confident and focused, they will inevitably fail miserably.

It baffles me when athletes spend so much time on mobility, nutrition, technique, and recovery – yet they spend zero time trying to work on their mental performance. This article clearly shows the importance of a solid sports psych program. There is too much literature out there, and too many great sports psych doctors out there for athletes not to be taking advantage of the information.

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This doesn’t just pertain to weightlifters. This goes for all athletes. Why was Michael Jordan the best basketball player? Yes, he was skilled, but his mindset was head and shoulders above the other player. Why does Tom Brady dominate? All you have to do is watch how the man carries himself, and I am not even a fan. However, you have to recognize greatness when it’s right before your eyes.

I hope this article opens the eyes of many of you. There are a lot of great athletes in America who have everything except a solid mindset. I can’t express the importance of a solid sport’s psych program enough. If you aren’t working with someone, you can read our book Performance Zone to get a solid base. However, every athlete should strive each and every day to improve their mental game much like they work on the other elements of their game. I recommend closing this article and immediately taking action on this one element which will take you even closer to becoming a master of the mundane tasks that losers will always avoid.

1 Kilo More with Wil Fleming – The Barbell Life 252

At 15 years old, Wil Fleming was a mediocre athlete who regularly got crushed on the field.

Then he got serious about the barbell.

Two years later, he was an All-State athlete… and the rest is history.

He fell in love with the Olympic lifts and has used them to make his athletes better on the field. And recently he’s transitioned from a sports performance facility to a pure weightlifting-only gym.

So listen in to this podcast to hear all about it.


The Training and Philosophy of Nathan Damron

World champion and world-class coach Travis Mash outlines the programs and principles behind the training of his stellar athlete, Nathan Damron.


  • The main reason he does the Olympic lifts for his athletes
  • Creating a great gym culture
  • Making faster soccer players who are still bad soccer players
  • Why coaches need to have a niche
  • The variants of weightlifting he loves to use
  • and more…

Project Stronger Jamaica with Phil Tremblay – The Barbell Life 250

There’s something special about Jamaica.

I don’t know what it is – but their athletes are unprecedented. With such a small population, they’re putting up some of the greatest athletes on the planet.

So Phil Tremblay joins us today to talk a little about what makes Jamaica special, what we’re doing to help coach the natural athletes there…and we also talk a ton about speed training, velocity based training, and making gains in the off season.




  • What makes the Jamaican mountains special for producing Olympians
  • How to still make gains in the off season
  • The movements and principles that are key to speed training
  • When to only train partial movements
  • Why the best Jamaican high school sprinters DON’T become Olympians
  • and more…

Training for Speed and the NFL Combine with Jimmy and Charlene Lamour – The Barbell Life 249

The reason I love the sport of weightlifting is because I am a fan of movement.

There are few things as beautiful as the precise technique in a heavy snatch or clean and jerk.

But Jimmy and Charlene Lamour feel the same way about speed. Listening to them talk about the technique of sprinting and cutting on the field is just like listening to weightlifting coaches discuss technique.

So we talk on this podcast about the intricacies of speed technique, how they train (and cue) for speed in the gym, and how they recently prepared an NFL running back for the NFL combine.

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


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


  • What parts of the combine are the most important
  • The lifts they use to teach speed
  • The one stretch you actually SHOULD do before a movement
  • How to cue sprinting while lifting
  • Why small guys do well as running backs
  • and more…

Athletic Performance vs. Sport Specific

I know a lot of you have gotten a kick out of Coach Mike Boyle and me debating unilateral v. bilateral squatting over the last month or so. However, now I am going to write about something that we agree on.

By the way it was nice being able to discuss a controversial topic with another coach in the manner that Coach Boyle and I did on the Stronger Experts platform. That’s the way that our industry can grow and thrive.

My job as a strength and conditioning coach is to take an athlete and make him or her a better athlete. What does that look like? To name a few qualities, I aim to improve athletes in the following way:

  • Faster
  • Jump higher
  • Jump farther
  • Change of direction
  • Stronger
  • More powerful
  • Ability to produce force
  • Ability to absorb force
  • Movement throughout all the anatomical planes of movement
  • Stability throughout those same planes of movement
  • Bulletproof the athlete based overuse or potential threats of the individual sport (as sport specific as I get)

If I make the athlete better at all of these different athletic traits, it is up to the sport coach to make them better at the sport. For example, if I make a football player faster and able to change direction more quickly, then it is up to the football coach to make sure they can do it with a football in their hand. If I help a tennis player produce more rotational power, it is up to the tennis coach to make sure they can hit the ball.

I am not a tennis coach, golf coach, or wrestling coach. I am an athletic performance coach. Unfortunately there are so many fad programs just like there are fad diets. I remember seeing someone squat 225 pounds standing on a stability ball in the late ‘90s. I thought, “Wow that has to work. I bet he will be able to squat 1,000 pounds standing on the ground.” Guess what? His original back squat went down. He simply learned how to squat standing on a ball much like someone learns to roller skate.

Then there was the HIT protocol – or multiple machines for one set to failure on each. I am sure athletes added some muscle because mechanical loading (especially to failure or near failure) is the most important mechanism regarding hypertrophy. At least that’s the latest I’ve heard out of the Chris Beardsley camp. However was that added muscle mass functional regarding sports? It was probably not as explosive as it could have been with some good old 5s, 3s, and 1s in the back squat and clean.

The sport specific people have been around for a while trying to make the training of athletes in weight room look like the specific sport the athlete is playing. If specificity is truly king, then just play the sport, as that is as specific as it gets. Not to mention, if you are only training the athlete in a way that mimics their sport, you are simply perpetuating overuse injuries. You are neglecting overall athleticism and further creating more imbalances. I promise, if you make the athlete a better athlete, they’ll get better at their sport.

If a scrub becomes faster, stronger, and more mobile, he or she might not become great at their sport. But they will become better at it. If you take an incredible football player and make him or her a better athlete, they will become a better football player. I’ve seen it time and time again. When I sent Cade Carney to Wake Forest in the best athletic shape of his life, he earned the starting position at running back right away.

We didn’t run around the gym with weighted football and heavy cleats. We didn’t have him carry heavy tackling dummies, which isn’t a bad idea really. We didn’t buy him a super heavy football uniform to perform specific exercises in. Here’s what we actually did:

  • Squatted often (Unilateral and Bilateral)
  • Cleaned often
  • Pressed and Rowed often
  • Sprint work with a focus on acceleration
  • Plyometric Jump Training (unilateral and bilateral) contrast work with squats, and cleans.
  • Plyometric Upper body work (unilateral and bilateral) contrast work with bench press and strict press
  • French contrast work
  • Heavy carries of all kinds, but more of a focus on unilateral farmers walk because of the affect on change of direction
  • Med Ball Throws
  • Broad Jumps (unilateral and bilateral)
  • Rotational work
  • Anti-Rotational Work
  • Neck work and concussion protocol
  • Reverse Hypers, Belt Squats, Glute Ham Raises, Hyperextensions, and Russian Leans.
  • Rolls, bear crawls, side lunges, rear lunges, and forward lunges
  • Sleds and Prowlers

You guys and gals know! We did the stuff that has worked for years. We used exercises and protocols with proven track records, and I individualized the program based on the five previous years of coaching him. We sent him to Wake Forest running a 4.4 40-yard dash, jumping 40” in the vertical, cleaning 370 pounds, benching 370 pounds, and squatting 550 pounds. He was a man amongst boys as a freshman.

What happens when a bosu ball-using, kettlebell-swinging (nothing against kettlebells), slide board-using athlete goes against Cade? I can tell you what happens. They’re going to crumble just like when someone runs into Tommy Bohanon at Fullback for the Jacksonville Jaguars. These guys are fast, mobile, and stable. These guys don’t bend, y’all. They do the bending.

Sometimes I believe that coaches who don’t know how to coach hide behind gimmicks because their program can’t be quantified. They can use words like: “you look awesome,” “you are moving incredibly well,” or “you’re getting stronger.” Whereas coaches like me can give concrete data to show a progression in strength, speed, and overall athleticism.

Plus there is an intangible that I am not mentioning. When I sent Cade to Wake Forest stronger than 99% of the upper classmen, what do you think that did for his confidence? As an ex-college football player, I can tell you exactly how that made him feel. He sure wasn’t scared of them, and that’s for sure. Of course he showed that during his first spring ball, earning a starting position right away. FYI he started school during the spring semester having graduated high school a semester early.

Now there is a crossover where a lot of debates get confusing. Specificity is different than sport-specific. When I am using exercises that might help an athlete specifically for their sport, I might do things like:

  • Rotational work with cables, med balls, and landmines for tennis players, baseball players, and softball players.
  • Unilateral work for athletes that might sprint a lot or find themselves on one leg a lot.
  • Sand Bag Carries, throws, and conditioning for wrestlers.
  • Jammer work for football players
  • Velocity work with a focus on strength speed or faster for athletes entering their season to have them feeling explosive, recovered, and fast.

Specificity is fine for certain aspects of training, and the closer to an athlete’s season, the more your program might incorporate these items. However the main staples for the program will always be there in some fashion like squats, presses, plyos, and cleans. This is simply a recipe for getting someone jacked and ready for his or her sport.

What you won’t see me doing is centering an entire workout on swinging a heavy bat for a baseball player, or throwing heavy footballs for a quarterback. You won’t see me doing forty-five minutes of a wrestler throwing a life-sized dummy. However, using the dummy for conditioning might be cool, a little creepy, but cool. That’s the difference in sport-specific and specificity.

I’ve watched a lot of people argue on Twitter, and really they’re saying the same thing. They are simply calling it something different, and demanding the other person calls it the same thing. Hopefully, I’ve cleared that up as well. Specificity is cool. I mean that’s one of Coach Boyle’s biggest reasons for unilateral squats – and one that I agree on. Unilateral squats are definitely specific to several athletic movements, which make them a powerful tool for athletic performance. What he doesn’t do is have his hockey players perform an hour of swinging extra heavy hockey sticks, while wearing a uniform that is 50 pounds too heavy. For one, that’s just silly. For another, it isn’t practical, but mainly it’s simply not an efficient way to get someone athletically ready to play their sport.

If you are a strength and conditioning coach, your job is to make your athletes better athletes. Then it is up to the sport coaches of each individual athlete you work with to take that newly improved athleticism and transition it to their specific sport. For all you young coaches out there, don’t get caught up in shiny bells and whistles. It’s hard. I get it. I almost got caught up in squatting on stability balls until I saw it fail miserably.

I am not saying to not try new things, but here’s the way to go about it:

  1. Ask for some studies, but don’t write it off just because there isn’t a study on the program, exercise, or whatever. The only thing that not having a study means is that there isn’t a study per Dr. Andy Galpin.
  2. Ask for some data because guys like Coach Boyle and me have plenty of data showing the improvements in our athletes.
  3. Use common sense even though that can be fooled sometimes. Once again I have to point out the squats on stability balls.
  4. Try to talk to some athletes of the coach using this new shiny thing. Obviously don’t ask them in front of the coach, but the athlete will shoot you straight especially a good one. A good athlete knows if something is giving them an edge or not.
  5. Try it yourself for 12-24 weeks at least before having your athletes try it. If you get hurt, that’s ok. If you hurt your athletes, you get fired. Coach Joe Kenn is the man where this is concerned.

Anyways, I hope that this helps you all understand the difference in athletic performance and sport specific training. I also hope that it helps you understand the difference in specificity and sport specific. I mean one is cool and one is not, which is pretty simple. Let me know if you have any questions. You can ask on here or on Twitter @mashelite as I like to chat on Twitter. It’s my new favorite thing.