Category Archives for "Athletic Performance"

Lessons From a Coach

The last year has really been a roller coaster, and I have had a lot of great things happen at the Mash Mafia Compound. Tonight I want to give all the younger coaches some insight, suggestions, and warnings. I want to leave this world having made this industry a little better than I found it. To do this I want to make the young coaches better than I will ever be. That way I can assure Baby Mash has the greatest coaches on earth.

Here is a little insight for all of you up and coming coaches out there. This is for you Athletic Performance, Weightlifting, and Powerlifting coaches seeking to be the best coaches in America. My goal has always been to be the best coach in America. To accomplish this mission, I have researched, studied, met coaches, and made friends with the best in the business. I suggest you have the same goal, to be the best. To do this you should never be satisfied with the amount of knowledge that you have. The second you think that you know everything, I suggest looking for a new career or retiring.

Get in the trenches! Never stop your journey under the bar! Dave Tate and Jim Wendler are both friends of mine, and both of them gave me this bit of advice. Staying in the trenches and leading from the front, allows you to take a General Patton approach. Athletes follow people that can still perform the movements that they teach. It’s just human nature. When I worked with Louie Simmons, I listened to every word that he said because I still respected him as an athlete as well. It’s just human nature! It’s just hard to take advice from out of shape broken down people.

Love your athletes! This and this alone will cause you to go to any lengths. If my athlete wants to play Division I sports, then I am going to go out of my way to bring them the best program possible. You will also want the best for them. You will prepare them emotionally, physically, and more importantly spiritually. I want all of my athletes to be prepared for their future, and I want them to know what true joy is all about. I want them to know about purpose.

Here is a big one that I want you all to listen to. If there are athletes in your facility with conflicts, have them work things out immediately. Rumors, gossip, and silent anger can kill a facility. A coach’s job is to lead their team. That doesn’t mean just during the few hours a day that you train them. It means all the time, and in all areas of life. If you don’t have the time to do this, find a new career. Dave Tate also told me that if there was someone that was a cancer and wouldn’t buy in, to let them go swiftly and quickly. This is truth.


1. Desire to be the best and never stop striving!
2. Stay under the bar!
3. Love your athletes!
4. Keep the atmosphere perfect!

My Workout Today

Power Snatch 110×1
Power Clean 130 x 1
Behind Neck Jerks 143k

I took today as a deload. I am going to hit it hard tomorrow. Traveling this past weekend took a lot out of me, so I used this workout to get the rust off. Still pumped for the Bar Slamming Festival!

Join the Online Team at:!

I’ll be in Boston at the end of this month with the Learn 2 Lift Series! Go to

Supplements: Stick to the Basics

Supplements: Stick to the Basics
By Gunnar Anderson

When you walk into any nutrition store and you aren’t exactly sure what you’re looking for or what you need, chances are they’ll try their best to sell you on everything they can. This sales tactic applies to almost everything, but supplement stores can be particularly bad. When you go to one of these stores, stick to your guns and don’t get sold. Just remember to stick to the basics.

I worked in a supplement store for around a year in college. Just to be clear, I have no bitter feelings towards the store and I’m not writing the article to spite them. I left only because I wanted to find a job closer to something I would be doing after school. If there was one thing I learned while working there it was that supplements are not essential.

I tread carefully when I say that. There are things in supplements that are absolutely essential for building muscle and gaining strength. The trick is that they can be found in foods. A strict diet with well planned and prepared meals can be much more effective than a so-so diet with a supplement regiment. Things like protein, creatine, essential fatty acids, omega 3’s, and a whole lot of others can be found in a healthy diet. Obviously it will be harder to get the same amount as you would from supplements, but it can still be done.

In the 1970’s when Arnold was at the top of his game there were far less supplements on the market. Steroids were rampant, but that’s another story. In the glory days of bodybuilding, things like pre-workouts, intra-workouts, post workouts, nighttime recovery, etc. didn’t exist. Protein powder and a few other things were all they had.

Most adults walk into a supplement store and laugh at the so-called “studies” in which the colorful containers say their products were tested. Teenagers have a different reaction. Teenagers who have just started to show results from lifting weights are the worst to buy supplements. They will spend all of their parents’ money on something that says they will gain an inch in their arms. The truth is that they probably will gain about that, but not from the supplements. Their young bodies will naturally grow when a training program begins with or without supplements.

The biggest mistake people make, young people in particular, is that they rely on supplements entirely for their results. The definition on of the word supplement is “something added to complete a thing, supply a deficiency, or reinforce or extend a whole.” Supplements are meant to used with a balanced, healthy diet as well as an intense workout plan. The combination of all three is what shows results, not simply taking down as many pills and powders as you can.

Earlier I made it sound like I was saying to avoid supplement stores at all costs. That is not the case. There are many times in shopping when avoiding brand name items will save you some money and get an equal product. This is not the case with supplements. Going to places like Wal-Mart and buying the Five Star protein blend is not the best idea. Sure it is cheap, but the quality is really poor. If the container says it has thirty grams of protein, count on about fifteen. The rest is fillers like sugars and other unwanted ingredients. If you are going to be putting something in your body for an extended period and the goal is to make your body healthier, put in the best ingredients.

Nutrition and supplement stores are the best place to buy these things. The prices can be ridiculous and the sales tactics can be overwhelming, but ultimately if you are going to buy supplements they are the place to go. As long as you do your research and know what you’re going in to buy, you’ll be fine. Remember that what they are selling is helpful, but by no means essential.

The One Pec Wonder by Gunnar Anderson

Below is a blog written by one of my first young athletes, Gunnar Anderson. He is interning with me this summer, and one of his duties is writing for my blog. I know that you all will learn to love this young man like I do.

The One Pec Wonder
By Gunnar Anderson

Everyone is born with limitations. They could be mental, it could be physical, but no one is perfect. I was fortunate to have a minor physical flaw: I was born missing one of my pectoral muscles.
Whenever you think of the chest, two muscles probably come to mind. But the chest is split in to four sections: there are two pec majors, and two pec minors. The pec minors start just below the collarbone and go down about two or three inches. The pec majors sit just beneath them and are what most people recognize when looking at the chest muscles. I was born without my right pec major.

In the grand scheme of things, it is a tiny defect; but, as you can imagine, it is an annoyance. I was very young when my parents first noticed it. When we went to the doctor to see what was wrong he told us that it was nothing to worry about and posed no threat. Jokingly, he added that I’d probably never be a bodybuilder.

​When I was in elementary school it was barely noticeable. Even when I got into high school, you still had to look carefully to see that it was actually missing. When I was a freshman I joined the wrestling team. I wrestled at 135 pounds for quite a while. I was around 5’9” and gangly. Wrestling in such a low weight class kept me from putting on muscle mass and made me incredibly lean.
It wasn’t until I hit a growth spurt in my sophomore year that I began to gain weight. I moved up to the 145 pound weight classes, but I stayed lean. Unfortunately I was injured during my sophomore year and had to quit wrestling.

​At this point I began weight training with Travis Mash. It started as injury prevention training to ensure I didn’t hurt my shoulder again, but he thought that I had potential and took me on as one of his first young athletes. As Travis and I worked together to improve my strength, my physique began to change dramatically. As I gained muscle mass, the missing pec became more and more noticeable.

​In high school weight lifting classes, I had pretty much written off bench press and most other chest exercises as impossible feats for someone with only one full pectoral muscle. Travis quickly showed me I was wrong. He figured out that if I gripped the bar closer to the middle, my triceps and shoulders would compensate for the missing muscle. In no more than two weeks my bench press went from 135 pounds to well over 200 pounds. He focused our chest training around resistance bands and other unique training methods to account for my muscle structure. Eventually Travis got my bench press up to 295 pounds.

When I got into college, my goals shifted from strength to size. I graduated from high school at 175 pounds. By the end of my freshman year, I was just over 200 pounds (my parents blamed the “freshman fifteen”). As I put on muscle mass, my right pec minor became over developed due to the extra work it had to do to keep up. I focused on incline work such as incline dumbbell press, incline cable flys, etc. Working the upper portion of my chest allowed the lower portion grow at a slower pace, which for me was ideal for me. After my junior year of college I weighed almost 240 pounds(with a lot of muscle and a little fluff).

As I am almost ready to step into the working world, being big is no longer a priority; however I will always try to stay in shape. Although I never competed in bodybuilding, I worked as hard at it as those on stage. My missing pec would have taken away from my score, and I just didn’t have the desire to compete. I have accomplished all that I want to as far as strength gains and muscle mass. When I was at my strongest, my bench press was 345 pounds, which was more than I ever expected to do. Today due to hard work and determination I am blessed with a physique I never thought I’d have.

Barbell Life: Doing Life Together!

A few months ago several of my boys set me down, and presented me with the idea of a podcast called Barbell Life. The presentation included a tag line of: Fitness, Faith, Family, and F-ilosophy. My athletes at our training center get to hear my stories about life, views on family, and my journey of faith. All together it becomes my own F-ilosophy, and we wanted to let you all know how my athletes have been affected by their own life experiences.
The most important part is to be an open book. I want to share my mistakes as well as successes because if there are people out there that are going through some of the same things, I want them to know that they are not alone. My life is full of mistakes, but with the help of Christ, friends and family, I have been able to overcome. I wish someone had shared with me when I was younger. There were so many times that I felt all alone in my misery, but I wasn’t.
Our community at the Mash Mafia Compound is unique. We love each other like family. We win together, and we lose together. I want you all to be a part of that. I want the same love to be felt though out the world. Our team wants you all to be a part of us, and we want to be a part of you. I don’t know if all of that is possible, but we are going to try. I will be an open book for you all to learn from. If I can help prevent any of you from making some of the mistakes that I have made, then those same mistakes become a good thing. This is my so called F-ilosophy.
We will also be talking about all things strength: weightlifting, CrossFit, powerlifting, athletic performance, strongman, and all things barbell. We don’t want to leave any stone unturned. Hopefully you guys will be able to learn a lot of good information that you can take back to your own training or coaching. We want to talk about topics that appeal to you all. If there is a topic that you want discussed, email us at or on twitter @TheBarbellLife.
This podcast was created to help you all better your life. My goal is to help you get stronger, coach better, and live better. If I can take my mistakes and help you, then those mistakes become wins. If my pain can be your joy, then my journey through life becomes a conquest. I believe in using all things bad and good for God’s glory(Col. 3:17). Listen in at:
I am excited to go on this new journey together. When my life was falling apart in 2006, I wish that I had trusted my friends, family, and Christ with my pain. If I had shared with others, the pain would have been so much easier to live with. I want you all to know that you are not alone. We will do this thing together!

If you want to learn from me, meet me, and hang out, I will be in Eagan, MN at Undisputed Strength & Conditioning May 31st for a Meet & Greet. I will be at Gaglione Strength for a Level II Learn 2 Lift June 7th in Long Island, NY. Go to to learn more!

Barbell Life and Other Announcements!

Barbell Life and Other Announcements

The Mash Mafia Team has started a new podcast called Barbell Life. We will be talking about all things jacked with a theme of Fitness, Faith, Family, and F-ilosophy. Our team has a unique core of characters, and I want the world to know us all. We want to share our knowledge, trials, and struggles with you all in the hopes that maybe we may have a positive impact on your life.

There will be nothing held back! We want to show you that we have all been through our own trials, and in one way or another, we came out on the other side. This podcast is simply to help you all. Nothing more! Nothing less! We will be going live every Thursday at 8:30a, and you can check us out at:, go there and follow us!

So listen in, tweet questions, and we will start taking calls after the first few weeks!

We are hosting the biggest barbell festival in the south August 30-31st! Get ready for The Slam Bars Festival brought to you by The Attitude Nation and The Garage Games. Get ready for Weightlifting, Powerlifting, and CrossFit in one huge weekend! The full details and sick promo video will drop by the end of the week. Stay tuned at

The online Attitude Nation Weightlifting Team will be completed in four more weeks. Remember, I will be your coach, and Jon North, Jared Enderton, Rabbit, Eze, and the rest of the crazy team will be Your Team. You will get a personalized workout, video analysis from me, a secret group on Facebook with your team, and so much more. To find out more, go to:

Last thing, we are hosting a weightlifting and powerlifting seminar, and open house at the Mash Mafia Weightlifting Center this weekend May 17th and 18th. The price is only $99 to learn from me, and hang with our crazy team. All the money goes towards our team and their expenses. Sign up at!

Lessons from Lisa G

Lisa Lift I am writing this the day after losing my friend Lisa Gniewek, or simply Lisa G. In January of 2013, Lisa was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Lisa sent me a text on a random Saturday morning asking me if I would be in the gym that day. I replied, “Yes”, but I was really concerned right away. I knew that something wrong, but I figured it was just something that I had done or said. Lisa was famous for setting me straight. What she would tell me, would change my life forever. Her fifteen month battle is over, and I am convinced that she won. Right now she is in heaven giving her also famous crinkled face glare at cancer in complete defiance. She is cured!

Lisa G was so incredible special to the whole Mash Family, both in our compound and around the world. Both Lisa and I were introduced to Jon North’s Attitude Nation last year around the same time as her diagnosis. The Attitude Nation embraced us both as one of their own, and helped spread her story around the world. I want the world to know why she was so special to me, and that is why I wanted to write this little piece.

I met Lisa in 2008 when I was first starting Mash Elite Performance in Advance, NC. At that time, I did a lot of personal training, and Lisa was one of my first clients. To say the least, she was a mess physically. Lisa was a Pediatric Registered Nurse, mother of two, and wife of her childhood sweet heart, Matt Gniewek. Like most nurses, she didn’t do a good job of taking care of herself. She was a little over weight, physically inactive, and very weak. I would have Lisa do a body weight squat, and she would squat down and couldn’t stand up. She literally couldn’t stand up with her own body weight. I thought to myself that Lisa would probably quit after three weeks, but she never quit right until the very end.

One day she comes into the gym, and announces that she wants to try powerlifting. I was perplexed to say the least. My goal has always been to help my athletes reach their dreams no matter how high the bar is set, but this was a pole vault bar. The first few weeks were frustrating, but with Lisa G always a good time. She was quick to laugh at herself, and she didn’t let anything bother her very much. Her smile would literally light up the room, and like some drug, it caused everyone near her to feel happy and excited about life. We were excited when she could squat 65 pounds. I never dreamed that she would one day squat 215 pounds.

During the first few months of her strength training, we would get to know each other on a much more personal level. I was in pursuit of my one and only true love, Emily Drew. She was my dating instructor. I heard way too often, “You big dumb, dumb!” She consoled me through so many emotions sadness, frustration, and finally happiness. She helped me decide how I would propose, and she made sure that I asked Emily Drew’s father for her hand in marriage. She was front row when I married the woman of my dreams, and she has been there during every major event, competition, and holiday ever since. She was and will forever be a part of our family.

Some of the most memorable times were the discussions that we had about God. She was a Christ lover, and she desperately wanted to know all there was to know about her God. When I met her, we were both relatively new Christians. As much as she loved lifting heavy weights, nothing excited her more than a discussion about the bible. Now the mystery held within those pages has been fully divulged to Lisa G. I will never forget the excited look on her face when she would come in the gym having learned something new about God. She just couldn’t wait to tell me what she had learned.

Lisa would come to love the strength sports. We were able to get her ready for a powerlifting competition, and from the first moment that she walked onto the competition platform, she had found her sport. During her first competition in Asheville, NC, as always, she traveled with Drew and me. We had a fun tradition of weighing in, and then seeing just how much weight we could gain back. We would all be so bloated, but the laughs that we all shared with Team Mash still echo in my brain like beautiful notes of music from Mozart. The smiles that come to my athletes’ faces, the laughter, the community at Mash, and the reaching of goals are all parts of my musical concert. This is my art. This is the ministry that God has given me.

During this first competition, I hired my friend Chris “Ox” Mason to help coach because I was going to do my farewell powerlifting meet. Lisa was opening with 155 pounds on the squat, but her nerves were getting the best of her. She was warming up with 75 pounds, but when she squatted down, she fell backwards with the bar on her back. Chris looked at me with a confused look on his face, and I just said, “Go heavier!” Times like that were par for the course with Lisa G. You simply never knew what to expect, but you could bet your bottom dollar that her contagious smile would make everything OK.

Lisa, Drew, and I would travel to every competition that we could find. Every competition would be a mini vacation full of the Mash Team, heavy weights, and lots of food. The Mash Team is a family! When we compete, there is just something so different about our team that other athletes want to be a part of it. Lisa loved her Mash Family, and it was very important to her that we nurtured that family. If I ever lost focus for one second on the Mash Family, she was the first to tell me. If any team member had a problem with me, they would tell Lisa. Then Lisa would for sure let me know about it. A true friend will always let you know when you are being stupid. A bad friend will just tell everyone else.

In 2012, I introduced the sport of Olympic weightlifting to Lisa. I was surprised at how well she took to the sport. When I watched her Clean & Jerk 160 pounds, it felt like I was at my own gallery opening, and Lisa was my masterpiece. I had taken an overweight nurse that couldn’t squat her own body up off the ground, and now she was taking 160 pounds from the ground to over her head. Her determination, drive, and love of the sport has inspired us all to say the least. The best part of it all is that the 160 pound Clean & Jerk was performed after her diagnosis, and I will forever hear that bar slam ring life victory bells within my ears.

Thanks to my podcast Weightlifting Talk that I host alongside “the champ” Jon North, Lisa’s story was heard around the world. She would inspire millions to not let anything get in the way of dreams. She created awareness that more needs to be done in the fight with cancer. We hosted two Lift 4 Lisa weightlifting and powerlifting competitions over the last year to raise money for Lisa in fight. Now we will host a Lift 4 Lisa weightlifting/powerlifting competition every year for as long as I live in her honor with proceeds going to help with the fight against cancer. Her husband Matt has already approached me because he wants to continue with the Lift 4 Lisa movement.

During my time with Lisa G, she would teach me several valuable lessons that I want to share with the world. I will never forget them, and I will never let the world forget about Lisa G. I will start by teaching you all what I learned famous Lisa G.

1. Never Sway From the Path! Lisa G helped me and my wife build Mash Elite Performance. She helped paint the walls, pull the carpet, and place the mats. Her husband installed the ceiling fans. She will always be just a much a part of that place as me. We built that place on community, family, goals, and God. My heart was in helping my athletes reach their goals and become better people. She saw the way that I love my athletes, and that is what made her and most of the parents that work out at Mash Elite Performance decide to trust their families with me. Sometimes I have swayed from my calling for this reason or that, and Lisa G would always be the first one to shake me and say, “Don’t be dumb.” Lisa I will never be swayed again.
2. Focus on What is Important! Like most men, I will sometimes focus on money, size of my business, and what people think of me. Lisa G taught me to focus on the things that are important like my God, my beautiful wife, my daughter Bailey, Baby Mash(my wife is pregnant), my mother, my family, my Mash family, and my friends. I want to inspire others to do the same, just like she did me. I want everyone to set goals and have dreams, and I want them to be determined to reach for their dreams. The key is to never let a dream or goal over shadow God or your loved ones. As a matter of fact, let your motivation be to Glorify God, and to inspire and impact loved ones and the rest of the world.
3. Never Ever Quit! Lisa slammed bars until she could no longer pick them up. Whatever God has given you on this earth, I recommend that you nurture and care for that ministry until you die. Never waste a moment to help, inspire, and love those around you every day. Lisa inspired the world! You should do the same!

My friend Molly told me that our friend Lisa Sokolosky heard Lisa G say, “Ok Jesus let’s do this!” That is so Lisa G. I stopped in to see her yesterday morning just hours before she passed, and I can tell you that she was Lisa G to the end. She was trying to pull the IVs from her arm, and her niece told her to stop. Lisa gave her that wrinkled face stare as to say, “Hey I am Lisa G! I do what I want!” My heart is absolutely broken right now, but I am so glad that I got to see her one more time. When I left, I told her that I loved her, and her voice echoes in my mind like a cool breeze on a hot summer day saying, “I love you too!” Those are the last words that she ever spoke to me. Very fitting!

Heaven is one saint bigger now. Until I see Lisa G again someday, I will continue her fight. Lift 4 Lisa will go on! Cancer will be defeated! More importantly I will never stop loving the people that God has brought into my life!

Mash Elite Performance will forever be the home of Lisa G!

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