Category Archives for "Barbell Life"

Athletes Need a Gym Culture

By now we have all heard the terms community and culture so many times that it’s kind of old news.

But why are those terms important? The new popularity of CrossFit and the barbell sports, along with the magic of the Internet, has spread these terms around the world and back. The main reason CrossFit became so popular was community.

CrossFit created a community of people coming together to get in shape and be healthy. Let’s face it – when we become busy adults, it’s not easy to go to the gym and work some more just to get in shape. However, when there are other people at the gym who are going to work and suffer with you, the whole process of getting in shape becomes fun and exciting. The common bond of working hard forms a family-like atmosphere that most of us are drawn to. Weightlifting, powerlifting, and strength and conditioning clubs all have a community as well. Whenever there is a group of people coming together to work on a common or similar activity, you have a community.


At Mash Elite, we have weightlifting, powerlifting, strength and conditioning, and adult group fitness – so we have a bit of everything. The community is simply a group of people coming together to reach their goals.

What about culture? That is where the rubber meets the road, as my father-in-law always says. Our gym is divided up into a front section, where all the adult group fitness and a lot of the accessory work for the athletes take place. In the back of the facility is where all the grinding takes place. The gym is separated by two big curves that allows for a nice flow from the peacefulness of the front to craziness in the back.

Once you’re in the back, things get way more serious. The athletes are there to be the best in the world. We still have fun, but there is a totally different feel in the air. The weightlifters, powerlifters, football players, and track athletes are there to do extraordinary things. They are trying to make an Olympic team, world team, earn a scholarship, or play in the NFL. That’s the difference in the back room and the front room. Everyone is trying to reach a goal, but the folks in the back are there to perform the extraordinary.

Our culture has been developed carefully over the last year and a half. Some people have moved on, and some have been added. All of it was for the best. Now we have a group who works together, trains hard, and likes to be coached. We support one another. We might pick on each other, but no outsider is allowed to pick on our teammates.

This is why we so carefully choose our members now. We require a 100% approval rate from not only the coaches but also the team members. It’s a tough process to join the team now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love these folks. I am not looking for a new athlete like I did in the past. I have all the ones I want.


The main reason I am writing this article is to explain a phenomenon that occurred last week. Our team as a whole hit an astonishing amount of personal records then. It was really one after the other. I am talking about amounts you rarely hear about.

Nathan Damron snatched 170kg from blocks. Ryan Grimsland snatched 113kg and 115kg, hitting two personal records in the snatch and PRing his total as well. Morgan McCullough made personal records in the snatch, jerk, clean from deficit, and his total on Friday. 14-year-old Hannah Dunn snatched 70kg/154lb to get over the hump for a long awaited PR.

It wasn’t just my world team members. It was the entire team both on-site and online. We hit so many personal records that I can’t get them all posted, as they are getting lost in the photo stream.

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So how does this happen? That’s the question that has been ringing in my ears. I mean, it is the time of year, as most everyone is peaking for the American Open Series 3 happening a few weeks from now. But I have still never seen anything like this before. I’ve seen days that seemed to stick out but never an entire week of extraordinary feats.

I’m calling this phenomenon gym momentum, and I wish Greg Nuckols or Andy Galpin would perform a study on this supernatural happening. We’ve all experienced it in some form or another. If you’ve ever been to a Jon North seminar, you’ve probably witnessed exactly what I am talking about. It starts by someone getting jacked up and hitting a big lift, and the next thing you know the entire room is slamming personal records.

As a coach, this is one of the biggest reasons you are trying to cultivate and nurture a solid culture. This is the reason you might have to cut your top athletes if they don’t fit the culture you are trying to develop. You will never have a room like the one I have if you have the one bad apple who doesn’t allow the room to blossom. You know who I am talking about. I am talking about the guy who demands the attention to always be on him – or the grumpy athlete who makes everyone walk on eggshells. If that’s you, you need to change. No amount of victories or records gives you a right to steal the attention of the room. If you are a true champion, you would never want that.

When I was a world champion, I wanted my teammates to experience the same feeling. I remember bombing out at the world championships in 2006, and I immediately started coaching my teammate and best buddy, Ox Mason, in hopes that he would win. I promise you all that one day all of your athletic days will be behind you, and you don’t want to look back on a career that was totally self-absorbed. You will be pleased to look back and remember being a great team member and inspiring others to succeed.


The type of momentum that we experienced last week will never happen at a gym unless a proper culture is a primary goal. If you want to be a world champion, this type of environment is mandatory. You will need a coach for direction and a team for support. When you are trying to be the best at something, a strong support base is crucial. You will have days that are harder than others. Having a teammate and coach to support you during those dark times is a must in all sports. On the other hand, it’s just as important to have teammates to inspire each other to higher and higher levels, which is what happened all last week.

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2018...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

Remember, forming a community is the easy part. The moment you open a gym, you will have a community. Culture is the hard part. It’s something you need to think long and hard about before opening a facility. What kind of culture are you looking to create as a gym owner? What kind of person fits that culture?

As an athlete, what type of culture do you want to seek out? How can you help that culture develop?

It’s more important than many might think.

My Mentor: Coach Don McCauley

Most of you know that Coach Don McCauley is going through a tough time right now.

He’s been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and now Stage IV brain cancer. He just had a tumor removed that was causing stroke-like symptoms, and that has relieved a lot of symptoms causing him the most grief. Right now we have Coach Mac in full effect, but we still have a battle in front of us.

This article isn’t about his cancer or heart disease. However, if you want to help support his cause during this tough time, you can donate to coach Don’s GoFundMe campaign.



After giving his life to the service of athletes and the sport of weightlifting, Don McCauley has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and a brain tumor that caused a stroke. Now it's time for the sport to give back to him.


His Love

Obviously we would appreciate any help, but this article is about Coach McCauley as a coach and man. Most of you will never know him like I do. You get a glimpse of him maybe on Facebook when he’s pissed off about weightlifting technique or politics. Some of you form opinions based on those rants you read. If you are one of those people, you are missing the boat on this man.

Yes, by all means, Don can be feisty on social media, and some of you might not take his side on some topics. However, let me share the side that you don’t see. This man has given his whole life to this sport and his athletes. I believe that he will make it to the Olympics simply because he loves Nathan Damron so dang much.

While most of you are watching television or going on a walk, he’s sitting around in his house thinking about the technique of each of his lifters. Look, I am not knocking all of you for relaxing. I am just exalting this man for his desire to make his lifters better. How do I know? I know because I roomed with him on trips during our time at MuscleDriver USA, and he would be awake at 3:00 AM looking at videos. I would always yell at him to get some rest.

I knew within minutes of beginning my tenure at MDUSA that I wanted to absorb every ounce of information this man contained. He’s done what other coaches have only dreamed of – such as coaching an Olympian, Cheryl Haworth. He also coached an Olympic alternate, Suzanne, who was his wife. Yes, he might not be good at choosing wives, but the man can coach. The skill he possesses that impressed me the most was his ability to see the movement with his naked eye.

He knows right away what’s causing a lifter’s problems, and he knows how to fix it. Heck, he can hear an imperfection better than most coaches can see it. Sounds crazy, right? I’ve been there when he heard a lift behind him, and he knew exactly what had happened. Some of that comes with experience, but a whole lot of that is a raw talent most of us will never have.

I want to write a series of these articles so the world can know the Coach McCauley his team members have known for years. Don and I were together this weekend watching two of our athletes get married – Jacky Bigger and Bryan Simeone. He and I had a few glasses of wine and started sharing some of our memories together as coaches.

At the wedding, we had multiple generations of athletes gathered, like Becca Gerdon, who was my first weightlifting athlete – one I later sent to MDUSA before I was ever there. We both love that girl, so we started talking about her movement on the platform and more importantly the incredible demeanor she brought to practice everyday.

This led us to talking about Jacky, and that led to Hunter, then to Nathan, then to Morgan, then to Ryan, and on and on. It was in that moment I realized the world has to know about Coach McCauley for who he really is – not for Facebook or (heaven forbid) GoHeavy. In each of these articles, I am going to highlight something he’s taught me, one or two of his thoughts he’s posting on Facebook, and maybe a few funny stories along the way.

If you love weightlifting or the barbell in general, you will learn a thing or two I promise. So let’s get started.


The first point he taught me

It’s all about timing. Everyone wants to talk about the pull as it pertains to height and power production, but no one is talking about the real trait that separates the great lifters from all the rest – and that’s timing. He first pointed it out to me at MDUSA as we were watching James Tatum. James always baffled me. Yes, he looked athletic, but he didn’t look capable of snatching 160 kilograms. Yet he snatched 160kg while competing in the 77kg class.

Was it his speed? He’s fast, but there are plenty people faster. Was it his power production? He’s powerful, but I’ve seen people with way more power. Was it his absolute strength? He’s strong, but Travis Cooper was stronger. Was it his mobility? No way, he’s actually a bit tight. So what was it?

His timing was absolutely perfect. By timing, I mean his ability to waste zero time at the top of a pull before ripping under the bar. You can watch Yury Vardanyan and Kakhi Kakhiashvili to see two masters of timing. This is where Don and I differ the most from most coaches. While they are focusing on jump and shrug (which I am not hating on at all), we are focusing on shrugging down the moment the hips extend at the top. Once the bar leaves the hips, its trajectory is already set. There is nothing extra you can do to make it go a bit higher. Any delay will be detrimental to you being able to get underneath the bar.

Ever since he pointed this out to me, I’ve noticed this trait with most great lifters. Nathan Damron, for example, is getting better with this each and every day. Everyone talks about his strength, but it’s his speed and timing that will win it for him. Luckily we have veterans who are almost perfect with timing to demonstrate for our younger generation. It’s this timing factor that allows people who are simply good at the sport to dominate other athletes who are superior in strength and athleticism. Pete Kelly is a great example of this. Pete is an Olympian from 1996. He isn’t incredibly strong in squatting or pulling. He isn’t incredibly explosive. However, he could outperform everyone else because he was simply better at the sport. It’s timing and technique that makes one better at weightlifting.



Here are two McCauleyisms to support my above story:


You can see more of these on Don’s Facebook account. I am planning something kind of cool with all of these McCauley quotes. I hope you guys enjoyed this. Let me know if there are specific questions you have for Don. If I don’t have the answer, I will get it from him. Once again, if you want to support the old man, we’d appreciate that.

You can always support his nonprofit weightlifting team as well. We are in the crucial time before the 2020 Olympics, and we need all the help you can give us. We’ve had a few of our sponsors come up short lately, and that can be pretty devastating for a nonprofit with a small budget as is. This coupled with Coach McCauley’s illness has really laid a beating to us. If you’d like to give to either, we would be grateful.



* Special Facebook Group Access to the Team

* Discounts on Ebooks

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Don’s Journey

And just in case you missed it before, check out this interview we had with Coach Don before he went in for surgery. This will give you a good picture of the man who loves the sport like none other.

Don McCauley – Journey to Becoming a USAW Level V Coach

Don McCauley has forgotten more about weightlifting than most coaches will ever learn.

He’s coached some of the greatest American lifters ever over a coaching career that spans decades.

So we had the chance to sit him down and get him talking – about everything from his early athletic experiences to starting coaching to his influences to the greatest lifters he’s coached.

This video was recorded the day before Don went in for brain surgery. He’s doing well, but he still has a difficult road ahead of him as he battles this tumor. The Mash Mafia is doing what we can to help him financially during this time – and if you want to join us in supporting him, we all would be very grateful.



After giving his life to the service of athletes and the sport of weightlifting, Don McCauley has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and a brain tumor that caused a stroke. Now it's time for the sport to give back to him.

Jay Ferruggia on Growth – The Barbell Life 213

If you’ve been around strength and the internet long enough, I’m positive you’ve heard of Jay Ferruggia. This guy has been in the game for a long, long time.

Jay could teach you about gaining muscle, getting strong, mastering nutrition, killing it as a personal trainer, building a successful gym, creating an online fitness powerhouse… you get it.

But what he’s really passionate about is something hardly anyone else talks about – just simply being an awesome person. Having confidence, getting rid of bitterness, building relationships, taking risks, and living a fulfilling and exciting life.

So give this one a listen. It might not be like many of our other podcasts, but I promise you that you’ll walk away with some new insight.

One area we talk about is the power of community. Jay is very intentional about surrounding himself with people who will build him up instead of keeping him down. That’s what’s great about this fitness industry. I don’t think there’s any other industry where people take care of each other like they do in fitness. Even competitors are barbell brothers. I was reminded of that recently as we’ve been raising support for Coach Don McCauley during this health crisis.



After giving his life to the service of athletes and the sport of weightlifting, Don McCauley has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and a brain tumor that caused a stroke. Now it's time for the sport to give back to him.



  • His simple and powerful Instagram strategy that no one else is using
  • Advice to gym owners (why you need to say NO to your customers)
  • Working with Major League baseball teams
  • How he “invented” group training
  • Almost dying from tuberculosis (and how it was the best thing for his fitness business)
  • and more…

USA Weightlifting Is One Big Family

Saturday Night during the inaugural USA Weightlifting Coaching Symposium (amazing event by the way, great job Coach Mike Gattone and staff), I was talking to my friends JP and Mark. We were hanging out at the bar after a long week of coaching and presenting. These two men don’t realize it, but I look up to both of them. They are more experienced in the world of weightlifting, so for them to take the time out of their evening to chat with me meant that absolute world to me. They were both giving me feedback about my persona online versus in real life. That’s actually a really good blog for later that I look forward to publishing.

It was at that moment that I all of a sudden realized we are all so blessed to be a part of this organization. It’s a family, and the deeper you get into its very core, the more of a family it becomes. I witnessed the generosity of this immense family firsthand, when I announced the GoFundMe account for my long time friend and mentor Coach Don McCauley. The very first donation was from my buddy Chad Wesley Smith. This has to be the only industry in the world where competitors are buddies. Heck we help each other.



After giving his life to the service of athletes and the sport of weightlifting, Don McCauley has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and a brain tumor that caused a stroke. Now it's time for the sport to give back to him.

That couldn’t be truer with my friends like Dave Spitz and Dane Miller. I would let them both look at my complete infrastructure if I thought it might help them. We continually bounce ideas off of each other, and we celebrate each other’s victories. I would personally help any of these men if they failed, and I am sure that they would do the same. That’s the only way that one can find job security in such a new and volatile industry, through relationships.

Then when you look at what Phil Andrews and the crew at USA Weightlifting has accomplished over the last few years, you can’t help but to be excited for the future. Our athletes have never in the history of weightlifting been supported so well. Stipends are higher than ever. Athletes have access to help with nutrition, recovery, rehab, and so much more.

This weekend, we were told that USAW is about to roll out a scholarship fund for the top young athletes in America. No longer do we, as coaches have to send them off to colleges around America. Now thanks to the hard work of the folks at USA Weightlifting, our athletes can stay local with the coaches that they feel comfortable with and with the coaches that helped them get to where they are. This is not to say that the college programs aren’t good, they are a great option for some young athletes, but it’s nice to have this option for my young men and women.

This is my dream. Now I can go out there and tell parents that there is a real future with weightlifting. If you have the skills, you can go to college, earn big stipends, and travel the world for free with Team USA. Coaches, it is up to us to get out there and spread the word. Suzy Sanchez is crushing it, but we are already submerged in our communities. We have to get our butts out of the gym once in a while and make an impact within our communities. USA Weightlifting is now doing their job. Now it’s our turn.

How Coaches Can Contribute

I have listened to coaches complain about this and that. Well Phil has pretty much handled every complaint that I have heard mentioned. Now it’s time that we look ourselves in the mirror, and ask, “What are we prepared to do?” That’s a big question man.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Free Informational Clinics- once a month we could open our doors, have our athletes put on a show for people, and explain to them all the benefits of weightlifting. We could explain how it helps performance in other sports, and now we can talk about the benefits of being a top athlete in our own beloved sport.
  2. Get Involved- this is one that I am personally going to work on. Join your chamber of commerce, and let them know what you are doing. Let them know the accomplishments of your current athletes. You can join other clubs and organizations and simply get to know the people around you.
  3. Put on Demonstrations at Schools and Community Gatherings- let them see exactly what can be accomplished with the sport of Weightlifting if taught properly.
  4. Produce- there is no better marketing than winning. When you win, make sure that you are contacting the newspapers and local television news sites. We have already received lots of free publicity from stories that the television stations and local newspapers have run on us. The cool thing is that it gets easier each time because you will develop relationships with the reporters.
  5. Pick an Outlet- obviously I like to write. With the Internet, all of us have several options to get the word out. Now you can blog, podcast, vlog, and we can all use social media. It’s a must. You can avoid it all you want, but you will only be hurting your club, your athletes, and the whole sport. We are all provided with these many ways to share our thoughts about the things that we love. Personally I want the whole world to know how much I love Weightlifting. I want the whole world to fall in love with it like I have.

Thanks to the efforts of USA Weightlifting, our coaches, and our amazing athletes crushing it at the International level, we all have something special to share with the world. We are finally a part of something that we have all longed for. We are WINNING at the world level! There is no denying that anymore. Our athletes aren’t satisfied with just being there.

I have watched the culture shift from last quad to this one. No one has an easy route to the Olympics anymore. You have to earn that mess now! Last quad, I heard athletes creating strategies to sneak on teams. This quad, I hear athletes creating strategies with their coaches about winning World Championships and the Olympics. It’s here y’all. We don’t have to sit around complaining and dreaming. We are living that dream.

The point to this message is that we should all stop for a moment to enjoy what we’ve all been a part in creating. We are all about to be a part of the biggest competition in the history of Weightlifting at the AO3. It’s all of you that work hard to climb the ladder of success in the sport that is fueling the fire for USA Weightlifting. It’s all of you coaches preparing your teams and recruiting new members. If the sport weren’t growing at a record rate, there wouldn’t be any funds for our top men and women. We wouldn’t be winning without this popularity.

So when it’s a little crowded in Las Vegas, I want all of us to remember that we have to have this progress to get where we all want to go, and that’s winning Olympic Gold Medals. Once again, thank you all for supporting Coach Don McCauley and our team during this rough time. He is having surgery today on his brain tumor, so I will let you all know the results as soon as I find out. Once again, if you want to support Coach McCauley during his battle with congestive heart failure and now this tumor, you can go to the link below:



After giving his life to the service of athletes and the sport of weightlifting, Don McCauley has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and a brain tumor that caused a stroke. Now it's time for the sport to give back to him.

Guys, we are a part of something great. If we can all continue to support one another, we can truly change this sport forever. Our dreams can all come true, and we can be a part of one amazing family during it all.

Love you all,

Coach Travis Mash

Navigating Research by Matt Shiver

Navigating through research can be intimidating and confusing. Especially if you don’t have a science background. There is a lot that goes into the writing of research that makes it hard to read. There are p values for statistical significance, there are charts and graphs that seem to be in a different language, there are plus and minus values, and LOTS of text.

I want to present some easy places you can find the most up to date research in the field of strength and conditioning and nutrition as well as teach you how to read the complex ones.

Before we begin, it is important to discuss the different types of research. The pyramid below covers the hierarchy of evidence.

Case Studies

Case reports or case studies are the lowest on the pyramid. They are typically a report on one individual and their response to an intervention. The problem with case reports, are they have a small sample size, have higher amount of bias, and don’t control variables as well as the higher forms of research on the pyramid. These are often the studies that you will find when someone reports an adverse reaction to an intervention or supplement when there are no other participants that were involved in the study.

The rest of the red and orange types of studies are good at identifying new variables that we should further research. They can show correlation between variables but lack the scientific rigor for coaches to take information from them and implement them into their training programs.

Randomized Controlled Trials

Randomized controlled trials (RCT) involve control groups and test groups that have been randomly put into their specific group. Most of the time the subjects don’t know what group they are in. RCTs are the meat and potatoes of the research world. This is where the work is being done to determine if an intervention is better than the current standard or placebo.

The problem with RCTs is that there is conflicting evidence in many studies. Some studies that share similar methods may have completely different results. That is why it is important to look up other research on the same topic after reading an RCT to see how it compares to past research. WE NEED MORE THAN ONE STUDY TO PROPOSE THAT SOMETHING WORKS.

Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are the next step. These are papers that combine findings from multiple RCTs to give you the most well-rounded picture of a topic is that has been researched. Here is where we can really take research and apply it to our coaching. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are used to create practice guidelines that are used in all professions.

When looking at research, I typically suggest focusing most of your attention to systematic review, meta-analyses, and RCTs.

Resources I Use For My Research

Now on to the sites that I have found to be the most helpful for me to get my research. I’m going to start with the easiest ones to read first.

Stronger by Science:

Greg Nuckols and his team do an amazing job of synthesizing the most current research for anyone to read into about a paragraph. There may be some charts included as well. This is an easy go to! They include strength training, hypertrophy, nutrition, and supplementation.

Examine – Nutrition:

Examine allows you to search by supplement to find the outcomes from multiple studies. Here is an example below on beta-alanine. You see that the outcome that eight different studies tracked was muscular endurance. They found a very high correlation that there was a minor improvement in muscular endurance. The level of evidence bar is on the left which shows how much research has been done on the supplement. The higher the level of evidence, the more research that has bene done.

NSCA – Journal of Strength and Conditioning:

Here is where I go every month to search through abstracts for research to read. Abstracts give you a quick snapshot of what the article is about. It gives you the key findings, but not the whole story.

To get published in the NSCA’s Journal, the article has to be good quality. There are plenty of research that has been done but never gets published by journals because the research was not good. If the journal does not like how the research was conducted, they do not publish it.



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.

I use the NSCA but there are plenty of other sports medicine and strength and conditioning journal sites. If you are interested in subscribing, there is a monthly or annual fee that is associated with it. If you live close to a college campus sometimes you can get the articles for free by logging on through their library website or campus WI-FI.


Here is going to be your gold standard. With that, it is hard to read! You are going to have to read a lot to really understand what you are reading.

While searching for articles, make sure to search for systematic reviews or RCTs. You have the ability to filter by article type. It will narrow your search by quite a lot. Also look for articles that are recent (past 5-10 years).

If you are reading an RCT, it is important to really assess the methods section. Do the methods make sense? Is it reproducible? Are there too many factors that are at play here that could have contributed to the outcome? Be critical of the articles you read. Then read the results. From there, you can start to piece together your own conclusion. See if your conclusion matches the authors.

The systematic reviews are nice because the authors of the review have already been critical of all the RCTs. If in doubt read reviews. You can skip about how they found the RCTs for their paper.

Review Articles

There are some websites that will post review articles of recent research. These are also a great place to start. They are typically simplified and easier to read. Like “

Follow Researchers You Like On Social Media

One of the easiest ways to get the most up to date research is following researchers like Dr. Andy Galpin and Dr. Bret Contreras on social media. They post about their most recent publications and the results from them on Twitter and IG. If you find a research article that you really enjoy, look at the name of the Authors. From there you can search the names of the authors on Pubmed to find more of their research. Most researchers specialize in a specific field.

Listen to “151 – Andy Galpin on Advances in the Science of Strength” on Spreaker.

A closing thought, be critical the next time someone tells you that “research shows ____ works better than ____.” You will be surprised of the limitations that research has. There are plenty of research articles that do not get published. For every article that supports something works, there will always be another article that says it does not work. You have to be critical and actually dig into the research to make your own opinions.

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2018...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

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