Category Archives for "Barbell Life"

The Basics on Keeping Your Cool by Coach Paluna Santamaria

Check out one of our 13 Books on topics like programming, conjugate method, injury prevention, nutrition, mindset, and competition prep at:


or Check out one of our Online Teams and Nutrition Programs at:

Mash Coaching

The Basics on Keeping Your Cool

By Coach Paluna Santamaria

Mash Elite Performance is known for producing athletes that end up excelling in their sport. The majority of these athletes have clear paths to compete and train professionally. What if you are new to training? Or perhaps you have been training for many years but never competed?

I believe everyone who trains as hard as the Mash Mafia teams do should get their feet wet in competition at least once.
Competition teaches us valuable lessons in stress management, patience, determination and problem solving.

I know competing is not for everybody but you will never know if you never try.

After your first competition you will have a clearer idea as to where you want to take your training next.

A pattern I notice in recreational competitors particularly in CrossFit is worrying too much about the wrong things. For that, I have put together a list of the Basics to Keep Your Cool.

1. What you know, you know.
Two weeks before competing is not the time to learn a new complicated skill such as barbell snatches, swimming, etc.
This is important for many reasons but the most important is SAFETY. It is very common for amateur competitors to get hurt close to competition day when the stress high and fatigue hits. Sometimes the excitement gets the best of us and we attempt things we have never done before. Save that for competition day.

2.Know the reason you are competing (define your why)
Out of curiosity? For fun? To prove something to yourself? To prove something to others? To test what you have learned in the year?
This will help you stay focused and not get influenced by your competitors and the challenges that may come up on that day.

3. Be prepared, but stay open minded.
This holds true, especially in CrossFit. The environment will be different than what you are used to: location, time of training, nerves, etc.
Remain calm and be open to changing your plan of action. Don’t panic when things don’t “feel” or look like what you are used to i.e. Barbells are different. There may be no chalk, and the sun is in your face. That’s ok because you just need to have fun and remember everyone else is experiencing the same thing.

4. Don’t change what you eat dramatically.

• Stress changes how your body responds/absorbs food. i.e. if you usually don’t drink coffee or pre-workouts, don’t start on that day.
• Stay hydrated. Eat small portions throughout the day.

5. Weight classes don’t matter.

Making weight is a stress you don’t need to put yourself through on your first competition. See where your body weight sits comfortably and register for the weight class closest to that weight.

6. Don’t forget to have fun 🙂

It sounds simple yet it’s easy to forget. The day goes by really fast, enjoy every moment.

Tomorrow, the new Mash E-Book “Bar Speed” drops. It is written by Coach Travis Mash and Coach Spencer Arnold. This book will help coaches and athletes:

• Define daily intent
• Keep the weight room safer
• Teach effort
• Prevent over-training
• Guarantee that all qualities of strength are being trained

It will provide you full programs for the sports of:

• Weightlifting
• Powerlifting
• CrossFit
• Athletic Performance
• SuperTotal

I even provided a high volume and low volume program for each. This will be unlike any program that I have ever written.

Stay tuned! If you are not on our newsletter list, you can get a FREE Copy of our E-Book “The Mash Method” all at the same time at:

About Paluna:
Paluna’s Bio

Paluna is a movement enthusiast by nature. As a child she participated in martial arts as well as being part of a swimming team for three years. Always an athlete she went on to play basketball for 4 consecutive years in high school as well as completing a Bachelor degree in Arts with a specialty in modern dance. She spent the years following graduation as a dancer and aerial performer. In 2005 she moved to Canada taking a break from performing to pursue a career in the fitness industry. She is now a certified Personal Trainer with additional training in Yoga, Pilates, Kettlebell, Pre/Post natal and Nutrition. Always curious about movement and looking for a challenge Paluna found weightlifting. She trained and competed under Bulgarian legend Alex Varbanov from 2012-2016.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Check out one of the Online Teams:

• Mash Mafia Bronze
• Mash Mafia Silver
• Mash Mafia Gold
• Eat What You Want
• Eat and Lift What You Want

Check them out here: ⇒ Mash Mafia Online Teams




This article is the first one of a short series on breathing.


As lifters we tend to put a big emphasis on bracing for better spine stability but we rarely address the fact that many of us have faulty breathing patterns due to postural issues or injury.


Breathing and bracing is not the same thing so let’s start by defining the functions of our main breathing muscle, the diaphragm:


  1. Respiration: inhalation and exhalation of air.
  2. Stabilization: integration of all abdominal muscles/pelvic floor and diaphragm working together to create a base of support.
  3. Sphincter


The first step to identifying faulty breathing patterns is by assessing your posture.


No one will have perfect posture all the time but you can definitely aim for a neutral spine.


Neutral spine is when the cervical, thoracic and lumbar curves in the spine are in their natural position.


When you lie on your back with the soles of your feet flat on the ground and your arms resting at the sides there should be a bit of space between the back of your neck and the ground as well as between your lower back and the ground.

Your shoulder blades should feel wide, flat and heavy.


This is the best way to test your neutral spine and to start identifying your breathing patterns because gravity allows you to fully relax into the position.


Without a neutral spine they’ll be no efficient breathing and in consequence no efficient bracing.


Before we even worry about bracing let me list the benefits of adding breath work to your practice:


  1. Reduce anxiety/elevate mood
  2. Increase mental focus
  3. Aid digestion
  4. Eliminate oxidative stress
  5. Lower blood pressure
  6. Aid sleep




So this week I encourage you to bring awareness to your breathing by doing the following:


  1. Be aware of your patterns: are you holding your breath randomly through the day? Is your mouth fully closed when you breathe? Do you snore?
  2. Take 5-10 anatomical breaths before you sleep. Don’t over think it, simply lie on your bed, take a breath through the nose allowing your ribcage to expand in all directions, letting your belly naturally and gently rise and exhale through the nose or mouth as slow as you can.


Next week, we will introduce specific exercises to help you become more efficient at anatomical breathing before we address bracing!



Is an Injury a Blessing in Disguise?

Check out one of the Online Teams:

• Mash Mafia Bronze
• Mash Mafia Silver
• Mash Mafia Gold
• Eat What You Want
• Eat and Lift What You Want

Check them out here: ⇒ Mash Mafia Online Teams

Is an Injury a Blessing in Disguise?
by Coach Travis Mash, USAW Senior International Coach

In early 2004 I started experiencing major low back pain. The pain was shooting down my leg. I was also experiencing some major weakness in my right leg. None of these symptoms were advantageous to a powerlifter trying to set world records. The pain and weakness had me on the sideline for the first time in my career. At 31-years-old I was experiencing my first real injury.

31-years of being injury free is a big reason that I was able to amass that amount of strength. If you can train for long amounts of time without injury, eventually you will be stronger than everyone else. That’s just simple math. Genetically my body was very durable. I say genetics because it sure wasn’t that I was so smart in my training. I simply used the max effort method everyday, so there wasn’t a lot of thought that went into my programming.

This lack of thought in my programming along with the heavy weight had finally led to a major injury. One of my buddies at the time was a very gifted orthopedic doctor. He sent me for an MRI, so that a proper diagnosis could be made. When he received the images back, he called me in to discuss the findings. I went in assuming that he was going to tell me to rest 3-4 weeks, take a few pills, and then back to training. However that was not what he told me.

Now before I tell you exactly what he said, it’s important that you realize that this doctor was a powerlifter too. He wasn’t some fat guy in a white coat telling me that powerlifting is a bad sport. He wanted to see me crush records as badly as I wanted to crush those records. I tell you that because most doctors are going to have a biased opinion regarding putting 1,000lb on your back.

Anyways I go into his office in high spirits because I just wanted to get the news and get back to training. However, he looked me dead in the eyes and told me that I was at risk of paralysis. Pretty darn scary! I had two discs in my lumbar spine that were majorly herniated.

I was going to have to make some major decisions. Was I really going to retire at a point right before breaking the all-time world record? There was more to the diagnosis as well. I would also be at risk of impotency. I mean that normally goes along with paralysis, but sadly that’s what scared me the most. I was 31-years-old and single, but did imagine a life after sports with a wife to share that life.

I took a week to think about things and do my own research. My research led me to two individuals: Dr. Lawrence Gray and Dr. Stuart McGill. Dr. Gray is the leading sport chiropractor in my area, and Dr. Stuart McGill is the leading spine and hip researcher in the world. After speaking to them both, I at least had some hope. It was going to take a lot of attention to detail for once, but these changes are the very reason that I broke the records.

Here’s what I did:

1. Dr. Gray became my Chiro- I started seeing Dr. Gray on a weekly basis whether I was in pain or not. He kept me aligned. He also worked on any soft tissue area that seemed to be causing issues. His office is filled with instruments geared towards recovery. We started strengthening weak muscles and lengthening tight muscles based on his assessments.

2. McGill Core Work- Dr. McGill taught me that the hips need to be mobile and the low back needs to be stable. He recommended lots of core work. That core work didn’t involve any sit-ups ironically. Here’s what it did involve-

• Bilateral Carries- the key is to monitor total volume with carries just like anything else. Most people make a big mistake by using the same weight week in and week out. Guess what? Nothing is improving that way. I suggest starting with 3-5 sets of 60 feet, and then each week either increase weight, distance, or sets.
• Unilateral Carries- I like these the best because they address asymmetries. You will also wake up that lazy quadratus lumborum muscle (QL).
• Zercher Carries
• Bird Dogs and all there variations.
• The McGill Curl Up- you can Google most of these.
• Planks and all of the variations.

3. Implemented proper warm ups- before my injury I would simply get under the bar and start squatting. After the injury, I would mobilize the hips and wake up the glutes. I wouldn’t touch the bar until I could perform a pain free air squat. By pain free I am talking about the achy joints that all strength athletes experience when they first walk in the gym. Basically I would shake off the cobwebs first.

4. Focused on Nutrition- If you want optimal recover, you have to focus on nutrition and sleep, which brings me to my next point.

5. Proper Sleep- too many people don’t take sleep seriously. That’s a big mistake for anybody especially an athlete. I started getting off the computer two hours prior to bed. The last hour was reserved for reading, and I am not talking about powerlifting magazines. I wanted to read literature that would relax me not excite me. I made sure the room was completely dark and cold around 68 degrees. All of these changes were miracles towards my recovery and performance.

Here’s the point to the entire article. An injury is often times a crossroads that all athletes are going to find themselves. You can take the most common path, which is simply quit your sport and move on with life. That’s the road most often taken, and I totally understand. You can also take the other road, overcome your injury, and finish out your sport. For me, that led to two more world championships and two more all-time world records in the total. That doesn’t mean that you will win a world championship. It just means that you will maximize your potential. Therefore you will finish your journey and leave your sport with zero regrets. That’s all any of us can ever ask for.

My injuries eventually made me into an even better athlete than before. They also taught me to master the mundane tasks that most people ignore. I became a better athlete, and these life lessons left me better at coaching. I learned things that would help athletes for many years to come. I also learned a lot of things not to do, so my athletes can avoid certain pitfalls that led to my injuries.

If you are injured right now, I encourage you to look at it as a necessary step that most all athletes will have to take. The goal needs to be to come out the other side stronger than ever with an even better mindset. Injuries are normally a blessing in disguise, and are simply wake up calls for crazy athletes like me. I recommend embracing that blessing and becoming a wise and fearless athlete.

Check out one of our 13 Books on topics like programming, conjugate method, nutrition, mindset, and competition prep at:


or Check out one of our Online Teams and Nutrition Programs at:

Mash Coaching

Would I do it All Over Again?

Check out one of the Online Teams:

• Mash Mafia Bronze
• Mash Mafia Silver
• Mash Mafia Gold
• Eat What You Want
• Eat and Lift What You Want

Check them out here: ⇒ Mash Mafia Online Teams

Would I do it All Over Again?

There is something that’s been weighing on my mind lately. A friend of mine asked me, “If I had it to do all over again, would I still have gone so heavy for so long?” He asked me that after hearing that I was looking to get my hip resurfaced, and he noticed my constant limp. I answered him right away giving him a definite, “yes”, but I’ve really been weighing this in my mind over the last several days. I mean I am 44-years-old, and I need hip surgery. Would I really do it all over again?

I coach hundreds of athletes both in person and online. Thousands of people follow my programming whether it be e-books or a free program on my website. I figured these people deserved to know the truth. Am I leading people down a road of regret? That’s the real question, and that deserves a real answer.

Here’s my real answer. I would 100% do it all over again. My willingness to put it all out there like that has given me the opportunity to coach all of these people. What if I hadn’t? I would be working some job. I would grow old. Would I be pain free? Maybe and then again maybe not! I would die one day having never accomplished anything. That’s not living in my opinion. Remember this is just my opinion. This is simply my perspective, and I am not telling you what’s right or wrong. I am just saying how I feel about this.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and wonder should I have done this or that. I don’t want to talk about ‘should haves’ and ‘could haves’. I don’t want to set that example for my kids. I want them to follow their passions to the very end. I am not just talking about strength or athletics. If they want to be a doctor or an artist, I want them to give it their absolute best. If they want to play the piano, I want them to practice longer and with more intent than anyone else.

My hard work and sacrifice has opened so many doors that would not be there had I not given my absolute best. If I had not lived this life, would all of these elite athletes listen to one word from me? Would any of you reading this still be reading this? The answer is ‘probably not’ for both questions.

I have no promises for any of you that you will reach your ultimate goals. There are too many variables that come into play, but I am going to tell you a short story to put things in perspective. When I was a young man in college, I fell in love with training. I had worked out and lifted weights in high school, but I didn’t fall in love with it until college. Towards the end of my college career people started asking me questions about my future plans. What are you going to do after college? That was the question that I was getting more and more.

Looking back this was a valid question. I would be asking my kids the same thing out of concern. All I knew was that I loved training. I wanted to see how strong that I could make my body. I wanted to realize the potential of my body. I was fascinated with the changes that I had already made with the body that I was given. There were many safe jobs that I could have taken back then, and there would have been nothing wrong with taking any of them. However I decided to chase my dreams, and I never looked back.

I drove to Colorado with $200 to my name. Somehow I was able to find Wes Barnett as a coach, acquire a job, and get a roommate all within hours of arriving in Colorado Springs, CO. I look back at that moment a lot especially lately with this terrible hip. I wonder to myself what would have happened had I failed in Colorado. Would I have come home with my tail tucked between my legs like a beaten dog? I probably would have come home, taken a safe job, and lived a safe life. However that wasn’t God’s plan for me.

That moment led me down a path that I still find myself on. That path has taken my on quite the journey. I have won three world championships in my lifetime having competed against some of the best powerlifters known to man like Ed Coan, Steve Goggins, and Chuck V. I have broken several world records including one that had stood for over fifteen years. I have trained at the Olympic Training Center with the best group of weightlifters that America has ever seen including six Olympians. Two Olympians with one being a Bronze Medalist have coached me.

As a coach I have been Team USA’s Head Coach three times. I have been the primary coach of countless International Team members including one Olympian. I am a friend of the most amazing people in strength including Joe Kenn, Louie Simmons, and Dave Spitz. All of this is because I was willing to take a chance and put it all out there. I have lived a fairytale life doing exactly what I love to do.

Look I am making no promises to any of you. You might do exactly what I did and wish you hadn’t. I am simply telling you what happened with me. Of course I wouldn’t have regretted it if it hadn’t of worked out. The only regrets that I have in my life are with things that I didn’t try. If you try something giving it your absolute best, I don’t think that you will ever regret that. When you are my age, the only regrets that you will have are the ‘should haves’ and ‘could haves’ of your life. Those things will haunt you all the way to the grave if you are anything like me.

I might be getting a hip surgery this year, and that’s ok. I might walk with a limp everyday of my life. I might be in pain 100% of everyday. All of this is ok by me. However I won’t be sitting here in my chair with nothing to say like a lot of people out there. Instead I am sitting here in my chair with several novels of information inside of me waiting to be shared with the world.

So would I do it all over again? The answer is, “Without a doubt I would do it all over again.”

“Do This, Get Results” by Paluna Santamaria 

Check out The “Eat What You Want” E-Book to understand nutrition better. With a built-in Macro Calculator, you will have all the tools necessary to getting your nutrition in check.

Check them out here: ⇒ “Eat What You Want”

DO THIS, GET RESULTS by Paluna Santamaria 

What if I told you that focusing on big nutrition goals might be keeping you away from achieving them?

Let me explain, when you start a nutrition program your goals read something like this:


-I want to lose 20lbs.

-I want bigger shoulders.

-I want ripped abs.

The above statements are outcomes that are possible to achieve, however it’s impossible to know the rate in which your body will respond to a program.

Obsessing about those outcomes can cause frustration when the results don’t happen as fast as you want them.

When it comes to nutrition and training, patience is the name of the game.


Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting you set no goals. I’m saying once you have set them, have a plan and concentrate on the daily behaviors that will add up to the big results.

For example:

-I will eat protein at every meal today.

-I will walk to work instead of driving at least 3 days out of the week.

-I will get 8hrs sleep every day this week.

The difference between the first set of statements and the second set is that on the second you have a list of things you CAN control.

I think it was Ed Coan who said:

“My goal was never to be the best in the world, lift this amount of weight. My goal was to get better every single training cycle. And if you do that for a lot of years, you’re gonna be pretty good”

To sum up, trust the process, do things you can control more often and as I usually say thanks to coach Mash “don’t forget to have fun.”

About Paluna:

Paluna is a movement enthusiast by nature. As a child she participated in martial arts as well as being part of a swimming team for three years. Always an athlete she went on to play basketball for 4 consecutive years in high school as well as completing a Bachelor degree in Arts with a specialty in modern dance. She spent the years following graduation as a dancer and aerial performer. In 2005 she moved to Canada taking a break from performing to pursue a career in the fitness industry. She is now a certified Personal Trainer with additional training in Yoga, Pilates, Kettlebell, Pre/Post natal and Nutrition. Always curious about movement and looking for a challenge Paluna found weightlifting. She trained and competed under bulgarian legend Alex Varbanov from 2012-2016.

Check out one of the Eat What You Want Online Teams:

Eat What You Want (Everything Needed to Perfect Your Nutrition)
Eat and Lift What You Want (Get Your Nutrition and Your Workout Perfected)

Check them out here: ⇒ ‘Team Eat and Lift What You Want’

How to Build a Successful Barbell Club

“The Mash System” dropped this past Wednesday. 12-week programs for weightlifting, powerlifting, SuperTotal, Athletic Performance, and functional training. We also give sample GPP and Work Capacity Programs. More importantly we name each method used within the system, define each method, and show you how each method is used within the program. It’s an invaluable teaching tool.

Check it out at: ==>

How to Build a Successful Barbell Club

I never thought that I would see an era where barbell clubs would be popping up all over the United States. I guess that we can thank CrossFit and Social Media for that. I have to say that I am very thankful. I spent the first forty years of my life in an industry that the rest of the world could have cared less about. I have been told countless time to quit messing with those weights and to get a real job. I am glad that I didn’t listen to any of those folks. I get it! There are easier routes to take in life. I have never been into easy. I am going to follow my passion, and I am going to figure out how to make it work.

Someone wrote in to asking for some advice on forming a successful barbell club, and I was definitely going to answer that one. I want these clubs opening up, and more importantly I want them to be successful. There is no reason that someone in our profession needs to be poor. It’s tough to provide for your athletes if you can’t provide for yourself.

First thing that you need to realize is that we provide a valuable service. We teach people how to be strong, add muscle, and move their bodies. We teach them about setting goals, working hard, and perseverance. We teach them how to compete. We teach them how to lose with dignity, but a desire to get better. In a lot of cases we teach people how to win.

The things that we teach them will make them better people. They will learn lessons that will follow them throughout their entire lives. I have coached people that are starting right now in the NFL, Tommy Bohanon. I have also coached people that are running million dollar businesses right now like Adee Zukier. We have the chance to impact people in ways that no one else will ever have.

I tell you all of these things because you have to understand your value. You are only worth what you believe that you are worth. If you have taken an interest in your own education and abilities, then you are worth a lot. I have spent my whole life under a bar and coaching some of the best athletes in the world. I know what I am worth.

Second I recommend forming a relationship with an established gym or box in the town that you want to open your gym especially if you aren’t well known in the area. I moved to Advance, NC in 2008. If you’ve never heard of Advance, don’t feel bad because not many people have. I started out my career in the back of Gym 365. I also partnered with Gray Chiropractic helping their clients out with rehab and helping the practice out with marketing. I worked a lot, but I had formed two strategic alliances that were both helping me grow my own business in a fast way.

If you can start your barbell club in an established gym or box, you have built in traffic. Some of them will want to learn about weightlifting and powerlifting. Some might want strength and conditioning, and some might want personal training. Gym 365 only made me pay $400 per month, which was an amazing deal. I should have stayed with them now that I think about it. Dr. Gray was feeding me athletes to rehab, which were becoming full-time athletes after I got them back on their feet. I was also able to get some personal training clients from Dr. Gray, which helped me out financially in the early days. Working with Dr. Gray also helped me with credibility in the eyes of coaches and parents.

You could easily talk to all the CrossFits in the area about doing one day per week barbell classes for their athletes looking to get better at the barbell movements. You will be surprised at how many decide they want to simply switch to barbell only. The key is simply forming those relationships at first.

Then you will want to become a source of knowledge for the local people in the area. I recommend starting a blog or vlog that’s educational in nature. You can teach people the benefits of the barbell. You can teach them the importance of proper movement. The key here is consistency. Early one you should easily be able to put out content three times per week at a minimum. Facebook makes it easy to connect with people in your area. You can start a business page, and then post your blogs or vlogs on your page. You can pay to have them boosted, and you can target local people that are interested in fitness and strength on that boost.

I definitely recommend Instagram and Facebook to connect with your local people. You can run contests offering a chance to win a free workout or assessment in exchange for tagging 3 local friends and reposting the contest. You can grow a local audience real quickly like this not to mention looking up local hashtags and following those people.

The thing that I did that won me the most clients was hosting a free seminar every single month. I became the strength and conditioning expert in my area in a very quick way. I put on seminars with topics that would attract the clients that I was after like:

• Increasing vertical leap
• Benefits of the barbell to field sports
• Relationship between Hypertrophy and Longevity of Life

These seminars opened the doors for me to reach out to coaches, parents, and travel teams that I knew would benefit from my seminar and even more from my services. Once again the key was consistency. The relationships also helped to get people to my seminars. Dr. Gray would encourage any of his patients to go that might be interested in my services. After a few months, I developed a massive database that I would hit up every month about a new seminar. The repetition seems to really encourage people to at least check you out. You should finish each seminar with a call to action like: join today and receive $50 off or join today and receive a free month. No matter what, you will want to get every attendee’s email for future mailings and offers.

I have one more idea that I haven’t tried. First start a local Facebook Group like “New Yorkers that Love Strength” or “Charlotte Barbell Lovers”, and then invite anyone in the area that might be interested. You can advertise you group on your other social media sites. The key is to create engagement with strategic content and questions. Once you have a little following, you can do Facebook Live. Now you are basically hosting seminars online.

Anyways these are some ideas that I hope will help all of you. Of course none of this will work without systems in place. You will need good software to track billing and prospects. You will need something like of mailing campaigns. Most importantly you will need a plan, consistency, and a good work ethic. I hope this helps, and I hope that you all crush it.

1 2 3 59