Category Archives for "Barbell Life"

CrossFit and Gaining Muscle with Dave Lipson – The Barbell Life 239

Dave Lipson has been around CrossFit for a long time.

In fact, he’s been around long enough that he competed in the Games on a whim (back when you could just walk up and enter). And he’s got some crazy and hilarious stories to tell.

But recently Dave has been competing in a different realm – the world of bodybuilding. He’s having a blast getting jacked, and he’s figuring out ways to combine his love of CrossFit with his love of muscle.

So listen in to this one if you want to learn how to crush a metcon and pack on muscle while you’re doing it.

A World Class Coach's Guide to Building Muscle

Hypertrophy for Strength, Performance, and Aesthetics.

World champion and world-class coach Travis Mash has combined the latest research with his decades of practical experience to bring you an amazing resource on muscle hypertrophy.


  • Squatting every day for a year giving him a PR on… the Strict Press?
  • How he combines CrossFit with bodybuilding
  • What he learned from recovering from an elbow injury
  • Why hypertrophy training matters for CrossFit performance
  • Crazy stories from the old days of CrossFit
  • and more…

The Reason Some Great Athletes Are Still Weak

When you talk about sports psychology with an athlete, most will shut down almost immediately. Sports psych has a bad stigma among athletes in America – and that’s very unfortunate because it’s the one area where most athletes need help.


I have a young female athlete who should definitely be the next one to make Team USA. I’m not going to mention her name because I didn’t ask her permission to write this. This young lady is amazing. However, she’s gone through several months of Chronic Clarking, and honestly I didn’t have the answers.

For all of you who don’t know what Clarking is, I will explain. Ken Clark was an amazing weightlifter in the 1980s. But at the 1984 Olympics, Ken pulled his clean to his waist but didn’t go under the bar on his second and third attempts. So now, when someone performs a snatch pull or clean pull without going under the bar, most English-speaking athletes from around the world call the lack of going under the bar a Clark. It’s sad because Ken was an amazing athlete. Heck, he was an Olympian, which is something most people will never be. Regardless if it’s fair or not, the reality is when a lifter refuses for whatever reason to complete the third pull (pull under the bar), it’s now considered a Clark.


Let’s get back to my young athlete. I was at wits’ end trying to figure this out for her. If you are a coach, athletes are coming to you in hopes you will help them reach their goals. I take this very seriously. If one of my athletes is struggling, I am struggling as well. We win together, and we lose together. That’s the deal.

I actually reached out to two of my colleagues, Spencer Arnold and Sean Waxman. They both concluded maybe her average intensity was too high, and maybe she was experiencing some neural fatigue. I was saving that for after the Junior Nationals coming up, since we were only four weeks out. However, I wasn’t 100% convinced because her bar speed and the height of the barbell were both above par compared to what other athletes produce. It honestly looked like a mental glitch – like at the last second there was an interruption in the brain. Plus this young lady is an ex-gymnast, so she is used to high volume.

I recommended to her mother that she look into finding a sports psychology professional. Her mother knew a female sports psychologist, so they contacted her. This young lady has had only two or three sessions with her new sports psych, and now it’s as if I have a brand new athlete. She’s quickly becoming the very athlete I knew she could be. In the last few weeks, she has set personal records in the snatch, clean and jerk, and of course total. She’s only experienced one Clark – which she actually overcame in the same session.

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Here’s the sad part. The fact I have to withhold her name is the very reason most of you are failing. The fact that there is a bad stigma around sports psychology is the reason most of you will never reach your goals. Instead of reaching your goals, you will:

  • blame your coach.
  • blame the program.
  • blame your friends.
  • blame your significant other.
  • blame your parents.
  • blame your circumstances.

I have news for you. When you miss the lift, that’s your fault. The minute you admit that important fact is the minute you can start to improve.

This point can also be made by looking at coach-jumping. Coach-jumping is more common in America than it has ever been. It’s not uncommon for athletes to have three to four coaches in a two-year span. Silly really, because every time an athlete jumps to another coach, they have to adapt to the new programming, new technique, and new coaching style versus experiencing continued improvement. Most of the athletes I see making these jumps all have one thing in common. They need a sports psychologist to help them become more successful.

Guys – it is not weak to seek out a professional. It’s weak being afraid to do so. I see so many of you getting a weightlifting coach, nutritionist, rehab professional, yoga instructor, and so many other professionals – but the one thing that would help you the most is somehow taboo. Ridiculous!


As athletes, we are all searching for an advantage over our opponents. Luckily in America, we’ve cracked down on drug use with the help of the United States Anti-Doping Agency and its year-round out-of-meet testing of our top athletes. We can’t take drugs for an unfair advantage, but there are several things all of you can do to give yourself an advantage:

Seek out advice and support through a good:

  • sports psychologist
  • nutritionist
  • chiropractor
  • physical therapist

And practice self-care through:

  • massage
  • addressing sleeping patterns
  • proper warm ups
  • optimal cool downs and stretching
  • recovery (ice baths, Marc Pro, MobilityWOD, etc.)

If you do all of these things, you will have an advantage because you will be the 1% who actually handles all the different areas. Heck, you will be in the 1% if you are the one who hires a sports psychologist. Too many Americans want to think they are too mentally tough to need a sports psychologist. If you believe that, I’m going to say right away you are the very person who definitely needs a sports psychologist.

USA Weightlifting has partnered with Colin Iwanski as their sports psych professional, and I think he is amazing. If you have the opportunity to work with him, I 100% believe you should. If you want to be a true master of the mundane, I believe it should start with sports psych. If the brain is functioning properly, everything else will function much more smoothly.

The brain is a crazy place. I for one tried everything I could think of with this young lady, and I couldn’t get through. I’m not a sports psychologist. There isn’t an athlete on the planet who couldn’t stand to get stronger mentally. If you have the funds, have the time, and you know of a good sports psychologist, I recommend immediately reaching out to them. If they’re good, I can almost guarantee improved results.

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If you don’t know of one, you can message us. I have three I recommend. You could contact all three and decide which one works the best for you. It’s not weak to hire a sports psychologist. It’s only weak if you don’t. I promise you this one last thing… “If you don’t first become the strongest athlete mentally, you will never become the strongest athlete physically.”

NSCA Coach of the Year Jason Spray – The Barbell Life 238

“A little puking never hurt anybody.”

That’s what Jason Spray said as we were talking about mental toughness. Sure, he doesn’t run kids until they’re sick – but as I share in this one, sometimes I think that’s what some kids need.

Jason Spray is one of those coaches who can not only motivate and drive athletes, but he’s got the knowledge and experience to really get results. In fact, that’s why he was recognized as one of the NSCA Coaches of the Year.

We talk about training, we talk about safety, we talk about the realities of coaching in a high school environment… and we talk about the crucial career advice Jason has for aspiring strength coaches.


The Art of Combining:

Weightlifting - Powerlifting - Bodybuilding

Strongman - Functional Fitness - Endurance Cardio

Learn the art and science of how to train multiple disciplines simultaneously. Get stronger, faster, bigger...


  • Preparing an athlete not only for the game… but also for practice
  • Mental toughness on the field
  • When to stop squatting heavy
  • The most important thing coaches can do to advance their careers
  • The movements he loves and how he organizes training
  • and more…

A Guide to Starting Running for the Strength Athlete

About the Author: Eric Bowman is a Registered Physiotherapist in Ontario, Canada who works in the areas of orthopedic physical therapy and exercise for people with chronic diseases. He’s also intermittently involved with the University of Waterloo Kinesiology program and the Western University Physical Therapy program. He also competes as a powerlifter in the Canadian Powerlifting Union and has completed the CPU Coaching Workshop & Seminar.

Over the last few years the popularity of hybrid strength coaches and athletes (such as Alex Viada and more recently Brandon Lilly) and the release of programs that combine strength and cardiovascular fitness (such as Do What You Want) has led to more strength athletes than ever lacing up their sneakers and starting to run. With the new year upon us, this is bound to increase as people pursue New Year’s Resolutions for weight loss.

Running is arguably the most popular form of exercise around the world. It’s easy and inexpensive to do, and it provides many cardiovascular, respiratory, and psychological benefits when done properly.

That said, running does have a high injury rate – even higher than that of strength sports. Competitive runners are more likely to have knee osteoarthritis than sedentary people. It may seem that this paragraph is contradictory to the previous one – but the key to safe and sustainable running comes down to being prepared for it and programming it correctly.

How do I know if I’m prepared to run?

My criteria to run is a combination of the criteria given by Tom Goom and Christopher Johnson (the two smartest physiotherapists I know in terms of working with runners) as well as my own professional experience in orthopedics, coaching, and cardiopulmonary rehab.

To be prepared from a cardiovascular perspective you should be able to walk for at least 45 minutes at a brisk pace without feeling short of breath and without it feeling like a max effort exercise.

As I wrote about in my article on heart health, I also advise you get a graded exercise test (or stress test) done if you have high blood pressure, high blood sugar, an abnormal heart beat, chest pain, or any other heart related symptoms or conditions. This test will enable you to determine if you are able to safely exercise in a moderate to high-intensity activity such as running. You can never 100% eliminate safety risks during exercise but you can minimize them through proper testing and programming.

To be prepared for an orthopedic perspective you should

  • not be morbidly obese. This should go without saying but, while there are exceptions, I’ve seen too many obese people hurt themselves from taking up a running program. For them – again based on the results of a stress test – lower impact activities such as riding a stationary bike, pulling a sled, and/or cutting down on rest periods during assistance exercises probably present better options to build cardiovascular fitness and assist in weight loss while sparing the joints.
  • be able to tolerate basic leg exercises such as squats, leg extensions, leg presses, leg curls, and hip hinge movements. Make sure you can walk (and squat) before you run.
  • be able to tolerate single leg hops. Running, in a sense, is a plyometric movement as it involves a series of stretch-shortening cycles. You don’t need to be able to do depth jumps off a 20 inch box with a weight vest on, but you should be able to tolerate very simple, low-level plyometrics prior to running.
  • have good frontal and transverse plane control. In simple terms you should be able to run, jump, change direction, and land without your knees or your trunk excessively swaying or caving inward or outward. This is a more controversial opinion as some great runners have dynamic knee valgus, but given the size of the athletes I’m referring to, and the high total load involved between absorbing the shock from running and absorbing the shock of lifting big weights, I’m a fan of moving in a way that causes the least amount of joint stress possible relative to the goal.
  • no pain pills or injections in your system.
  • be able to fully bear weight on both legs.

The last two may seem pretty common-sense but are violated a lot.

How do I program it correctly?

Without a proper assessment of the individual, I can’t arbitrarily prescribe a universal beginner running program for everyone. Some general themes to go by are:

  • When in doubt, start with less running volume.
  • Progress slowly. The 10% rule of not increasing your running volume by more than 10% per week is a good guideline to go by and has some research supporting it. That said, some athletes may tolerate a faster progression and some may need to progress more slowly.
  • Understand there’s going to be some give and take with your weight training. Beginning a running program while doing a Bulgarian squat program may not be the best idea. If the running volume goes up, the leg training volume needs to go down. It is what it is.
  • Keep training your glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles regularly.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough high quality sleep and food, and make sure that you’re maintaining good psychosocial health.


The Art of Combining:

Weightlifting - Powerlifting - Bodybuilding

Strongman - Functional Fitness - Endurance Cardio

Learn the art and science of how to train multiple disciplines simultaneously. Get stronger, faster, bigger...

What about stretching and running shoes?

Two common beliefs about running injury prevention are: you should stretch before each workout and you should wear running shoes specifically tailored to your foot shape to prevent injury. But the research doesn’t support either.

Dozens of studies (with the odd exception here and there) have shown that stretching before running doesn’t really affect injury risk. And there’s some research that shows having a tighter achilles tendon can make you a better and more efficient runner. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want anyone stiff as a board, but my rules of thumb for warming up (which I plan to elaborate on in a future article) are:

  • Use active movement strategies to warm up (such as brisk walking to light jogging, air squats, walking lunges, etc.), increasing blood flow through actively moving rather than holding static stretches
  • (If you’re a competitive athlete only) Stick within the range of motion needed for your sport(s), work, and activities of daily living. No more no less.

A series of studies done in the armed forces, interestingly funded by Nike, showed that fitting shoes to people’s foot shapes didn’t affect injury risk. What I recommend is for people to try the shoes before buying them, and try running in them if possible, in order to find a shoe that’s comfortable for them.

I hope this provides some useful advice for effectively starting a running program to maximize benefits and minimize injury risk. Have fun pounding the pavement.

Kelly Starrett of MobilityWOD – The Barbell Life 237

When anyone in the CrossFit world thinks about mobility, one name comes up first.

And Kelly Starrett joins us today to drop some wisdom.

Too often you don’t get answers straight from the horse’s mouth, but you only have opinions that have been formed by picking up pieces of information here and there.

So it was great to talk to Kelly today about all sorts of issues from knee valgus to elbow overextension to spinal flexion and more. Get ready for a dose of truth.

Protocols for Aches and Pains, Muscular Imbalances & Recovery

Work Harder. Train Longer. Prevent Injury.

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


  • The real deal on knee wobble in the squat
  • Spinal flexion – good or bad?
  • How to keep quad mass after surgery
  • Unilateral split squats working better than bilateral?
  • Protocols for strengthening lifters who are very elastic
  • and more…

Tips for the Athlete Going through the Rehab Process

About the Author: Eric Bowman is a Registered Physiotherapist in Ontario, Canada who works in the areas of orthopedic physical therapy and exercise for people with chronic diseases. He’s also intermittently involved with the University of Waterloo Kinesiology program and the Western University Physical Therapy program. He also competes as a powerlifter in the Canadian Powerlifting Union and has completed the CPU Coaching Workshop and Seminar.

If you’re a serious athlete – at some point you’re likely gonna get hurt. It’s part of competitive sports regardless of whether you’re in a strength sport like powerlifting or weightlifting, an endurance sport like running or cycling, or a contact sport like football or rugby. Competing at a high level isn’t healthy, and the efforts needed to be a high level athlete can break the body down over time.

As a physiotherapist who competes in powerlifting, I see many athletes – ranging from teenagers trying to make a college team, to weekend warriors, to retired professional and strength athletes. They each have their own story and their own goals … but over time I’ve found many common themes to be present across the rehab process for athletes and for people in general. Here are five tips for the athlete going through the rehab process.

Tip #1: Make sure it’s a good time for you to start rehab

I’ve seen many athletic and non-athletic people struggle to make progress with rehab due to external factors that interfere with the process.

The first problem with this is that time, family, work, and athletic commitments can make it difficult for a client to do rehab exercises and optimize all the necessary aspects of successful rehab – such as proper sleep, training program design, and psychosocial factor management. If you’re in the process of moving, going through a divorce, or taking university classes while working full-time, how much time do you have to do rehab?

The other issue is that these factors can prevent you from making the necessary activity modifications to recover from a pain episode. If you’re moving and have to lift furniture all day, how is that going to help you recover from an acute, inflamed shoulder? Is playing multiple basketball tournaments every week the best for your patellar tendonitis?

I’m not saying you should shy away from the rehab at the first inkling that life isn’t perfect – as it never will be. But you should ask yourself honestly if you are in a good position to put a reasonable effort into the rehab process. High quality rehab is expensive – and if you put the money into it, you want to be in a good position to get the most out of it.

Tip #2: Stay off the forums and social media threads

I cringe whenever I see a strength athlete asking for medical advice on Facebook or on a forum. It makes me shake my head – they’ll put tons of time, effort, and money into eating, sleeping, supplements, coaching, and training – but they’ll cheap out on finding a good rehab professional.

At the end of the day, most strength coaches – unless they’re Charlie Weingroff, John Rusin, Dani LaMartina (Overcash), Stefi Cohen, Scotty Butcher, Zach Long, Quinn Henoch, Christina Prevett, or myself (among others) – likely don’t have the requisite training to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal pain conditions. Most importantly, the biggest reason to stay off the internet medical community and see a proper professional is to make sure your pain is the only problem, and isn’t secondary to another medical condition – like cancer, a fracture, or an infection.

Tip #3: Find a good rehab professional who you click with

I wrote about this in more detail on my own site last year. For the Reader’s Digest version, some traits to look for are:

  • They don’t run you through an assembly line – 40 minutes for assessments and 15 minutes for followup treatments are my bare minimums.
  • They understand pain science and the biopsychosocial model – which I intend to write more about in a future article.
  • They don’t need to be an elite athlete but they should understand lifting and athletics.
  • They ask you about your general health.
  • They take the time to listen to and communicate with you.
  • They value continuing education and self-improvement.
  • While I’ll get some flack for saying this one… they give you exercise, education, and self-management strategies, and not just make you dependent on hands-on therapy and modalities.

Sites like Clinical Athlete are good ones to go to if you’re looking for a rehab professional who fits the bill in these areas.

Tip #4: Be patient and don’t ride two horses with one rear end

As Stan Efferding said in one of his may recent podcast interviews (paraphrased), you need to give yourself the freedom and time to get yourself healthy before chasing high performance goals.

Many athletes, myself included, are impatient and eager to get back on the horse – whether it’s due to the love of the game, fear of losing performance, or both.

For most people – if you’ve built a good base of strength, conditioning, and skill for your sport, it shouldn’t take long after the rehab process is done to build back up to peak performance. But conversely, trying to rush the rehab process and cycling back into extreme pain can delay your recovery by months or years.

Tip #5: Look at the rehab process as an opportunity

This time is a chance to enhance general physical preparatory qualities and to optimize other contributors to peak athletic performance.

A good rehab professional should give you a list of activities that you CAN do to maintain (and even improve) your fitness while recovering from your issues. In addition, a good therapist will likely give you novel exercises to help with strength, endurance, hypertrophy, mobility, and/or motor control in areas that may be lagging.

This should be seen not as rehab purgatory (to quote John Rusin), assuming it’s done properly, but rather as a means to improve general physical qualities such as mobility, strength, and movement – which may enable you to improve your overall performance in the long term.

Protocols for Aches and Pains, Muscular Imbalances & Recovery

Work Harder. Train Longer. Prevent Injury.

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

Optimizing Rehab and Performance

Also, as I said in my podcast interview with Travis Mash earlier this year, there are many commonalities between optimizing rehab and optimizing performance. Some of those areas include:

1) Optimizing sleep: Poor sleep is a big risk factor for sports injuries, chronic pain, and impaired performance. However, the methods to improve sleep are straightforward and include

  • going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.
  • preferably waking up naturally without an alarm clock.
  • minimizing, if not eliminating, caffeine and alcohol consumption after mid-afternoon.
  • having a sleep environment that’s cool, dark, and quiet.
  • minimizing, if not eliminating, screen time before going to bed.

If these strategies don’t help with sleep, then it may be worth trying to get in to see a specialist – especially given the high number of larger athletes (i.e. powerlifters, strongmen, football players) who have sleep apnea. The symptoms of sleep apnea can, although not always, be minimized and potentially eliminated through losing weight and aerobic exercise (interestingly regardless of weight loss). Some athletes may not always be able to do that, potentially due to performance demands, and may need other professional options to improve sleep.

2) Psychosocial factors: high levels of stress, anxiety and depression can put you at risk of sports injuries, chronic pain, decreased performance, and decreased recovery.

Simple steps to improve these issues can include

  • eating right, exercising, and getting good quality sleep.
  • learning to say NO.
  • staying organized: I use Google Calendar and a To-Do-List app ( to keep track of everything I need to do and schedule it accordingly.
  • getting enough down time and time with friends and family.
  • taking part in relaxing, low-stress activities (i.e. 10 minute walks after 2-4 meals a day or leisure bike rides) depending on your training needs, goals, and tolerances

Beyond that again is where you may need to seek other professionals, especially if these are impeding your performance and/or your recovery from a pain episode.

Recovering from an injury is not always fun, but these tips can make it easier to go through the process and also make it more rewarding for you and your athletic career in the long run.