Category Archives for "Bodybuilding"

The One Common Trait in Winners

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

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Here are the athletes/coaches I talked to:

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

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

A common bond?

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

Jourdan Delacruz

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

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

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

Boady Santavy

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

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

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

Kate Nye

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

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

Wes Kitts

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

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

The Athlete’s Advantage

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

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

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

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

Controversies and Hypertrophy with Tom Sroka – The Barbell Life 253

Tom Sroka used to be one of my athletes, but now he’s transitioned to a weightlifting coach and weightlifting gym owner.

We talk about how he grew his weightlifting gym, what he’s found works for his athletes to make them better lifters, and we talk a lot about some silly online controversies that he’s been involved with.

Just like the Mash Mafia, he’s a huge proponent of hypertrophy work. A bigger muscle is stronger muscle, so you’ll be a better lifter.

But don’t forget that hypertrophy is a great way to stay healthy as a lifter. It’s not just about lifting the most weight – strength is a marathon, not a sprint. Stay healthy and you can continue to steadily make gains year after year.

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.


  • The crazy controversy around his video and the USAW
  • How he grew his weightlifting gym
  • Using “dumb” challenges to gain
  • The CRAZY changes recently in weightlifting
  • Why the Mash lifters play basketball EVERY DAY
  • and more…

Your Questions Answered – The Barbell Life 247

On this podcast, we answer listener questions – and these are always some of my favorite podcasts.

You put out content that you hope benefits people, but you’re never really sure. But with these podcasts, we know we’re answering your direct questions.

So join us as we discuss powerlifting, weightlifting, athletic performance, programming, and tons more.

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


Take your knowledge and your strength to the next level with a peek inside the minds of these industry experts.
Featuring insight and programs from Coach Cal Dietz, Dr. Mike Israetel, Dr. Stu McGill, Coach Dan John, Dr. Bryan Mann, Matt Vincent, and Coach Danny Camargo


  • How to get your chest to grow
  • Getting a faster first pull
  • Dealing with “butt wink”
  • Increasing your deadlift by not working on your deadlift
  • Programming for a tactical athlete or super total athlete
  • and more…

Unilateral Work: A Case Study with Ryan Grimsland

I’m going to make a case for unilateral squats.

That may be surprising to many of you who have seen me debating bilateral vs unilateral squatting with Coach Mike Boyle. You’ve either seen me on Twitter, read my article, listened to my podcast, or you’ve seen the debate on Stronger Experts.

But make sure to read this article because I point out the positives of unilateral squatting. Once again, I want to be clear that I never said unilateral squats were bad. My whole point was bilateral squats are effective for improving athletic performance, and the research states they are relatively safe.

Getting Sore or Getting Hurt

When it comes to absolute strength and improving athletic performance, I believe bilateral squats taught correctly give you more bang for your buck when coaching athletes. The increased load is going to produce more hypertrophy, especially in areas that need it – like the legs, hips, and back.

Yes, I said back. I hate it when an athlete performs squats and goodmornings, wakes up sore, and then comes to a coach to say they’ve hurt their back. All good coaches understand this is soreness or muscle damage. It’s a necessary part of the strength and hypertrophy protocol. You break muscles down, and then you rebuild them stronger than ever. That’s the process of getting stronger.

I’ve never seen an athlete hurt their back while back squatting outside of powerlifting. Of course, in powerlifting you are pushing the biology of the back past its tipping point. That’s the name of the game for any sport. When people start squatting 3.5 to 4 times their body weight in the back squat, they are at that tipping point. It’s only a matter of time. However, in athletic performance we are asking the athletes for 2 to 2.5 times their body weight. This is hardly the biological tipping point.

When Back Squats Hurt

However, what happens when an athlete has a preexisting condition that irritates the back? We had a case of this during the last 13-week preparation for Junior Nationals and the Youth World Championships. Ryan Grimsland, a 67kg weightlifter, actually fractured his right hip when he was still competing in CrossFit. That injury causes his back to become irritated every so often.

Ryan’s back flared up about eight weeks ago. At first, we cut one of his squat days and added safety squat bar rear-leg elevated split squats on that day. We didn’t notice any change in leg strength or performance during the first two to three weeks. However, his back kept getting worse. We were in the middle of competition preparation and going quite heavy quite often. After talking to Dr. Lawrence Gray, Ryan’s chiropractor and my long-time chiropractor, we decided to make a few changes:

  1. Turn two of the three squat days into unilateral squat days.
  2. Make the third bilateral squat day optional, allowing the athlete to unilaterally squat instead.
  3. Trim the intensity of the competition lifts – except for Max Out Friday.

The plan worked really well for Junior Nationals. Ryan didn’t perform any bilateral squats during the final three weeks before Junior Nationals. His leg strength didn’t increase, but he maintained his strength really well. He also set personal records in the snatch, clean and jerk, and total – and he increased his lead as the number one youth weightlifter in the country.

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Obviously by now you all know that we killed it, but here’s one more highlight video because I freaking love this team. 1 overall Gold @ryangrimsland (also second to CJ Cummings for best lifter), 2 Silver @mad_lifts_15 and @reagan.henryyyyy , @hannah_dunnjoy PRed everything @nathan_clifton set PRs after a deathly illness, and @meredithalwine hit PR in the Snatch and Total and she was going lift for lift in the most epic battle in American Female history. Side note, we left with two boys on the Junior Pan Am Team and one on the Junior World Team all Youth age. We also left with two girls sitting pretty for Youth Pan Ams. I’ll take it! =================== <link in bio> for: . -Online Video Seminar . – Mash Mafia Online Team . Feats of Strength Online Meet (proceeds benefit 501c3 Mash Weightlifting Team . -Hundreds of Free Articles & Workouts . -Donate to the 501c3 nonprofit team . – 21 Awesome E-Books . -Seminars . -FREE “Mash Method” E-Book . -FREE “The Barbell Life Podcast” . . @intekstrength #intekstrength @athleteps @harbingerfitness #harbingerfitness @tfox66 #nikeweightlifting #athleteps @mg12power #mg12thepowerofmagnesium #wodfitters @wodfitters @strongerexperts #strongerexperts @leanfitnesssystems #LEANFit

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Moving On

Before the Youth World Championships, which were three weeks after Junior Nationals, we added in one front squat day to each week of the final three weeks. At this point, his leg strength was finally starting to decrease. However, Ryan pulled off a competition PR clean and jerk at the Youth World Championships to take the bronze medal. He clean and jerked 148 kilograms at Youth Worlds, but his legs barely stood the weight up. He clean and jerked 150 kilograms in practice about nine weeks ago, and he stood it up with ease. He cleaned 155 kilograms as well during this training cycle about eight weeks out, but there is no way he could clean that weight right now.

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16-year-old @ryangrimsland with a competition PR Clean & Jerk of 147kg/324lb to secure Bronze at the Youth World Championships. Ryan is the third male in American history to medal at the Youth World Championships. =================== <link in bio> for: . -Online Video Seminar . – Mash Mafia Online Team . Feats of Strength Online Meet (proceeds benefit 501c3 Mash Weightlifting Team . -Hundreds of Free Articles & Workouts . -Donate to the 501c3 nonprofit team . – 21 Awesome E-Books . -Seminars . -FREE “Mash Method” E-Book . -FREE “The Barbell Life Podcast” . . @intekstrength #intekstrength @athleteps @harbingerfitness #harbingerfitness @tfox66 #nikeweightlifting #athleteps @mg12power #mg12thepowerofmagnesium #wodfitters @wodfitters @strongerexperts #strongerexperts @leanfitnesssystems #LEANFit

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Unilateral squatting got us through the Youth World Championships. It also helped Ryan eliminate the pain he was experiencing. My theory is that weightlifters spend the majority of their training time squatting and extending our hips with both legs in flexion. Over time, the overuse of hip flexion can put a lot of stress on the low back. The major hip flexor is the psoas, which originates in the bottom of the thoracic spine (T12) and lumbar spine (L1-L5). When the psoas shortens, it starts to put pressure on the low back. I think cutting the load on the spine and pelvis along with the rehabilitative properties of the unilateral squatting helped to strengthen the back and pelvis in a healthier way.



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.

Core Training

We will continue to use unilateral squats at least once per week. We also use the “McGill Big Three” (developed by Dr. Stuart McGill) as a warm up and to encourage stiffening of the muscles which support the low back and hips. Proximal stiffness leads to a safer way to produce distal power and more power as well.

The McGill Big Three are as follows:

  • Bird Dogs
  • Side Planks
  • McGill Curl Up

Dr. Gray at Gray Chiropractic and Sports Associates was a big help with keeping Ryan healthy. Not only did Dr. Gray adjust Ryan’s spine, but also he added a new machine to his care, the AllCore 360 (which trains the core). Now, fancy machines or gadgets never fool me. I am only impressed by results, and that’s exactly what Ryan got – results. I remember the day I was sold on that piece of equipment. Ryan snatched 110 kilograms like a twig one day, just like he had on countless occasions. However, there was something different about the catch phase. It was more stable than I had ever seen it. He went on to snatch 125 kilograms that day for a 5-kilogram personal record. I attribute a big portion of that PR to Ryan’s core protocol at Dr. Gray’s.

Unilateral squats are amazing for keeping athletes healthy. They are also very specific for sport athletes, so I think everyone should use them as a part of their program. However, if you have an athlete with back issues irritated by back squats and front squats, unilateral squats are a great way to continue training without major leg weakness. They will keep you strong for standing weight up. They will strengthen you in other ways that bilateral squatting won’t. If you are a sport athlete like football, soccer, and lacrosse players, you will want to use unilateral squats simply because of specificity. You might not agree with Coach Boyle, but let’s not make the same mistake as him. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water!

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2019...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

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…

Getting Jacked with Brandon Warren – The Barbell Life 235

Brandon Warren is a local bodybuilder who is crushing it right now in men’s physique competitions.

In a large regional show, he recently took first place in his class. Then he went on to win the show overall.

It’s amazing to see where Brandon has come from. I met him when he was just a high school kid, and I helped him lay a foundation of proper strength.

Now he’s gone his own way and has concentrated on physique competitions. But – as Brandon will tell you – it’s been a bumpy road for him.

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.


  • The science behind partial reps
  • To deload or not?
  • His typical training week
  • Getting a crazy pump without lifting weights
  • Advice for CrossFitters and advice for newbies
  • and more…