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Improving the Crucial Third Pull

All too often in the strength world we beat a dead horse by talking about the first and second pull of the snatch and clean.

Both of those aspects are important, but I believe the third pull (the pull under the bar) is just as important. Heck – if you are a weightlifter, I’d say the third pull is the most important aspect of the pull. As my father-in-law Rick Taylor always says, “it’s where the rubber meets the road.”

The first and second pull involve a great deal of technique, but the upward pulls are natural to all humans. It’s a natural movement to extend at the hips, knees, and ankles because we do it all the time when we jump and run. However, reversing the motion to rip under a heavy barbell isn’t natural at all. I can’t think of a single example where we produce maximal vertical power, and then immediately change directions underneath. The pattern isn’t natural – and then when you throw in the fact you’re catching a heavy piece of steel either near your throat or over your head, you have a recipe for a very difficult athletic movement.

In this article, I’ll explain the third pull, list some cues and drills for a better third pull, and then provide you with a workout program for even more improvement of the third pull.


The transition is referring to the transition from the second pull (the most powerful aspect of the pull where the hips and knees extend together at the top of the pull) to the third pull (the ripping underneath of a barbell). There are a lot of opinions about what the transition should look like. I believe mine to be the one most supported by science along with my own research coaching my athletes and watching Hookgrip’s slow motion videos on Youtube.

There are two main goals for the transition:

  • Pull the bar as high as possible
  • Spend as little time at the top as possible

Pulling the bar as high as possible is something most of us understand, and most of us do a pretty good job of this task. However, most of us spend way too much time at the top of the pull. We’ve been taught to do so many extra things while in extension that we waste our golden opportunity to get around the bar. Let’s look a bit deeper.

The goal of the second pull is to remain flat-footed for as long as possible to guarantee maximal force is delivered into the ground. Most athletes will perform the snatch and clean pull with their feet at about hip width. Normally this is where most athletes produce the most power. However, it depends on the anatomy of the hip and the anthropometrics of the individual. I’d also like to point out that relaxed arms with elbows turned out are optimal for the velocity of the barbell leaving one’s hip. If your arms are tensed, you could slow down the trajectory of the barbell. If your elbows are pointed backward, you will run the risk of the barbell drifting in front of the body, increasing the demands of the body to perform the lift.

Once an athlete’s hips and knees extend, the trajectory of the barbell is determined. There is nothing else any of us can do to peak the barbell any higher. Some might ask about extension at the ankles (better known as plantar flexion) – I am not going to turn this into another catapult vs. triple extension (I don’t consider myself either) article. You can check out these articles to find out my thoughts on that topic: HOW SHOULD THE FEET MOVE IN THE OLYMPIC LIFTS or TRIPLE JOINT EXTENSION OR CATAPULT

To make a long story short, personally I believe the amount of plantar flexion is an individual thing. I believe it has a lot to do with where the gastrocnemius originates and inserts. The gastrocnemius is a biarticular muscle – meaning it crosses at two joints (the knee and ankle), and originates at the posterior surface of the femoral condyles – the two knobs at the base of the femur. The tendons of the gastrocnemius and soleus unite to form the Achilles tendon which inserts at the calcaneus or heel. When the knee extends during a vertical leap or at the top of a pull in the snatch or clean, mechanical power is transferred down the gastrocnemius into the insertion at the calcaneus, which causes an unconscious effort of plantar flexion. The degree of plantar flexion would depend on the insertion point of the Achilles tendon on the calcaneus.


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Here’s my point. Every athlete is going to extend his or her hips and knees in one powerful motion. No one is going to purposely slow down as to avoid plantar flexion, and no one is going to perform a calf raise either. Just like jumping, every athlete is going to extend as powerfully as possible, and their degree of plantar flexion will be based upon their own body’s anatomy.

Once the extension takes place, it’s time for the athlete to rip under the bar. The timing between the up and down portions of the pull is a big determining factor of whether an athlete will be good or great. I suggest all of you keep this in mind when practicing the lifts.

At the top of the second pull, the body will extend vertically, and then slightly back. Once the body is slightly back, the path to ripping under the barbell is now a clear one. If an athlete finishes completely vertical, the barbell is somewhat an obstacle for the movement under the bar. Once again, the exact placement of the body at the top of the lift is a debatable subject. I recommend going to Hookgrip’s Youtube page and looking at the first 10-20 videos of the best weightlifters in the world. You will see most lifters finish back rather than vertical. It’s more of a follow-through than anything, and it is something most weightlifters will do naturally.

Once the athlete reaches the top of the pull, they will use the traps and arms to rip under the barbell. You may notice I use the word rip rather than pull. I want to be clear that the third pull is a conscious effort. Most weightlifters will simply fall under the barbell, which is a much slower movement. Learning to actively rip under the barbell is another deciding factor of a good athlete versus becoming a great one.

As the athlete begins the move under the barbell, he or she will lift their knees and jump their feet out to about shoulder-width. Once again, just like the origin of the feet, the degree to which an athlete will jump their feet will ultimately be determined by his or her hip anatomy and anthropometrics. I suggest the athlete should play around with their catch stance and find out where his or her feet need to be to catch the barbell in a stable position, while maintaining a vertical torso, in as low a position as possible, with his or her hips in between the ankles.

I recommend moving the feet for two main reasons:

  1. You can pull under the bar a bit faster with the feet slightly off the ground because there is no resistance for the downward motion of the body.
  2. The feet move from the best power producing position into the most optimal catch position.

Some people are able to keep the feet in the same spot, and that’s fine. However, I am writing this article to the majority. I simply like to make note of the aspects that I consider absolutes (which aren’t many), and the ones that may vary from individual to individual. Everything I am writing in this article is a safe place to begin teaching your athletes. When the athlete starts to advance, the art of coaching comes into play.

The final role of the third pull is the catch of the barbell. We talk a lot about anticipating the catch at Mash Elite. Whether it’s the snatch or clean, the goal needs to be meeting the barbell in a strong position as soon as possible. If the athlete waits until they feel the tension of the barbell, it’s too late to stiffen the torso. He or she will want to prepare their body before the barbell gets there. One thing I would like to add about the catch of the snatch is that we tell our athletes to reach up through the shoulders. This simply means to actively reach up starting with the shoulders. Too many athletes simply catch the snatch with their arms – causing either the arms to bend or a complete miss.

Cues to help overcome deficiencies

At this point we have described the third pull. We’ve mentioned the proper execution of the third pull, and we’ve mentioned a few things that can go wrong. In this section we are going to talk more in depth about the possible flaws, and we will describe some of the verbal cues for fixing those flaws.


1. Arms bent and shrugging up
We cause this movement flaw in the way we teach the movement to beginners. Too many coaches teach the athletes to shrug up and bring the elbows as high as possible, so the first thing is to stop teaching that. A few great cues which work for the entire pull – including the transition:

  • Shoulders down: Pushing one’s shoulders down will tend to relax the arms.
  • Arms long: The simple reminder that the arms should be long like cables is a great cue.
  • Elbows out: This will help disengage the biceps, which is a big culprit for elbow flexion/bending.

2. Slow around the bar at the top
When athletes are too concerned with pulling the bar high, they can sometimes spend too much time at the top doing extra things to peak the bar. I already explained the trajectory of the barbell is decided the moment the hips and knees extend. Anything extra is effort and time that could be spent getting under the barbell. Let’s look at a few cues which encourage speed around the bar:

  • Open the hips and sit: The second the athlete opens their hips it’s time to rip under.
  • Eyes straight ahead: A lot of lifters have a bad habit of whipping the head back – which not only delays the downward motion, but will also kick the barbell in front of the body.
  • Shrug down: This lets them know the shrug motion is for beginning the downward motion.


Once the transition is over, it’s time to rip under the barbell. The faster one can rip under to meet the barbell will ultimately lead to the biggest weights one can lift. There are a few differences for the clean versus the snatch when it comes to the third pull.

The biggest mistake a lifter can make in the clean is letting go of the hook too soon. In a perfect world, you won’t have to let go at all. We have two massive cleaners on our team: Nathan Damron and Morgan McCullough. Nathan has cleaned 220kg/484lb and Morgan has cleaned 190kg/418lb at 15 years old. Both young men keep their hookgrip the entire time. If you can hold the hookgrip the entire time, then you can continue to pull under the bar right up until the moment you meet the bar. If you have to catch the barbell with only two or three fingers on it, then you have had to quit pulling at some point to release your grip. Obviously some people can do really well releasing the hookgrip, but the longer you can pull under the bar will result in a more efficient clean.

In the snatch, almost all athletes can hold the hook the entire time – with some releasing it at the last second for a more comfortable position overhead. It’s imperative that one rips under a snatch catching it at its highest point. If you watch the greatest snatchers in the world, you will see their arms act like whips snapping around, under, and up on the barbell.

Here are some flaws that cause lifters to be slow under the barbell:

1. Slow arms

Like I said above, most athletes pull with all their might during the first and second pulls, and then they simply fall under the weight in either the snatch or clean. When an athlete doesn’t actively pull under the barbell, I totally understand why they are trying to pull the bar so high. Here are some verbal cues we use to get our athletes to pull under more quickly:

  • Rip down and punch up: Using the cue rip helps the athlete understand their job is to actively pull with all their might as they perform the movement under the barbell. The cue punch is one I actually stole from Coach Joe Kenn, Carolina Panthers Head Strength and Conditioning Coach – it works amazingly well to relay to the athlete they need to actively reach up aggressively to receive the barbell, whether we are talking about the snatch or clean.
  • Active arms: Even though I prefer rip down and punch up, a few athletes respond better to a simple active arms. As long as they understand they need to pull under the bar right up until they receive it, I am good with whatever cue works.

2. Feet slowing the pull under the bar

I am not a huge proponent of either moving the feet or not. However, I believe most people pull better with their feet a bit closer and receive the bar in a better position with their feet a bit wider. Another thing I have noticed is most athletes are slower under the bar when they don’t move their feet. I use the word most because some athletes are very fast around and under the bar without moving their feet. It just depends on if they can relax their legs while pulling under the bar. If they can’t, the legs become an antagonist. Simply put, the legs will push up while you are trying to rip under. If you lift your knees to jump your feet out, there will be a moment in space when your feet are off the ground. This allows the arms to rip under the bar without any type of resistance. Here are a few cues:

  • Lift the knees: This one is my favorite because it teaches people to move their feet properly. Too many athletes will donkey-kick, causing the athlete to catch the barbell on his or her toes.
  • Jump the whole feet out: This one teaches the athlete to move their feet out as a whole, getting both feet entirely down when receiving the bar. Catching the barbell with both feet entirely down on the platform is crucial for the receiving position.


So far we’ve talked about the movement, and we’ve given you some cues that might help. Now we are going to talk about some drills we use that seem to help, and then I am going to give you a four-week workout that might help you or your athlete. If a drill can help solve a movement problem, that’s the way to go. Verbal cues work, but sometimes it takes a long time for your athlete to understand and coordinate with their actual full speed movement.

I am going to give you several drills, and I will explain how each of them helps out. I am not going to split them up into transition and speed underneath because most of them overlap. Here goes:

NO HOOK AND NO FEET – This is when an athlete performs the movement without a hookgrip and without moving their feet. I love this drill because it mimics the entire movement, while perfecting timing and speed under the bar. With no hookgrip, an athlete can’t over-emphasize the pull at the top or the bar will come out of their grip. This teaches the athlete to open up at the hips and then immediately rip underneath the bar. The athlete learns to keep the bar close, to open and rip, and to rely on the speed underneath the bar.

HIGH BLOCKS WITH BAR AT POWER POSITION – The bar will be placed on blocks with the bar starting at hip height while in the power position or knees bent four to six inches and a vertical torso. This teaches the athlete to rely on timing at the top, opening the hips and sitting, and speed under the bar. They don’t have the first pull to build momentum so the height of the bar will peak earlier than normal. You have to rip underneath!

HIGH HANGS – You can perform high hangs one of two ways. You can either perform them with a countermovement – which will provide a bit more height to the barbell, or you can perform them starting from the power position paused two to five seconds – to eliminate any stretch reflex or aid from the oscillation of the barbell. Either method will help the athlete understand the importance of the timing at the top and the importance of the rip underneath.

TALL SNATCHES AND CLEANS – I love this drill because it leaves the athlete with only the shrug and rip underneath the bar. The movement begins on the balls of an athlete’s feet with their arms long, elbows turned out, and traps suppressed downward. The athlete will then simultaneously shrug downward and move his or her feet by lifting their knees. I like this one for teaching the athlete to properly use their traps.

HEAVING SNATCH BALANCE – I like this movement for two main reasons. It teaches the athlete to be active with their arms while punching up and receiving the barbell, and also creates stability and confidence in the bottom portion of the snatch. It’s much easier to be confident in the catch of a clean versus catching a very heavy metal object above one’s head.

SNATCH AND CLEAN DECONSTRUCTION – I learned this one from Coach Chris Wilkes. It’s simply breaking down the different aspects of the lift into a series of movements and performing them separately, and then performing the full movement at the end by putting them all back together. I’ve seen this work some miracles for athletes. You will see how I use this method in my workout I have put together for all of you.


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This brings me to the finale of this article. I have now explained the transition and third pull of the snatch and clean. I have given you examples of the different common flaws some athletes demonstrate. I have explained some of the cues I use to correct these flaws. I just rolled out several of the drills we use to overcome movement flaws. Now it’s time to put them all together in a program to defeat the flaws of the transition and third pull.

Let’s take a look, and I will explain at the end!



Day 1
Snatch (from high block, bar in the power position): 3RM (8 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 3
Clean (from high block, bar in the power position): 3RM (8 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 3
Clean Pulls: 4 x 3 (start at 90%, work up heavy)

Day 2
Snatch (no hook and no feet): 65% 2 x 3, then 3RM (8 RPE)
Jerk (2 sec pause in catch): 70% x 2, 75% x 2, 80% x 1, 73% x 2, 78% x 1, 83% x 1
Back Squat: 75% for 5 x 5

Upper Muscular Imbalance
1a. DB Tricep Extensions: 3 x 10 reps
1b. Rows (seated, T-Bar, or DB): 3 x 10 reps
1c. Plate Front Raises: 3 x 12 reps

Day 3: Snatch Deconstruction Day
Heaving Snatch Balance (pause in the bottom for 3 sec): 3RM (8 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 3
Tall Snatch (pause in the bottom for 3 sec): 3RM (8 RPE)
High Hang Snatch: 2RM (8 RPE)
Snatch: 70% x 2, 75% x 2, 80% x 1, 73% x 2, 78% x 1, 83% x 1
Reverse Hypers or Band Pull-Throughs: 3 x 40 seconds

Day 4
Clean (no hook and no feet): 65% 2 x 3, then 3RM (8 RPE)
Front Squats (with 50lb of chains): 3RM (first rep paused 5 sec, 8 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 3 (no pause):
Unilateral Farmer’s Walk: 4 x 25 yards (each hand)

Day 5: Max Effort
Snatch Pull + High Hang Snatch: 2 + 2RM, then -10% for 2 + 2
Clean Pull + High Hang Clean + Jerk: 2 + 2 + 1RM, then -10% for 2 + 2 + 1
Snatch Pulls: 4 x 3 (start at 90%, work up heavy)

Day 6
Tall Clean: 3RM (8 RPE)
High Hang Clean: 2RM (8 RPE)
Clean and Jerk: 70% x 2, 75% x 2, 80% x 1, 73% x 2, 78% x 1, 83% x 1
Back Squats: 5RM, then -10% for 2 x 5
Hyper Extensions (with barbell): 3 x 10


Day 1
Snatch (from high block, bar in the power position): 3RM (9 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 3
Clean (from high blocks, bar in the power position): 3RM (9 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 3
Clean Pulls: 4 x 3 (start at 93%, work up heavy)

Day 2
Snatch (no hook and no feet): 68% for 2 x 3, then 3RM (9 RPE)
Jerk (2 sec pause in catch): 73% x 2, 78% x 2, 83% x 1, 75% x 2, 80% x 1, 85% x 1
Back Squat: 90% of Saturday’s squat for 5 x 5

Upper Muscular Imbalance
1a. DB Tricep Extensions: 3 x 10 reps
1b. Rows (seated, T-Bar, or DB): 3 x 10 reps
1c. Plate Front Raises: 3 x 12 reps

Day 3: Snatch Deconstruction Day
Heaving Snatch Balance: (pause in the bottom for 3 sec) 3RM (8 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 3
Tall Snatch (pause in the bottom for 3 sec): 3RM (8 RPE)
High Hang Snatch: 2RM (8 RPE)
Snatch: 73% x 2, 78% x 2, 83% x 1, 75% x 2, 80% x 1, 85% x 1
Reverse Hypers or Band Pull-Throughs: 3 x 45 seconds

Day 4
Clean (no hook and no feet): 68% for 2 x 3, then 3RM (8 RPE)
Front Squats (with 50lb of chains): 3RM (first rep paused 5 sec, 9 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 3 (no pausing)
Unilateral Farmer’s Walk: 4 x 25 yards (each hand)

Day 5
Snatch Pull + High Hang Snatch: 2 + 2RM, then -10% for 2 + 2
Clean Pull + High Hang Clean + Jerk: 2 + 2 + 1RM, then -10% for 2 + 2 + 1
Snatch Pulls: 4 x 3 (start at 93%, work up heavy)

Day 6
Tall Clean: 3RM (8 RPE)
High Hang Clean: 2RM (8 RPE)
Clean and Jerk: 73% x 2, 78% x 2, 83% x 1, 75% x 2, 80% x 1, 85% x 1
Back Squats: 5RM, then -10% for 2 x 5
Hyper Extensions (with barbell): 4 x 10


Day 1
Snatch (from high block, bar in the power position): 90% of 3RM for 3 x 3
Clean (from high blocks, bar in the power position): 90% of 3RM for 3 x 3
Clean Pulls: 95% for 3 x 3

Day 2
Snatch (no hook and no feet): 65% for 3 x 3
Jerk (2 sec pause in catch): 68% x 2, 73% x 2, 78% x 1, 70% x 2, 75% x 1, 80% x 1
Back Squat: 90% of Saturday’s squat for 3 x 5

Upper Muscular Imbalance
1a. DB Tricep Extensions: 3 x 10 reps
1b. Rows (seated, T-Bar, or DB): 3 x 10 reps
1c. Plate Front Raises: 3 x 12 reps

Day 3: Snatch Deconstruction Day
Heaving Snatch Balance (pause in the bottom for 3 sec): 3RM (8 RPE)
Tall Snatch (pause in the bottom for 3 sec): 3RM (8 RPE)
High Hang Snatch: 2RM (7 RPE)
Snatch: 68% x 2, 73% x 2, 78% x 1, 70% x 2, 75% x 1, 80% x 1
Reverse Hypers or Band Pull-Throughs: 3 x 35 seconds

Day 4
Clean (no hook and no feet): 65% for 3 x 3
Front Squats (with 50lb of chains): 90% of 3RM for 3 x 3 (no pausing)
Unilateral Farmer’s Walk: 3 x 25 yards (each hand)

Day 5
Snatch Pull + High Hang Snatch: 2 + 2RM
Clean Pull + High Hang Clean + Jerk: 2 + 2 + 1RM
Snatch Pulls: 95% for 3 x 3

Day 6
Tall Clean: 3RM (8 RPE)
High Hang Clean: 2RM (7 RPE)
Clean and Jerk: 68% x 2, 73% x 2, 78% x 1, 70% x 2, 75% x 1, 80% x 1
Back Squats: 5RM
Hyper Extensions (with barbell): 3 x 8


Day 1
Snatch (from high block, bar in the power position): 3RM
Clean (from high blocks, bar in the power position): 3RM
Clean Pulls: 3 x 3 (start at 95%, work up heavy)

Day 2
Snatch (no hook and no feet): 2RM
Jerk (2 sec pause in catch): 70% x 2, 75% x 2, 80% x 1, 83% x 1, 85% 3 x 1
Back Squat: 90% of Saturday’s squat for 5 x 5

Upper Muscular Imbalance
1a. DB Tricep Extensions: 3 x 10 reps
1b. Rows (seated, T-Bar, or DB): 3 x 10 reps
1c. Plate Front Raises: 3 x 12 reps

Day 3: Snatch Deconstruction Day
Heaving Snatch Balance (pause in the bottom for 3 sec): 3RM (9 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 3
Tall Snatch (pause in the bottom for 3 sec): 3RM (9 RPE)
High Hang Snatch: 2RM (9 RPE)
Snatch: 70% x 2, 75% x 2, 80% x 1, 83% x 1, 85% 3 x 1
Reverse Hypers or Band Pull-Throughs: 3 x 50 sec

Day 4
Clean (no hook and no feet): 2RM
Front Squats (with 50lb of chains): 3RM (first rep paused 3 sec, 9 RPE), then -10% for 3 (no pausing)
Unilateral Farmer’s Walk: 3 x 30yd (each hand)

Day 5
Snatch Pull + High Hang Snatch: 1 + 1 Max
Clean Pull + High Hang Clean + Jerk: 1 + 1 + 1 Max
Snatch Pulls: 3 x 3 (start at 95%, work up heavy)

Day 6
Tall Clean: 3RM (9 RPE)
High Hang Clean: 2RM (9 RPE)
Clean and Jerk: 70% x 2, 75% x 2, 80% x 1, 83% x 1, 85% 3 x 1
Back Squats: 3RM, then -10% for 3 x 3
Hyper Extensions (with barbell): 4 x 5

I have used a lot of rep maxes in this program because I am assuming the athlete isn’t proficient in the third pull. Therefore typical percentages won’t apply. If you aren’t familiar with RPE, check out this article: VELOCITY AND THE RPE SCALE

I wanted to make this program as easy to follow as possible. I used percentages on movements I am assuming the athlete will be semi-proficient at – like the full snatch, the clean, and the jerk. I didn’t want to leave out squats, pulls, or accessory movements, so I put them in the program as well. I couldn’t do as much accessory work as normal because of the increase in volume with the competition lifts. Normally I perform a lot of pressing, push pressing, and even deadlifts, but I figure fatigue would take away from the potential improvement in movement.

I hope all of you enjoyed this article. This program could be used for more than one block, since it is written with rep maxes. When the athlete improves at the third pull and transition, they will inevitably use more weight. Therefore the workout will naturally increase in overall volume requiring the body to adapt and change. Let me know in the comment section if you have any questions or concerns. Let me know on here or message me on any one of my social media platforms with your thoughts and improvements. Now go and get better at the third pull!

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Where Coaches Get in Trouble

Ever since I posted the video on Twitter of the young athlete performing a clean with terrible technique, I feel that most of my attention has been drawn to the high school strength coaching world.

But this article is about all coaches in the strength world: high school, collegiate, CrossFit, weightlifting, powerlifting, etc.

I want to teach these coaches how to stay off the CCR… the crappy coaching radar.

A lot of coaches possess all the skills necessary to stay off of the CCR, but they swerve out of their lanes. Suddenly they are directly in the bullseye of the CCR.

Here’s how to stay out of CCR trouble.


Look, no one loves Olympic weightlifting more than me. But just because you go to a Saturday clinic and someone tells you that Olympic weightlifting is a great way to get athletes ready for their sport doesn’t mean that you start teaching the snatch and clean and jerk come Monday. You have to know how to teach the lifts. Personally I think teaching the snatch and clean and jerk isn’t that hard, but that’s because I have years and years of experience.

Teaching the lifts

If you are really good at teaching the squat, press, and deadlift, I suggest sticking to those movements. Most athletes are so raw that anything will prove to be monumental in their development. Whatever you teach, you need to be 100% proficient in teaching that movement.

Athletes will benefit in a big way from squats, benches, and deadlifts with a few simple plyometrics and accessory movements thrown in. However, poorly taught cleans and snatches will not only yield poor results, but now you have put your athletes in danger. I’m sure that’s the opposite plan that most coaches intended, but those are the results nonetheless. I suggest getting really good at two to three movements first, and then slowly add one or two movements to your toolbox each year.

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You see this all the time. Old school coaches love to teach athletes how to work hard, and I agree that good old-fashioned hard work is something everyone needs to learn. But whatever you do, it needs to be done safely.

Some coaches see a program with 5 x 5 at 75% on the back squat. Then they think if 5 x 5 at 75% is good, then 10 x 5 must be better. You know… because if our rival high school is doing 5 x 5, then we will work harder than them with 10 x 5. Sounds awesome! Right?

Wrong! Now you’ve placed the volume into a dangerous level.

A good place for coaches to reference regarding volume is Prilepin’s Chart:

As long as you stick to these parameters, you will be pretty safe. Based on this chart, 50 repetitions at 75% intensity would obviously be more than double the maximum suggested volume. This chart was produced back in 1974 after looking through the numbers of hundreds of top-level athletes in the old Soviet Union. It has stood the test of time, so you can trust it as a great foundation.


Coaches really need to be able to answer the why to whatever you are prescribing. This one rule will keep you out of trouble. If you don’t know the why to your program and every exercise prescribed within the program, stop reading this and go figure that out. If I can’t explain why a movement is in a program, I drop it.

If you find yourself getting mad or offended when athletes ask you questions about your program, that’s probably a sign you are feeling insecure about your program. If this is you, change things right now. You should invite kids to ask. There is no better time to explain the benefits, connect with your athletes, and to get the buy-in that we are all looking for.

Connecting with your athletes and getting buy-in is more important than your program itself. If you can connect with your athletes, you can create real change within their lives. If an athlete believes that something will work, it will work. If they don’t, it won’t. That’s just a fact.

One last point about this issue is that within time constraints placed on you in the school system, none of us have time for an exercise that is of no value. This is another reason to know your why for each and every exercise.


Before you design any workout, you need to ask yourself a few basic questions:

  • How many people will I be coaching per class?
  • What equipment do I have readily available?
  • How much time do I have per class?
  • What is the main goal I am hoping to accomplish?

A version of Coach Joe Kenn’s Tier System would work nicely here. For example you could front squat, box jump, and plank for the first set of exercises. Then you could finish up with lunges, lateral step-ups, and a carry for the next set and be done. This would take forty to fifty minutes at the most.

What happens if a few people aren’t ready for the front squat? That’s easy. You group those folks together, and they’re doing kettlebell goblet squats, box jumps, and a plank. You have to know your area and your athletes.


This is my biggest pet peeve and the number one mistake I hope to change. We’ve all seen a high school coach write a workout of the day on the board, explain it a bit, and then walk out of the room until the end of class.

If this is you, you need to change things right now. You are putting your students at risk. You are putting their very lives at risk. You and the school need to be held liable.

Do I sound upset? If so, well… I am. I have children, and I want them to be as safe as possible when they are away from me. I need to be able to trust the adults that are supposedly teaching them at school. If you don’t want to do the job, then don’t. You should quit if you don’t want to do it. If you are in a public school just collecting a check, you need to reevaluate your priorities. You might not like your students, but they are someone’s children.

Real coaching means you are coaching every repetition of every set. Don’t tell me your athletes lift perfectly. I have the best weightlifters in the country, and they still need direction each and every day. Don’t tell me that your 16-year-old boy is performing a clean perfectly on every repetition. Heck – when they perform a repetition perfectly, that’s the perfect time to coach them. That’s when you tell them to remember exactly what they just did, so they can repeat it.

If you want your athletes to improve and more importantly to be safe, you have to be present. I’m not just talking about being in the room. I’ve watched coaches prop their feet up on a desk and read a magazine. I am talking about being attentive to what’s going on.


This is one of the most common mistakes. Coaches get so caught up in big numbers that they let movement go right out the door. You will see bench presses bouncing off the chest, high squats, and crazy cleans like I posted a few days ago. Why? For what? Just so the coach can tell their friends and athletic directors that their guys are getting strong. It’s crap, man! Learn to coach so you can actually get someone strong in a way that will translate to them being a better athlete. The best way to do that is focus on perfect movement.

If I take a guy with less than perfect movement and improve his movement significantly, I have made him a better athlete whether I got them stronger or not. On the other hand, if their squat goes up while movement quality goes down – congratulations, you just created a worse athlete. This is why I am excited about creating some basic standards for movements and teaching these standards to coaches all over the country. I want to emphasize functional movement patterns over increases in strength. Sound crazy coming from a strength guy? It shouldn’t because a functional movement will always be the strongest movement.


If you're local to our gym in North Carolina, I am teaching a free strength and conditioning seminar on January 12 entitled Jump Higher and Sprint Faster from Work in the Weight Room.


Keep it simple! There is no reason to get fancy, guys. If you’re getting results from basic movements and programming, then keep it basic. Here’s another rule that will never steer you wrong: Get the most out of the least!

If you are getting results from a basic barbell squat, there is no reason to add bands or chains. If linear periodization is getting the job done, then don’t worry about conjugate. Keep it simple and get the most out of the least.

This is a lesson I learned a few years ago. I swear there is a paradigm shift that all strength coaches go through. We start out keeping it simple, focusing on good movement, and getting a bit stronger. Then we start reading all these fancy books and articles. The next thing you know our programs look like something you might find on an engineer’s desk at N.A.S.A.

Then someone (such as Coach Kenn or Coach Dan John) reminds us to slow our rolls and keep it simple. Then we start simplifying things, and we realize that results come much quicker with a simpler approach. This goes for all levels – not just high school.

The simplest workout I ever wrote brought the most gains. I wrote a basic four-days-per-week workout with high frequency and high intensity for Cade Carney to get ready for his freshman year at Wake Forest University.

Here’s an example of what it looked like:

Day 1

Back Squat (with belt) – 1RM (paused 2 sec), then -15% for 2 x 3 (not paused)
superset with 36″ Box Depth Jumps and Touch for Height – 3 x 5
Clean EMOMs – Start at 70% for 8 x 1 rep, working up heavy
Bench Press – 1RM (paused 2 sec), then -15% for 2 x 3 not paused (last set is 3+)
Dips – 3 x submaximal reps
superset with KB Bat Wing Rows – 4 x 8

Day 2

Front Squat (with belt) – 1RM (paused 7 sec at a 8 RPE)
Complex: High Hang Clean + Low Hang Clean – 1RM (8 RPE)
Push Presses – 1RM, then -15% for 2 x 3 (last set is 3+)
Glute Ham Raises (eccentric slower than concentric) – 4 x 6 weighted
KB Staggered (one OH and one to the side) Carries – 4 x 20 yd each way

Day 3

OH Squat – 1RM (2 sec pause in bottom), then -15% for 3
Complex: Clean Pull + Clean – 1RM
Bench Press (pause all reps, add mini bands) – 8 x 3, start at 40% + bands, working up heavy but no misses
Deadlift Max Effort – 1RM from 4″ deficit
Chest to Bar Pullups – 3 x submaximal reps
superset with KB Swings – 3 x 12 reps

Day 4

Warm Up with OH Squat Variations – work up to 70% for 3 reps with 1st rep paused 5 sec
Front Squat (with belt) – 2RM
Hang Snatch – 3RM
Strict Presses – 1RM, then -15% for 3

See how simple it was? We used lots of repetition maximums because he was fresh out of football season. We agreed to stop one or two sets before potential failure unless I gave him the green light.

This simple program worked like a charm. His squat went up by over 70 pounds, bench press by over 50 pounds, and clean by over 70 pounds. Sounds crazy I know, but he was weak when he first started after a long season of football. His team actually won the state playoffs, so he was really beat down. Needless to say, he made a huge impact at Wake Forest to the point that all of his coaches have been by our gym to check us out. As a strength coach, there is no bigger compliment than to send a guy or gal to college only to have their new strength coach commend your work.


I am committed to making the weight room in high schools all across America a safer and more productive place for student athletes. You might think that I am crazy, but there is an army of us preparing for this battle. It’s not just me. I am developing a database of folks who want to help out. I just spent an hour talking with Coach Sean Waxman last night, and he’s fired up as well. If you get the two of us loudmouths together, things will change just to shut us up.

The Mash Elite Video Curriculum: Coming Soon

We're in the process of creating a massive video curriculum series on technique for the main lifts, programming, mobility, and coaching. Thanks to those who pre-ordered... and get ready for the full resource to be released soon!

Five Most Important Movements for Athletic Performance

I have come up with these movements based on the science available and my experience. I love science as much as the next person – but unless your research contains a control group with thousands of people over the course of twenty years or more, then I have a little more and little better data than you. There isn’t a block of programming I have used in the past two decades where I haven’t tracked the results. If you are a new strength coach, I recommend tracking results from day one, making sure to track such items as:

  • Total volume
  • Average intensity
  • Average increases in maximums
  • Injury rate
  • Athletic measurements vertical leap, broad jump, and 20/40 yd dash

There are a lot more, but these five categories will get you started. Based on my findings and my experience, here are the five movements I would consider the staples for any good athletic performance program:

  • Clean (and all variations)
  • Squat (and all variations)
  • Deadlift (and all variations)
  • Push Press (and all variations)
  • Carries (and all variations)

Each of these movements have variations which are great for attacking weaknesses, avoiding the law of accommodation, and keeping things fun. That last one is something a lot of coaches need to learn. You probably love the weight room naturally. Heck, that’s why we are strength coaches, but our job is to teach these athletes to love the weight room. One thing I can promise is that the modern athlete loves variation. With the world at their fingertips through their phones, we need variety to keep them engaged. Variety along with a naturally fun (yet safe) culture will keep the young folks coming back.

Clean (and variations)

The best way to express power in the gym is with the clean. The snatch is great for power as well, but if I had to choose, I am going with the clean. The clean prepares the body athletically in multiple different ways, such as: rate of force development, force absorption, mobility, kinesthetic awareness, core stability, and balance (to name a few). I prefer the clean versus the snatch mainly because of the higher load, leading to greater amounts of force absorption and core stability. However, someone could make a case for the snatch due to the higher velocities, greater mobility needs, and overall greater postural development.

Here’s a quick absolute power comparison:

Exercise Absolute Power (Watts)

Bench Press: 300
Back Squat: 1100
Deadlift: 1100
Snatch: 3000
Second Pull: 5500
Clean: 2950
Second Pull: 5500
Jerk: 5400

Now are these comparisons absolutely correct? No, because you could increase absolute power outputs in movements like the squat and deadlift by going lighter, or with different variations like squat jumps. However, I like to go with the clean because of the greater bang for your training buck. Force absorption is my favorite, and many of you have heard me talk about it. Here’s the thing. If you can clean 400 pounds, you can sure take on a block or deliver a bigger blow to your opponent. My star football player, Cade Carney (starting running back at Wake Forest University), cleans over 400 pounds – and you can see it when he runs the ball. When he runs into someone, he doesn’t go backward.

Tommy Bohanon, starting fullback for the Jacksonville Jaguars, cleans over 450 pounds. I love watching him play. He does everything correctly – he sticks his blocks, catches the football, and runs the ball north and south for positive yards when given the chance. When I watch football, I watch my guys more than the whole game. Tommy doesn’t just make blocks. He crushes his opponents. Now I agree it’s more than one trait that allows him to dominate his opponents: genetics, his size, and skills acquired. However, I promise a 450-pound clean helps.


Travis Mash shows you all the details and reasoning behind the recent off-season program for Tommy Bohanon (starting fullback for the Jacksonville Jaguars)

Then you can use these principles to individualize your own programs to fit an athlete's strengths, weaknesses, age, gender, sport demands, and unique response to training.

Based on the second pull producing the most power, there are several variations which work well:

  • Hang Clean
  • Hang Power Clean
  • Clean from Blocks
  • Power Clean from Blocks
  • No Hook Grip
  • Pause in the Catch
  • Slow First Pull to Explosive Second Pull

Hang cleans not only focus on the power output of the second pull, but they are more specific to the vertical leap with a counter movement. If you don’t know what the S.A.I.D. Principle is, you need to. “Specific adaptation to imposed demands” essentially means the body will specifically adapt to the types of demands placed on it. (National Academy of Sports Medicine)

Once an athlete has trained for two years, they will hopefully have developed some solid base levels of strength such as: max squat = 1.5 x bodyweight, and max deadlift = 1.75 times x bodyweight.

After that, specificity should become a major key of your programming. Cleans from blocks are better for starting strength in relation to sprinting. Clean from blocks are specific in regard to starting from a dead stop and the joint angles required. The pauses in the catch are great for force absorption. Once again, pauses in the catch during power cleans are more specific to most athletes. I want you to think about taking on a block in football, running into someone in soccer or basketball, or setting up a throw in wrestling. You normally won’t be in a full squat when performing these sport specific movements. Specifically, you will be in a position above parallel – much like a power clean.

The no hook is to functionally strengthen your grip, but more importantly to improve timing. Too many people spend too much time at the top. If you over pull without a hook grip, you will lose the bar out of your hands. No hook teaches you or your athlete to extend the hips, and then immediately begin the pull under the bar. A drill is always a better way of teaching versus any kind of verbal instruction.

Squat (and variations)

I love cleans as much as the next coach. Heck, I am a three-time Team USA Head Coach for USA Weightlifting. However, squats are the king of athletic performance. When it comes to vertical leap and 40-yard dash, the squat is more directly related to improvements than cleans. Coach Bryan Mann was the first person to open my eyes to that data. For specificity reasons, I recommend paying close attention to all qualities of strength:

  • Absolute Strength (0.3m/s and slower)
  • Accelerative Strength (0.75 to 0.5 m/s)
  • Strength Speed (1.0 to 0.75 m/s)
  • Speed Strength (1.3 to 1.0 m/s)
  • Starting Strength (anything faster than 1.3 m/s)

You can read more about this and these qualities in my eBook Bar Speed. Along with my co-author, Coach Spencer Arnold, we break down the mystery of velocity-based training.


Mash Elite's Guide to Velocity-Based Training

By measuring bar speed (simple to do with your smartphone), you can guarantee each and every training session is as effective and safe as possible.

Some of my favorite variations are:

  • Paused squats
  • Eccentric based
  • Isometric based
  • Half squats
  • Jump squats
  • Front squats

Paused squats, which can also be lumped into isometric squats, are great for stability – especially at the exact angles of the pause. You can add some deep breaths for improvements in mobility along with stability. Another benefit of the pause is to limit the load due to the increase in difficulty. Front squats are the best way to strengthen the spinal extensors because the weight is in front of the body, maximally lengthening the spinal flexor moment. You could say all of these variations are a form of the conjugate method, which is simply varying the training stimulus to avoid the law of accommodation (fancy phrase for the dreaded plateau).

Deadlifts (and variations)

Deadlifts are arguably just as specific as squats. Some studies show greater gains in athletic performance from deadlifts (especially trap bar deadlifts). I also like deadlifts for their ability to (as Dan John calls it) “bulletproof the athlete.” Deadlifts develop the posterior chain of the body from the neck to the ankles. You’ll never see a great deadlifter without a massive neck/traps and back. Ed Coan immediately comes to mind. All of this comes in handy on the football field or wrestling mat.

I love to use the following variations for the deadlift:

  • Off blocks – for the obvious specificity of joint angle for sprints, jumping, and a strong athletic position.
  • Pauses anywhere during the pull – to strengthen any potential kink in the armor.
  • Velocity based – for the same reasons listed in the squat section.
  • RDLs – to strengthen the hamstrings and glutes a bit more due to the lengthening of the muscles under load.
  • Suitcase deadlifts – for addressing or preventing asymmetries. We normally use a twp to four inch deficit along with a farmer’s walk apparatus.

Push Press (and variations)

Without a doubt, the push press is the best upper body exercise because it begins with the lower body – just like any great athletic upper body movement, such as a punch, javelin throw, shot put throw, or pass block. (I’m not saying the bench press is a bad thing. I’m just saying it doesn’t make my top five.) The push press is the perfect movement in the gym to develop explosive upper body strength.

The only variations I might use are simply using different implements like dumbbells, kettlebells, or an axle bar. The only reasons I would use different implements are for symmetry, stability, and to avoid accommodation. Dumbbells are great for young athletes to develop stability.

Carries (and variations)

Carries should be a constant with any good program. When it comes to the stability of the spine and hips while the body is upright, which is 95% of the time in most sports, nothing is better than carries. There are two people who have greatly influenced me who are colossal proponents for carries: Dr. Stuart McGill and Coach Dan John.

Dr. McGill brings up a point I had never heard of. The unilateral farmer’s walk has been shown to improve an athlete’s ability to change direction because they are preparing each side to absorb massive amounts of force when they pick up each leg. This movement is also great for avoiding back pain by properly working the quadratus lumborum. The QL lifts the hips up and down from side to side, so asymmetrical work is the best way to strengthen and properly work the QL.

We use lot of variations with carries:

  • Bilateral Farmer’s Walk
  • Unilateral Farmer’s Walk
  • Zercher Carries
  • Barbell or Axle Bar Overhead Carries
  • Dumbbell or Kettlebell Overhead Carries
  • Kettlebell or Dumbbell Staggered Carries

Sample Program

Here’s a sample week of programming to show a way I would possibly program these movements:

Strength Phase
Day 1

Clean Complex – Clean + 2 Front Squats: Max (no misses)
Back Squat – 5 x 5 at 78%
superset with
Prisoner Squat Jump + Knee to Chest – 5 x 5
Deadlifts (velocity based) – 75% straight weight (or 60% straight weight and 20% bands/chains) for 8 x 2 with 60-90 sec rest, velocity goal 0.75 m/s or faster
Wide Grip Bench Press – 3RM (first rep paused 5 sec)

Day 2

Hang Power Clean – 3RM (8-9 RPE, no misses)
Push Presses – 5 x 5 at 78%
Closegrip Axle Bar Decline Presses with 100lb of chains – 5RM, then -15% for 3 x 5 (last set is 5+)
Barbell Rows (paused 2 sec on sternum) – 4 x 5
DB Fat Grip Overhead Walks – 3 x 20 yd forward and backward

Day 3

Clean (from blocks) – 3RM
Back Squat Box Squats (add weight to the last two sets if the speed is there) – 50% Bar Weight + 20% Bands or Chains for 6 x 3 (60-90 sec between sets, velocity goal 0.8 m/s)
superset with
Seated Box Jumps to 40″ Box to Depth Jump for Height – 6 x 3
Suitcase Deadlifts (from 4″ deficit) – 3 x 5 each side (stay at 7-8 RPE)
Leg Curls (Band, DB, or Machine) – 4 x 10

Day 4

Clean Complex: Pull + Clean + Front Squat: Max
Front Squat – 3RM (first rep paused 5 sec) 8 RPE
Weighted Dips or Nosebreakers – 4 x 8
Pull-ups – 4 x submaximal reps


In this workout, I included all the movements I recommended in this article, along with several of their variations. I also included some accessory movements I like to use simply as a reference. Rows, dips, and pull-ups are accessory movements that almost everyone should use (unless they have mobility issues that put them at risk). I normally include some form of leg curl mainly for injury prevention. Knee extension is so common in athletic performance workouts that imbalances can form rather quickly. All I have is anecdotal evidence, but I have witnessed a simple leg curl alleviate 80% of all knee pain.

The key for an effective athletic performance workout is to keep things simple. I like to use rep maxes a bit more than percentages just because athletic performance classes are normally taught in bigger groups with a time cap. If you start throwing lots of percentages at teenagers, you will add several minutes of simple math to the workout. Not to mention, they’ll often mess up the percentage.

Keep it simple and do your job as a coach. When the bar speed starts to slow down, cut them off. If you are blessed to have velocity instruments, set those numbers in stone to avoid potential injuries in the weight room. An experienced coach is just as good as GymAware in most cases. We know when the bar is slowing down.

Here’s the last bit of information I want to leave you with. You should know the why behind each and every exercise you prescribe. If you don’t, either cut the movement or find out the why. If an athlete questions your program or exercise selection, take it as a chance to teach. If you get offended, I take it as you not being able to defend your program. That’s a real lack of knowledge in my opinion.

I am a teacher. A good coach is a great teacher. I value every opportunity to teach my athletes. You should too.

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

Choosing the Right Gym by Crystal McCullough

What comes to mind when someone says the word CrossFit or the phrase “functional training”? As of 2017, there are over 13,000 CrossFit affiliated gyms in over 120 countries. If you add the other “functional training” and “globo” gyms onto that, there is practically a gym on every street corner. Most of these gyms are independently owned or franchised with no hierarchy or headquarter-driven programming. You could walk into ten CrossFit gyms and none of them will be the same. They all have their own culture, their own program, and their own way of doing things. That is good in that if you don’t like one gym, there is probably another close by that is the perfect fit. The downside is, as the consumer, how do you choose? Do you base it on location, price, referral, or something else? Do you shop around until it feels like home?

One question you might want to ask yourself is how qualified are the staff members? When you choose your doctor, you look at their qualifications, if they have a specialty, and if they have bedside manner – because your life could literally be in their hands. When you choose your dentist, you do the same thing. You are trusting that person to be a professional and know what they are doing. So, why wouldn’t you hold the staff member at your gym to the same standard? You put your health and fitness into their hands and should be able to trust they know what they are doing.


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...


My Advice For Someone Searching For a New Gym

  1. Get on a gym’s website. Check out their coach and staff member page. Are they educated? How long have they been in the industry? Is this a part time gig for them or do they see their job as a profession?
  2. Take advantage of a free trial offer at the gym. Visit several class times to get an idea of the different coaching styles and the culture of the gym.
  3. Pay close attention to the program. Is it well rounded? Does the coach know how to modify and scale for athletes who need it?
  4. Engage with the other members. Are they welcoming and friendly?
  5. Are the coaches concerned if you move well?

My Advice For Coaches

  1. Be a professional.
  2. Never stop learning. Don’t be content with what you think you know. Learn from those smarter than you.
  3. Be early to the classes you are coaching. An athlete shouldn’t beat you to the gym.
  4. Be prepared for class. Know what the athletes are doing prior to class starting. Read up on the best ways to modify for injured athletes.
  5. Be available to the athletes. Engage with them.
  6. Have a contingency plan for large classes and weather.
  7. Know your clientele and their needs.

How To Choose The Right Exercises

A well-rounded program should hit all muscle groups and all three energy systems within the week. It should be well thought out with strength, skill, and conditioning components. As an example, At LEAN Fitness Systems (home to the Mash Compound), our LEAN Fit crew has a barbell strength component three times per week, a gymnastics strength or skill twice per week, and conditioning each day. We are currently working on building stronger cores and treating imbalances. Strength should never be random and it should be periodized.

We have a wide demographic of members of all different skill levels. We feel it is very important to build these skill levels into our program. A sample week of our current training block is as follows:

Week 1
Day 1
Bench Press 5×5 increasing in weight
Banded Face Pulls 5×10
3 Rounds:
15 Ball Slams
10 Push-ups
40 yard Farmer Carry
Accessory Work:
3 sets:
30 Russian Twists
45 second Plank Hold
Day 2
Skill Work –
Toes to Bar
**Take about 10 minutes to work this skill
Strength Work –
Plank Shoulder Taps
**Front Leaning Rest (top of the push-up position)
5 x 15 each side
*Rest 60 seconds between sets
10 KB Swings
15 Burpees
10 Toes to Bar
Health – no weight assigned; scale accordingly
Athletic – 53/35 KBS and Knee Raises
Performance – 70/55
Day 3
3×5 Front Squat building in weight
Part 1 –
EMOM 4 Row or Bike x30 seconds
Rest 5 minutes
Part 2 –
Round 1: (3 sets)
60 yard Sprint
40 (20 each side)
20 Ball Slams
*Rest 90 seconds from last person
Round 2: (3 sets)
60 yard Sprint
30 (15 each side)
Single Leg V-Ups
15 Kettle Bell Swings
*Rest 90 seconds from last person
Round 3: (3 sets)
60 yard Sprint
20 (10 each side) Plank Shoulder Taps
10 Get Ups
Day 4
Gymnastics Work For Quality:
4 Sets:
30 second dead hang from the pull-up bar in the hollow position
** alternate would be 30 second in hollow on the floor
Rest 60-90 seconds b/t sets
5 Rounds
25 Hollow Rocks
25 Arch Rocks
 6 Rounds:
5 Squat Jumps
**5 second hold in the bottom of the squat
3 sets:
30 second sit and reach
20 each side heel taps
Cool down with BIKE and lots of foam rolling!! Quads/Hamstrings/Glutes!
Day 5
Back Squat 1RM
Deadlift 4×6
Accessory Work:
3 sets:
Single Leg RDL x 10 each leg (with KB)
KB Hip Thrust x 10
Seated DB Press x 5

As it should be, our program is still a work in progress and we are constantly working to improve. We have recently gotten more in depth with our three different skill levels. We’ve started adding barbell movements into our conditioning pieces to increase the level of difficulty for our performance level athletes. We have a barbell club option where two USAW Level 5 coaches can teach the Olympic movements (snatch and clean and jerk) for anyone who wants to learn them. As time goes on, we are going to start adding these movements into our classes for our performance level athletes. All of our athletes have to earn their level by portraying competency in movement. Whether they are 65 and their goal is to be able to continue to live alone and do activities of daily living or they are a 14 year old with Olympic aspirations, in our gym, they will move well first.

One of the biggest takeaways I’d like you to have from this article: if a gym or a coach is not interested in if you move well, move on!

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

Training Military and First Responders

During my entire career in strength and conditioning, I have enjoyed working with the men and women in the military and our first responders. Number one, these are our heroes; real life heroes. These people protect us, guard us, and rescue us when things go really badly. It’s important that these men and women are prepared for their work. If I help prepare one of these men or women, I contribute in a very small way to them saving people and doing good. That makes it pretty dang special. This article has some advice on helping those of you who coach are military and first responders as well as the coaches out there who help prepare these folks.

I treat first responders and military personnel the same way I treat my other athletes. When an athlete comes to me, I look at their strengths and weaknesses, muscular imbalances, and the sport that they play. Soccer players use a different energy system than football players. Cross Country athletes are different from soccer players.

First responders and military personnel have to possess incredible cardiovascular systems. Police officers have to chase down the bad guys. Firemen have to battle fires for hours sometimes with up to 75-pounds of equipment. Military personnel are constantly asked to run miles at a time.

However, they also have to be strong. Policemen constantly wrestle suspects. Firemen carry people out of fires, and remember their equipment already weights up to seventy-five pounds. Military personnel drag their injured brothers and sisters out of harm’s way.

Programming Considerations

Here are a few other things to consider when programming training:

• All of them should carry odd objects (limp bodies, struggling bodies, tanks, hoses, etc.)
• Some quality time has to be spent in the anaerobic glycolytic system because most incidents take between 30 to 60 seconds.
• Mobility has to be of importance because these men and women are asked to bend and move in all directions. If they are unable to move properly, it could cost a life.

Alex Viada taught all of us that it’s feasible to get people strong and fit at the same time. When I was doing the research for my latest eBook, Do What You Want, I looked into the science of concurrent training. How does one pair powerlifting, strongman, and endurance work? These three together are actually not that hard. Let’s take a look!


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...

Rules for Pairing Endurance and Strength Training

  1. There are a couple of rules when pairing endurance work with strength training. Sprint training should be looked at as similar to leg training. There are acute joint angles, and an extreme amount of eccentric force taking place, which means that both cause a lot of muscle damage. That means performing sprints the day after a heavy squat workout is not a good idea. However, a low intensity run is quite different because there is very little muscle damage and the oxidative system supplies the energy. That leaves the creatine phosphate system ready to fire for some heavy lifts. Depending on the length of the aerobic activity, there might not be a lot of glycogen left to create energy for multiple reps and sets, but aerobic activity won’t bother high intensity work. If you’re going to perform a long run, give it a day or so before the next big leg workout.
  2. Another thing is to chose aerobic movements that are opposite of strength movements. This will ensure that the strength movements being performed will continue to adapt in an explosive way as opposed to slowing down. Below is a sample of a potential plan that you might use. I program rowing a lot since it’s nothing like the strength movements that I prescribed. Pairing a bike with benching, or swimming with squats also creates less total damage, and thus encourages quicker recovery.
  3. Strongman movements are great for conditioning, core work, and in place of accessory work normally performed with more stable devices. For example, we use log press quite often in place of shoulder presses. The log press still strengthens the shoulders and arms. Because it’s awkward to rack, and stabilize, the body to strengthens all over to gain stability. This is a perfect stimulus to prepare men and women to lift awkward objects overhead like hoses, heavy equipment, or even people.

Sample Workout Plan

Let’s take a look at a sample plan:

Day 1 Week 7
High Bar Squat with Belt 80% 3×3, 85% 2×2, 88% 1×2
Deadlits Velocity Based 75% straight weight 8×2 with 60-90sec rest or 60% straight weight & 20% Bands/Chains
Belt Squat KB Deadlits 3 x 45sec
Yoke Carries 5 x 25m   (handled the same as 5×5 method)
For Time: For Time:
3 Rounds: 3 Rounds:
1000m Row 1000m Row
20 (10 each leg) Weighted Box Step Ups (angle of knee to hip should be no more than parallel for box height) 25/15 each hand 20 (10 each leg) Weighted Box Step Ups (angle of knee to hip should be no more than parallel for box height) 25/15 each hand
100m Single Arm KB Carry (each arm) 70/55 100m Single Arm KB Carry (each arm) 70/55
Day 2
Jerk From Racks 3RM (Paused 3 Sec in Catch)
Bench to Chest 75% x 5, 80% x 3, 85% x 1  (percentages based on raw max)
Max Effort Sling Shot Bench Max 3
Bench Press to Chest 83% for 3, 88% x 2, 90% for AMRAP
Close grip Axle Bar Decline Presses with 100lb of chains 5RM, then -15% for 3×5 (last set is 5+)
1a. Weighted Dips or Nose breakers 4×8
1b. Incline DB Curls 4×10
Core Muscular Imbalance 1
DB Fat Grip OH Walks 3 x 20yd forwards and backwards
Day 3
Power  Cleans 3RM (8RPE)
Back Squat Box Squats  (add weight to the last two sets if the speed is there) 50% Bar Weight + 20% Bands or Chains for 6×3 (60-90 sec between sets)goal .8m/s
1a. Rear Leg Elevated Split Squats  Heavy 4 x 5ea leg
1b. Leg Press or KB Goblet Squats 4 x 20
Recovery Row 15-20 minute recovery row
Stay in Zone 2 or 75% of Max HR
Day 4
Dynamic Bench Press  alternate Grip ea. set 50% Bar Weight + 20% Bands or Chains for 6×3 (60-90 sec between sets)goal .8m/s
Log Press 3RM, then -15% for 2 x 3 (last set 3+)
Weighted Dips  or  Nosebreakers 4×8
DB Tri-Delts 3 x (9 front-9side-9rear)
DB Pullovers 4 x 12
Day 5
Back Squat with Belt
Set 1 (80% x 2) rest 2 minutes and then (65% x 6)
Set 2    (add 5 Kilos to the first set only if possible) (80% x 2) rest 2 minutes and then (65% x 6)
Set 3    (add 5 Kilos to the first set only if possible) (80% x 2) rest 2 minutes and then (65% x 6)
Max Effort Deadlift 8″ Blocks  3RM, then -10% for 3
Suitcase Deadlifts from 4″ Deficit  stay at 7-8 RPE 3x5ea side
Reverse Hypers 3×45 seconds
Farmers Walk 4 x 30 yd
Day 6
Bench Presses
Set 1 (85% x 2) rest 2 minutes and then (70% x 6)
Set 2    (add 5 Kilos to heavy set only if possible) (85% x 2) rest 2 minutes and then (70% x 6)
Set 3    (add 5 Kilos to heavy set only if possible) (85% x 2) rest 2 minutes and then (70% x 6+)
DB Incline Chest Press 4×10
1a. BB Bentover Rows Paused 2 sec on sternum 4×5
1b. Pull-Ups 4 x submaximal
One Arm Kettlebell Rows 3×10 ea arm
Long Slow Run 6 mile run
Stay in Zone 2 or 75% of Max HR
with a 5 minute warm up & cool down

I suggest that you perform two-a-days on cardio and conditioning days. For example, on day six, I would take about six hours between the strength work and the six-mile run. Notice the odd objects on multiple days like: one arm farmer’s walk, DB fat grip OH walks, and suitcase deadlifts. There is always accessory work in my programming so as to promote muscular balance. Plus, let’s be honest, all of us want to be jacked.

Most of the time designing a program isn’t that hard if the coach listens, looks deep into the goal, and applies a little science. If you get the chance to work with military personnel and/or first responders, you owe it to them to do a little research and design a safe and effective plan. We can all do better than programming the 30-minute crushing and exhaustive workouts that beat people up. Have an objective for each workout, each exercise, and each repetition. If you can’t explain the ‘why’, then don’t do it.

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Coach Mash Takes a New Path

In the middle of a new book I am writing about concurrent training, “Do What You Want”, all of a sudden it dawned on me to try a new plan of my own. I’m 44 years old, and I still thrive on goals. I simply can’t workout just to workout, and that’s ok. It’s who I am, and I am ok with that. The problem is that I needed to find something new to intrigue me.

Determining My Goals

It took me a while, but I finally came up with my new goals. I decided to perform a SuperTotal, which is something that I enjoy and have done in the past. The kicker is that I also decided to train for a 5K road race. There is a part of me that wishes that I had chosen a rowing for distance goal, but it’s too late – I am in it now, so maybe next time. Some might say that the SuperTotal isn’t very challenging for me, but you would be wrong. Last year, I tore my triceps tendon completely from the bone twice: once lifting and once from falling down the steps like a fool. I thought for the longest while that I would never snatch again, but I hate the word ‘never’. That word literally freaks me out, so I’ve decided to not let some silly injury dictate what I can and cannot do.

My overhead stability needs a lot of work. My left side is compromised from fracturing a cervical vertebra in 2007, and my right arm, the triceps tear. That leaves zero good arms and a lot of work to do. Week one has been fun and challenging, but it’s obvious that this isn’t going to be easy.

Notes on The First Week

The powerlifting portion isn’t quite as challenging, but wow it crushed me. I’m training the same as I did when I was in my prime; the volume is just as hard, but I am being a lot smarter on max effort days. I am not going to go to absolute failure. The goal is to listen to my training partner of over twenty-five years, Coach Chris Ox Mason. If he tells me to stop, I am going to stop. We have told each other that we are going to stop one to two sets before failure, and simply progress like that. This will take a lot of discipline for me, but my priority is my family, not working out until failure during training. That realization will keep me in check.

I am getting a pump every training session with a focus on my weaknesses like glutes, triceps (obviously), and shoulders. Plus, I’ll be 100% up front and tell you all that I want to get some pumps for the coming summer months. Yep, I too like to look good in my swimsuit.

The one piece of equipment helping to make all of this possible is the Westside Barbell Belt Squat Machine. I perform some type of movement on this machine 100% of the time that I am in the gym. The glute activity the machine promotes aids significantly in keeping my hips healthy. This glute activity, required for hip extension while using the belt squat, helps to keep my femur in a position that alleviates the hip pain that I feel most of the time. This machine alone has kept me out of surgery. I was scheduled to get a hip replacement at the end of last year until I started using this miracle machine.

Believe it or not, my favorite part of this new workout routine has been the added cardiovascular work. I’m using the assault bike for interval work, which ends up being the hardest part. On Fridays I am performing a recovery row with the Concept 2 Rower. Saturday afternoons I am taking a run/walk for 20+ minutes while keeping my heart rate at around 75% of my max. This is the key to increasing cardiovascular capacity without requiring lots of downtime for recovery.

I am also using information that I have gathered from Alex Viada. If you haven’t read his book “The Hybrid Athlete”, you really should. I refer to that book on a regular basis. It forever changed the way I look at concurrent training.

The mileage, time, and distance of my run/walks continues to increase for the next twelve weeks. The program is designed to peak me for a 5K, which is frankly something I thought I would never do, especially with this wrecked hip. However here I am looking forwards to cardio days. Who the heck am I?  Alex what have you done to me?

Do What You Want

The whole point to all of this is to show you that you can do pretty much whatever you want. I hope this teaches you that no one should define the way that any of us looks at fitness and strength other than ourselves. The key is to enjoy what you are doing. I suggest challenging yourself in new and exciting ways on a regular basis. My new book is filled with a limitless amount of workouts designed to challenge you in several different ways. I am going to show you how to combine:

  • Olympic Weightlifting
  • Powerlifting
  • CrossFit
  • Endurance Work
  • Bodybuilding
  • Strongman

It was so exciting fitting these disciplines together in a way that coincides with the body’s energy systems and muscle fiber recruitment. It was like several big puzzles, and I used science to fit the pieces together. I am enjoying this new workout more than I have enjoyed a workout in over a decade. I look forward to pushing my body over the next twelve weeks. I intend to report back major success. I hope that all of you report back the same from challenging your own body in ways you never thought possible.


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...

Here’s a little sample of Week 1:

Accumulation Phase
Day 1 Week 1
Hang Snatch  below knee 3RM 7 RPE, then -10% for 3
Box Squats 75%  7×3 with 60-90 sec rest
Seated Box Jumps 7×3
2″ Deficit Snatch Grip Deadlift  w 5 sec eccentric 5RM 7 RPE, then -10% for 2×5
1a. Belt Squat RDLs 3 x 60 sec
1b. One Arm OH Fat Grip Dumbbell Carry 3x25yd ea arm
Day 2
Airdyne or Row Sprints 2 min warm up
45 sec on and 60 sec off x 8
5 min cool down
Day 3
Wide Grip Bench Press (wider than normal comp grip) 10 x 3 at 80%
Push Jerks 5RM 7 RPE, then -10% for 5
Pull-Ups 5 x submaximal reps switch grips ea set weakest to strongest
DB or KB Upright Rows 5×10
Dips  with Eccentric Slower Than Concentric 5 x submaximal (if ten reps plus add weight)
Banded Rows 4×60 sec
Day 4
Hang Clean 3RM 7 RPE, then -10% for 3
Front Squats 10 x 3 at 80%
Sumo Deadlifts 75%  7×3 with 60-90 sec rest
Rear Leg Elevated Split Squats  stay at a 7RPE 4 x 15ea leg
Unilateral Farmers Walk 3 x 40yd ea arm
Recovery Row 10-15 minute recovery row
Stay in zone 2 or 75% of Max HR
Day 5
Snatch Complex P. Snatch double work heavy
Clean & Jerk Complex P. Clean and push jerk double work heavy
Closegrip Bench Press 5 x 10 at 60%
Incline DB Press 5 x 10 at 60%
KB Bottom Up Z Press 3×10 ea arm
Preacher Curls 3×10
Long Slow Run 20 Minute run/walk
Stay in zone 2 or 75% of max HR
with a 5 minute warm up & cool down
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