Category Archives for "Functional Fitness"

Practical Uses of Post-activation Potentiation

It has been a hot minute since I wrote anything regarding post-activation potentiation, AKA the Mash Method.

That doesn’t mean we have abandoned the theory. Quite the contrary! I based the majority of my personal training on PAP without really understanding why I was using it. I just knew it worked, so I continued. Now I strategically use this theory with my athletes during appropriate times.

What is PAP?

Before I go any further, let me define the theory. Here’s what I found from PubMed: (You can see the original article here.)

Post-activation potentiation (as originally defined by Robbins): Force exerted by a muscle is increased by its previous contractions. It is a theory purporting that the contractile history of a muscle influences the mechanical performance of subsequent muscle contractions. Fatiguing muscle contractions impair muscle performance, but non-fatiguing muscle contractions at high loads with a brief duration may enhance muscle performance. The peak torque of an isometric twitch in skeletal muscle is transiently increased after a brief maximum voluntary contraction. Thus, PAP is the increase in muscle force and rate of force development that occurs as a result of previous activation of the muscle as well as the force and power of evoked high velocity shortening contractions, and the maximum velocity attained by evoked shortening contractions under load. In other words, excitation of the nervous system produces an increase in contractile function due to a heavy load-conditioning stimulus.

In other words: if you lift something heavy, your body “remembers” that lift for a brief time period and your nervous system will recruit more fibers if you try the lift again. I explain in a lot more detail in the Mash Method:

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How do apply PAP?

First, you have to consider one important aspect of PAP. If you perform a true 1RM movement like a max squat, it is going to impair performance due to fatigue. Therefore, you want to either lighten parts of the lift with bands or chains, perform a partial movement (board presses, half squat, etc), use a submaximal movement that is still heavier than the following movement, or simply practice a static hold. No matter what you do, there will be a degree of fatigue, and it will be at its highest right after the performance of a movement. The challenge is that potentiation effect will also be at its highest right after the lift.

The amount of fatigue will depend on the movement. For example, if you do a heavy squat hold and walkout with 110% of your maximum, there won’t be a lot of fatigue because of the lack of range of motion. However, if you perform a full squat with bands and bar weight equal to 110% at the top and 80% at the bottom, there will be more fatigue. A good rule of thumb is to rest 60 seconds after a movement that doesn’t create a lot of fatigue – like a hold or 80% squat. We’ve gone with two minutes for movements that are a bit more taxing on the body – like maximal squats with bands or chains. I recommend tracking the data with your own athletes or with yourself to determine what works best individually.

Here are the applications we have for PAP:

  1. To increase the efficiency of a movement
  2. To breakthrough plateaus

Efficiency

Let’s look at a few way to improve efficiency in your movements. The simplest way that most of you are using PAP without even knowing is with waves. Here are a couple of examples:

Squats: (88% x 1, 78% x 5) x 3 waves – the 88% will recruit the extra fibers necessary for increased efficiency with the 75% for 5. We would perform this type of wave during the transmutation (strength building) phase where our goal is to average around 5 repetitions per set at an average of 78-80% load. The primary focus is the set of five repetitions. Something that we have noticed is that our athletes will be better prepared to hit all-time 5-repetition maximums. For bodybuilders looking to go to near failure, you will be able to maximize the number of repetitions performed during all-out sets.

You can do the same thing for snatches, cleans, jerks, or clean and jerks. Most athletes will notice more efficiency on each successive wave. You will also prepare your athletes for meets where they have to wave down and back up due to the change in order. In meets, sometimes an athlete will make a lift, jump up 3 kilograms, and then find themselves 12 attempts out. At that point, the athlete will basically have to perform four more warm ups to stay warm and primed (12 attempts out divided by 3 attempts per warm up = 4 warm ups).

Lately we experimented with a new way of prescribing PAP with great success. First, I want to make it clear these examples of PAP won’t work the same for everybody. I suggest experimenting when you are 20 weeks out from an important meet. We experimented with Matt Wininger, one of our junior athletes who has been lifting for about a decade. It worked extremely well for him. Here’s what we did with his snatches:

Snatch Pull: 90% x 2, Snatch: 70% x 1, Snatch Pull: 95% x 2, Snatch: 75% x 1, Snatch Pull: 100% x 2, Snatch: 80% x 1. Then we’d repeat that entire progression again. Finally, we would work up to a heavy single with the same format.

As you can see, we used a snatch pull heavier than the snatch, and we used it with waves. The first day that we used this technique, we noticed an improvement in the movement – and miraculously Matt hit a 3-kilogram lifetime PR. I can’t promise this result for everyone, but dang, it’s worth trying out. You can see this lift on Instagram:

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19-year-old @mattwininger_ with a Lifetime PR Snatch of 110kg/242lb. We tried a brand new approach today that led to this 5kg PR. We will share it in detail tomorrow. We definitely intend on addressing a few asymmetries, but overall I’m excited with this new approach. =================== www.mashelite.com <link in bio> for: . – Mash Mafia Online Team . -Hundreds of Free Articles & Workouts . – 24 Awesome E-Books . -Seminars . -FREE “The Barbell Life Podcast” . . @intekstrength #intekstrength @harbingerfitness #harbingerfitness @mg12power #mg12thepowerofmagnesium #wodfitters @wodfitters @strongerexperts #strongerexperts @leanfitnesssystems #LEANFit @shruggedcollective @andersvarner @usaweightlifting #usaw #weightlifting #strengthandconditioning #powerlifting #oly #mashjacked

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Breaking through plateaus

PAP is also great for getting lifters through those dreaded plateuas. We’ve used a similar plan for jerks as well:

3 Heavy Jerk Dip Squats: 105%, rest 60 sec, Jerk from Blocks: 90% x 1. Then repeat this for 2 more sets and finally work up with the same format.

This worked really well for one of our athletes, Courtney – because let’s face it, there’s a confidence factor as well. It makes a load that normally feels heavy to an athlete feel light. This is where you have to throw science out of the window just a bit. However, I am sure that PAP is one of the very reasons that athletes experience that sensation.

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There are a few other ways of practicing PAP as well:

1. Bands or Chains: this was my personal favorite one. I would work up to a heavy single, double, or triple with bar weight and bands. Normally it ended up being 30% bands weight + 80% bar weight. At this load, the rep was still easy, but it prepared my body to crush a personal record. It would end up being 110% at the top and about 80% or so at the bottom. I say “about” because bands are so different for each person based on height, set up, and age of bands.

2. Partials: you can use 105% or more with partial squats, presses, or pulls in conjunction with full lifts. The key is to warm up with the full movement, so you are ready for the full movement after the partial.

3. Walkouts or Holds: these are my wife’s personal favorites with the squat. You can work up to 95%, and then perform a walkout and hold with 110% for 5-10 seconds. She waits about 60-seconds, and then hits a personal record.

PAP will not work for everyone. There is no need at all to use PAP for beginners. I consider this an advanced technique for highly trained athletes. Even with highly trained athletes, it won’t work the same for everyone. Some athletes will set amazing lifetime personal records, and some will not notice a difference. Try it for a few weeks at a time, track the data, and then make a determination for each individual. It will definitely work more times than not – and for some, it will be a game-changer.

The New University Weightlifting Possibilities – The Barbell Life 291

I was so excited to recently announce the start of a new university weightlifting program at Lenoir Rhyne.

I wanted to give everyone the full story – to take a look at the past few years of weightlifting, what I’ve learned along the way, where the dream started for this university program… and most of all, how it can help all you weightlifters out there!

And as I explain in the podcast, our online team is still in full force! This move to Lenoir Rhyne is just going to make the online team better as I have the chance to learn even more and grow as a coach.

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LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • What I learned from coaching in so many “eras” of weightlifting
  • Reactions from the industry
  • Scholarship opportunities
  • New scientific studies coming soon?
  • Filling in the gaps left from the OTC
  • and more…

Pursuing Coaching Excellence with Crystal McCullough – The Barbell Life 287

We have a very special guest on the podcast today.

One who isn’t really a guest at all.

Coach Crystal McCullough has grown over the years to be more and more a part of the Mash Mafia. And now I don’t know how I would survive without her.

So we talk about her coaching journey, the lessons she’s learned along the way, and how she plans to continue to get better and better as a coach.

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* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • Why verbal cues are the last step – and what to do first
  • What makes her a great coach in the back room
  • How she got to be a coach for the Mash Mafia
  • Crystal’s biggest lessons
  • A simple process and a crazy tip or recruiting
  • and more…

Is Competition Good or Bad?

It’s an interesting era we are in.

I am not sure if this is the point where I am old and simply blaming a generation for the shortcomings I am experiencing, or if this is a real thing all over. Let me dive right in, so I can catch you up on what I am talking about.

Competition – Then and Now

When I was a young strength athlete, I loved competition. I drove 90 minutes each way twice per week just so I could train with someone stronger than me. Eventually I hooked up fulltime with Chris “Ox” Mason, which is when I became my strongest. Ox and I were in the same weight class most of the time and sometimes one weight class apart. We were competitive with each other in the gym but remained the best of friends outside the gym. Heck, inside the gym we helped each other. Basically we were each other’s coach.

Westside Barbell is legendary because most people think Louie Simmons is some kind of magical programmer. The secret is that he placed a bunch of lions in the same room – and the toughest lion became the alpha. There were battles within the gym, but they were family outside of the gym. This arrangement reminds me of my home with my two sons, Rock and Behr. They fight all the time, but they won’t let anyone else pick on the other.

Recently I have noticed in my gym, as well as other gyms across America, that athletes don’t like having someone in their own weight class training with them day in and day out. I have witnessed arguments break out and cultures destroyed over this. Instead of complaining to all of you during this entire article, I am going to explain the way it should work and the advantage that competition brings. Hopefully this will enlighten some of the athletes out there so we can use this tactic to our advantage as a country.

Attitude of Excellence

Why do you think wrestling programs like the one you will find at Penn State University are so awesome? Why do countries build Olympic Training Centers? Yes, in both cases you are trying to give your best athletes the best coach and conditions – but there is another reason that trumps all the rest. If you toss the best athletes in the same room with a great coach, you can rest assured the best athlete will make their way to the top. Not only that, even the athletes who aren’t the best at first will get better. The ones who were never going to make it in the first place will fade away, and that’s fine too. You will either become the absolute best you can be – or you will realize it wasn’t meant to be.

I had an athlete several years ago named Michael Waters. He was a two-time 4A state champion here in North Carolina. He was a rockstar in this state. He could have gone to several collegiate programs in America and started right away, but he chose Penn State. He wanted to become the absolute best wrestler he could possibly be. He knew Cael Sanderson, the Penn State head coach, and the amazing tradition at Penn State would do just that. Michael is now serving in the Army Special Forces, which fits this attitude of excellence.

Here’s what you have to ask yourself:

  • Do I want to be the best athlete I can possibly be?
  • Do I want to be the best athlete on the team?

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2020...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

Competitive Environment

If your coach recruits someone in your same weight class or who plays your same position, that doesn’t mean they think less of you. It doesn’t mean they don’t believe in your abilities. It doesn’t mean they love you any less. They are simply trying to create a competitive atmosphere conducive to forming champions.

The way you react to the recruitment of new athletes says a lot about you as an athlete. If you fade away from a battle during practice, you will fade away during a battle in a real competition or game. The best athletes in the world thrive on competition. Guys like Michael Jordan will thrive when threatened or pushed. If this isn’t you, you will need to embrace competition more than the others until you are comfortable in competitive situations. Otherwise, realize you will never be a great athlete. I know these are tough words, but I am being brutally honest. However, it’s never too late to change, so you aren’t locked in to a life of losing.

Here’s what athletes should experience from competitive environments:

  • The best athlete with the best attitude will get even better as they rise to the top.
  • Athletes will feed off of each other, especially during max effort days or scrimmages.
  • Athletes will learn from each other.
  • Athletes will encourage each other during training.
  • Athletes will encourage each other outside the gym.
  • The athletes who aren’t necessarily winning right away are still getting better as they seek to keep up and surpass.

Peer Pressure

First, if you are the top dog and your coach recruits someone in your weight class or in your position, don’t get offended. You should be excited because that new person is going to elevate your level of play to a place you didn’t believe was possible. This is going to make your next meet or game way easier than ever before. Remember this: if you can’t beat this person in training, you sure aren’t going to beat them at a competition. Champions always elevate their level of play based on the competition in front of them, and now you have the advantage of having that stimulus daily versus only on game day.

This is a life lesson, which is exactly what sport is supposed to be. What if you are the top accountant at a firm, and then one day your boss hires someone with equal or slightly better skills? Are you going to quit or get mad at your boss – or are you going to use the competition to raise your level of play? Parents, remember that sports are designed to prepare your children for life – not simply to showcase their skills to make you look cool in front of your family and friends. This is something most parents always forget.

If you have a max effort day or highly competitive day, athletes will feed off of each other. If one is feeling sluggish, they will elevate to match their competition. If you want to see athletes surpass never-dreamed-of levels, put them in a room filled with lions. The weak will get stronger, and the strong will get stronger than ever! This environment will make the competition, game, or match seem easy – just ask the Penn State wrestlers.

Peer Support

One of my favorite aspects of competitive teams is that athletes will learn from each other. Coaches can’t be everything to everyone. There are going to be times when coaches are struggling to fix flaws in their athletes. Sometimes hearing it from a peer is easier to accept and assimilate than when it comes from a coach. I have seen it happen several times. Sometimes athletes will struggle with an issue their peer has already overcome, so their peer can explain how to overcome the obstacle both physically and mentally.

Sometimes training is hard. We have all experienced the moments in training that felt like we were in the middle of a desert all alone. This is a lonely place to be, so having a teammate look at you and say that it’s going to be okay is a definite asset. It’s easier to endure trials when you’re not alone.

Enduring with teammates in the gym is much easier than overcoming the temptations out of the gym. Champions are not made inside the gym. Everyone trains hard, but the champions are the ones who make the right choices outside the gym. If you create a culture filled with focused and determined athletes, you will also form a culture of athletes who will keep each other accountable. We are all tempted once in a while to break our diet, drink that beer, or stay up late. It’s nice to be surrounded by athletes who will help keep you focused on the primary goal.

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If you are in a gym or on a team with two other athletes who are just as good or better, don’t get upset or get mad at the coach. This isn’t a bad thing. Whether you end up being the number one or not, I promise that you will get better in those conditions. You will work as hard as possible in an attempt to get ahead or stay ahead. That’s the point of competition – it will make you better.

I am not sure what has happened with today’s athletes not embracing competition. I guess we are in the “everyone deserves a trophy” era. Here are my final words. If you quit and run away from competition now, you will carry this action with you through life. Instead of running away, I suggest making a stand, getting better, and staying number one. Are you really a number one if you run away from another potential number one? I don’t think so.

Listener Questions Answered – The Barbell Life 285

I want to start off by thanking everyone who writes in to ask us questions.

First, thanks for the privilege of helping you. It’s not something we take lightly, and it’s something we are honored to do. Plus it’s something we love! Few things in life are better than helping out other people.

But also I want to thank people for writing in with questions – because if someone writes in with a question, chances are lots of other people have the same questions and just have never asked.

And when we get questions, we love answering them right here on our podcast. So listen in!

THE NEWEST EVOLUTION OF MASH PROGRAMMING

The latest and greatest methods from Travis Mash as he continues to innovate Mash Mafia programming.

Weightlifting - Powerlifting - Super Total

Garage Gym Warrior - Functional Fitness - Strength and Conditioning

LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • Recovery for older/busy athletes
  • Gaining size in the legs
  • Jerk technique
  • Elbow pain
  • Back squat frequency
  • and more…

CrossFit Controversy and Getting Jacked with Ryan Fischer – The Barbell Life 284

Ryan Fischer has a life that could be made into a movie.

He’s gone from being a BMX racer as a kid to training for bob sled and skeleton racing to becoming a superstar CrossFit athlete.

He went from homelessness to a thriving athletic career to now doing even better as a box owner and entrepreneur.

And of course many people remember Ryan from the infamous “no rep” controversy from a few years ago. You’ve got to hear his story… and you get to hear it today.

Oh – and did I mention we talk about how to get jacked? Because Ryan’s all about that too.

THE NEWEST EVOLUTION OF MASH PROGRAMMING

The latest and greatest methods from Travis Mash as he continues to innovate Mash Mafia programming.

Weightlifting - Powerlifting - Super Total

Garage Gym Warrior - Functional Fitness - Strength and Conditioning

LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • The real story behind the “no rep” controversy
  • High Intensity Interval Bodybuilding
  • How an unpleasant family environment led to his pursuit of greatness
  • Going from being homeless to being a successful entrepreneur
  • Dealing with knee problems
  • and more…
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