Category Archives for "Functional Fitness"

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.


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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

Preventing Injuries with Movement Physicals by Matthew Shiver

Each year we are strongly encouraged to get a physical done by our Primary Care Physician. They access our general health and common health risks at a given age. It is our annual check-up to make sure that we are still in good shape medically. If we are not looking good, they will refer us out or have us come back in a few weeks to make sure that we are making progress. We all can agree that physicals can be extremely useful for monitoring our health on a macro scale.

One thing that is often not ever addressed until it is too late, is our movement quality. We typically don’t look at it unless we have pain or it limits us from being able to perform a task. If we hope to reduce the number of debilitating injuries we have and reduce the amount of money we have to pay for surgeries and rehabilitative services, we need to change the current strategy. Instead, we need to be proactive about it. We need to seek out our limitations before it becomes too late.

Protocols for Aches and Pains, Muscular Imbalances & Recovery

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Check movement quality each year

Professional and Collegiate athletes have caught onto this. If they can catch a movement problem before it becomes an issue, the team will have fewer injuries, perform better, and win more games. Where we don’t see these proactive screens is in recreational athletics and youth sports. I would argue these individuals need the movement screens the most. They most likely have not developed the proprioception and kinesthetic awareness that the professional and collegiate athletes have from competing at a high level their entire life. Athletes who are at a high level typically move well. If not, they don’t last very long in their respective career.

In the future, our coaches, athletic trainers, and physical therapists need to do a better job at screening athletes’ movement qualities during the preseason. We need to have a system in place like we have our annual physicals. At least once per year we need to be given a screen to assess our movement quality. We can monitor the movement quality to make sure that it improves and does not get worse. Like the physician refers out if the medical screen doesn’t look good, coaches should be able to refer their athletes out to a local specialist.


The Functional Movement Screen

At Duke University, I am part of a student organization that practices giving free movement screens. We go into the Recreation Center monthly to give the students, faculty, and staff movement screens. We also work with NC State’s DI athletic teams and have screened numerous professional baseball teams. We use the Functional Movement Screen as our main screen. 

It screens 7 movement patterns to allow you to find limitations. The scoring is pretty simple (0=pain, 1=unable, 2= can do movement modified, 3= optimal movement).  Those who come to screen will get an email a few days later explaining their score and giving them 2-3 corrective exercises. We encourage them to come back the next month to see if they improve their score.

The FMS test takes about 10 minutes if you have an athlete who has never done the test before, and if you have someone who has completed the screen before, it can be even shorter. The FMS screen does have a certification course, but the founders encourage everyone to use their system regardless if you have taken the course or not. They have a book available on Amazon which is a great resource. The system is not hard, it just requires some practice. I can teach someone how to use the FMS in one afternoon!

The FMS is just one of the many movement screens that have been developed in the recent past to take a more proactive approach to injury prevention. Regardless of how teams are screened, they need to be screened! The earlier athletes are screened the better. We cannot let athletes get through high school while playing competitive sports without screening them.


Screening Is Not Just for Athletes

The same goes for CrossFit gyms. We need to do a better job of screening our members as they join our gyms. This is something that should be included in all of the Foundation and On-Ramp classes. We should be able to do a quick 10-minute screen to tell them what they need to spend some time on before and after their workout so they can avoid injury and continue to come to the gym and benefit from all the great things that our gyms have to offer.

I cannot tell you how many people have told me they are scared of CrossFit because they are worried about getting injured. If we can set up something in every gym that screened all new members, it would help break down the fear of injury barrier and it would help our members improve their movement quality. We all open or work at a gym to help others live a healthy life and have fun getting fit. It is our responsibility to make them better movers!

Matt Shiver

You Need to Know How to Scale Your Workouts by Crystal McCullough

“It has always bothered me when an athlete walks up and says, “I only used this weight” or “I couldn’t do the handstand push-ups” with a look of disgust. Every athlete is different and they are all on their own journey.
This fitness race is a marathon and not a sprint.  We must realize not to push athletes too far and, in turn, athletes must not get discouraged and realize that it is a culmination of training that gets them to where they want to be, not one training session.”

Coaches need to know how to program for all skill levels and athletes would benefit from knowing how best to scale workouts in any given setting.

Consider three different scenarios:

Scenario 1:

You are a high school strength and conditioning coach for a women’s basketball team in their off-season. The workout calls for strict pull-ups and running. You have 3 athletes who are unable to do strict pull-ups and 2 athletes that are coming off of ankle injuries and running is contraindicated. How do you appropriately scale them in order to give them the same stimulus as the other athletes?

Scenario 2:

You have a CrossFit class full of general population members of all different skill levels. The workout calls for handstand push-ups and heavy deadlifts. How do you appropriately scale them in order to keep them safe and still challenge them within their skill level?

Scenario 3:

You are an athlete that follows an online programming blog and you don’t have a coach right in front of you. The workout calls for movements that you are not yet proficient at? How do you scale appropriately?

Most of my focus in coaching has been with group classes (general population, youth, and competitors) mainly in a CrossFit-type setting and personal training. Although, this is where my specialty lies, regardless of if you are a CrossFit coach, high school strength and conditioning coach, or personal trainer, this applies to you.  We have to know how to scale appropriately for our athletes!

Photo credit: BAW Photography / Girls Gone Rx

Scaling is not a dirty word!

From my experience, the common theme, especially among the general population and youth classes, is the thought that scaling is a dirty word. This can’t be farther from the truth! If you are unfamiliar with a CrossFit class, at the end of the workout, each athlete’s time gets written on a whiteboard. The standard most everyone wants to reach is RX (as prescribed). Anything else is considered scaled.

It has always bothered me when an athlete walks up and says, “I only used this weight” or “I couldn’t do the handstand push-ups” with a look of disgust. Here is why! Every athlete is different and they are all on their own journey.  This fitness race is a marathon and not a sprint.  We must realize not to push athletes too far and, in turn, athletes must not get discouraged and realize that it is a culmination of training that gets them to where they want to be, not one training session. It is easiest to do this by having them keep a notebook of where they started versus where they are now. Sometimes, simply looking back will put it all into perspective.


Why do we scale?

Scaling is an art form coaches must learn. There are specific reasons why we scale an athlete and they need to understand the why. This will allow them to become self-sufficient, to know how to scale specific movements for future workouts, and if they are visiting another gym and working with a different coach, staying consistent. Athletes rely on us as coaches to give them safe and effective progressions that will give them the same stimulus as if they were doing the workout as prescribed.

There are different types of scaling and different reasons to scale:

  1. Lowering the weight to provide the correct stimulus
  2. Modifying gymnastics movements by using progressions due to skill level
  3. Alternative movements due to injury

We might have to lower the weight simply because the prescribed weight is too heavy regardless of the circumstance and lighter weight is necessary. Other times, it might be because the stimulus of the workout is for the weight to be light in order to get through the repetitions fast for an all-out effort workout. In this case, just because an athlete can do the weight, it doesn’t mean they should. I am going to use the fretted “Fran” for instance. Fran is 21 reps of thrusters at 95 pounds for men and 65 pounds for women, 21 reps of pull-ups, 15 reps of thrusters, 15 reps of pull-ups, 9 reps of thrusters, 9 reps of pull-ups. The best times in the world are sub 2 minutes. This means that you should be moving at all times and taking minimal rest breaks. For the general population, the workout should be scaled in order for it to be done in less than 7 minutes. So, for argument’s sake, you are slow at pull-ups and have to break them up AND the thruster weight is heavy, you might complete the workout, however, you won’t be getting the stimulus that is meant from Fran.

How you should probably look like after “Fran”.

There are other times when the workout is meant to be heavier to slow the athlete down, so the weight would be prescribed to be heavy. The weight might still be scaled in relation to the prescribed weight, however, if we use the thruster again, the weight you use for this workout would be heavier than the weight you used for Fran. You also have to look at the individual athlete and know their strengths. Women tend to have better strength endurance and can rep weights closer to their max than men. So, that can sometimes make it difficult to simply place a percentage on the weight to get the appropriate stimulus.

Some athletes may not be able to perform the bodyweight movements as written and will have to use progressions instead. The progression should be a version of the same movement that will allow the athlete to get stronger and eventually be able to perform the movement they are aiming for.  You can also program these progressions on a skill day to reinforce proper movement patterns in all athletes. Common bodyweight movements are push-ups, handstand push-ups, handstand walks, pull-ups (chin and chest to bar), ring rows, toes to bar, dips (stationary and rings), muscle ups (ring and bar), L-sits, box jumps, and one-legged squats. 

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Progressions for Common Bodyweight Movements

The progressions I am going to list are not the end all be all, however, these are what I have found have worked best for the athletes I have trained.


You want your athletes to be able to perform a push-up where they can keep their body tight and get full range of motion. For me, full range of motion is chest to the ground and full lock out in the top position. Hand placement depends on what muscle group you want to work, but standard push-ups are where the shoulder, elbow, and wrist are all stacked. The elbows stay nice and tight and don’t flare out. As far as progressions go, I prefer not to use the knees approach. Too many athletes don’t keep a straight body when they do them this way. Rather, raise the height of the hands to take some of the load off of the exercise. The higher the hands, the less the load is. As the athlete progresses, lower the height of the hands to make it more difficult.

Handstand Push-ups

To start, if an athlete cannot perform proper push-ups, then they should not progress at all to this movement. Continue to have them doing regular push-ups. If they can do regular push-ups, but are unable to do handstand push-ups, these are progressions I recommend. First, they can do what is called pike push-ups. To get to this position, you start out in the normal push-up position and walk your hands back until you are in a vertical pressing position rather than a horizontal pressing position as with the regular push-up.

Another progression is pike push-ups off of a box. The feet get placed on the box and the hands are walked back to where the hips and shoulders are stacked and eyes are staring at the box. Both of these progressions strengthen the shoulders and will help to increase strength in this movement. Negatives are a great strength component for athletes who can get upside down on the wall and hold themselves in that position for at least 15 seconds with arms locked out. Have them kick up on to the wall and slowly lower themselves down to a mat. Do this for 3-5 sets of 3 two to three times a week.


Handstand Holds/Walks

This can be as simple for some athletes as just getting upside down for the first time against a wall. Kicking up drills with a spot might be the first step in getting athletes to feel comfortable upside down. A drill that can be done to increase shoulder strength is getting in the same position as the box pike push-ups and walking around the box in both directions. Also, starting out farther away from the wall, kicking up and walking the rest of the way to the wall is a great way to begin handstand walking. As athletes progress, simply move them farther out from the wall.


It is my firm belief if an athlete cannot do strict pull-ups, they have no business doing the kipping pull-up. Strength should come first before ever introducing a ballistic movement. Once strict pull-ups are accomplished, never stop training them, but kipping pull-ups can be added into the arsenal. So, this progression is more for the athletes who struggle with strict pull-ups. What I have found works best to accomplish the same stimulus as a pull-up is a seated jackknife pull-up.  Put a barbell on the rack where it sits low enough for the athlete to sit on the floor and extend the arms fully. The shoulders should be stacked over the hips during the movement. Straightening the legs makes this movement harder, while bending the knees and placing the heels on the floor makes it easier. This allows for the legs to be used as needed, yet keeps the tempo strict, and allows for full range of motion.

For chin over bar, simply pull until the chin breaks the plane of the bar. For chest to bar, pull until the chest touches the bar. Negatives are also another great strength component that can be done in small sets. Have them jump up to the top of the pull-up position and slowly lower themselves down and then drop. Do this for 3-5 sets of 3 two to three times a week.


Ring Rows

Ring rows can be made difficult if the athlete is pulling their entire weight by placing their feet on a box or bench and getting in a horizontal position. The arms are straight and then pull the rings all the way to the armpits for full range of motion. The key is not to use the hips for momentum, but to instead keep a nice straight rigid body throughout. To scale this movement, the feet come down to the floor and the athlete walks their feet back to a position where they can get full range of motion without using the hips for momentum. The larger the angle to the floor, the less the load is.


Toes to Bar

This movement requires a good amount of core strength as well as grip strength. Some athletes may not be able to hold their own body weight on a pull-up rig. If that is the case, bring them down to the floor to do v-ups or leg raises. If the athlete can hold their body weight from the pull-up rig, but is unable to get their toes fully to the bar, they can do knee raises to 90 degrees. The rhythm of the toes to bar can be difficult to master. I recommend teaching the rhythm of the toes to bar to athletes and tell them to get the toes as close to the bar as possible while keeping the rhythm. Keep going even if the toes don’t reach the bar on every rep. They will eventually be able to do them and they will have already mastered the rhythm part. It is sometimes hard to unlearn the muscle memory of swinging in between the reps.


First of all, make sure the athlete has the core strength to hold themselves steady in the support position on the rings. If not, you can put them on a stationary dip bar. Full range of motion in a dip is full lockout at the top and the shoulder moves below the elbow with the height of the hips changing drastically in the bottom of the dip, meaning, the body stays vertical and there isn’t a lot of forward lean in the movement. Progressions that I have found work best are lowering the rings or the dip bar where the person can place their feet on the ground. This allows them to get a full range of motion in either the rings or stationary bar while using the legs as needed. Raise the rings as they get more proficient in the movement and this will force them to use more upper body rather than their legs.


Unless an athlete can perform efficient strict chest to bar pull-ups and dips, they will most likely lack the strength to do the muscle up. For these athletes, continue to work the strength component with them on the pull-ups and dips. Have them do ring pull-ups to the armpits and hold for 2-3 seconds. Have them do dead hang holds from the rings in a false grip. Do strict dips. For athletes who can do the pull-ups and dips efficiently, they may be lacking in the simple transition phase. For these athletes, work with them on the above drills and add in transition drills from low rings.


L-sits can be performed on parallettes, hanging from a pull-up bar, or from the support position on the rings. An l-sit is where arms are fully locked out with shoulders, elbows and wrists stacked, legs raised and straight parallel to the ground and chest is up. Progressions for this movement would be a bringing the knees in closer to the chest to make the hold easier or hanging from the pull-up bar with legs straight and parallel to the floor or knees bent.


Box Jumps

Unless an athlete has an injury that is contraindicated with jumping, I recommend having them start out jumping on a very low box to get the desired stimulus rather than step-ups. Jumping has much more of an effect on the heart rate than step-ups do. Continue to progress the athlete in height as you can. This will sometimes depend on the number of reps to be performed.


One-legged Squats (Pistol Squats)

Before introducing this movement to an athlete, make sure they are proficient in a simple air squat first. Due to lack of mobility/flexibility, some athletes will have trouble performing a one-legged squat. Progressions I have found work are using a box. You can start with a taller box and lower the box as they are able to perform the progression correctly. I also like taking a band and placing it across the j-hooks of the pull-up rig. This progression requires more stability than the box progression.  The lighter the band, the harder the progression. The band should be placed so that when the athlete sits back, their butt is already in contact with the band.

What about injuries?

When an athlete is injured, coaches must know how to modify movements in order to keep the athlete safe. One example would be a thruster. If an athlete has a shoulder issue and the pressing movement is contraindicated, simply have the athlete perform the front squat portion of the movement. Another example would be if an athlete has an ankle injury and running is contraindicated, place the athlete on the rower or the air bike instead. If jumping is contraindicated, have them do step ups instead. Think through the movements you have programmed for the day, think about the athletes that you have, and have a plan for modifications going into the day’s workout beforehand.

The responsibility does not solely lie on the coaches, however. Athletes, you have a responsibility as well. You have to trust the coach, put your ego aside, and be coachable. When the coach tells you to reduce the weight or perform certain progressions for a movement, believe they have your best interest in mind and only want to see you get better. Ask why, but don’t argue. Once you have mastered a progression, don’t be afraid to make the progression harder in order to continue advancing. Make sure to let the coach know if you have an injury or something is bothering you and one of the movements might exacerbate the issue. Communication is key to your success and your safety.

These are just a few suggestions I have found has worked from my own experience.  Having only been in this industry for a little over 6 years, I realize I still have so much to learn. I know, I know a woman getting started at age 35? Yes! Thankfully, CrossFit opened the door for me to pursue my passion for coaching. I find that when you surround yourself with those who are successful in the industry and know more than you, you get better! I will never stop learning and I hope you don’t either. Continue to hone your craft and continue to learn from others. Don’t be satisfied with the knowledge you have. I’ve written a few resources and programs specifically for functional fitness in our program samplers. Check them out if you’re looking for new ways to program for your athletes. 

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“Preventing Excessive Weight Gain After Weight Loss” by Coach Matt Shiver

A few weekends ago, I attended NSCA’s North Carolina State Conference. I was very impressed with the speakers who attended the event. One of the talks that was given focused on metabolism and body composition for athletes. I wanted to share some of the points that I took away from the lecture. Enjoy!

America does not have a problem losing weight. Every year in January we see thousands of people join the diet craze. They all are able to shed weight but it is only temporary. Many of them end up lowering their metabolism with these detox diets that rely on elimination and eating hypocaloric (less than they are burning throughout the day). After they do these diets, they go right back to the way they ate previously and expect to keep the weight off. Unfortunately, that just doesn’t work!

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Recent research coming out of the University of North Carolina’s Exercise Science Department is making correlations between the amount of weight that is put back on after dieting with the amount of lean mass loss during the diet.

What they are finding is that the body wants LEAN mass. When dieting, it is crucial that you are doing exercise and using nutritional strategies that support keeping lean mass. We all know how much easier it is to put on fat compared to being able to put on muscle. It takes a LONG time to add 1lb of true muscle.

What the body does when you lose lean muscle mass from a hypocaloric lifestyle, is that is CRAVES more calories to get that lean muscle back. This is why we are so hungry after our diet. We have this crazy ability to shove food in our mouth until our stomach hurts. The body wants to get back your lean body weight that you lost during your diet. It doesn’t care about your fat mass. It will do whatever it can to get you to eat more and get that lean mass back. This causes us to gain more fat mass than we had before the diet. All diets that are designed for large amounts of weight-loss are set up for failure because the body doesn’t want to do it. Your body likes homeostasis (no change). We are creatures of habit both mentally and physically.

While it is impossible to limit weight loss to just fat, there are different nutrition and training guidelines that can maximize your potential for holding onto lean muscle mass.

The researchers at UNC have found that a 2:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio has been best for keeping lean body mass. While there were questions about the ketogenic diet, there has not been enough research to support any of the claims. The presenter emphasized that your body will function better as an athlete with carbs!! The last thing that was emphasized was that females need more fat in their diet than males. They should still have the 2:1 ratio but if their fat intake gets too low, their hormone cycle can be thrown for a loop. It is important to keep them high enough to not experience any variation in monthly cycles.

Another idea that was brought up in the lecture was the idea of periodizing your nutrition. Have specific times a year that you eat more, less, and just maintain your body weight. I have seen so many people who are looking for diet device who have been eating in a deficit for the majority of the months of the year. What I tell them, is that they need to eat more. Some people may need to gain a few pounds before starting to continue to try to lose weight.

Eating more food increases your metabolism. Eating less, slows the metabolism. If you are always eating less than you are burning, your metabolism is not going to be very high. This makes it nearly impossible to lose weight. Spend some time each year upping your calories to make dieting easier on you. Losing weight off eating 2000 calories is much better than losing weight eating 1200 calories!

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The researchers are finding that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) along with proper nutrition has shown to decrease the amount of lean muscle loss during a hypocaloric phase. HIIT interval training stimulates large muscle Type II fibers and uses the glycolytic pathway to keep the muscle! Slow and steady long-distance work stimulates Type I fibers and uses the aerobic pathway. If you aren’t familiar with these pathways and fiber types, don’t worry. I’ll make it simpler. Look at your long-distance marathon runner and compare them to a world class sprinter. You will see the sprinter is JACKED while the marathon runner is thin. This is because to be good at endurance running you need as little amount of body weight as possible to run. You don’t want big muscles that make you heavier and make you work harder to go long distances. Sprinters need to create POWER. Power comes from muscle!

When trying to lose fat mass and spare muscle mass let’s switch our focus to this HIIT training.

Here are just a few examples of ways to do HIIT Training:

Type of Exercise: Row, Run, Bike, Jump Rope, Stairs

10 reps of (30 seconds -1 minute of activity), (30 seconds – 1 minute of rest)
5 reps of 2 minutes on (hard), 1 min of rest
3-4 reps of 3-4 minutes on (moderate to hard), 3 minutes of rest

This can be done 2x a week and with 4x being the upper limit to allow your body to fully recover.

Research has shown that there is even a higher compliance to this HIIT training with obese clients compared to a traditional slow and steady training session. It feels AWESOME to feel like you worked hard! Just look at CrossFit. It is a variation of high intense interval training!

I hope this was educational! If you want personalized help with your nutrition/weight-management check out the online nutrition coaching!

If you guys live near Lewisville, NC or the surrounding area, we are open for business at LEAN Fitness (home of Mash Elite and TFW Winston-Salem). If you want to try us out for a FREE Week or have any questions, email us at


Coach Matt Shiver-

Coach Shiver is currently pursuing his DPT at Duke University. He is also an avid weightlifter himself.

Will Velocity Based Training Change the Way I Coach Athletes?

Will Velocity Based Training Change the Way I Coach Athletes?

Spencer Arnold and I have been talking about this question for months. Will velocity based training change the way that I coach athletes? It will definitely be a tool that I use from now on. Whether you are a strength and conditioning coach, weightlifting coach, powerlifting coach, or CrossFit coach, velocity based training offers multiple ways to improve your craft. Here’s the way that I am going to implement:

1. I am going to collect data on all of my athletes for at least 10-12 weeks. This will give me all the numbers that I need to put ranges on my guys and gals.

2. I will use VBT to give me ranges of speed at various percentages for all of my athletes, so that I can predict outcomes and alter daily routines. I want to know each of my athlete’s velocities at 60%, 70%, and 80%. If bar speed is up, then I might go big that day. If it’s down, then I might focus on technique.

3. I want to know the speeds that all of my athletes tend to fail, so that I can set limits for each of them. The goal would be to end the majority of misses to avoid injuries and over-training.

4. For my field and court athletes, I want to avoid all misses and injuries.

5. I will use VBT to teach my athletes effort and intent. I will also use it to teach new coaches to speed up their learning curve.

Coach Spencer Arnold and I have been working on this book for some time. I am personally excited, as it is so different from anything that I have ever written. This book will help my readers in so many areas of their coaching and programming. For athletes it will open them up to a whole new way to quantify their training, and understand their strengths and weaknesses.

This is the sixth article that we have written on the subject, so I wanted to put links to all of them in one spot for you guys to understand the concept a little better. Here you go:






I hope that this series on velocity based training has given all of you some ideas that might apply to your athletes or your own training. Let us know what questions that you still might have. We will be more than happy to answer.

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

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

It will provide you full programs for the sports of:

• Weightlifting
• Powerlifting
• CrossFit
• Athletic Performance
• SuperTotal

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

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

“Maximizing Efficiency in the Sport of CrossFit” by Coach Spencer Arnold

Maximizing efficiency in the sport of CrossFit using Velocity Based Training.

by Coach Spencer Arnold, Head Coach Power and Grace Performance

If you have been around the competitive CrossFit scene at all you have heard the phrase, “slow is smooth and smooth is fast.“ This phrase, that many CrossFit coaches like to apply to their athlete’s movement, denotes that smooth will ultimately be the most efficient way to accomplish a task without any of the fatal flaws that comes with being reckless. The phrase itself likely has its roots in the military, which only heightens the necessity for precision.

In CrossFit, the speed at which I’m able to accomplish a task or workout or a combination of workouts is the all-important factor. For most workouts it’s about the clock when I’m finished. Therefore, both the efficiency at which I move a bar as well as the speed at which it is moving carries a crucial amount of importance in performance. Spectators easily notice this distinction in watching high caliber CrossFit athletes compete. One of the most often reference examples is watching Rich Froning complete workouts. For me, watching him work through a set of thrusters is mind-boggling. The bar is moving with relative ease continuously at the same velocity. It’s like he never slows down. The movement itself is far from reckless and is in fact uncannily in its efficiency. There’s a quick pause at the top of every rep with a properly loaded bounce through the bottom. Many of the competitors at his level perform the thruster a similar fashion.

The reason I bring these examples up is to point to two incredibly important factors. The best CrossFit athletes in the world waste no energy. They are able to move a barbell or their body or any other random object with the least amount of energy needed to accomplish the task with the greatest amount of speed. Secondly, these athletes move at high rates of speed for longer periods of time then most considered humanly possible. As a coach, there are a lot of moving parts around the success of a high-level CrossFit athlete but these two factors rank pretty high.

I say all this to point to one of the many ways that a velocity based training philosophy can be used in a CrossFit environment. Obviously the constructs of the tether attached to the velocity unit (Linear Position Transducer) itself prevent a lot of mobility that is required in a typical CrossFit workout. However, velocity units could be used in testing and in specifically engineering workouts to test these two factors of training mentioned above. The question you should be asking right now is how in the world does a velocity unit measure my efficiency. That’s simple. Take a look at a weightlifter that moves with really clean smooth efficient technique through a snatch. That weightlifter is going to be maximizing the speed at which the bar moves simply because there are no “power leaks“ within their technique. A high-caliber weightlifter will eliminate faults like the early arm bend or shifting to the front of the feet early or a lack of finish in the second pull. Their inefficient technique allows for greater velocity. How can I use a velocity unit to measure this? Simply by attaching the unit to the bar as they are performing those movements and noting the speed at which the ball moves when the movement is clean. Then, use the unit to the note lack of efficiency in the movement as a velocity begins to drop. Obviously fatigue will play into some of that but if it’s a relatively short amount of reps then it’s easy to see inefficient technique playing a part in dampened velocity. I can take a Rich Froning type athlete and attach a velocity unit him while he is performing a thruster and put him next to an athlete who has multiple technical faults and see the velocity difference. Especially in reps 3,4 and 5 this will become clear. While most good coaches can see this error with their eyes, an athletic training alone may not catch it. One of the biggest faults I often see in an athlete performing a heavy thruster is a shift to the front of the foot during the concentric phase as well as a collapsing of the anterior core doing the same phase. This is seen by weight shifting to the ball of the foot and their elbows dropping. However an athlete completing the movement by themselves may not have the kinesthetic awareness to recognize this fault but will be able to look at a screen in front of them and get immediate feedback on a technique failure. This will allow them to go back and correct the movement or during the next round focus on those two areas in order to maximize the efficiency during the lift. I recognize it seems a little crazy to attach a velocity tether to your bar for a workout like Fran. And I am not at all advocating that you should attach a velocity unit to every barbell movement as a CrossFit athlete. What I am saying is a velocity unit can be a good tool to measure inefficiency in movements that may be your weakness. I’m also saying that it’s worth measuring the velocity of those units at multiple points during a training phase in order to see if you were getting more efficient and moving about a higher rate of speed.

The mixed modality nature of the sport of CrossFit makes the utilization of velocity based training chaotic in most cases. However, there are specific scenarios in which the principles of VBT can be utilized. Experimenting with those situations especially with a proper understanding of your weaknesses will allow just a little bit of an edge on your competition. We all know that in the sport of CrossFit one rep in one round on one work out can be the difference in a podium or going home. Every edge matters! If an athlete is able to identify inefficiency or notice at what rep during a set fatigue begins to happen or understand their threshold for power endurance in the push press these are all little pieces of information that can go a long way in fixing weaknesses, becoming a better athlete, and reaching your goals.

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

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

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

Sola Fides,

Spencer Arnold
Owner/Head Coach
Power And Grace Performance

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