Category Archives for "Functional Fitness"

Why Jamaica Rules the World of Sprinting

I returned last night from one of the most incredible trips of my entire life.

Phil, the CEO of Stronger Experts, and I have been talking about a trip to Jamaica from the very moment I joined the platform. For all of you who don’t know what Stronger Experts is, I will give you a brief explanation. Phil gathered some of the world’s top experts in the areas of weightlifting, powerlifting, strength and conditioning, speed training, nutrition, injury prevention, and rehab. The platform is a one-stop shop for young and aspiring coaches to learn from the best in the business.



One of the coaches on the platform is Coach Jae Edwards. Jae is a big part of the reason why I joined this platform. He works with some of the top sprinters in Jamaica – including Yohan Blake. I’ve been fascinated by the Jamaican sprinters for quite some time now. I have been dying to understand their training and their mindset. Phil gave all of us that chance.

I was able to arrange for Doug Larson and Anders Varner, my friends from Barbell Shrugged, to come along to document the journey. This guaranteed we would come away with some moments that would encourage and inspire all of you. It also allowed me to co-host one of the most amazing podcasts of my life with Yohan Blake, which brings me to the point of this story.

No Other Option

Yohan explained to us life growing up on the island. Yes, it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. However, life on the island for the locals can be one of the hardest existences in the world. Yohan grew up in a one-room house with seven siblings and his parents. Food was hard to come by, which made athletic endeavors much harder for him than the athletes here in the United States.

He didn’t even start out as a sprinter. When he was 16 years old, he was playing cricket and decided to try his hand at sprinting. Luckily he was really good right out of the gate. It’s actually hard to imagine how good he would be if he had started earlier like most of the children in Jamaica – talking to the other track coaches, they start them between four to six years old.

Once Yohan realized he had a gift, he knew he had found a way to change the lives of his entire family. He worked harder than everyone else on the island, to the point Usain Bolt gave him the nickname Beast. He still trains with the same tenacity, and is currently the world’s fastest man after winning the world championships. Yohan also holds the second-fastest time ever recorded for the 100-meter dash – 9.69 seconds. After talking to him over the last few days, there is no way I would vote against him. If you want to hear the entire story, just wait for the episode of Barbell Shrugged to drop.

Here’s my point in telling you this story. Yohan approached sprinting with no other alternative. There was no fall-back plan and no other options. Back at home there was only a one-room house and several disappointed family members awaiting him if he failed. He told us about praying multiple times God would grant him speed. He told us about his mother telling him he was their only hope.

As an athlete growing up in America, I can’t imagine having that kind of pressure on me. He felt the weight of the entire world on his shoulders, and he didn’t let the weight crush him. It’s that pressure that made him unbeatable. Yes they have good coaching in Jamaica, but so do we in America. It’s the fact they don’t have any other option that drives them to succeed at such high levels.

The problem with options

In America, our athletes have so many options. If their sport doesn’t work out, then they will go on with their lives. Heck, most of them realize they will be more financially stable when their sport is over. That really makes it tough for them when training gets hard, and training gets hard for everyone no matter the sport. ‘Options’ are the very reason why athletes fail more often than not in America. Let me explain a little more.

Every year, I have an athlete who reaches out to me about wanting to be an Olympian. I often wonder how they get to that goal. I mean did they watch some old Cal Strength videos, or did they stumble upon some old videos of Pyrros Dimas? Who knows? Yet here they are reaching out to me, saying the exact same things as so many before them. It used to be, if they had a little bit of talent, I would get all excited and have them visit the gym. After my trip to Jamaica, I have a new plan for all the people who reach out to me.

Now I am going to rant a bit, so get ready. Athletes tell me all the time they are willing to do anything to become the best, but their actions don’t match their mouths. Don’t tell me you want to be the best, and then proceed to go out drinking and partying every week. You’re lying to me and to yourself. Don’t tell me you will do whatever it takes, and then quit when training gets hard. If you really want to be the best, keep reading.

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What it takes

If you really want to be one of the best athletes in the world, you are going to have to give up all partying. You are going to have to take responsibility for your own nutrition. You are going to need ten hours of sleep every night. Recovery is your responsibility. You will need to find the best chiropractor, physical therapist, and massage therapist. You will need to buy Marc Pro for the inflammation. If you aren’t getting something in practice, you will need to do whatever it takes to understand the deficiency. Maybe you need some extra practice. Maybe you need two-a-days until you get it. Maybe you need to do a little extra homework.

You will need to practice harder and smarter than every other person on this planet. Things are going to get hard, really hard. That’s a promise. You are going to regress at times. You are going to plateau at times. Some of that is a planned response by your coach, and some is a dark place where all athletes will venture. It’s in the darkness where you will experience pain and sadness. Your body will hurt like you are a 50-year-old crippled person. You will get depressed. You will think it’s never going to happen. All of these things I promise are going to happen.

It’s in this darkness you will come face to face with the true you. This can be the loneliest place in the world because you are going to be faced with questions some of you don’t really want to answer:

  • Am I really good enough to be at the top of my chosen sport?
  • Am I really willing to do what it takes to make it in my chosen sport?
  • Is my sport worth pushing through this terrible pain?
  • Am I tough enough to push through this plateau?

Making that decision

For some of you, it’s simply a reality check. You might not be cut out to be the best, and that’s okay. Some of you will learn to simply enjoy the sport. However, for all of you who really have what it takes, you will be faced with the hardest decision of your life. If you quit now, you will probably quit when things get tough for the rest of your life. Nothing great in life ever comes easy, and that’s why athletes who make it to the very top are so darn special. They are special in the same way amazing entrepreneurs are special or incredible inventors.

The rest of this article is especially to the athletes who are about to reach out to me in the future. I want you to contemplate this article and the question above. I know it seems sexy when you see my athletes wearing Team USA on their chests. I know it seems cool traveling around the world lifting weights against the best athletes in the world. However that’s less than 1% of what really goes on. Are you ready for the work that’s really required? Are you willing to stay at home while others go out partying? Are you willing to take control of your nutrition and recovery?

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Here’s the thing. I am no longer willing to coach someone who isn’t willing to match their action with their goals and talents. I have too many great athletes who are willing to put in the work and time. I don’t have the time for trouble cases who aren’t willing to accept the help and coaching. The Jamaicans are willing to do whatever it takes. Are you? I mean are you really?

Yohan Blake didn’t have a choice. That makes it a bit easier to stay focused. For the rest of us who have choices, we must be disciplined. You have to want to succeed more than anything else in the entire world. If there is something else you would rather be doing, then go do that and forget about sport.

I know this article isn’t my normal science based ‘how to’ article, but it’s the truth all of you need to hear. Don’t tell me you were already thinking like this because I watch too many of you come and go. Be honest with yourself! It’s okay to play a sport for fun. However, when you tell a coach like me you want to be the best in the world, then I expect the best work ethic and discipline in the world. If I don’t get just that, you can find another coach.

Using Prilepin’s Chart Post Rehab

About the author: Eric Bowman is a Registered Physiotherapist and Strength Coach in Ontario, Canada who works in the areas of chronic musculoskeletal pain, sports rehab, and strength and conditioning. He’s also intermittently involved with the University of Waterloo Kinesiology program and the Western University Physical Therapy program. He also competes as a powerlifter and has completed the CPU Coaching Workshop and Seminar.

During the time period between my performance in Coach Mash’s Feats Of Strength meet and my previous meet in December 2017, I took time away from competing to work on rehabilitating some chronic patellofemoral pain. I wrote about the process of getting pain-free on my website.

After getting pain-free, the next step was to get stronger. Needless to say, my squat was in desperate need of improvement. So I needed a plan to get from Point A to Point B without rushing so aggressively that I re-aggravated my symptoms. This plan came from the use of a tool, originally intended for Olympic lifters, that I have used both for myself and for other clients recovering from weight-training injuries – Prilepin’s Chart.

What is Prilepin’s Chart?

Prilepin’s Chart is a chart designed in the former Soviet Union to manage the training of Olympic weightlifters. It provides recommendations based off of the percentage of your one-rep max, for optimal repetitions per set, and optimal total repetitions per workout.

Who is it for?

It is for people who have no major orthopedic or medical pathology, can do everything in their work and activities of daily living pain-free, and only have pain (or form breakdown) past a certain weight.

If you still have pain with these other activities, and/or you have other orthopedic or medical issues, those need to get dealt with first. Just saying.

How do I apply it?

I use it for the big barbell lifts – squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press – as well as Olympic lifts on occasion.

The key is having a proper 1RM. This requires putting the ego in park and using a max you know you can hit properly and pain-free. Just because you squatted 700 pounds before the meet doesn’t mean you can squat it now. Use a one-rep max (either taking it directly or from a calculator) from the best performance you can do properly and pain free in that exercise.

For instance, if you can squat 300 pain-free but 315 gives you trouble, 300 is your training max.

From there you use the percentages in the chart. A strength-based workout may be 80% of your max (240 pounds in this example) for 2-5 sets of 2-4 reps. A hypertrophy or accumulation-based workout may be 70% of your max (210 pounds in this example) for 3-6 sets of 3-6 reps.

What are the advantages of this approach?

1) Keeps the athlete in check
Most athletes, especially us studly powerlifters, like to push weights and push the envelope to get back to where we were before.

A flaw I see of people who do programs like 5/3/1, Conjugate, or 10/20/Life is that they become “PR happy” and want to break a PR week after week – eventually leading to stagnation or injury. This isn’t a flaw of the programs themselves but rather how they’re used.

A fixed max and percentages keeps us in check.

2) Flexibility with sets and reps
A flaw of fixed percentage based programs, particularly linear periodization models, is they don’t allow for flexibility in sets and reps. This is a problem for two reasons:

  • Some lifters are more “fast twitch” than others and can’t do as many reps at a given percentage of their 1RM compared to other “slower twitch” lifters. Bret Contreras and Brad Schoenfeld did an experiment where they had subjects perform an all out set at 75% of their 1RM. The top lifter did 21, the bottom lifter did 7. So telling an athlete they must do 3 sets of 10 at 75% of their 1RM might be impossible for the bottom lifter and too easy for the top lifter.
  • If you’re having a bad day, 3 sets of 10 at 75% may be too hard … or if you’re having a good day it’s too easy.

Having a flexible range of sets and reps helps minimize these issues by enabling you to auto-adjust your sets and reps for the day.

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3) Emphasis on proper form
For technically complex lifts – such as the powerlifts and the Olympic lifts – it’s hard to maintain good form past a few repetitions unless you’re someone who is very technically sound. While singles are optimal for technique, doing lots of singles in a workout can get pretty time consuming and pretty monotonous. As such, I prefer the 1-6 rep ranges used in Prilepin’s Chart.

How do I know when to bump the training max up?

If you can hit (or exceed) the top end of Prilepin’s Chart on a consistent basis without pain or excessive fatigue, then you can recalibrate your training max and begin again. I usually use the following recommendations based on how many repetitions you’re consistently (key word) hitting in your workouts compared to those recommended in the chart:

When in doubt – start light and increase more slowly. The big thing is to keep everything pain-free and use proper form.

What about lifters who are short on time and can’t do that much volume?

The one downside, from a practical standpoint, is Prilepin’s Chart can lead to a fair amount of volume in a workout.

For people who are short on time, I recommend Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program – which should be used in a similar manner of using a training max that you can hit properly and pain-free.

With Jim Wendler at SWIS 2018

Wendler’s Variation

Wendler recommends sticking with your current training max and increasing it by 2.5-5 pounds for upper-body lifts or 5-10 poounds for lower-body lifts every four weeks until you stall and can’t hit the prescribed sets and reps. Wendler is way smarter than I am, so I can’t argue with him. My only suggestion is to start with a super conservative training max.

If you use a methodology that is not percentage-based but involves working to a top set on your main movements, such as the Max Effort component of Conjugate training, I still recommend you only increase your weights at a maximum of 5-10% per month (again – if in doubt, less is better). For some, increasing weights that slowly may not feel like a true “max effort” strain. Some ways to make a max effort exercise more difficult without adding weight:

  • Adding in some slow eccentrics and/or isometrics to the lift
  • Doing more warm-up/working-up volume prior to your top sets

Prilepin’s Chart can be applied in many ways outside of Olympic lifting and can be a useful tool, when applied appropriately, in the late rehab stage and post rehab stages of an athlete.

As always – thanks for reading.

The Science of Training Children with Keegan Martin – The Barbell Life 254

Keegan Martin was the original functional fitness kid.

His parents developed a very famous program for training children, and he refers to himself as the “crash test dummy” for the program.

Now he’s spearheading the Brand X Method, which trains young athletes and “builds formidable humans.” Keegan brings science into a field where he feels science is really lacking.

So we talk all about that today – about his past… and about what so many people get wrong when it comes to training youth.

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  • How almost everyone gets youth training wrong
  • The three stages of training young athletes
  • Can your kid REALLY play for a D1 school?
  • Why he made the hard decision to shut down his physical gym
  • The most important physical skill
  • and more…

The One Common Trait in Winners

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

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Here are the athletes/coaches I talked to:

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

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

A common bond?

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

Jourdan Delacruz

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

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

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

Boady Santavy

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

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

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

Kate Nye

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

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

Wes Kitts

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

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

The Athlete’s Advantage

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

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

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

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

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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Jason Khalipa on the AMRAP Mentality – The Barbell Life 251

Jason Khalipa is obviously well known as an amazing CrossFit athlete.

He’s also the owner of a successful gym (and has great business advice to give), and he’s the author of a new book that will get you focused and moving forward in business, fitness, and in life. It’s called As Many Reps as Possible.

So listen in to this one for a different look at Jason. Of course we talk about CrossFit programming (I mean, you know I’m going to go there), but we really spend a lot of time talking about the realities of business and life.


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...


  • His advice to those wanting to own a gym
  • Has CrossFit gone too far?
  • His daughter’s illness and how it changed his life
  • The reality of owning a gym
  • Programming for CrossFit
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