Category Archives for "Functional Fitness"

Six Factors to Coaching Success

If you read most blogs written by coaches (weightlifting, powerlifting, or strength and conditioning), you will read about programming, technique, or preferred exercises. However, there are so many elements to coaching outside of what you typically hear – especially if you are a coach in the private sector. It’s these factors no one talks about that really make a coach great or not. And these are what hold a lot of coaches back.


I started focusing on the sport of weightlifting at the end of 2013. By 2015 I had athletes on Team USA. This year we had four of our team members on the Youth World Team, and we have four team members heading to Turkmenistan for the Senior World Championships. Eight total Team USA athletes gives us more than any other team in America. Next year we are projecting to have four Youth, four Juniors, and four Senior World Team Members.

Before weightlifting, Mash Elite Performance had one of the most successful Athletic Performance programs in America. At one point we had three locations and were constantly sending athletes to Division I programs in sports like football, basketball, softball, baseball, wrestling, track and field, swimming, and even water polo. We have worked with NFL, NBA, MLB, and MMA professional athletes. I must also mention we’ve always had amazing powerlifters, even though they don’t get enough of the spotlight.

Although I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished at Mash Elite, none of this is meant to be bragging. I just wanted to show all of you that success is a formula. There are certain elements I apply to coaching that have helped to bless us with amazing athletes.

Contemplating our success one night at the AO3, I started wondering if I could teach these factors to other coaches. The answer was a definite yes.

But here’s the thing: for coaches to learn, they have to put their pride aside. Pride is the number one reason most coaches aren’t succeeding. They want everyone to believe they have all the answers. When another coach starts producing better athletes, they would rather make excuses and false accusations instead of learning from that coach. This is the biggest mistake in coaching, and it leads me to my first element that leads to success in coaching.


You might hear this one a lot, but do you act on it properly? I have learned from so many coaches – like Joe Kenn, Louie Simmons, Dragomir Ciorsolan, Zach Even-Esh, and Sean Waxman just to name a few. Finding a mentor is critical if you plan on being successful.

Finding a mentor isn’t as easy as just calling a coach and asking to hang out. You have to find someone who matches your personality. I recommend going to coaching conventions, symposiums, and clinics and getting to know coaches who are doing better than you. When you meet one who seems to click, someone who could actually be your friend… there’s the one.


Here’s another key: you need to give as much as you take. Actually the key is giving more than you take – especially in the beginning. Hopefully this comes naturally to you.

When I met Mike Bledsoe, one of the creators of the Barbell Shrugged Podcast, we became friends almost instantly. Immediately, I wanted to do as much for him as possible simply because he was a buddy. I started coaching him for free without wanting anything in return. I wrote for Barbell Shrugged’s website without wanting anything in return. I just liked Mike and all the dudes at Barbell Shrugged. Those guys literally changed my life as you know it by teaching me about this wild and crazy online world. Now I can affect the lives of so many more people while hanging out with my children on a daily basis. If you have to be in the gym from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm everyday, it’s hard to make time for the family.

I became friends with Vinh Huynh at the end of 2014. By 2015 Vinh’s gym (Undisputed Strength and Conditioning in Eagan, MN) became the first Mash Mafia Affiliate Gym. In 2014, I reached out for help to all the gyms in Minneapolis. I have a daughter in Minnesota, and I wanted to establish a base in Minneapolis for seminars and clinics. I wanted to see her more often, but I needed help. From the moment Vinh agreed to help, we became like brothers. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him.

His weightlifting team exploded onto the scene almost right away. Less than two years after opening his gym in 2015, Vinh had three of his athletes on Team USA: one senior on the World Team, one youth on the Youth Pan American Team, and one collegiate on the University World Team. Instead of congratulating him and learning from him, a lot of the other coaches in Minnesota started spreading rumors that he was just getting lucky or cheating. They said his programming was too hard. They constantly tried to steal his athletes – and are still trying to this day. This is the behavior I was talking about when I referred to pride being the number one cause of mediocrity in coaches. Whether it’s Vinh or me, I don’t understand why the coaches simply don’t ask us what we are doing. I would allow any coach to come hang out, ask questions, and learn. I know Vinh would do the same.


My mentors are also my friends. People like Sean Waxman, Kevin Doherty, and Don McCauley helped me when there was nothing in it for them. Now there is nothing I wouldn’t do to help them. In weightlifting, we are all on the same team. At least we should be. We should all desire to see Team USA improve year in and year out. Lately we have done just that. We’ve watched our athletes improve at the International level. A big part of that is the relationships that are forming between coaches.

Danny Camargo just taught me that at the AO3 like no one has ever before. Meredith Alwine, one of my athletes, was trying to qualify for the World Championships. At the same time, she was trying to beat Mattie Rogers, Danny’s athlete. During the snatch portion, we were struggling a bit, and he had the opportunity to steal our two-minute clock. Instead, he looked at me and said, “Let me know if you need extra time, and I will slow things down a bit.”

I couldn’t believe it. I thanked him, and he told me that we are all on the same team. That’s class! I’ve never had a coach help me during the heat of battle. I can say I learned a valuable lesson I will definitely pass along.

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

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World


This goes hand-in-hand with the first element. Pride and arrogance will also keep coaches from continuing to learn. A big red flag is using the exact same program template, the same exercises, and/or the same technical cues year in and year out. A great coach is always improving and always evolving. Not one of my athletes has ever performed the same program twice.

There are lots of ways to continue the learning process. One convenient way I just discovered is audio books. I am listening to Conscious Coaching by Brett Bartholomew, and it has already helped me connect with my athletes in a better way. I’ll probably listen to it twice in order to really put it to use. If you are like me, you have a few minutes every day as you drive to and from work. You can either waste those few minutes, or you can put them to use. I choose to improve myself as a coach.

There are also clinics, courses, seminars, articles, and traditional hardback books you can use to improve as a coach. With the Internet, your options are endless. The only limit holding you back is making time. I recommend choosing a source you enjoy, putting time on the calendar, and committing to constant growth.


This one sounds easy, but unfortunately most coaches struggle with this one the most. They have this sense of old school-ism where they have to be cold and withdrawn. I don’t understand this at all.

My athletes come to me because they know I care about them. We have a lot of fun. I tell them when they do well. I encourage them to be the absolute best they can be in athletics and life. I use encouragement rather than negativity to coach my athletes. They hear more about the things they are doing right than the things they are doing wrong. This leads me to the next element.


I fill my team with coaches and athletes who are also encouraging. My athletes are going to see more smiles and hear more encouragement than they will ever see me shaking my head or shouting negative comments. I expect the same thing from my athletes.

Nathan Damron and Hunter Elam do incredible jobs mentoring the other athletes. You should see the faces of Morgan McCullough or Hannah Dunn when Nathan and Hunter encourage them. We are a team. We win together when one of us succeeds. We lose together when one of us doesn’t do well. Lately there has been a lot of winning.

Culture starts with the coach. The athletes’ attitudes will normally reflect the attitude of the coach. Athletes will normally be attracted to programs with coaches who share the same values and attitudes. Now that doesn’t mean that a few bad apples won’t show up, but it’s up to the coach to either mold that apple or cut it from the tree. We made this realization about a year ago, and that’s when I instituted our latest policy. Now if an athlete is looking to join our team, they have to do a tryout. I have to approve them, but that’s not all. The entire team has to give them a thumbs up.


This is the one most coaches fail at. They expect athletes to walk in their doors, and they get mad when the athletes end up in someone else’s gym. If you read the entire list of elements, you will see a list that leads them to certain coaches. Athletes naturally flow to clubs with coaches who are always learning, coaches who are nice, and gyms with good coaches.

My athletes do most of the recruiting for me. They enjoy their team, and they tell other athletes about their experience. We have fun, we get strong, and we win. Athletes see that. It draws the type of athlete who wants to win and who wants to have fun. We just acquired a new athlete who’s going to take the sport of weightlifting by storm. She met one of our incredible youth athletes, Ryan Grimsland. Ryan told her how much he has improved with our team, and he told her how much fun we have as a team. The next thing you know, we have another amazing athlete. The same goes for our athletic performance athletes. If you help athletes get results while having fun, they are going to tell other people.

Being nice at competitions goes a long way. If someone needs help, then I’m there to help. You’ll be surprised how many athletes you pick up just being nice. That shows what a terrible culture that weightlifting had before this new wave of coaches.

Last thing, I recommend using Instagram as a tool. If you see a promising athlete who looks to be without a coach, I recommend sending them an encouraging message. If they don’t have a coach, you could offer your services. If you don’t know them, this is not the time to give them technique advice. I see this mistake all the time. You come across as a jerk with unsolicited advice. You have to earn the right to coach someone. It makes me chuckle when I see a so-called coach critique someone online. Remember, when you comment on someone’s video, the first thing they’re going to do is look at your profile. If you don’t have any athletes to your credit, you are going to get laughed at. Right or wrong, that’s what’s going to happen.


Soon we will be releasing our newest book, The Mash Files. It’s all about individualizing each program for your athlete. It’s not just programming, however. There are so many elements that are personal to each athlete: recovery, nutrition, accessory work, and coaching relationships.


Principles and Real-Life Case Studies on How a Master Programmer Customizes a Program to the Individual

Peek inside Travis's brain... and learn how to individualize your own programs to fit an athlete's strengths, weaknesses, age, gender, sport demands, and unique response to training.

Guys, you can’t coach each athlete the same way. I recommend all of you read Conscious Coaching by Brett Bartholomew. You have to spend quality time getting to know each athlete – and only then can you get to know what makes each athlete tick. If you are putting some program on a board for your entire team to follow, you can rest assured you are not going to beat my athletes.

If all you do is sit around and talk about how your technique is the best or your programming is the best, you are going to die an unfulfilled coach. If you lurk on social media giving unsolicited advice, you will die a joke. I am being aggressive with my wording because I want the best for all of you reading this. It’s easier to be a nice guy. That’s the main moral of this story. If you’re nice and surround yourself with nice athletes, you will probably succeed and have a great time doing it. I hope this helps some of you and opens the eyes of the rest of you.

The Path to Being a High Paid Coach with Jeremy Augusta – The Barbell Life 223

Jeremy Augusta is the owner of – so he would know better than anyone else about the recent trends in the fitness industry.

And he’s got great news for everyone who loves the barbell!

Right now there are coaching jobs out there for $90,000 – and Jeremy thinks that’s just the beginning. Strength training is on the rise, and we may soon reach the time where more people are back squatting than jogging. It is so exciting to think that it’s now possible to have a full-time, high-paying career in powerlifting or weightlifting.

Are you one of those who’s looking for a job in the industry? Then you’ll definitely want to listen to Jeremy’s advice on how to go about crafting the perfect application on your hunt for your dream job.

Travis Mash's Masterpiece for Strength Training and Programming

The Mash System

World champion and world-class coach Travis Mash gives you every trick in his programming toolbox plus FIVE 12 week strength programs for weightlifting, powerlifting and athletic performance and more.



  • How to apply for a high-paying coaching job (so that you get hired instead of ignored)
  • Marketing yourself on YouTube and Instagram
  • Certifications are worthless?
  • The biggest reasons gyms don’t grow
  • The number one thing you can do to add value to the gym where you work
  • and more…

Why Strength Athletes Should Condition by Crystal McCullough

My own athletes have questioned the reasoning behind why I add conditioning to their programs.

“I’m a strength athlete, why do I need conditioning?”

“Will doing GPP affect my strength?”

Eric Bowman wrote a great article about heart health and how it relates to the strength athlete. His focus was mainly on bigger athletes, and I completely agree with his assessment of how those athletes can begin to make improvements in their cardiovascular health. My focus for this article is on the strength athlete in general – and why it is a good idea for all strength athletes to condition.


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...


Both the sports of weightlifting and powerlifting have become more mainstream in recent years partly due to the popularity of CrossFit. I find there are generally three types of CrossFit athletes:

  1. The athlete who does CrossFit for their health and for the community.
  2. The athlete who does CrossFit, finds a passion for competing, and may aspire to make it to the CrossFit Games one day.
  3. The athlete who finds CrossFit and, as much as they enjoy it, finds a passion in a specialty within the sport with either weightlifting or powerlifting.

Personally, I started out in category two and (after a couple injuries) moved to category three. The benefit for the athletes who come into the sports of powerlifting and weightlifting through CrossFit is they generally like to condition and have built up a good work capacity. They don’t have to be convinced to do GPP. This will normally carry over in some form or fashion into their new sport. It is the athlete who finds weightlifting or powerlifting through other avenues who might be de-conditioned and not see the value in conditioning.

What GPP Really Is

General Physical Preparedness (GPP) is defined by Athlepedia as “a preparatory phase of training that is intended to provide balanced physical conditioning in endurance, strength, speed, flexibility, and other basic factors of fitness… it can be considered all-around fitness.”

Merriam Webster defines conditioning as “the process of training to become physically fit by a regimen of exercise, diet, and rest.”

If you live a balanced life, which for your sake, I hope you do, your sport does not define you. You have family, friends, and a job. Training only takes up a small portion of your 24-hour day.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can you walk across a room without getting winded?
  • Can you walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded?
  • Can you easily get up and down off the floor?
  • Can you sit Indian style on the floor?
  • Can you touch your toes?
  • Can you squat barefoot?

If you said no to any of these questions, then you have room for improvement! What is the point of being able to lift a huge amount of weight if daily tasks are difficult? I don’t know if I’ve ever heard someone say, “Man, I wish I wasn’t in such good shape.” Have you?

While strength may be your focus in the gym, the conditioning gets you prepared for other important things outside of the gym:

  • Flexibility to get on the floor and play with your small children
  • Endurance to get out in the yard and throw a football or baseball with your teenager
  • Energy for sex

Adding in Conditioning

Generalized conditioning for both a powerlifter and a weightlifter would include some of the following:

  • Low impact steady state cardio at 75% heart rate. You can do this on a bike, rower, or treadmill/road. You could start with 20 minutes and slowly build each week up to 60 minutes depending on how much time you have. I personally prefer not to run. I feel it too much in my lower back and hamstrings the next day. You can speed walk if you don’t have any other equipment.
  • Row or Bike Intervals. You can do anywhere from 10-40 sets with varied timed intervals. You can start out on the low end and build each week . My favorite is 20-30 seconds of work with 30-40 seconds of rest. Eventually, you can remove the rest and do 20-30 seconds fast and 30-40 seconds recovery pace for the same number of sets.
  • Strongman implements are great for conditioning. You will feel it while you are performing the movement, but there is usually no residual muscle damage or soreness. I like to do these as part of my accessory work and treat it like a conditioning piece. Most days, I am limited on time, so I get more bang for my buck by turning it into:
    • Carries – Zercher, farmer (unilateral and bilateral), overhead carries (unilateral and bilateral), front rack, sandbag
    • Sled work

Conditioning for powerlifters and weightlifters should be a complementary piece and can be done wrong IF you are choosing exercises that cause additional muscle damage on top of what you already get with your sport. Movements to avoid are anything that has an eccentric portion, especially with load. Examples of the eccentric portion would be the descent in the squat or deadlift. Research says the eccentric portion of the movement can cause DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Because you get all the benefits from eccentric training in your strength movements, there is no need to add additional muscle damage and soreness in the conditioning piece.

For my CrossFit athletes who are in a strength cycle, they will do barbell cycling during downsets as part of their conditioning. Being able to barbell cycle during a workout for competitive CrossFit athletes is extremely important. Speed and efficiency with these movements can make or break a workout.

Something important to note for competitive weightlifters is when lifting in a meet, you may not know how much time you have between lifts. You may think you have two minutes, but then someone takes your clock. That puts you right back up in the hot seat. Conditioned athletes are prepared for that moment. It’s the deconditioned athlete who comes off the stage winded from an attempt that may crumble if they have to step right back up.

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

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

I hope you read this article and can now see the value in adding conditioning to your training if you didn’t before. You receive benefits directly related to your sport from conditioning – but more importantly, you are able to enjoy all the little things in life that require you to have energy, endurance, and flexibility.

Eccentric Exercise: A Comprehensive Review of a Distinctive Training Method

The Most Important Muscle for Longevity in Strength Athletes… and How to Optimally Build It by Eric Bowman

Thanks to the efforts of strength coaches such as Alex Viada, Travis Mash, and Brandon Lilly, we’re seeing a shift in the strength sports community.

We’ve moved from the stereotypical “fat guy with a big gut who eats three Big Macs every meal” to a leaner, fitter, healthier strength athlete. As someone who used to work in cardiac rehab and helped start two programs, this warms my heart (no pun intended).

But it also concerns me because cardiovascular exercise, especially in bigger people with various health issues, needs to be done safely in order to minimize risk. Risk can never be eliminated, but it can be minimized.


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...

So let’s go over some heart health advice for the strength athlete. Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor – nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so it’s tough for me to give very specific pieces of advice without understanding your situation and your goals. Take what I say with a grain of salt.

Here are the two most important pieces of advice for strength athletes who want to start taking care of their cardiovascular health.

Get a blood test

People ask me all the time – what supplements should I take? My answer is… get a blood test. I don’t know what nutrients and hormones you have deficiencies or excesses of. A blood test can help reveal all that.

This gives you a good start in terms of dietary changes and/or supplementation if needed. By contrast, overdosing on multivitamins may give you excess levels of fat soluble vitamins and/or just lead to you having really expensive urine from the vitamins that you pee out.


Get a graded exercise test

While there are various protocols for how these are done, a graded exercise test involves exercising on a stationary bike or treadmill at a gradually increasing resistance and/or speed. During these tests the evaluator will measure your ECG (heart rhythm), blood pressure, (if present) chest pain, and heart rate along the way to determine a safe cardiovascular exercise intensity range. This is the range that will enable you to improve your fitness while not working into an intensity that provokes symptoms in an unsafe manner.

When I worked in cardiac rehab, this method minimized the amount of incidents to one episode of chest pain over many years. Conversely I’ve heard of other centers that don’t give patients specific exercise intensities, and they report high rates of chest pain and even heart attacks during sessions. You don’t want that happening to you.

Also getting these tests (and just ECGs) done in general can help detect heart defects, such as the one that killed 2005 World’s Strongest Man runner-up Jesse Marunde.

Seek out a cardiologist or go to an ACSM (in the US) or CSEP (in Canada) Certified Exercise Physiologist. Make sure your practitioner has performed these tests before.

With these tests out of the way, now we move on to building our heart health with the following concepts.

1. Start with low impact exercise

While prowler pushes and hill sprints are quite popular, many athletes may not have the cardiovascular fitness or the orthopedic health to do them without developing pain, aggravating pre-existing issues, or just plain getting exhausted and throwing up. Plus if you’re a strong athlete, these methods are harder to recover from and should be used more sparingly.

By contrast I’m more of a fan of low-impact options:

  • Sled pulls
  • Sled walks (props to Jim Wendler for this idea)
  • Stationary bike or recumbent bike
  • Incline treadmill or weight vest walking

What about running?

Running is a higher stress activity that can have injury rates actually higher than those of strength sports. That’s not to say you should never run, but the decision to run has to be looked at in terms of the following criteria:

  • What is your general health like? If you have cardiovascular, pulmonary, or lower body orthopedic issues (like joint or muscle pain), then running may not be the best choice for you.
  • What is your baseline fitness like?
  • What are your goals? Do you plan to run or are you just using it as a general means of getting in better shape?


2. Prepare

Make sure to do your cardio in areas that have people with appropriate first aid/AED training in the event that something does happen.

3. Start Easy

When in doubt, start easy. One thing I learned from my experiences in ICU and in pulmonary rehab is that a little bit of cardiovascular fitness can go a long way in terms of improving health, disease prevention, and improving recovery from hard training.

Athletes with a Type A mindset can often (in my opinion) go way too hard on their cardio and end up puking, passing out, or just plain stalling their recovery from training.

Once you’ve had your stress test and know what exercise intensity is safe for you, I recommend starting at a lower volume and intensity.

4. Build volume before building intensity

A common saying I’ve heard is to build anaerobic power before anaerobic capacity and to build aerobic capacity before aerobic power. None could be truer.

In simple terms, focus on building endurance to 20-40 minutes per session within your desired range before adding intensity.

If you’ve built a good base of cardiovascular fitness and are cleared to exercise at a higher intensity through a graded exercise test, then you can progress to more strenuous methods.

Just because you’re a strength athlete doesn’t mean you have to be a 300-pound cardiac patient during or after your career. Take these steps to heart and let me know how things turn out.

Dr. Stuart McGill on Stiffness and Neurological Strength

Get ready for some more knowledge bombs from Dr. Stuart McGill. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the previous wisdom from Dr. McGill – go listen to what he said about finding the perfect footwear, focal point, and athlete cues in the deadlift.

I am so grateful and honored that Dr. Stuart McGill allowed me to consult with him while I was researching for Pulling Science. Like I said last time, Dr. McGill is not merely an academic. He has worked with athletes from the highest levels. He has coached champion lifters – taking them from debilitating back pain to setting PRs.

Dr. McGill has an eye for movement and detail. Listen in to this fascinating insight he had while watching the World’s Strongest Man Competition:

It’s amazing how our bodies function – that our neurology is such a massive factor in our performance. Getting this incredible stiffness starts with the setup. And here’s Dr. McGill on his cue of achieving tightness by twisting the bar:

I can personally attest to the power of Dr. McGill’s approach. He recently stopped by my facility and was helping some of our general fitness adults with their deadlifts. The look on their eyes when it all clicked for them – it was amazing!


Master Technique and Programming for the Conventional Deadlift, Sumo Deadlift, and Clean Pull

After combing through the research and interviewing the experts, the result is a guide that will refine your technique and boost your pull in a safe and effective manner.

Again, thanks to Dr. McGill. I suggest your next step to hear more from him would be to head over to

Grip Training for the Pull

In my time as a coach, I have watched athletes who should be world-class end up falling short due to a lack of grip strength.

These same athletes had all the other tools necessary to be strong – amazing leg strength, an incredible posterior chain, beautiful movement, optimal mobility, and the ability to produce massive amounts of power. But they lacked one key ingredient… hands.

Hand size and grip strength are important for all sports – not just strength sports. Think about it for just a second. In football, you need hands for catching, controlling your opponent, and tackling. In basketball, you need hands for catching, dribbling, passing, and shooting. In wrestling, you need strong hands to control your opponent. Have you ever met and shaken hands with a world-class wrestler or fighter? If you have, then you know they all have death grips. You get the point.


The older I get, the more fascinated I become with this age-old strength art. I remember my grandfather’s grip and forearms. They were scary with a massive amount of muscularity. He was a farmer, so he was always working grip strength. He was the original strength athlete in our family, and he constantly amazed people with his ability to carry two partially wet bales of hay in each hand and throw them on top of loaded trucks. That’s roughly 120 to 150 pounds in each hand.

Growing up on the same farm, I naturally have strong hands and muscular forearms. I was able to double overhand hook grip an 804 pound deadlift in competition. I’ve double overhand deadlifted over 500 pounds without a hook grip on several occasions. Grip is something my parents helped me with by giving me big hands. Growing up on the farm did the rest.

When my boys were born, the first thing I did after welcoming them into the world with a hug was to check their hand size in relation to the rest of their body. Luckily I did my job. Both boys have catcher’s mitts for hands.


But what if you don’t have large hands? You should train the grip.
What if you do have large hands? You should still train the grip.

If you have big hands (especially long and not particularly fat hands), you probably won’t have trouble with grip until you are handling some massive loads. If you have short or thicker hands, you will want to start working on grip strength as early as possible in your training career. Either way, you don’t want to wait until you are outlifting your grip.

There are two main types of grip strength: squeezing (or concentric) grip strength and holding capacity (or isometric) strength.

This article is going to focus mainly on holding capacity strength, also known as isometric strength. This is the type of grip strength relevant to the deadlift, clean pull, and snatch pull. The snatch pull can be difficult because you have to overcome vertical and lateral forces in the grip. During these lifts, an isometric contraction is used to hold on. I will probably write another article someday on all the different elements of grip, but today we are focused on grip in relation to the pull.


Master Technique and Programming for the Conventional Deadlift, Sumo Deadlift, and Clean Pull

After combing through the research and interviewing the experts, the result is a guide that will refine your technique and boost your pull in a safe and effective manner.



Here are a few exercises I have used to create an unbreakable grip.

A slightly bigger bar works in two ways. First, the body will adapt to the bigger diameter and over time get stronger and stronger from the new stimulus. Second and along the same lines, an isometric contraction makes the new joint angle of the hands stronger. Like Mel Siff noted in his book Supertraining:

“…isometric training also produces significant strength increase over a range of up to as much as 15 degrees on either side of the training angle. Moreover, as with all strength measurements, there is a specific force or torque versus joint angle curve for each type of muscle contraction, so that it is highly unlikely that a strength increase would be confined to a very precise angle and nowhere else in the range.”

Basically, getting stronger in the new joint angle will also strengthen the original angle. Using the conjugate method, the new joint angle prevents the body from refusing to get stronger due to accommodation. The adaptation from the new angle caused by the thicker bar will then aid with getting the original angle stronger.

I recommend multiple sets of one to five repetitions with a slower eccentric, mainly to increase the time of the isometric contraction.

A deadlift from blocks allows you to hoist more weight than a lift from the floor. I recommend using your normal grip (either mixed grip or hook grip) for specificity. If you don’t use your competition grip, you won’t be able to handle enough weight for specific adaptations to occur. In this case I don’t recommend high repetitions, as most of you will be focusing on increasing grip for your max.

I recommend three to five sets of one to three repetitions with loads greater than your current max from the floor, with holds of 15-20 seconds. When you can hold a specific weight for all sets and reps for 15-20 seconds, add weight the following session. You can use this method one to three times per week.

Performing this movement unilaterally can prevent grip asymmetries, since you have to hold with each hand for equal time. The distance of the partial deadlift isn’t as important as the hold itself.

I recommend three to five sets of one to three repetitions per hand with loads as big as possible, keeping the weight the same per hand, with holds of 15-20 seconds. When you can hold a specific weight for all sets and reps for 15-20 seconds on each hand, add weight the following session. You can use this method one to three times per week.

This is one of my favorites because it is also good for trunk and hip stability. We perform carries one to three times every single week from our weightlifters to our general fitness folks. One key for specificity reasons: you will want to use handles with a diameter as similar as possible to your deadlift bar.

I recommend three to four sets of 20 yards. 20 yards is a good amount because you can use weight more relevant to your deadlift. Once you can handle a specific weight for three to four sets without dropping the bar, you will want to increase the weight.


Personally I love these for general strength purposes. The diameter might be a bit much for totally specific gains in strength. However, considering the earlier statement from Mel Siff, you will still notice gains in overall isometric grip strength. These would be great early in a macrocycle if you were looking to increase your grip over a year’s time.

I recommend multiple sets of one to five repetitions with a slower eccentric, mainly to increase the time of the isometric contraction.

I love this exercise. This exercise definitely refers to capacity grip training, but it lacks the specificity of a deadlift hold. We performed these at the Olympic Training Center during my short stay. Personally I noticed a difference in grip strength – but just about everything I do for grip training works for me.

I recommend either pinch-gripping a 25kg or 20kg competition bumper plate. Or you can pinch-grip two metal 10-pound or 25-pound plates together. Once you can carry or hold the plates for 20 seconds, move on to a heavier and more challenging plate.

Once again, even though the specificity isn’t there, I still love these for strengthening overall grip. Isometric work has at least some carryover throughout the range of motion, but a more specific bar will always work best.

I recommend three to four sets of one to three repetitions for 15-30 seconds. When you can complete all sets at 30 seconds, increase the weight.

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

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

Grip strength training is so much fun. There are so many ways to train your grip to get stronger.

Obviously grip strength can help the deadlift in powerlifting. However, grip training can help athletes in their struggle to both snatch and clean more weight. A secure grip will send a signal to the body to fire on all cylinders. A weak grip can cause the body to prematurely shut things down due to a system weakness. Let’s work hard to keep the system firing properly, so we can all maximize our numbers on the platform.