Category Archives for "Functional Fitness"

Fixing Athlete Posture

First, let me say that I am enjoying Human Movement and Biomechanics class that I am taking this semester at Lenoir-Rhyne University with Dr. Keith Leiting.

After taking a brief look at compression, tension, shear, and torsion forces and their effects on the body, we dove straight into assessment. Our first look at assessment was postural alignment. I have to admit that working with my chiropractor extraordinaire, Dr. Lawrence Gray, helped to prepare me for this section of biomechanics. However, this class has taken me even deeper, which I am applying to my athletes as we speak.


Here’s what I have noticed even with some of my top weightlifters. The majority of college students demonstrate varying levels of upper cross syndrome, which is what you see with people who have their heads forward, rounded shoulders, concave chests, and a rounded back. Now to be clear, my athletes have not become the Hunch Back of Notre Dame yet, but they are on their way.

I decided to address these issues now for two reasons: to protect the future of their postural health and to make them better weightlifters. You are also going to help avoid unnecessary injury by addressing each athlete’s individual postural alignment.

For example, if an athlete has a rounded thoracic spine with their shoulders rounded and most likely internal rotation of the humerus, they are going to have a tough time getting the bar overhead in an optimal position. If they can get the bar overhead, it’s most likely going to cause injury somewhere down the road. When the scapula elevates and rotates forwards, the acromion process and coracoid process (parts of the scapula that muscle tendons are connected to) roll forward and down.

Normally there is lots of space for the rotator cuff tendons to move around (subscapularis, supraspinatus, and to the posterior the infraspinatus) freely – at least that’s the way God designed us. There are also bursae sacs that lend help with lubrication and cushioning, labrums that line the actual rim of the glenoid cavity, and a synovial membrane that lines the joint capsule for added lubrication and cushioning. When the scapulae wing and rotate, the space for the tendons, bursae, labrum, synovial membranes, and muscles becomes limited. When space becomes limited, friction is sure to take place. With friction, you can guarantee that inflammation and tears are soon to follow.

In Athletes

In the sport of weightlifting, when the scapula deviates from its intended resting place, movement is going to be impaired. In the sport of weightlifting, optimal movement is absolutely required. Powerlifters can get away with bad posture for a bit longer, but they shouldn’t. When I was a powerlifter at the highest of levels, 90% of my fellow athletes had experienced shoulder surgery. The rest were on their way, and the sad part is they could easily avoid this injury by reading this article and applying the information.

I put some of my athletes through a quick biomechanical assessment, and I found the following four malalignments frighteningly common. I am going to explain each of them, tell you how to easily assess, and what to do about each.


Normally it is accompanied by forward head syndrome and internal rotation of the humerus. It’s sometimes called upper cross syndrome because it has a cross-section of weak muscles that are lengthened and a section that is tight from being shortened and compressed. The tight muscles include the pecs, subscapularis, and muscles of the thoracic spine. The weak (lengthened) muscles include rhomboids, lower/mid trapezius, and weak external rotators.

How to assess: look for over development of the thoracic curve, which is normally accompanied by excessive lumbar curving and either no curve of the cervical spine or excessive curve due to the head forward and the athlete excessively extending to see in front of them.

Exercise to strengthen the weakened scapula while encouraging improved posture:

  • Prone Y Rotations

Soft tissue work:

  • Peanut Drive the Bus
  • Foam roll the thoracic spine with scapula protracted

Exercises to strengthen weak muscles:

  • Band Pull-a-parts and external rotation for the rhomboids and external rotators
  • Blackburns for the lower/mid trapezius
  • Face Pulls with external rotation

Exercises to lengthen tight muscles:

  • Band Distractions
  • Pitcher stretch

Here’s a video that will explain each exercise:


Join the Mash Mafia Online Team and get technique analysis from the best coaches in America

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* Drills and Exercises from Expert Coaches

* Fully Customized Programming

Forward Head Syndrome

Normally this comes with kyphosis, but it can exist without being a hunchback. It’s easy to assess as well. You will want to have your athlete turn to the side, so you can view them in the frontal plane (aka from the side). You should be able to hang up a plumb line that perfectly runs though the ears, ac joint, greater trochanter, mid-knee, and the lateral malleolus. If the ears are in front of the ac joint, you have some degree of forward head syndrome. You might not have full-blown kyphosis, but you can rest assured that it’s coming as well.

Weak muscles include:

  • Deep cervical neck flexors
  • Deep cervical neck extensors
  • Rhomboids
  • Mid and lower traps

Tight/Shortened Muscles:

  • Sub occipital Muscles
  • SCM (sternocleidomastoid)
  • Levator Scapula
  • Upper Traps
  • Pecs

Manual work:

  • Levator Scapula lacrosse ball
  • SCM

Strengthen and stretch

  • Wall exercise for forward head syndrome Sub-occipital muscle stretch w deep inner 3 minute hold neck extensor strengthen
  • Band Pull-a-parts
  • Angels against wall

Humerus Internal Rotation

This one is common amongst not only my college athletes but also with my powerlifting brethren. Bench pressing is all internal rotation. If you focus on bench pressing without any regard for external rotators, you can be assured that your humerus will start to be frozen with internal rotation. You can also rest assured that shoulder surgery is inevitable unless you address the issue. This one is easy to assess.

Assessment: simply look at the athlete’s hands and see if they are neutral (palm facing in to the body or facing towards the posterior of the athlete (thumbs turn in). If the palms are facing behind an athlete, that athlete has internal rotation.

Tight muscles:

  • Subscapularis
  • Lats
  • Pecs

Soft Tissue Work:

  • Lacrosse Ball pecs and subscap
  • Band work distractions


  • Baseball pitch stretch against wall (arm externally rotate)
  • Pec minor against rack w unilateral wall slides
  • Wall Slides


  • Pull-a-parts w external rotation
  • Prone Y’s on Bench
  • Lying DB External Rotation
  • Wall slide

Anterior Pelvic Tilt

This is very common from the sitting that is so common in society right now. It’s easy to spot because it looks like the person is sticking out their butt and stomach on purpose. However lower cross syndrome is actually the culprit.

Weak muscles:

  • Lower lumbar extensors
  • Abdominals

Tight muscles:

  • Hamstrings
  • Psoas
  • Illiacus
  • Rectus Femoris



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


  • Half Kneeling lunge w lower leg elevate

Exercises to strengthen:

  • Planks
  • Curl Ups
  • Unilateral RDLs

Soft Tissue:

  • Foam Roll lumbar
  • Lacrosse ball or DB Psoas

I hope these exercises help to correct your athletes’ postural alignments. I am using them right now with my guys, and we are noticing daily changes in the positive. Remember, you won’t just be making them better athletes. You will also be affecting their long-term health and wellness. Don’t forget that is your job as well. Their parents trust you for that very thing. Let me know in the comments if you would like any other videos on correcting exercises.

Your Questions Answered – The Barbell Life 327

I know I always say it – but that’s because it’s true.

I LOVE these podcasts where we answer listener questions.

And we have some great ones today on all areas from nutrition to programming to coaching insight to dealing with aches and pains.


Travis Mash's guide to the mighty clean... the most valuable lift for Strength and Conditioning Coaches

Learn to understand the clean on a deep level so you can easily and confidently correct movement flaws, assess athletes, write programs, and coach them to athletic success.


  • Improving a power clean
  • Dealing with back pain
  • Best workout split for busy people
  • Getting strong fast
  • Balancing all the demands of CrossFit
  • and more…

Muscle Experiments with Kassem Hanson – The Barbell Life 324

Coach Kassem has a lab in his gym.

Seriously. That’s the only way he could keep up with the volume of experiments he wanted to do on his lifters. He is on a quest to understand muscle gain at the deepest level – and then to help us all get more jacked.

And what I really appreciate about Kassem is that he can take the science and boil it down to practical action steps that people can implement. But be careful. Listening to this podcast will probably get you excited to head to the gym immediately – so be warned.

A World Class Coach's Guide to Building Muscle

Hypertrophy for Strength, Performance, and Aesthetics.

World champion and world-class coach Travis Mash has combined the latest research with his decades of practical experience to bring you an amazing resource on muscle hypertrophy.


  • A two-week protocol so powerful that it makes a natural lifter look like they’re unnatural
  • Warming up and junk volume?
  • Determining the perfect hypertrophy “recipe” for each individual
  • Blood restriction training… WHY does it work?
  • “Smashing things up” to get hypertrophy WEEKS later
  • and more…

Overhead Athletes and More with Herman Demmink – The Barbell Life 323

Is the snatch a horrible exercise choice for some athletes?

Is the kettlebell snatch stupid? Or maybe you just can’t coach it?

Well Herman Demmink joins us on the podcast today to talk about working with overhead athletes like all you baseball players out there.

We also get into brain science, what he’s learned from watching hundreds of surgeries… and how athletes can earn scholarships and make it into the big leagues.

Protocols for Aches and Pains, Muscular Imbalances & Recovery

Work Harder. Train Longer. Prevent Injury.

Prevent injury, reduce pain and maintain joint health with Travis's specific corrections for your individual muscular imbalances.


  • Getting his CrossFit Level 2 cert so he could tell athletes NOT to do CrossFit
  • Sport practice vs. too much movement?
  • Earning scholarships and getting into the big leagues
  • Ed Coan snatching?
  • The biggest mistakes coaches make when they try to learn from each other
  • and more…

Your Questions Answered – The Barbell Life 322

How do you program for mass and strength at the same time?

How do you improve your power clean?

Can you still gain strength at 59 years old?

These are just some of the questions we get to on today’s podcast – it’s time for listener questions!


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...


  • Programming for mass AND strength
  • Breaking plateaus (overtraining?)
  • Military powerlifting and HIIT
  • The best gym environment… and does it really matter?
  • Supplement recommendations, equipment recommendations, book recommendations
  • and more…

How Important is the Clean to Strength and Conditioning?

This is one of those debates that will rage on throughout the end of time.

Coaches are notorious for setting up camp with certain ideologies never to be heard from again. I get it though. We are creatures of habit. We like things done a certain way and at a certain time. Change can be very difficult for such structured humans.

However I challenge all of you to maintain an open mind because you owe it to your athletes. A close-minded coach might very well cause an athlete to come up short on reaching their goals.

Pros and Cons

With that being said, I am not going to sit here and tell you that you should or shouldn’t use the clean. I am simply going to list the pros and cons of the movement, and then I will leave implementation up to you. I will definitely give my reasoning for using it, but surprisingly I am going to also give you some clear times when the clean should not be used in a strength and conditioning program.

The main reason I love the clean for strength and conditioning is the bang for your buck – meaning you accrue several benefits with one exercise. When time is of concern, that’s a big advantage. So let’s start with a look at all the benefits:


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

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

Power Production – This is the element of the clean that has strength coaches licking their lips. They know that massive amounts of power are required for big hits in football, bombs in baseball, knockouts in MMA, exploding out of the blocks during sprinting, and leaping above one’s opponents on the basketball court.

If you take a look at most sports, you will see that fans are most excited when athletes demonstrate incredible amounts of wattage on the playing field. Base hits are awesome in baseball, but if you want the fans on their feet, blast a ball over the center field wall. A defensive boxer like Floyd Mayweather is fun to watch. However, if you want to gain the attention of the whole world, find another Mike Tyson to put in the ring to drop power bombs on the domes of his opponent. When I was growing up, there was nothing more exciting than watching Ronnie Lott run through his opponents on the football field.

Usain Bolt produced a peak power output of 2691.5 watts in the start phase of his 9.58-second record-setting 100m sprint performance. According to a research article from Everett A. Harman, Michael T. Rosenstein, Peter N. Frykman, Richard M. Rosenstein, and William J. Kraemer in 1988, the average power output performed during a vertical leap is 1325w and the peak is 3767w. Oleksiy Torokhtiy, Ukranian Gold Medalist in Olympic weightlifting, generated 2200w during the first pull and an enormous 3700w during the second pull. Is it making sense now as to why the clean might help specifically?

Obviously the clean is great for demonstrations of power – or as I like to say, “the clean is great for the realization of power.” Squats are great for increasing an athlete’s ability to produce force, which also relates to increases in power. Remember, power equals force x velocity, so increasing one’s ability to produce force is definitely a component to producing more power. However, the clean allows the athlete to take that ability to produce more force and turn it into power production by moving heavy weights at a high velocity. The two movements (clean and squat) go together for the perfect system.

Force Absorption and Production – One of the benefits that isn’t talked about nearly enough is force absorption. Every time an athlete receives the bar, they are forced to absorb a barbell traveling at a velocity of 9.81 m/s (roughly the speed of the earth’s gravitational pull). When you take a barbell weighing 140kg/308lb traveling at 9.81 m/s/s, you get a force of 1,373.4 N. That packs a pretty big wallop, and that is exactly what athletes need to prepare them for the impacts of their individual sports.

During the pull phase, they’re also learning to produce massive amounts of force. This is the essence of sport. Whether we are talking about football, rugby, or MMA, men and women have to produce force when they are exploding into someone or punching someone. On the other hand, they have to absorb force, when they are getting hit.

Kinesthetic Awareness – This refers to an athlete’s ability to navigate space and the awareness of the way they move. There are times in weightlifting where an athlete is pulling under the bar – with their feet and barbell floating through space. If at anytime the athlete loses connection with where they are in space, they can be in a lot of trouble. I have never met a weightlifter who didn’t naturally have amazing kinesthetic awareness.

This will manifest in his or her ability to time movements perfectly. A great weightlifter knows exactly how high a barbell needs to be for them to rip under it and meet it precisely in the bottom of a front squat. It’s poetry in motion if you get to see such things on a daily basis.

Kinesthetic awareness comes in handy for receivers crossing the middle of the field and leaping for a high football. What about when a pitcher flings a 100 mph fastball – only to have it knocked straight back at them? With great awareness, the pitcher snags it barehanded like nothing. If an athlete performs enough of the Olympic lifts they will be better at kinesthetic awareness for that time. I can promise this from two decades of experience.

Balance and proprioception go along with kinesthetic awareness. If an athlete doesn’t have good balance, they’re going to fall on their butts performing heavy cleans. You will begin strengthening the feet of the athlete, increasing range of motion in the ankle, and creating stability in all the lower body joints when catching a heavy clean.

Proprioception is the body’s sensors in the peripheral nervous system that send feedback to the central nervous system to improve the body’s ability to produce coordinated movements. When you ask your athlete to perform complex movements like the clean, you are using the medulla oblongata to improve coordination. The Medulla uses sensors from the hands, arms, feel, and legs for information on how to get better at the movement. Improvements in that pathway will lead to an improvement in the body’s overall ability to perform coordinated movements, which is why weightlifters and gymnasts have amazing abilities to perform multiple athletic movements.

Triple Joint Specificity – Say what you want, but triple joint extension is where it’s at when it comes to producing power. An athlete will perform a triple joint extension when they throw a punch, swing a bat, jump to dunk a basketball, fire out of the blocks in sprinting, or leap through the air in the long jump.

Technique preferences aside, when an athlete performs a clean correctly, they are going to extend in their hips, knees, and ankles if performed correctly. A movement doesn’t have to look exactly like an athlete’s sport to be specific. It just needs to be close. Therefore maybe the power position of the clean doesn’t exactly mimic a vertical leap, but it still teaches the body to extend simultaneously at all three major joints of the lower body. Why do you think that the finish of a second pull produces more power than any other movement?

My favorite aspect of the clean is the ability to mimic the countermovement used during a vertical leap or the static start used in the start of a sprint. Hang cleans are perfect for a vertical leap – not to mention adding a slow eccentric will strengthen that position and give it more of an ability to produce power in the future. When a coach prescribes blocks of various heights or cleans from the floor, the athlete is forced to produce power from a static start. Both have their merits.

Core Stability – There it is. The most overused phrase in strength and conditioning. News flash: performing a hundred crunches every morning isn’t building a strong core. A strong core is a stable musculature that protects the entire spine and pelvis. When you catch a 300lb barbell in the front rack position accelerating at 9.81 m/s/s, your spinal extensors are getting rocked along with your transverse abdominis, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, and several other supporting muscles. Not only is your core stabilizing and getting strengthened while catching a clean, it’s doing so in a way that is specific to sport collisions.

Mobility – Let me tell you a story to make a point on the clean’s ability to improve an athlete’s mobility. I remember watching Morgan McCullough as a child around eleven years old. He was incredibly strong for his size and age. However, he wasn’t showing me that he could sit low into a bottom position found during the catch of a clean. He would catch the barbell with his hips at parallel or slightly below. There was a part of me that was afraid mobility was his kryptonite. Now six years later, he can almost sit his butt on the ground during the catch of a clean. It was the first time I realized the body’s ability to adapt to any movement with just a bit of frequency.

Now I have watched the hips of hundreds of young athletes with average or even subpar mobility adapt to acquire optimal mobility. The key is performing movements with ranges of motion that mimic the desired mobility, and then perform those movements on a frequent basis. For example, I recommend the clean two to five times per week because of the vast number of benefits that are directly related to athletic performance.

I have said it before, and I will say it again: You can perform all of the yoga, lacrosse ball exercises, banded stretching, and foam rolling you want, but the best way to get mobile is with weighted exercises on a frequent basis. I especially recommend movements like the clean while taking two to three deep breaths in the bottom catch position.

Coaches, let me be clear. You don’t have to teach the clean or any of the Olympic movements. However, you are going to have a heck of a time coming up with all the exercises required to produce all of these benefits. In a world where time is like gold, I think that it’s probably a good idea to learn this amazing movement.

One last piece of anecdotal evidence I want to mention: I have never seen an athlete great at the clean who wasn’t also a great athlete on almost any competitive field. Especially in football, the athlete who cleans the most will be the athlete dropping bombs on the football field.

However if you aren’t willing to put in the time to learn it properly, I would avoid it all together. All of the aforementioned benefits are only realized with optimal technique. This is the part most coaches forget, which is why they land on a meme page making fun of their coaching ability. Don’ t let that be you.



It's finally here... Learn about technique, programming, assessment, and coaching from a master. For strength coaches and for athletes, these 53 videos (7 hours and 56 minutes of footage) will prepare you to understand the main lifts for maximum performance and safety. Get ready to learn...