Category Archives for "Motivation"

Jason Coker, the World’s Best Bench Presser – The Barbell Life 200

Not many people have benched over 900 pounds. And not many people have been my good friend for over 20 years. Jason Coker’s done both, so he’s a pretty amazing guy.

He’s my go-to expert on cutting weight – and as a longtime lifter at Westside Barbell, Jason knows better than anyone what Westside is really like. This podcast has a lot of knowledge in it and a lot of perspective… and it’s also got a lot of great stories.

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  • Getting a job with me after prison and other wild stories from the past
  • Dynamic days, max effort, and what Westside really does
  • Passing out naked at a powerlifting meet… and how you can cut weight in a better way
  • Truly great powerlifters and what so many get wrong
  • Dealing with sciatica and still setting records
  • and more…

The Importance of A Training Journal by Crystal McCullough

I have always been involved in physical activity and trained with some type of purpose. In high school, I played varsity sports. In college, I played intramural sports. At 25, I joined the Army and trained in order to be in shape for my job and score the highest I could on my PT test. Once I got pregnant and got out of the Army, there was a year or so I didn’t do anything and felt like I had to start over completely. My easy go-to with a small child was running, so I could put him in a stroller and go. This was the first time in my life I needed to find a new goal completely on my own; someone or something else no longer defined my goals. It was up to me to set my own.

I set goals to run 5ks, then 10ks, then to run a half marathon. I kept logs of my runs so that I knew where I was in my training. I set goals for each race that I ran to be better than the previous one. Does this sound familiar?


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In 2010, a friend introduced me to CrossFit. The gym I started at was very big on tracking workouts. I am so thankful they felt that way because it put me in the right mindset from the very beginning. From my first workout, I kept a training log and still do until this day. I still have all those journals and will pull them out on a rainy day. Sometimes, when I ran or did CrossFit, I filled the whole journal before I would start a new one. Now, depending on the meet I’m training for, I sometimes start a new journal after each meet so I can look at the difference between the cycles.

Five Reasons To Keep A Training Journal

  1. It shows you where you’ve been. Sometimes, we feel like we aren’t making any progress. It helps to go back and look at old journals and remind ourselves of how far we’ve come. Writing down workout times and maxes gives you a visual way to track your progress.
  2. It allows you to take control of your fitness. In all likelihood, the coach isn’t going to remember the numbers you hit the previous week. Keeping a record allows accuracy in percentage work.
  3. It provides you with your own accountability. Writing your daily workouts shows you how many days you trained or didn’t train. It keeps you motivated to workout.
  4. It allows you to write down sleep and nutrition habits as well as how you were feeling while you were training.
  5. It helps you to track you goals and set new ones. If you never write anything down, how do you know when you’ve met a goal?

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I realize that it is an extra step, but it is a crucial step to achieving optimal success. Regardless of what sport you are involved in, keeping a training journal can be just as important as the recovery process to keep you motivated and your eyes on the prize. Whether a soccer mom or an elite athlete (see Lisa and Hunter below!), we all have goals, and visually tracking them ultimately leads to greater success.

Garage Gym vs. Team Environment by Jacky Bigger

As some of you may already know, I’ve recently started training a bit less at the Mash Compound and a bit more in our awesome new garage gym. I have nothing against training at Mash, I just currently REALLY love our garage gym. I’ve trained in a team environment for my entire weightlifting career, so the change in atmosphere has been awesome for me! Now that I’ve had experience training in both the team environment and training by myself in the garage gym, I’d like to take some time to discuss some of the positive and negatives of both.

Garage Gym Positives

I’ll start off with the positives of training in the garage gym, because for me right now, it’s SUCH a good change. Here are some of the things I like most about it.

  1. You get to create your own environment! If you train in a team environment, I know you’ve had days where you’re over there in the corner trying to work on technique, when everyone else is having fun and maxing out! For me, those were always the toughest days. When training in the garage gym, I get to choose the mood. If I’m working technique, I get to create a calm focused environment. If I’m going heavy and hard, I can create a more intense environment. I love that I’m in control.
  2. You get to choose your own music and don’t have to hear others complain about your music choices. I don’t know anyone else who likes to train to Andy Grammer, Jack Johnson and Michael Buble besides me, but now I can listen to them whenever I want.
  3. It’s easy access. There’s nothing better than being able to open your door and walk right out to the gym. It leaves no room for excuses to skip training since the gym is literally right there! This is especially helpful for those of you with an extremely busy schedule. It takes out the travel time and you can train literally whenever you want. Even if you have to get up at 4:30am, and get your training in before work.

Those are just a few of the great things I’ve discovered about training alone in the garage, now let’s talk about why training with a team is great.

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Team Training Positives

  1. You get coaching and constantly have eyes on you. It’s so important for any weightlifter, but especially those just starting out to get technical coaching. The more bad habits prevented early on, the better you’ll be in the long run. Not to mention, you’re surrounded by other lifters, so you can observe their technique and learn just by watching. I’ve learned SO much from simply watching and being around other great weightlifters.
  2. There’s the social aspect of it. Often times your teammates are your friends, or if they aren’t right away, they quickly become them because you spend so much time together each week. Having a positive community of people with the same goals and values as you do, really goes a long way. It’s so important to have other people around to support and encourage you and help you through the rough times.
  3. The competitive environment and the hype atmosphere. I’ve made lifts that I never thought possible simply by getting in a hype environment and having a little bit of friendly in-house competition. When “battle” is called, you know at least someone in the gym is going to pull out a huge lift that day! Plus, it’s always so much fun to watch a bit of friendly competition even if you’re not involved in it.

As you can see, both environments have their advantages, so what are some of the negatives? Well, some of the positive things that I mentioned above can actually also be negatives. Let’s talk garage gym first.

Garage Gym Negatives

  1. You have to create your own environment. This can be a downfall on those days when you’re not motivated, feeling beat down and really just don’t feel like training. It can be really tough to self-motivate some days and to create an energetic environment when you’re just not feeling so energetic. This is when a team environment is advantageous.
  2. You don’t get immediate coaching and feedback. I coach a lot of people who train by themselves in a garage gym. While remote coaching is AWESOME and you can still make great progress using it if it’s the only thing you have access to, getting in person coaching and immediate feedback really goes a long way.
  3. It’s very easy to get carried away. You’re trying to hit that big lift that you’re SO close to making that you just can’t help but try again. You have no one there to stop you and before you know it, you’ve tried and failed five-plus times, which is never ideal. I’ve already had this happen to me, and I’ve seen it happen to many of my athletes. Or, there may be the days where it’s really just not there, you’re fatigued and you’re not moving well, but you try and push hard anyways. Again, because there’s no one there to tell you that it’s probably best if you just take it easy today.

Now, how can some of the positives of a team environment actually be negatives as well?

Team Training Negatives

  1. The competitive environment. This can definitely be a disadvantage if it gets out of control. You may find yourself competing with your teammates TOO often, which leads to training ineffectively and maxing out way too often. This can eventually lead to fatigue and/ or injury. You can’t compete every day, there have to be days where you take a step back and just get good quality work in. Not to mention, when you’re training in a room filled with other lifters, it can oftentimes be very difficult to stick to your own path and not compare yourself to them, which can also present numerous problems.
  2. The social aspect. It can be very hard to focus on your training some days when training with a group of your friends, because really, sometimes you just want to hang out. Some days, the focus in the gym just isn’t there, and if you’re in the group of chatty Kathy’s it’s great because you’re having a good time. But if you find yourself to be that one person who’s actually trying to focus and get some good training in, it can be very distracting and frustrating.

You’ll see that there are positives and negative of training alone and training with a team. So, which one is actually better? I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other, and I’d encourage you to try both if you have the ability to. If you’ve trained in a garage for your whole career, I suggest doing your best to find a gym you can visit once in a while to get some hands-on coaching and to get around some other lifters. If you’ve trained in a team environment for you whole career, like I have, I suggest training by yourself sometimes, getting to know yourself better and learning to grind on your own.


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No Tracking, No Progress? By Paluna Santamaria

I’d like to dedicate this article to all my clients who have stayed patient, consistent, and most importantly committed to their nutrition journey – taking what I like to call a “health first” approach.

Putting your health before aesthetics sometimes means taking the slow route, choosing nutritious foods more often than treats, and understanding that extremely low body fat can be detrimental for some people (and you may not be able to stay there for long). This means you understand nutrition periodization.

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Defining Health

I define health as a balance between the mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of your life.

Sometimes we need to take care of things that have nothing to do with food or exercise to move forward in life.

If you work with me you know that (unless you are a competitive athlete in sports that require you to fit into a weight class) I am not tied to putting emphasis on scale weight, progress pictures, or even always tracking macros. I know some eyes will roll when reading this statement. They’ll say, “But how will you know you are progressing?” or the popular “What gets measured gets managed.”

I’m not saying it’s impossible to achieve body composition goals in a healthy way, but we can all agree there are ways to do it in non-optimal ways. This is how fad diets become popular and some people get rich fast by taking advantage of misinformation.

We can’t deny that tracking everything we eat precisely is an effective method that provides useful information. The more information in regards to food intake I have as a coach, the better.

However, what happens when the person I’m working with has disordered eating tendencies such as: stress around food, binge eating episodes, body dysmorphia, or periods of high stress?

Tips for Shifting Focus

It is my job to find a way that will allow this person to make progress at a rate that won’t disrupt their hormonal health. So when a client is overwhelmed, discouraged, in a negative rut, or needing a break from looking at the scale or tracking apps, here some things I like to shift the focus to:

1. Sleep quality and quantity. Do you wake up rested? Do you sleep through the night?
2. Food quality. Choose whole foods as often as possible.
3. Food quantity. Eat when hungry, stop when full.
4. Hydration. It has been proven that our brain confuses thirst with hunger.
5. Energy and recovery in training.
6. Overall mood and outlook on life.
7. Non exercise related de-stressing activities.
8. No tracking devices, just a simple journal to bring awareness to the above.

Now let me ask: what if you allowed yourself to remove the focus on aesthetics once in a while as a way for other meaningful changes to occur?

When you are wondering if you are making any progress, perhaps ask yourself if the overall quality of your life has improved… regardless of what you look like.

Interested in this approach? Share your thoughts with us! I’d love to hear!

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Getting Back to Training Hard by Jacky Bigger

When getting back into weightlifting after taking a significant amount of time off, it’s so important to set yourself up for success. I’m experiencing this first hand. The second half of my training year in 2017 looked something like this: I took break from lifting, then after a couple months I got back on a full training program and was too hard on myself when I wasn’t able to hit the numbers I could before my break, so I took another break from weightlifting, then I tried to wing it and train without a program. I continued to make no progress.

Finally, I decided to get back on a program, but this time it would be different. I would set myself up for success rather than failure. It worked. Now, I’m back to training hard again, I’m in a good spot mentally and I’m making progress. Things are headed in the right direction that’s for sure. All that being said, I really want to share with you guys some of the ways that I set my success up during the first half of this training cycle.

I chose a program that was similar to one I’ve seen success with and enjoyed following in the past. For me, the second part of that statement is the most important. Choose a type of program that you know you’ll enjoy and will get you excited to go to the gym and train every day. Getting your motivation back after taking time off can be challenging, and following a program that you find boring, or that has a bunch of exercises you hate, will only make things harder.


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...

After choosing my program, I had to make sure I had a plan, a way that I was going to succeed each day when following that program rather than fail. I decided to shorten my program to five days per week, which gave me two full rest days. I knew my body was going to need the extra time to recover since I was just getting back into training seriously again.

I also knew that if I based my percentages off my true 1RM’s, I was setting myself up for failure. So, I based my percentage work off numbers I knew I could hit right now. Which ended up being around 90% of my true 1RMs. For example, my best clean and jerk is 115kg, but I knew that with where I was at the start of the program, I could probably only manage 105kg on a good day. So I chose to base my percentages for the training cycle off that.

Last but not least, I paid really close attention to my body and mind and how I was feeling each day. Since my main goal of this past block of programming was to enjoy training again and ease my way back into a full training schedule, I adjusted my programming based on how I was feeling and even took extra days off if need be. I made sure that I was okay taking extra days off or okay with taking things a bit lighter on a way where I wasn’t feeling my best, because I knew it would pay off in the long run. By trying to push myself hard on days where I was feeling beat down, I was setting myself up for failure and frustration. Listening to your body and adjusting programming based on how you’re feeling is a very important part of setting yourself up for success on any weightlifting program.

Now, I’m taking less days off and I’m having fun in the gym again and making steady improvements in my strength. I plan to keep it that way by continuing to set myself up for success in the future and I hope you all do too.

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Coach Mash Takes a New Path

In the middle of a new book I am writing about concurrent training, “Do What You Want”, all of a sudden it dawned on me to try a new plan of my own. I’m 44 years old, and I still thrive on goals. I simply can’t workout just to workout, and that’s ok. It’s who I am, and I am ok with that. The problem is that I needed to find something new to intrigue me.

Determining My Goals

It took me a while, but I finally came up with my new goals. I decided to perform a SuperTotal, which is something that I enjoy and have done in the past. The kicker is that I also decided to train for a 5K road race. There is a part of me that wishes that I had chosen a rowing for distance goal, but it’s too late – I am in it now, so maybe next time. Some might say that the SuperTotal isn’t very challenging for me, but you would be wrong. Last year, I tore my triceps tendon completely from the bone twice: once lifting and once from falling down the steps like a fool. I thought for the longest while that I would never snatch again, but I hate the word ‘never’. That word literally freaks me out, so I’ve decided to not let some silly injury dictate what I can and cannot do.

My overhead stability needs a lot of work. My left side is compromised from fracturing a cervical vertebra in 2007, and my right arm, the triceps tear. That leaves zero good arms and a lot of work to do. Week one has been fun and challenging, but it’s obvious that this isn’t going to be easy.

Notes on The First Week

The powerlifting portion isn’t quite as challenging, but wow it crushed me. I’m training the same as I did when I was in my prime; the volume is just as hard, but I am being a lot smarter on max effort days. I am not going to go to absolute failure. The goal is to listen to my training partner of over twenty-five years, Coach Chris Ox Mason. If he tells me to stop, I am going to stop. We have told each other that we are going to stop one to two sets before failure, and simply progress like that. This will take a lot of discipline for me, but my priority is my family, not working out until failure during training. That realization will keep me in check.

I am getting a pump every training session with a focus on my weaknesses like glutes, triceps (obviously), and shoulders. Plus, I’ll be 100% up front and tell you all that I want to get some pumps for the coming summer months. Yep, I too like to look good in my swimsuit.

The one piece of equipment helping to make all of this possible is the Westside Barbell Belt Squat Machine. I perform some type of movement on this machine 100% of the time that I am in the gym. The glute activity the machine promotes aids significantly in keeping my hips healthy. This glute activity, required for hip extension while using the belt squat, helps to keep my femur in a position that alleviates the hip pain that I feel most of the time. This machine alone has kept me out of surgery. I was scheduled to get a hip replacement at the end of last year until I started using this miracle machine.

Believe it or not, my favorite part of this new workout routine has been the added cardiovascular work. I’m using the assault bike for interval work, which ends up being the hardest part. On Fridays I am performing a recovery row with the Concept 2 Rower. Saturday afternoons I am taking a run/walk for 20+ minutes while keeping my heart rate at around 75% of my max. This is the key to increasing cardiovascular capacity without requiring lots of downtime for recovery.

I am also using information that I have gathered from Alex Viada. If you haven’t read his book “The Hybrid Athlete”, you really should. I refer to that book on a regular basis. It forever changed the way I look at concurrent training.

The mileage, time, and distance of my run/walks continues to increase for the next twelve weeks. The program is designed to peak me for a 5K, which is frankly something I thought I would never do, especially with this wrecked hip. However here I am looking forwards to cardio days. Who the heck am I?  Alex what have you done to me?

Do What You Want

The whole point to all of this is to show you that you can do pretty much whatever you want. I hope this teaches you that no one should define the way that any of us looks at fitness and strength other than ourselves. The key is to enjoy what you are doing. I suggest challenging yourself in new and exciting ways on a regular basis. My new book is filled with a limitless amount of workouts designed to challenge you in several different ways. I am going to show you how to combine:

  • Olympic Weightlifting
  • Powerlifting
  • CrossFit
  • Endurance Work
  • Bodybuilding
  • Strongman

It was so exciting fitting these disciplines together in a way that coincides with the body’s energy systems and muscle fiber recruitment. It was like several big puzzles, and I used science to fit the pieces together. I am enjoying this new workout more than I have enjoyed a workout in over a decade. I look forward to pushing my body over the next twelve weeks. I intend to report back major success. I hope that all of you report back the same from challenging your own body in ways you never thought possible.


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...

Here’s a little sample of Week 1:

Accumulation Phase
Day 1 Week 1
Hang Snatch  below knee 3RM 7 RPE, then -10% for 3
Box Squats 75%  7×3 with 60-90 sec rest
Seated Box Jumps 7×3
2″ Deficit Snatch Grip Deadlift  w 5 sec eccentric 5RM 7 RPE, then -10% for 2×5
1a. Belt Squat RDLs 3 x 60 sec
1b. One Arm OH Fat Grip Dumbbell Carry 3x25yd ea arm
Day 2
Airdyne or Row Sprints 2 min warm up
45 sec on and 60 sec off x 8
5 min cool down
Day 3
Wide Grip Bench Press (wider than normal comp grip) 10 x 3 at 80%
Push Jerks 5RM 7 RPE, then -10% for 5
Pull-Ups 5 x submaximal reps switch grips ea set weakest to strongest
DB or KB Upright Rows 5×10
Dips  with Eccentric Slower Than Concentric 5 x submaximal (if ten reps plus add weight)
Banded Rows 4×60 sec
Day 4
Hang Clean 3RM 7 RPE, then -10% for 3
Front Squats 10 x 3 at 80%
Sumo Deadlifts 75%  7×3 with 60-90 sec rest
Rear Leg Elevated Split Squats  stay at a 7RPE 4 x 15ea leg
Unilateral Farmers Walk 3 x 40yd ea arm
Recovery Row 10-15 minute recovery row
Stay in zone 2 or 75% of Max HR
Day 5
Snatch Complex P. Snatch double work heavy
Clean & Jerk Complex P. Clean and push jerk double work heavy
Closegrip Bench Press 5 x 10 at 60%
Incline DB Press 5 x 10 at 60%
KB Bottom Up Z Press 3×10 ea arm
Preacher Curls 3×10
Long Slow Run 20 Minute run/walk
Stay in zone 2 or 75% of max HR
with a 5 minute warm up & cool down