Category Archives for "Powerlifting"

Movement, Mobility, and How to UnWOD yourself with PT Chris Wash – The Barbell Life 212

We all love the feeling of getting under a heavy barbell and pushing our body to the limit. Even better is breaking through those limits and getting stronger!

But the reality is that pushing your body to the limit can lead to getting hurt. That’s true for any athletic endeavor.

Chris Wash is an awesome physical therapist and he’s here with us today to talk about doing what we can to keep you from getting hurt – and then doing what we can to get you healthy again if you do get hurt. He worked with Coach Crystal McCullough on her back issues, and this guy is not your average PT.

Protocols for Aches and Pains, Muscular Imbalances & Recovery

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

He also has strong opinions (and some incredibly smart ones) on mobility. If you go about mobility in the wrong way, you can set yourself up for some serious problems down the line.

Listen in to this one to find out how to do it in the right way.



  • THE absolute MOST important mobility aspect that will keep you healthy and safe (even more important than technique)
  • How he would prevent his double knee replacement surgery if he could start again
  • The rounded back – really that bad?
  • Why feeling pain doesn’t matter – and what does
  • When flexibility could be the worst thing for you
  • and more…

Navigating Research by Matt Shiver

Navigating through research can be intimidating and confusing. Especially if you don’t have a science background. There is a lot that goes into the writing of research that makes it hard to read. There are p values for statistical significance, there are charts and graphs that seem to be in a different language, there are plus and minus values, and LOTS of text.

I want to present some easy places you can find the most up to date research in the field of strength and conditioning and nutrition as well as teach you how to read the complex ones.

Before we begin, it is important to discuss the different types of research. The pyramid below covers the hierarchy of evidence.

Case Studies

Case reports or case studies are the lowest on the pyramid. They are typically a report on one individual and their response to an intervention. The problem with case reports, are they have a small sample size, have higher amount of bias, and don’t control variables as well as the higher forms of research on the pyramid. These are often the studies that you will find when someone reports an adverse reaction to an intervention or supplement when there are no other participants that were involved in the study.

The rest of the red and orange types of studies are good at identifying new variables that we should further research. They can show correlation between variables but lack the scientific rigor for coaches to take information from them and implement them into their training programs.

Randomized Controlled Trials

Randomized controlled trials (RCT) involve control groups and test groups that have been randomly put into their specific group. Most of the time the subjects don’t know what group they are in. RCTs are the meat and potatoes of the research world. This is where the work is being done to determine if an intervention is better than the current standard or placebo.

The problem with RCTs is that there is conflicting evidence in many studies. Some studies that share similar methods may have completely different results. That is why it is important to look up other research on the same topic after reading an RCT to see how it compares to past research. WE NEED MORE THAN ONE STUDY TO PROPOSE THAT SOMETHING WORKS.

Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are the next step. These are papers that combine findings from multiple RCTs to give you the most well-rounded picture of a topic is that has been researched. Here is where we can really take research and apply it to our coaching. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are used to create practice guidelines that are used in all professions.

When looking at research, I typically suggest focusing most of your attention to systematic review, meta-analyses, and RCTs.

Resources I Use For My Research

Now on to the sites that I have found to be the most helpful for me to get my research. I’m going to start with the easiest ones to read first.

Stronger by Science:

Greg Nuckols and his team do an amazing job of synthesizing the most current research for anyone to read into about a paragraph. There may be some charts included as well. This is an easy go to! They include strength training, hypertrophy, nutrition, and supplementation.

Examine – Nutrition:

Examine allows you to search by supplement to find the outcomes from multiple studies. Here is an example below on beta-alanine. You see that the outcome that eight different studies tracked was muscular endurance. They found a very high correlation that there was a minor improvement in muscular endurance. The level of evidence bar is on the left which shows how much research has been done on the supplement. The higher the level of evidence, the more research that has bene done.

NSCA – Journal of Strength and Conditioning:

Here is where I go every month to search through abstracts for research to read. Abstracts give you a quick snapshot of what the article is about. It gives you the key findings, but not the whole story.

To get published in the NSCA’s Journal, the article has to be good quality. There are plenty of research that has been done but never gets published by journals because the research was not good. If the journal does not like how the research was conducted, they do not publish it.



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.

I use the NSCA but there are plenty of other sports medicine and strength and conditioning journal sites. If you are interested in subscribing, there is a monthly or annual fee that is associated with it. If you live close to a college campus sometimes you can get the articles for free by logging on through their library website or campus WI-FI.


Here is going to be your gold standard. With that, it is hard to read! You are going to have to read a lot to really understand what you are reading.

While searching for articles, make sure to search for systematic reviews or RCTs. You have the ability to filter by article type. It will narrow your search by quite a lot. Also look for articles that are recent (past 5-10 years).

If you are reading an RCT, it is important to really assess the methods section. Do the methods make sense? Is it reproducible? Are there too many factors that are at play here that could have contributed to the outcome? Be critical of the articles you read. Then read the results. From there, you can start to piece together your own conclusion. See if your conclusion matches the authors.

The systematic reviews are nice because the authors of the review have already been critical of all the RCTs. If in doubt read reviews. You can skip about how they found the RCTs for their paper.

Review Articles

There are some websites that will post review articles of recent research. These are also a great place to start. They are typically simplified and easier to read. Like “

Follow Researchers You Like On Social Media

One of the easiest ways to get the most up to date research is following researchers like Dr. Andy Galpin and Dr. Bret Contreras on social media. They post about their most recent publications and the results from them on Twitter and IG. If you find a research article that you really enjoy, look at the name of the Authors. From there you can search the names of the authors on Pubmed to find more of their research. Most researchers specialize in a specific field.

Listen to “151 – Andy Galpin on Advances in the Science of Strength” on Spreaker.

A closing thought, be critical the next time someone tells you that “research shows ____ works better than ____.” You will be surprised of the limitations that research has. There are plenty of research articles that do not get published. For every article that supports something works, there will always be another article that says it does not work. You have to be critical and actually dig into the research to make your own opinions.

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Programming To Avoid Imbalances By Matt Shiver

When I program for my athletes I categorize my movement patterns into the following 6 main categories.

  1. Squatting
  2. Hinging
  3. Upper Body Pushing
  4. Upper Body Pulling
  5. Carries
  6. Trunk/core

Note: The weightlifting movements, deadlifts, and other complex movements are combinations of the movement categories. These six basic movement patterns can be combined to create more advanced movements.

I categorize these movement patterns so that I can make sure I am evenly working the entire body. I don’t want to create any imbalances or weak points. I want to make sure to have a balance between the squatting and hinging categories as well as the upper body pushing and pulling categories. That does not mean that I necessarily want a 1:1 ratio between all the categories. If someone has an imbalance, I may want the ratio to be 2:1 or even 3:1 to work out the imbalance. We may do less squatting and more posterior chain work to even out their leg strength. But if someone is very well balanced I do tend to stay around a 1:1 ratio.

For every set of squatting, I want to incorporate some sort of hinging to balance that out. I want to create well rounded athlete that will stay healthy. It is important to look at the training volume over the entire week. You can have one day be squat day and have another day being your hinging/posterior chain day where all the exercises performed that day are from that movement category. Or you can break it up evenly and have an equal amount of hinging and squatting exercises throughout each session of the week. It really depends on your personal preference. The most important thing is overall weekly balance.

I note this to be especially important in the upper body. For those of us who lived on the bench press growing up, we may have some limited shoulder mobility with an overdeveloped chest and a weak back. We need full shoulder range of motion! It is important to equal out your pushing and pulling of the upper body. Plus, big upper backs are way more impressive than big chests. Look at Dorian Yates and Ed Coan. If you have a big back, I know you are strong!

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.

Exercises for Squatting

Squatting involves any exercise that requires a bend in the knee and requires the body to “push” weight away from the body. The most common exercises of this category include all the variations of:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Leg press
  • Plyometrics
  • Step ups

Exercises for Hinging

Hinging involves any exercises that requires a bend (flexion) in the hips. Most of the time the bending (flexing) is followed by hip extension (squeezing the glutes and bringing the trunk back up to neutral). We tend to refer to these as “pulling” exercises. The most common exercises of this category include:

  • RDLs
  • Good mornings
  • KB swings
  • Back extensions
  • Reverse hypers

Exercises for Upper Body Pushing

Upper body pushing can further be broken down into horizontal pushing and vertical pushing. Horizontal pushing includes:

  • Bench press
  • Floor press,
  • Push-ups,

Vertical pushing includes:

  • Strict press
  • Push press
  • Military press
  • Dips

Exercises for Upper Body Pulling

Upper body pulling can also be broken down into horizontal pulling and vertical pulling. Horizontal pulling includes:

  • Any variation of rowing

Vertical pulling includes:

  • Pull-ups
  • Lat pull downs
  • Straight arm pull downs

Exercises for Carries

Carries are exactly what they sound like. Pick up a heavy object and move it. There is no easier way to get strong and increase your work capacity than just pick something up and move it for 30-45 seconds. Then take a rest and do it again. I really like to do these unilaterally to work out any imbalance an athlete may have.

Exercises for Trunk and Core

Trunk and Core movement patterns can be broken down into front, side, and low back exercises. Front exercises include:

  • Planks
  • Leg raises
  • Dead bugs
  • Front rack holds

Side includes:

  • Side planks
  • Unilateral carries can even fit here
  • Side to side leg raises

Low back exercises include:

  • Reverse planks
  • Back extensions
  • Reverse hypers

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2018...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

Fixing Butt Wink in the Squat

I have learned so much about the squat in the last several months as I researched for Squat Science. It’s hard to imagine still learning more about a movement I once held the world record in. Most people would believe holding a world record would make someone an expert. They would absolutely be wrong. Some people are born great at certain movements and sports, and that certainly doesn’t make them experts.



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.


You become an expert by spending your life learning all there is to learn about a topic. In this article, I want to look into the squat by addressing a common mistake: The Dreaded Butt Wink.

What Is Butt Wink?

If you’re curious about what butt wink is – or if it’s a problem – here one of our YouTube videos that should fill you in before we dive deeper.

So if you or one of your athletes do have an undesirable amount of butt wink, here’s how I would go about diagnosing and addressing the situation.

Assessing the Problem

Let’s look at the butt wink. The first thing to do is find out if the problem is:

  1. Are you starting with the lumbar spine hyperextended?
  2. Is the problem just motor control?
  3. Is it mobility?
  4. Or is it a combination?

A lot of weightlifters and powerlifters have been told their whole lives to keep a tight back. Some coaches will cue their lifters to arch their backs. Personally, I never use the word arch your back. I prefer the words “pack your lats,” which means to simply take the shoulders down towards your hips. This will keep the back tight in a more neutral position.

Here are a few cues that promote core stiffness without over-arching:

  1. Eyes forwards – looking up tends to cause excessive over-arching, so maintaining a neutral focal point is first.
  2. Shoulders back and down – this movement will engage the rhomboids and hold the scapula in place, but emphasize the engagement of the lats with taking the shoulders down towards the hips.
  3. Bend the bar – with your elbows directly underneath the barbell, I want you to pull down on the barbell. This will ensure that your lats are engaged in a way that keeps the spine neutral.

There is one more thing I would do to make sure you aren’t starting in a hyperextended position, and that’s use a mirror. I know that using a mirror is taboo in a lot of gyms, but that’s silly. A lot of Asian weightlifters are known to use mirrors for the instant visual feedback. Some people simply can’t feel what you’re trying to tell them, but they can see it. A mirror can sometimes be the only thing you need to fix the problem.

Once you’ve figured out if you’re starting hyperextended or not, the next thing to do is figure out if you’re struggling with motor control or from a mobility issue. Most of the time it’s motor control, but not always. However as you will find out, the best way to fix mobility issues is with frequency and motor control exercises.

First, let’s figure out what the problem really is. My friend Dr. Zach Long made this cool video that shows you an exercise you can use to determine if you have a motor control issue or a mobility issue. Check it out:

If you can perform this movement without a butt wink, then you have a motor control problem. If you have the mobility to perform this quadruped rock, you are essentially performing a squat without any load. I love the fact that Zach is adding a PVC pipe because it begins the teaching process and allows the athlete to start gaining control of the pelvis. I use a PVC pipe in this manner a lot to teach my athletes where their glutes are in relation to their shoulders and back.

Fixing a Motor Control Problem

So what do you do if it’s a motor control issue? I like to start at the very beginning, an air squat. This is where I start everyone. If you or your athlete can’t perform an air squat, there is no point in loading. When you load dysfunction, you are simply adding more dysfunction.

I would start with an air squat in the mirror. Sometimes an athlete can fix things by simply getting a visual. If they can’t, then use a bench or ball going as low as you can without the butt wink. I would then squat 3-5 times per week in this manner slowly working to a lower position.

Then load by holding a plate or dumbbell at arms length straight out in front of the body. One thing you will find is that it is easier to brace while anteriorly loaded. When Dr. McGill visited my gym a few months ago, he showed me this movement. I was squatting on a Westside Barbell Athletic Training Platform, explaining to him that the machine alleviates my hip pain. When he had me hold a plate in front of my body, I instantly found that I had much better motor control over my pelvis. I have all the mobility issues with a hip that needs to be replaced – but when holding that plate, I was able to squat with a perfectly neutral spine.

The same progressions are true for this movement. If you can’t squat with a full range of motion without using a butt wink, then set up a box or ball to a height that you can maintain a good posture. I suggest a frequency of 3-5 times per week while slowly lowering the height over time. When you can squat to a full range of motion without a butt wink, you can progress to the next step.

Next, progress to the kettlebell goblet squat. Once again, you can use a box or ball to progress your depth. Once you’re able to squat with a full range of motion, the next step is to increase the load until you physically can’t hold the kettlebell. At that point, it should be safe to move on to front squat, which is also easier to brace since it is still anteriorly loaded. Then you can move into a high bar back squat, and then a low bar back squat (if you low bar back squat).

Here’s a great way to use the Goblet Squat:

Here are a couple of more tips to master the squat and to get rid of the butt wink.

  1. Perform the McGill 3 (Bird Dogs, Side Planks, and Curl-Ups) – it’s amazing the amount of postural control you will notice after performing this three movements. You will notice that bracing becomes easier than ever.
  2. Frequency is the answer to just about anything movement related. You will notice that a slight increase in frequency will lead to better motor control and mobility. It’s simple if you think about it. Your body becomes more efficient with movements that you practice more often.
  3. Westside Barbell Athletic Training Platform – I realize that a lot of you don’t have one, but if you do, it’s the best warm up in the world. The belt holds your pelvis at neutral while forcing your glutes to activate. This prepares your body for perfect motor control and bracing. If you don’t have one and are looking for a new piece of equipment, I would suggest an ATP over anything.


Fixing A Mobility Issue

The first thing to do is decide what part or parts of the body are immobile. You will need to check out the following joints:

• Hips (Internal Rotation, External Rotation, and flexion)
• Ankles
• Hamstrings

Dr. Zach Long has written a great article with some ways to assess your mobility, and some ideas to fix it.

Here are my ideas to rid you of the dreaded butt wink:

  • Warm up with a 10 minute walk
  • McGill Big 3
  • Start with glute marches on the ATP 3 x 30 seconds
  • Then Squats on the ATP 3 x 10 with a light load on the machine and a plate held straight out in front
  • I take 2-3 mobility exercises specific to me that I superset with the ATP work. For me that is half kneeling psoas stretches and quadruped rocks with banded traction
  • All of this is followed by a proper barbell only warm up

In most cases, the butt wink is a hyperextended lumbar spine finding neutral, or a lack of motor control. The key is learning proper technique from the very beginning, and then practicing those mechanics often. The warm up above will encourage proper movement and stability. It will also lower the risk of injury, and it will keep all the muscles firing that stabilize the pelvis and spine promoting optimal core stability. I hope this article sheds a little light on the butt wink. The goal is that you walk away understanding:

  • What a butt wink is
  • How to assess to find out if the issue is mobility or motor control
  • And how to correct

Squatting is an exercise that allows a lot of us to lift the most weight possible. It’s fun, and it gets the results that we all want. Squats will help you run faster and jump higher. Not to mention squats make you jacked. I want you to be able to do it for a long time without injury. It’s not always about squatting heavy. The person that can squat the longest without injury is the person that normally ends up winning the squat race.

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2018...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

Dealing with Injuries, Aches, and Pains with Eric Bowman – The Barbell Life 207

If you’re lifting heavy, sooner or later you’re going to feel some pain.

It may be no big deal. It may be something to see a doctor for. But how do you tell the difference?

That’s just one of the topics we discuss today with physiotherapist Eric Bowman. This guy is an up and coming expert who you’ll want to follow. He’s a student of Dr. Stuart McGill’s and a powerlifter himself – so he’s a therapist who understands athletes and the pursuit of strength.

He was also one of the experts who I talked to as I was recently researching Squat Science. Trust me – this guy knows what he’s talking about.



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.



  • When to go see a PT for pain
  • How to find a good therapist who will understand athletes
  • The surprising power of the “Nocebo Effect”
  • Changes in approaches to pain during competition times
  • The benefits of exerternal vs. internal cues (This blew me away)
  • and more…

Start With The Bar By Matt Shiver

A big pet peeve of mine is when I see someone walk into the gym, go straight for the barbell, and then they load their first working set on there with no warm-up. Come on! You are never too strong for the barbell. Why not get a few excellent reps with a barbell before loading the movement pattern?

This is one of my favorite lessons that I learned from Chris Moore in his podcasts. The man could squat over 900 pounds and he would always start with the barbell for the first few sets. More PERFECT practice reps are always going to give you better returns.

The barbell may be less than 10% of your first working set, but that doesn’t mean you should not do it. You need to practice the movement pattern first before loading it. If your form looks like garbage without weight and then it magically becomes better with weight, there is so compromise going on somewhere in the body. You are relying of the external load to create stability for your system, instead of being able to generate it naturally.



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.

It is even more important to start with the bar if you are doing weightlifting movements. These movements are so fast and explosive, you want to be able to move fast with a barbell before adding weight. If you walk into a back room at a national weightlifting event, you will see almost every lifter begin with the barbell. They spend some time with an empty barbell at the end ranges of motion of the snatch and clean and jerk. You will see some tempo work being done with the barbell. All off this is before a kilo has been loaded to the barbell.

So, don’t think that you are better than these lifters who are putting up national and world records. Take a lesson from them and warm-up with the barbell.

Your warm-up should consist of a few minutes to get the heart rate up, some movement prep based on your limitations, and then bar work. Don’t skip bar work!

I typically do 2-3 sets with the barbell to warm up the shoulders and hips for my weightlifting movements. If I am squatting I will do 1 set. Here is how I attack my bar work for each movement:

Squat Bar Warmup

Done at a slow and controlled tempo, no bouncing
3-5 reps with normal stance
3-5 reps with wide stance
3-5 reps with narrow stance
3-5 reps with one foot in front of another (uneven)
3-5 reps the other foot in front
*I also will change my toeing out as I warm up if I notice my hips are feeling tight

Snatch Bar Warmup

Set 1
3-5 RDLs
3-5 Muscle Snatches
3-5 Power Snatches
3-5 Overhead squats

Set 2
3-5 Full Snatches

Set 3 – Optional based on how the first 2 sets are feeling
3-5 Full Snatches

Clean and Jerk Bar Warmup

3-5 RDLs
3-5 Power Cleans
3-5 Front Squat
3-5 Strict Press
3-5 Split Jerk

Deadlift Bar Warmup

5-10 RDLs with barbell only

Bench Press Bar Warmup

1 set of 10 with focus on staying tight in the pause

If you don’t normally warm up with the bar, give this a try! Let me know how it goes!

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2018...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

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