Category Archives for "Powerlifting"

Stefi Cohen on Getting Strong and Avoiding Injury – The Barbell Life 204

Stefi Cohen is a small woman with big lifts. She just set the all-time deadlift record for her weight class, lifting over four times her bodyweight. She broke the record for all-time highest Wilks score. That’s nothing short of amazing.

But as impressive as that is, Stefi trained for all of this while running a successful online business (Hybrid Performance Method) and going to school to be a Doctor in Physical Therapy. In fact, she’s now Dr. Stefi Cohen.

She got into the field of physical therapy because she understood the importance of staying healthy. The athlete who can train longer and harder without injury is going to win. Period. I’ve seen it time and time again. That’s why I wrote my guide No Weaknesses. Addressing muscular imbalances and recovery will keep you going strong in the marathon of strength.

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.

So get ready to hear from Dr. Cohen today as we talk about avoiding injury and training to get a massive deadlift.


  • How she changed her training to adapt to a busy school schedule
  • Using straps on a deadlift?
  • Coming back from bombing out
  • Her personal training and accessory work
  • How she dealt with low back pain
  • and more…

Absolutes For The Back Squat

I am writing a book about the back squat as we speak. I am enjoying this process more than any other book before. You might think this is an easy process for me, I mean I have held a world record in the back squat. I coach several weightlifters that are known to back squat more than anyone else in their sport. I coach an NFL fullback that back squats over 700 pounds. Some might say that makes me an expert.

Yeah, I could take the easy way out, and recommend that all of you do exactly what I say. However what if there is more? What is there are ideas that might help me coach the back squat better? Those are the questions that I asked myself before beginning this book. I decided to take on the question in three different ways:

  • I wanted to see what the research said.
  • I wanted to know what other experts thought.
  • I wanted to look closely at what has worked for my athletes and me.

Here’s what gets my goat after looking deeper into the subject. A lot of so-called experts are out there spouting off a lot of absolutes. Some say that you have to sit back, and some say sit down. Some say you should look up, and some say you should look down. Some say you should drive into the bar out of the hole, and some say you should drive your feet into the floor.

Here’s the one absolute I discovered: “There aren’t a lot of absolutes to be found.”

In all seriousness, this is what I found:

“Proximal stiffness equals distal power production.”

I kind of stole that from Dr. Stu McGill, but it’s the one absolute that I came away with after further thought. The goal is to create as much stiffness around the spine as possible. Here are a few ways to create stiffness:

  1. Intra-Abdominal Pressure – the best way to perform this maneuver is breathing deep into the diaphragm while pressing the air out against your belt in all directions around the belly including obliques and low back.
  2. Arms should be as close together as possible with elbows tucked in tight against the body and under the bar.
  3. Create torque from the ground up by either screwing your feet into the floor or spreading the floor. “Screwing your feet” into the floor is simply externally rotating or trying to point your heels towards each other. Spreading the floor is simply digging your feet into the floor and trying the rip the floor apart. Both techniques help to engage the glutes and create stiffness from the pelvis up.
  4. Bending the Bar – this one will help pack the lats. A tight back is not only the best way to create power, but it’s also the safest way to squat. Bending the bar will tighten the back and keep you safe.


Get Travis Mash's Guide to
High Frequency Programming

If you want to get better at a movement... maybe you should do the movement more. High frequency will work like magic as long as you avoid certain pitfalls.

Sport Specific Absolutes

Other than these ways of creating stiffness, there aren’t a lot of absolutes. That is unless we are talking sport specifics. If you are a weightlifter, there are a few absolutes I recommend. Let’s look at them:

  • Sitting down is a must. Depth and a vertical spine are two musts that have to be reached in the sport of Olympic weightlifting. Versus sitting back, which limits depth because you are creating hip flexion earlier on. Since hip flexion helps to determine depth, sitting back limits the range of motion.
  • High bar is probably the best choice. Low bar seems to put most athletes into hip flexion a bit earlier along with creating a more diagonal torso. Neither one of these things are optimal for weightlifting.

Really when I think about it, these aren’t absolutes. They are simply “a little wiser movements” to make in the sport of weightlifting. I mean heck some weightlifters use the low bar squat, and they are still very successful. However, as a rule I would suggest high bar and sitting down. Once again, there simply aren’t a lot of absolutes.

Learn From The Experts

Here’s what I suggest: you should try to learn from as many people as possible. You should try some of the things that the experts are saying and see what works. The question is, “What defines an expert?” Personally there are a few categories of experts:

  • The ones performing the research.
  • The guys coaching athletes and consistently getting amazing results.
  • The guys digging into the research and coaching the champions.

I am more impressed by guys like Greg Nuckols that:

  • Love to dig into the research.
  • Coach hundreds of people with great results.
  • Have lifted big weights themselves.

Those are the three characteristics that I look for when I am trying to learn. Personally, a coach that has thousands of lifters under his belt has already performed more research than any exercise scientist can ever hope to perform. However if that person has also lifted big weights and loves to read new research, that person has all the knowledge necessary for creating the perfect squat program and teaching the perfect technique.

Check Your Source

There is one thing that I want to talk about before I leave you all today. There are way too many self-proclaimed experts out there trying to teach the back squat simply because it is a popular topic nowadays. I am talking about men and women teaching all about the squat while hiding behind a title. I have news for you. Having a title like PT, DC, or MD doesn’t mean that you are an expert in the back squat. Reading the latest article on Pubmed without having coached anyone or without having squatted any significant weight yourself definitely doesn’t make you and expert. You need to earn the title of “expert” by getting under the bar for several years and coaching other great athletes for several years, and then maybe you can be looked at as an expert.

The internet is a beautiful thing because all the information in the world is at your fingertips. It’s also a curse because all the information is at your fingertips. You need to learn how to discern the difference between good information and bad information.

I hope that this article helps you all. I get it, the squat is awesome. It makes you strong. It makes you run faster and jump higher. It gives you a great butt. What’s not to love? Now you have the information necessary to find the truth about the back squat. I have already given you some tips to get you started. My book will be out by the end of the month, and then you will have all the information that you could ever dream of all about the back squat. Get ready!

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

All Around Boss Julia Ladewski – The Barbell Life 201

Julia Ladewski is a boss: former D1 strength and conditioning coach, veteran powerlifter (she’s still setting PRs), and physique competitor.

I was unable to personally be on this podcast because I got really sick when we were set to record. But we had some great people fill in, and this podcast is still amazing stuff. It’s hard not to have an awesome podcast when you’re talking to someone like Julia.

What’s really amazing to me is her recent bodybuilding efforts after years and years of powerlifting. It really only makes sense because the two go hand-in-hand so well. A bigger muscle is a stronger muscle, so muscle gain is great for athletes wanting to perform better. And if you’re just interested in aesthetics, being strong helps you put more weight on the bar so that you can put on more muscle. We talk about Julia getting on the bodybuilding stage and so much more in this one.

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.



  • Her thoughts on geared vs. raw powerlifting
  • The art of coaching
  • Staying in the game for a long, long time
  • Body image issues as a strong woman
  • Training as a busy mom
  • and more…

To Squat (Everyday) or Not To Squat (Everyday)?

Most of you know I wrote two eBooks “Squat Every Day” and “Squat Every Day 2”, so obviously I am a fan of high frequency squatting. The question is, “Should you squat every day, all of the time?” To this question, I would say that it depends. Some people squat at a very high frequency all of the time. However, it has been my observation that a lot of high frequency and high intensity squatters seem to succumb to injury earlier in their career as opposed to someone like Ed Coan that enjoyed a career of dominance that spanned over three decades.


Get Travis Mash's Guide to
High Frequency Programming

If you want to get better at a movement... maybe you should do the movement more. High frequency will work like magic as long as you avoid certain pitfalls.

Ed used a basic squat once per week routine, and he followed traditional linear periodization. He competed twice per year, and he dominated unlike any powerlifter has ever before or since. So, is Ed right, or is Coach John Broz correct? The answer is yes. I have seen both programs work just fine.

I was talking to my friend Philippe Tremblay, the mastermind behind Stronger Experts. He was telling me about his conversation with Greg Nuckols. He asked Greg where he thought the industry was going in the next decade or so, and Greg said, “Individualization.” I totally agree. There simply isn’t a one size fits all approach.



Mike Israetel, Greg Nuckols, Zach Long, Sean Waxman, Stefi Cohen, and more.

I saw Greg squat almost every single day one summer leading to an all-time world record. Then there are folks like Stan Efferding and Eric Lilliebridge that squat less than once per week, and both crushed world records. However, once you are as massive as those two, I doubt the body can handle that much tonnage at a high frequency. Once again, most of this is pretty anecdotal.

Get Strong Now

Here’s what I know. If you want to get strong, there are only a few things that you can do to affect the outcome:

• First, perfecting your technique is always the priority.
• Get more efficient at the movement.
• Make your muscles bigger (hypertrophy).

That’s about it. If you want to get better at something, frequency is always going to be king. If you want to throw a baseball better, you need to practice frequently. The problem is that the better you get will equal a heavier weight on your back. That’s awesome because that’s the goal, but eventually that becomes pretty taxing on the joints especially the hips and knees. So, what’s the answer?

At our gym right now we have two former 800lb+ raw squatters (Chris Mason and me). We have the strongest weightlifter in the country pound for pound, Nathan Damron who squats 700 pounds raw and high bar with a flimsy weightlifter belt. We have 14-year-old Morgan McCullough that high bar back squats 517 pounds, raw of course. We have ten women that have squatted over 300 pounds and one that is over 400 pounds. We have two other men powerlifters over 700 pounds raw. We have Tommy Bohanon, starting fullback for the Jets, that squats a legit 700 pounds raw. We have Cade Carney, starting running back for Wake Forest University, that squats well over 600 pounds. My point is that we know about the squat. Everyone that comes to train with us can squat a lot, and we are known throughout America for creating squat monsters. I have coached thousands of athletes personally in my gym over the last two decades of my coaching career, and way more than that online.

I am not saying this to brag. I am telling you some facts to make a point. What I am about to say is anecdotal, but I have coached and collected more data on athletes than all the squat research papers combined. I am not saying that to discredit research. I am simply stating the facts to back up the following statements.

It has been our findings that a high volume hypertrophy focused cycle lasting eight to 12 weeks followed by eight to 12 weeks of high frequency seems to work the best. The total volume of each is dependent on the individual. To perfect the volume for the individual takes some time testing out different amounts of volume, intensity, and frequency. You can use Prilepin’s Chart to begin with, and I suggest flirting with the optimal ranges, and then assess your athlete.

Did they recover too easily? If so, add more volume and intensity the next go around.

Did they have a tough time recovering? If so, drop the volume next time.

Did their joints take a beating? If so, maybe lighten the load a bit next time.

It sounds simple, and it is especially at first. After the first couple of years of training, then things get a little more complex. However, I tell everyone to get the most out of the least, especially at first.

Programming Hypertrophy and High Frequency Phases

Here are a few suggestions for the hypertrophy phase:

• Squat 2-3 times per week.
• Use one day to focus on higher reps and metabolic stress.
• Use one day to focus on multiple sets of lower reps with a higher load to take advantage of mechanical loading.
• Usually if I do a third day, it’s in the middle of the week. I normally use tempo to keep things lighter and to strengthen the positions of the squat.
• Use accessory movements to strengthen weaknesses and compliment the squat like reverse hypers, belt squat movements, goodmornings, and I like to add in unilateral work like lunges.

Here are a few suggestions for the high frequency phase:

• Squat 4-6 times per week.
• I like to use rep maxes on some days to get in a little extra volume while keeping the load lighter.
• Use the conjugate method to keep your body adapting.
• Be creative with pauses, bands, chains, specialty bars, boxes, and bar position.

I had the opportunity to talk with Stefi Cohen recently on The Barbell Life Podcast, and we actually discussed high frequency squatting. She normally squats four times per week, and we are very similar in our approach to high frequency. She loves to use specialty bars, bands, chains, boxes, and rep maxes to spice up her sessions. All of this was exciting to find out, but she made the most profound statement that really caught my attention. She said that she likes to use specialty bars, bands, and chains because she doesn’t have to get so mentally amped up.

I totally get what she was saying. If she uses a regular bar and plates, she is right away trying to break her all-time best whether she is performing a 5-repetion maximum or a one-repetition maximum. However, when she uses a safety squat bar, she doesn’t have a preconceived number in her head to deal with. She can just work up heavy without any extra pressure. I love it.

I hope that this gives you all some ideas for how to approach your next squat cycle. I am working on our latest eBook right now, which is all about the squat. You guys are going to love it. We are going to cover technique, programming, mindset, biomechanics, anatomy, and physics in this beast of a squat book. As always, all the squat programming that one could ever want will accompany it, so you will have lots to choose from. I am having a blast writing this book, and I can’t wait to drop it for all of you. The goal of this book is to bridge the gap between science and real life squat information that champion squatters use to get strong and champion coaches use to get their athletes stronger.

As always, thank you for reading, and keep grinding!

Coach Travis Mash
USA Weightlifting Senior International Coach
Head Coach Mash Mafia Weightlifting and Powerlifting

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

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.

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



  • 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…

Stronger Experts with Phil Tremblay – The Barbell Life 199

Phil Tremblay has moved from speed skating to training the Russian Olympic Team to trading knowledge with Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell.

He is the definition of someone who is thirsty for knowledge, and he’s spent years traveling the globe to learn from as many people as possible. Through it all, he’s got some amazing stories to tell and some amazing insight to share.

And that’s what’s led him to start a new platform called Stronger Experts. I’m excited to take part in it, and I’m proud to announce I’m one of almost two dozen experts who will be dropping truth to you and the rest of the world. I mean, I don’t understand how Phil has assembled such an amazing roster. There’s the Jamaican Olympic sprint coach, the strength and conditioning coach for the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby team, Sean Waxman, Mike Israetel, Greg Nuckols, Zach Long, and many more great people.

So check out this podcast to learn all about how Phil put these people together – as well as what you can learn from all the years he spent traveling the world and talking with experts.



Mike Israetel, Greg Nuckols, Zach Long, Sean Waxman, Stefi Cohen, and more.


  • His 45-minute mobility assessment
  • The keys to approaching experts in their field and learning from them
  • The problem of the Pendulum Effect
  • When he realized what Westside really is like
  • Working with the Russians to get gold medals
  • and more…
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