Category Archives for "Powerlifting"

Early Morning Training – the Inside Scoop by Joel Slate

I’ll say it right out of the gate. Getting up early to train sucks. Rarely have you had enough sleep. You’re stiff, hungry, and dehydrated, and odds are, you haven’t had near enough coffee to drink. Often, it seems like the best option can be to climb back in bed.

I completely understand these things. I’ve got five kids, ranging from 3 months to 9 years. Life is busy at our house. We’ve got homework, football, gymnastics, piano, soccer, baseball, Wednesday night youth group, and AWANA on Sunday evenings. You’re busy too. If you have kids, you know exactly what I’m saying. If you don’t have kids, you’ve probably got plenty of other things keeping you up too late. I haven’t even mentioned the amount of time your job takes.

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These can all be excuses, or they can be your motivation. It’s your choice. If you want to become an early-morning lifter and keep it sustainable, it has to be a conscious decision. For me – because of all of those things listed above – I have no other choice. The only window I can fit in consistent training is 4am to 6am.

Here’s how I do it.


First and foremost, sleep quality is paramount. The amount of sleep is pretty important too – but if you’ve got to help kids get homework done, you need ti get them through the bath and into bed, and you still have to clean up the kitchen (let alone actually find time to visit with your spouse), eight hours of sleep is a fantasy. You need to make the most of the sleep you can actually get.

I swear by the benefits of ZMA for sleep quality. You know most of the other recommendations…keeping a pre-bed routine, having a dark room, minimizing electronics before bed, etc. They work, so do them. If you are a bigger athlete, get checked for sleep apnea and consider using a CPAP if the doctor recommends it. The difference in sleep quality is literally night and day. I’ve seen it described as “legal steroids” in relation to improved recovery stemming from significantly improved sleep quality.


Second, nutrition has to be on point. Sure, we’ve all heard about the benefits of fasted cardio, but nobody can withstand a fasted heavy training session. You might be able to make it through the session, but your performance will be suboptimal, as will the recovery after the session. I guarantee you will perform better if you eat a high quality, balanced dinner the night before. Greasy burgers and fast food tacos can be convenient from the drive-through on the way home at the end of a busy day, but a home-cooked quality meal will be better in many ways, beyond just getting you ready for the next day’s session. If you don’t know how to cook, learn. Buy a cook book and a slow cooker. Figure it out, the benefits will be endless.

Additionally, figure out what works for you for pre-workout nutrition. Personally, I like a low carb tortilla with some almond butter and maybe an apple or a handful of grapes. Some people will like a protein shake, others will prefer something lighter or heavier. I personally don’t want to lift on a big heavy breakfast, but I do like a little something for fuel. Get up a few minutes earlier and eat as soon as you can so you can digest your meal and get going.

Speaking of pre-workout – for me, it’s critical. I’m usually training on about six hours of sleep (sometimes less), and using a high quality pre-workout definitely helps get my motor running in the morning. I recognize not everyone likes using pre-workout, but I’d strongly recommend trying a few different ones until you find one that works well for you. I only use pre-workout on lifting mornings. If I’m doing HIIT or yoga, or some other conditioning or recovery modality, I stick to a cup of coffee.

Warm Up

Once you’ve eaten and downed your pre-workout, it’s go time. Since you’ve been asleep for a while, your body’s core temperature is depressed. You need to properly warm up before you start hitting heavy weights. Doing a few arm circles and a couple of jumping jacks isn’t going to get it done here.

Develop a consistent warm up routine based on your day’s programmed movements. Start with something that will get the entire body warmed up a few degrees. I’ll usually jump on my spin bike for a few minutes of pedaling at increasing speed and intensity to get some blood flowing. If I had an Airdyne or Assault bike, it would be even better. After that, I like to start at the top and work down with dynamic stretches and ballistic movements. After I sit in a deep squat for a while, I’ll do some drop squats to get some speed going, to adjust to more dynamic movements, and to get accustomed to some impact and shock loading.

After your warm up routine, pick up the empty barbell and start working on the patterns of your prescribed movements. For example, when it’s a snatch day, I’ll do a bunch of snatch balances, overhead squats, high pulls, etc. just to move and to get my body used to the movement patterns. I’m 43, so it takes a bit longer to get loosened up than it did when I was 23 – but I’ve got it figured out, and it works. Another thing to consider is taking smaller jumps on your sets working up to your main work sets. When I was younger and trained in the afternoons, squat day might have me working up to sets at 405. I’d warm up something like 45 x 10, 135 x 7, 225 x 5, 315 x 3, 365 x 2, then work sets at 405. Today, I’ll go 45 x 10-15, 135 x 7, 185 x 5, 225 x 5, 275 x 3, 315 x 2,365 x 1-2, then work sets at 405. I’ve found smaller jumps are easier to adapt to and are gentler on sore or stiffer joints and muscles.

After the Workout

Finally, once you’re done, it’s time to turn the focus back to nutrition. Eat a quality post-workout breakfast. I also supplement with whey protein, BCAAs, and a high quality fish oil before I head to the office. I take a nutritious snack with me to eat a few hours later. Remember, the body is working overtime after a strenuous training session, and your metabolism is on fire. Eating a quality snack mid-morning keeps you from crashing and heading to the vending machine down the hall (where you and I both know bad decisions will be made). I really like to take a handful of almonds, some fruit or baby carrots, and something like beef jerky or string cheese for my mid-morning snack.

One last consideration applies if you are a competitive weightlifter or powerlifter. If you begin training early in the morning, your body will adapt its circadian rhythms to maximize performance during that window. If you know the schedule of an upcoming competition, consider adjusting the last couple of weeks of your training cycle to lift at your scheduled time to compete, including any variance for time zone changes. I failed to do this for a recent meet, and my performance was definitely impacted.

So what do you think? Are you going to join us and jump on the Early Morning Gain Train, or will you just hit snooze and watch it go by? Let’s Go!!!!

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Strength Science Knowledge Bombs with Bryan Mann – The Barbell Life 190

I sat down to talk with Bryan Mann in a recent podcast, and really I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that he had a long list of credentials and that he was an expert in velocity-based training. In fact, he had sent me his book when I was researching and writing Bar Speed, my guide on velocity-based training.

But I was blown away. Halfway through the podcast, I was telling everyone that this was the best podcast ever.

We talked about some particular ways that Bryan was able to get his athletes incredibly strong and fast. It’s common for new athletes to make quick gains, but Bryan was able to double this period of rapid growth. That meant that his athletes were getting stronger when everyone else was stalling – and that meant that his athletes in a mid-level school were now ranked number one.


Mash Elite's Guide to Velocity-Based Training

By measuring bar speed (simple to do with your smartphone), you can guarantee each and every training session is as effective and safe as possible.

And here’s another reason you’ve got to listen to this podcast. Part of the struggle of every athletic coach is making the transfer from the weight room to the field. If we can get athletes to squat more, it doesn’t matter unless that makes them perform better in their sport. Coach Mann broke it down for us on the latest studies, so you can listen to this one to find out the specifics of what matters in the weight room and what doesn’t.



  • Defying genetics with velocity-based training
  • How he took a mid-level team to the top with smart programming
  • Challenging conventional wisdom about what lifts transfer to the field
  • If he was starting again in strength, what he would do.
  • Selective hypertrophy vs. indiscriminate hypertrophy
  • and more…

The New Age of Hybrid Programs: Thoughts on Combining Powerlifting, Weightlifting & Bodybuilding

The world is changing for the good.  I grew up in a world where weightlifters, powerlifters, and bodybuilders ran in separate groups.  There wasn’t a whole lot of crossing over.  As a matter of fact, there was quite a bit of bickering about which modality is actually best.  Who really is the strongest man in the world?  Which is best for coaching team sports athletes?  Which one makes you a real man or woman?

For several years now the best strength and conditioning coaches have been combining multiple disciplines for the benefits of their athletes.  Guys like Coach Joe Kenn have the ability to apply the benefits of each discipline to the sport that they are coaching.  The keys that you will need to consider are:

  1.  What are the benefits of each discipline?
  2.  How does one combine the different disciplines in a way that is beneficial to the athlete?

With the onset of CrossFit, people from all walks of life have been introduced to the barbell and fitness.  People are coming into the barbell world without preconceived notions of the way things should be.  These same people are teaching old dogs like me that these preconceived notions are pretty dumb in the first place.  

Does one need to stick to one discipline?  

I fell in love with the barbell because I wanted to be strong and muscular.  I wanted to look and feel like the Incredible Hulk.  I wanted to be known as strong throughout the world.  I didn’t start this whole thing because I wanted to be known as a great weightlifter or powerlifter.  I just wanted to be strong.  

This is the same reason that I love having weightlifters, powerlifters, CrossFitters, and strongmen at my gym, LEAN Fitness.  I am intrigued by all the disciplines, and I love watching our athletes get stronger in each.  At the end of 2015, I competed in my first and only SuperTotal, and that was one of the most fun experiences of my strength career.  Combining weightlifting and powerlifting in training and competition was an incredibly challenging venture, but one that was incredibly fun.  I was able to not only perform the five lifts, but I was able to combine them at a fairly elite level especially for a 42-year old man with the following result:

  • Back Squat 295kg/650lb
  • Bench Press 184kg/405lb
  • Deadlift 317.5kg/700lb
  • Snatch 135kg/297lb
  • Clean & Jerk 166kg/365lb

CrossFit has taught us that we can do whatever we want.  We can combine weightlifting with powerlifting.  We can combine powerlifting and bodybuilding.  

This is a look at how one could combine weightlifting, powerlifting, and bodybuilding.  Let’s call it the Ultimate Jacked Program.  There’s a reason that Pyrros Dimas is everyone’s favorite Olympic Weightlifter.  Yeah, he won 3 Olympic Championships, but so did Naim Suleymanoglu.  We love him because we all love the cover of Milo with his abs bulging out from under his singlet.  He looked like a Greek Statue.

Pyrros Dimas Photo credit: Ironmind 

How many gyms across the country have posters of Lu Xiaojun with his shirt off?  I mean dang the dude is jacked, and it’s cool.  These guys look like heroes.  

Lu Xiaojun

On the other side of the aisle, Ed Coan and Dan Green could easily pass as bodybuilders.  Why do you think Dan Green is the most popular powerlifter?  Yeah, he’s strong but mainly it’s because he’s strong AND jacked.  

Dan Green

Personally, I don’t know many champion powerlifters that aren’t jacked. Look at Dr. Layne Norton, a world-class powerlifter AND bodybuilder. His programs and training methods reflect combining the two together and it produces and incredible physique along with loads of strength.

Six of the Greatest Minds in Strength & Conditioning in One Book


Some of the greatest coaches in the industry have collaborated with the Mash Mafia to bring you a sampler of programs that packs a punch. Take a peek inside the minds of these experts so that you can take your knowledge and performance to a new level.

Combining the two only makes sense.  The quickest way to make a muscle stronger is to make it bigger.  That’s one of those absolutes that’s impossible to argue.

Layne Norton, Ph.D. Check out his Powerlifting/Bodybuilding Combo Program here.

So how do we combine these three awesome sports?  Let’s look more deeply into combining these disciplines.  

Pros and Cons of Each Discipline

Olympic Weightlifting

When you consider peak power and rate of force development, it’s hard not to consider the Snatch and Clean & Jerk.  There are other benefits as well:

  • Kinesthetic awareness
  • Balance
  • Mobility
  • Speed
  • Force absorption

These are all tangible qualities needed on the field or court as an athlete.  However, there are some concerns with the Olympic lifts.  The biggest issue that most strength coaches have with the Olympic lifts is the rate of application.  The snatch and clean & jerk can take months to teach to some athletes in a perfect setting.  When you are tying to teach the lifts to hundreds of athletes, it’s even harder.  

If you are a strength coach, your job is to prepare your athletes for their sport.  It’s not to make them good at the Olympic lifts.  You need to make them stronger, faster, and more mobile.  There are other ways besides the snatch and clean & jerk.  With that being said, a good thought out system can teach athletes to perform the lifts with competency with a solid 15-20 minutes per day.  Coaches like Spencer Arnold are showing that it can be done in high schools with mediocre athletes.  If you are a capable coach with Division I athletes, the process should be even easier.  


The final point is that a coach needs to be proficient in teaching the Olympic lifts.  You can’t go to a weekend seminar and decide to teach the lifts.  As a coach, you will have to put your time in.  I suggest finding a mentor to learn the lifts correctly.  Your time will be well spent.

If you are not an athlete and just want to learn the lifts, I say go for it.  There is nothing more exhilarating in the weight room than performing the perfect snatch.  It’s like performing the perfect swing on the golf course, but you are doing it with heavy weight.  Nothing is more athletic and cool in the weight room.  Like I said, there will be a pretty long learning curve, but dang it, you are going to love it when you actually get it.



The squat, bench press and deadlift are great ways to add muscle and increase absolute strength.  When it comes to developing the vertical leap and the 40-yard dash, there are three things that can directly affect their improvement:

  • Body Composition
  • Back Squat
  • Clean

It goes in that order.  Yes, that’s right, the back squat correlates better than the clean.  I’m not big on absolutes, but I am not sure how you have a credible strength and conditioning program without a form of squatting.  The Powerlifts are great for absolute strength.  For about the first two years of an athlete’s training life, absolute strength will improve all the qualities of strength.  After that, you will need to get more specific in your training.  

The Powerlifts are also great for adding muscle mass and preparing athletes to not get injured. General strength and muscle mass are what most athletes need to produce force, absorb force, and to survive an impact.  Velocity devices allow strength coaches to improve all qualities of strength without the lengthy learning curves of the Olympic lifts.  The Powerlifts are simple and effective.  

The disadvantage of the Powerlifts is decreased quality of movement.  You can check out any great powerlifter, and they’re not going to move like a great Olympic weightlifter.  There are points of diminishing returns on all the lifts for sports athletes.  Once you are back squatting and deadlifting two-times body weight and bench-pressing 1.5 times body weight, it would be wise to consider move specificity in regards to one’s sport.


Bodybuilding is a discipline of strength that should cross all borders.  A symmetrical body is a strong and stable body.  If we all had perfectly balanced bodies, there would be very few injuries in the gym.  However, ‘perfect’ doesn’t exist this side of heaven.  We can only strive to create the most perfect version of our own bodies.  

Bodybuilding is for so much more than just looks.  Of course, we want to get jacked, but there is way more to it.  If powerlifters just performed the competition lifts, they would be all kinds of asymmetrical.  Their internal rotators would be tight, and their external rotators would be weak.  The anterior portion of their bodies would dominate the posterior.  All of this could lead to overuse injuries, and all too often does.  

If weightlifters only did their competition lifts, their lower bodies would dominate their upper bodies.  This is something that you see quite frequently in weightlifting.  Athletes will have tree trunk legs and glutes, and their upper body will look like it belongs to some teenage video game player tucked away in their parents’ basement.  This can lead to some major overhead stability issues and injury.

Hypertrophy work/Bodybuilding is something that most great strength athletes continue right up to competition time.  You can watch the Chinese weightlifting team crushing lateral raises and dips in the training hall of any World Championships (well unless they are banned). Louie Simmons would tell you to focus on hypertrophy more in the end and less on the competition lifts.  I am not all the way in that camp, but my guys and gals will definitely be getting their pump on right up to competition time.  I want strong and balanced athletes.

The only con is that bodybuilding can lead to a lot of non-functional muscle if left to itself.  There are plenty of weak bodybuilders that can’t tie their own shoes, and that has no place in athletics.  However, that can be avoided with a focus on full ranges of motion and continuing to perform one’s competition lifts.  That’s the recipe for a jacked, strong, and athletic athlete. That’s how you get a poster made of you like Pyrros Dimas.

So Now What?

So now that I have listed the pros and cons of each popular discipline of fitness, how do we fit them together?  This is the fun part.  This is the part that most coaches of the past are totally against.  However, guys like Coach Joe Kenn and Greg Nuckols are asking the question, “why not?”  

I have been asking the same question about powerlifting and weightlifting for quite some time since I competed in both at a very high level.  I love both disciplines of strength, and I’ve always enjoyed performing both.  CrossFit has taught the world that you can do whatever you want.  The key is how to best put them together.  

Questions you have to ask yourself:

  1.  What’s important to you?
  2.  How can you pair the pros of the individual disciplines while leaving the negatives?
  3.  How can you recover (muscle damage)?
  4.  What is most easily paired?
  5.  How can you maximize each discipline?

I have found this to be really easy.  Most weightlifters perform several versions of squats and pull, so all you really have to add to include powerlifting is bench press.  The amount that you can bench press is up to their goals and their mobility.  If your primary goal is powerlifting, I recommend at least two times per week.  If your main goal is weightlifting, then it will depend on mobility.  For some people, the bench press can mess with the overhead position.  If that’s you, then keep it to once per week and keep the reps below five.  

I’ve found it very easy to:

  • Squat 3-4 times per week
  • Pull 2-3 times
  • Bench twice
  • Snatch 2-3 times
  • Clean & Jerk 2-3 times

The bodybuilding simply depends on strengths, weaknesses, and goals.  If I have monster hamstrings and weak quads, then I am probably going to focus on quads.  If I am trying to build a monster chest to impress my wife, then I am probably going to emphasize chest (true statement).  It is also sport-dependent.  Most powerlifters need extra work on the external rotators and posterior chain.  Most weightlifters need extra work for the glutes, delts, and back.  However, it’s all individual, which is why we wrote the book “No Weaknesses” that helps you determine what to target based on your personal ratios.  

Here’s an example of the way that we put it all together during an early on Hypertrophy Block:

Hypertrophy Phase
Day 1 Week 1
Snatch 75% 9×2 (60 sec rest Between Sets)
Tempo Back Squat (5 sec eccentric, 2 sec pause bottom, 4 sec concentric) 5RM, then -10% for 2×5
Max Effort Deadlift 3RM from 4″ Blocks
DB Leg Curls 4×10
Unilateral Farmers Walk 3 x 40yd ea arm
Day 2
Push Press 10RM, then -10% for 2×10
Closegrip Bench Press 5 x 10 at 60%
Dips 4 x submaximal use weight if getting more than 10 reps
Hang Snatch Grip High Pulls 60% 3 x 10
Day 3
Clean & Jerk 75% 9×2 (60 sec rest Between Sets)
Front Squat 10 x 3 at 80%
Rear Leg Elevated Split Squats stay at a 7RPE 3 x 15ea leg
Unilateral RDLs 3 x 10
TRX or Ring Ab Fallouts 3 x 10
Day 4
Strict Press 10 x 3 at 80%
Sntach Grip Push Press 5RM, then -10% for 2×5
Bentover Rows 5 x 10 at 60%
DB Tri-Delts (front, side, and rear) 3×10 ea direction
Day 5
Snatch Complex Hang Snatch from Power Position 2RM
Clean & Jerk Complex Hang Clean from Power Position and Jerk 2RM
Day 6
Back Squat with Belt
Set 1 (80% x 3) rest 2 minutes and then (60% x 10)
Set 2 (add 5 Kilos to each weight if possible) (80% x 3) rest 2 minutes and then (60% x 10)
Set 3 (add 5 Kilos to each weight if possible) (80% x 3) rest 2 minutes and then (60% x 10)
Snatch Grip Deadlift 5RM, then -10% for 2×5
Suitcase Deadlifts from a 4″ Deficit 3 x 10ea side 7RPE
Axle Bar Zercher Carries 3 x 40yd


Here’s what it might look like the week before a meet week:

Week 17-20
Day 1 Week 19
Snatch 70% x3, 80% x2, 85% 2×1, 88% x 1
Clean & Jerk Work up to Opener for 2 Cleans + 1 Jerk and then work up.
Front Squat with Belt 80% 1×3, 85% 1×3, 90% x1, 93% x1
Clean Pulls from Blocks 100% 4×3
Day 2
Snatch Accessory Power Snatch 1RM
Jerk from Blocks Power Clean 1RM
Front Squat with Belt 1RM with 7 sec pause 7RPE
Upper Muscular Imbalance 2
1a. Band Triceps Pushdowns 3 x 15 reps
1b. Rows (Bands, Cable, KB, etc) 3 x 10 reps
1c. Plate Lateral Raises 3 x 10 reps
Day 3
Snatch Work up to Opener for a Double, and then work up
Clean 70% x3, 80% x2, 85% 2×1, 88% x 1
High Bar Back Box Squat + Bands or Chains 60% Bar Weight + 20% Bands or Chains for 5×3 (60-90 sec between sets)goal .8m/s
Day 4
Warm Up with OH Squat Variations Work up to 85% for 1 rep paused 3 sec
Push Jerk off
Zercher Squats off
Prowler Push off
TRX/Ring Fallouts off
Day 5
Snatch Max Effort Snatch Max Competition Style
Clean & Jerk Max Effort Clean & Jerk Max Competition Style
Snatch High Pulls from Blocks off
Day 6
Back Squat with Belt + Bands or Chains (63% BW + 20% BorC 1×3), (68% BW + 20% BorC 2×3), (73% BW + 20% BorC x1)
Band or Cable Lateral Raises 3×10
Belt Squat KB RDLs (eccentric slower than concentric) 3x30sec
GHDs off


You will notice that I am trying to add elements that aid recovery.  Examples:

  • Band Leg Curls because they ease up during the eccentric phase.
  • Boxes on one of the squat days because most lifters will notice less soreness from box squats.
  • Avoiding most movements that stretch contracted muscles.  I have some kettlebell RDLs but only 30 seconds.
  • Most bodybuilding movements are concentric-focused like lateral raises and reverse hypers for example.

The goal is to chase the pump without the muscle damage.  It’s all about the strategy that one uses.  This is the fun part for me as a coach.  When you can follow a hybrid/concurrent program that ends in personal records, that’s a masterpiece in my book.  Is it hard to do?  Of course and that’s what makes it fun.  For good programmers, it is a fun puzzle to put together.

Like I said, I started this whole thing to be known as the strongest man in the world.  Did I reach my goal?  I was up there.  I guess it’s really up to interpretation.  All I know is that pushed my body to its all-out limits.  I am still pushing my body.  It’s what I enjoy.  However, it’s more fun nowadays to help others reach their goals.  

If you want to perform weightlifting with powerlifting, you should do it.  Don’t let anyone tell you what you should and shouldn’t do.  If you want to bodybuild as well, you should.  We only get one life to live. You get access to your body this one go through.  What you do with it is up to you.  

I am confident that took my genetics as far as God intended on me taking them.  I’ve had hundreds of goals in my lifetime.  I have reached some, and I came up short on some.  Either way, I gave it my all.  I tried!  There won’t be any “should of’s” and “could of’s” being said on my deathbed.  I will look my family deep into their eyes, and I will tell them about the things that I did.  

What will you say on your deathbed?  Now that’s the question only you can answer.


Six of the Greatest Minds in Strength & Conditioning in One Book


Some of the greatest coaches in the industry have collaborated with the Mash Mafia to bring you a sampler of programs that packs a punch. Take a peek inside the minds of these experts so that you can take your knowledge and performance to a new level.

Dr. Stuart McGill and Brian Carroll on the Gift of Injury – The Barbell Life 188

It was an honor having Dr. McGill back on the show and this time with World-Class Powerlifter Brian Carroll to discuss the process of healing Brian’s back–a journey they detail in the book they co-wrote, The Gift of Injury.

Both Brian and I share similar beliefs that our injuries were some of the best things that happened to our lifting. We both found Dr. McGill, who’s absolutely amazing when it comes to working with injured high-level lifters. From Dr. McGill, we both learned that we needed to pay attention to how we moved and practice good back hygiene. We started implementing better warm-up routines, mobilizations, and core activation work that helped us lift more and with better movement. Doing that has paid off for both me and my athletes. The injury itself also both showed us that we can be tough and overcome such a serious blow like an injury and come out on top. We may not be invincible, but we’re damn tough.

So it really is true that injury can sometimes be a gift. It may not be something you want, but as you’ll learn from the podcast today, there’s plenty to learn from an injury and the recovery from it can even make you into a much better athlete than you ever were before. It did for Brian and me.

You’ll hear more about this concept of the gift of injury on today’s show. Enjoy.

One more thing, be sure to check out our newest Program Sampler. It’s got programs from 6 special guest coaches including some of the best in the industry like Layne Norton, Ph.D., Joe Kenn, Sean Waxman and more. Check it out below. Plus all proceeds will be going to support our 501c3 non-profit Weightlifting team.

Six of the Greatest Minds in Strength & Conditioning in One Book


Some of the greatest coaches in the industry have collaborated with the Mash Mafia to bring you a sampler of programs that packs a punch. Take a peek inside the minds of these experts so that you can take your knowledge and performance to a new level.



  • Dr. McGill’s “Big Three” core exercises, why and when you should do them
  • The non-negotiable exercises for injury treatment and prevention in strength athletes
  • The importance of how you correct for a failing lift or hard lift.
  • Belt Squats, carries, reverse hypers
  • The first two words that almost always come out of Stu McGill’s mouth
  • Movement assessment protocols and spine hygiene
  • and more

Why We Use “Drop Sets” in our Training Programs by Matt Shiver

The Mash Elite coaches love to program drop sets for our athletes. We use them to give more volume to our programs without beating our athletes up. We typically program a Rep Max (RM) at a certain numbered Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and then we follow them up with a few drop sets at 10-20% less than the intensity of the RM.

For example:

High Bar Back Squat 5RM, then -10% x 5

This is done in order for the athlete to finish the exercise with some solid technique and speed work. By dropping 10-20%, it allows the lift to be fast and snappy. If the RM was a grind, 10% will feel much smoother and 20% will feel great! Yet it is still a percentage that will allow the athlete to sharpen their skills.

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

If you have ever been on a 3×5 or even 5×5 linear progression program for longer than 6 weeks, you feel like the 3 or 5 sets are all max sets. When you finish the first set, you may feel like gravity is heavy that day! Instead of doing drop sets, you continue at the same weight for another few sets. To do this requires much more rest between sets. Instead of resting 2 minutes, you may have to rest 5-6 minutes before getting under the bar again to ensure that you are recovered enough to hit that same weight again.

While linear progression does work, it is not the most sustainable approach. Especially if you have a decent amount of stress outside of the gym. You really have to have control of ALL your stressors for you to progress.  This approach is also not best for longevity in the sport. It can set you up for a series of injuries later on down the road.

If you are a novice (less than a year in the sport), then you should be able to make progress with this linear approach without injuries. But once you get past that phase, things change! Your training needs to change to match that.

We like to program one hard set and several drop sets. This ensures that you are in your best condition and able to hit the heavy set. It will allow you to use heavier weight each session and will not be as hard to recover from. Then we reinforce the technique with lighter weight drop sets.

If you are concerned about not getting in as much total poundage in your sets you can add more drop sets to increase the volume. For squats and presses, dropping 10% normally works if your goal is to train in the same rep range. Ex. 5RM, then drop 10% for 2×5. For deadlifts, if you are going to stay in the same rep range I would drop 15% to ensure that your technique is on point and the speed it there. Ex. 3RM, drop 15% for 2×3 If you are doing heavy singles, we often will write 1RM, drop 20% for 2×3.

Drop sets are a great way to improve an athlete’s confidence levels. You want them to finish training the movement with a “make”. One of my old basketball coaches always made us finish our practice with a made basketball shot. We were not allowed to go to the locker room until we made our last shot. That strategy of always finishing everything you do in life with a make has stuck with me since. It doesn’t have to be a half-court shot, a lay-up will do. The same goes for weightlifting. A 40kg snatch with crisp technique is more powerful at the end of the session than an 80kg snatch that is all over the place and feels bad.

Finish on a “make” with more drop sets in your program!



Your Questions Answered on the Show – The Barbell Life 187

We just launched our newest book and that means this week on the Barbell Life I’ll be answering your questions that you have submitted to us.  We had some really good ones about bench pressing, motivation, recovery and overtraining.


From all the training and programming related questions you’ve been submitting, I suggest you take a look some of our program samplers, particularly the latest one, Volume III. We’re doing things a little differently this time. None of the programs are written by me. Instead, they were all donated by my friends. Yes, they are my friends and they also happen to be some of the best strength and conditioning coaches and experts in the field. There are programs from Layne Norton, PhD, Joe Kenn of the Carolina Panthers, Zach Even-Esh, Greg Nuckols, Andy Galpin, PhD, and Sean Waxman.

This new book is a great opportunity for you to learn from these men and train as if you were there athlete. Plus all the proceeds will be going to support our non-profit team. So it’s for a great cause.

Grab the Sampler now while it’s at the special launch price.

Six of the Greatest Minds in Strength & Conditioning in One Book


Some of the greatest coaches in the industry have collaborated with the Mash Mafia to bring you a sampler of programs that packs a punch. Take a peek inside the minds of these experts so that you can take your knowledge and performance to a new level.

Thanks and enjoy today’s show.



  • How not to send the bar forward in the jerk
  • Being explosive off the chest during the bench press
  • Busting through plateaus in bench and squat.
  • Deloading and do you even need to?
  • Finding the motivation to train.
  • Overtraining and why it’s totally a real thing.
  • and more

If you have a question you’d like us to answer on the show, email us at

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