Category Archives for "Powerlifting"

Your Questions Answered – The Barbell Life 260

I have to say this is one of the most fun things I do.

Today, we have a listener Q&A podcast – where we get to the questions that you have written in. I love these podcasts because I get to just talk about what I love so much, but also I know that I’m answering people’s burning questions and really helping them with their problems.

So give this one a listen to see if there’s any nugget of knowledge that you might find helpful.


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  • Training for tactical events (where you have to do it all)
  • Fixing issues with hip extension
  • The crucial differences between strength training and power training
  • Dealing with horrible DOMS
  • Combining HIIT with leg training
  • and more…

Westside vs. the World with Michael Fahey – The Barbell Life 258

You’ve probably heard about the new movie, Westside vs. the World.

It was such a trip down memory lane for me to watch it, and it gives an amazing perspective on what Westside Barbell and Louie Simmons are all about.

We talked to the filmmaker, Michael Fahey, today.

So listen in to this one to hear all the great stories about Louie – as well as a look at the past, present, and future of powerlifting.



World champion and world-class coach Travis Mash takes a look at Louie Simmons's Westside Barbell strength principles and applies them tom the world of Olympic weightlifting.


  • Taking months to convince Louie Simmons to do the movie
  • Almost being fired for being a “Westside Coach”
  • When Louie Simmons didn’t recognize Stephi Cohen
  • Problems with powerlifting rules?
  • Why Louie is the most straightforward person
  • and more…

Dr. Charlie Weingroff on Squat Debates – The Barbell Life 257

Dr. Charlie Weingroff is a powerlifter and a movement specialist.

Those two don’t normally go hand-in-hand… but today they do.

Charlie joins me today to talk about the finer points of squat technique. One of the things I really love about Charlie is that he’s all about the data – all about the science.

So listen in to this one to hear about the real truth when it comes to squatting.



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.


  • How your neck positioning in the squat can relate to back pain
  • What Louie Simmons taught him about reverse hypers
  • Why he has basketball players front squat
  • The often unrecognized best bench presser of all time
  • Disagreements about the box squat
  • and more…

Why Jamaica Rules the World of Sprinting

I returned last night from one of the most incredible trips of my entire life.

Phil, the CEO of Stronger Experts, and I have been talking about a trip to Jamaica from the very moment I joined the platform. For all of you who don’t know what Stronger Experts is, I will give you a brief explanation. Phil gathered some of the world’s top experts in the areas of weightlifting, powerlifting, strength and conditioning, speed training, nutrition, injury prevention, and rehab. The platform is a one-stop shop for young and aspiring coaches to learn from the best in the business.



One of the coaches on the platform is Coach Jae Edwards. Jae is a big part of the reason why I joined this platform. He works with some of the top sprinters in Jamaica – including Yohan Blake. I’ve been fascinated by the Jamaican sprinters for quite some time now. I have been dying to understand their training and their mindset. Phil gave all of us that chance.

I was able to arrange for Doug Larson and Anders Varner, my friends from Barbell Shrugged, to come along to document the journey. This guaranteed we would come away with some moments that would encourage and inspire all of you. It also allowed me to co-host one of the most amazing podcasts of my life with Yohan Blake, which brings me to the point of this story.

No Other Option

Yohan explained to us life growing up on the island. Yes, it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. However, life on the island for the locals can be one of the hardest existences in the world. Yohan grew up in a one-room house with seven siblings and his parents. Food was hard to come by, which made athletic endeavors much harder for him than the athletes here in the United States.

He didn’t even start out as a sprinter. When he was 16 years old, he was playing cricket and decided to try his hand at sprinting. Luckily he was really good right out of the gate. It’s actually hard to imagine how good he would be if he had started earlier like most of the children in Jamaica – talking to the other track coaches, they start them between four to six years old.

Once Yohan realized he had a gift, he knew he had found a way to change the lives of his entire family. He worked harder than everyone else on the island, to the point Usain Bolt gave him the nickname Beast. He still trains with the same tenacity, and is currently the world’s fastest man after winning the world championships. Yohan also holds the second-fastest time ever recorded for the 100-meter dash – 9.69 seconds. After talking to him over the last few days, there is no way I would vote against him. If you want to hear the entire story, just wait for the episode of Barbell Shrugged to drop.

Here’s my point in telling you this story. Yohan approached sprinting with no other alternative. There was no fall-back plan and no other options. Back at home there was only a one-room house and several disappointed family members awaiting him if he failed. He told us about praying multiple times God would grant him speed. He told us about his mother telling him he was their only hope.

As an athlete growing up in America, I can’t imagine having that kind of pressure on me. He felt the weight of the entire world on his shoulders, and he didn’t let the weight crush him. It’s that pressure that made him unbeatable. Yes they have good coaching in Jamaica, but so do we in America. It’s the fact they don’t have any other option that drives them to succeed at such high levels.

The problem with options

In America, our athletes have so many options. If their sport doesn’t work out, then they will go on with their lives. Heck, most of them realize they will be more financially stable when their sport is over. That really makes it tough for them when training gets hard, and training gets hard for everyone no matter the sport. ‘Options’ are the very reason why athletes fail more often than not in America. Let me explain a little more.

Every year, I have an athlete who reaches out to me about wanting to be an Olympian. I often wonder how they get to that goal. I mean did they watch some old Cal Strength videos, or did they stumble upon some old videos of Pyrros Dimas? Who knows? Yet here they are reaching out to me, saying the exact same things as so many before them. It used to be, if they had a little bit of talent, I would get all excited and have them visit the gym. After my trip to Jamaica, I have a new plan for all the people who reach out to me.

Now I am going to rant a bit, so get ready. Athletes tell me all the time they are willing to do anything to become the best, but their actions don’t match their mouths. Don’t tell me you want to be the best, and then proceed to go out drinking and partying every week. You’re lying to me and to yourself. Don’t tell me you will do whatever it takes, and then quit when training gets hard. If you really want to be the best, keep reading.

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What it takes

If you really want to be one of the best athletes in the world, you are going to have to give up all partying. You are going to have to take responsibility for your own nutrition. You are going to need ten hours of sleep every night. Recovery is your responsibility. You will need to find the best chiropractor, physical therapist, and massage therapist. You will need to buy Marc Pro for the inflammation. If you aren’t getting something in practice, you will need to do whatever it takes to understand the deficiency. Maybe you need some extra practice. Maybe you need two-a-days until you get it. Maybe you need to do a little extra homework.

You will need to practice harder and smarter than every other person on this planet. Things are going to get hard, really hard. That’s a promise. You are going to regress at times. You are going to plateau at times. Some of that is a planned response by your coach, and some is a dark place where all athletes will venture. It’s in the darkness where you will experience pain and sadness. Your body will hurt like you are a 50-year-old crippled person. You will get depressed. You will think it’s never going to happen. All of these things I promise are going to happen.

It’s in this darkness you will come face to face with the true you. This can be the loneliest place in the world because you are going to be faced with questions some of you don’t really want to answer:

  • Am I really good enough to be at the top of my chosen sport?
  • Am I really willing to do what it takes to make it in my chosen sport?
  • Is my sport worth pushing through this terrible pain?
  • Am I tough enough to push through this plateau?

Making that decision

For some of you, it’s simply a reality check. You might not be cut out to be the best, and that’s okay. Some of you will learn to simply enjoy the sport. However, for all of you who really have what it takes, you will be faced with the hardest decision of your life. If you quit now, you will probably quit when things get tough for the rest of your life. Nothing great in life ever comes easy, and that’s why athletes who make it to the very top are so darn special. They are special in the same way amazing entrepreneurs are special or incredible inventors.

The rest of this article is especially to the athletes who are about to reach out to me in the future. I want you to contemplate this article and the question above. I know it seems sexy when you see my athletes wearing Team USA on their chests. I know it seems cool traveling around the world lifting weights against the best athletes in the world. However that’s less than 1% of what really goes on. Are you ready for the work that’s really required? Are you willing to stay at home while others go out partying? Are you willing to take control of your nutrition and recovery?

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Here’s the thing. I am no longer willing to coach someone who isn’t willing to match their action with their goals and talents. I have too many great athletes who are willing to put in the work and time. I don’t have the time for trouble cases who aren’t willing to accept the help and coaching. The Jamaicans are willing to do whatever it takes. Are you? I mean are you really?

Yohan Blake didn’t have a choice. That makes it a bit easier to stay focused. For the rest of us who have choices, we must be disciplined. You have to want to succeed more than anything else in the entire world. If there is something else you would rather be doing, then go do that and forget about sport.

I know this article isn’t my normal science based ‘how to’ article, but it’s the truth all of you need to hear. Don’t tell me you were already thinking like this because I watch too many of you come and go. Be honest with yourself! It’s okay to play a sport for fun. However, when you tell a coach like me you want to be the best in the world, then I expect the best work ethic and discipline in the world. If I don’t get just that, you can find another coach.

Navigating Powerlifting Federations by Crystal McCullough

I wrote previously about how Olympic weightlifters can start competing with the USAW.

But here at Mash Elite, as you can imagine, we have a fair amount of powerlifters on our online team. With that, I get questions all the time from athletes who want to compete in powerlifting but have no idea how to start. Since weightlifting is an Olympic sport, there is one clear-cut federation that athletes compete in. The same cannot be said for powerlifting. I can honestly say, when I started competing, I had no idea either.

Things to consider

In the earlier years of competitive powerlifting, the primary focus was multi-ply. In recent years, the focus has shifted more toward raw. The leading organization when Travis was at his peak was the WPO (World Powerlifting Congress). When you think Westside Barbell in the early 2000s, they competed in the WPO as well.

But, this article isn’t about raw vs. equipped lifting. We’ve already covered that here.

With powerlifting, there are several federations, and an athlete has to choose the federation that aligns with their goals. What I mean by that is there are federations that have:

  • Local/Regional Meets
  • Nationals
  • Worlds
  • Drug Tested
  • Non Drug Tested

So, when you decide what federation to compete in, you have to decide if you want to compete locally or regionally only, have a goal to go to a nationals meet, or even a world meet. The other aspect is, if you are a clean athlete, do you want to compete in a drug tested federation where all the athletes are subject to drug testing? Or, do you care if the federation is drug tested or not? Many athletes who are clean still compete in a non-drug tested federation because they are more accessible in some regions.

Regardless of the federation, there are a few steps you have to take in order to compete:

  1. Register as a member of the chosen federation
  2. Find a local meet near you on their webpage calendar
  3. Read the rules on what a good lift is for the squat, bench, and deadlift
  4. Check the federation’s approved equipment page
  5. Choose your weight class

When you Google powerlifting federations, you will find a plethora of them. So, how do you decide which one to compete in? I am going to give you a breakdown of the most popular ones and then you can decide.

Here goes…

USA Powerlifting (USAPL)

The USAPL is a fully drug tested federation and a division of the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF). They have divisions in teen, open, and master – and lifters can set National and World records in each of those divisions.

Lifters choose to lift:

  • Raw – belt, knee sleeves, and wrist wraps
  • Equipped – single ply allowing for a squat and deadlift suit, bench shirt, wrist wraps and knee wraps

Similar to USA Weightlifting, lifters qualify for Nationals (either raw or equipped) by competing in a local meet. They qualify based on their total. World teams are chosen in a similar manner as well. The top lifter from their weight class is chosen to represent the USA on the Worlds stage.

The weights lifted and bodyweight categories are all in kilograms. The weight classes for this federation:
Men – 53 (sub-junior and junior only), 59, 66, 74, 83, 93, 105, 120, 120+
Women – 43 (sub-junior and junior only), 52, 57, 63, 72, 84, 84+

Check out the website to get more information. Of special interest are these links:

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United States Powerlifting Association (USPA)

The USPA has both a drug tested and a non-drug tested category and is part of the International Powerlifting League (IPL). They also have a have divisions in teen, open, and master and lifters can set National and World records in each of those divisions as well.

Lifters choose to lift:

  • Raw – belt, knee sleeves, elbow sleeves, and wrist wraps
  • Classic Raw – belt, knee wraps, elbow sleeves, and wrist wraps
  • Single Ply – single ply squat and deadlift suit, bench shirt, belt, elbow sleeves, wrist wraps and knee wraps
  • Multi-Ply – multi-ply squat and deadlift suit, bench shirt, belt, elbow sleeves, wrist wraps and knee wraps

Qualifying for Nationals and Worlds is slightly different than USAPL as there are two Nationals and two Worlds (drug tested and non drug tested). You have to compete at a local meet to get a qualifying total for either one. In 2020, the rules will require you to compete at a local drug tested meet in order to compete at Drug Tested Nationals or Drug Tested Worlds. Unlike the USAPL, you don’t have to compete at Nationals to make a world team. There is a minimum total you have to hit at a local meet that qualifies you for Worlds.

The weights lifted and bodyweight categories are all in kilograms. The weight classes for this federation:
Men – 52, 56, 60, 67.5, 75, 82.5, 90, 100, 110, 125, 140, and 140+
Women – 44, 48, 52, 56, 60, 67.5, 75, 82.5, 90, 90+

Check out the website to get more information. Of special interest are these links:

  • Membership
  • Calendar
  • Rulebook
  • Qualifying Totals: Go to Member Resources tab on the website and click on Classification Standards and choose Men/Women Kilos or Pounds.

The minimum qualifying totals are:

  • Drug Tested Nationals – Class 2 Total
  • Non-Drug Tested Nationals – Class 1 Total
  • Drug Tested Worlds – Class 1 Total
  • Non-Drug Tested Worlds – Master Total

Revolution Powerlifting Syndicate (RPS)

Local meets from this federation are qualifiers for athletes to compete at The Arnold Classic in the XPC Finals. This federation does not require you to have a membership to compete and RPS events are high energy with loud music.

The divisions for this federation are a bit more complicated, but put simply, the divisions are:

  • Pro division – not drug tested and requires a qualifying total to be classified and compete as Pro.
  • Elite division – drug tested where the athlete has a Pro total, but wants proof they are not on PEDS.
  • Amateur division – drug free division

Equipment divisions include:

  • Muiti-ply – multi-ply squat/deadlift suit, bench shirt, belt, wrist wraps, knee sleeves/wraps
  • Single- ply – single-ply squat/deadlift suit, bench shirt, belt, wrist wraps, knee sleeves/wraps
  • Raw Classic – the only support allowed is a belt and wrist wraps
  • Raw Modern – belt, knee sleeves/wraps, and wrist wraps

Weight Classes are as follows:
Men – 52, 56, 60, 67.5, 75, 82.5, 90, 100, 110, 125, 140, 140+
Women – 44, 48, 52, 56, 60, 67.5, 75, 82.5, 90, 100, 110, 110+

Check out the website to get more information. Of special interest are these links:

Other newer/smaller federations that have begun to gain some traction in the United States that are worth a look at are:

Of course, these federations are not the end all/be all of powerlifting. There are several more powerlifting federations in the United States, but from my experience, these are the largest and most competitive. I have competed in the USAPL, USPA, and RPS and have mostly positive things to say about all three. At the end of the day, you just need to do some research and see which federation has local meets in your area and then go from there.

Have fun competing!

Using Prilepin’s Chart Post Rehab

About the author: Eric Bowman is a Registered Physiotherapist and Strength Coach in Ontario, Canada who works in the areas of chronic musculoskeletal pain, sports rehab, and strength and conditioning. He’s also intermittently involved with the University of Waterloo Kinesiology program and the Western University Physical Therapy program. He also competes as a powerlifter and has completed the CPU Coaching Workshop and Seminar.

During the time period between my performance in Coach Mash’s Feats Of Strength meet and my previous meet in December 2017, I took time away from competing to work on rehabilitating some chronic patellofemoral pain. I wrote about the process of getting pain-free on my website.

After getting pain-free, the next step was to get stronger. Needless to say, my squat was in desperate need of improvement. So I needed a plan to get from Point A to Point B without rushing so aggressively that I re-aggravated my symptoms. This plan came from the use of a tool, originally intended for Olympic lifters, that I have used both for myself and for other clients recovering from weight-training injuries – Prilepin’s Chart.

What is Prilepin’s Chart?

Prilepin’s Chart is a chart designed in the former Soviet Union to manage the training of Olympic weightlifters. It provides recommendations based off of the percentage of your one-rep max, for optimal repetitions per set, and optimal total repetitions per workout.

Who is it for?

It is for people who have no major orthopedic or medical pathology, can do everything in their work and activities of daily living pain-free, and only have pain (or form breakdown) past a certain weight.

If you still have pain with these other activities, and/or you have other orthopedic or medical issues, those need to get dealt with first. Just saying.

How do I apply it?

I use it for the big barbell lifts – squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press – as well as Olympic lifts on occasion.

The key is having a proper 1RM. This requires putting the ego in park and using a max you know you can hit properly and pain-free. Just because you squatted 700 pounds before the meet doesn’t mean you can squat it now. Use a one-rep max (either taking it directly or from a calculator) from the best performance you can do properly and pain free in that exercise.

For instance, if you can squat 300 pain-free but 315 gives you trouble, 300 is your training max.

From there you use the percentages in the chart. A strength-based workout may be 80% of your max (240 pounds in this example) for 2-5 sets of 2-4 reps. A hypertrophy or accumulation-based workout may be 70% of your max (210 pounds in this example) for 3-6 sets of 3-6 reps.

What are the advantages of this approach?

1) Keeps the athlete in check
Most athletes, especially us studly powerlifters, like to push weights and push the envelope to get back to where we were before.

A flaw I see of people who do programs like 5/3/1, Conjugate, or 10/20/Life is that they become “PR happy” and want to break a PR week after week – eventually leading to stagnation or injury. This isn’t a flaw of the programs themselves but rather how they’re used.

A fixed max and percentages keeps us in check.

2) Flexibility with sets and reps
A flaw of fixed percentage based programs, particularly linear periodization models, is they don’t allow for flexibility in sets and reps. This is a problem for two reasons:

  • Some lifters are more “fast twitch” than others and can’t do as many reps at a given percentage of their 1RM compared to other “slower twitch” lifters. Bret Contreras and Brad Schoenfeld did an experiment where they had subjects perform an all out set at 75% of their 1RM. The top lifter did 21, the bottom lifter did 7. So telling an athlete they must do 3 sets of 10 at 75% of their 1RM might be impossible for the bottom lifter and too easy for the top lifter.
  • If you’re having a bad day, 3 sets of 10 at 75% may be too hard … or if you’re having a good day it’s too easy.

Having a flexible range of sets and reps helps minimize these issues by enabling you to auto-adjust your sets and reps for the day.

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3) Emphasis on proper form
For technically complex lifts – such as the powerlifts and the Olympic lifts – it’s hard to maintain good form past a few repetitions unless you’re someone who is very technically sound. While singles are optimal for technique, doing lots of singles in a workout can get pretty time consuming and pretty monotonous. As such, I prefer the 1-6 rep ranges used in Prilepin’s Chart.

How do I know when to bump the training max up?

If you can hit (or exceed) the top end of Prilepin’s Chart on a consistent basis without pain or excessive fatigue, then you can recalibrate your training max and begin again. I usually use the following recommendations based on how many repetitions you’re consistently (key word) hitting in your workouts compared to those recommended in the chart:

When in doubt – start light and increase more slowly. The big thing is to keep everything pain-free and use proper form.

What about lifters who are short on time and can’t do that much volume?

The one downside, from a practical standpoint, is Prilepin’s Chart can lead to a fair amount of volume in a workout.

For people who are short on time, I recommend Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program – which should be used in a similar manner of using a training max that you can hit properly and pain-free.

With Jim Wendler at SWIS 2018

Wendler’s Variation

Wendler recommends sticking with your current training max and increasing it by 2.5-5 pounds for upper-body lifts or 5-10 poounds for lower-body lifts every four weeks until you stall and can’t hit the prescribed sets and reps. Wendler is way smarter than I am, so I can’t argue with him. My only suggestion is to start with a super conservative training max.

If you use a methodology that is not percentage-based but involves working to a top set on your main movements, such as the Max Effort component of Conjugate training, I still recommend you only increase your weights at a maximum of 5-10% per month (again – if in doubt, less is better). For some, increasing weights that slowly may not feel like a true “max effort” strain. Some ways to make a max effort exercise more difficult without adding weight:

  • Adding in some slow eccentrics and/or isometrics to the lift
  • Doing more warm-up/working-up volume prior to your top sets

Prilepin’s Chart can be applied in many ways outside of Olympic lifting and can be a useful tool, when applied appropriately, in the late rehab stage and post rehab stages of an athlete.

As always – thanks for reading.

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