Category Archives for "Powerlifting"

Jim Wendler (Part 1) – The Barbell Life 240

Anyone in the strength game has heard the name Jim Wendler.

He’s the creator of the legendary 5/3/1 system – and he’s been a part of such strength dynasties as Westside Barbell and EliteFTS.

So take a listen to this one to hear his story and all that he’s learned along the way. This one is an inspiration.

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LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • How he trained for years and then suddenly gained 65 pounds in 3 months
  • Training at Westside Barbell – and why it’s stupid to hate on Louie Simmons
  • Seizing opportunities
  • The start of EliteFTS and what made them so successful
  • The origins of 5/3/1
  • and more…

The Reason Some Great Athletes Are Still Weak

When you talk about sports psychology with an athlete, most will shut down almost immediately. Sports psych has a bad stigma among athletes in America – and that’s very unfortunate because it’s the one area where most athletes need help.

‘CLARKING’

I have a young female athlete who should definitely be the next one to make Team USA. I’m not going to mention her name because I didn’t ask her permission to write this. This young lady is amazing. However, she’s gone through several months of Chronic Clarking, and honestly I didn’t have the answers.

For all of you who don’t know what Clarking is, I will explain. Ken Clark was an amazing weightlifter in the 1980s. But at the 1984 Olympics, Ken pulled his clean to his waist but didn’t go under the bar on his second and third attempts. So now, when someone performs a snatch pull or clean pull without going under the bar, most English-speaking athletes from around the world call the lack of going under the bar a Clark. It’s sad because Ken was an amazing athlete. Heck, he was an Olympian, which is something most people will never be. Regardless if it’s fair or not, the reality is when a lifter refuses for whatever reason to complete the third pull (pull under the bar), it’s now considered a Clark.

EVALUATING THE REAL ISSUE

Let’s get back to my young athlete. I was at wits’ end trying to figure this out for her. If you are a coach, athletes are coming to you in hopes you will help them reach their goals. I take this very seriously. If one of my athletes is struggling, I am struggling as well. We win together, and we lose together. That’s the deal.

I actually reached out to two of my colleagues, Spencer Arnold and Sean Waxman. They both concluded maybe her average intensity was too high, and maybe she was experiencing some neural fatigue. I was saving that for after the Junior Nationals coming up, since we were only four weeks out. However, I wasn’t 100% convinced because her bar speed and the height of the barbell were both above par compared to what other athletes produce. It honestly looked like a mental glitch – like at the last second there was an interruption in the brain. Plus this young lady is an ex-gymnast, so she is used to high volume.

I recommended to her mother that she look into finding a sports psychology professional. Her mother knew a female sports psychologist, so they contacted her. This young lady has had only two or three sessions with her new sports psych, and now it’s as if I have a brand new athlete. She’s quickly becoming the very athlete I knew she could be. In the last few weeks, she has set personal records in the snatch, clean and jerk, and of course total. She’s only experienced one Clark – which she actually overcame in the same session.

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THE STIGMA AND THE SOLUTION

Here’s the sad part. The fact I have to withhold her name is the very reason most of you are failing. The fact that there is a bad stigma around sports psychology is the reason most of you will never reach your goals. Instead of reaching your goals, you will:

  • blame your coach.
  • blame the program.
  • blame your friends.
  • blame your significant other.
  • blame your parents.
  • blame your circumstances.

I have news for you. When you miss the lift, that’s your fault. The minute you admit that important fact is the minute you can start to improve.

This point can also be made by looking at coach-jumping. Coach-jumping is more common in America than it has ever been. It’s not uncommon for athletes to have three to four coaches in a two-year span. Silly really, because every time an athlete jumps to another coach, they have to adapt to the new programming, new technique, and new coaching style versus experiencing continued improvement. Most of the athletes I see making these jumps all have one thing in common. They need a sports psychologist to help them become more successful.

Guys – it is not weak to seek out a professional. It’s weak being afraid to do so. I see so many of you getting a weightlifting coach, nutritionist, rehab professional, yoga instructor, and so many other professionals – but the one thing that would help you the most is somehow taboo. Ridiculous!

ATHLETIC ADVANTAGES

As athletes, we are all searching for an advantage over our opponents. Luckily in America, we’ve cracked down on drug use with the help of the United States Anti-Doping Agency and its year-round out-of-meet testing of our top athletes. We can’t take drugs for an unfair advantage, but there are several things all of you can do to give yourself an advantage:

Seek out advice and support through a good:

  • sports psychologist
  • nutritionist
  • chiropractor
  • physical therapist

And practice self-care through:

  • massage
  • addressing sleeping patterns
  • proper warm ups
  • optimal cool downs and stretching
  • recovery (ice baths, Marc Pro, MobilityWOD, etc.)

If you do all of these things, you will have an advantage because you will be the 1% who actually handles all the different areas. Heck, you will be in the 1% if you are the one who hires a sports psychologist. Too many Americans want to think they are too mentally tough to need a sports psychologist. If you believe that, I’m going to say right away you are the very person who definitely needs a sports psychologist.

USA Weightlifting has partnered with Colin Iwanski as their sports psych professional, and I think he is amazing. If you have the opportunity to work with him, I 100% believe you should. If you want to be a true master of the mundane, I believe it should start with sports psych. If the brain is functioning properly, everything else will function much more smoothly.

The brain is a crazy place. I for one tried everything I could think of with this young lady, and I couldn’t get through. I’m not a sports psychologist. There isn’t an athlete on the planet who couldn’t stand to get stronger mentally. If you have the funds, have the time, and you know of a good sports psychologist, I recommend immediately reaching out to them. If they’re good, I can almost guarantee improved results.

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If you don’t know of one, you can message us. I have three I recommend. You could contact all three and decide which one works the best for you. It’s not weak to hire a sports psychologist. It’s only weak if you don’t. I promise you this one last thing… “If you don’t first become the strongest athlete mentally, you will never become the strongest athlete physically.”

Increase Your Pulling Power with My Two Favorite Movements

Pulling has been an object of debate in the sport of Olympic weightlifting for quite some time.

Some coaches feel deadlifts shouldn’t be changed because of the change in velocity. I think there has been enough information released lately to prove that to be a fallacy. It doesn’t really matter how fast the bar moves. If your intent is one of maximal effort, you will still recruit the fast twitch fibers required for high velocity pulls.

Think about it for one second. Heavy squats don’t make athletes stand up from cleans slowly. If so, Nathan Damron would stand up incredibly slowly, and we all know that isn’t true.

Some claim the deadlift causes another deficiency. Some think the deadlift is performed with a different pull all together. When I wrote my book Pulling Science, I quizzed over one hundred experts in the field about the way deadlifts are different from the pull of a clean. We found everyone is different. We teach our athletes to pull the clean and deadlift in the exact same way. Whatever technique produces the most powerful pull is the one to use for both lifts. Why would you use a pull that produced less power in either lift?

Here’s the thing y’all! If your pull is weak, you need to fix it. I promise 70% of your max deadlift will move faster than 80% of your max deadlift. By this I mean, if your deadlift goes up, your current clean will also move faster. All you have to do is study any of Coach Bryan Mann’s work on velocity-based training to understand what I am trying to tell you.

FORGET OPINIONS. HERE'S THE SCIENCE ON PULLING.

Master Technique and Programming for the Conventional Deadlift, Sumo Deadlift, and Clean Pull

After combing through the research and interviewing the experts, the result is a guide that will refine your technique and boost your pull in a safe and effective manner.

There are two movements that are my go-to movements for increasing my athletes’ pull. They worked for me, and they’ve worked for my athletes. They will work for you.

Banded RDLs from a Deficit

Back in 2003 Arnold Coleman, unbelievable champion powerlifter, told me Ed Coan used banded stiff-legged deadlifts from a deficit to build his massive 903-pound deadlift at 100 kilograms / 220 pounds body weight. Whether he did or not, you will have to ask him.

I decided to try them – but more in an RDL fashion. RDLs aren’t a lot different from stiff-legged deadlifts. The only real difference is RDLs are performed with slightly bent knees and a neutral spine with a focus on a hip hinge. From the information I have studied from Dr. Stuart McGill, I simply assumed RDLs would be a bit safer on my spine, and I believe I was right.

After the first 8 weeks of trying these banded RDLS from a deficit, my deadlift leaped from 733 pounds to 800 pounds. It was the most dramatic increase I ever experienced. My ability to keep my back in extension while pulling increased an enormous amount. My overall pulling power increased as well, not to mention an increase in velocity.

Normally we use a four to six inch deficit. Here are my recommendations for bands:

  • Mini-bands for a deadlift under 500 pounds
  • Purple bands for a deadlift between 500-600 pounds
  • Green bands for a deadlift over 600 pounds

Here are my loading suggestions:

  • 3-4 sets
  • 5-8 repetitions
  • 50-65% intensity

Here’s a video that may help demonstrate these exercises (look around the 0:20 mark):

Banded Deadlifts from a Deficit

We use banded deadlifts from a deficit to:

  • increase the range of motion in the pull with the goal being increased hypertrophy.
  • focus on velocity to increase the speed of the pull.

If we are using banded deadlifts with a goal of hypertrophy, we normally focus on controlling the speed of the eccentric contraction. The easiest way to do this is simply to make the eccentric slightly slower than the concentric. It was Greg Nuckols who said he increased the strength of his deadlift when training in Globo Gyms – where he wasn’t allowed to drop the weight. He believes being forced to control the eccentric contraction added more hypertrophy in the right places, which led to an increase in his deadlift.

If we are using this exercise to focus on speed, the eccentric isn’t a big concern. You will be using submaximal weight, and you will be going nowhere close to failure. Therefore, hypertrophy won’t come into play with velocity-based deadlifts. If you desire to improve the strength speed portion of the deadlift, your goal is a velocity somewhere between 0.75 m/s and 1.0 m/s. If your goal is speed strength, then you want to move the barbell at a velocity somewhere between 1.0 m/s and 1.25 m/s.

So what’s the difference between strength speed and speed strength? Here’s some descriptions from Bar Speed:

Strength Speed

This one is defined as moving moderately heavy weight as fast as possible. This is the strength quality most related to the Dynamic Effort Method in powerlifting. This quality is managed with a 0.75 – 1.0 m/s velocity, and normally this velocity is reached with loads between 50 – 60% of your 1RM. Personally I love this zone because a strength quality is being addressed that produces a great deal of power. Furthermore, it has a much higher rate of force development than its neighbor accelerative strength. It’s also more easily recovered from compared to accelerative and absolute strength. Not to mention dynamic squats leave the athlete more neurologically charged, allowing them to perform explosive movements like cleans and snatches even better.

Speed Strength

If you are an Olympic weightlifter, you live in this realm. You are probably pretty efficient in this area. Here we are using lighter loads at high velocities. In this case, speed is the primary concern with strength being secondary. This strength quality takes place with velocities between 1.0 and 1.3 m/s and usually with percentages of your 1RM between 30 – 40%. At this point you are leaning more toward velocity and less toward force, so overall power is starting to decrease.

OPEN UP NEW POSSIBILITIES IN STRENGTH

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.

Sample 12-Week Program:

BLOCK 1

Week 1

Day 1
Speed Deadlifts (from 2 inch deficit, alternate stance, 60-90 sec rest between sets): 40% bar weight + 20% bands or chains for 8 x 2

Suitcase Deadlifts (from 4 inch deficit, stay at 7-8 RPE): 3 x 5 each side

Day 2
RDLs (from a 2 inch deficit, with bands): 4 x 8 (7-8 RPE)

Reverse Hypers: 3 x 45 sec

Week 2

Day 1
Speed Deadlifts (from 2 inch deficit, alternate stance, 60-90 sec rest between sets): 45% bar weight + 20% bands or chains for 8 x 2

Suitcase Deadlifts (from 4 inch deficit, stay at 7-8 RPE): 3 x 5 each side

Day 2
RDLs (from a 2 inch deficit, with bands): 4 x 8 (8-9 RPE)

Reverse Hypers: 3 x 50 sec

Week 3

Day 1
Speed Deadlifts (from 2 inch deficit, alternate stance, 60-90 sec rest between sets): 35% bar weight + 20% bands or chains for 8 x 2

Suitcase Deadlifts (from 4 inch deficit, stay at 7-8 RPE): 3 x 5 each side

Day 2
RDLs (from a 2 inch deficit, with bands): 3 x 8 (7 RPE)

Reverse Hypers: 3 x 35 sec

Week 4

Day 1
Speed Deadlifts (from 2 inch deficit, alternate stance, 60-90 sec rest between sets): 50% bar weight + 20% bands or chains for 10 x 1

Suitcase Deadlifts (from 4 inch deficit, stay at 7-8 RPE): 3 x 5 each side (7 RPE)

Day 2
RDLs (from a 2 inch deficit, with bands): 3 x 8 (9 RPE)

Reverse Hypers: 3 x 55 sec

BLOCK 2

Week 5

Day 1
Speed Deadlifts (from 2 inch deficit, alternate stance, 60-90 sec rest between sets): 45% bar weight + 15% bands or chains for 8×2

Unilateral Reverse Hypers: 3 x 10 each side

Day 2
RDLs (from a 2 inch deficit, with bands): 4 x 6 (7-8 RPE)

Hyper Extensions with Barbell: 3 x 10

Week 6

Day 1
Speed Deadlifts (from 2 inch deficit, alternate stance, 60-90 sec rest between sets): 50% bar weight + 15% bands or chains for 8×2

Unilateral Reverse Hypers: 3 x 10 each side

Day 2
RDLs (from a 2 inch deficit, with bands): 4 x 6 (8-9 RPE)

Hyper Extensions with Barbell: 4 x 10

Week 7

Day 1
Speed Deadlifts (from 2 inch deficit, alternate stance, 60-90 sec rest between sets): 40% bar weight + 15% bands or chains for 8×2

Unilateral Reverse Hypers: 3 x 10 each side

Day 2
RDLs (from a 2 inch deficit, with bands): 3 x 5 (7 RPE)

Hyper Extensions with Barbell: 3 x 8

Week 8

Day 1
Speed Deadlifts (from 2 inch deficit, alternate stance, 60-90 sec rest between sets): 55% bar weight + 15% bands or chains for 10×1

Unilateral Reverse Hypers: 3 x 10 each side

Day 2
RDLs (from a 2 inch deficit, with bands): 5RM, then -10% for 2 x 5

Hyper Extensions with Barbell: 4 x 5

BLOCK 3

Week 9

Day 1
Speed Deadlifts (from 2 inch deficit, alternate stance, 60-90 sec rest between sets): 50% bar weight + 10% bands or chains for 8 x 2

TRX Leg Curls (DB, band, or machine): 3 x 10

Day 2
Clean Deadlifts (from 2 inch deficit, with bands): 4 x 6 (7-8 RPE)

Hyper Extensions with Barbell: 4 x 6

Week 10

Day 1
Speed Deadlifts (from 2 inch deficit, alternate stance, 60-90 sec rest between sets): 55% bar weight + 10% bands or chains for 8 x 2

TRX Leg Curls (DB, band, or machine): 3 x 10

Day 2
Clean Deadlifts (from 2 inch deficit, with bands): 4 x 6 (8-9 RPE)

Hyper Extensions with Barbell: 4 x 5

Week 11

Day 1
Speed Deadlifts (from 2 inch deficit, alternate stance, 60-90 sec rest between sets): 45% bar weight + 10% bands or chains for 8 x 2

TRX Leg Curls (DB, band, or machine): 3 x 10

Day 2
Clean Deadlifts (from 2 inch deficit, with bands): 3 x 5 (7 RPE)

Hyper Extensions with Barbell: 3 x 5

Week 12

Day 1
Speed Deadlifts (from 2 inch deficit, alternate stance, 60-90 sec rest between sets): 60% bar weight + 10% bands or chains for 10 x 1

TRX Leg Curls (DB, band, or machine): 3 x 10

Day 2
Clean Deadlifts (from 2 inch deficit, with bands): 5RM, then -10% for 2×5

Hyper Extensions with Barbell: 3 x 5

Tips, Tools, and Pairings

Let me give you a few points about the workout. First I would stay with a two-inch deficit. More isn’t better in this instance because an increase might cause you or your athlete to lose tightness around the spine. This can quickly cause an injury. For some athletes, you might not need a deficit at all, depending on their natural range of motion.

With the velocity-based deadlifts – if you have a tool to measure velocity, you will want to stay at 0.75 m/s or faster. If you drift below 0.7 m/s in the first five sets, you need to lower the weight. You can work up on the last two sets as long as you stay above 0.65 m/s. Our team doesn’t spend a lot of time in the speed strength quality of strength with pulls, because we are already spending so much time in that zone with our cleans. However, if you have a slow clean pull, you could drop these percentages on down. Bands really help to teach athletes to accelerate during the entire pull.

I included a few of our favorite accessory movements that we pair with deadlifts. My favorite pairing is the RDL with hyperextensions. The RDL is maximal resistance during maximal lengthening, and hypers are maximal resistance during maximal contraction. This will strengthen the posterior chain in both loading parameters. Plus hypers don’t cause a lot of muscle damage because the load diminishes during the eccentric phase. That’s good because the RDLs will smoke you and leave you hurting for the next few days. You definitely won’t need an accessory movement to destroy you even more.

Now go put these movements to use. I hope they work as well for you as they have for my team and me.

A Guide to Starting Running for the Strength Athlete

About the Author: Eric Bowman is a Registered Physiotherapist in Ontario, Canada who works in the areas of orthopedic physical therapy and exercise for people with chronic diseases. 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 in the Canadian Powerlifting Union and has completed the CPU Coaching Workshop & Seminar.

Over the last few years the popularity of hybrid strength coaches and athletes (such as Alex Viada and more recently Brandon Lilly) and the release of programs that combine strength and cardiovascular fitness (such as Do What You Want) has led to more strength athletes than ever lacing up their sneakers and starting to run. With the new year upon us, this is bound to increase as people pursue New Year’s Resolutions for weight loss.

Running is arguably the most popular form of exercise around the world. It’s easy and inexpensive to do, and it provides many cardiovascular, respiratory, and psychological benefits when done properly.

That said, running does have a high injury rate – even higher than that of strength sports. Competitive runners are more likely to have knee osteoarthritis than sedentary people. It may seem that this paragraph is contradictory to the previous one – but the key to safe and sustainable running comes down to being prepared for it and programming it correctly.

How do I know if I’m prepared to run?

My criteria to run is a combination of the criteria given by Tom Goom and Christopher Johnson (the two smartest physiotherapists I know in terms of working with runners) as well as my own professional experience in orthopedics, coaching, and cardiopulmonary rehab.

To be prepared from a cardiovascular perspective you should be able to walk for at least 45 minutes at a brisk pace without feeling short of breath and without it feeling like a max effort exercise.

As I wrote about in my article on heart health, I also advise you get a graded exercise test (or stress test) done if you have high blood pressure, high blood sugar, an abnormal heart beat, chest pain, or any other heart related symptoms or conditions. This test will enable you to determine if you are able to safely exercise in a moderate to high-intensity activity such as running. You can never 100% eliminate safety risks during exercise but you can minimize them through proper testing and programming.

To be prepared for an orthopedic perspective you should

  • not be morbidly obese. This should go without saying but, while there are exceptions, I’ve seen too many obese people hurt themselves from taking up a running program. For them – again based on the results of a stress test – lower impact activities such as riding a stationary bike, pulling a sled, and/or cutting down on rest periods during assistance exercises probably present better options to build cardiovascular fitness and assist in weight loss while sparing the joints.
  • be able to tolerate basic leg exercises such as squats, leg extensions, leg presses, leg curls, and hip hinge movements. Make sure you can walk (and squat) before you run.
  • be able to tolerate single leg hops. Running, in a sense, is a plyometric movement as it involves a series of stretch-shortening cycles. You don’t need to be able to do depth jumps off a 20 inch box with a weight vest on, but you should be able to tolerate very simple, low-level plyometrics prior to running.
  • have good frontal and transverse plane control. In simple terms you should be able to run, jump, change direction, and land without your knees or your trunk excessively swaying or caving inward or outward. This is a more controversial opinion as some great runners have dynamic knee valgus, but given the size of the athletes I’m referring to, and the high total load involved between absorbing the shock from running and absorbing the shock of lifting big weights, I’m a fan of moving in a way that causes the least amount of joint stress possible relative to the goal.
  • no pain pills or injections in your system.
  • be able to fully bear weight on both legs.

The last two may seem pretty common-sense but are violated a lot.

How do I program it correctly?

Without a proper assessment of the individual, I can’t arbitrarily prescribe a universal beginner running program for everyone. Some general themes to go by are:

  • When in doubt, start with less running volume.
  • Progress slowly. The 10% rule of not increasing your running volume by more than 10% per week is a good guideline to go by and has some research supporting it. That said, some athletes may tolerate a faster progression and some may need to progress more slowly.
  • Understand there’s going to be some give and take with your weight training. Beginning a running program while doing a Bulgarian squat program may not be the best idea. If the running volume goes up, the leg training volume needs to go down. It is what it is.
  • Keep training your glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles regularly.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough high quality sleep and food, and make sure that you’re maintaining good psychosocial health.

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What about stretching and running shoes?

Two common beliefs about running injury prevention are: you should stretch before each workout and you should wear running shoes specifically tailored to your foot shape to prevent injury. But the research doesn’t support either.

Dozens of studies (with the odd exception here and there) have shown that stretching before running doesn’t really affect injury risk. And there’s some research that shows having a tighter achilles tendon can make you a better and more efficient runner. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want anyone stiff as a board, but my rules of thumb for warming up (which I plan to elaborate on in a future article) are:

  • Use active movement strategies to warm up (such as brisk walking to light jogging, air squats, walking lunges, etc.), increasing blood flow through actively moving rather than holding static stretches
  • (If you’re a competitive athlete only) Stick within the range of motion needed for your sport(s), work, and activities of daily living. No more no less.

A series of studies done in the armed forces, interestingly funded by Nike, showed that fitting shoes to people’s foot shapes didn’t affect injury risk. What I recommend is for people to try the shoes before buying them, and try running in them if possible, in order to find a shoe that’s comfortable for them.

I hope this provides some useful advice for effectively starting a running program to maximize benefits and minimize injury risk. Have fun pounding the pavement.

Where Coaches Get in Trouble

Ever since I posted the video on Twitter of the young athlete performing a clean with terrible technique, I feel that most of my attention has been drawn to the high school strength coaching world.

But this article is about all coaches in the strength world: high school, collegiate, CrossFit, weightlifting, powerlifting, etc.

I want to teach these coaches how to stay off the CCR… the crappy coaching radar.

A lot of coaches possess all the skills necessary to stay off of the CCR, but they swerve out of their lanes. Suddenly they are directly in the bullseye of the CCR.

Here’s how to stay out of CCR trouble.

1. DON’T TEACH WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW

Look, no one loves Olympic weightlifting more than me. But just because you go to a Saturday clinic and someone tells you that Olympic weightlifting is a great way to get athletes ready for their sport doesn’t mean that you start teaching the snatch and clean and jerk come Monday. You have to know how to teach the lifts. Personally I think teaching the snatch and clean and jerk isn’t that hard, but that’s because I have years and years of experience.

Teaching the lifts

If you are really good at teaching the squat, press, and deadlift, I suggest sticking to those movements. Most athletes are so raw that anything will prove to be monumental in their development. Whatever you teach, you need to be 100% proficient in teaching that movement.

Athletes will benefit in a big way from squats, benches, and deadlifts with a few simple plyometrics and accessory movements thrown in. However, poorly taught cleans and snatches will not only yield poor results, but now you have put your athletes in danger. I’m sure that’s the opposite plan that most coaches intended, but those are the results nonetheless. I suggest getting really good at two to three movements first, and then slowly add one or two movements to your toolbox each year.

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We're in the process of creating a massive video curriculum series on technique for the main lifts, programming, mobility, and coaching. Thanks to those who pre-ordered... and get ready for the full resource to be released soon!

2. ADDING POINTLESS ACTIVITIES TO A WORKOUT JUST TO MAKE IT “HARDER”

You see this all the time. Old school coaches love to teach athletes how to work hard, and I agree that good old-fashioned hard work is something everyone needs to learn. But whatever you do, it needs to be done safely.

Some coaches see a program with 5 x 5 at 75% on the back squat. Then they think if 5 x 5 at 75% is good, then 10 x 5 must be better. You know… because if our rival high school is doing 5 x 5, then we will work harder than them with 10 x 5. Sounds awesome! Right?

Wrong! Now you’ve placed the volume into a dangerous level.

A good place for coaches to reference regarding volume is Prilepin’s Chart:

As long as you stick to these parameters, you will be pretty safe. Based on this chart, 50 repetitions at 75% intensity would obviously be more than double the maximum suggested volume. This chart was produced back in 1974 after looking through the numbers of hundreds of top-level athletes in the old Soviet Union. It has stood the test of time, so you can trust it as a great foundation.

3. FAILING TO EXPLAIN THE WHY

Coaches really need to be able to answer the why to whatever you are prescribing. This one rule will keep you out of trouble. If you don’t know the why to your program and every exercise prescribed within the program, stop reading this and go figure that out. If I can’t explain why a movement is in a program, I drop it.

If you find yourself getting mad or offended when athletes ask you questions about your program, that’s probably a sign you are feeling insecure about your program. If this is you, change things right now. You should invite kids to ask. There is no better time to explain the benefits, connect with your athletes, and to get the buy-in that we are all looking for.

Connecting with your athletes and getting buy-in is more important than your program itself. If you can connect with your athletes, you can create real change within their lives. If an athlete believes that something will work, it will work. If they don’t, it won’t. That’s just a fact.

One last point about this issue is that within time constraints placed on you in the school system, none of us have time for an exercise that is of no value. This is another reason to know your why for each and every exercise.

4. PRESCRIBING WORKOUTS THAT DON’T FIT THE CLASS SIZE OR AVAILABLE EQUIPMENT

Before you design any workout, you need to ask yourself a few basic questions:

  • How many people will I be coaching per class?
  • What equipment do I have readily available?
  • How much time do I have per class?
  • What is the main goal I am hoping to accomplish?

A version of Coach Joe Kenn’s Tier System would work nicely here. For example you could front squat, box jump, and plank for the first set of exercises. Then you could finish up with lunges, lateral step-ups, and a carry for the next set and be done. This would take forty to fifty minutes at the most.

What happens if a few people aren’t ready for the front squat? That’s easy. You group those folks together, and they’re doing kettlebell goblet squats, box jumps, and a plank. You have to know your area and your athletes.

5. WRITING A PROGRAM ON THE BOARD AND THINKING THAT IS COACHING

This is my biggest pet peeve and the number one mistake I hope to change. We’ve all seen a high school coach write a workout of the day on the board, explain it a bit, and then walk out of the room until the end of class.

If this is you, you need to change things right now. You are putting your students at risk. You are putting their very lives at risk. You and the school need to be held liable.

Do I sound upset? If so, well… I am. I have children, and I want them to be as safe as possible when they are away from me. I need to be able to trust the adults that are supposedly teaching them at school. If you don’t want to do the job, then don’t. You should quit if you don’t want to do it. If you are in a public school just collecting a check, you need to reevaluate your priorities. You might not like your students, but they are someone’s children.

Real coaching means you are coaching every repetition of every set. Don’t tell me your athletes lift perfectly. I have the best weightlifters in the country, and they still need direction each and every day. Don’t tell me that your 16-year-old boy is performing a clean perfectly on every repetition. Heck – when they perform a repetition perfectly, that’s the perfect time to coach them. That’s when you tell them to remember exactly what they just did, so they can repeat it.

If you want your athletes to improve and more importantly to be safe, you have to be present. I’m not just talking about being in the room. I’ve watched coaches prop their feet up on a desk and read a magazine. I am talking about being attentive to what’s going on.

6. CHASING NUMBERS AT ALL COSTS

This is one of the most common mistakes. Coaches get so caught up in big numbers that they let movement go right out the door. You will see bench presses bouncing off the chest, high squats, and crazy cleans like I posted a few days ago. Why? For what? Just so the coach can tell their friends and athletic directors that their guys are getting strong. It’s crap, man! Learn to coach so you can actually get someone strong in a way that will translate to them being a better athlete. The best way to do that is focus on perfect movement.

If I take a guy with less than perfect movement and improve his movement significantly, I have made him a better athlete whether I got them stronger or not. On the other hand, if their squat goes up while movement quality goes down – congratulations, you just created a worse athlete. This is why I am excited about creating some basic standards for movements and teaching these standards to coaches all over the country. I want to emphasize functional movement patterns over increases in strength. Sound crazy coming from a strength guy? It shouldn’t because a functional movement will always be the strongest movement.

FREE SEMINAR ALERT: JAN 12 AT LEWISVILLE, NC

If you're local to our gym in North Carolina, I am teaching a free strength and conditioning seminar on January 12 entitled Jump Higher and Sprint Faster from Work in the Weight Room.

7. GETTING TOO COMPLICATED

Keep it simple! There is no reason to get fancy, guys. If you’re getting results from basic movements and programming, then keep it basic. Here’s another rule that will never steer you wrong: Get the most out of the least!

If you are getting results from a basic barbell squat, there is no reason to add bands or chains. If linear periodization is getting the job done, then don’t worry about conjugate. Keep it simple and get the most out of the least.

This is a lesson I learned a few years ago. I swear there is a paradigm shift that all strength coaches go through. We start out keeping it simple, focusing on good movement, and getting a bit stronger. Then we start reading all these fancy books and articles. The next thing you know our programs look like something you might find on an engineer’s desk at N.A.S.A.

Then someone (such as Coach Kenn or Coach Dan John) reminds us to slow our rolls and keep it simple. Then we start simplifying things, and we realize that results come much quicker with a simpler approach. This goes for all levels – not just high school.

The simplest workout I ever wrote brought the most gains. I wrote a basic four-days-per-week workout with high frequency and high intensity for Cade Carney to get ready for his freshman year at Wake Forest University.

Here’s an example of what it looked like:

Day 1

Back Squat (with belt) – 1RM (paused 2 sec), then -15% for 2 x 3 (not paused)
superset with 36″ Box Depth Jumps and Touch for Height – 3 x 5
Clean EMOMs – Start at 70% for 8 x 1 rep, working up heavy
Bench Press – 1RM (paused 2 sec), then -15% for 2 x 3 not paused (last set is 3+)
Dips – 3 x submaximal reps
superset with KB Bat Wing Rows – 4 x 8

Day 2

Front Squat (with belt) – 1RM (paused 7 sec at a 8 RPE)
Complex: High Hang Clean + Low Hang Clean – 1RM (8 RPE)
Push Presses – 1RM, then -15% for 2 x 3 (last set is 3+)
Glute Ham Raises (eccentric slower than concentric) – 4 x 6 weighted
KB Staggered (one OH and one to the side) Carries – 4 x 20 yd each way

Day 3

OH Squat – 1RM (2 sec pause in bottom), then -15% for 3
Complex: Clean Pull + Clean – 1RM
Bench Press (pause all reps, add mini bands) – 8 x 3, start at 40% + bands, working up heavy but no misses
Deadlift Max Effort – 1RM from 4″ deficit
Chest to Bar Pullups – 3 x submaximal reps
superset with KB Swings – 3 x 12 reps

Day 4

Warm Up with OH Squat Variations – work up to 70% for 3 reps with 1st rep paused 5 sec
Front Squat (with belt) – 2RM
Hang Snatch – 3RM
Strict Presses – 1RM, then -15% for 3

See how simple it was? We used lots of repetition maximums because he was fresh out of football season. We agreed to stop one or two sets before potential failure unless I gave him the green light.

This simple program worked like a charm. His squat went up by over 70 pounds, bench press by over 50 pounds, and clean by over 70 pounds. Sounds crazy I know, but he was weak when he first started after a long season of football. His team actually won the state playoffs, so he was really beat down. Needless to say, he made a huge impact at Wake Forest to the point that all of his coaches have been by our gym to check us out. As a strength coach, there is no bigger compliment than to send a guy or gal to college only to have their new strength coach commend your work.

MY COMMITMENT

I am committed to making the weight room in high schools all across America a safer and more productive place for student athletes. You might think that I am crazy, but there is an army of us preparing for this battle. It’s not just me. I am developing a database of folks who want to help out. I just spent an hour talking with Coach Sean Waxman last night, and he’s fired up as well. If you get the two of us loudmouths together, things will change just to shut us up.

The Mash Elite Video Curriculum: Coming Soon

We're in the process of creating a massive video curriculum series on technique for the main lifts, programming, mobility, and coaching. Thanks to those who pre-ordered... and get ready for the full resource to be released soon!

Reflexive Performance Reset with JL Holdsworth – The Barbell Life 236

My friend JL Holdsworth is a successful gym owner and powerlifter.

He’s also one of the men behind Reflexive Performance Reset. I’ve heard about RPR but didn’t know much.

What he shares blew me away. He has a way to retrain your nervous system to recruit muscle optimally. The results seem almost magical, but JL says they’re based off solid science.

So listen in to this one!

IT'S UNDENIABLE. SQUATTING EVERY DAY WORKS.

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.

LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • A trick to giving Dave Tate a 90 lb PR in three days
  • Dealing with powerlifting injuries
  • Why his gym is successful – and his advice to coaches and gym owners
  • Why “muscle activation” is a horrible concept
  • The good and the bad parts of Louie Simmons and Westside Barbell
  • and more…