Category Archives for "Powerlifting"

Integrated Periodization with Dr. Scott Howell – The Barbell Life 234

I think this is the first podcast guest we’ve had who grew up in my hometown. He used to workout in the very first gym I ever trained at back when I was just a kid.

And Scott Howell has had an inspiring life. He had a rocky start, but he came back to get an incredible education. Now he writes and studies and thinks all day about periodization.

Specifically, Scott talks with us about a plan that fits everything together – nutrition, training, and mindset. This guy is just smart.

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2019...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

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

  • Why the best weightlifters will not make the Olympics
  • Arguing about periodization on the internet
  • Meeting and learning from a strength legend
  • His rocky start in life and his inspirational rise
  • The complicated rules of the Olympics
  • and more…

Is the Safety Squat Bar a Missing Piece of the Puzzle?

If you’re tired of a crushed torso in the catch of a clean…
If your back rounds during the pull of a clean, snatch, or even a deadlift…
If you can’t support a big squat…
This is your article.

I believe the safety squat bar is one of the major pieces of equipment that allowed me to deadlift 804 pounds while squatting 805 pounds (raw number). If you need to get your core strong (especially when core is in reference to the spinal erectors), then the safety squat bar is your missing piece of equipment.

Back Strength

Every great strength athlete in history has had a massive back. I remember the issue of Flex Magazine where Ed Coan was compared to Dorian Yates. At the time, this was everything I was about. I loved bodybuilding, but I loved strength a bit more. I mean – what boy doesn’t want to look like a comic book character? Dorian was known for his massive back in the bodybuilding world. However, here was the powerlifter standing right beside him and not getting dwarfed. Ed’s back was massive. It’s no surprise that he deadlifted 903 pounds.

This goes for all the strength studs in all the sports (such as Lu Xiaojun, Pyrros Dimas, Mariusz Pudzianowski, and Bill Kazmaier). When it comes to the function of the different muscles of the back, it’s the spinal erectors we most need to focus on. I know right away that a coach is a fraud when they reference sit ups as a core exercise. If you want to strengthen the core in regards to maintaining a rigid torso while lifting or playing sport, you are going to need to pay attention to the spinal erectors. If you have a six-pack and a weak back, you are going to get crushed on the football field. Crushed!

The Importance of Spinal Erectors

When I say spinal erectors, I’m lumping several muscles into this one group because they have a similar function: the extension of the spine. These muscles are the longissimus, iliocostalis, spinalis, and erector spinae. These attach to the top of the pelvis, the ribs, and the spine. Each set of erectors only cross a few vertebrae, so each region needs to be addressed. A balanced set of erectors is a sign of massive strength.

If you ask any great strength athlete about the squat, they will tell you the real struggle is maintaining extension of the spine. I know right away if one of my athletes needs extra work in the spinal erectors. If you don’t know, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Does the athlete’s back round during the pull of the clean or snatch?
  • Does the athlete’s back round excessively during the deadlift – and does it continue to round more and more?
  • Does the athlete’s back round during the catch phase of a clean?
  • Does the athlete lose extension during the eccentric or concentric phase of a squat?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you might want to use the safety squat bar.

Physics of Strengthening the Extensors

I went into this deeper in Squat Science, but here’s a brief version. One great way to increase the demands on the spinal erectors is to increase the spinal flexion moment. The spinal flexor moment depends on two factors: 1) the load on the bar and 2) the horizontal distance in the sagittal plan relative to the torso between the bar and any intervertebral joint. Increasing the spinal flexor moment could be accomplished by 1) increasing the load, 2) inclining the body more, and 3) moving the bar higher on the back or in front of the body.

So here’s the point I want to make – the safety squat bar moves the weight toward the front of the body. The part of the bar that holds the weight is bent toward the front of the body.

FORGET OPINIONS ON THE SQUAT. HERE'S THE SCIENCE.

TRAVIS MASH'S SQUAT SCIENCE

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

I love using the front squat to strengthen the spinal erectors. However, the front squat is limited because the bar will fall off of the shoulders. The safety squat bar is a little more forgiving. Therefore, you can apply more of a load to the spinal erectors.

My absolute favorite exercise to build the spinal erectors is the safety squat bar goodmorning. Not only is the weight in front of the body, but now you are also inclining the body more – which just further increases the demands on the spinal erectors. Now each section of your back is working harder than ever to maintain extension.

Using the Safety Squat Bar

The safety squat bar goodmorning has multiple variations like:

  • Chain suspended safety squat bar goodmornings: as far as specificity to the pull this one is my favorite because it starts with a concentric contraction.
  • Seated safety squat bar goodmornings: this takes the hips out of things and puts all the stress in the back. This is a great way of targeting the back.
  • Using pauses and tempo: I like pauses because you can use isometrics to target the weak spots of your pull or squat.

The safety squat bar has unlimited uses. If you are saving for a piece of equipment, I recommend the safety squat bar being the first additional piece. Here are a few other uses:

  • Injury squats: if an athlete hurts either one of his or her arms, you can still squat. Let’s face it – the squat is pretty much essential for all strength and power sports.
  • Safety squat bar front squats: my friend and mentor Coach Joe Kenn has made this movement popular. You simply turn the safety squat bar around and position it to simulate a front squat.
  • Saftety squat bar box squats: I like these to emphasize strengthening the back during the drive phase into the bar.
  • Safety squat bar walking lunges: I love the safety squat bar for lunges because it is stabilized on the back.
  • Safety squat bar isometric walks: I love doing isometric front rack walks, but breathing can be quite the chore. With the safety squat bar, you will receive similar demands to the spinal erectors without the issue being lungs.

I’ll leave you with this bit of anecdotal evidence. When I was on the way up in powerlifting, I was stuck around the 625-pound marker. I knew instinctively that I was lacking in my ability to maintain spinal extension. I have a bit longer torso comparatively to the rest of my body, so strengthening the spinal erectors was even more important to my success in the strength world.

As you already know, I am a big fan of Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell. I read an article he had written about the safety squat bar. I immediately ordered one. The first exercise I added was the safety squat bar goodmorning. I remember feeling so weak on day one. If I remember correctly, 135 pounds for 3 x 5 felt really hard. (Now I want to add that the bar weighed quite a bit more than the typical standard bar, but to keep things easy I always count every bar as 20 kilograms / 45 pounds.)

To make a long story short – over the next 12 weeks I increased my safety squat bar goodmorning to 3 x 5 at 405 pounds. This had a direct impact on my raw squat because over the next six weeks I was able to push my raw squat to over 700 pounds. If you are following along, that was a 75-pound increase in 18 weeks. Obviously I had an extreme weakness in my spinal extensors. This is an example of what can happen if one continues to seek out and strengthen all of their weaknesses.

WESTSIDE BARBELL METHODS IN WEIGHTLIFTING?

COACH TRAVIS MASH GETS INSIDE THE MIND OF LOUIE SIMMONS

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.

 

Sample Program: BLOCK ONE

I love giving you guys as much as I possibly can. If you were having trouble maintaining a vertical torso in the clean, your back rounds when you squat, or your back turns into a horseshow when you deadlift – then this would be a solid accessory plan to check out.

I kept things really simple, but you will easily be able to see all the uses of the safety squat bar.

Block 1
Week 1
Day 1

Tempo Safety Squat Bar Back Squat (5 sec eccent, 2 sec pause bottom, 4 sec concentric) – 5RM (8 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 5
Chain Suspended Safety Squat Bar Goodmornings – 5RM (8 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 5
Safety Squat Bar Heavy Walks – 3 x 40 yd

Day 2: OFF
Day 3

Safety Squat Bar Front Squat – 10 x 3 at 80%
Safety Squat Bar Hyperextensions – 3 x 10

Day 4: OFF
Day 5

Safety Squat Bar Back Squat with Belt – 10RM (8 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 10
Safety Squat Bar Goodmornings (stay at a 7-8RPE) – start with 25% of Squat for 3 x 8

Week 2
Day 1

Tempo Safety Squat Bar Back Squat (5 sec eccent, 2 sec pause bottom, 4 sec concentric) – 5RM (9 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 5
Chain Suspended Safety Squat Bar Goodmornings – 5RM (9 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 5
Safety Squat Bar Heavy Walks – 3 x 40 yd

Day 2: OFF
Day 3

Safety Squat Bar Front Squat – 10 x 4 at 80%
Safety Squat Bar Hyperextensions – 3 x 10

Day 4: OFF
Day 5

Safety Squat Bar Back Squat with Belt – 10RM (9 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 10
Safety Squat Bar Goodmornings (stay at a 7-8RPE) – add 5-10 kg from last week for 3 x 8

Week 3
Day 1

Tempo Safety Squat Bar Back Squat (5 sec eccent, 2 sec pause bottom, 4 sec concentric) – Take 90% of last week and do 3 x 5
Chain Suspended Safety Squat Bar Goodmornings – Take 90% of last week and do 3 x 5
Safety Squat Bar Heavy Walks – 3 x 50 yd

Day 2: OFF
Day 3

Safety Squat Bar Front Squat – 10 x 3 at 80%
Safety Squat Bar Hyperextensions – 3 x 10

Day 4: OFF
Day 5

Safety Squat Bar Back Squat with Belt – Take 90% of last week and do 3 x 10
Safety Squat Bar Goodmornings (stay at a 7-8RPE) – Take original weight for 3 x 8

Week 4
Day 1

Tempo Safety Squat Bar Back Squat (5 sec eccent, 2 sec pause bottom, 4 sec concentric) – 5RM, then -10% for 5+ stop one set before potential miss
Chain Suspended Safety Squat Bar Goodmornings – 5RM, then -10% for 5
Safety Squat Bar Heavy Walks – 3 x 50 yd

Day 2: OFF
Day 3

Safety Squat Bar Front Squat – 10 x 5 at 80%
Safety Squat Bar Hyperextensions – 3 x 10

Day 4: OFF
Day 5

Safety Squat Bar Back Squat with Belt – 10RM (9 RPE), then -15% for 10+ (stop one set before potential miss)
Safety Squat Bar Goodmornings (stay at a 7-8RPE) – add 5kg to top set in week 2 for 3 x 8

Program Explanation

This is a plan that I will use when my hip heals. This workout will bulletproof your torso. To start with I am using tempo safety squat bar squats to strengthen all positions of the squat. Spinal extension is normally a capacity thing. That makes tempo the perfect prescription when the goal is improving torso strength.

I definitely used safety squat bar chain suspended goodmornings to strengthen my spinal erectors, specifically for the pull. This is spinal extension and hip extension in its weakest position and without any eccentric loading. Of course after the first repetition, you will be able to take advantage of eccentric contractions. I recommend resting the bar in the chains during every repetition for the sake of specificity.

Safety squat bar isometric walks are one of my favorites for strengthening the core in a way that emphasizes spinal extension. Loaded walks also stabilize the hips as weight is transferred back and forth during the walks. Loaded walks are great for strength athletes. If you are a sport athlete (like football, soccer, or basketball players), that unilateral hip stability will still come in handy when making cuts side to side.

Safety squat bar front squats are great for teaching athletes to maintain a vertical torso during the front squat. You will still feel the bar on the upper chest near the anterior throat. However, the weight will be displaced toward the rear of the body this time. The weight won’t be a disadvantage this time – it will actually be to your advantage. You will get better because your body is learning the proper movement versus strengthening the spinal extensors. The other advantage is of course the strengthening of your quads.

Safety squat bar hyperextensions are amazing for strengthening the spinal erectors, glutes, and hamstrings. Remember again the three ways to increase the spinal flexor moment: 1) moving the bar higher on the back or in front of the body, 2) increasing the load, and 3) inclining the body more. When you add a little weight to the bar in this exercise, you will maximize all three. One advantage of hyperextensions is that they are a little easier to recover from versus goodmornings. Goodmornings stretch the muscles under maximal load versus hyperextensions maximize loading during the concentric contraction. That’s why I put these in the middle of the week, so the athlete is ready to go hard again at the end of the week.

If you follow me at all, you know that I save my highest volume squats for the end of the week. Here we are throwing in some 10-repetition maximum safety squat bar squats. You’re welcome! We’re adding some muscle all over the entire torso, hips, and lower body with an obvious focus on the spinal extensors. We are also using straight safety squat bar goodmornings to once again maximize the strengthening of the spinal erectors. Just like chain suspended, this movement will help strengthen the spinal erectors and hip extensors for pulls, squats, and all athletic movements. However, this movement is more eccentric minded, so safety squat bar goodmornings will benefit squat movements a bit more specifically.

Sample Program: BLOCK TWO

Block 2
Week 5
Day 1

Safety Squat Bar Back Squat – 3RM (first rep paused 3 sec)(8 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 3 (no pauses)
Wide Leg Chain Suspended Safety Squat Bar Goodmornings – 3RM (8 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 3
Safety Squat Bar Heavy Walking Lunges – 3 x 40 yd

Day 2: OFF
Day 3

Safety Squat Bar Front Squat – 1RM (paused 5 sec in bottom)(8 RPE), then -15% for 2 x 5 (no pauses)
Safety Squat Bar Hyperextensions – stay at a moderate 8 RPE while progressing, 4 x 6

Day 4: OFF
Day 5

Back Squat with Belt – 5RM (8 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 5
Safety Squat Bar Goodmornings (stay at a 7-8RPE) – add 5kg to heaviest set from week 4 for 3 x 6

Week 6
Day 1

Safety Squat Bar Back Squat – 3RM (first rep paused 3 sec)(9 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 3 (no pauses)
Wide Leg Chain Suspended Safety Squat Bar Goodmornings – 3RM (9 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 3
Safety Squat Bar Heavy Walking Lunges – 3 x 40 yd

Day 2: OFF
Day 3

Safety Squat Bar Front Squat – 1RM (paused 5 sec in bottom)(9 RPE), then -15% for 2 x 5 (no pauses)
Safety Squat Bar Hyperextensions – stay at a moderate 8 RPE while progressing, 4 x 5

Day 4: OFF
Day 5

Back Squat with Belt – 5RM (9 RPE), then -10% for 2 x 5
Safety Squat Bar Goodmornings (stay at a 7-8RPE) – add 5-10kg for 4 x 5

Week 7
Day 1

Safety Squat Bar Back Squat – Take 90% of last week and do 3 x 3
Wide Leg Chain Suspended Safety Squat Bar Goodmornings – Take 90% of last week and do 3 x 3
Safety Squat Bar Heavy Walking Lunges – 3 x 50 yd

Day 2: OFF
Day 3

Safety Squat Bar Front Squat – 1RM (paused 5 sec in bottom)(9 RPE)
Safety Squat Bar Hyperextensions – stay at a moderate 8 RPE while progressing, 3 x 5

Day 4: OFF
Day 5

Back Squat with Belt – Take 90% of last week and do 3 x 5
Safety Squat Bar Goodmornings (stay at a 7-8RPE) – take original weight from week 1 for 3 x 8

Week 8
Day 1

Safety Squat Bar Back Squat – 3RM, then -15% for 3+ (stop one set before potential miss0
Wide Leg Chain Suspended Safety Squat Bar Goodmornings – 3RM, then -10% for 3
Safety Squat Bar Heavy Walking Lunges – 3 x 50 yd

Day 2: OFF
Day 3

Safety Squat Bar Front Squat – 1RM (paused 3 sec in bottom), then -15% for 5+ (no pauses, no misses)
Safety Squat Bar Hyperextensions – stay at a moderate 8 RPE while progressing, 3 x 5

Day 4: OFF
Day 5

Back Squat with Belt – 5RM, then -15% for 5+ (stop one set before potential miss)
Safety Squat Bar Goodmornings (stay at a 7-8RPE) – add 5kg to top set in week 6 for 3 x 5

As you can see, most of the movements are similar to the first block. There are a few variations to avoid the law of accommodation. You will notice a few (+) sets, which are AMRAP sets (as many repetitions as possible). You will also notice that in most cases I don’t want any misses. Here’s the thing about hypertrophy. The number one way to increase muscle size is mechanical loading or increasing loads, and lifting these loads to near failure. Going to failure will lead to hypertrophy, but it will beat you down – leaving you overtrained or under recovered (whatever you want to call it). To maximize hypertrophy the goal is to go to near failure as often as possible.

It doesn’t really matter if you’re talking about low repetitions or high repetitions. When you are hitting repetition maximums (whether it’s threes or fives), you are maximizing hypertrophy because you are going to near maximum. When you are hitting plus sets of six or more, you are still creating bigger muscles. If you want to get stronger, eventually you need to create bigger muscles.

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2019...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

I hope this article and workout helps all of you build the strongest backs on the planet. If you aren’t using a safety squat bar now, hopefully this article will convince you to buy one. I’m not selling safety squat bars, so this article is from the heart. You can buy from whomever you want to. As always I love hearing about your improvements, so comment here or hit me up on Instagram.

Metabolic Flexibility with Mike Nelson – The Barbell Life 233

Nutrition goes way beyond calories and macros.

A key to longterm success is determining how your body individually reacts to protein, fat, and carbs – and then training your body to better utilize these macros.

That’s what Mike Nelson talks to us about on today’s podcast – in addition to topics like genetics, caffeine, insulin, and meet prep.


Here's the best way to reach your diet goals in 2019...

Get nutrition coaching from the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Nutrition Plans

* Expert Coaches to Guide You

* Real-World Solutions for Real-World Issues

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

  • The problem with intermittent fasting
  • How to transition to higher carbs
  • Why he advocates for caffeine pills
  • How to eat for soft tissue benefits
  • Seeing which macros you respond better to
  • and more…

Feats of Strength: Mash Online Meet

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on my personal blog describing the mission of our 501(c)(3) nonprofit weightlifting team and our future plans. You can read that one here if you want to.

SUCCESS AND GOALS

To summarize, we have succeeded in some areas and look to improve in a few others:

  • Our athletes are succeeding
  • Four on the 2018 senior world yeam
  • Two locked on the 2019 youth world team
  • Four looking to make a Junior Team next year
  • Two more youth making a bid for a youth unternational team
  • Three up and coming seniors looking to make Team USA
  • We want to develop the at-risk program by hiring a full-time person

We’ve been overwhelmed with your generous donations. Meanwhile we are trying our hand at using our resources to raise our own funds. What better way than to let all of you join in on some fun competitions?

THE ONLINE MEET

Coach Crystal McCullough developed the Feats of Strength Online Meet happening January 10th-13th. We know that we cater to a diverse group of barbell lovers, so we made a few different divisions:

  • Olympic Weightlifting (Snatch and Clean and Jerk)
  • Powerlifting (Squat, Bench, and Deadlift)
  • SuperTotal (Snatch, Clean and Jerk, Squat, Bench, and Deadlift)

Here are some of the prizes you can look forward to:

  • Prizes include the top male and female athlete being offered a spot on Team Mash Mafia with Coach Mash as your head coach!
  • $500 in gift certificates from Mash Elite Performance
  • Beautiful kilogram change plates from Intek Strength
  • Gifts from Wodfitters.com being considered
  • Gifts from Harbinger Fitness being considered
  • Gifts from MG12 being considered
  • Gifts from Nike Weightlifting being considered

SUPPORT OUR NON-PROFIT PROGRAM FOR AT-RISK YOUTH

THE MASH MAFIA APPRECIATES YOUR SUPPORT

Help us give these young ones the chance to succeed at athletics and at life.

MAJOR UPCOMING FINANCIAL NEEDS

It should be fun for our followers. 100% of all the proceeds will go to our non-profit 501(c)(3). We have a lot of fundraising for 2019 mainly because our athletes are going to be flying all around the world with Team USA. Our coaches are being required to travel to Fiji, Cuba, Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, and Thailand just to name some of the countrie we have to go to. Since it is the Olympic qualifying period, we might have to travel to other countries for the sake of our athletes.

The secondary goal is hiring a full-time person for our at-risk program. We want someone who can develop the program, build relationships, and help transport the youth. It’s a lot, but we want to impact our community. We can do it with your help.

If you have any questions, you can email info@mashelite.com. We know our goals are high, but we have some amazing followers who want to see our athletes succeed, and that want to see the at risk youth in our community given more opportunities.

I hope that you guys will help us out this holiday season. If not, no big deal! We are just happy that you follow this crazy team.

Upping Your Mental Game with Colin Iwanski – The Barbell Life 232

Everyone wants to talk about training.

A lot of people understand the importance of nutrition and recovery.

But hardly anyone really talks about what is just as crucial… the mental game. That’s what we talk about today with Colin Iwanski – the man who has been hired to get USAW athletes operating at their peak mentally.

I have seen good athletes become great by learning how to remain calm at the right times and amped up at the right times. Some people are born to be great competitors – but even they can improve. So listen in to this one!
 

Want to Win the Mental Battle in Training and Competition?

Overcome the Mental Struggle with Performance Zone

Mash Elite brings you a proven approach to increasing confidence, eliminating negative thoughts, confronting fear, and functioning at peak capacity.

 

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

  • What’s the one thing you should be thinking about when approaching the bar?
  • Using anger as a motivator
  • How to think on the platform vs. how to think in the back room
  • Breathing the right way and breathing the wrong way (so many get this wrong!)
  • How to find the perfect level of mental intensity for you and your sport
  • and more…

Hip Thrusts Are Bad? The Safety Squat Bar Is Bad?

Hip thrusts are bad? Safety squat bar squats are bad? Stop with the absolutes!

When will the absolutes end? Scrolling through social media, I saw two of my respected peers tossing around absolutes as if N.A.S.A. were backing them. However, their accusations about two of my favorite movements were made with no scientific backing at all.

Look, I don’t care if you don’t like a movement. Maybe you don’t believe an exercise works. That’s ok. You don’t have to use it, and you don’t have to prescribe it to your athletes. But when you get on social media or take to your blog and claim that a certain exercise doesn’t work without any research to back up your claim, you could be keeping someone from the very exercise they need to break through a plateau.

HIP THRUSTS ARE SOFT?

A lot of people who I consider colleagues (and some I even consider friends) constantly hate on the hip thrust made famous by my friend Bret Contreras. Glutes are important for just about everything that’s awesome in sports. If you want to sprint fast or jump high, strong glutes are a must. If you want to snatch big weight or squat monstrous loads, powerful hip extension is a must. Have any of you yanked a big deadlift off of the floor only to have it stall right at lockout? It’s happened to me, and I’ve watched it happen to others. Glute bridges are the obvious choice.

But wait! Is this simply my opinion? Am I simply doing the exact opposite of the coaches screaming that hip thrusts don’t work? Well luckily I can back up my statements with mounds of research stating that hip thrusts are superior when it comes to strengthening the glutes. I just now did a quick search of the web, and I saw a few rants from coaches who want to seem smart. My articles aren’t written to convince you guys that I am smart and everyone else is dumb. My thoughts and systems are backed up with the results of my athletes.

The information I pass on to you guys and gals is either proven by research or proven by the results of my athletes. I don’t pass on my random thoughts. I don’t look at an exercise and cast judgment without looking at the data. I don’t look at what someone else is doing and then write an article explaining why they’re wrong. I am interested in facts. I am interested in what works.

There is one more thing I want to say to my powerlifting brethren who are constantly criticizing the hip thrusts or making fun of it as a soft exercise. I was inspired to write this article when I saw a video of Stefi Cohen performing the hip thrust to improve her deadlift lockout. Of course she is y’all! It’s targeted hip extension, which is the lockout of the deadlift. Duh!

I prescribe hip thrusts to my Olympic hopeful weightlifters, champion powerlifters, and to my NFL Football Players. Are my athletes soft? If my athletes are soft, there are a lot of really soft athletes out there since we are beating most everyone else. Guys, I want you to look at the research and just think about it for a bit. If you want better hip extension, then find a way to load your hip extension.

WESTSIDE BARBELL METHODS IN WEIGHTLIFTING?

COACH TRAVIS MASH GETS INSIDE THE MIND OF LOUIE SIMMONS

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.

Safety Squat Bars

I had never heard anyone say a negative word about the safety squat bar squat until recently. A good friend of mine was answering questions on his Instagram story the other night. (By the way this is a good way to connect with your followers.) Anyway, he was asked if using a safety squat bar for squatting was a good idea for weightlifting. My friend replied that it absolutely was not – unless you or your athlete are injured. Once again, a colleague of mine is using an absolute without any basis (research) for his statement.

In Olympic weightlifting, a back squat isn’t specific to the snatch or the clean and jerk other than the angle of the torso, which is true with using a safety squat bar. Either movement is simply a way of building strength to get better at the sport of weightlifting. If you’re a powerlifter, one could make an argument around specificity – especially when getting close to a meet. But in either sport, the safety squat bar provides one major benefit. The safety squat bar increases the length of the spinal flexor moment.

As I explained in Squat Science, the spinal flexor moment depends on two factors: 1) the load on the bar and 2) the horizontal distance in the sagittal plan relative to the torso between the bar and any intervertebral joint.

There are three ways to increase the spinal flexor moment: 1) move the bar higher on the back or in front of the body, 2) increase the load, and 3) incline the body more (which increases the distance of the load horizontally to the floor from any intervertebral joint).

So here’s the point I want to make – the safety squat bar moves the weight toward the front of the body. The part of the bar that holds the weight is bent toward the front of the body.

Some bars displace the weight farther in front of the body than others. The more the weights are displaced toward the front of the body will equal a greater demand on the spinal extensor muscles. The front squat is also great for strengthening the muscle groups responsible for spinal extension. However, the front squat is limited by the shoulder’s ability to remain protracted and elevated – not to mention the rack position in general. Since the safety squat bar is still secured behind your neck, you can normally handle a bit more weight than in the front squat. Depending on the bend of the bar, you should be able to place more of a load on the spinal extensors. This is a great way to get the back strong while strengthening the hip and knee extensors as well.

FORGET OPINIONS ON THE SQUAT. HERE'S THE SCIENCE.

TRAVIS MASH'S SQUAT SCIENCE

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.

The weightlifters and the powerlifters on my team use the safety squat bar for this very reason: to strengthen the back. For a lot of weightlifters, they lack the strength in the back (mainly referring to the groups of muscles responsible for spinal extension) to maintain a good angle of the torso during the pull. Some lack the ability to maintain a neutral spine during the catch phase of a clean. Have you ever seen a weightlifter’s elbows drop and thoracic spine round during the catch? I know that I have. If this is you or one of your lifters, the safety squat bar is a great tool.

USES

I’m all about specificity, but sometimes weightlifters can take this too far. Let’s think about it for just a minute. I’m only going to refer to my own weightlifters right now. We snatch and clean and jerk at least three times per week on each of these. We back squat with a straight bar one to two times. We front squat one to two times. We perform snatch and clean pulls. Do you really think that adding in safety squat bar squats is going to somehow mess up your technique? If that’s true, aren’t you at risk of messing up your technique when you perform any assistance movement outside of simply snatching, clean and jerking, front squatting, and pulling? I think we are all a little too overboard with specificity.

Besides a simple safety squat bar squat, there are a couple of more movements with the safety squat bar that I recommend. I am a fan of safety squat bar goodmornings (and all variations like seated, chain suspended, off pins, etc.) and safety squat bar box squats (I know, I know… this is taboo).

Safety squat bar goodmornings are my absolute favorite for strengthening the spine – especially when a hip hinge is involved like during a pull of any sorts. With my weightlifters, I normally stick to a regular goodmorning, but there are several variations you can try, such as wide stance, suspended from a chain, off pins, seated, and with bands or chains. (This sounds like a chance for another article.)

Depending on the variation, you will be working specific weaknesses. For example, a goodmorning that starts lower on pins will more closely mimic starting in a more static position – like a pull with an initial concentric contraction. This will focus on performing a concentric contraction without the advantage of the stored kinetic energy you gain from a typical eccentric contraction. Once again, I am working on an article fully dedicated to variations of the goodmorning.

Safety squat bar box squats are great for strengthening the spinal and hip extensors. Now I agree that this movement isn’t specific to a squat necessary in weightlifting, so I only use it sparingly and in the off-season (at least eight or more weeks out from a competition). I only use this movement once per week and in conjunction with at least two to four other straight bar squat sessions. The most non-specific part of this movement is that I have the athlete sit back. I want them on the box with a vertical shin and a more horizontal torso. This movement is designed to strengthen the pull more so than the squat portion of the lift. However, you will reap the rewards of strengthened hips and back muscles.

Obviously this isn’t a great movement to strengthen the quads because the range of motion at the knees is minimal. However, the range of motion at the hip is maximal or near maximal depending on the height of the box. The demand of the internal spinal extensor moment is now through the roof because 1) you’re using a safety squat bar with the weight is distributed in front of the body and 2) your torso is inclined.

This movement is excellent for strengthening the pull especially at position two (when the bar is at or slightly below the knee) when the shins are vertical. The box will teach the body to fire the proper muscles from a static position with the advantage of stored kinetic energy produced by the eccentric phase of the lift. This movement is still great for strengthening the parts of the body required for squatting (back and hips), but it’s not a replacement for high bar back squats and front squats. I consider this more of an accessory movement, whereas back squats and front squats are primary strength movements for Olympic weightlifting.

Once again, the moral of this entire article is to relax with the absolutes. Unless science has proven that a particular movement won’t work or is dangerous, there’s probably a time and a place in training that it will help a lifter. Specificity is key especially in the sport of Olympic weightlifting, but let’s not go overboard. One of Hunter Elam’s biggest competitors is Mary Peck, and she uses low bar back squats in her training. With a 211kg total at 64kg bodyweight, I’d say that the low bar back squat isn’t interfering with the specificity of her lifts at all.

As long as we stay true to specificity the majority of the time, some variation is a good thing. Of course, it’s key to know your athletes. Some athletes respond really well to variation, and some don’t respond well at all. It depends on the individual’s overall athleticism. Athletes that grew up playing multiple sports are normally better with variation. Once again, as a coach you have to know your individual athletes. The big takeaway is to not throw away the baby with the bath water. Almost all movements have a time and place that’s up to us as coaches to determine.