Category Archives for "Powerlifting"

Lessons from Lisa G

Lisa Lift I am writing this the day after losing my friend Lisa Gniewek, or simply Lisa G. In January of 2013, Lisa was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Lisa sent me a text on a random Saturday morning asking me if I would be in the gym that day. I replied, “Yes”, but I was really concerned right away. I knew that something wrong, but I figured it was just something that I had done or said. Lisa was famous for setting me straight. What she would tell me, would change my life forever. Her fifteen month battle is over, and I am convinced that she won. Right now she is in heaven giving her also famous crinkled face glare at cancer in complete defiance. She is cured!

Lisa G was so incredible special to the whole Mash Family, both in our compound and around the world. Both Lisa and I were introduced to Jon North’s Attitude Nation last year around the same time as her diagnosis. The Attitude Nation embraced us both as one of their own, and helped spread her story around the world. I want the world to know why she was so special to me, and that is why I wanted to write this little piece.

I met Lisa in 2008 when I was first starting Mash Elite Performance in Advance, NC. At that time, I did a lot of personal training, and Lisa was one of my first clients. To say the least, she was a mess physically. Lisa was a Pediatric Registered Nurse, mother of two, and wife of her childhood sweet heart, Matt Gniewek. Like most nurses, she didn’t do a good job of taking care of herself. She was a little over weight, physically inactive, and very weak. I would have Lisa do a body weight squat, and she would squat down and couldn’t stand up. She literally couldn’t stand up with her own body weight. I thought to myself that Lisa would probably quit after three weeks, but she never quit right until the very end.

One day she comes into the gym, and announces that she wants to try powerlifting. I was perplexed to say the least. My goal has always been to help my athletes reach their dreams no matter how high the bar is set, but this was a pole vault bar. The first few weeks were frustrating, but with Lisa G always a good time. She was quick to laugh at herself, and she didn’t let anything bother her very much. Her smile would literally light up the room, and like some drug, it caused everyone near her to feel happy and excited about life. We were excited when she could squat 65 pounds. I never dreamed that she would one day squat 215 pounds.

During the first few months of her strength training, we would get to know each other on a much more personal level. I was in pursuit of my one and only true love, Emily Drew. She was my dating instructor. I heard way too often, “You big dumb, dumb!” She consoled me through so many emotions sadness, frustration, and finally happiness. She helped me decide how I would propose, and she made sure that I asked Emily Drew’s father for her hand in marriage. She was front row when I married the woman of my dreams, and she has been there during every major event, competition, and holiday ever since. She was and will forever be a part of our family.

Some of the most memorable times were the discussions that we had about God. She was a Christ lover, and she desperately wanted to know all there was to know about her God. When I met her, we were both relatively new Christians. As much as she loved lifting heavy weights, nothing excited her more than a discussion about the bible. Now the mystery held within those pages has been fully divulged to Lisa G. I will never forget the excited look on her face when she would come in the gym having learned something new about God. She just couldn’t wait to tell me what she had learned.

Lisa would come to love the strength sports. We were able to get her ready for a powerlifting competition, and from the first moment that she walked onto the competition platform, she had found her sport. During her first competition in Asheville, NC, as always, she traveled with Drew and me. We had a fun tradition of weighing in, and then seeing just how much weight we could gain back. We would all be so bloated, but the laughs that we all shared with Team Mash still echo in my brain like beautiful notes of music from Mozart. The smiles that come to my athletes’ faces, the laughter, the community at Mash, and the reaching of goals are all parts of my musical concert. This is my art. This is the ministry that God has given me.

During this first competition, I hired my friend Chris “Ox” Mason to help coach because I was going to do my farewell powerlifting meet. Lisa was opening with 155 pounds on the squat, but her nerves were getting the best of her. She was warming up with 75 pounds, but when she squatted down, she fell backwards with the bar on her back. Chris looked at me with a confused look on his face, and I just said, “Go heavier!” Times like that were par for the course with Lisa G. You simply never knew what to expect, but you could bet your bottom dollar that her contagious smile would make everything OK.

Lisa, Drew, and I would travel to every competition that we could find. Every competition would be a mini vacation full of the Mash Team, heavy weights, and lots of food. The Mash Team is a family! When we compete, there is just something so different about our team that other athletes want to be a part of it. Lisa loved her Mash Family, and it was very important to her that we nurtured that family. If I ever lost focus for one second on the Mash Family, she was the first to tell me. If any team member had a problem with me, they would tell Lisa. Then Lisa would for sure let me know about it. A true friend will always let you know when you are being stupid. A bad friend will just tell everyone else.

In 2012, I introduced the sport of Olympic weightlifting to Lisa. I was surprised at how well she took to the sport. When I watched her Clean & Jerk 160 pounds, it felt like I was at my own gallery opening, and Lisa was my masterpiece. I had taken an overweight nurse that couldn’t squat her own body up off the ground, and now she was taking 160 pounds from the ground to over her head. Her determination, drive, and love of the sport has inspired us all to say the least. The best part of it all is that the 160 pound Clean & Jerk was performed after her diagnosis, and I will forever hear that bar slam ring life victory bells within my ears.

Thanks to my podcast Weightlifting Talk that I host alongside “the champ” Jon North, Lisa’s story was heard around the world. She would inspire millions to not let anything get in the way of dreams. She created awareness that more needs to be done in the fight with cancer. We hosted two Lift 4 Lisa weightlifting and powerlifting competitions over the last year to raise money for Lisa in fight. Now we will host a Lift 4 Lisa weightlifting/powerlifting competition every year for as long as I live in her honor with proceeds going to help with the fight against cancer. Her husband Matt has already approached me because he wants to continue with the Lift 4 Lisa movement.

During my time with Lisa G, she would teach me several valuable lessons that I want to share with the world. I will never forget them, and I will never let the world forget about Lisa G. I will start by teaching you all what I learned famous Lisa G.

1. Never Sway From the Path! Lisa G helped me and my wife build Mash Elite Performance. She helped paint the walls, pull the carpet, and place the mats. Her husband installed the ceiling fans. She will always be just a much a part of that place as me. We built that place on community, family, goals, and God. My heart was in helping my athletes reach their goals and become better people. She saw the way that I love my athletes, and that is what made her and most of the parents that work out at Mash Elite Performance decide to trust their families with me. Sometimes I have swayed from my calling for this reason or that, and Lisa G would always be the first one to shake me and say, “Don’t be dumb.” Lisa I will never be swayed again.
2. Focus on What is Important! Like most men, I will sometimes focus on money, size of my business, and what people think of me. Lisa G taught me to focus on the things that are important like my God, my beautiful wife, my daughter Bailey, Baby Mash(my wife is pregnant), my mother, my family, my Mash family, and my friends. I want to inspire others to do the same, just like she did me. I want everyone to set goals and have dreams, and I want them to be determined to reach for their dreams. The key is to never let a dream or goal over shadow God or your loved ones. As a matter of fact, let your motivation be to Glorify God, and to inspire and impact loved ones and the rest of the world.
3. Never Ever Quit! Lisa slammed bars until she could no longer pick them up. Whatever God has given you on this earth, I recommend that you nurture and care for that ministry until you die. Never waste a moment to help, inspire, and love those around you every day. Lisa inspired the world! You should do the same!

My friend Molly told me that our friend Lisa Sokolosky heard Lisa G say, “Ok Jesus let’s do this!” That is so Lisa G. I stopped in to see her yesterday morning just hours before she passed, and I can tell you that she was Lisa G to the end. She was trying to pull the IVs from her arm, and her niece told her to stop. Lisa gave her that wrinkled face stare as to say, “Hey I am Lisa G! I do what I want!” My heart is absolutely broken right now, but I am so glad that I got to see her one more time. When I left, I told her that I loved her, and her voice echoes in my mind like a cool breeze on a hot summer day saying, “I love you too!” Those are the last words that she ever spoke to me. Very fitting!

Heaven is one saint bigger now. Until I see Lisa G again someday, I will continue her fight. Lift 4 Lisa will go on! Cancer will be defeated! More importantly I will never stop loving the people that God has brought into my life!

Mash Elite Performance will forever be the home of Lisa G!

Life Changing Front Squat Routine! Just ask Eze!

Below is another excerpt from my upcoming book, Preparing For Battle. This section provides you with the best front squat program for strength and stability that I have ever used. It is also very transferable to the snatch and especially the clean & jerk. It literally transformed my adopted son, Eze from a chump to a contender is nine weeks. Enjoy!

Life Changing Front Squat Routine

This book would not be complete without a section on a Front Squat Routine that has literally changed people’s lives or at least their leg strength. Eze Onwurah “Mash”, basically my son, is an athlete and employee at the Mash Mafia Compound. When he started with me in 2010, he was the weakest athlete that I trained out of high school. He couldn’t budge a 315 pound deadlift off the floor. Three years later, Eze could clean and jerk 330 pounds. It was one of the most dramatic transformations that I have ever witnessed.

For the longest time, Eze’s upper body was surging forwards, but his lower body was significantly behind the other athletes. At the end of 2012, we put Eze on a front squat program that would literally change the game for him. After a nine week program, Eze’s leg strength and stability roared light years ahead. Eze went from being the team’s worst weightlifter to the best on the team, and this program was the catalyst of the whole thing.

It is centered on time under tension and stabilization. All the reps are pause a certain amount of time in the bottom position and a certain amount of time in the top position. Not only did Eze get stronger, but his stabilization also improved significantly. Eze has always had perfect mobility, and with a 42 inch vertical leap, no one produces more force. His problem was catching the weight with a vertical back and not getting bent over. It was also standing up with the weight, and with this one program both issues were improved. Below is the plan:

Front Squat Time Paused in Bottom and Top Reps and Sets
week 1 7 seconds in bottom, 15 seconds in top Max, then 80% 3×3
week 2 7 seconds in bottom, 15 seconds in top Max, then 83% 3×3
Week 3 7 seconds in bottom, 15 seconds in top Max, then 85% 3×3
week 4 5 seconds in bottom, 12 second in top Max, then 80% 3×3
Week 5 5 seconds in bottom, 12 second in top Max, then 83% 3×3
week 6 5 seconds in bottom, 12 second in top Max, then 85% 3×3
week 7 3 seconds in bottom, 10 seconds in top Max, then 80% 3×3
week 8 3 seconds in bottom, 10 seconds in top Max, then 83% 3×3
week 9 3 seconds in bottom, 10 seconds in top Max, then 85% 3×3

The workout consists of a determining a max with the prescribed pause time, and then there will be three down sets also performed with the prescribed pause times. Three reps will take around 75 seconds, so it’s not your typical three reps. The plan is tough, but see it through and the results will be amazing.

We are still accepting athletes on our online team. We are taking new teammates for the next five weeks, and then we will be capping the team out for right now. We will all be preparing for an August 30th Attitude Nation Weightlifting Competition that we are partnering with the Garage Games to bring you all the most exciting weightlifting competition of all-time. Get ready for greatness! To find out more about the team, go to

I just got back from CrossFit Broken Chains in Orlando Florida teaching a Learn 2 Lift Seminar. Nate and his wife Annette are two of the most amazing people that I have ever met. The people that I meet are always the most exciting part of the seminars. To find out about a seminar near you, go to

Join the Attitude Nation Weightlifting Team

This week we are releasing our Attitude Nation Online Team Program. We have been working on this program for over six months, and we are very excited to offer it to you all. With this program, you are literally on the team with me as your coach, Jon as your team captain, and the rest of the Attitude Nation Weightlifting Team in your corner. Below are the three levels, and what you get:

• Choice of three programs: third pull, position strengthening, and general strength.
• Mobility plan with different options based on your needs
• Group Chat Room with teammates and a ANW Coach
• Recovery and Nutrition advice
• Video Library for tips on all exercises
• Access to team uniform and singlet
• Limited access to email questions

• Customized Program based on your goals, needs, level, and equipment. This is perfect for all levels of weightlifters, CrossFitters, and all other athletes.
• Video Analysis of 5 videos per week. Awesome way of improving Technique!
• Unlimited email access for questions
• Mobility plan with different options based on your needs
• Group Chat Room with teammates and a ANW Coach
• Recovery and Nutrition advice
• Video Library for tips on all exercises
• Access to team uniform and singlet

• Customized Program based on your goals, needs, level, and equipment. This is perfect for all levels of weightlifters, CrossFitters, and all other athletes.
• Video Analysis of 5 videos per week. Awesome way of improving Technique!
• Unlimited email access for questions
• 1 Skype Session per month with an ANW Coach! This is a full workout, and we have found it to be unbelievably effective.
• Free visits to the Attitude Nation Weightlifting Hall
• Mobility plan with different options based on your needs
• Group Chat Room with teammates and a ANW Coach
• Recovery and Nutrition advice
• Video Library for tips on all exercises
• Access to team uniform and singlet

Remember I will be your coach just like I am Jon’s. I will be at all National Events coaching you and the rest of the team. I will be at as many local competitions as possible. I look forward to working with you all. Go to to find out more and sign up.

If you get the free online program, you will see that I added this week’s program for our youth team in preparation for the Youth Nationals. Our Youth Team is quickly becoming the best Youth Team in America. We already have the 8th best youth in the Nation, Dylan Cooper. After the Nationals, I have a feeling that we will have several more that are highly ranked. You can join our youth team at the gym, or a youth can also join the Attitude Nation Weightlifting Online Team with Coach Mash as your personal coach.

Special Events Announcement! Check them out!

Right now I am at CrossFit Lando here in Woburn, MA, and I just wanted to take the time to let you all know about some special events coming up. We are working hard to bring you all as many opportunities as possible to increase your melting pot. Our mission in life is to bring the most efficient Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Athletic Performance, and CrossFit techniques to the world.

Here are a couple of our upcoming events that you or your children might want to check out:

• May 10th and 11th is the inaugural Mash Mafia Weekend Clinic and Open House! Come learn about Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Athletic Speed Development, and Mobility, and meet Jon North, Coach Mash, and the rest of the team.
• June 7th the second Mash Mafia Learn 2 Lift Level II Seminar. Centered around the advanced techniques of Olympic Weightlifting, Programming, Mobility, and the Competition itself.
• July 7th-11th Mash Elite Summer Camp for children 13&up! Learn all about goal setting, nutrition, mobility, speed, vertical leap, agility, athletic strength, and what it takes to be a champion!
• July 21st-25th Mash Elite Summer Camp for children 7 thru 12! Same topics as above, but scaled for this age group.

To find out more about any of these, go to

I look forward to seeing you all!

Hell Week & Explanations!

Below is a video with some cool clips, and some videos of exercises that people have had questions about in the online programming. You will find:

-Highlights & Battles
-Snatch Sotts Press
-Clean Rack Sotts Press
-Front Squats with Chains & set up
-Planks w Lat Pulls
-Side Planks w Rows
-Behind Neck Push Jerks
-Clean Pause Position 1
-Clean Pause at Knee 5 sec
-and more

Check it out:

To learn more about Online Coaching, go to
To find a seminar near you, go to

Programming, Coaching, Atmosphere, and Truth!

Right now at Mash Compound, we have an unbelievable atmosphere with PRs happening daily. We also have a growing number of online teammates, and as time goes on the approach we take with these individuals continues to evolve. A solid program is super important, but without ongoing coaching the program isn’t as affective. Atmosphere is another thing that really helps get the athletes to another level. Atmosphere can be formed in a garage by yourself if you are self-motivated individual. Today I want to explain what a perfect situation looks like.
If you attend a Learn 2 Lift Seminar or an Attitude Nation Seminar, you will normally set Personal Records and leave on a natural “high”. There are several reasons for the new PRs: better technique, group competition, and excitement. This past weekend I taught at the Attitude Nation Level II Camp. Almost everyone there set a new PR, and sometimes huge PRs. No doubt we teach a better more efficient technique, but Jon and I also bring a unique type of “energy” to the table. A type of “energy that is contagious! I coach several Mash Mafia Team Members online, and I have found that using skype, facetime, and video analysis increases my effectiveness three fold.
I believe that my programming is second to none, but making weekly changes based on the athlete’s technique, feedback, and results simply doubles the results. I do the same thing with all of my athletes at the Mash Facility. Whether it’s Jon North(Olympic Hopeful), Tommy Bohanon(NY Jets Fullback), or one of my Division I Athletes, I make weekly changes to their program to attack weaknesses. That is where the magic happens!
Weekly I try to analyze mobility issues, strength ratios, and technique. There are certain mobility issues that are common like Thoracic Spine, Ankles, and different regions of the hip. These are areas that we target anyway, but some people need more focus than others. Strength ratios are important due to injury prevention for example the hamstrings should be about 67% as strong as the quads. With Jon, this ratio is way off. If you are following our programming(if not, go to: to sign up for free), you will notice that Jon has a lot of hamstring work. I am definitely trying to get him stronger, but more importantly, I want his body to last till 2020.
Technique issues are normally due to immobility and bad patterning. If it is mobility, we will assign exercises both weighted and non-weighted to target the issue. If it is bad patterning, then we will assign technique drills to target the problem.
Now you get an idea of what goes into developing the perfect program. It is a whole lot more than some complex numbers on a computer screen. The programming at now comes with video analysis and weekly feedback. My goal is for our online clients to be just as much a part of the team as my guys on site.
I will be teaching about programming, atmosphere, and targeting of weak spots at the “Learn 2 Lift” Seminars. We have several scheduled this year including: Keystone CrossFit in Dunmore, PA, Underground Strength Gym in Manasquan, NJ, Camel City CrossFit in Winston-Salem, NC, CrossFit Soul in Miami, FL, CrossFit Broken Chains in Orlando, FL, and CrossFit Vengeance in Myrtle Beach, SC. Go to to sign up!
We have several more scheduled for later this year including: Rhode Island, Wilmington, NC, San Antonio, TX, Minneapolis, and several more are waiting to get scheduled. We will now be scheduling for next year, so to get on the list, email me at We are so excited to visit new places, meet new people, and to spread the Barbell Life around the world.