Category Archives for "Weightlifting"

Peaking: Recent Additions to our Taper Process

I am on my last flight home from the 2018 USA Weightlifting Junior Nationals. Spokane, Washington is just about the most beautiful spot on earth, but then again I would think the middle of the Sahara was beautiful if my team just crushed it like they did this past weekend. This meet will go down as one of my most memorable as a coach.

However, this article isn’t a big report telling you how great our team is. Most of you already know that, so there is no point. I will quickly say this entire group has ignited a flame in my heart that hasn’t burned in a very long time. Later in this article I will explain why.

This article is mainly about the success we’ve experienced from a few changes to our programming, especially the peaking phase. These changes have produced some major performances, so hopefully they might help all of you as well. Let’s take a look at each.

Absolute Strength vs. Competition Lifts

First we started peaking our absolute strength separately from the competition lifts. In the past we have tried to peak our absolute strength (squats, pushes, pulls, and rows) along with our competition lifts. This worked fine as our team has won for quite some time, but we found our lifters mentally taxed. The last few weeks before a meet, we try to hit big lifts in the snatch and clean and jerk. Trying to max out in a squat or deadlift after banging out maximum snatches and cleans is incredibly physically demanding. It’s simply not the optimal time to be figuring out a maximum squat or pull. Plus if you are having an off day in the competition lifts, trying to set personal records in a squat adds stress on top of stress.

Competition Preparation

About eight months ago, we expanded our competition preparation to twenty weeks. During the first twelve weeks, I focus on:

• Hypertrophy
• Peaking the squat, clean deadlift, push press, and any other strength movement I deem important to the individual
• Strengthening positions that will help later on with the competition lifts
• Technique in the snatch and clean and jerk
• Using the Conjugate Method to expose any weakness in the lifts (hangs, blocks of varied positions, deficits, pauses, and complexes)
• No Weaknesses bodybuilding, GPP, and work capacity

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Look for the first twelve weeks explained in next week’s article. The final eight weeks focuses on preparing for the competition. The focus becomes:

• Snatch and clean and jerk
• Maintaining the strength with velocity based training
• Meet day specificity
• Situational practices
• Tapering for peak performance on meet day
• Accessory work that causes very little muscle damage


Specificity becomes more and more important the closer to a meet you get. We start becoming robotic in our approach: We warm up the same way and take the same jumps. On max out Friday we take attempts as if we were competing. We have found this makes the meet so much more casual for the athlete. They are used to the jumps, so they find themselves in familiar territory. Of course the specific numbers adjust the closer you get to a meet – hopefully you are hitting new personal records, so then everything is adjusted up.

We maintain our strength levels by focusing more on strength speed (velocities between 0.75 m/s and 1.0 m/s). Here’s a secret for all of you guys and gals: if you move 75% of your maximum at 0.7 m/s in week 14 and then 0.8 m/s in week 18, you just got stronger – especially as it pertains to the explosive sport of Olympic weightlifting. You don’t have to max out in the back squat to get stronger.

We still have at least one day per week for some volume, which normally happens on Saturday. However the total volume even on that day is calculated to maintain the strong legs that have already been built.

We do a lot of meet day specificity, so our athletes are never caught off guard. Waves are great preparation for multiple reasons:

  1. It is a form of post activation potentiation causing a more efficient movement, especially for the lighter weights.
  2. In today’s era a lifter might take 3kg more on their second attempt and quickly find themselves 12 attempts out from their next lift. That’s way too long to be sitting around waiting, so we recommend going back to the warm up room, taking the weight down, and waving back up. This technique worked twice for us this past weekend, and each time it appeared to actually aid our lifter’s movement.
  3. Waves are a great way to build work capacity. You never know the conditions you will face on meet day. We want our athletes prepared for anything.

Other ways we prepare for meet day situations are by:

• Taking less time between sets like EMOMs or 60 seconds rest
• Taking longer time between sets like five minutes
• Taking bigger jumps

All three of these are big helps come meet day. At big meets, things happen. You might be 18 attempts out from hitting the platform – and then all of a sudden everyone jumps up. Now you are nine out and you have to hurry. If you are prepared, it won’t even faze you. Then again, you might take your last warm up thinking you are three attempts out from lifting – and then all of a sudden everyone starts missing. You might find yourself sitting there five minutes. No big deal if you have practiced because you are ready and prepared.

Taking Bigger Jumps

I really like practicing bigger jumps. You might have an athlete who looks rough warming up, so the safe thing is to lower their opener by five kilograms. They might still have the same goal of qualifying for an International Team or qualifying for the American Open, so now you have to take a bigger jump to get to the goal. Once again, that’s not a problem if you are prepared.


By focusing on velocity for strength work, we are able to shift focus to the competition lifts. We still took the volume up, but our athletes seemed to bounce back stronger than ever after the taper week. Their joints weren’t as destroyed from heavy squats and pulls, so the taper response was much more dramatic. In the past our lifters felt like garbage throughout the entire meet week, and then they bounce back for the competition. This new approach found them feeling fresher much more quickly, which in turn added confidence to their performance. Morgan was hitting personal records in the power snatch and power clean two days before competition.


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.

Accessory Work

We have also been focusing on accessory work that elicits very little muscular damage. The main movements to avoid are movements that require stretching through a full range of motion while under a load. These include RDLs, goodmornings, DB chest flies, and other similar movements. Instead we focus on accessory work like carries, DB lateral raises, plate raises, and reverse hypers. I like to use either isometric contractions or movements that peak the load during the concentric phase and unload during the eccentric phase. I’m all about some metabolic stress/massive pumps, but I don’t want to cause a lot of muscular damage. I want to save their recovery ability for the damage caused from the high volume of the lifts. Plus I don’t want to destroy the hamstrings and low back of my athletes from RDLs to the point they are having trouble maintaining proper positions in the competition lifts. That would be contradictory to the goal of having a meet day focus.

Here’s a sample of a week from the final four week block:

Day 1 Four Weeks Out
Snatch 70% x 3, 80% for 2 x 2, 85% for 2 x 1, 88% for 2 x 1 (work up if no misses and stop at first miss)
Clean and Jerk 75% x 2, 80% x 2, 85% x 1, 78% x 2, 83% x 1, 88% x 1, 90% x 1
Back Squat with Belt + Bands or Chains 60% Bar Weight + 20% Bands or Chains x 3, 65% Bar Weight + 20% Bands or Chains for 2 x 3, 70% Bar Weight + 20% Bands or Chains x 2, 70% Bar Weight + 20% Bands or Chains x 1
Clean Pulls from Blocks 105% for 3 x 3, working up each set
Day 2
Snatch Accessory Power Snatch: 3RM
Jerk from Blocks 75% x 2, 80% x 2, 85% x 2, Max Out
Front Squat with Belt 1RM with 7 sec pause (7RPE)
 Upper Muscular Imbalance Superset
1a. Band Triceps Pushdowns 3 x 15 reps
1b. Rows (Bands, Cable, KB, etc) 3 x 10 reps
1c. Plate Lateral Raises 3 x 10 reps
Day 3
Snatch 75% x 2, 80% x 2, 85% x 1, 78% x 2, 83% x 1, 88% x 1, 90% x 1
Clean 70% x 3, 80% for 2 x 2, 85% for 2 x 1, 88% for 2 x 1 (work up if no misses and stop at first miss)
High Bar Back Box Squat + Bands or Chains 50% Bar Weight + 20% Bands or Chains for 6 x 3 (60-90 sec between sets, goal bar velocity of 0.8m/s)
Day 4
Warm Up with OH Squat Variations Work up to 80% for 1 rep paused 5 sec
Push Jerk Work up to 75% for 2 x 3
Zercher Carries 3 x 40 yards
Prowler Push 4 x 20 yards
TRX/Ring Fallouts 3 x 10
Day 5
Snatch Max Effort Snatch Max Competition Style (3 Attempts)
Clean and Jerk Max Effort Clean and Jerk Max Competition Style (3 Attempts)
Snatch High Pulls from Blocks 75% for 4 x 3, working up each set
Day 6
Front Squat with Belt 75% x 4, 80% for 2 x 3, 85% x 2, 88% x 1
Band or Cable Lateral Raises 3 x 10
Reverse Hypers 3 x 60 sec
GHDs 3 x 8


The Intangibles

I want to leave you with a couple of intangibles that made all the difference in the world for our team. This team is the closest I have ever coached. These kids love each other, but it’s more than just that. The families love each other, and the families support one another. Two years ago, I didn’t have that. My friend, Coach Sean Waxman, gave me a real heart to heart about the importance of culture. Since then, I have made several hard decisions that involved some incredibly talented athletes, but the end result is the team I have now. It’s not just our onsite athletes – not even close. It’s our entire team onsite, online, and affiliates. Somehow by God’s grace we have built this special thing that includes a bond I have never experienced before. It’s a group of men and women who want to succeed, and want their teammates to succeed just as badly.

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This extended family we have built is the main reason I love this team so much. This unique bond we experienced this weekend supercedes all the wins, American records, and Team USA slots. It’s that bond that melts my heart. It’s that bond I pray will never be broken. It’s that bond that will keep me on the grind to grow and nurture this amazing group of men and women.

Those are the key factors that helped us kill it this past weekend. Here is a quick rundown of the highlights that came from our team’s incredible performance:

  • 15-year-old Ryan Grimsland earned a bronze medal in the clean and jerk in the 69kg class and made Team USA for the first time by earning a spot on the Youth Pan American Team heading to Colombia, South America. He also hit competition PRs in the snatch, clean and jerk, and total (105kg + 135kg = 240kg). Now he’s preparing for the CrossFit Open in hopes of earning a spot at the Games. Busy year!
  • 14-year-old Morgan McCullough also earned a spot on the Youth Team, and he will be heading to Colombia as the number one ranked youth lifter in America. Morgan tied his competition PR snatch of 115kg and then hit a lifetime PR clean and jerk of 156kg and lifetime PR total of 271kg.
  • Nadeen Pierre, already a two-time Team USA Member, didn’t have the meet of her life – but she nailed both of her openers. She also learned a lot of small details that could have helped her do better. Nadeen is one of our most talented young lifters, and with the help of her incredible coach Vinh Huynh she has no limits.
  • CrossFit Games Athlete Nathan Clifton absolutely killed it – going five for six in his first ever national competition and only his third weightlifting competition ever. He hit a competition PR snatch of 93kg, a competition PR clean and jerk of 128kg, and a lifetime PR total of 221kg (an 8kg increase).
  • Liz Becker is a Mash Mafia Minnesota OG. When I first started working with Vinh Huynh at his gym (Undisputed Strength and Conditioning in Eagan, MN), Liz was a young girl learning the sport. Now she’s a veteran tearing things up. She hit a PR snatch of 70kg, but she only managed her opener in the clean and jerk. We are going to work on that, and you can expect some big things later this year from Liz.
  • Kobe Thomas is a part of our Missouri family along with his momma, Kelly. Kobe also had a rough meet going two out of six. We will get him squared away before the AO1 as he is set to throw down at the Arnold Classic. It really comes down to overhead stability. So he has some presses, overhead carries, and counter movements in his future. I will say this: Kobe is the glue of this young team. His positive approach to life and his overwhelming love for his teammates spread throughout the ranks. He constantly stays in touch with his teammates – so when they come together, it’s as if we all train together everyday. I owe Jacob Hamby for starting this amazing Missouri affiliation with Team Mash. He was the first athlete from out there, and now it’s grown into something really special.
  • Derek Bryant is the newest addition to the team, and I can honestly say I am very excited for this young man’s future. He’s only been competing for six months – and lo and behold, he was in it for a bronze medal in the clean and jerk. He actually cleaned the weight to win bronze and barely missed the jerk. He still set a competition PR snatch of 115kg and a lifetime PR clean and jerk of 156kg. It looks like Derek is making the move to the Mash Compound, so get ready for some big things from this young man.

If you were at the meet, you saw the love this team has for each other. I am truly a blessed coach. I appreciate each and every one of my athletes and their families. We are building something really special together. Let’s keep it up.

Early Morning Training – the Inside Scoop by Joel Slate

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

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

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

Here’s how I do it.


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

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


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

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

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

Warm Up

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

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

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

After the Workout

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

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

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

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2018...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

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

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

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

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


Mash Elite's Guide to Velocity-Based Training

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

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



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

Junior Nationals Prep: Overcoming CrossFit Challenges

We’ve had some of the best Junior athletes in the country for the last three years with guys like Nathan Damron, Tom Summa, Dylan Cooper, and Mason Groehler to name just a few. We’ve had multiple guys on the Team USA Junior Squad for the last three years.

This year marks a slight change in our team. We still have multiple Junior athletes, but now we begin the era of our Youth athletes. We’ve been waiting for quite some time to unleash these youths on the rest of world.

Training for the Junior Nationals this year has presented multiple challenges. That’s what this article is about. I wanted to give all of you some inside insight on the way I went about overcoming these difficulties. In the past I have normally just gone through our roster and given my predictions. That’s cool and all, but my main goal is to educate all of you in as many ways as possible. That’s why I decided to go about things a bit differently in this post.

The Challenge of Adding CrossFit

The biggest challenge has been working with athletes who are participating in multiple sports. This year we have two young men who are also very high level CrossFitters. One, Nathan Clifton, is a CrossFit Games athlete and is now participating in his first Junior Nationals. We are looking for him to hit personal records, have some fun, and hopefully fall in love with the sport of weightlifting.

Ryan Grimsland missed the CrossFit Games by one position last year, and is coming off a powerful second-place performance at Wodapalooza. Ryan looks to make a bid at the Youth Pan American Championships, while making the CrossFit Games for the first time. These are some big goals, but my job is to help him reach these goals. That’s what I have aimed to do.

15-Year-old @ryangrimsland with his first 3 Hundo! PR 137kg/301lb Clean & Jerk! These dudes were hype tonight. Lots of PRs but I have to honor a man’s first 300lb Clean & Jerk! ======================= The “Program Sampler: Guest Coach Edition” is finally here! <link in Bio> It’s got programs from 6 of the best minds in strength and conditioning in a single book: • A Football Athletic Performance program from Joe Kenn (@bighousepower), Carolina Panthers strength coach • Get strong and jacked on Dr. Layne Norton’s (@biolayne) ‘Powerbuilding’ program • Increase power output and jumping capacity with Dr. Andy Galpin’s (@drandygalpin) plan • @gregnuckols of Stronger by Science created a self-adjusting powerlifting program to increase your Big 3 • Prep for your next Weightlifting competition with Sean Waxman’s (@waxmansgym) 14 week training cycle • @zevenesh will turn you into a beast with this simple program to build strength, size and toughness. • This is your chance to learn from the best! AND All Proceeds are going to support our 501c3 non-profit Team and “youth at risk” program. • Go to to learn more and get your copy at the special launch price. . . @intekstrength #intekstrength @biprousa #biprousa @athleteps @harbingerfitness #harbingerfitness @thedanicain1 @tfox66 #nikeweightlifting #athleteps @mg12power #mg12thepowerofmagnesium @haknutrition #haknutrition #wodfitters @wodfitters

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Multiple Coaches

For these two athletes, it’s been a lot of work finding balance between their strength training, technique work in the competition lifts, gymnastics, accessory work, aerobic capacity, and overall conditioning for CrossFit. The biggest key to success has been communication. There were times during the program that each athlete got pretty beat up, so I simply scaled things back and let their bodies catch up.

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2018...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

Sometimes, like in Nathan’s case, he is working with his hometown CrossFit coach for his conditioning and gymnastics work. That can present a problem in most cases, but we handled that situation as well. I program most of my athletes a year at a time, which can change based on the meets they qualify for. I was able to send Nathan’s coach several months of programming for him to program around. That’s the simplest way to handle multiple coaches in multiple locations.

One big issue I am seeing nowadays with a lot of CrossFitters is they have a coach for strength and the Olympic lifts, they have a coach for gymnastics, one for swimming, one for endurance, and one for CrossFit programming. How in the world could they possibly program optimally like that without any communication? The answer is they can’t. If that’s what’s happening with you, you need to slow everyone’s roll. You should arrange a meeting between all of your coaches and get them on the same page.

Guidelines for Synergy

Luckily with Ryan I work very closely with his CrossFit coach, so this isn’t a problem. Ryan’s new CrossFit coach is actually someone who I am partnering up with, but that’s an announcement for down the road. We are able to piece together a workout that is synergistic. Here are a few examples:

  • If an athlete spends the morning burning their glycogen stores on aerobic work, they can still lift. They can go heavy with a focus on one to three reps, keeping the sets under ten seconds. This will use the alactic system. For the first 10 seconds or so, the body replenishes ATP directly from phosphocreatine (PCr). This is the fastest way the body replenishes stored ATP. Anything after that would require glycogen that you don’t have.
  • Anaerobic work that is complementary to the strength training.
  • Movements for conditioning that don’t cause a lot of muscular damage on days where volume is high in strength training – like sled drags, prowler pushes, and carries.

If an athlete wants to be successful in both sports, this line of communication is absolutely imperative unless you are some sort of freak. Even if you can take the volume of mismatched programming, you are 100% setting yourself up for a future injury with this sort of approach.

The Chess Game of a Meet

There are a few other challenges we are addressing with some of the other athletes.

For one, there is a competition within the competition. Yes, we are battling for podium spots and Junior World Team spots – but this is also the last qualifying meet for Youth Pan American Championships.

That means all good coaches should know the following:

  • Where their athletes stack up for Junior National podium spots
  • Where their athletes stack up for Junior World Teams
  • Where their athletes stack up for Youth Pan American Championships
  • How the ranking sheets work
  • Where the competition stacks up. This way, they can track their progress during the meet. A one kilogram decision can be the difference in staying home and making Team USA.

World-Class Powerlifting & Weightlifting Meet Preparation

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Here’s an example of a sheet that I created in excel based on the ranking sheet, so I can track the results of the Youth Pan American Team throughout the weekend:

The Knowledge Bomb

I want to end by giving all of you a piece of advice that really paid off for us this training cycle. Ryan and Morgan both came to a point where their snatch mechanics were breaking down. So did we stick with the program full steam ahead? No way, we dropped back and punted.

We took one of their heavy sessions about three-weeks out, and focused on technique. We drilled until they were back on track, and that led to many personal records and, most importantly, massive amounts of confidence.

The moral of the story is a program is nothing but an outline. It’s a map to guide progress, but it should be a living, breathing document that can be adjusted based on need. Here are some words of advice all strength coaches should live by:

Make the program fit the athlete, not the athlete fit the program.

Yes, we are ready to throw down, but I hope this glimpse into our Junior National meet preparation gives you more insight than just some article talking about how awesome our athletes are. Our primary goal is to educate. That is the way we give back to a sport that has been so kind to us.

Weightlifting and Beauty Pageants with Sarah Davies – The Barbell Life 189

This young woman has risen to become one of (if not the) best female weightlifters in Great Britain and one of the top lifters in the World. She also happens to compete in beauty pageants too. Yes, that’s right–she lifts and she’s a beauty queen. But don’t let that fool you. As you’ll soon learn, it takes as just as much guts, hard work, and dedication to get out there and compete in a beauty pageant as it does at the Weightlifting World Championships.

On today’s episode, you’ll get to meet this incredibly confident, intelligent and strong woman who’s showing everyone that women can be smart, strong, athletic, beautiful, muscular, elegant, and brave all at the same time.  We’ll chat with Sarah Davies (@sarahd_gb) about how she started her career as a weightlifter and competing at the international level, all while still doing beauty pageants.

You’ll also find out how Sarah handles the criticism she gets about lifting weights and her body. It’s unbelievable to say that as impressive an athlete and awesome person as Sarah is, she has still had to face senseless bullying her entire life. Well, my hat is off to Ms. Sarah Davies for doing it her way despite what some people would think. This episode is going to inspire you and make you feel so empowered. I even felt that way after talking to Ms. Davies and I know the crew did too so I can’t wait for you guys to listen.

Thanks for being on our show Sarah and I look forward to more in the future.

Just one final note, the latest Mash Elite Program Sampler: Guest Coach Edition is still available at the special launch price, but not for long. In just a few days, the price will be increasing. So grab it now while it’s still at the lower price.

There are 6 special programs from 6 of my friends who just happen to be some of the biggest experts in the fitness industry. There are programs from Layne Norton, Ph.D., Joe Kenn, Sean Waxman, Dr. Andy Galpin, Greg Nuckols and Zach Even-Esh. You’d be crazy not to do a program from these guys.

Check the Sampler out below.

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


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



  • Sarah’s history as an athlete
  • How she rose to become a World-class Weightlifter for Great Britain
  • Her current training and competition goals
  • Developing confidence on and off the platform
  • Bullying and the criticisms she’s faced competing in both Olympic Weightlifting and beauty pageants
  • Why she got into beauty pageants and continues to do them
  • The differences between competing in Weightlifting meets versus beauty pageants
  • and more

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

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

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

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

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

Does one need to stick to one discipline?  

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

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

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

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

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

Pyrros Dimas Photo credit: Ironmind 

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

Lu Xiaojun

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

Dan Green

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

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


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

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

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

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

Pros and Cons of Each Discipline

Olympic Weightlifting

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

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

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

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


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

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



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

  • Body Composition
  • Back Squat
  • Clean

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

So Now What?

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

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

Questions you have to ask yourself:

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

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

I’ve found it very easy to:

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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