Category Archives for "Weightlifting"

The Routine of Approaching the Bar by Matt Shiver

When you approach the barbell, your setup should be automatic. There should be no thinking on where you hands go, what hand grabs the bar first, where your feet should be lined up, or how low your hips should be. You should have done so many reps the same way that your body REACTS.

When it is competition day, you want to get into a flow state. You are moving through the steps without thinking. Your heart is beating faster, your mind is in the present moment, and you are ready to destroy the weight on the bar.

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Free Throws

You would never see a basketball player change their free-throw routine on game day. Most of them developed their routine in middle school and kept it for the rest of their life. My free throw routine is dribbling twice with my right hand, spinning the ball so my shooting hand is lined up in the center of the ball, taking one breath, and then shooting. I have been using this technique for as long as I can remember.

If I drilled with my left hand instead of my right hand, I would be so confused – and my shot would feel off. I guarantee you I would miss more shots if I used a new free throw technique. If I wanted to change it, I could do it, but I would suffer a performance decrease for a short period of time.

Setup is similar but even more important for sports like weightlifting and powerlifting. If we don’t set up right, we are throwing away so much potential to generate more tension in the barbell – tension to help us get our spine organized, to get “tight,” and to make the weight on the bar feel lighter.

Starting from the Top

My favorite way to teach beginners how to set up for weightlifting is using a top down approach.

  1. Set the core
  2. Bend the knees
  3. Hinge the hips while keeping the same knee bend
  4. Bend the knees further to get to the bar
  5. Take the tension out of the bar
  6. Get your eyes straight ahead


The order needs to remain the same every time. As people do reps more and more, they sometimes rush the set up and start combining steps. Don’t do this! Take your time in your setup. If your setup is rushed and you do not maximize the amount of tension in the start position, you are losing kilos in your lifts.

Not everyone needs a top down setup, but I think it is the best to organize the spine. When setting up, spinal alignment should be one of the biggest priorities. You can control the amount of lumbar motion using this setup more than any other. Most people have a hard time organizing their spine in the bottom position of a squat. It is much easier to organize your spine at the top and maintain it as you hinge.

Bar Tension

Another key component in the set up that I often see done poorly is taking the tension out of the bar before the lift begins. If I can hear a “click” in the bar when I am standing next to you, that “click” means the tension in the bar was not taken up. You need to start pulling on the bar before you pull the bar off the floor.

Let’s say you need 100% effort to pull the bar off the floor. For you to get set up properly, you need to start pulling with 10-20% effort to get the slack out of the bar. You should be pulling on the bar to help you get set up and maximize the tension in the bar. If I was to let go of the bar before I lifted it, I would fall backward. I am using the weight of the bar to pull me into a better position. Take the slack out of the bar before getting set.


The last component that needs discussion is eye/head position. If you are doing weightlifting movements you want to keep the head/eyes straight ahead. There is so much movement the body has to go through in weightlifting. You want to keep the head stable. It should be consistent throughout the entire movement. If you want to maximize your balance and stability, don’t move your head.

If you are doing strength movements, I want your head in a neutral position. I like having it aligned with the rest of the spine. The lumbar, thoracic, and cervical (neck) spine should all be aligned. This normally puts the eyes and head looking slightly down. As the movement continues, the head and eyes will naturally rise. Don’t move the neck or eyes as you are moving. Just have the “eyes open” but don’t look at anything in particular.


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Make sure to build quality reps while getting set up! The more reps you get using the same set up the better. If you want to change your set up to organize your spine or get more tension out of the bar, you are going to need more reps. Start slow and DO NOT RUSH YOUR SET UP.

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Drills for Timing and Speed Under the Bar

There are two things that I have learned from Coach Don McCauley that separate him from most coaches. When I joined the team of MuscleDriver USA, I kept hearing Coach McCauley use terms that at the time were pretty darn unique in the weightlifting world like:

  • “Faster as you go”
  • “Sit on the hamstrings”
  • “Sit straight down”
  • “Continue pulling”
  • “Dirty Dancing”

There are more, but you get the point. Most coaches are going to use the common terms of finish the pull, finish, big pull, and many others related to a massive pull upwards. I am not saying a strong pull isn’t important, as that would be ridiculous. However, a massive pull upwards isn’t what separates the great lifters from all the other good ones.

Truly Great

To be truly great you must have two important qualities we are going to talk about in this article. Coach McCauley is the best teacher in this crazy sport that so many of us love. When I joined MDUSA, he immediately took me under his wing. That shows his love of teaching because most coaches would have seen my presence as a threat. Heck, he is the biggest reason I got the job. I have to admit that working for MDUSA was the most incredible experience of my professional career, and I have Coach Mac to thank.

Here are the two qualities that separate the truly great ones from all the rest:

  • Timing
  • Speed underneath the bar

I used to be one of the coaches who used the term finish the pull until I met Coach Mac. Now I am convinced that finish the pull is the most overused term in all of weightlifting. For one thing, you will rarely see someone not finish the pull. I challenged one of my good buddies, Coach Spencer Arnold, to find me a video of a lifter not standing all the way up in a snatch or clean. He sent me a still shot of what appeared to be a pull not finished. However when I requested the video and slowed things down, the pull was definitely finished. The problem spotting the finished pull was that his lifter was perfectly completing the pull. By that I mean his amazing athlete Jourdan Delacruz was spending very little time at the top of pull before ripping underneath the bar.

That is an example of perfect timing. James Tatum was an athlete I had the pleasure of coaching who demonstrated the same perfect timing. I have a secret for all of you. When the bar leaves the hips after completing the second pull, the height of the bar is already determined. Any extra effort on your part to peak the bar higher is a waste of time, and that extra effort will cause you to miss that peak – leaving you with less chance of getting under the bar. When the bar peaks at the top of the pull, you will have a split second before the bar begins its return to earth. That split second is your chance to use the bar in your effort to rip underneath the bar. I’m not saying that athletes don’t extend onto their toes, as some do and some don’t. I’m just saying it’s more of a followthrough, and it shouldn’t be the focus of anyone’s technique. The amount of followthrough onto the toes (plantar flexion) will be different for each athlete with some extending more and some not extending much at all.


No Hook and No Feet

Pulling upwards on the bar is a natural act all of us can master rather quickly. It’s the change of direction back underneath the bar that is a foreign movement to most humans. So how does one get better at timing?

We like to use “no hook and no feet” drills to improve this aspect of the lift. This drill helps the athlete with their timing in two ways – there are benefits from the “no hook” portion and the “no feet” portion.

The “no hook” is brilliant because if you spend too much effort extending at the top, the bar will likely come out of your hand. The hook grip is what secures the bar allowing the athlete to produce as much power as desired without dropping the bar. Without the ability to produce maximal power, the athlete is only left with the ability to pull under the bar. That teaches the athlete to rely only on an optimal second pull (the final portion of the pull upwards), and to focus more on beginning the pull underneath the bar (the third pull).


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I was talking with Meredith Alwine yesterday while she was visiting her friend, Hunter Elam. We agreed that too many coaches like to tell you what you’re doing wrong without an explanation on how to fix the problem. I like to use drills to teach my athletes whenever possible. The “no hook and no feet” drill is one of the ways I fix problems without saying a word.

The “no feet” portion of this drill causes you to purposely not extend onto the toes, leaving you with the third pull to make the lift. When you combine the “no hook” and the “no feet” together, you are left with the perfect movement to teach timing. This drill has helped Hunter Elam tremendously with her snatch, leading to multiple long awaited personal records.


Speed Underneath

Once you figure out your timing, now it’s time to increase your speed pulling underneath the bar. I like to call this ripping underneath the bar because that’s exactly what you want to do. If you watch Mattie Rogers, her speed underneath the bar is what makes her so hard to beat. Here are a couple of drills to improve your speed underneath the bar:

  • High Hangs
  • High Block Pulls

By high, I’m referring to the part of the pull where the bar is in your hips, your torso is near vertical, and your knees are bent slightly four to six inches. Here’s a pic of 10-year-old Lilla demonstrating this position perfectly:

The key is to not use a stretch reflex or the oscillation of the bar, so you will need to pause in the power position four to five seconds before extending and pulling underneath the bar. Make sure when you begin extension that you don’t have any downward motion before extension. This will leave you with a weaker than normal extension, causing you to rely solely on the pull underneath the bar.

Personally I like using high blocks because you can’t cheat them. You will set the blocks at a height that lines up with your personal power position. You are left with very little room to create momentum on the bar, causing you to rely on the pull underneath the bar. I’m having our athlete Derek Bryant work on both of these drills in this phase of his training. He’s new to weightlifting, so he still has a lot of work to do on his third pull. He’s incredibly powerful but lacks the speed underneath the bar.

How Quickly Can You Improve?

Timing and the third pull take a lot of time to develop. There’s a reason that someone like Nathan Damron is so good at his third pull. He’s been lifting for a decade now. However, with a little focus, we can get Derek caught up with his veteran teammates and on his way to Team USA. Look at Wes Kitts: he started very late to the game and is now one of the best lifters in the country.

I hope this different look at improving your pull underneath the bar will help you improve your own lifting. I am so blessed to have Coach McCauley as a mentor. His take on weightlifting has helped me to develop 18 Team USA athletes in the last two and a half years. When you are trying to create the best athletes in America, you can’t afford to think like all the rest. You have to improve your abilities as a coach every chance you get. I hope to pass on as much of this information as possible because my goals expand way past Team Mash Mafia. Team USA is the goal we all should have. This is one of the ways that I hope to contribute. Now – go practice!


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My Mentor: Coach Don McCauley

Most of you know that Coach Don McCauley is going through a tough time right now.

He’s been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and now Stage IV brain cancer. He just had a tumor removed that was causing stroke-like symptoms, and that has relieved a lot of symptoms causing him the most grief. Right now we have Coach Mac in full effect, but we still have a battle in front of us.

This article isn’t about his cancer or heart disease. However, if you want to help support his cause during this tough time, you can donate to coach Don’s GoFundMe campaign.



After giving his life to the service of athletes and the sport of weightlifting, Don McCauley has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and a brain tumor that caused a stroke. Now it's time for the sport to give back to him.


His Love

Obviously we would appreciate any help, but this article is about Coach McCauley as a coach and man. Most of you will never know him like I do. You get a glimpse of him maybe on Facebook when he’s pissed off about weightlifting technique or politics. Some of you form opinions based on those rants you read. If you are one of those people, you are missing the boat on this man.

Yes, by all means, Don can be feisty on social media, and some of you might not take his side on some topics. However, let me share the side that you don’t see. This man has given his whole life to this sport and his athletes. I believe that he will make it to the Olympics simply because he loves Nathan Damron so dang much.

While most of you are watching television or going on a walk, he’s sitting around in his house thinking about the technique of each of his lifters. Look, I am not knocking all of you for relaxing. I am just exalting this man for his desire to make his lifters better. How do I know? I know because I roomed with him on trips during our time at MuscleDriver USA, and he would be awake at 3:00 AM looking at videos. I would always yell at him to get some rest.

I knew within minutes of beginning my tenure at MDUSA that I wanted to absorb every ounce of information this man contained. He’s done what other coaches have only dreamed of – such as coaching an Olympian, Cheryl Haworth. He also coached an Olympic alternate, Suzanne, who was his wife. Yes, he might not be good at choosing wives, but the man can coach. The skill he possesses that impressed me the most was his ability to see the movement with his naked eye.

He knows right away what’s causing a lifter’s problems, and he knows how to fix it. Heck, he can hear an imperfection better than most coaches can see it. Sounds crazy, right? I’ve been there when he heard a lift behind him, and he knew exactly what had happened. Some of that comes with experience, but a whole lot of that is a raw talent most of us will never have.

I want to write a series of these articles so the world can know the Coach McCauley his team members have known for years. Don and I were together this weekend watching two of our athletes get married – Jacky Bigger and Bryan Simeone. He and I had a few glasses of wine and started sharing some of our memories together as coaches.

At the wedding, we had multiple generations of athletes gathered, like Becca Gerdon, who was my first weightlifting athlete – one I later sent to MDUSA before I was ever there. We both love that girl, so we started talking about her movement on the platform and more importantly the incredible demeanor she brought to practice everyday.

This led us to talking about Jacky, and that led to Hunter, then to Nathan, then to Morgan, then to Ryan, and on and on. It was in that moment I realized the world has to know about Coach McCauley for who he really is – not for Facebook or (heaven forbid) GoHeavy. In each of these articles, I am going to highlight something he’s taught me, one or two of his thoughts he’s posting on Facebook, and maybe a few funny stories along the way.

If you love weightlifting or the barbell in general, you will learn a thing or two I promise. So let’s get started.


The first point he taught me

It’s all about timing. Everyone wants to talk about the pull as it pertains to height and power production, but no one is talking about the real trait that separates the great lifters from all the rest – and that’s timing. He first pointed it out to me at MDUSA as we were watching James Tatum. James always baffled me. Yes, he looked athletic, but he didn’t look capable of snatching 160 kilograms. Yet he snatched 160kg while competing in the 77kg class.

Was it his speed? He’s fast, but there are plenty people faster. Was it his power production? He’s powerful, but I’ve seen people with way more power. Was it his absolute strength? He’s strong, but Travis Cooper was stronger. Was it his mobility? No way, he’s actually a bit tight. So what was it?

His timing was absolutely perfect. By timing, I mean his ability to waste zero time at the top of a pull before ripping under the bar. You can watch Yury Vardanyan and Kakhi Kakhiashvili to see two masters of timing. This is where Don and I differ the most from most coaches. While they are focusing on jump and shrug (which I am not hating on at all), we are focusing on shrugging down the moment the hips extend at the top. Once the bar leaves the hips, its trajectory is already set. There is nothing extra you can do to make it go a bit higher. Any delay will be detrimental to you being able to get underneath the bar.

Ever since he pointed this out to me, I’ve noticed this trait with most great lifters. Nathan Damron, for example, is getting better with this each and every day. Everyone talks about his strength, but it’s his speed and timing that will win it for him. Luckily we have veterans who are almost perfect with timing to demonstrate for our younger generation. It’s this timing factor that allows people who are simply good at the sport to dominate other athletes who are superior in strength and athleticism. Pete Kelly is a great example of this. Pete is an Olympian from 1996. He isn’t incredibly strong in squatting or pulling. He isn’t incredibly explosive. However, he could outperform everyone else because he was simply better at the sport. It’s timing and technique that makes one better at weightlifting.



Here are two McCauleyisms to support my above story:


You can see more of these on Don’s Facebook account. I am planning something kind of cool with all of these McCauley quotes. I hope you guys enjoyed this. Let me know if there are specific questions you have for Don. If I don’t have the answer, I will get it from him. Once again, if you want to support the old man, we’d appreciate that.

You can always support his nonprofit weightlifting team as well. We are in the crucial time before the 2020 Olympics, and we need all the help you can give us. We’ve had a few of our sponsors come up short lately, and that can be pretty devastating for a nonprofit with a small budget as is. This coupled with Coach McCauley’s illness has really laid a beating to us. If you’d like to give to either, we would be grateful.



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Don’s Journey

And just in case you missed it before, check out this interview we had with Coach Don before he went in for surgery. This will give you a good picture of the man who loves the sport like none other.

The Perfect Meet

In baseball most pitchers play their entire career without throwing a perfect game. A perfect game for a pitcher is a game without any walks, hits, or runs. It’s a beautiful thing to watch for baseball fans. What about in weightlifting?

I don’t think there is a defined “perfect meet” – but if there was such a thing, our team just experienced it. I’ll define a “perfect meet” as a meet where each athlete meets or exceeds the goals laid out for them and no one bombs out. You might ask, “What about a meet where everyone wins?” That’s a fair question, but it misses the mark.

I could easily go to our state meet in North Carolina, and most of my athletes would win their age and weight class – maybe all of them. Would that mean that was a perfect meet? Not in my book! That’s an easy meet not a perfect one. If that’s not the perfect meet then what is?

Every time we go into a competition, I have goals written out for each of our team members. Winning the competition isn’t everything. For a lot of our athletes, we are trying to qualify for international teams, earn higher stipend levels, or even break an American Record. It really just depends on the athlete and their individual goals.

Last weekend, I pitched the perfect meet as a coach. It was one of the most incredible moments for me as a coach. Every single athlete that I coached exceeded my expectations. I’ll be honest and tell you that when we were starting the last session, I was a little nervous. We had three young men in the last session, and I was definitely a little worried that one of them would mess up this perfect meet. I wonder if pitchers feel a bit nervous before they walk out to the mound for the last inning. I bet as soon as they throw the first pitch in the ninth inning, they probably just let their instincts take over and the nervousness subsides. That’s what happened with me. As soon as the first lifter hit their first snatch, we were off and running.


Derek Bryant

I want to start with this young man because he made the biggest increase. He came to our gym only a few months ago – right after the Junior Nationals where he totaled 263kg. We had a lofty goal for him. I saw massive potential in him at the Junior Nationals. I wanted him to have a big jump in his first meet with us, and he killed it. He hit a 120kg snatch and a 168kg clean and jerk to produce a massive total of 288kg – a 25kg increase. Once we straighten out a few of his technical issues, this young man will be totaling well over 300kg. He’s one of the most powerful athletes I’ve ever coached. I’d call him a Wes Kitts type of athlete, but only time will tell what he’s really capable of.


Ryan Grimsland

Ryan is one of my athletes who just competed in the Youth Pan American Championships six weeks ago. He killed it at that meet, lifting personal records in both the snatch and clean and jerk. I knew I couldn’t expect miracles in that short amount of time, so here was my first goal: I simply wanted a small PR total to move him even higher up the Youth World list. He’s sitting in second right now, but I will never allow my athletes to be complacent. That approach seems to have gotten several of USA’s top athletes in trouble lately as there is always someone out there training hard to take a spot. To take a spot from one of my athletes, you are going to have to earn it.

Ryan was also battling his friend from Krypton Barbell, Logan Griffith, and coach Joe Cox, Head Coach at Krypton. So yes, we had three goals for Ryan:

  1. Increase his total
  2. Move up the ranking chart
  3. Beat his buddy Logan

We were able to do all three with his PR snatch of 111kg and PR total of 252kg.


Morgan McCullough

Morgan also competed at the Youth Pan American Championships six short weeks ago. Like Ryan, we wanted to move up the ranking chart and set a total PR. Yet Morgan had one more goal in mind, and that was to break an American Record. Ian Wilson held the clean and jerk American Record for the 14-15 year-old age group of 166kg. Obviously that record had stood for years, so we wanted to hit that record before it was retired forever with the weight class changes. Once again, three goals:

  1. Increase his total
  2. PR his total
  3. Set the American Record

He crushed all three with his 120kg snatch, PR clean and jerk of 167kg, and PR total of 287kg. His American Record clean and jerk was definitely the highlight of the weekend. I guess the golden boy shined very brightly this weekend.



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Hannah Damron

Hannah trains with us in a part-time remote and part-time on-site capacity. She’s always had a tremendous amount of potential, but I believe that she has now decided to use that potential. Our goal was to hit a PR total for her first meet back, and she did just that with her 70kg snatch, 85kg PR clean and jerk, and 155kg PR total. She also made the most courageous move of the weekend – missing 65kg twice in the snatch, going up 5kg to 70kg for her third attempt, and then crushing the weight. She was also my co-pilot on the way up and back down, and we had so many laughs. She definitely made the trip enjoyable. We are going to miss her as she returns to Kansas.


Hannah Dunnjoy

This was the biggest surprise of the weekend. I really didn’t want her to compete because I wanted her to totally focus on killing it at the AO3. I didn’t think this meet was going to be a Youth World Qualifier, and then we got to the meet and found out the news. USA Weightlifting decided to let athletes make the weight of the new weight classes. They competed within the old classes, but they could hit a qualifying total for Youth Worlds. That’s exactly what we did. Luckily she was weighing close to the new 59kg class anyways, so we didn’t have much of a cut. She made it easily, and then went on to hit a five for six performance, ranking her seventh or eighth by my calculations.

She put up a clutch performance. I love the way she remains calm during the meet. She was dancing and being silly half the time, and I think that kept her totally calm. She hit a 65kg snatch, an 86kg clean and jerk, and a total of 151kg – which were all PRs for the new weight class. This also earned her silver in the snatch, gold in the clean and jerk, and silver in the total with her total counting for the 63kg class where the medals counted.


Jared Flaming

This young man makes me smile every time I see him. He’s always laughing and having a good time, which is so important for weightlifting. He also competed at the Youth Pan American Championships, but he didn’t do that well. He only totaled 247kg, so our main goal here was to beat that and show consistency. He did so much more.

He snatched 115kg (barely missing a PR of 121kg), clean and jerked a PR 155kg, and hit a PR total of 270kg. He went four for six, only missing massive PR attempts. This young man has unlimited potential. We did this with only a few weeks of him being full-time at the compound. Get ready to watch him make some waves in the Junior ranks.


Connie Ruales

Connie is our stud Master athlete. Our goals were to qualify for Master Nationals and to make totals that might qualify her for Master Pan Ams and Master Worlds. Connie absolutely crushed it – hitting a PR snatch, PR clean and jerk, and PR total. I’d say that’s just about all you can ask from an athlete. She crushed all of her goals, qualifying for everything.


So much to consider

Well that’s the story. Hopefully you all can see how we set goals. There are always so many things to consider at each meet. The key is to understand each of your athletes, assess their potential, and know how far each of them can go. Each meet can be a step in the right direction or a step backwards. However, meets can always be a learning experience for the athlete and the coach.

I wanted to let you guys know about an awesome event I’m putting on with some of the guys from Barbell Shrugged – Doug Larson and Dr. Andy Galpin. Together, we’ll be talking about competing in Olympic lifting. In fact, here’s a snippet from Barbell Shrugged about it:

It goes down Saturday and Sunday, August 25 and 26 – right here at my gym in Lewisville, NC. I hope to see you there!



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Patellar Tendinopathy: What The Strength Coach Needs To Know By Eric Bowman

In my recent podcast interview with Travis Mash he often brought up the topic of patellar tendinitis in one of his weightlifting clients. Tendinopathies (aka tendinitis or tendinosis), in and around the patella (kneecap) and other regions of the body (i.e. Achilles tendon, rotator cuff, elbows), are major issues that plague a lot of athletes. Patellar Tendinopathy and Patellofemoral Pain are the two most common non-contact sports related knee conditions that I see in my own practice.

Listen to “207 – Physiotherapist Eric Bowman” on Spreaker.

It’s beyond the scope of this article, and beyond the scope of a strength coach or athlete, to make rehab recommendations for a condition without a thorough assessment especially given the amount of people who “self-diagnose” or get a token diagnosis based on a shoddy exam. That said – given the number of athletes; particularly young athletes in strength, speed and power sports; who have patellar tendinopathy it is a topic worth discussing – hence the purpose of this article.

What Is Patellar Tendinopathy?

Patellar Tendinopathy is when the patellar tendon, the structure that connects the kneecap to the tibia (large shin bone); is irritated, inflamed (although the role of inflammation is debated), and painful.

Who Gets It?

Athletes who are susceptible to Patellar Tendinopathy are primarily those in jumping sports such as basketball or volleyball with prevalences ranging from 7 to 45% of athletes in those sports – hence its popular alternate name of “Jumper’s Knee.” Just under 5% of runners will develop the condition as well.
I’ve also seen it (more anecdotally) prevalent in strength athletes due to the high repetitions and training loads involved in snatch, squat and clean & jerk training.

What Are The Risk Factors?

Some of the common risk factors for Patellar Tendinopathy in volleyball players include:

  • Training on concrete courts compared to training on wood surfaces
  • Higher training volume
  • Greater match exposure (i.e. more time playing)
  • Higher force during takeoff when jumping
  • Higher knee flexion, decreased hip motion and shorter landing time when jumping
  • Higher bodyweight
  • Greater jumping ability
  • More frequent training sessions per week

Risk factors for Patellar Tendinopathy across athletic populations include

  • Early sports specialization: four times higher risk in single-sport athletes when compared to multi-sport athletes
  • Decreased quadricep & hamstring flexibility
  • Leg length discrepancy (i.e. one leg is considerably longer than the other)


In my experience I see Patellar Tendinopathy in younger athletes who, quite often, have no base of strength and/or increase their training and sport volume WAYYY too much from what they have been doing in the past.

Some research suggests that changes in the patellar tendon, diagnosed via ultrasound, can predict future Patellar Tendinopathy. However – these changes can be seen in pain free individuals and may not change through the rehab process even as the client’s pain goes away.

What Do I Do If One Of My Athletes Has This?

Diagnosing & treating injuries and doing manual therapy are outside of the scope of most strength coaches … as such you need to find a good PT or Chiro who understands the condition and these populations.

That said – its important for an athlete to keep physically active while recovering from an injury to prevent loss of fitness. If there are movements that the athlete can do pain free then that is great. I’m well aware that some of the popular Patellar Tendinopathy rehab protocols, including some of the ones that I use with my own clients, involve working into some level of pain … but again that’s beyond the scope of a strength coach.

Protocols for Aches and Pains, Muscular Imbalances & Recovery

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Side note: in certain situations (i.e. preparing for a national or internal level competition) I understand there are some cases where it may be worth pushing through pain to compete – but that decision has to be made on a case by case basis to determine if “the juice is worth the squeeze” (to quote Brian Carroll).

Some of my favourite fitness exercises to help clients maintain (or improve) fitness while recovering from Patellar Tendinopathy follow two main themes

  1. Minimal knee flexion/hip dominance
  2. Low eccentric load

With that said – below are lists of strength, power & conditioning exercises I’ve had good luck with. Before anyone asks – if there’s an exercise you can do that’s not on the list but is pain free have at it. And if an exercise on this list is giving you pain don’t do it unless it’s highly necessary for you to achieve a MAJOR goal that justifies the risk involved.

Strength exercises:

  • High Box Squats
  • Sumo Squats
  • Wide Stance Leg Presses
  • Hip Hinge Movements (I.e. Good Mornings, Kettlebell Swings, Pullthroughs, Double & Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts, Sumo Deadlift, Trap Bar Deadlift)

Power exercises:

  • Underhand Medicine Ball Scoop Tosses (provided you have a high enough ceiling that you’re not concerned about hitting)
  • Dynamic Effort High Box Squats
  • For weightlifters: Clean & Snatch Pulls and Jump Shrugs (preferably from a hang position)
  • Band Resisted Broad Jump: To do this hook one end of a heavy band around the waist of your client, attach the other end to an immovable object (i.e. leg press machine, squat rack), have the client step ahead far enough to take the slack out of the band, then have them broad jump into the band.

Conditioning exercises:

  • Stationary bike (for HIIT, tempos, or steady state)
  • Battle Ropes
  • Sled Drags (forward or backwards)

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Over time, assuming the athlete gets proper rehab, the goal is to progress to regular weight training & power movements.

Patellar Tendinopathy is a big issue in jumping sports and in strength sports – but networking with a good rehab professional and providing a good strength training program & proper progression of training volume can certainly help to effectively manage the condition and minimize the chances of your athletes developing it in the future. As always – thanks for reading.

About The Author

Eric graduated with a B.Sc. in Honours Kinesiology from the University of Waterloo in 2013 where he studied under world famous back expert Stuart McGill and was a Research Apprentice in the Spine Biomechanics laboratory. During his time at the University he worked at the Waterloo Regional Cardiac Rehabilitation Foundation.

After completing his B.Sc. he researched exercise and osteoporosis under Lora Giangregorio at the UW Bone Health lab before completing his Masters of Physical Therapy at Western University in 2015. Eric’s areas of interest are musculoskeletal rehabilitation, strength training, and exercise for special populations.

Outside of his clinical work Eric also contributes to course development in the Kinesiology program at the University of Waterloo and has contributed to course development and review in the Western University Physiotherapy program. Eric also competes in powerlifting and became Canadian Powerlifting Union Coaching Workshop Certified in 2018. Eric can be reached via email at or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Don McCauley – Journey to Becoming a USAW Level V Coach

Don McCauley has forgotten more about weightlifting than most coaches will ever learn.

He’s coached some of the greatest American lifters ever over a coaching career that spans decades.

So we had the chance to sit him down and get him talking – about everything from his early athletic experiences to starting coaching to his influences to the greatest lifters he’s coached.

This video was recorded the day before Don went in for brain surgery. He’s doing well, but he still has a difficult road ahead of him as he battles this tumor. The Mash Mafia is doing what we can to help him financially during this time – and if you want to join us in supporting him, we all would be very grateful.



After giving his life to the service of athletes and the sport of weightlifting, Don McCauley has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and a brain tumor that caused a stroke. Now it's time for the sport to give back to him.

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