Category Archives for "Weightlifting"

Competition Nutrition with Simon Chang – The Barbell Life 278

Simon Chang is an impressive powerlifter – but he’s a really impressive nutrition coach.

It really goes without saying… Nutrition is important. We’ve got our Eat What You Want nutrition coaching here because we know it’s that crucial.

But what we talked about most with Simon was nutrition leading up to a meet.

How do you cut weight effectively? When should you start? How much can you reasonably cut?

Listen in for the answers!

World-Class Powerlifting & Weightlifting Meet Preparation

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World champion and world-class coach Travis Mash boils down decades of experience to give you the tools and knowledge you need to crush your next meet.


  • Eating frequency
  • His thoughts on supplements
  • How aggressively you can cut and maintain strength
  • Eating for two-a-day training sessions
  • Intrameet nutrition
  • and more…

All or Nothing Approach

Man I get tired of coaches trying to push their agenda onto folks with nothing more than their preference to back up their statements. It’s the absolute statements that literally drive me crazy.

Yesterday, I almost got caught up in an article which was bashing unilateral squatting and exalting bilateral squatting. I almost shared the article, and then I realized I would be doing the very thing I hate. Plus the article was using half-truths like most all-or-nothing articles will use.

Knowing the Pros and Cons

The article (I am going to leave the author unnamed because I appreciate his work for the most part) used Dr. Stuart McGill as a reference. Yes, Dr. McGill has written articles and has spoken on the dangers of rear leg elevated split squats performed incorrectly. He has also written and has spoken on the benefits of RLESSs, but the article left that part out. If I were a new coach, I would have bought right into the article. I probably would have never used single-leg movements at all from that point forward, which would be a major mistake.

Luckily I know Dr. McGill personally, and we have talked about unilateral versus bilateral movements in detail. The key is keeping the pelvis locked in to neutral as much as possible. Dr. McGill is clear about the following statement, “There is a biological tipping point for every exercise on planet Earth.” Once you cross that threshold, you are in dangerous waters. For example, the goodmorning was a great accessory movement for me. When I could perform sets of 5 with 405 pounds, I could easily squat over 700 pounds without any equipment. However, when I kept pushing the movement to the 600s, it probably contributed to a lumbar injury. Boy did I ever need a good coach! Sometimes I will cut someone off with his or her heavy squats or pulls, and I will secretly laugh to myself knowing I would have kept going as an athlete. Thank God I can use my brain as a coach much better than when I was an athlete.

The article isn’t about unilateral versus bilateral. No, I didn’t flip my stance on that issue. This article is aimed directly at coaches both young and old. As coaches we have a responsibility to properly enlighten the coaches who will come after us. You never know when a young coach is reading your work. You never know when one of your athletes will become the next great coach. We have to be responsible for our words.

Differences in Coaching Systems

Listen – there are several ways to prepare athletes, just like there are several ways to get folks off the couch and in shape. Your program will be developed based on your belief system, equipment available, time allotted to coach each person, the number of people getting coached at a time, and the number of coaches available for the athletes/clients.

For example, Mike Boyle loves unilateral squats, trap bar deadlifts, and hang cleans. Is he wrong in choosing these movements to prepare his athletes? Absolutely not, which shows with the results he is putting out. However, there is one aspect on which we will always disagree. He’s had a lot of bad results with coaching the bilateral back squat at his facility. He’s had a lot of injuries occur in his facility teaching the bilateral back squat. Therefore, he chooses not to use that movement in his coaching. I get it. I have to assume the injuries from back squatting are due to the sheer volume of athletes running through his facility each and every day. His facility is one of the busiest private athletic performance operations in America. I am coaching 7-10 at a time, and he’s coaching 50-100 at a time. That’s a big difference. I have never had an injury from a back squat occur in my facility, but it’s easy for me to coach and manage my athletes.

McGill has shown injury can occur with the rear leg elevated split squat as well, but it is a bit easier to coach – and with a safety squat bar the athletes can spot themselves. So I totally understand using unilateral squats, but I don’t understand demonizing bilateral squats. Both unilateral and bilateral squats can produce amazing results pertaining to increases in speed, vertical leap, and muscle mass. There is a lot of evidence to support both movements. If you heard the debates between Coach Boyle and me, then you heard a lot of evidence to support both sides. Each have their pros and cons, and it is up to the coach to decide which one fits their system the best. Obviously with my athletes the bilateral squat is a necessity, but we use unilateral work as well.

Absolutes and Non-Absolutes

Maybe I am sounding a bit wishy-washy, so let me make my point. I started this article criticizing an article that was totally pro-bilateral squatting and was bashing unilateral work. Then I went on to say Boyle was wrong in bashing bilateral squats in support of his unilateral system. My only point is to stop bashing a movement because you don’t like it, especially when the science doesn’t support your conclusions. There are a few absolutes in the industry – such as knee valgus is dangerous (most of the time), knee varus is dangerous (most of the time), and spinal flexion while squatting is a bad idea. Other than these, there aren’t very many more. Sorry to tell you!



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

Here are some “absolute” statements which are absolutely not absolute:

  • High bar squats are superior to low bar squats (or vice versa) – There are advantages and disadvantages of each. Normally the low bar will build the hips a bit more due to slightly more range of motion in the hips. The high bar will build the quads a bit more due to a greater range of motion in the quads.
  • Olympic weightlifting movements are superior to powerlifting movements for preparing field athletes (or vice versa) – There are advantages and disadvantages of each. Weightlifting is great for demonstrating power, rate of force development, and force absorption. Powerlifting is great for hypertrophy, increasing the potential for power development, and of course absolute strength. In a perfect world, the combination of disciplines is the best.
  • Unilateral squats are superior to bilateral squats (or vice versa) – see above

Question Everything

These are just a few to get you guys thinking. The next time you hear someone make an absolute statement, even if the person making the statement is someone you look up to and admire, I want you take that absolute statement and ask the following questions:

  1. Is there any scientific data to support this claim?
  2. Is there any scientific data that disputes this claim?
  3. Has anyone achieved good results training the way the expert is telling you not to?
  4. Does the expert have an agenda by making the claim (for example a new book or digital product)?
  5. What reasons would the expert have to be irrationally biased?

Luckily it’s always been my nature to question everything. It’s just in my DNA. Plus I have been burned a time or two buying into what some so-called expert was saying, only to find out later there was a better way. We are in the information era. Pub Med is but a click away. If someone is claiming a certain technique is the only way to lift, go to YouTube, watch some slow motion clips, and see for yourself. There is only one Messiah. The rest of us are not all-knowing. Therefore, you should question everything until you find the truth.

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

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Weightlifting Legend and USAW Board Member Jasha Faye – The Barbell Life 276

There have been a lot of changes lately with the USAW.

Rules have been changed, stipend structure has changed, and there are lot of upset people out there.

So we brought USAW board member Jasha Faye on the podcast to give us the straight answers about what’s really going on.

I have so much respect for my good friend who is trying to make American weightlifting the best it can be. Everyone has their opinions – and really at the end of the day, we’re all on the same team.

Plus – Jasha is a legend in the weightlifting world who has seen so much history in the sport. Of course we talk about all of that too!

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

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World


  • Doping allegations and the silliness behind them
  • The recent USAW debate about stipend changes and how best to support youth
  • How Dragomir changed everything in weightlifting
  • The game changer to successful recruiting
  • Why women’s weightlifting could change the future of the sport
  • and more…

World Championship Advice for Coaches

I am on a 15-hour plane ride from Hong Kong to New York, so I have had lots of time to think about the world championships. There were a lot of ups and downs with even more lessons to pass on to all of you.

That brings me to the first realization – I enjoy teaching all of you more than just about anything. Coaching is like the ministry. If you can do anything else in the world, you should. Coaching is filled with highs and some major lows. Those lows are going to absolutely break your heart. You are going to pour your heart and soul into your athletes, and you are not going to make a lot of money. That’s what makes coaches a group of people I want to help.

The last few months have absolutely broken my heart. Charles Poliquin died, Glenn Pendlay died, and Justin Thacker died. It’s not only the fact they all died. It’s the circumstances surrounding their lives that really opened my eyes. Justin died alone in his gym. Charles died unmarried. Glenn was married but didn’t get to see or talk to his son very often. These men gave their very soul to their profession – especially to their athletes. Their joy came from the success of their athletes. Unfortunately their sadness came from the struggles of their athletes, or in some of their cases their hearts were broken from their athletes leaving. It’s rough, man. My heart has been broken this week, and the worst part is most of it is my fault.

My Advice

1. Expectations and communication are priorities.

This probably sounds obvious for a lot of you, but not for me. I have focused way too long on goals and performance. I have avoided the hard conversations, and therefore caused a lot of animosity. As coaches we have to set the expectations of our athletes. I am not just talking about the obvious: show up on time for training, work hard, and recover even harder. I am talking about the expectations of team character, interaction among athletes, and training environment. After talking to Spencer Arnold, I think it is important your core athletes be involved with this process. It’s way more powerful to reinforce expectations the athletes help set. However, expectations without communication are useless as I just found out.

I think it is important to have weekly meetings as a team and weekly one-on-one meetings with your individual athletes. There was so much going on in my life during the last few months. If I had simply taken the time to communicate my thoughts to my athletes, so much negativity could have easily been avoided. If there is something heavy on your heart, get it out in the open and handle it.

Consider limiting the number of high-end athletes based on your time and emotional availability. This is where I for sure went wrong. The one thing I was the most excited about is the very thing that crushed me in the end.

If you are coaching NFL or NBA athletes, it can be totally different. For one thing, they will pay you – so it can be your major way of earning a living. With most weightlifters, that isn’t the case at all. They are amateur athletes for the most part, so there isn’t a great deal of money to go around. In some cases (like my own), we pay the athletes. It wasn’t the money by itself that made things hard – it was the combination of finances and emotions. A weightlifting coach has to make money just like anyone else, which can be from coaching athletes and the athletes paying a nominal fee, selling something online, or maybe sponsorships. Either way a coach has to work at paying the bills as well as preparing his or her athletes for greatness.




Coach Travis Mash shows you how to simply and scientifically diagnose and fix your squat weaknesses. Squat Gainz also contains six supplementary squat-focused programs you can add to your current strength work to drive your squat through the roof.

For an athlete to become great, a strong personality must accompany the athlete. When you have a gym filled with great athletes, you have a gym filled with strong personalities. Each of those personalities requires energy from the coach. Emails have to be answered. Videos have to be analyzed, and problems have to be addressed. Every day at least one of my athletes has an off day. Most athletes require the coach to be their emotional rock to let them know a bad day is just a bad day and nothing else.

It’s an emotional juggling act at times. When you are growing a family of your own, this can be quite challenging. Athletes are a lot of work. Don’t get me wrong – it’s part of the fun and feeling of accomplishment. When they win, you feel like a major part of the process. Yet it can drive a coach crazy when the number of athletes and emotional demand eclipses the emotional availability. I felt myself getting frustrated, and my frustration led to another major mistake – talking to others about the issues with athletes.

I believe that is the number one lesson I learned in all of this. I will never discuss an athlete with another athlete or coach for that matter. If you are so overwhelmed you feel you must vent your frustrations, you have too many athletes. Unfortunately in this sport, you can’t expect anyone to keep your conversation confidential. Plus like I said, if you feel so frustrated you can’t control your emotions and want to just blab those emotions and feelings to others, you need to get rid of some of your athletes.

I am 100% satisfied with the amount of top-end athletes I have right now. I won’t be adding any to my stable of athletes for the foreseeable future. I still have nine international-level athletes with several young ones coming up who will be on Team USA shortly. The lucky thing I have is Coach Crystal. She has become an amazing coach, and I see this as her time to show the world what she can do. It makes sense – her son is going to be one of the greatest American Weightlifters of all-time. That means he will be there when she travels, and that changes everything. If my wife and children were able to come with me, I would love the travel.

Let’s move on to a more fun topic and one I have been contemplating for several years now.

2. A mixture of maximum effort and moderate intensity repetitions seems to be producing better results for athletes.

I am blessed to travel the world with the best weightlifters in the world. I get to see the Chinese train. I get to see the Georgians. Even better, I get to talk programming with the other coaches. It appears the athletes who focus either too much on maximum effort or too much on moderate intensity aren’t performing as well as the athletes like Kate Nye or Boady Santavy. It seems simple, but most coaches choose one completely over the other. If you aren’t used to going heavy, it seems to really be making this final approach to the Olympics harder. It’s time to go for it. People are trying to lift as much as possible to solidify their bids for the Olympics. People like Boady are crushing 210kg clean and jerks. Kate Nye is hitting Junior World records because she is used to it.

Heck, if you watch the Chinese and Georgians train, you will see exactly what I am talking about. They go heavy the week of their meet. I watched their 73kg athlete performing clean pulls with 270kg/595lb. Now there is the other extreme as well. The people who go heavy all the time with no attention to detail seem to be too inconsistent. I believe this to be another example of moderation is key.

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@cantrell89kg last heavy day and looking awesome with 150kg/330lb Snatch and 170kg/374lb Clean & Jerk! I can’t wait to see him crush it on the platform at the #2019worldchampionships =========================== Here it is! Our New EBook “Squat Gainz” at: <Link in Bio> . This program explains how to get an athlete strong in the world’s favorite Barbell Movement the Back Squat. Whether you are a weightlifter, football player, powerlifter, or CrossFitter, this book is for you. . There are six programs to choose from and a guide for choosing the program best suited for you or your athlete. . These are supplemental programs designed to be implemented with your favorite strength & conditioning, powerlifting, weightlifting, or CrossFit Program. Enjoy! . . @intekstrength #intekstrength @athleteps @harbingerfitness #harbingerfitness @tfox66 #nikeweightlifting #athleteps @mg12power #mg12thepowerofmagnesium #wodfitters @wodfitters @strongerexperts #strongerexperts @leanfitnesssystems #LEANFit @shruggedcollective @andersvarner @usaweightlifting #usaw

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3. The number one key to becoming a great athlete remains Sport Mentality.

I am sure a lot of athletes will stop reading at this point. You are probably saying you don’t need any help. I have news for you. Unless you are the world champion, you need help. We can always work on our mental approach to sport and life. I watched Tian Tao badly miss a jerk, and then go up five kilograms for the win and crush it. I saw Meso, the other 96kg athlete, approach each of his attempts with an abundance of confidence and what seemed to be zero fear. He was actually having fun, where as some of his competitors looked completely scared. It was the difference.

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4. The Chinese taught all of us that a balanced approach to strength and technique is the real key.

I watched them train almost every day when I was in Thailand. I love their technique. When I say “their technique,” I don’t want to over-generalize. Just like Americans with different anthropometrics, there were slight differences from one Chinese athlete to the other. However, there were a few keys:

  • Generally a low butt start with elbows starting equal to or slightly behind their knees.
  • Tremendous use of their legs during the pull, keeping their whole foot through the floor for the majority of time.
  • Incredible timing at the top of their pulls with very little time in between the up and down portions

Their builds show an obvious attention to muscular symmetry. They go heavy what seems to be very often. Of course this is their competition peaking phase, but they seem to go heavier than most. They stick with their accessory work more than some of the other countries. They would definitely make Louie Simmons happy.

5. The beautiful aspect of coaching –

I want to end this article with this. I have been coaching Sean Rigsby since 2014 during our days at MuscleDriver USA. I watched a young man realize his dream of competing on the world stage, and it might have been my proudest moment as a coach. I watched his face fill with the pure joy of sport. He might be a grumpy grizzly bear, but he’s my grumpy grizzly. I love this young man and his future wife, Tayler Harris. I look forward to coaching Sean throughout his entire career. I hope all of you coaches out there will get to experience the feeling of helping your athletes reach their ultimate goals. It’s not as common as you might think. I encourage my athletes to reach for the stars – and as we all know, it’s not easy to grab a star. However, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s my personal art!

The 2019 IWF World Championships are finished for my athletes and me. You can probably tell it was a rough one emotionally, but the best one as far as lessons learned. It’s going to take me several months to disseminate the information, but I am confident I will be a better coach because of it. I hope all of you can learn from me and hopefully avoid some of these painful mistakes. I am excited to move forward. I have decided to pursue my Master’s Degree and PhD starting next semester. I will announce the school and the plan as soon as I sign everything. My wife and I are excited to start this new chapter. My athletes who are still with me are going to have some unique opportunities I will tell you all about as soon as everything is completed. Exciting times!

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

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

The Latest on the World of Weightlifting with JP Nicoletta – The Barbell Life 274

Right as this podcast comes out, Team USA will be in Thailand.

On this podcast, we’re joined by my good friend JP Nicoletta. He’ll be right there in Thailand filling us all in on what’s happening.

I’ll be there too with some of my lifters – and of course heavy hitters from all over the world will be there.

So JP shares with us his predictions today, all the latest that’s going on with the world’s best, and lots of insight on the back room strategies of the world.




Coach Travis Mash shows you how to simply and scientifically diagnose and fix your squat weaknesses. Squat Gainz also contains six supplementary squat-focused programs you can add to your current strength work to drive your squat through the roof.


  • Why I think Ilya is a joke
  • How Lasha is so impressive
  • Why this quad is like nothing we’ve ever seen before
  • Difficult weight class decisions
  • Crazy weight jump strategies with attempts
  • and more…

Two Fast Ways to PR Your Squat

The back squat may be the most popular barbell movement on Earth. Since the inception of CrossFit and the new box gym/garage gym movement, the squat has made up lots of ground on the pec-pumping bench press. Articles are written and videos are made almost weekly giving all of us content about this amazing exercise.

We discuss things like:

  • Hypertrophy
  • Technique
  • Programming
  • Targeting specific joints
  • Post Activation Potentiation

Yet there are two even simpler concepts that can equate to massive personal records and more weight used for hypertrophy repetitions. These two concepts can yield results right away versus training for 12 weeks in hopes the program might work. We get so caught up in all of the scientific data and trying to invent a program that is revolutionary, we forget two very basic yet powerful concepts:

  • Big squat-specific warm-up
  • Bracing

Big Squat-Specific Warm-Up

Too many of us get in a hurry, climb under a bar, and start pumping out the repetitions. This leads to inefficiency of the movement, fewer fibers recruited, and less proximal core stiffness as it relates to the lumbar spine.

A solid warm-up is key. Here are a few main points:

  1. Bike, Row, or Treadmill (2-5 minutes) – The goal is simply to raise the body’s core temperature a couple of degrees. This will make the rest of this warm-up much easier and more tolerable for all of you veterans like me.



    Coach Travis Mash shows you how to simply and scientifically diagnose and fix your squat weaknesses. Squat Gainz also contains six supplementary squat-focused programs you can add to your current strength work to drive your squat through the roof.

  3. Mobility – I front-squatted 250 kilograms / 550 pounds in 2017 at 44 years old. That’s the most weight I have front-squatted in my 40s. There was one big difference that day – I used Donnie Thompson’s body tempering. I made sure to hit the major joints used during big squats: back, hips, knees, and ankles. This allowed me to move in and out of necessary positions required for a massive squat, and I was able to move in and out of these positions without pain. If the body is experiencing pain, it’s not going to recruit the maximal fibers required for optimal performance. It’s perceiving a threat and is protecting you.

    Body tempering or foam rolling/lacrosse ball work will allow you to move into good positions without the aches and pains that come from aging and years of repetitions. In choosing a foam roller, density is key. A squishy foam roller isn’t going to produce much change in the tissue, so I recommend going with a firm/dense foam roller or even a PVC pipe. Lacrosse balls are great for targeting key points because they are dense with a small surface area.

    I am not a huge proponent of static stretching, but there are a couple of stretches which will go a long way regarding optimal movement in the squat. First the half-kneeling hip flexor stretch is a key for me – and if you are a powerlifter or weightlifter, it’s going to be key for you. As barbell athletes we stay in hip flexion. Over time this can cause our hip flexors to shorten, which causes an anterior pelvic tilt. This forward tilt of the pelvis makes squatting with good technique a lot harder than it has to be. Anterior pelvic tilt can also cause lower back issues – and trust me that’s one section of the body you want to be healthy. I love Squat University’s explanation of this stretch. Simply put, he recommends getting into a half-kneeling position and then performing the opposite of an anterior pelvic tilt. Here’s my explanation: with a vertical spine, flex the abdominals, flex the glute on the side of the kneeling knee causing a posterior pelvic tilt, hold the position for 10 seconds, and perform two repetitions of 10 seconds per side.

  4. Purposeful stability, coordination, and further mobilization – I like to use specific weighted movements to begin coordinating the required muscles for squatting that also encourage optimal movement and stability. I watch too many people spend countless hours focusing on mobility. My favorite warm-up weighted movements are:
    • Westside ATP aka belt squat- 20 seconds marching, 20 seconds squatting with kettlebell, and 20 seconds hinging. Three sets of all this.
    • Potato sack kettlebell squats with 3 deep breaths at the bottom for 2-3 sets of 8 repetitions
    • Lying supine on a bench with a band around your feet unilateral knee to chest. Obviously one leg remains neutral in isometric contraction, while knee flexion is performed on the other side. This is a great way to warm up the hip flexor and the glutes. Do 1-2 sets of 8-10 slow and controlled repetitions per side.
  5. Create proximal stiffness with the McGill Big 3 – I recommend all of my athletes perform Dr. Stuart McGill’s recommended side planks, bird dogs, and curl-ups before squatting, deadlifting, or performing any of the Olympic movements. Those three movements help to create stiffness around the spine – and in the words of McGill, “proximal stiffness equals distal movement.” Basically if the muscles around the spine are stiff and stable, the body will allow the limbs to move freely throughout required ranges of motion.

Brace for PRs

Most strength coaches would agree the key to a big squat is a strong back. We have countless debates and discussions on the best ways to strengthen the back. We talk about good mornings, front squat carries, and other exercises designed to improve the strength of spinal extensors. However there is something much more critical for ensuring spinal extension during a massive squat, and that is proper bracing.

You would be surprised at the number of athletes who don’t understand how to brace. I was working with an Olympic hopeful weightlifter at a camp in 2017 for USA Weightlifting. He wasn’t one of mine, but I was surprised to find out he had never heard about bracing. This same young man had lived at the Olympic Training Center, and yet had never even heard of this simple concept. The lesson learned here was never assume the level of an athlete equates to them knowing the basics. I recommend never assuming anyone understands basics. Just like all the great coaches from all of our favorite sport, as coaches we should ensure our athletes perfect the basics.

Here are a few easy ways to ensure tightness around the spine:

  1. Hands as close as mobility will allow – This will create maximal stiffness in the upper back around the thoracic spine, which is where most of us fail during a squat. Close hands along with the Valsalva maneuver (we will discuss more in just a bit) will ensure optimal stiffness.
  2. Tuck elbows under the bar – Too many people let their elbows flare out, which also allows the scapula to flare out. In my experience, the muscles related to the scapula are the gateway to the spinal extensors. When the scapula flares, then the back especially in the thoracic spine area starts to flex or round. Every great squatter on the planet knows this leads to the death of any big squat.
  3. Root your feet in the ground – I like to think about the big toe, pinky toe, and heel as roots growing into the ground. I literally dig them in, and then perform a cork screw (external rotation) in the ground to activate the external rotators. This might not have any direct relationship to the spine, but I have found weak feet equals weak back.
  4. Learn to use a belt – The Valsalva maneuver is a pretty amazing tool to use. Simply put, you will breathe in as much air as possible into the belly, pressing out against your belt in the front, sides, and even in the back – while keeping the mouth shut and not letting any air escape. This technique causes massive amounts of tension around the lumbar spine, and any great strength athlete will tell you a stable spine is a stronger one.




Coach Travis Mash shows you how to simply and scientifically diagnose and fix your squat weaknesses. Squat Gainz also contains six supplementary squat-focused programs you can add to your current strength work to drive your squat through the roof.

I hope this article helps all of you achieve the squat of your dreams. Let this be a lesson in the barbell continuum – and by that I mean most of us start out on our barbell journey’s seeking to maximize the basics. Then somewhere along the way, we try to get super scientific and fancy, causing us to forget the basics. Then we get older and wiser, shifting back to realizing the basics are what gets us strong quickly and keeps us safe. For all of you young coaches and athletes, I recommend none of you ever quit trying to perfect the basics. The basics will lead to the personal records you are dreaming about, and the basics will keep you safe and healthy along your journey.

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