Category Archives for "Weightlifting"

Case Study: Attempt Selection at Junior Nationals

The Mash Mafia just had an incredible weekend at Junior Nationals. I wanted to take the chance to brag on my team – but also to show how we handled attempt selection. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration, so here’s a glimpse into our thought processes and strategies.

We were at the Junior Nationals in Chicago, which also hosted the last chance qualifier for the Junior Pan American Championships. I rolled into the weekend with six amazing athletes – all of whom are currently on Team USA, have been on Team USA, or have the potential to make Team USA.

That’s pretty wild considering in 2013 I only had two national-caliber athletes. I remember looking around at coaches, such as Dave Spitz and Sean Waxman, and wanting to have incredible athletes like they did. At that point in my life, I was mainly known for producing incredible athletic performance athletes, but I had fallen back in love with the sport of Olympic weightlifting. There was nothing I could do about it, so I decided to dominate. Fast-forward six years and my entire squad is amazing. Any one of them would have been my top athlete in 2013.

We had high hopes going into this meet with such an all-star cast, and they exceeded my expectations. Almost every meet I have at least one athlete who doesn’t quite hit their potential or maybe they bomb out – not this meet, baby! All six hit personal record totals. That’s a record! Of course some of them wanted to do even better, but that’s simply weightlifting.

CHOOSING ATTEMPTS

Most of you reading this know we are an aggressive team. People come to me because they want to be great. No one comes to me saying, “Hey will you make me a 6:6 weightlifter?” We are shooting for world teams, American records, and now world records. We are not going to celebrate after the competition because we went 6:6 unless that 6:6 got us to our goal.

Here’s my thoughts about people bragging about going 6:6. If you open with something you can power snatch and power clean and end with a number 5 kilograms under your best – none of that is cool unless that’s what it took to win the Olympics. Now this is just my opinion, and I am not one of those coaches who believes everyone should think like me. I just want all of you to know what my thought process was.

So how do we choose attempts? It really depends on the athlete. Typically, it looks like this:

  • First Attempt: 93-95%
  • Second Attempt: 96-98%
  • Third Attempt: PR Attempt

For athletes who are good in competition, such as Ryan and Morgan:

  • First Attempt: 5 kilograms under their best
  • Second Attempt: match their training PR
  • Third Attempt: 2-5 kilograms more

Now for the case studies from Junior Nationals!

Meredith Alwine

Choosing attempts is also meet-specific. For example, this time for Meredith Alwine, we were trying to make the Senior Pan American Team. She was competing against Kate Nye and Mattie Rogers. All three girls are ranked in the top eight in the world – meaning all three could potentially medal at the Olympics, yet they’re battling each other in America. (That says a lot for weightlifting in America and how far it has come since Phil Andrews took the reins. We are blessed with an amazing staff all-around at USA Weightlifting.)

Back to the contest! This was not the typical competition. Our only goal was to make the Senior Pan American Team. We had determined that a 239kg total would make Meredith a lock for the 76kg class no matter what happened at this slugfest. We needed 238kg anyway since Kate already had a 237kg total. Bottom line, the goal was first to total 239kg and second to beat the other two girls.

I will explain our thought process for the attempt selection. We know, in normal conditions, we can out-clean and jerk the other two girls, but we have to stay close in the snatch. Right now, Meredith is a full-time student with a really heavy load, so I don’t get to see her lift as much as I would like. She’s capable of over 105kg, but she had only hit 101kg in competition as of the meet. We knew we needed about 102kg to have a chance, so we opened at 98kg and smoked it. We jumped to 102kg to either have two chances at the minimum we needed, or to hopefully smash it and then get 2-3kg more.

She missed her first attempt at 102kg, but she came back and crushed it for a meet PR. She was in the meet.

Mattie hit 105kg and Kate hit a huge 108kg. However, 5kg is definitely doable for Meredith to catch Kate in the clean and jerk. This is where it gets a little crazy. Our number one goal was 239kg, so we had to open at 132kg in the clean and jerk, so we could take a reasonable 5kg jump to 137kg on the second attempt. Did I mention 132kg is only 1kg below her best competition clean and jerk? Remember, we were at the meet to make the Senior Pan American Team, not to go 6:6.

She smashed 132kg, but then things got really crazy. Both Mattie and Kate missed their second attempts in the clean and jerk, so then we were in a holding pattern. They both missed their third attempts, leaving the door open for Meredith to beat both of the girls and to overtake Kate’s 137kg with a 138kg total. Instead of going 137kg, we went for 136kg. Guys, it was so close. She was over halfway up, when she got stuck and went back down. Then she almost bounced out of the hole again. It was heartbreaking for us. Meredith can jerk 145kg, so all she had to do is stand up.

We had a third attempt, but she was spent from that grind of a second attempt. Here are the positives. It was Meredith’s personal record in the snatch and total, and victory was easily within our grasp. We ended up in a tie with Kate, and Mattie winning by 2kg. Meredith once again out-clean and jerked both girls. It was incredibly exciting, and I look forward to battling for many years to come.

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@meredithalwine with a PR Snatch of 102kg, Clean & Jerk of 132kg/290lb, and PR Total of 234kg. We put 136kg on the bar to make the Pan Am Teams and she darn near stood up with it. It’s crazy to have 3 of the top 8 women in the world battling in the same country. I’d say @usa_weightlifting is coming into its own! =================== www.mashelite.com <link in bio> for: . -Online Video Seminar . – Mash Mafia Online Team . Feats of Strength Online Meet (proceeds benefit 501c3 Mash Weightlifting Team . -Hundreds of Free Articles & Workouts . -Donate to the 501c3 nonprofit team . – 21 Awesome E-Books . -Seminars . -FREE “Mash Method” E-Book . -FREE “The Barbell Life Podcast” . . @intekstrength #intekstrength @athleteps @harbingerfitness #harbingerfitness @tfox66 #nikeweightlifting #athleteps @mg12power #mg12thepowerofmagnesium #wodfitters @wodfitters @strongerexperts #strongerexperts @leanfitnesssystems #LEANFit

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So do you see the attempt selection isn’t as simple as saying I am always going to do xyz?

Hannah Dunn

Let’s look at one of our other boss ladies, Hannah Dunn. Hannah was our youngest athlete at this competition. Hannah is still getting used to the mental component of this crazy sport. Our goal was to hit personal records, move up the youth ranking list, and to have fun. I really wanted to go 6:6 in this case to build confidence, but I also wanted to total 160kg in the 59kg class to move her up the charts to make the Youth Pan American Team later in the year.

Here’s what her attempts looked like:

Snatch

  • 65kg Opener: 93%
  • 68kg Second Attempt: 97%
  • 70kg Third Attempt: 100%

Clean and Jerk

  • 85kg Opener: 93%
  • 88kg Second Attempt: 97%
  • 90kg Third Attempt: 99%

I was being as conservative as I was going to get in this instance. As soon as she gets confident in what she’s doing, we will slowly get a bit more aggressive in her attempt selection. The funny thing is she missed both of her second attempts, so this is where I pushed a little to test her mental progress. We needed 160kg to get in the game. 155-157kg was simply not going to cut it anymore, so we jumped up on each third attempt to where we needed to be. We didn’t attempt a PR clean and jerk this time because there was no point. We needed 160kg and more importantly we needed her walking away confident. That’s exactly what happened. Now we will go to Youth Nationals with all the confidence to crush it.

I was so proud of this girl. We worked through so much this training cycle to have this breakthrough meet. It was one of my most satisfying moments as a coach. Overcoming challenges makes things exciting. (This is why I love coaching Hunter Elam because there is a different challenge each day…. I am sort of kidding.)

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Ryan Grimsland

Ryan Grimsland, on the other hand, has all the confidence and then some. I am never worried about bombing or doing poorly with this kid because he will simply find a way to make the lift. We were originally going to be conservative at this one since he has Youth Worlds in three weeks, but he called me a few days before the competition with an idea. He wanted to go big at this meet because all of his friends would be there. He knew he could feed off of the energy. He was also going head to head with the top 67kg senior athletes, since they were battling for the Senior Pan Am Team. He thought he would kill it and therefore boost his confidence for Youth Worlds. I told him if his warm ups looked great, then we would go big.

Here’s what his attempts looked like:

Snatch

  • First Attempt 120kg: 96%
  • Second Attempt 125kg: 100%
  • Third Attempt 130kg: 104%

Clean and Jerk

  • First Attempt 145kg: 97%
  • Second Attempt 152kg: 101%
  • Third Attempt 155kg: 103%

He smoked his first two snatches, and darn near got the 130kg. I have no doubts he will crush it at Worlds. On his opener clean and jerk, he totaled 270kg, which was a 17kg PR total. But then we jumped big. We wanted 286kg to have a small chance of making the Senior Pan Am Team. He missed his second and third attempts – but now we know a 275kg total is easily within his reach, which is predicted to medal at Youth Worlds. However, I think we can easily total 280kg with a slightly more conservative approach – hitting a 128kg snatch and a 152kg clean and jerk. This meet left us with several options. It also landed Ryan as the third best junior, while still a youth athlete, right behind CJ Cummings and Harrison Maurus.

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Obviously by now you all know that we killed it, but here’s one more highlight video because I freaking love this team. 1 overall Gold @ryangrimsland (also second to CJ Cummings for best lifter), 2 Silver @mad_lifts_15 and @reagan.henryyyyy , @hannah_dunnjoy PRed everything @nathan_clifton set PRs after a deathly illness, and @meredithalwine hit PR in the Snatch and Total and she was going lift for lift in the most epic battle in American Female history. Side note, we left with two boys on the Junior Pan Am Team and one on the Junior World Team all Youth age. We also left with two girls sitting pretty for Youth Pan Ams. I’ll take it! =================== www.mashelite.com <link in bio> for: . -Online Video Seminar . – Mash Mafia Online Team . Feats of Strength Online Meet (proceeds benefit 501c3 Mash Weightlifting Team . -Hundreds of Free Articles & Workouts . -Donate to the 501c3 nonprofit team . – 21 Awesome E-Books . -Seminars . -FREE “Mash Method” E-Book . -FREE “The Barbell Life Podcast” . . @intekstrength #intekstrength @athleteps @harbingerfitness #harbingerfitness @tfox66 #nikeweightlifting #athleteps @mg12power #mg12thepowerofmagnesium #wodfitters @wodfitters @strongerexperts #strongerexperts @leanfitnesssystems #LEANFit

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Fantastic day for Ryan!

Reagan Henry

Reagan Henry crushed it with the breakout meet of the weekend. Reagan is a CrossFit Games teenage athlete who has made the switch to weightlifting. I knew she could be a Team USA athlete, and she proved it this weekend. One thing I have to mention is she bombed out at the American Open, and she was totally panicking two weeks prior to the meet because her snatch was inconsistent. It forced us to be a bit conservative, so here’s what her attempts looked like:

Snatch

  • First Attempt 70kg: 91%
  • Second Attempt 74kg: 96%
  • Third Attempt 77kg: 100%

Clean and Jerk

  • First Attempt 90kg: 94%
  • Second Attempt 93kg: 97%
  • Third Attempt 100kg: 104%

Since she was struggling mentally with snatches, we were forced to open up a bit more conservatively. The goal was to get near or to tie her training personal record on her third attempt. She went 3:3 in the snatch, equaling her best in training. Then we turned her a little loose on the clean and jerk. We only went up to 93kg on the second because we were battling another young lady.

After we solidified her silver medal, we jumped big to 100kg. We knew she could clean it with a PR of 110kg, but her best jerk was only 96kg coming into this meet. We had hammered her jerk technique during this training cycle, so we knew we had a chance. She went out there and stuck it for a massive meet PR of 177kg. Right now she is sitting on the Youth Pan American Team pretty solidly, and she darn near made the Junior Squad in her first ever Junior Nationals. Now the sky is the limit for this girl. She’s going to be very hard to beat from here on out.

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16-year-old @reagan.henryyyyy crushed it going 6:6! Ended with this PR Snatch of 77kg/170lb, PR Clean & Jerk of 100kg/220lb, and PR Total of 177kg! Definitely sitting on several Team USA’s, so now time to let the dust settle and make some decisions. Exciting! =================== www.mashelite.com <link in bio> for: . -Online Video Seminar . – Mash Mafia Online Team . Feats of Strength Online Meet (proceeds benefit 501c3 Mash Weightlifting Team . -Hundreds of Free Articles & Workouts . -Donate to the 501c3 nonprofit team . – 21 Awesome E-Books . -Seminars . -FREE “Mash Method” E-Book . -FREE “The Barbell Life Podcast” . . @intekstrength #intekstrength @athleteps @harbingerfitness #harbingerfitness @tfox66 #nikeweightlifting #athleteps @mg12power #mg12thepowerofmagnesium #wodfitters @wodfitters @strongerexperts #strongerexperts @leanfitnesssystems #LEANFit

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Nathan Clifton

If you want to hear a story about overcoming adversity, listen to Nathan Clifton’s story. First, I want you guys to know Nathan is also a CrossFit Games teenage athlete and he placed fourth in the world last year. The year before, he didn’t make it at all. Yes, he went from staying at home and watching to fourth in the world in one year. I am telling you guys this to let you know the tenacity of this young man.

A few months ago, Nathan was well on his way to making a Junior Team USA Squad. Then about three weeks before the Junior Nationals, he had a full-blown gall bladder attack lasting nine days. He was uncertain he would even be able to go. Now here we have a totally different deal.

He decided to compete for the experience, but he was obviously not going to be himself. The first thing I did was look at his declared total. He declared 240kg, which meant we had to open with numbers totaling at least 220kg because of the 20kg rule. (You have to open up within 20kg of your declared total.) We made the following attempts:

Snatch

  • First Attempt 98kg: 93%
  • Second Attempt 102kg; 97% missed
  • Third Attempt 102kg: 97% missed

Clean and Jerk

  • First Attempt 128kg: 88%
  • Second Attempt 135kg: 93%
  • Third Attempt 140kg: 97% missed

As you can see, we were way more conservative in the clean and jerk. Getting sick like Nathan did takes away the leg strength. However, at the end of the day he was around 93% of his best, and that’s about as good a result as we could have hoped for. I was expecting over a 260kg total, but that was before his body attacked itself. I am very proud of his performance. The funny thing is he hit a 1kg total PR, and we all know he’s capable of so much more. By the end of the year, I am confident Nathan will be right where he should be.

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18-year-old @nathan_clifton battles through some major adversity to hit this 98kg/216lb Snatch and 135kg/297lb Clean & Jerk for a 1kg PR Total of 233kg. Two weeks out he experienced a massive Gall Bladder attack that left him deathly sick for 10 days. However he battled through it, and put together a nice total. He’s capable of a 250+ total, but we will have to wait. Proud of you Nathan! =================== www.mashelite.com <link in bio> for: . -Online Video Seminar . – Mash Mafia Online Team . Feats of Strength Online Meet (proceeds benefit 501c3 Mash Weightlifting Team . -Hundreds of Free Articles & Workouts . -Donate to the 501c3 nonprofit team . – 21 Awesome E-Books . -Seminars . -FREE “Mash Method” E-Book . -FREE “The Barbell Life Podcast” . . @intekstrength #intekstrength @athleteps @harbingerfitness #harbingerfitness @tfox66 #nikeweightlifting #athleteps @mg12power #mg12thepowerofmagnesium #wodfitters @wodfitters @strongerexperts #strongerexperts @leanfitnesssystems #LEANFit

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Morgan McCullough

I saved the big boy for last, 15-year-old Morgan McCullough. Our goal here was to hit over 300kg total for a PR number one, and number two to total between 317kg and 320kg to lock a spot on the Junior World or Junior Pan Am Team. Morgan is just like Ryan. If he is confident, I am confident. I wanted to open at a 130kg snatch and a 175kg clean and jerk, but I needed him to feel confident. His warm ups were money, so here’s what we did:

Snatch

  • First Attempt 130kg: 96%
  • Second Attempt 135kg: 100%
  • Third Attempt 137kg: 101% miss

Clean and Jerk

  • First Attempt 175kg
  • Second Attempt 181kg miss
  • Third Attempt 182kg miss

Morgan is a game-day snatcher because he has been struggling for the last few weeks. Then he starts warming up, and he turns into a superhero. It was a beautiful thing. His 135kg snatch and his 175kg clean and jerk led to a 15kg PR total. He was definitely capable of more in the clean and jerk. But with a few tweaks, I am confident in 140kg and 185kg during Worlds in three weeks. Like Ryan, we are looking to medal and preferably to take gold. Here’s the beautiful thing – he made the Junior Pan Am Team going to Cuba at 15-years-old. This kid has endless potential.

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15-year-old @mad_lifts_15 with a competition PR Snatch 135kg/297lb, competition PR Clean & Jerk 175kg/385lb, and a massive competition PR Total of 310kg! He earned a spot on the Junior Pan Am Team with this performance, so we are pumped to see what this year brings for this young man. =================== www.mashelite.com <link in bio> for: . -Online Video Seminar . – Mash Mafia Online Team . Feats of Strength Online Meet (proceeds benefit 501c3 Mash Weightlifting Team . -Hundreds of Free Articles & Workouts . -Donate to the 501c3 nonprofit team . – 21 Awesome E-Books . -Seminars . -FREE “Mash Method” E-Book . -FREE “The Barbell Life Podcast” . . @intekstrength #intekstrength @athleteps @harbingerfitness #harbingerfitness @tfox66 #nikeweightlifting #athleteps @mg12power #mg12thepowerofmagnesium #wodfitters @wodfitters @strongerexperts #strongerexperts @leanfitnesssystems #LEANFit

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ONWARD FOR 2019

Well that’s the story. I just told you about six different athletes with six different strategies. I hope you can learn from these case studies.

We are going to have a lot of these updates this year. As of right now, we have two youth going to Youth Worlds, we have two juniors going to Junior Pan Ams, one junior going to Junior Worlds, and one senior go to Senior Pan Ams. We have several qualified for the various bronze and silver international meets. Right now we have four looking to go to Youth Pan Ams later in the year, and three more Seniors looking to go to Senior Worlds. I am excited for 2019. I hope this article helped you all a little bit.

The Great Debate: Triple Joint Extension or Catapult?

Today two of my mentors were arguing again about technique in weightlifting.

Here’s the funny part – they agree on almost everything, such as:

  • start position – give or take a bit here or there.
  • keeping the chest up during the drive off of the floor.
  • keeping long arms with elbows out during the pull.
  • sweeping the bar back during the pull.
  • driving with the legs with the whole foot through the floor for as long as possible.
  • staying over the bar for as long as possible.

Here’s what they disagree on:

  • triple joint extension (ankle, knees, and hips) being a thoughtful process
  • vs.

  • focusing on a quick turnaround at the top – with no thought to triple joint extension (even though it probably will happen)

TECHNIQUE “ABSOLUTES”

These coaches would tell you their disagreement comes from more than this, but I have spoken with them both many times – and I know the truth. I have taken advice from both of them, and I continue to do so. They would claim their take on technique is absolutely right, so they believe their way of teaching is an absolute. This is funny really, and I will tell you why.

They have both produced incredible athletes. They have both produced athletes for Team USA at the highest of levels. They have both produced multiple international athletes. So can one really say they are better than the other? Can one really claim their technique is an absolute?

I’ve been referred to as a catapult coach several times. I assume that’s because I’ve coached with Don McCauley and I coached Jon North. I don’t consider myself a catapult coach or a triple extension coach. I am a weightlifting coach. I will teach my athlete anything I have to for them to make the lift.

I’ve coached athletes to spend less time at the top because their delay was costing them precious seconds to get under the bar. I’ve coached athletes to jump at the top to teach them an aggressive finish and to accelerate through the middle. I’m not married to a technique. There are only a few absolutes in my book:

  • Stay over the bar.
  • Drive with the legs, keeping the shoulders higher than the hips.
  • Keep the bar close to the body with a sweeping motion.
  • Hips shouldn’t travel past vertical when meeting the bar.
  • The bar should continue to accelerate throughout the pull.
  • An athlete should continue to pull under the bar until they meet the bar.
  • Meet the bar stable.

There might be a few more, but not many.

If an athlete has won the Olympics and/or broken a world record with a certain technique, then that technique is a possibility. Yuri Vardanyan barely extended at all when he clean and jerked or snatched. Then there are athletes, such as Dmitry Klokov, who seem to have massive finishes at the top of the pull. My point is, who cares as long as the lifter is progressing toward their goals?

I will probably make both of these amazing coaches mad at me, and that is certainly not the point to this article. My point is maybe they could learn from each other if they would just chill out. I believe there is a time and place for both of their approaches.

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ADJUSTMENTS BY ATHLETE

I have a young girl right now who I am coaching. She’s going to be an amazing weightlifter. I look for her to earn a trip with Team USA this year. Her problem from the beginning has been spending too much time at the top.

She demonstrates massive amounts of plantar flexion and shrugs at the traps with all she has. This caused her to be slow under. Her transition from the second pull to the third pull was delayed. We’ve really focused on extending at the hips and then immediately ripping under the bar. She doesn’t do any typical snatch or clean pulls. We only do snatch and clean deadlifts. We’ve noticed a massive improvement, which has led to a great deal of personal records during this training block.

There’s another athlete who was having trouble accelerating through the middle. He is very fast under the bar, but he wasn’t creating a lot of propulsion. Therefore, the bar height simply wasn’t there for him to progress. We performed multiple sessions of snatch and clean pulls, programmed in two to three sessions of box jumps per week, and focused on a jump motion. That’s a big taboo for some, but in this case it worked. This athlete simply needed to get better through the middle of the lift. This formula was perfect for him.

I don’t have a problem with someone having a system or a way of teaching. I have progressions for the lifts I teach, but I am not married to any of them – except the absolutes I mentioned earlier. Every athlete is taught the same:

  • Feet start at hip width and jump to shoulder width.
  • Arms should be long and elbows turned out.
  • The setup starts with the back neutral, knees slightly in front of the elbows, and weight in the middle of the foot.
  • The pull begins by pushing your feet through the floor, immediately squeezing the bar in with your lats, and moving the knees out of the way by pushing them out and back. (Another absolute is to never go around the knees.)
  • Once the bar is slightly below the knees, the shoulders and hips rise at the same time until the second pull begins.
  • Stay over the bar for as long as possible.
  • The bar meets the upper thighs in the clean, and in the crease of the hip in the snatch.
  • Once the hips extend, shoulders finish up and slightly back, and the pull under begins the minute the hips extend.

These are just a few of my technical cues. There are so many more, but you get the point. The fact is I am not solely committed to any one of them. I have just found most athletes respond well to these cues in my experience. These are just where I start. The response by the athlete dictates where we end up.

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DIFFERENT APPROACHES

I just encourage all of you up-and-coming coaches to avoid being dogmatic – it will paralyze you. I guess the bright side is I have learned massive amounts from each of these coaches, so I benefit from each. At the end of the day I benefit because I am not fixed completely on any one particular technique. I stick to basic physics and biomechanics. I also watch other great lifters from around the country and world. I break down their technique to see if I can pick up something new. I believe you will all benefit from this approach.

I want to be clear on one more thing. I love both of these coaches like family. I would do anything for either of them, and they know it. Personally, I believe it’s like most wars that last several years – neither side remembers why they are fighting. They just know they’re not supposed to agree.

The Controversial Beauty of Female Athletes with Sarah Davies – The Barbell Life 242

I’ll go out on a limb and say Sarah Davies is the only person to compete internationally in both Olympic weightlifting and also beauty pageants.

And during a recent international competition, the organizers tried to prevent her from participating in the swimsuit portion… because they said she was too muscular.

Are we serious?

That just got my blood boiling, so I had to talk with Sarah about it.

So if you want a wild look at the inside of beauty pageants – both the good and the bad – then give this podcast a listen.

And also, if you know me, OF COURSE we talked about Sarah’s weightlifting.

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

  • The controversy about her being “too muscular”… and how she handled it
  • How she brilliantly structured her training and nutrition to minimize any impact from her trip
  • Working through childhood bullying to learn to accept and love her body
  • How she has mastered the mental aspect of competition
  • Setting goals so big that people laugh at you
  • and more…

A Reminder Why We Coach

Sometimes in life I find myself in what feels like a hamster wheel.

I get up, write a bit, answer emails, train, coach, hang with my family, and go to bed. This goes on day after day, and week after week. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wonder if I am really making a difference. If I am just collecting a paycheck, there are easier ways.

I coach because I want to help young men and women reach their goals. I want to see them become better humans, and I want to see them living a healthier lifestyle after they leave me as a coach. If this isn’t happening, I’m going to open a different business or just get a job.

A BLAST FROM THE PAST

This morning, I was training at one of my original gyms, Jack King’s Gym in Winston-Salem, NC. Number one, I love this gym because everyone leaves me alone to crush my grind, and it’s the most hardcore gym in America. You know – the kind of place that’s dirty with chalk-filled air. Man, I love it!

Toward the end of my grind, in walked one of my former athletes, Grayson Alberty. I didn’t even recognize him. Now he is tall, lean, and muscular. He also runs his father’s plumbing business, and he’s only 19 years old. He trained with me about six years ago. If I remember right, he was having a tough time in school, so he would come hang out with me right after school. He was into training for a bit, but then – like many people – he stopped coming. I remember being pretty sad because I invested a lot into this kid and had wanted to see his life improve.

Some coaches can just shrug it off when an athlete leaves. I am not wired that way. I connect very personally with each and every athlete. That’s why I am a good coach, but it’s also why I feel crushed when they stop.

GOALS AS A COACH

As a coach, I have a few goals with each of my athletes.

  • I want to help them reach whatever goals they have on their hearts. (Notice I said ‘their’ and not ‘their parents’ goals.)
  • I want to be a catalyst for the athletes becoming better human beings. I want them to be exceptional spouses, fathers, mothers, business owners, doctors, and lawyers. (We have an exceptional record in this department.)
  • I want them to take the gift of fitness and continue it for the rest of their lives – while sharing it with the people they love.

That’s it! These are my goals for all of my athletes. It’s got to be about more than just their athletic development.

INFLUENCE AS A COACH

Sport coaches are important to athletes for sure. My high school football coach was very inspirational in my life. Like most high school coaches, he also doubled as the strength coach. It was in the weight room we developed our relationship. In college I was way closer with my strength and conditioning coach, Coach Mike Kent, than any other coach.

As strength and conditioning coaches we have to keep this in mind. We will be with these athletes a bigger part of the year than their sport coach. We will also be with them in smaller groups, allowing us to form stronger bonds. Several of my athletes have thanked me at their senior banquets and senior games before their sport coach, which every time was a massive honor. However with honor comes great responsibility, or at least it should. Of course if you are a weightlifting or powerlifting coach, you will probably be even closer with your athletes. You are their strength coach and sport coach, and that’s a big responsibility.

Grayson is an example of planting a seed only to see the seed blossom years later. Our job is to plant as many seeds as possible, but ultimately it is up to the athlete to let the seed sprout and bloom. Today I got to see one of my seeds in full bloom, and it totally rejuvenated my desire to coach and help young people.

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DIFFERENT KINDS OF SUCCESS STORIES

Everyone knows us for our first goal because we have helped several athletes reach their incredible goals like:

  • Tommy Bohanon to the NFL
  • Cade Carney to starting running back for Division I Wake Forest University
  • Landon Harris making the Division I High Point University basketball team (after not making the team during the prior two years)
  • Multiple World Team members to Team USA in weightlifting (including four in 2018: Hunter Elam, Nathan Damron, Jordan Cantrell, and Meredith Alwine)
  • Multiple Junior World Team members (with two sitting on the team right now)
  • Multiple Youth Pan Am Team members to Team USA in weightlifting (including three in 2018: Morgan McCullough, Ryan Grimsland, and Jared Flaming)
  • Morgan McCullough taking the gold medal at the 2018 Youth Pan Am championships

That’s awesome, and of course I am proud of all my athletes. However, I am just as proud of my athletes who have gone on to become incredible humans.

  • Adee Cazayoux is the CEO of Working Against Gravity – a multi-million dollar business that pretty much owns the nutrition world.
  • Jared Enderton is now a social media celebrity and the head weightlifting coach for Invictus Weightlifting.
  • Malcolm Moses-Hampton is a doctor in Chicago.
  • Michael Waters, former Penn State Wrestler, is now in the Special Forces.
  • Hayden Bowe is one of the founders of Hybrid Performance Method and Gym.
  • Greg Nuckols and his amazing wife, Lyndsey Nuckols, are the owners of Stronger by Science. They’ve been featured in Forbes Magazine.
  • Landon Harris, the same guy who made the basketball team for High Point University, is now a banker applying to MBA Schools. I actually wrote a recommendation for his Harvard application.

RESPONSIBILITY AS A COACH

We have a big responsibility as strength and conditioning coaches. Our responsibilities go way past helping our athletes reach their goals. Our goal should never be to glamorize ourselves as coaches. We become popular by the results of our athletes, and by the recommendation of our athletes. Our legacy is our athletes. It’s what our athletes do in their sport, and throughout their lives. It’s in the information we share with the world.

Becoming a coach is much like becoming a pastor. Being a pastor is hard work. If you are contemplating going into the ministry, most pastors will tell you that if you feel in your heart that you can do anything else, you probably should. But if you can’t imagine a life where you’re not a pastor, then pursue it.

It’s the same with being a strength coach. Don’t do it for the money, and definitely don’t do it for the fame. Do it for the love of others. I have never written anything more true, and I hope all of you men and women out there considering becoming a coach will read this before making a decision.

Today was a great day seeing Grayson Alberty. It’s days like today that encourage me to push on. However, there are a lot of hard days you will have to endure as a strength coach. With all of this being said, the beautiful days are simply amazing, and I can’t imagine anything else outside of my family and my God bringing me so much joy.

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The Most Common Technique Mistakes for the Main Lifts

Whether you are a strength and conditioning coach, CrossFit coach, Olympic weightlifting coach, or powerlifting coach, you must possess two crucial abilities – visually recognizing dysfunctional movement patterns and correcting those dysfunctional movement patterns.

A lot of coaches are good at recognizing dysfunctions. Simply pointing out a movement flaw is the easy part. The difficulty lies in properly fixing an athlete’s dysfunctions – and that’s what separates a good coach from a great one.

I hear way too many coaches say things like:

  • The bar drifted in front.
  • Your arms bent on the catch.
  • You pushed the bar out on the dip and drive.
  • Your butt came up too high in your squat.

Believe it or not, most athletes already know these issues. They need to know how to fix the issues – not simply to be reminded of them. That’s what this article is about.

CORRECTING COMMON ISSUES – THE BIG SIX

Of course I can’t give you the fix to every mistake an athlete can make – it would take a series of books. However, I can give a few for each lift, and over time – in a series of these articles – I can help you start to understand dysfunctions and corrections.

This year, I am determined to make a change in the coaching world. I ended 2018 recognizing the need for change. All at once it was clear to me what I needed to do. I was tired of talking and complaining about the issues in coaching. I am now determined to make a difference – which will be the moral of the story for 2019 and the foreseeable future. It’s time to make a difference. If you’re a coach or an athlete, I want to provide you with tools to reach your goals.

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I’m going to start with the big six lifts I have so often written about:

  • Snatch
  • Clean
  • Jerk
  • Back squat
  • Bench press
  • Deadlift

I will write about other movements during this series – such as front squat, trap bar deadlifts, and push press – but the focus will be the big six for now.

SNATCH AND CLEAN

MISTAKE: Hips push the bar out during bar-to-body contact

CAUSE: Pushing the bar out in front happens when the hips are pushed past vertical. This can be for two main reasons.

REASON #1 The bar drifts forward off the floor, leaving it in front of the body, and forcing the hips to reach for it to make contact.

VERBAL FIXES FOR #1: If the issue is the bar drifting away from the body off of the floor, here are some of the cues we use:

  • Chest up or to the crowd
  • Drive the feet through the floor
  • Sweep the bar in with the lats during the entire pull

The goal is to focus on using external cues versus internal cues. Internal cues are specific instructions which direct an athlete’s attention to a certain region of the body or a muscle group. External cues direct the athlete to an intended movement outcome or a direct shift in performance of a movement (example: push with legs versus thinking about pulling). External cues have been found to work quite a bit better than internal cues. I don’t think any weightlifter on earth is really thinking about internal or external rotation during the catch of a snatch.

DRILLS FOR #1: if the bar is drifting forward off of the floor:

  • Snatch or clean lift off from the floor just to the knees and pause at knees. Breaking the movement into sections makes it easier to focus on those specific sections. Isometrics are great for teaching the body proper movement patterns and strengthening the body in a particular position.
  • Use the Mac Board. We use the Mac Board (invented my Coach Don McCauley), which is a piece of plywood, designed to hang the athlete’s toes off the end – which teaches them to push through the middle of their foot. You can’t let the bar drift forward without getting pulled forward onto the toes. This will give the athlete visceral feedback or instinctual feedback much more effectively than any other kind of feedback.

Here’s a video:

REASON #2 Another reason the hips are pushed past vertical is there can be a misconception of what is really happening. To the blind eye, it looks like the top weightlifters are throwing their hips into the bar when in reality they are just standing up, sweeping the bar in, and upper-cutting the bar, causing a vertical lift.

VERBAL FIXES FOR #2: If the issue is pushing the hips past vertical during bar-to-body contact:

  • Stand up tall
  • Long legs
  • Keep the bar right up the shirt

DRILLS FOR #2: if the hips are pushing past vertical:

  • Power Position Cleans or Snatches teaching the athlete where the hips should be during contact.
  • Snatch or Clean from the floor pausing in the power position once again teaching the body where it should be during this phase of the movement.

THE JERK

MISTAKE: Hips landing behind bar during the catch phase

We are working on this one with a few of our athletes right now, so it’s fresh on my mind. If the hips are behind the bar, there is nothing to support the weight overhead. It would be like building a slanted wall to hold up a roof. That would be a bad idea, and so is this.

CAUSE: It’s just bad footwork really. For whatever reason, the athlete has established the wrong motor pattern for the split jerk. You can see it a lot of times during the warm-ups with long and slow splits, or extra-wide splits. The split is a very fast thing, with the back foot being driven down as the anchor. If the back foot goes out the back, you can guarantee the hips will follow.

VERBAL FIXES:

  • Fast feet
  • Back foot down
  • Drive the bar vertical

If you don’t drive the bar vertical, it’s really hard to get into the correct position. This seems obvious, but too many athletes are solely focusing on the split – forgetting to drive the bar up.

DRILLS:

  • Split cleans from blocks – I got this one from the man himself, Coach Sean Waxman. We set the athlete up toward the back of the platform, so they have visceral feedback regarding the back foot. They can’t throw the back foot out the back without going off of the platform. The drill teaches them proper footwork and needs to be performed frequently to ingrain the movement pattern into the athlete’s brain.
  • Press from split – Once again we are using isometrics to teach the body where it should be during the split and to strengthen that position. The key is keeping the hips under the bar, equal distribution of weight with the back and front foot, and back knee slightly bent but firm.
  • Here’s the press from the split position:

(If you want to see a case study on how Nathan Damron made some improvements to his jerk, read it here.)

BACK SQUAT

Arguably, the back squat is the most functional movement on earth. Today I want to talk about a mistake I believe is easily preventable.

MISTAKE: The hips coming up and the chest dropping forward out of the bottom during the ascent

CAUSE: Once your hips fly up and the chest drops, it’s almost impossible to recover. It could be a strength issue, but it’s probably a movement pattern dysfunction.

VERBAL FIXES:

  • Drive your chest or back into the bar – I use “or” because some people respond better to chest and some to back. Either way the key is to drive into the bar, activating the spinal extensor muscles, which are responsible for keeping your spine neutral and in position. This cue will also keep the hips closer to the shoulders, keeping a smaller spinal flexor moment, giving the spinal extensors less to overcome.
  • Feet through the floor – This cue works well only in conjunction with the previous cue. This cue gets the legs driving, while “drive your chest into the bar” keeps you in the right position.

DRILLS:

  • Bottoms – This is where you descend to the bottom of the squat and then only rise four to six inches before returning to the bottom. Repeat for four to eight repetitions. This is a great way to practice the start while strengthening that position.
  • Pauses – Pause six inches out of the hole and hold it for three to five seconds. You can do this along with full squat repetitions or in conjunction with bottom squats.

Exercises to strengthen the ascent:

  • Goodmornings – These are great for strengthening spinal extensors and hips. The movement strengthens the hips in the proper movement patterns as well with the hips moving forward as the torso drives into the bar. We normally use three to five sets of five to ten repetitions. Make sure to start light and build the capacity of the back. We normally start around 25-28% of an athlete’s back squat. The back is a delicate spot in the beginning, but it has the ability to get incredibly strong over time.
  • Hyperextensions with a barbell – These work great (just like the goodmornings), but they are easier to recover from – making them perfect to use late in a training cycle. In hyperextensions the load increases as the muscle shortens. In goodmornings the load increases as the muscle lengthens, creating a greater degree of muscle damage. Goodmornings are great for hypertrophy and strength, but they are harder to recover from – leaving very little for the priority lifts.

BENCH PRESS

Everyone wants to know what someone benches. My weightlifters get asked all the time, “What do ya bench?” That’s simply the way it is, so let’s get it stronger.

MISTAKE: Pushing the bar straight up or forward versus straight back.

CAUSE: Shoulder flexion demands are a big part of why you make or miss a bench press. Those demands increase the farther the barbell is away from the shoulder joint. Due to a shorter range of motion, an athlete will touch the bar lower on the chest because it’s the highest point. If you drive the bar correctly off the chest, you can decrease the shoulder flexion demands right away if you drive the barbell back toward the shoulder joint.

VERBAL FIXES:

  • Drive back – This cue goes for the legs and arms. The legs drive back at the same time as the arms drive back.
  • Flare the elbows on the way up – The elbows have to flare to catch the barbell as it travels toward the shoulders.

DRILL:
Presses four to six inches off the chest – This is the best way to make sure you are driving the bar properly, practicing the rhythm between the arms and legs, and strengthening the position and movement.

Additional bench press notes:
Important aspects of the descent – The descent really sets up the ascent in the bench press. This isn’t a bench press article, but I will go over a few important points pertaining to the bench press.

  • First tuck the shoulders together and down, raising the chest to its highest point.
  • Either tuck the legs back behind the body or put them wide and in front of the body, so you can drive the bar back off the chest. Don’t put the feet directly under the knees, or you will probably drive the bar straight up.
  • Don’t tuck the elbows. Instead slide the elbows toward the hips – keeping the wrists, forearms, and elbows directly under the bar for a better launch off the chest.

Practice the pause – I don’t know why powerlifters touch-and-go on their repetitions when they have to pause in their competition. The timing in the pause is the magic of the bench press. The key is learning to explode back with the arms and legs at the same time, launching the bar back toward the shoulders.

DEADLIFT

Personally this is my favorite movement, and the one I think is the most functional. I believe we bend over to pick things up more often than we squat below parallel, but they’re both awesome movements for getting jacked.

MISTAKE: Hips flying up and bar drifting forward

A deadlift is heavy – so if it drifts forward, you will quickly find yourself in no-man’s land. Here are the most important cues for avoiding this mistake.

VERBAL FIXES:

  • Drive your feet through the floor – versus thinking about pulling. For whatever reason, pulling causes one to pull with their arms. This movement dysfunction will cause the hips to rise and chest to drop. Just like in the clean, the athlete will maintain a better position by driving with the legs and sweeping the bar close to the body.
  • Lift the chest – This will keep the chest from tilting forward. A big challenge with a conventional deadlift is overcoming the spinal flexor moment. When the hips drift back and the chest drops forward, the spinal flexor moment is increased and demands rise for the spinal extensors. Getting off to a solid start can be the difference in a made lift or a miss.

DRILLS:

  • Deadlift lift offs with a pause at the knee – This is a great way to practice being in a good position when the bar reaches the knee. If an athlete is in a good position at this point of the lift, the odds of completing the lift increase. Obviously the pause is great for strengthening that position with an isometric contraction.
  • Deadlift lift off into deadlift – I like this one because you perform a lift off focusing on the perfect start, return the bar to the floor, and then complete a full lift. Your body will remember the first movement, giving you greater odds of completing the full movement correctly.

Exercises to strengthen the body to make the functional movement pattern more likely:

  • Goodmornings
  • Hyperextensions
  • RDLs

CONTINUING EDUCATION

I hope this first article in a series of articles I am working on will be helpful for all of you. Maybe in a year or two we will have an article for every possible mistake all of you might make – who knows? This entire year is devoted to articles, videos, and posts to educate the world of strength coaches. This new goal is just as much for the athletes as it is the coaches. I want the athletes to know what to do if they don’t have a coach. These articles should also inform athletes as to what to look for in a coach.

Nothing is more comprehensive than the new video curriculum we are working on. If you’re a coach or an athlete, if you’re a beginner or advanced, if you’re into CrossFit or powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting or athletic performance, I want to teach you everything I know in this online video curriculum resource.

We want to partner with you to create this so we will know it’s something that benefits you. So we’re opening up this resource for pre-order.

The Mash Elite Video Curriculum: Coming Soon

We're in the process of creating a massive video curriculum series on technique for the main lifts, programming, mobility, and coaching. Thanks to those who pre-ordered... and get ready for the full resource to be released soon!

The Reason Some Great Athletes Are Still Weak

When you talk about sports psychology with an athlete, most will shut down almost immediately. Sports psych has a bad stigma among athletes in America – and that’s very unfortunate because it’s the one area where most athletes need help.

‘CLARKING’

I have a young female athlete who should definitely be the next one to make Team USA. I’m not going to mention her name because I didn’t ask her permission to write this. This young lady is amazing. However, she’s gone through several months of Chronic Clarking, and honestly I didn’t have the answers.

For all of you who don’t know what Clarking is, I will explain. Ken Clark was an amazing weightlifter in the 1980s. But at the 1984 Olympics, Ken pulled his clean to his waist but didn’t go under the bar on his second and third attempts. So now, when someone performs a snatch pull or clean pull without going under the bar, most English-speaking athletes from around the world call the lack of going under the bar a Clark. It’s sad because Ken was an amazing athlete. Heck, he was an Olympian, which is something most people will never be. Regardless if it’s fair or not, the reality is when a lifter refuses for whatever reason to complete the third pull (pull under the bar), it’s now considered a Clark.

EVALUATING THE REAL ISSUE

Let’s get back to my young athlete. I was at wits’ end trying to figure this out for her. If you are a coach, athletes are coming to you in hopes you will help them reach their goals. I take this very seriously. If one of my athletes is struggling, I am struggling as well. We win together, and we lose together. That’s the deal.

I actually reached out to two of my colleagues, Spencer Arnold and Sean Waxman. They both concluded maybe her average intensity was too high, and maybe she was experiencing some neural fatigue. I was saving that for after the Junior Nationals coming up, since we were only four weeks out. However, I wasn’t 100% convinced because her bar speed and the height of the barbell were both above par compared to what other athletes produce. It honestly looked like a mental glitch – like at the last second there was an interruption in the brain. Plus this young lady is an ex-gymnast, so she is used to high volume.

I recommended to her mother that she look into finding a sports psychology professional. Her mother knew a female sports psychologist, so they contacted her. This young lady has had only two or three sessions with her new sports psych, and now it’s as if I have a brand new athlete. She’s quickly becoming the very athlete I knew she could be. In the last few weeks, she has set personal records in the snatch, clean and jerk, and of course total. She’s only experienced one Clark – which she actually overcame in the same session.

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THE STIGMA AND THE SOLUTION

Here’s the sad part. The fact I have to withhold her name is the very reason most of you are failing. The fact that there is a bad stigma around sports psychology is the reason most of you will never reach your goals. Instead of reaching your goals, you will:

  • blame your coach.
  • blame the program.
  • blame your friends.
  • blame your significant other.
  • blame your parents.
  • blame your circumstances.

I have news for you. When you miss the lift, that’s your fault. The minute you admit that important fact is the minute you can start to improve.

This point can also be made by looking at coach-jumping. Coach-jumping is more common in America than it has ever been. It’s not uncommon for athletes to have three to four coaches in a two-year span. Silly really, because every time an athlete jumps to another coach, they have to adapt to the new programming, new technique, and new coaching style versus experiencing continued improvement. Most of the athletes I see making these jumps all have one thing in common. They need a sports psychologist to help them become more successful.

Guys – it is not weak to seek out a professional. It’s weak being afraid to do so. I see so many of you getting a weightlifting coach, nutritionist, rehab professional, yoga instructor, and so many other professionals – but the one thing that would help you the most is somehow taboo. Ridiculous!

ATHLETIC ADVANTAGES

As athletes, we are all searching for an advantage over our opponents. Luckily in America, we’ve cracked down on drug use with the help of the United States Anti-Doping Agency and its year-round out-of-meet testing of our top athletes. We can’t take drugs for an unfair advantage, but there are several things all of you can do to give yourself an advantage:

Seek out advice and support through a good:

  • sports psychologist
  • nutritionist
  • chiropractor
  • physical therapist

And practice self-care through:

  • massage
  • addressing sleeping patterns
  • proper warm ups
  • optimal cool downs and stretching
  • recovery (ice baths, Marc Pro, MobilityWOD, etc.)

If you do all of these things, you will have an advantage because you will be the 1% who actually handles all the different areas. Heck, you will be in the 1% if you are the one who hires a sports psychologist. Too many Americans want to think they are too mentally tough to need a sports psychologist. If you believe that, I’m going to say right away you are the very person who definitely needs a sports psychologist.

USA Weightlifting has partnered with Colin Iwanski as their sports psych professional, and I think he is amazing. If you have the opportunity to work with him, I 100% believe you should. If you want to be a true master of the mundane, I believe it should start with sports psych. If the brain is functioning properly, everything else will function much more smoothly.

The brain is a crazy place. I for one tried everything I could think of with this young lady, and I couldn’t get through. I’m not a sports psychologist. There isn’t an athlete on the planet who couldn’t stand to get stronger mentally. If you have the funds, have the time, and you know of a good sports psychologist, I recommend immediately reaching out to them. If they’re good, I can almost guarantee improved results.

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If you don’t know of one, you can message us. I have three I recommend. You could contact all three and decide which one works the best for you. It’s not weak to hire a sports psychologist. It’s only weak if you don’t. I promise you this one last thing… “If you don’t first become the strongest athlete mentally, you will never become the strongest athlete physically.”