Category Archives for "Weightlifting"

Is Weight Training Safe for Youth?

I have been wanting to write this article for a long time, but I wanted to make sure I had a firm grasp on the information.

Thanks to the awesome folks at Dynamic Fitness and Strength for sponsoring this article and my time. This company was an obvious choice for me due to their commitment to education in the world of strength and conditioning.

I have been collecting data and combing through the research for five years now, and the answer posed by the title is quite clear:

“Weight lifting is not only safe, but very beneficial to youth athletes with one caveat, experienced coaching and well thought out programming.”

In this article I am going to break this down for you in two ways. First, I am going to lay out the science. Then I am going to give the commonsense approach. To coaches who love and follow science, the answer is unequivocal and obvious. However, due to rumors started years ago, some parents (and even some coaches) throughout the world believe weight training for prepubescent children is dangerous. They believe that weight training for youth can lead to growth plate injuries. Before I lay out the science showing this claim to be false, let me explain this type of injury a bit more thoroughly.

What is a growth plate injury?

The proper name for a growth plate is epiphyseal line or epiphyseal plate. We will simply abbreviate EP from here on out. The EPs are located toward the end of long bones, so think femur (or thigh bone). When children are young, EPs are discs of cartilage consisting of a softer substance than the rest of the bone. This allows the long bones to continue growing.

When a child reaches their genetically predetermined height, the EP’s harden up like the rest of the bone. This is normally determined by hormones – especially testosterone and estrogen. We refer to these as closed EPs. When an accident causes a break or strain at the epiphyseal plate, the plate may prematurely close or become denatured. This is the biggest fear for parents with young children in sports.

Here’s where it gets a bit interesting. A certain amount of mechanical stress in the form of compressive force is necessary for maximal growth. Compressive forces are forces in the form of squeezing things together. Proper mechanical stress aids the process of growing, but what actually causes growth plate (EP) injuries?

The thing that coaches, parents, and athletes need to understand is that bones and EP’s are strongest under compression (think mashing together) and weakest under shearing forces (think horizontal forces). Shearing forces happen when forces cause the bones to bend – as in planting the foot and changing direction or getting hit horizontally from any direction. Even worse is torsion, such as being hit horizontally from the side with the foot sticking in the ground but the leg spinning rotationally. Over and over the sports mentioned as high risk for growth plate injuries are competitive sports (such as football, basketball, running, dancing or gymnastics) and recreational sports (such as biking, sledding, skiing, or skateboarding). Nowhere in the research or in the basic medical articles is weight training ever mentioned. I will come back to this in the commonsense section.

To be clear, I am not saying to avoid any of the mentioned sporting activities either. I am simply stating there is inherent risk with everything in life. However, when it comes to weight training and/or the sport of weightlifting, there is less risk than other sports. Myers, et al., 2017 found that resistance training presented very little risk as long as a qualified coach was present and programming was appropriate to age. As a matter of fact, compared to other sports resistance training and/or weightlifting are way down the line when it comes to injuries per 1000 contact hours. Weightlifting as a sport experiences fewer than 1/3 the number of injuries seen in soccer (not to mention American football or rugby).

What are the benefits of Weightlifting?

Benefit 1: Increased Power

The prepubescent years are a time of neural development. The added load and movement experienced from weightlifting and/or weight training is directly proportional to increased neural activity. This can easily be seen with increased counter movement jumps versus non-counter movement jumps. Athletes participating in resistance training experienced significant increases in their counter movement jumps versus static starts. (Myers, et al., 2017).

The counter movement jump is correlated with improvements in the nervous system due to the stretch shortening cycle. The stretch shortening cycle is performed due to changes in length of the muscle spindles (nerves running parallel to muscle fibers) that create a reflex to contract explosively upon changes of length in the various muscles. The increased load and the complexity of movement has a direct impact on improving the nervous system. As a matter of fact, the next benefit shows that weight training has a direct improvement on the CNS as a whole including the brain.

Benefit 2: Improved Cognitive Performance

Continually studies throughout America and the world are showing improvements in cognition with exercise in general – including weight training, running, and even kayaking. A great book to read is Spark, by Dr. John Ratey, Harvard Professor, which is all about exercise’s positive effects on the brain.

Wick, et. al., 2021 showed a conclusive positive effect on the attention spans of very young athletes four to six years old. Anyone who has ever worked out is aware that their cognitive function is improved with consistent training. Dr. Ratey explains this improvement is due to increased Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor, which is a growth factor that supports the maturation, survival, differentiation, maintenance, and growth of nerve cells in the brain. Basically, BDNF is steroids for brain cells.

Benefit 3: Improved General Strength

This one seems like a no brainer, but some people will still say that strength training doesn’t work at this age. Actually, strength gains as high as 74% were reported in a meta-analysis by Faigenbaum, et al., 2009. The best part is that those strength gains are maintained throughout their lives as long as they consistently train as little as once per week.

That means that the youth get a head start compared to other athletes, and they maintain this advantage throughout high school and beyond. Any weightlifting coach in America will tell you this point is obvious. Any athlete who has started with me on or before his or her 11th birthday experienced strength and movement gains unrecognized by their counter parts in school.

Benefit 4: Improved Cardiovascular Risk Profile

In a time where childhood obesity is at an all-time high, studies would suggest weight training can improve body fat percentage and significantly improved insulin sensitivity in adolescent males at risk of obesity. “Because the increase in insulin sensitively remained significant after adjustment for changes in total fat mass and total lean mass, it appeared that regular resistance training may have resulted in qualitative changes in skeletal muscle that contributed to enhanced insulin action.” (Faigenbaum, et al., 2009).

For most young children experiencing potential obesity, weight training sometimes ends up being a much more enjoyable form of activity. However, once they experience the enjoyment of weight training in the form of increased strength and muscular development, they tend to get hooked on exercising in general. This was definitely the case for me. At 11 years old I was definitely borderline obese, and then I started working out.

This next statement is completely anecdotal, but children born hybrid endomorph-ectomorph are more inclined to enjoy strength training. Once they are involved, their body types end up molding into mesomorphs. Once a child experiences the confidence that comes with increased strength and muscularity, they tend to continue that activity for life. However, maybe this is just the experience of my friends and me. It is surely a common trait experienced by a lot of strength athletes who go on to experience a lifetime of fitness.


Learn the High-Level Muscle Science, Physics, and Biomechanics Principles to Give Your Athletes the Fastest and Safest Progress Possible

All profits go to benefit the Lenoir-Rhyne Weightlifting Team during this unusual and challenging time. Thank you for your support!

Benefit 5: Improved Bone Health and Connective Tissue

Not only is weight training safe, but it is actually way more than just safe. It is beneficial to bone growth and connective tissue. Faigenbaum, et al, 2009 said, “If age-specific resistance training guidelines are followed and if nutritional recommendations (e.g., adequate calcium) are adhered to, regular participation in a resistance training program can maximize bone mineral density during childhood and adolescence.” This along with a comprehensive plyometric and deceleration mechanics instruction during preseason training showed to significantly decrease injuries in males and females.

This is huge news in an age where knee injuries are at an all-time high – especially in young female athletes. However, there was a big difference in having a solid preseason program versus in-season. Preseason allows for recovery of muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other connective tissues – which is much needed for youth who are more and more experiencing year-round sports.

This leads me to a short but very direct rant. If an athlete is good enough to play collegiate or professional sports, then I promise they will do just that. Playing year-round with no time off is not going to make them better athletes. Sure, they will potentially get better at the sport a bit sooner. But the athlete who is taking care of their body will eventually catch up skill-wise – and they will be injury-free, faster, and stronger. Who do you believe a college coach is going to want?

I am not talking about making time for some in-season training. I am talking about taking some time to develop them with an experienced strength and athletic performance coach. This doesn’t mean that they can’t practice their sport. It just means they won’t be playing a game all the time and will decrease their chance of experiencing an injury.

Benefit 6: Motor Performance Skills and Sports Performance

Faigenbaum, et al., 2009 found, “Improvements in selected motor performance skills (e.g., long jump, vertical jump, sprint speed, and medicine ball toss) have been observed in children and adolescents after resistance training with weight machines, free weights, body weight strength exercises, and medicine balls. Gains in motor performance skills in youth have also been noted after regular participation in plyometric training programs. More recently, researchers have reported that the combination of resistance training and plyometric training may offer the most benefit for adolescent athletes.” To summarize, strength training combined with plyometrics (and in my experience, sprint training) is the key to optimal athletic performance.

All you have to do is visit my gym sometime and take a look at my weightlifters – both boys and girls. They will all be able to jump out of the roof, sprint, and perform gymnastics like handstand walks, muscle-ups, and standing back flips. It really doesn’t take a lot of this flashy nonsense we see all too often on Instagram and Twitter. Solid athletic performance will consist of the following:

  • Strength training in the form of relative strength, which is a way of saying improving the way an athlete can manage his or her own body weight.
  • Strength training is the form of absolute strength, which is more related to resistance training. I suggest sticking to the basics of squatting, hinging, pulling, and pushing, which can be performed with barbells, kettlebells, and dumbbells. I am of course partial to the equipment made my Dynamic Strength and Fitness, which is a company that has hired a team of former athletes and coaches to create equipment for athletes and coaches.
  • A focus on all planes is necessary – including transverse, frontal, and sagittal (side to side, front and back, and rotational).
  • Bilateral and unilateral strength work.
  • Horizontal and vertical jumping with attention to landing mechanics.
  • Sprinting, both linear and side to side with attention to deceleration.
  • Core stability with carries, both unilaterally and overhead.
  • Sled pushes and drags.
Benefit 7: Psychosocial Health and Well-Being

In a time when kids are getting bullied online and at school, this benefit is needed more than ever. Research has shown an improvement in psychosocial health and confidence in children. Dr. Ratey talks about this trait in Spark. Exercise and strength training have both been linked to an increase in BDNF and dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter involved with motivation, reward, memory, attention, and even regulating body movements. It’s not a secret that children are moving less and staring at a screen more and more. It’s time to get them moving again.

Faigenbaum, et al., 2009 said, “Of interest, clinicians have noted that the socialization and mental discipline exhibited by children who resistance trained were similar to those exhibited by team sport participants (187), and children’s attitudes toward physical education, physical fitness, and lifelong exercise reportedly improved after a conditioning program that included resistance training (249,250). If appropriate resistance training guidelines are followed and if children and adolescents are encouraged to embrace self-improvement and feel good about their performances, the positive psychosocial effects of resistance training programs may indeed be comparable with other sports and recreational activities.”

All of these benefits can be experienced without the sometimes-negative benefits associated with overzealous coaching and excessive pressure that comes with team sports. Weight training is something that can be measured with the individual.

I love coaching at Lenoir-Rhyne University. I coach some incredible future Olympians, and I coach some athletes brand new to the sport (like Trip and Ami – I will leave their last names out of the article to protect their anonymity). It has been a pleasure to watch them improve in their abilities to perform the movements of the snatch and clean and jerk. I have watched both of them improve their confidence not only in the sport, but in life.


Travis Mash's guide to the mighty clean... the most valuable lift for Strength and Conditioning Coaches

Learn to understand the clean on a deep level so you can easily and confidently correct movement flaws, assess athletes, write programs, and coach them to athletic success.

Life Benefits from the Sport of Weightlifting
  • Goal Setting: the entire sport is based around one’s own ability, and plans are made to improve. Goals are made to improve technique, velocity, stability, mobility, and yes, strength levels.
  • Perseverance: any weightlifter of any age will tell you that perseverance is mandatory in the sport of weightlifting. There are always obstacles to overcome, which makes overcoming those hills so enjoyable.
  • Hard Work: nothing gets accomplished in the world of strength without hard work. That’s why I believe so many of my athletes go on to do such amazing things – like being on the cover of Forbes Magazine, starring in hit movies on Netflix, becoming best-selling authors, and growing high powered businesses of their own.
  • Complete Ownership: after they’re done training with me, this is the number one trait I want my athletes to leave with. Until someone takes complete ownership of the good and bad things in their life, there will be no progress made. Team sports allow athletes to blame others, but in strength sports you either lift more weight than your competitor or not. You can’t blame anyone. This trait empowers athletes to take on anything in life.
  • Commitment: you can’t imagine how much commitment is required in weightlifting. You come in to the gym day in and day out, week in and week out for years at a time, and sometimes months go by without any progress. Then commitment takes over, things are figured out, and the plateau is overcome. Does this sound familiar? It’s so relatable to life.

What Age is Appropriate to Start?

Oh yes, the question of the hour. I will be glad to tell you with explanation. “Although there is no minimum age requirement at which children can begin resistance training, all participants must be mentally and physically ready to comply with coaching instructions and undergo the stress of a training program. In general, if a child is ready for participation in sport activities (generally age 7 or 8), then he or she is ready for some type of resistance training.”(11) As long as they can pay attention to instruction, then they are ready to begin – just like any other sport. By the way, Dr. Faigenbaum is one of the world’s most renowned researchers in the area of youth and resistance training. If you don’t agree, take it up with him.

Commonsense Conclusion

This brings me to my final point. I am calling this the commonsense point.

You can go out to the soccer field or youth football field most any Saturday of Sunday, and watch parents screaming for the children. I’m all for that! However, if you post a video of a child lifting a 2.5kg barbell, 100% of the time you will have someone comment about the dangers of growth plates or some other made-up injury.

I already posted the truth about resistance training and injuries, but let’s look at this logically. If an athlete puts a 2.5kg barbell on their back and performs a squat, they are experiencing 25 Newtons of vertical force. If they collide with another athlete weighing an average of 25kg (55lb), they will experience a horizontal force of around 125 Newtons (assuming one of them is standing still). If they are running at each other, then you have a massive collision. Are you getting the point? If an athlete jumps and lands, you are looking at multiplying their bodyweight x 9.81m/s².

To summarize, it makes no logical sense – and the data simply proves what should be obvious. I hope this helps in making your decisions. The research is below. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at I am obviously passionate about this one, so I would love to discuss – as long as it’s a logical databased discussion or a scientifically commonsense one.



It's finally here... Learn about technique, programming, assessment, and coaching from a master. For strength coaches and for athletes, these 53 videos (7 hours and 56 minutes of footage) will prepare you to understand the main lifts for maximum performance and safety. Get ready to learn...


  1. Myers, A. M., Beam, N. W., & Fakhoury, J. D. (2017). Resistance training for children and adolescents. Translational pediatrics, 6(3), 137–143.
  2. Growth plate injuries. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Accessed March 29, 2016.
  3. Ornon G, Fritschy D, Ziltener J, et al Professional ice hockey injuries: 4 years prospective studyBritish Journal of Sports Medicine 2011;45:366.
  4. Ekstrand, J., Gillquist, J., Möller, M., Oberg, B., & Liljedahl, S.-O. (1983). Incidence of soccer injuries and their relation to training and team success. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 11(2), 63–67.
  5. Dahab, K. S., & McCambridge, T. M. (2009). Strength training in children and adolescents: raising the bar for young athletes? Sports health, 1(3), 223–226.
  6. Wick, Kristin1,2; Kriemler, Susi3; Granacher, Urs2 Effects of a Strength-Dominated Exercise Program on Physical Fitness and Cognitive Performance in Preschool Children, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: April 2021 – Volume 35 – Issue 4 – p 983-990 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003942
  7. Lesinski, M., Herz, M., Schmelcher, A. et al. Effects of Resistance Training on Physical Fitness in Healthy Children and Adolescents: An Umbrella Review. Sports Med 50, 1901–1928 (2020).
  8. Malina RM. Weight training in youth-growth, maturation, and safety: an evidence-based review. Clin J Sport Med. 2006 Nov;16(6):478-87. doi: 10.1097/ PMID: 17119361.
  9. Faigenbaum, Avery D1; Kraemer, William J2; Blimkie, Cameron J R3; Jeffreys, Ian4; Micheli, Lyle J5; Nitka, Mike6; Rowland, Thomas W7 Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper From the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: August 2009 – Volume 23 – Issue – p S60-S79 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31819df407
  10. Ratey, J. J., & Hagerman, E. (2008). Spark: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. New York: Little, Brown.
  11. Faigenbaum, Avery D.1; Myer, Gregory D.2,3,4 Pediatric Resistance Training, Current Sports Medicine Reports: May 2010 – Volume 9 – Issue 3 – p 161-168 doi: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e3181de1214

From Basketball to CrossFit with Elijah EZ Muhammad – The Barbell Life 354

Elijah “EZ” Muhammad went from being a skinny basketball player to being a jacked CrossFitter.

And this was one of my favorite podcasts because of how he said the Olympic lifts played a part in his success.

Some out there say that basketball players shouldn’t squat – much less perform the snatch. But EZ uses the snatch effectively… and he’s reaping the benefits.

Plus we get into his experience with CrossFit, his impressive list of achievements, and how CrossFit athletes can excel.


The Art of Combining:

Weightlifting - Powerlifting - Bodybuilding

Strongman - Functional Fitness - Endurance Cardio

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  • Why he had basketball players STOP running and START snatching
  • How the CrossFit Games were a downer (and how he got an overhead squat of 405)
  • 41″ vertical from snatching? (I will PAY you to listen to this)
  • Rich Froning and the “Fear Factor”
  • and more…

The Pull Setup Debate – The Barbell Life 353

Shaking during the pull?
Falling out of position immediately?
Bar drifting in front?

Sometimes a lift is missed because of what happened before we even started applying force to the bar.

I’m talking, of course, about the setup.

This is an area of so much confusion – so we wanted to set the record straight on this podcast.


Master Technique and Programming for the Conventional Deadlift, Sumo Deadlift, and Clean Pull

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


  • What does CrossFit teach – and where are they right or wrong?
  • Diagnosing issues when one lift “outranks” the others
  • Why you lose positioning immediately
  • Sumo, conventional, and adapting into the ultimate athlete
  • Is it genetics? Or are you just a lazy desk jockey?
  • and more…

Bomb Outs and Gold Medals with Coach Joe Kenn – The Barbell Life 352

We’ve had my good friend Coach Joe Kenn on the podcast many times before.

And now we’re starting a new regular feature where he’ll be joining us to talk about all that’s going on in the world of strength. All thanks to our friends with Dynamic Fitness and Strength.

Up this week is the recent performance of our athletes at University Nationals. We had a lot of successes… and we had a few struggles.

So to get the full story, check this one out!


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* Unlimited Technique Analysis

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  • The real story about Morgan bombing out
  • Why are you bragging about doing a Nordic Squat?
  • Being a coach can make you a bad dad?
  • Progressions to a pistol squat for kids
  • Developing “Block Zero”
  • and more…

A National Championship

Last week the Lenoir-Rhyne Weightlifting Team set out on its journey to Salt Lake City, Utah for the 2021 USA Weightlifting University National Championships.

This would be the culmination of a vision that started back in 2013, when MuscleDriver USA (MDUSA) was experiencing its boom in the world of weightlifting. MDUSA might have failed, but it helped to spark a revolution in American weightlifting that is still burning strong today. Let me explain this concept a bit more in-depth.

I remember the day that my friend, Preacher Sam, told me about MDUSA. He told me about the characters on the team, namely Jon North and Donnie Shankle. He went on to explain that MDUSA, at the time a rising giant in the world of strength equipment, had formed a professional weightlifting team, and they were literally moving the team to Charlotte, NC.

I was immediately overwhelmed with excitement for three main reasons:

  1. My weightlifting career had been cut short due to my father having contracted a terminal form of cancer. I made the decision to leave the Olympic Training Center and the sport of weightlifting to move closer to my father in North Carolina. This is a decision I don’t regret at all. However, I had grown to love the sport, and I wasn’t able to see that passion through.
  2. I have always believed the sport of weightlifting would thrive if taken on by corporate America. Our country was founded on capitalism. If a weightlifting team can increase a company’s profits, that team becomes valuable as do the members of the team. If we want to attract the best athletes to the sport, we need to offer a benefit. It’s hard to beat money as a benefit.
  3. Weightlifting was notorious for being boring, which always baffled me. Powerlifting was full of characters who were larger than life – like Ed Coan, Kirk Karwoski, Chuck Vogelpuhl, and of course Louie Simmons. Jon North and Donnie Shankle were the exact characters the sport needed. Thanks to YouTube, they were becoming something close to comic book superhero characters. People from around the world were mesmerized by these two American Weightlifters.



It's finally here... Learn about technique, programming, assessment, and coaching from a master. For strength coaches and for athletes, these 53 videos (7 hours and 56 minutes of footage) will prepare you to understand the main lifts for maximum performance and safety. Get ready to learn...

At this same moment in time, I had already started coaching some weightlifters, and I was dabbling with the sport again. When I made the trip down to MDUSA, I became immediate friends with Jon North and Coach Glenn Pendlay. The rest is history really. I started podcasting with Jon North. Then I was hired as a coach for MDUSA, and later went on to become the Executive Vice President. It was during this time I realized the next step the sport was going to need was solid university programs.

If you want youth to get interested in the sport, you have to get their parents excited about the sport as well. I am a parent, and personally I am going to want to know what’s in it for my children. Is there a future in the sport? What are the advantages? Are there college scholarships in the sport for the young athletes whoo are excelling in the sport? I wrote multiple articles all those years ago for the need of university programs. There were a few already, but the majority of the programs were not producing top athletes. Young men and women were going to these programs as Youth Team USA weightlifters and then never being heard from again. That doesn’t encourage coaches to send their overachieving athletes to these programs that were acting as the black holes of weightlifting.

During this time, it was clear the legacy I wanted to leave to the sport of weightlifting in America was at least one solid program.

Making a Case

Fast forward six years, I was at a local meet in Charlotte, NC when I saw my friend and now my professor, Dr. Alex Koch, Head of Exercise Science at Lenoir-Rhyne University. We had talked in detail about my desire to start a university program. At this meet he explained that he was going to set up a meeting between the LRU Athletic Director, Kim Pate, and the two of us (Dr. Koch and me). I was excited, but I had been in the situation a couple of times before. At 48-years-old I have learned to not get too excited about anything.

Well four weeks later, I was sitting in a meeting with AD Kim Pate, Asst AD Aaron Brock, and Dr. Koch. For all of you wondering how to start a program, here are the points that I made:

  • Exposure to Lenoir-Rhyne University (social media): Most of you know that I have built a solid following in the world of social media. One thing I have done a bit better than others is I have spread that following over multiple sources: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, The Barbell Life Podcast, the Barbell Shrugged Podcast, and articles on Mash Elite Performance. This is why I encourage all of my athletes to build a personal brand. Whether you like social media or not, it’s a powerful tool if used properly.
  • The cost effectiveness of the sport: Weightlifting only requires some bars, plates, squat stands, a place to put the equipment, and a coach. It’s not like football or soccer that requires a huge field and stadium, a massive coaching staff, lots of frequent travel, and expensive equipment. I need 2,000 square feet, nice bars and plates, and some racks to produce a championship team.
  • The growing participation of women in the sport is good for Title IX: All you have to do is look at the sign-ups for any USAW National meet, and you will see equal participation between females and males. Heck, the biggest stars in the sport are females, such as Mattie Rogers and Hunter Elam. Plus there are rumors circulating about the possibility of at least the women’s side of things becoming NCAA.
  • The overall safety of the sport: All you have to do is look up any research on the topic, and you will see that weightlifting is extremely safe when compared to other sports, such as soccer, basketball, and for sure American football.
  • Growing popularity of the sport: Even though we have CrossFit to thank for the initial surge, our leadership at USA Weightlifting has done a tremendous job with their PR and marketing teams to build the image and following of our precious sport. In a quad where most Olympic sports have suffered, Phil Andrews, CEO of USAW, has found ways to thrive.
  • The Olympics: It doesn’t hurt that our sport is a gateway to the Olympics. Furthermore, it doesn’t hurt that I had and still have multiple college aged athletes who are considered Olympic hopefuls for 2024 – and a few others who are looking to become hopefuls for 2028. What school doesn’t want to produce Olympians? Right now, we have three Team USA Athletes going to the Junior World Championships, one more that has signed his NLI, and about four others who are looking to make a Team USA squad this year or next.
  • My track record: I have produced 28 Team USA athletes in my program at Mash Elite Performance – and I did this while being based in small town Lewisville, NC. Sometimes I dream about the athletes I would produce if I had been based in a bigger city.
  • Draw students to the exercise science programs: LRU has incredible professors teaching in the Exercise Science Department. Right now, it’s a well-kept secret – but a secret I aim to whisper to the world. Dr. Koch and Dr. Leiting are both natural teachers. They have the ability to make complicated topics seem elementary. I can say from experience they both have taught me subjects that have made me a better coach and have helped me produce valuable tools that I have sold to my audience on Mash Elite. To date, four students have applied and been accepted to our Master’s in Exercise Science Program that have been directly referred by me.

In summary, I showed them what was in it for them. Within a few days I had my green light.

The funny thing is that the asst AD and the AD later told me that they had no intention on accepting the program when they agreed to the meeting. They were simply being nice to Dr. Koch. However, my presentation won them over immediately. They said when I walked out of the room, they both knew they wanted the program, and the only question was the details. I am not bragging. I am simply giving you guys a hint as to what it takes. If you get the chance, be prepared! If you can, try to understand the goals of the school before going into the meeting like: branding, improving their stance on Title IX, growth, profitability, or overall image of school.


Learn the High-Level Muscle Science, Physics, and Biomechanics Principles to Give Your Athletes the Fastest and Safest Progress Possible

All profits go to benefit the Lenoir-Rhyne Weightlifting Team during this unusual and challenging time. Thank you for your support!

This article isn’t an article designed to teach all of you how to start a University Program, but I thought I would plant that seed. If it’s something you want to do in a town near you, email me at

Building a Team

However, this article is about a dream becoming reality, so I had to give you the full picture. Yet being told that I can start a program is way different than actually creating a successful program. I might have had a green light, but now I had to get some quality athletes. Heck, I had to get some athletes period. The last thing you want to do is convince someone to start a university program, and then no one shows up. I saw several start-up university programs at the University Nationals with some being on the scene for two to three years – and yet they didn’t have enough people to field a team.

I will say my biggest struggle has been time management. Now I am in charge of this University Team, but I still have all of my normal responsibilities plus a few extra. Remember, I am working toward a PhD in Human Performance in my so-called free time. I still coach my top Mash athletes. I still own Mash Elite Performance. I am still the cohost of The Barbell Life Podcast. Of course, I still have my favorite job as the cohost of Barbell Shrugged Podcast.

This semester, I faced my biggest challenge yet, and that was creating a new weightlifting course for Stronger Experts. This course is going to be unlike any weightlifting course any of you have ever seen or participated in. The video alone is fifteen hours of content. More about that really soon. Anyway, that put me way back early this semester. I am sure you’re thinking when is he going to have time to recruit? Great question!

To be honest, I am catching up on all of that as we speak. Thank God my boss, A.D. Aaron Brock, saw fit to give me some administrative assistance, which will really help in a big way to getting caught up. We are announcing a very unique tryout as well later on this week, but once again you will have to stand by for that one. So how have I attracted so many top athletes? That question is what this entire article was written for.

The minute I was told I had a green light for this team at Lenoir-Rhyne University, I decided right then and there that I would learn from my past. Here’s the major lesson I have learned over the past 3-4 years:

Culture > Talent

I have protected the culture of this team from day one. There are several top athletes I turned down because they simply didn’t match the culture. I am not saying anything bad about the ones I didn’t take. Some of them have gone on to do really well. There is a certain person I am looking for, and I won’t settle for less. Talent is a part of that equation for sure. We do have three Team USA athletes and another coming in the fall. However, I won’t take an athlete who expects to be put on a pedestal.

I don’t care if they are a gold medalist in the Olympics. If they are on this team, they are not more important than the lowest ranked person. I didn’t follow this model during the last three years of Mash Elite. I recruited for talent only, and that blew up in my face. Some athletes literally drain the very soul from a team. If they’re having a bad day, the entire team is having a bad day. They expect more attention from the coach than the other athletes might receive. Never again!

I started my experiment with Lenoir-Rhyne University. You know what happened? Two of the young men I chose over a couple of rising stars are now as good as those rising stars. Heck, I will say it right here that I chose Sean Hammell for the following reasons:

  • I liked him from the moment I started communicating with him.
  • He had a 4.0 GPA in Computer Science, so I knew he would be a great influence for the other boys coming in.
  • And yes, he was good enough to score points for the team.

However, I had no idea that one year later he would be battling for Team USA. The same goes for Blaine Brooks. He was a late recruit because he was on the way to Lindenwood, but their program was cut unfortunately. Once again, I knew that we would be a solid scorer for the team, but I had no idea he would be battling for a Team USA spot already. Someday I will tell the funny story about all the misinformation he heard about me. Well, I will let you in on a little bit: Evidently someone told him I didn’t care about technique, and I only cared about going really heavy. You can all go look at his form prior to September 1st versus now. By the way, his total improved 20kg while staying in the same weight class. Needless to say, he’s fully bought in to the program and is currently sitting on the prestigious Junior Pan American Games team for USA Weightlifting and Team USA.

Meet Time

Going into last weekend, I knew we had a good chance for the Men’s National Title, but it wasn’t going to be easy. I was going to find out if my idea of “Culture > Talent” was real or not. It was going to take each of the guys doing their part for the dream to become a reality. Luckily, Ryan Grimsland and Riley Breske kicked us off with some major points. Ryan took down Gold, and Riley did his job with a hurt hand – still placing 5th.

We had one more go on that first day, Matt Wininger, which should have been an easy Gold Medal. However, as fate had it, he bombed out.

Now there’s more to the story, and there are some real nuggets for you coaches and athletes out there. I knew that Matt hadn’t done all that he could do in preparation for this meet. He knew it too, and I could see it in his face a week prior to the meet. His bomb out led to the best conversation we’ve ever had. In case you don’t know, he’s been with me twelve years at this point. This young man has all the talent in the world to be on every Team USA that is fielded, and now I believe he’s committed to realizing that talent.

Like Dave Spitz says, “you are either winning or learning.” Matt went on to support his team, which was a big show of maturity. I am prouder than ever of Matt, and I have no doubt that he’s going to crush it next time out. Here’s the rundown of the other men:

Joseph Neel, 81kg was predicted to place eighth and ended up placing eighth.
Blaine Brooks, 89kg was predicted to place fifth and ended up placing fourth (almost third).
Sean Hammell, 96kg was predicted to place fifth and ended up placing fourth (almost third).
Cameron ‘Tank’ Lunsford, 102kg was predicted to place seventh and ended up placing seventh.
Team Captain Dean Scicchitano was predicted to place fifth and ended up placing fifth.

If we were going to have a chance at winning, I needed everyone to at least hit their predicted placing – and no one could bomb out. As you can see, my guys crushed it. I can’t tell you how much the Team Captain Dean Scicchitano helps me with this team. He’s a big reason we are who we are. This team is special. Each of them has the potential to do extraordinary things in this sport. I have a funny feeling these men are going to leave a mark on this sport that will not soon be erased.

I have to mention my girls. We only fielded a team of three, but we have three good ones. Hannah Dunn started the competition off for the entire team. That’s why it was pretty cool that she won the Gold Medal in the Snatch, being the first athlete to ever compete nationally for LRU. She went on to win silver overall. Mallory Garza made the gutsiest lift of the weekend hitting her lifetime personal record of 102kg/225lb weighing 58kg/128lb. She ended up taking bronze overall and silver in the clean and jerk. Sarah Attalla put up her best performance yet going 4:6 and totaling 148kg. She’s new to the sport, so I look for her to make major gains by next year.

In our first year, our list of accomplishments are as follows:

  • Men’s First Place Team Championship at University Nationals
  • Coed Team 3rd place – not bad for being short two women and having a bomb out
  • Three athletes on Team USA headed to the Junior World Championships in Saudi Arabia: Ryan Grimsland, Hannah Dunn, and Mallory Garza
  • Two athletes really close to making Team USA: Sean Hammell and Blaine Brooks (Blaine is sitting on the Junior Pan Am Games Team as of now with one competition to go)
  • Morgan McCullough is our first signee of the year, and he is already a multi-time Team USA Athlete. He’s also on the Junior World Team
  • I don’t think we had one athlete compete last weekend who doesn’t have the ability to make a Team USA spot.


The latest and greatest methods from Travis Mash as he continues to innovate Mash Mafia programming.

Weightlifting - Powerlifting - Super Total

Garage Gym Warrior - Functional Fitness - Strength and Conditioning

To say I am proud is the biggest understatement of the year. I feel confident that our team culture shined brightly to the other competitors. My inbox is filled with people wanting to try out for the team. I promise that I will start making those calls and returning emails on Monday. I feel we have created something others want to be a part of. Culture has been a buzzword for a few years now. We turned that buzzword into reality, and now we have all witnessed the sheer power of creating a team with a winning culture. Thanks to all of my athletes for trusting me and buying into this program.

We started something awesome last weekend. However, I don’t think any of us will be happy until we have formed a weightlifting dynasty at Lenoir-Rhyne University. With the support of people like Kim Pate, Aaron Brock, Michael Flicker, and our team Athletic Trainer Sarah Lightfoot, I think we are going to create something that has yet to be seen in the sport of weightlifting. I hope all of you will continue supporting and following this team.

P.S. If you want to support this team, you check out this link for multiple options with every dime going to our team at Lenoir-Rhyne University.

Finding the Best Coaching Methods with John Patrick – The Barbell Life 351

It was a blast talking with Coach John Patrick.

He has worked with so many amazing coaches, he’s worked with so many amazing athletes, and he’s worked with so many amazing different styles of coaching and programming.

So listen in to hear his thoughts on what truly works.



World champion and world-class coach Travis Mash takes a look at Louie Simmons's Westside Barbell strength principles and applies them tom the world of Olympic weightlifting.


  • Doing only Hatfield squats?
  • Conjugate to get buy-in
  • The biomechanics of throwing insane fastballs
  • Is there merit to high intensity training?
  • Amazing things using bands (true pioneers)
  • and more…