Mash Method to Improve the Olympic Lifts

Some of you have probably read my free eBook Mash Method.

If you haven’t, I will give you a quick summary. In the book we talk a lot about postactivation potentiation and several of the ways we use the method to set new personal records. So what is postactivation potentiation (PAP)?

Postactivation potentiation (what we call the Mash Method) is defined as: a theory that states the contractile history of a muscle influences the performance of subsequent muscle contractions.

In other words – the theory says the muscles remember the most recent contractions, and that memory can positively affect the next contraction. For example, I can work up to 95% of my back squat and then perform a heavy walkout with 110% of my best back squat. At that point I load 102% on the bar and squat it, and the theory is the body will be firing the muscle fibers necessary to squat 110% since you performed the walkout with that amount. As you can see, it just has to be something similar to the movement that is being tested. There are several different ways to use the theoretical method to set personal records in the big powerlifts (squat, bench press, and deadlift). However, this article is about the ways we are using the method to positively affect the competition lifts in the sport of Olympic weightlifting.

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The Sweet Spot

Before we get into a few of the ways to positively affect the competition lifts with the Mash Method, let’s talk timing as it relates to PAP. The moment you complete the supramaximal movement, PAP is at its peak. The peak will slowly dissipate until it’s completely gone at around five to seven minutes. Based on these parameters, you might think one would want to take the lighter lift the moment the supramaximal effort was completed. The problem is that fatigue is also at its highest. The goal is to find the sweet spot: wait long enough to where fatigue has dropped and won’t negatively effect the lift – but yet we don’t want to wait too long or else the neurological PAP effect will fade away. However, there’s not a lot of documentation about exactly how much time between attempts is optimal. In my experience it varies quite a bit based on the person and the movement being used to elicit the Mash Method response.

I have found somewhere between 60-120 seconds is enough rest to elicit a pretty solid response. If you use something like a heavy walkout for the squat or heavy hold for the bench, you are talking about an isometric contraction only. There isn’t a concentric or eccentric contraction, so it’s easier to recover from. In this case 60 seconds is probably enough. I used to use heavy bands like you might find at https://www.wodfitters.com/ to create the neurological effect. For example blue bands add about two hundred pounds at the top of a squat and deload to around 70-100 pounds at the bottom. If you have a 700-pound squat, you could load 550 pounds on the bar with 200 pounds (at the top) of bands equaling 750 pounds at the top. However, at the bottom of the squat you’re only handling 620-650 pounds, making the lift fairly easy to complete. This is the way I set numerous personal records when I was powerlifting. This technique takes a bit longer to recover from, so I would recommend two to three minutes between the banded attempt and the personal record attempt.

Courtney and the Mash Method

The same parameters would need to be followed with the competition lifts in the sport of Olympic weightlifting. The main reason I wrote this article is because I used PAP to help one of our athletes, Courtney, get a new jerk PR just this week. Not only did she get a new personal record, but she looked way better doing it as well.

Here are some ways we used PAP to improve Courtney’s Olympic lifts.

PAP Method #1 – Jerk Dip Squats with Jerks

A jerk dip squat is an awesome way of overloading the rack position. The athlete will simply load heavy weight on the bar, assume the jerk rack position, and then bend the knees four to six inches (like in the power position) and drive up without jerking the weight. You will want to focus on keeping a tight position in the torso with your weight in the middle of your foot. The key is a nice rhythm, making sure to properly use bar oscillation. You will warm up with the jerk and then begin the jerk dip squat before the heavy sets. Here’s the way we did it this week:

Jerk + Jerk Dip Squats: Work up to opener jerk, add 10kg for 3 JDSs, 2nd attempt x 1, add 10kg for 3 JDSs, PR attempt

PAP Method #2 – Jerk Dip Squats with Clean and Jerk

We used the jerk dip squats with Courtney’s clean and jerks as well, and the technical efficiency of her jerk was definitely affected in a positive way. We programmed it on a whim, just like in the above example. PAP helps with efficiency just as much as it helps with athletes hitting new personal records. Most coaches would agree establishing more efficient movement patterns is just as important as occasionally beating your PR.

Clean and Jerk + Jerk Dip Squats: 88% x 2, add 20kg for 3 JDSs, 90%x2, add 20kg for 3 JDSs, 93% x 1, add 20kg for 3 JDSs, 95% x1

PAP Method #3 – Snatch or Clean and Jerk Waves

I mentioned efficiency in the second example, but this PAP method works on efficiency even more. With waves, an athlete will work up to a heavy set. Then they will wave down to a lighter set and work back up. Most athletes will experience more efficient reps during the second and/or third wave up. Sometimes an increase in efficiency on the lighter sets will still lead to personal records during the second or third wave. Here’s an example of the way we program waves:

Snatch
wave one: 73% 1×2, 78%x2, 83% x 1, 75%x2, 80% x1, 85% x1, 88% x1, 1RM if feeling good
wave two: 75% 1×2, 80%x1, 83% x 1, 85%x1, 78%x2, 83% x1, 88% x1, 90% x1, work to a 1RM if feeling good
Clean and Jerk
wave one: 73% 1×3, 78%x2, 83% x 1, 75%x2, 80% x2, 85% x1, 88% x1, work up if no misses to second attempt only
wave two: 75% 1×2, 80%x1, 83% x 1, 85%x1, 78%x2, 83% x1, 88% x1, 90% x1, work to a 1RM if feeling good

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Putting this into practice

Postactivation potentiation isn’t something new, and I am not trying to say I came up with the concept. However, I think I use this method a bit more than most coaches, and I have noticed success both personally and for my athletes. We call it the Mash Method for a reason. I recommend using discretion when prescribing this method to your athletes. Waves are pretty standard, but the other examples or any new ideas I might have sparked should be reserved for times when an important meet isn’t in the near future.

But sometimes like this week, this is exactly what Courtney needed to push her over the hump and hit a personal record. I don’t recommend ever being satisfied with your results. If you PRed in three to four months, you might want to get a bit creative and get over that hump. Heck we’ve used this method during a competition by hitting a heavy pull before attempting a maximum on the competition platform.

I recommend tracking the following data:

  • The specific athlete
  • Time rested between heavy set and lighter set
  • Result

With just a bit of data, you will be able to develop parameters that work for each individual. The key is understanding how much rest is optimal for an individual athlete to maximize PAP and minimize fatigue. I hope this article helps all of you crush it just a bit more. I know the research is inconclusive, but I can promise we have used this method to break through countless ceilings. I’ll take practical experience over research any day.

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