Originally published in June of 2015

Through the years of training, I have had many trials and tribulations. As a coach, I am frequently testing out new methods to use with my athletes. Through observations in my own training and others, I’ve been able to pick out a few staples that really keep the progress going and some other things that serve as more of a distraction than anything. Here are a few major things to focus on to get your training going in the right direction.


Nutrition is something that really has people spinning their wheels. It seems as though there is a new fad diet every week and plenty of conflicting studies. You can always look for new information, but try not to stray too far away from the basic rules.

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Get in .8-1 gram of protein per pound bodyweight per day from whole food sources, simply because eating your protein is far more satiating than drinking it. Cycle your carbs appropriately to your training for the day. This means that if you have a light easy training session, there’s no need to stuff yourself full of carbs. If you have a heavier training session, get in plenty of carbs around training both for energy purposes and recovery after the fact.

Write down everything you eat, this way if you get stuck going in the wrong direction you can make a deliberate, controlled change and see what the result is. That being said, give it ample time to work. I have seen far too many people with program ADD that change things before they can even get a good gauge on how well it works.


The importance of programming is often vastly overstated. I have seen internet gang wars erupt over the best programs. The fact is, there are lots of guys out there getting really strong based on just training really, really hard. That, to me, shows that ultimately intensity is the greatest catalyst for strength gains. The second most important aspect of a good program is finding the things that you cannot do. For instance, I have a reoccurring case of biceps tendinitis that I have been able to keep completely at bay for years now after discovering that frequent heavy stones was the primary cause of the discomfort. This may be a particular exercise or a few weeks of stringing together certain exercises or it may be as broad as knowing that you need a programmed deload every 4-6 weeks in order to stay healthy.

mastell focus

The final tidbit I will include is that a program is a process. Go in every day and get the job done. You have to trust that your process will deliver your product. As long as you do the work, the results will come. Not trusting in the process is almost as bad as not doing it.


With competitions almost every weekend, the options are bountiful and sometimes overwhelming with contests to choose from. If you’re a novice competitor, you can compete more frequently in contests as long as you know you can do the weights. Do not choose shows that are beyond your skill level. I would say four to six shows a year is a good number.

Make sure that each show you talk to somebody knowledgeable to discuss what things you can improve on. The experience is invaluable. For a higher level competitor, choose two big shows per year. A big contest is going to require a solid 10-12 week training program plus some recovery time after the fact. If you want to do one or two more local shows for fun, you can do that. Ultimately, I wouldn’t even train for them. Focus your training on bringing up your weak points so you’re not scrambling when the big contest comes around.


Knowledge is a very fine line to walk in the strength community. Sure, everyone wants to be knowledgeable, but I find it gets hairy sometimes. Once people reach a certain level of knowledge or are esteemed by the community, they do a lot more talking than listening. The most knowledgeable guys in the industry are the guys that continue to learn, continue to try new things, and are constantly evolving their philosophies.

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I know that my training philosophy has changed over the past year and is drastically different from 4-5 years ago. To me , that’s the biggest benefit of competing at the higher level shows: being able to pick the brains of the best guys in the world. And fortunately, these days a lot of these guys are able to make a living sharing their knowledge and putting their thoughts in ink for people to read and learn from their experiences, both successes and failures.

The take-home from this is to never stop learning. Somebody out there has something you can learn or may be able to shine light on a new way of thinking about something that has never even occurred to you.