Pendlay’s MDUSA Program

Glenn Pendlay recently posted an article on his blog explaining how he trains the Muscle Driver USA Olympic weightlifting team (article).

It’s your standard fare of doing the competitive lifts, doing power and other variants when necessary, and getting stronger with presses and squats. There are some peculiarities that help distribute the work load throughout the week, like making the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon workouts the heaviest days, doing doubles and power variants in the morning sessions, and always trying to improve the squat.

Glenn sits with his beard at the National University Championships

Glenn sits with his beard at the National University Championships

Pendlay also mentions using the Texas Method to push the squats. For those of you who never read my Texas Method e-books, the style of programming was coined when the Wichita Falls Weightlifting team fell into it with Pendlay as the head coach. It’s a good general approach that can push an Olympic weightlifter’s squat without interfering too much with the competitive lifts’ training. The way I program the Texas Method is more for general strength trainees and raw powerlifting, but a weightlifter will have success with the core program of using a volume day, light day, and intensity day.

Anyway, check out Glenn’s article; his system is a simple outline that he dials in for specific lifters depending on what they need, whether their weaknesses are in squatting, overhead strength, cleaning, snatching, or jerking.

Efficient Training: The Squat

My travels have led me to many gyms ranging from performance centers for special operations personnel to CrossFit gyms, from storage containers to globo gyms. There is a constant in all of these facilities: inefficiency.

Though I’ve rehashed topics like this ad nauseam in the past (see additional links at end), it’s always good to revisit them and put them back in the fore front of readers’ minds.

Typical 5x5 weight for me was 445

445 for 5×5

The squat is the most important exercise anyone can do for any goal. 

Want to get stronger and/or bigger? You’ll need to squat since it strengthens the legs and hips through a full range of motion while the trunk isometrically maintains position; it’s a full body exercise. And since it’s training the majority of the musculature in the body, it garners a systemic (i.e. large scale hormonal) response in order to heal the damage done from an effective squat workout. This systemic response is what augments any other lifting you’ve done in the same training session and is the adaptive stress that spurns recovery and strength gain.

Want to lose body fat? The systemic stress response from squatting means hormones are working in overdrive to recover — a process that requires calories and stimulates muscle repair and growth. By using calories and growing new muscle — and doing this regularly with consistent training — the body is in a hormonal environment that facilitates body fat loss. To this day I’ve never had a female trainee not lose body fat on a strength training program.

Want to get faster? The squat takes the hips through a full range of motion and accentuates hip extension — the fundamental athletic movement. The squat also inherently involves a stretch reflex out of the bottom; the musculature about the hips and thighs moves into a position of tension and quickly shortens, or contracts, to explode out of the bottom. The squat perfectly prepares the related musculature for speed and power training as well as teaching the trunk how to stabilize the spine and hips to efficiently transmit force while moving (an important aspect of sprinting). The act of improving absolute strength will decrease the difficulty of repetitive movement, resulting in the capacity for higher or faster rates of work.

By regularly loading the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones with a full-body movement like the squat through a full range of motion, these structures adapt to be stronger, more dense, and ultimately less likely to be injured.

However, in order for all of this to be the case, the squat needs to be performed efficiently with adequate mobility. And the first god damn step is squatting all of the way down — a point in which the hip capsule (acetabulum) is below the top of the knee (or patella). If you’re reading 70’s Big, then you most likely squat to full depth on each rep, but statistically speaking there are a few of you who don’t.

As I’ve said before: Every time you don’t squat to depth, I pour a beer down the drain. And I HATE wasting beer.

For the sake of the gods, let’s make this simple: a cue to help reach depth on any squat type is shove your knees out”. Sure, there is a lot of other things we could focus on like stance width, toe angle, torso alignment, breathing techniques, chest positioning, eye gaze, and so on, but anyone can squat to depth if they shove their knees out. The rest will figure itself out.

Dat depth.

Shoving the knees out externally rotates the hips to point the femur out away from the mid-line. It helps clear the femur from impinging on front of the hip capsule and surrounding tissue and allows for more hip flexion, AKA depth. It also helps create the “torque” at the hip that Kelly Starrett frequently talks about and results in distributing the force application across the hips and thighs efficiently (more on that here). It can help if the “knees out” cue is originating at the outside of the hips (imagine a twisting motion on the lateral hip that results in the knees out).

Since I’m preaching to the choir about squatting to depth, it’s up to all of you to help your friends do the same. If you frequent a gym and establish relationships, then it is your honor-bound duty as a lifter to help them. Don’t be a dick and just ask them if they mind if you say something about their squat — most people are very open to this because they secretly have no fucking idea what they are doing and ultimately have six pounds of anxiety building in their chest. Don’t over-complicate the matter — make simple and quick adjustments and give them a single cue before sending them back to the bar. For example: narrow up the stance, change the toe angle, then just have them think knees out — the first two are passive cues that they don’t have to think about and the last is the only active cue they worry about.

Whether you’re a half squat abuser or you are guilty by proxy, spread the word that the only way to squat is to full depth.

More 70’s Big articles on squatting:
A Half Squat Is Not A Squat
Squat All of the Way Down
Low Bar vs High Bar Squatting

Guest Post: Jackie and the Platform

Today’s article is courtesy of Jackie. She gives us an honest and frank look into her story of going from a gym-stud to fresh meat on the platform, with a little prodding from her coach. More importantly, it’s easy to see just how much the work we do with the barbell effects our outlooks in the rest of our lives. A huge thanks to Jackie and her coach Chris for bringing us this story – keep ’em coming, folks! – Jacob


When it comes to training, I have had some significant personal accomplishments. Deadlifting 300lbs, pressing the 24kg kettlebell, 32kg Turkish Get Ups, and repping out pull-ups have all been exciting feats. But I must humbly confess that these have all come relatively easily to me. Which begs the question, what am I capable of if I really applied myself? I’ve never really found out the answer, but it’s a question I hope I never stop asking myself. As a recovering fitness trend-junkie, in addition to a stubborn Italian (which is more of a character asset if you ask me), I have always struggled with training “ADHD,” and I occasionally relapse back into old habits of over-training, under-eating, lack of mobility work, and training with the purpose of vanity. This resulted in disturbed sleep patterns, inevitable injuries, mood swings, apathy and boredom. This is a lesson I have learned all too many times, and am frankly sick of getting beat over the head with it (if you’ve met my mentors, you would understand I mean this both figuratively and literally).

The truth is that I haven’t ever really worked hard for something. I mean, really worked for it. To clarify, I have applied myself in school, work, relationships, and I do have experience setting goals and meeting them. Yet, the goals I set were mediocre at best, and easily attainable. To be even more candid, if I did ever set a high standard that would require some serious dedication (which was rare) I would usually quit. Give up. Just like that. If it wasn’t executed perfectly, exactly as I expected, it was over.

But to work hard, hours on end, sacrifices, compromises, losses and gains and more losses, all for something that looks and feels so far away, and promises no guarantees? Nope. Never really knew what it felt like. I’ve been one of those people who would back out in the middle of a winning streak for fear of losing face, who would “stop while I’m ahead,” who wouldn’t pursue something because it would entail some serious effort and risk failure. I have been this person, this way, for most of my life. Which, ironically, isn’t really living it all.

For two years now, Chris Falkner, coach for Tucson Barbell, has been fighting to get me into Olympic lifting. While I did play around with the idea and techniques, it just seemed ‘too hard’ to actually commit to. Recently, however, life threw me a couple of curve balls, leading me straight to the platform. After feeling uninspired for so long, it became the only place that I could seem to find the solace and serenity that seemed so absent from my life.

Spending 1-2 hours, 5-6 days a week, for 3 months (and counting), focusing on the same movements and techniques over and over can be very humbling. You fail… a lot, and start to discover more about yourself and your “limits.” You can’t afford to use any energy on giving a shit about what you look like, what people think of you, or, God-forbid, getting “bulky.” The goal becomes the focal point, and it’s amazing how your perspective changes when you do finally wake up. It’s like seeing everything for the first time… finally. I remember watching my coach in his training session one day. I had seen him lift before, but this time I saw it differently. Before approaching the platform, he stood back for a few moments, almost as though he was paying his respects. There was complete silence, no music, not talking. It was just him, the platform, the bar, the weight and the passion to become better. Everything he would talk about, in that moment, had finally started to make sense.

A few days before the Grand Canyon Winter Open in Phoenix, AZ, Chris had suggested I register as a participant. Immediately I got flustered and scrambled to find reasons not to. ‘I’m not ready.’ ‘I have too much homework and a test to study for.’ All euphemisms for: ‘I am a chicken shit.’ Chris did what he does best and called me out, and I was fuming. (You see, when people other than myself are right, I get pissed.) I decided to do it, even if it was mostly out of spite.

At 5:30am on a Saturday morning, I braved the 2-hour drive, in pouring rain on Interstate 10 (which is scary as hell) to participate in my first official weight-lifting meet. Already sleep-deprived from the nerves the night before, I spent the entire two hours talking myself into going and not turning around back towards a warm bed. I weighed in, warmed up, and it was time to lift. The gym owner was explaining the rules, and I honestly don’t remember a single word he had said, I was so preoccupied. My hands were shaking and I had to remind myself to breath. But I remember finally setting foot on the platform and having the visual of coach training, and my teammates. In the moment before, I suddenly stopped giving a shit about anything other than the lift. In the moments between, I was too busy admiring the other girls’ lifts and paid no attention to the adrenaline rushing through my body. I ended up hitting all three of my snatch attempts, setting a new personal record at 47kg. I landed two attempts of the clean and jerk at 60kg and 64kg, and missed my last one at 67kg. Three of my teammates and I qualified for University Nationals in April. It was an amazing time, and I learned an invaluable lesson. The experience wasn’t about hitting numbers higher than the next girl, or having the best technique, but to work hard and compete with the older, weaker version of myself.

In the days following the meet, I have felt more confident in my training and technique. The gym has become a refuge and I count the minutes until I get there. I realize my numbers aren’t necessarily the most impressive. I am a little fish in a rather large pond and I acknowledge the cards are stacked against me ever becoming the “best.” But as long as I show up and am better than yesterday, I’ve found my calling.


Tsypkin Thursdays #4

David C asks, “If you were going to hire/follow one of the bigger CrossFit coaches out there to help you prepare for the Open, Regionals, and Games, who would you choose?”

Rudy Nielsen of Outlaw.  In part because he has a deep and sound understanding of how to program effectively – but there are a lot of people with that. What Rudy has that a lot of others lack, is a deep and sound understanding of how CrossFit – the SPORT, not the fitness program – functions. He doesn’t debate silly shit like “is CrossFit too strength biased” or “has too much cardio” or whether the “definition of fitness” is legit.  He observes the parameters of the sport, and trains people to compete in them.


Dave F asks, “I am training the Olympic lifts three times a week, one day being committed to the snatch, one day to the clean & jerk, and one to both. What is a good rep scheme for a novice?”

First: if you are a novice, I do NOT think that 2x/week per lift is enough. You need to be doing them 3x/week so that you can learn the patterns and learn them well.

About rep schemes…don’t worry about them. Focus on sets of 1-3, get a lot of good reps in, and when you feel great, go for a new PR, whether it be a single, double, or triple. If you’re training alone, don’t do so much that you are exhausted for the last third of your session and do nothing but shitty reps.


Vee G asks “I was trained using the ‘scoop method’ ala Coach Burgener.  A lot of my fellow weightlifters have been taught in a style more similar to Coach Pendlay’s, which does not teach the scoop. What are some advantages/disadvantages of either technique?”

I’m assuming that by the “scoop method,” you mean teaching an intentional rebending of the knees – sometimes referred to as the double knee bend – under the bar before the second pull.

Did someone say scoop method?

I personally do not teach the scoop/double knee bend as such. I teach the lifter to move into the correct position, and the knees move into the right spot – slightly in front of the bar – just before the lifter extends into the finish. It is my opinion that teaching the intentional double knee bend only serves to confuse new lifters, slow down the transition, and lead to the lifter pushing the bar forward and shifting the weight onto the front of the feet too early.

Although there are certainly good coaches who have made this method work, I cannot see any advantages this way of teaching has over those which do not coach the lifter to intentionally perform the double knee bend.

Editors’s Note: Please remember to ask Tsypkin anything your crazy little heart desires on our facebook page. Otherwise, he’s going to have to come up with his own questions to answer, and that would just be crazy. 


Jacob Tsypkin is a CrossFit and weightlifting coach, the co-owner of CrossFit Monterey and the Monterey Bay Barbell Club in Monterey, CA. He is available for weightlifting seminars and has excellent taste in shirts and gainz.  


Some Truths About CrossFit and Weightlifting

Did you see the CF Open 13.1 WOD? There were a lot of snatches, to say the least. Jacob Tsypkin wrote this article not to piss you off (though it might), but to start a discussion about how CrossFit is enabling American Weightlifting to experience a rejuvenation that might just help make us relevant on the international stage again. 


There has always been some tension between strength sport communities and CrossFit.  Though in recent years, many great strength athletes and coaches have affiliated themselves with CrossFit, it seems that there is also a large contingent of strength athletes who are at best lukewarm towards it, if not outright vitriolic. Much of the dislike seems to come with regard to the Olympic lifts, perhaps due to their technical nature, and their so called “misuse” by CrossFitters.

I am very fortunate. I have been lucky enough to train with some of the best coaches and athletes in both CrossFit and weightlifting. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of both of these sports. The elitists, the douchebags, and the great people who love their sport and want to make it better. I have competed and coached competitors in both endeavors. As such, I feel I have a unique perspective on the matter.

Of course, I have my own opinions on the arguments presented by weightlifters against CrossFit. However, I do not want to discuss opinions here. I want to present some facts. Some absolute truths, which I ask you to keep in mind when analyzing what CrossFit has done, is doing, or can do for the sport of weightlifting.

Fact 1: CrossFit is creating more interest in weightlifting than there has ever been in the U.S.

5000+ CrossFit gyms worldwide (I don’t know how many exactly are in the U.S., but it is the VAST majority) educating people about the lifts. Some of them may not do a great job of teaching the lifts themselves, but consider this: the odds of an average individual knowing that the snatch and clean & jerk exist, that they are a sport, and understanding how challenging that sport is, are MUCH higher now than they have ever been before.

Fact 2: CrossFit is bringing the idea of effective GPP programming to a larger audience than ever in the U.S.

Nations which are highly successful in weightlifting almost universally have effective GPP programs in place which start at a very young age. Most of us can probably agree that physical education in the U.S. is subpar. Kids’ programs in CrossFit gyms across the country are getting young Americans excited about exercise – this alone is a huge step.  Couple that with creating interest in the olympic lifts, and a GPP program which is much more similar to what you would see in countries that win medals in weightlifting – that is to say, they are biased towards teaching movement rather than particular sports. This has the potential to lead to a massive improvement in the general athleticism of the average American, which in turn carries over to more potential in young weightlifters.

Fact 3: CrossFit is gradually generating a nationwide talent identification program.

Something else which weightlifting medal winning nations often hold in common with each other, is a method by which they identify young athletes with potential for particular sports. In the U.S. no such program exists, in large part because we tend to specify athletes at a very young age, rather than presenting them with a broad array of athletic endeavors to learn, enjoy, and potentially excel in. Here’s where CrossFit comes in. Along with “traditional” sports they participate in, kids in these programs are learning the basics of weightlifting, gymnastics, sprinting, jumping, and the like. Merely by virtue of spending time engaging in this wide variety of movements, coaches will be granted the opportunity to identify kids who have potential as weightlifters early in their athletic careers, something which very rarely occurs now.

Whether you are a CrossFitter or a weightlifter, whether you love or hate CrossFit, it’s hard to debate the truth of the above claims. Their value may be questioned, but I, personally, am willing to bet that CrossFit will end up doing far more good for the sport of weightlifting than it does bad.

Besides, CrossFit is leading to this:

Sarabeth Phillips is a CrossFit Competitor. CrossFit was her introduction to weightlifting. She now snatches 80 and clean & jerks 95 at a bodyweight of 58.

And that, I think we can all agree, is something we need more of.



Jacob Tsypkin is a CrossFit and weightlifting coach, the co-owner of CrossFit Monterey and the Monterey Bay Barbell Club in Monterey, CA. He is available for weightlifting seminars and once got busy in a Burger King bathroom.