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Power (Pt. 3)

Violent Power + Controlled Power
By Donny Shankle

Combining violent power plus controlled power, both at their zenith, is what you need to hoist the most weight over your head. Once you learn how to do this, you are moving into mastery of the lifts and on your way to being a champion. A champion lifter has learned how to do this with every single attempt.

Sounds easy right? Well, I thought so too when I first started but, it has been a helluva journey learning otherwise. Every time the weight on the bar increases it's like starting over. It is sort of like learning math in school. Once you learn addition, you then learn subtraction, followed with multiplication, and later division. Once you get that down someone throws algebra your way and later on trigonometry and calculus. It just keeps adding up and you learn the more you know the more you don’t know. Weightlifting is the same way. Each increase in weight you lift will help you learn something new about what is on the bar and yourself. This will help you tackle the next weight. The strength you needed to snatch 120 kilos is not enough to snatch 130 kilos. You might even be applying the violent power 100% but without the controlled power it doesn't matter and vice versa.

Violent power plus controlled power is about combining aggression with reaction. Once you are able to do this at will every time, without thought, is when you are able to put the most amount of energy into the lift. Power is then measured by the rate of time in which you can complete the lift. A fast lift under control is a powerful lift. Powerful lifts have no time for error. Train diligently.


Power (Pt. 2)

Controlled Power
By Donny Shankle

Controlled power is something which comes from training everyday. It comes with practice in the gym. It comes with adaptation. As the repetitions add up, your skill begins to improve and your strength increases. It is this increase in strength along with learning how to move the bar that makes for an efficient weightlifter. During your first year of training, you are building muscle coordination and a connection between you and the bar. This connection is easy to learn. The challenge lies in whether or not you can efficiently lift weights in competition that win, and proceed to swell your confidence with each increase in weight. Can you control your power? Can you make it work for you? Or will you have it control you?

At the heart of controlled power is strength. Strength of both mind and body which comes with disciplined practice. The stronger you are, the better you will maintain proper positions when you lift. Controlled power is displayed by any great athlete who has put in the hard work at their discipline. It is the exhibition of one of weightlifting’s ten virtues. Do you remember what they were? Controlled power is moving with coordination and gracefulness. It is greater than violent power but at the same time nothing without it. To lift under control, without violence behind it, would be like living a life without going through adolescence. Controlled power is something beautiful to behold because it is something which is worked hard for. This is not something which can be mentally switched on like violent power. It needs to be tailored with care and determination.


Video Tutorial 5


Power (Pt. 1)

Violent Power
By Donny Shankle

The biggest difference I see between an experienced weightlifter and someone starting out lifting weights is the amount of noticeable power put into the bar by the former. You can actually hear the hips coming through, the feet moving with authority, and the rattling of the bar. The overall presence of the weightlifter is intimidating as he approaches the bar. As he lifts you can feel his power. The weightlifter is being aggressive and is focused on moving violently. He is confident in his technique because he has put in many hours refining it. The beginner has not completely developed this violent power. He is capable of bursts of violent power but his focus initially should still be on learning.

The phrase “move violently” was explained to me by coach Pendlay while I was training under Abadjiev. It is the best phrase to explain how to attack the bar. If you were to look at the journal I kept while training under uncle, you might think you were in a scene from The Shining. There are pages upon pages of me writing to myself, “Move Donny! Move Violently!” The point being the circumstance I was in required me to tap into something more than perfection of form. I needed to get pissed off and channel that energy into the bar. I needed to move violently if I was going to make it through the training. All thoughts on technique, and none on moving violently, makes Jack a slow boy.

During the 2006 world championships, I warmed up across from the Russian weightlifter Dmitry Lapikov. In between his lifts he would spit, cuss, and mean mug the bar. I later asked what he was actually saying in Russian. “I hate the bar!" , "The bar is my enemy!", "It has taken everything from me!” is what was translated to me. This lifter understood quite well that in order to lift the most he needed to psych himself up and move violently. Moving this way is trained but it is more of a deliberate action. Once you have learned how to move, go after every repetition like you mean it. Never expect the bar to lift itself. You have to apply violent power into the lift. No one else will do it for you.


Tips For The Jerk

#2 - Don’t Lose Your Aggression After The Clean
By Donny Shankle

One of the main reasons weightlifters will miss their Jerk after a Clean is because they lose their aggression. The C&J is made up of two separate movements each requiring 100% concentration and intensity. If you ease up on your aggressiveness just prior to Jerking because you think you have spent yourself completely on the Clean, then you have already missed the lift. I can’t get across to you in polite words just how important it is to take whatever self-confidence and violence you put into making your Clean easy, and then having to double it for the Jerk. Show some damn grit and complete the lift. The best Clean and Jerkers are the weightlifters who look pissed off and intimidating when they lift. The competition isn’t over until the last Jerk comes down and the weightlifter who brings it down last usually ends up winning.

There are a couple combinations you can use to help you train this aggression. Toying is probably the best way to train it. Combinations break up portions of the lift to help boost your concentration at stages you are deficient. Thus learning how to lift aggressively at each stage. An example would be Push Press + Jerk. The Push Press gets you thinking of driving hard with the legs and changing direction quickly. Then you follow up with your Jerk the same way. Toying is similar to Combinations but there is one more movement involved and the bar is kept in your hands for a longer period of time. This fatigues you considerably and eventually pisses you off enough you fight your way through the exercise. Both aggression and conditioning improve as you practice Toying with weights. The Shankle Complex is an example of Toying. Refer back to the SUB EX chapter and review Combinations and Toying.



By Donny Shankle

I enjoy making breakfast in the morning. The smell of fresh coffee brewing and bacon frying in the skillet are enough to get me happily out of bed and fuel up for my first training session. The process of cooking early in the morning teaches you to move little by little as you gradually wake up. You can’t cook the bacon on too hot of a fire or else you will end up getting splattered with grease. You need to bring the fire down and gently let it sizzle. I pour my coffee into a thermos to sip during training. If I try and rush it, I end up spilling coffee down the sides making a mess. My point is you have to be patient and take your time if you want to do something right. Even if it’s something as simple and routine as making breakfast.

Uncle liked the word “gradually”. As you sat and listened to him speak, the word was used multiple times to get a point about training across. For whatever reason, he always liked saying it in threes.

“Gradually, gradually, gradually. When you are training move gradually. Do not rush too fast. Let adaptation come gradually.”

If you were coming back from injury, he used the word a lot too.

“Little bit each day. Gradually, gradually, gradually. If you move too fast too soon, maybe you get hurt again.”

When you were going after personal records in training, he stressed how important it was to take smaller attempts.

“Increase the weight little bit at a time. Let adaptation gradually come. Why go for this much more right now? Don’t be crazy! Maybe just a little bit today and then a little bit more tomorrow. Gradually.”

Moving slowly in your training produces great power and strength over time. Think of the living Earth and the billions of years it took in its formation until something as wondrous as life which can contemplate itself emerged. The strength of your body is no different. Of course, your time is limited but perfection at anything requiring skill and grace does not come with reckless abandon. You have to take your time while learning the Snatch and Clean and Jerk. Initially you have to move gradually like uncle said until you understand the movement. There is no point in trying to rush this learning process. If you do you only invite injury and setback. You will get burned or make a mess of things.

Believe me I know how enticing it feels to be strong. I know the positive energy which surges through you after successfully lifting a heavy bar over your head is addictive. After you have learned what you are doing, you can then begin applying power into what you are doing. The weight of the bar however continues increasing. With this steady increase, you need to move gradually with the increase. Like the game of chess, set yourself up gradually in position, then attack. If you train this way then the great feelings which come after winning, setting PR’s, or lifting more than your training buddies will keep coming.

Again we make things simple by using the word gradually. I am sure in uncle’s volumes of text he wrote out by hand, this process of gradual adaptation was explained in greater detail. As a weightlifter learning what I could with the time I had, in the translation offered, hearing him say “Move gradually” was enough to teach me what I needed to know to win.


Ya Gotta Eat!

My Favorite Foods For Getting Stronger
By Donny Shankle


Tuna is a great source of Omega-3, very high in B-vitamins, and obviously a fantastic source of protein. Seafood in general is one of my favorite foods to eat. Oysters for example are another favorite of mine which are very high in mineral content. I personally believe that the high concentration of minerals seafood contains and the protein in it was responsible for part of our large brain development as evolving humans. My diet growing up in Louisiana consisted of a lot of oysters, shrimp, crayfish, catfish, and crab. As I trained in California I started to eat a lot of salmon, calamari, and halibut. Flounder, sea bass, and sword fish are other favorites of mine which if prepared correctly on the grill taste amazing. I like anchovies in my salad, will snack on seaweed, eat sardines straight from the can, and I even enjoy eating octopus. Other favorites include lobster and caviar but I only eat these on special occasions.

Of all the types of seafood, canned tuna is one of the most well-known, at least within the United States. It’s also the kind most people will eat even if they do not have a taste for seafood. I prefer eating tuna raw but this can be expensive and the sushi grade cuts are hard to find depending on where you live. For the best tasting tuna, visit Tsukiji fish market. There you can buy it immediately after auction and watch it butchered right in front of you. The fish is a beautiful deep red and the fattier the cut, the pinker it is, and greater the taste in my opinion. Otoro (fatty tuna) with wasabi and a light hint of soy sauce served with rice is one of my favorite types of sushi. Although I find canned tuna to be not as great tasting as the the raw or lightly seared kind, it does make for an easy lunch. I make my tuna salad with mayonnaise, Grey Poupon, and sliced olives or pickles. If you do not like the taste of mayonnaise, try making your tuna salad with olive spread. For the rich protein tuna contains along with its high mineral and low fat content, it’s a great food to build your muscles and improve strength.


Sub Ex # 76

Rack Jerks
By Donny Shankle

Jerks from the rack allow you to concentrate your energy on training the Jerk without having to Clean the weight first. The style of Jerk you use during an actual Jerk after a Clean must also be the same style of Jerk you use when training the exercise separately in the rack. This subordinate exercise is great for weightlifters who struggle with their Jerk after the Clean. It allows you to correct any deficiencies in your Jerk without being tired from having to Clean the weight first. The more energy you can concentrate on one lift at a time, the faster you will correct any errors you are making and the stronger you can become at the exercise. Since your legs are fresh after taking the weight from the rack, your goal for the exercise should be to Jerk more than your best Clean & Jerk. Plan to Jerk 15 kilos more from the rack off of the Personal Record Clean and Jerk you are attempting in order to have the carryover. For example, if you are trying to set a PR Clean and Jerk at 150 kilos then aim to Rack Jerk 165 kilos. This 15 kilos is just an approximate average I have noticed using my own experience and watching other weightlifters train.

To perform Rack Jerks, set up a pair of Squat Racks to a height you can comfortably un-rack the bar either from the five points or behind the neck while using as little of a squat as possible. Step out from the racks far enough to safely drop the bar if you should happen to miss. Jerk the bar and concentrate on correcting any errors you happen to make after a Clean. Nine times out of ten the weightlifter will lose his aggression after a Clean and attempt to perform a half-hearted Jerk. Rack Jerks are great in the sense that they get you thinking about using the same amount of aggression you used on the Clean. While performing Rack Jerks, your goal should be to perform the exercise perfectly. For this reason, I do not recommend walking out a Rack Jerk. I have seen some lifters come dangerously close to hitting their hand on the racks while attempting to walk out and save the lift. If you have not Jerked it perfectly within the LOB then let it go and re-rack the weight. You can always correct your mistake after you have unloaded the bar, placed it back in the rack, and loaded it back up again. I prefer training the Rack Jerk using singles and doubles and utilizing the exercise as a way to strengthen the eccentric portion of the lift. Remember a strong eccentric makes for a powerful concentric. Once you move into weights you can no longer control safely as you bring the bar back down to your shoulders, move to the blocks. To learn how to perform other Rack Jerk variations, review the subordinate exercise “Combinations” I discussed earlier in this chapter.

REPS: 1-2
SETS: 2-10
ADVANCED WAY: Rack Jerks can be made more difficult by practicing them in Combination and using various percentages off of your 1RM.
DURATION: 5-35 minutes
PLACEMENT IN TRAINING: Rack Jerks are best performed using the priority principle. If you happen to struggle on your Jerk after the Clean then plan on Rack Jerking first in your training at least once a week.




Yes, That’s Really All It Takes
By Donny Shankle

I spend a lot of my time answering questions from weightlifters all over the world. Any answer I give, I look back at my own experience and knowledge shared with me by some of the greatest teachers this sport has to offer. I am amazed at times at how complicated some weightlifters make their own training. One of the things I have stressed in this book is how important it is to train in a group setting with other weightlifters who have the same goals as you. Goals like standing on top of the podium, calling yourself a champion, leaving competition with medals, and going to the Olympics. During one email exchange this lifter said,

“Donny it can’t be as easy as just go and train in a group can it?”

“Yes”, was my response. “That’s really all it takes.”

Take any weightlifter who is in a rut training on his own and change his surroundings. Put him in a group of like-minded champions and I guarantee you his numbers will improve within a week if not sooner. On top of going in search of a group to train with, you also need to keep things simple. Snatch, Clean, and Jerk as often as you can and if you need to use variation for whatever reason, do not get too far removed from the Snatch, Clean, and Jerk. Two lifters I am training with and teaching as I write this get it and are improving because of their understanding. I saw the lights go on in the eyes of one of the lifters when he told me one day,

“You don’t see the best weightlifters in training videos or on Youtube training alone do you?”

“You’re absolutely right” I said.

Perhaps not everyone is meant to be a champion. I have noticed over the years that many people are not willing to do what it takes to be a champion. Shit most of the people I have come across can’t even understand what it takes. If you want to change that then take the steps. There are so many gyms offering spinning bars and bumper plates these days that it really isn’t hard. All you need to do is buy a pair of weightlifting shoes and get there. If you want to improve bad enough, you will find a way to make it happen. The answers to lifting heavy weights are not found in any program and some of the programs lifters share with me make my jaw drop. Look at all of the old training videos of myself and other teammates at California Strength as an example. Do you ever see any of us training alone? Are our eyes glued to a binder filled in with pages of programming we pulled off the internet? No. You see a group of weightlifters training together trying to beat each other. There is no greater satisfaction for a weightlifter in training than to out lift the guy next to him. The same idea applies to competition. Handicaps are given if the group of lifters vary in weight class to make things fair. If the 77k lifter is lifting 120 kilos then for the 94k lifter to match him he better put up at least 140 kilos. Then if the 77k lifter goes above his 120k lift but the 94k can’t then he is the days strongest weightlifter. The next day everyone comes back together and lifts to maximum again. The ME can be adjusted either by the coach or team leader on days in between and consistency is practiced. The first lifter to miss his lift on this day loses. The concentration is always kept on improving and there is always a single winner or on great days multiple winners within the group. It is that easy. Yes, that’s really all it takes.

As I look back at the champion lifters I have trained with each one of them left their comfort zone or situation at that time to go and learn from the best and train with the best. There was never any obstacle in front of them which they did not overcome. A friend of mine from Montana drove an hour and a half through the snow multiple times a week to train with his coach. Another friend of mine quit his job and lived in his car with his girlfriend to get the opportunity to train with me and be a part of a group, building something special. I wrote down the address of a coach in California while I was deployed in the service and put it into my sea bag. I literally had to fight my way out of combat first in order to train with him but that was not something I was afraid of. I did what I had to do in order to be the champion I saw within myself. Maybe a military man sees the value of training in a group more. He knows you are only as strong as the man beside you. If you surround yourself with gritty and tough sons of bitches who put fear in the hearts of weaklings then you better rise up and prove how strong you can be too if you plan to survive. Within this process you either lift heavy and win or stay complacent and never improve. If you happen to have other commitments fine. Finish them and then go find a place to train. There is nothing holding you back from training in a group. Nothing.

Yes, that’s really all it takes. Of course, I have had to train alone at times but I never keep it that way. I either keep the search going or invite other lifters to come and train with me. Some come and some don’t. This is how the best weightlifters have always done it. We live together, eat together, and train together. Those who let up, leave and do something else. Those who stay and continue to add one kilo at a time improve. One of my coaches knew the importance of training together in a group so much that even at fifty plus years old he still did what he could in the gym with us. He never coached us on the platform. Any teaching took place off the platform. Once the weightlifters were together in the gym, it was time to lift and see who was the best. He would encourage us in between attempts and keep the intensity high telling us to put more on the bar. This matures you as a lifter and strengthens your spirit. In between watching us lift he would walk over to his bench press or squat stand and lift amongst us. He trained with his weightlifters and we would do anything to win and make him shake our hand at the end of the training session. This way of teaching influenced me so much that it is now at the heart of how I teach along with making new personal records every single day.

Get in a group and lift heavy weights together. That’s what uncle always had us do and whenever I am in question about what I could do better, I just remember what I learned from him. When I remember the lessons he taught, I smile and take a breath of relaxation. He wasn’t some anointed one. He knew how simple it really was to improve. He knew what weightlifters needed. All they needed was a place to train together and the will within each lifter's heart to fight. That is what gyms are for and it’s why I don’t encourage home gyms. I built my own many years ago and used it a lot but all of my best lifting was done in the gym with a group of other lifters fighting with me. There was no way in hell I would lose to anyone. I keep that mentality to this day and when I teach it’s what I aim to get across to other weightlifters. I guess not everyone is up to the challenge and I guess that means not everyone is fit to be a champion. To stay single minded, keep a positive outlook even through injury, or going to bed early when you could be out partying takes discipline on your part. The weightlifters who have this discipline combined with a hard work ethic are the champions and professionals. They understand how easy it really is to get better if you go and train in a group and keep the training heavy and simple. Yes, that’s really all it takes.