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Training Video 17

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Tips For The Jerk

#5 - Don’t Sit Down As Much In-Between Sets
By Donny Shankle

When you are practicing your Jerk from the racks or blocks, stay on your feet in between sets. By not allowing your legs to rest, you keep them fatigued which simulates the “stand” after a heavy Clean. Occasionally practice this for your heaviest sets and never while you are doing the Clean & Jerk. Only utilize this tip while you are doing variation that does not involve the Clean. Get used to the feeling of going after your Jerk on legs which are not always fresh.


18 Months

Pushing Past The Threshold
By Donny Shankle

“Once you adapt you are adapted forever.” - Jim Moser

Every kilo you add and lift is a threshold you must push past to grow. The first eighteen months of training are usually filled with the normal aches and pains experienced as you confront any new physical exercise. This muscle soreness gets better because you become harder. You adapt to the stress being placed on your body. Depending on your prior physical preparedness and athleticism, this time period will be easier. After this chrysalis, other aches, joint soreness, and muscle tightness are still there but you adapt to these too. Further along in training is when your mind starts to toughen up and you see the weights as more of a mental challenge than physical. This is the real threshold which does not prove easier no matter what your previous accomplishments may have been. The aplomb you develop through consistent training is another threshold champions adapt towards as they master their discipline with joy.  As long as you keep yourself conditioned and stay positive, the thresholds cease to be viewed as barriers. They are simply periods of emergence for the next champion waiting to be born.

Just as the above quote says, “Once you adapt you are adapted forever.” The first time you lift a new weight overhead will always be the greatest test of strength. The training required to achieve this weight again will never be as difficult because mentally you have conquered it. This even includes coming back from an injury or long lay off due to life. The periods of growth through your disciplined and diligent training also permanently remain. Once a weightlifter always a weightlifter. Once a champion forever a champion. Once you push past these physical and mental thresholds, especially in the company of other champions, you will never forget what you went through and you will carry yourself with a sense of pride. Your body will resemble granite, your mind will become stoic, and your tolerance when facing any adversity will be unshakable. Becoming a strong weightlifter is a matter of will. It starts by showing control with the bar first. This is the first adaptation you go through. Once you can do this you will always be able to. And so on…



Fatigue Is A Good Teacher. It’s Not A Disciplinarian.
By Donny Shankle

It’s good sometimes to include some higher volume in your training. The added repetition will improve your conditioning and get some blood flowing. More importantly, it will teach you to be efficient. A triple on the power clean, set of five on the push press, or set of ten on the back squat are all exhausting. Working in these higher rep ranges will get you concentrating on using your hips more aggressively, driving harder with your legs, and breathing deeper keeping your body steadfast. You have to move correctly when you are tired, if you are going to give yourself the best chance of completing the set. I like to think of this fatigue as a sort of teacher. When I start to get tired from a higher volume set, I start hearing all those little cues I’ve given myself or my coaches may have said to me in the past. Stay off your toes! Finish strong! Split wide! Keep in mind this fatigue should only be thought of as a good teacher. It’s not a disciplinarian. You are not in the gym to punish yourself or risk injury. You’re in the gym training to improve your performance in competition. A little higher volume some days will help towards that end.



By Donny Shankle

Every weightlifting gym should have a chess set in it. Perhaps I feel this way because of all the great Russian weightlifters and grandmasters which have captivated the world. It’s a great slow moving game to play in-between exercises and training sessions. It’s not strenuous on the body and it temporarily gets your mind thinking about something else. One of the first gyms I trained in was the Wichita Falls Athletic Club located in North Texas. I remember our chalk stand had a small chess set in it which my teammates and I surreptitiously played on in-between attempts. Chess and weightlifting can both sometimes feel like a solitary endeavor. Many days in the gym will be spent training alone. The game of chess will involve quiet study of the opening moves and end games used by past and current champions. However, once you start lifting with others and sit down at table to play a game is when the fun begins. The game too can be a metaphor for training and competition. Train diligently the same way you would carefully set your pieces in position. Once in position, attack the bar without mercy and put your opponents in checkmate.

No Such Thing

Too Strong?
By Donny Shankle

There is no such thing as being too strong. Throughout my discussions with great coaches and my own training, I have never once come across any valid (or sane) argument advocating a return to weakness. Strength is the linchpin to performance across all sports which separates excellence from the pedestrian.

What I have learned is a strong body is not the same thing as a practiced body. If strength was the only attribute you needed to be a great weightlifter, then does this mean any very physically strong person could be an Olympic gold medalist within the sport? Absolutely not. You have to practice. We have already looked at the four pillars required to becoming a world champion. None of these pillars suggests the absolute necessity to be strong and only strong. On that same note, none of these pillars says anything to suggest being strong is counterproductive. True, there is the use of PED’s within weightlifting by some lifters to increase their strength astronomically. But this pillar does not stand on its own. If PED’s were all you needed to improve strength then any junkie would be champion.

Weightlifting is a patient sport making the weightlifter a patient (or stubborn) person. This sort of patience also makes the weightlifter strong up-stairs too. I have flipped tires, loaded stones, pulled sleds, bench pressed, arm wrestled, tackled bull charging fullbacks, and boxed with golden gloves champions. None of these tests in strength and manliness compares even the slightest bit to the time I have put into attempting to master the sport of weightlifting. This is the only test in strength I have found which requires clearing your mind of any extraneous thought and using this lucidity to channel not only physical strength but steady confidence.

There is no such thing as too strong.


Tips For The Jerk

#4 - Don’t Overthink It
By Donny Shankle

Once you start overthinking the Jerk, you set yourself up for being tense instead of staying relaxed. Soon all of your Jerks will resemble presses. Even worse, you begin missing your Cleans or struggle out of them because all of your concentration has shifted into the Jerk. Don’t let your frustration and ire after a few missed Jerks subsume you to the point you start thinking of your Jerk day and night. The best salve at this point is to focus on something else. Think about doing your Cleans perfectly or get your mind entirely off of weightlifting for a day.


Ya Gotta Eat!

Bone Stock
By Donny Shankle

When someone throws out good steak bones or chicken bones and then buys joint supplements from the market, I scratch my head in bewilderment. Bones are the base to any good broth. The gelatin, minerals, collagen, and marrow you get from slow cooking bones into a stock all go to help repairing your joints. Get out of the habit of buying canned stock or bouillon cubes. It’s a waste of money you could be putting towards competition entry fees. Instead, keep a big zip lock bag of leftover bones in the freezer. Every time you are left with bones after a meal, store them for later use and eventually cook these bones down into a broth. Doing so will save you a lot of money, boost your immune system, and strengthen your bones, tendons, and ligaments.

This is a very simple recipe I use which uses chicken bones, beef marrow bones, T-bones, pork shoulder bones, etc. Place all these bones in a pan and drizzle some vegetable oil on them. Set your oven to 400 degrees and brown the bones. Now place the bones in a large stock pot (making sure to scrape anything which fell off the bones into the pot) and add in some chopped onion, garlic cloves, and celery. Fill the pot with water until everything is submerged. Bring to a boil then simmer on low for at least 24 hours covered. Towards the end of cooking throw in some salt and pepper. After the stock is finished cooking, remove the bones. Let it cool and store it in the freezer for later use as a stock for soups and stews.



The Night Before
By Donny Shankle

The night before competition is about rest. You have trained well and put all the work in. Now it’s time to envision making your opening attempt perfectly and attacking each lift to follow with confidence. Think about speed on this night. See yourself moving faster than you have ever moved before. Let your mind record your imagination. Allow it to believe you are capable of moving like lightning. Speed is the physical attribute which decides the champion on competition day.

If you want an example of someone to watch who moves with great speed, look up some videos on Youtube of Zlaten Vanev. Vanev took world champion in three different weight classes and his speed never diminished the heavier he got. The way he moves is inimitable and an example to all weightlifters on how to move.

The night before I competed at the 2011 Pan-American Games, I watched the Colombians and Cubans compete in the 94 kilo class. They too moved very fast. I pictured myself trying to move with this same kind of celerity and slept on that positive imagery. It worked. When I lifted the following evening, I went out there and moved faster than I have ever felt myself move before which resulted in taking home a great looking medal.


A Comparison

One Inch Punch
By Donny Shankle

I like to use the example of Bruce Lee’s one inch punch as a comparison to how you should move your feet when snatching, cleaning, or power and squat jerking. If you have not seen the video of Bruce Lee demonstrating his one inch punch, it shows him with his fist one inch away from another martial artist. Within this small space, he applies enough power as he strikes to knock the other man down into a chair placed behind him.

At its most crude level, all three lifts within weightlifting resemble a jump. Both feet come off the floor and this by definition is a jump. The jump needs to be sharp, short, and quick. Just because the jump looks different does not negate its identity. There are many different types of punches fighters use. The jab, uppercut, backhand, etc. are all different punches but they are all still identified as a punch in form. Some weightlifters even like to think of the change of direction which takes place as a sort of jumping down. What does this have to do with Bruce Lee’s one inch punch? It gives you an idea of how the feet should move within a small amount of space.

The jump which takes place during a snatch, clean, or jerk does not have to involve your feet coming a foot off the platform. In fact, to think of it this way will leave you “toe tied”. After you have completed your pull during the “Finish”, move your feet and pull yourself under the bar within a short amount of space using great power. Picture your feet moving with the same power as Bruce Lee’s one inch punch.



Weightlifting For The Non-Competitor
By Donny Shankle

As a competitive weightlifter I encourage everyone interested in weightlifting to compete. The competition will improve your performance in training. If you have had difficulty breaking through barriers in training and haven't PR'd in an while, try competing in front of an audience. The competitiveness and the chance to showcase your hard work will push you to improve. No one wants to look like a fool in front of a crowd. By competing regularly, you will push training to a different level and work even harder than what you may have thought possible.

Even if you have no desire to ever compete, weightlifting is still good for you. It's a total body workout. Weightlifting trains all of your physical attributes. Strength, speed, flexibility, etc. are all increased as you practice snatching, squatting, cleaning, and jerking. Your posture improves. The vigorous breathing after a heavy clean and jerk strengthens your lungs. This type of exercise puts you under a huge amount of stress which produces more testosterone and releases endorphins. These hormones play pivotal roles in building muscle while keeping your thoughts positive and crystalline. This is why weightlifters carry so much muscle and emit confidence. As you increase your skill, you lift more weight. On top of all the rewards I have laid out weightlifting is fun. There is something primeval about picking something up off the floor and putting it over your head.

I encourage you to lift in a proper weightlifting gym wherein you can safely drop weights on the ground. This will allow you to train as much muscle as possible and not be afraid to go to maximum. The benefits of weightlifting goes beyond the physical. As you practice the lifts, the muscles inevitably take care of themselves presenting a healthy and self-assured person both inside and out. Your confidence improves. Training to become stronger has universal interests across the board for anyone in fitness. Look at the best athletes across all sports. Are they weak? Do they lack confidence? Many other sports use the competitive lifts within the sport of weightlifting to perfect their own discipline. This is because the physical benefits transfer over very well to their own disciplines along with the mental benefits like courage.

Go lift. Heavy.