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Let The Weight Fix It
By Donny Shankle

Sometimes I’ll have a weightlifter ask me if the depth of his squat was low enough. Most of the time I will say yes and tell him or her to put more weight on. Regardless of whether or not you want to train your squat low, the weight will find the depth. A heavy squat will push you down. This is natural and as you keep squatting lower and lower, your flexibility will improve. It is for this reason the Back Squat is one of the initial exercises you master before moving onto the Snatch, Clean, and Jerk. Developing this flexibility with an easier exercise pays off once you move on to more advanced exercises. You will fail a few times and then a lot more but you have to keep squatting consistently and heavy if you want to improve. If you have any questions on whether or not your squat was low enough, give yourself the personal record then put more weight on. Let the weight fix it. Let the weight show you how much lower you are capable of going. Nothing in training comes easy and I encourage you to steer clear from the easy.  Do you know why the greatest weightlifters wear the sterling title of “strongest in the world”? It’s because they avoided the easy. They always put more weight on. Most importantly they never question their ability to achieve lower depths, stronger “finishes”, and higher podium placements.


Get It Moving

Addition To Sub Ex’s
By Donny Shankle

Some of the additional subordinate exercises I outlined and described in chapter 4 are to help turn on the motor units. The classes of additional variation furthest removed from the Snatch, Clean, and Jerk which include exercises like the box jump, medicine ball chest pass, medicine ball overhead throw, etc. are used to get your muscle fibers firing. The more muscles you have firing the stronger you are and the more weight you are lifting. The strong weightlifter is the man or woman who can efficiently utilize the most muscle. The more you put in disciplined practice, the better you will be able to do this.

“The one quality which sets one man apart from another, the key which lifts one to every aspiration, while others are caught up in the mire of mediocrity – is not talent, formal education, nor intellectual brightness. It is self-discipline.” - Theodore Roosevelt

You have to do the lifts if you want to get better. This is the best succinct piece of advice I can give you handed down to me by my own teachers. It’s simple but all of the best competitors adhere to its wisdom. Keep any additional variation you use constrained within time limits. This will keep you from expending the valuable energy needed to regularly Snatch, Clean, and Jerk at maximum. The lower the class of additional variation, the less time should be given to the exercise. The higher variations of ‘subordinate exercise’ will resemble the actual lifts but even these should be time constrained. The highest levels of variation i.e. hangs, blocks, and powers can be given more time.


Ya Gotta Eat!

Turkey Chili
By Donny Shankle

2lbs. Leftover Turkey (Chopped)
1 Chopped Onion
1 Chopped Green Bell Pepper
1 Cup of chopped celery
2 Cloves minced garlic
15oz Can of diced tomatoes
15oz Can of whole kernel corn
5oz Can of Chopped Green Chiles
15oz Can of Pinto Beans (optional)
2 Cans V8 vegetable juice
1 Cup of Water
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 tbsp. Chili Powder
3 tbsp. Cumin
3 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
2 Bay leaves
Salt (to taste)
Black Pepper (to taste)
Diced green onion

Are you looking for something to make with your leftover turkey during the holidays? Try this chili recipe. It’s perfect for when it’s cold outside and better than turkey sandwiches.

In a large skillet over medium heat saute’ your onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic in oil until the vegetables are soft. Then add the diced tomatoes, beans, corn, green chiles, V8, water, Worcestershire sauce and turkey. Stir and wait about five minutes before adding your spices. Bring your heat up until everything begins to boil. Now bring the heat back down to low and let the chili simmer for twenty minutes. Gently mash your beans as it simmers to act as a thickener. Remove the bay leaves when it’s done and garnish with green onion before serving. This recipe feeds about five weightlifters. Enjoy.



Do Not Warm Up Your Pulls So High
By Donny Shankle

As you prepare to Snatch, practice warming up your pull by pulling the empty bar to your sternum. For the Clean, you would aim for the navel. By the time you get to the Clean and Jerk, your pull will already be warmed up depending on whether you began your training with the Snatch. Too often I have seen fledgling weightlifters warm their Snatch up by pulling the bar up to their chin. I have even seen some weightlifters bring the bar all the way up past their head. This is too high and you potentially risk hitting yourself in the forehead. The emphasis on both the Snatch and Clean is in the fast change of direction. The speed should be disorientating to an onlooker. It’s a race against gravity after you have Finished your pull. The skills you develop in training will either bring awards on the podium or penalties from the judges. Do not incorrectly train these skills. This includes your training from the warm up with the bar to lifting a new personal record.


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.