Total Pageviews



Same Routine (Part 1)
By Donny Shankle

Get used to following the same routine in training. It may sometimes feel like you’re going nowhere but take pride in the same routine. You are adapting. All professions or skills get better this way. Do not extend yourself into too many disciplines if you are trying to become a master of one. This is the beauty found within the same routine. Not every one can put up with it or appreciate and learn from the simple genius behind it.

Let us take a broader look at this principle. I get discouraged sometimes when I think of all the different things I can learn and how little I actually know. I imagine I am not alone thinking this way. There are so many subjects and so many specific fields of interest. Since civilization began, man has been cataloging and indexing his knowledge passing it down to the next generation to improve on. Trying to know everything is impossible but many of the principles within each field of interest are the same. In order to know more about the world around us, we have to passionately devote our minds to something. Passion directed towards anything productive transfers over to learning more. Whatever my interests are, I have to stay focused on them to become better. Weightlifting teaches me I have to work hard, be attentive, take care of my body and avoid distractions if I want to become better. How is this different from anything else? Devote yourself to something and you begin to understand more about everything. It’s exercising the mind. This is called moving towards mastery. The more you adapt to it the harder it becomes to continue to excel but it isn’t impossible. However, it does take a lot of work.



Q: How do I find weightlifting clubs in my area?

A: The best thing you can do is check with your governing body or organization. For example, USA Weightlifting has a great feature on their website listing all the available clubs for each state. Contact information for each club is also provided.


Q: Should I ever lift in my tennis shoes?

A: No. I have noticed weightlifters who lift in their tennis shoes develop a bad habit of keeping their chest down when they Snatch. This problem even persists after they switch to weightlifting shoes. To avoid developing this bad habit, always lift in your weightlifting shoes.



The Bouncing Ball
By Donny Shankle

Newton’s third law of motion tells us for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. There are two forces at work within the law called an action force and a reaction force. The bar will move once the action force you apply to the floor is greater than the weight on the bar. The resulting reaction force is then transferred into the bar from the floor and it moves. The more powerful the force the faster the bar and correspondingly the weightlifter will move. In other words, you get what you put in.

Let us say for example, I bounce a rubber ball on the floor. If I were to throw the ball down using the power of my wrist it will bounce up. Now I decide to put my elbow into it and the ball bounces higher. Next time I decide to put my shoulder into it and the ball bounces really fast up and over my head. The more joints I am using and the faster I can control the lengthening and shortening of my muscles, the greater force I will apply into the ball. The floor will return the ball with the same effort I put in. The harder I throw it the faster it will change direction and the higher it will bounce. The only thing left now is to get aggressive and release the ball at the time it will go straight down.

The physics behind the bouncing ball analogy are the same physics behind the pull in weightlifting but in the opposite direction. Instead of throwing the ball down, you are moving up with the bar. The reaction from the floor will be equal to how fast the hips, knees and ankles act. Now combine the momentum you have created going up with moving under the bar at the right time. The “Finish” or final extension of your pull is like the ball hitting the floor. The faster it is the faster you will change direction.



A Timeless Tale
By Donny Shankle

I have an insatiable interest for good stories. You don’t hear good stories much nowadays. Everything is commanded in a quick text message or email. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a Luddite, but I do appreciate hearing a good story.

Stories about the underdog, dark horses, lone wolves and heroes who set themselves against the impossible resonate with me. Some of the most enlightening stories are found in mythology such as the 12 labors of Hercules or Thor’s wrestling match against the old woman. Historical stories about Musashi the legendary ronin or Alexander the Great show us the stark parallels between strength and self-esteem. Stories at sea are another favorite of mine. Fictional stories like Moby Dick teaches us revenge is futile while Captains Courageous teaches us to do away with a reluctant spirit and never give up. In addition to being a source of entertainment and wisdom, stories provide a practical knowledge you can apply to your own training.  

Stories teach us about relevance. This lesson will become clearer as you begin to write your own stories and record your own experiences. Your training journals for example are the start to understanding relevance. Over time they show you what works and what does not work.

“Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own”.
- Bruce Lee

Removing what is irrelevant to a story keeps the story moving. Getting rid of those things which are not pertinent to your success on the platform keeps your training moving. Do not waste your time on irrelevant arguments like whether or not your arms should bend during a Clean or whether you should release your hook grip at the “Receive” of a Snatch. Concentrating too much on details like bar paths, what type of shoe is best, or devoting entire training sessions to technique are all irrelevant to the flow of your training. Get in the gym and lift weights. Adaptation is relevant. Clarity is relevant. Making personal records are relevant. Plot is relevant. Discipline is relevant. The total is relevant.

We still don’t know how much weight can be lifted. As old of a sport as weightlifting is, we still don’t know what a weightlifter’s mind is truly capable of by itself. In order to find out we have to keep lifting and searching for the good story. This is the timeless tale.


Dream Big

The Dreamer
By Donny Shankle 

All of your greatest weightlifters dream big. From the time their goals entered their conscious, they took the steps to transfer those goals into their subconscious as dreams. Either by meditating on their own or with the help of visual aids like hanging posters of their favorite lifter in their gym or bedroom. Without dreaming about becoming a champion weightlifter, you lose important hours of the day which I consider to be focused training. Even while you sleep you can train. You can think about how the bar moves with you while you are awake and dream about how you will react to the bar while you are asleep.

If your dreams are full of scenarios which do not make sense or your dreams are not tied to what you are passionate about then ignore them. They mean nothing. The only dreams which matter are those that are closely tied to you competing and becoming a champion. How do we practice beneficial dreaming and stay focused even while we sleep?

There are more hours in the day than the hours you spend training. Thereby create order in your life. Let those things which you cannot control pass. Instead fill this time with envisioning yourself walking up to the bar and lifting it. Play out scenarios like pulling the bar just before the clock runs out or go even deeper and think about feeling the heartbeats of the audience. See the cloud of chalk rise from your hands as you walk up to the platform and smell the ammonia even when it isn’t there. Remember our discussion on the difference between focus and concentration? Concentrate or meditate on all of these little details especially before falling asleep and you will at some point dream about them. This is good training.

Of course, in order to dream like this you must love being strong. Without something in your life you love deeply, your dreams will only be nightmares.



Support Structure
By Donny Shankle

Ever hear someone say, “I’d like to thank this person or that person”? These people are chosen because they are positive influences. They are good, honest, and encouraging. They are typically our closest friends and people we love. We admire them because they are genuine. We listen to them because we hold them in high esteem. They sit with us on curb sides and talk to us when we have failed. They remind us to “Finish Strong”. They are always there to cheer us on and help us any way they can. They tell us how much they want to be there when we win and how they will always be there when we lose. Champions surround themselves with this kind of support structure because within it lies strength. Nothing is owed. The relationships are not pretentious. These bonds may be short lived but the memories are etched in stone. New contests must be sought and more thanks will be given. No matter how much champions prowl through life, however, they never forget those who believed in them. When they compete they proudly bring all of that positive support. Lions after all travel in prides.



The Weight Classes For Both Genders
(Junior/Senior Level)

48 - 50/70
53 - 55/80
58 - 60/90
63 - 60/90
69 - 70/100
75 - 80/110
+75 - 90/120

56 - 100/120
62 - 110/140
69 - 120/150
77 - 130/160
85 - 140/170
94 - 150/180
105 - 160/190
+105 - 170/200

The IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) recognizes three age group categories. They are youth, junior and senior. Above are the weight classes for both the male and female juniors and seniors. Weight classes can and have periodically change to reset the records after a certain number of years. There are a total of 8 weight classes for men and 7 weight classes for women. I have also included some approximate minimum numbers for both the snatch and clean and jerk to give you an idea of what it would take to be competitive as a senior lifter. I consider medal contention at the national level and team qualification for world contests to be competitive. The minimum age to be considered a junior is up to and including 20 years. The minimum age to be considered a youth is up to and including 17 years. Here are the following weight classes for youth competitors. For boys there are 8 weight classes including 50, 56, 62, 69, 77, 84, 95 and +95kg. For girls the 7 weight classes include 44, 48, 53, 58, 63, 69 and +69kg. The minimum age to compete in all youth events is 13 years. The minimum age eligibility to compete in the Olympic games is 16 years. For all world contests (including world, junior world and university world) the minimum age to compete is 15 years. All age groups are calculated in the lifter’s birth year. Those lifters born earlier in the year have a slight advantage in competition.


Account For Your Maturity When Competing
By Donny Shankle

The surroundings which galvanize your emotions when you compete will change as you get older. With age comes maturity and a stronger ability to concentrate through your own persuasion. After many years of training your muscles will harden. Likewise, after many competitions your temperament will develop into something professional. Welcome this change when it begins to happen and put away the childish motivations which stirred you before.

Muscles as well as personality both mature together. To hedge in one is to ebb the growth of the other. Relax and do not pretend to be something you are not. It’s important to identify and remove variables during competition you feel are no longer needed. Use your maturity to eliminate all the distractions you have control over. Those things you cannot control, use this same maturity to let it not affect you.

Train diligently.