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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.



Q: How do I get good at programming for others and for myself?

Keep things simple, train and develop a history of training so you have something to refer to, and learn from those who taught you.

It’s human nature to at first tackle any endeavor with gusto. You’re excited at the prospect of learning. Every time I walk into a library, there is a feeling of both excitement and sadness. Excitement at the possibility of learning new things and sadness in realizing how much I will never know. Relax and learn a little at a time. Simplify the questions presented to you and answer them for what they are instead of trying to make them more complicated.

I remember one of my coaches giving an interview and when asked if he had any advice for young coaches/weightlifters he said,

“The minute you think you know something or know it all, you’re an idiot.”

The program is simple. You will snatch, clean, squat, and jerk everyday. Don’t think about it too much. I have personally found my own intuition improved by compiling a training history. Without accruing a training history, you have no reference.

A good teacher is also indispensable. I encourage you to be a student of weightlifting and not just an athlete. Talk with your coach daily about training. Gain his or her insight. Have discussions with your coach. By visiting, watching, listening, and talking to other great coaches, you too will prepare yourself to start your own weightlifting club or team someday. In the meantime, your study and endeavor to learn will sharpen your professionalism.



After Competition Do Not Rush Back Into Heavy Training
By Donny Shankle

After you have competed, gradually work back up to the heavy weights you were lifting in training. Competition is demanding especially if you have lifted new personal records. Allow your body to get accustomed to the tonnages you were lifting in training before attacking new PR’s. It will not take long but move gradually. Working your way back up in training slowly is even more important if you tapered leading into competition. Take your time and set the pieces in position again with care. Doing so will avoid injury and give your mind a chance to learn what you can do better the next competition. Take at least a week to evaluate your progress and redress your weaknesses.



Rotate On The Platform
By Donny Shankle

If the gym you are lifting at has limited space or platforms, use some organization and rotate on the platform. I started lifting with other weightlifters in a two car garage. There were two platforms to lift on usually accommodating at least a dozen weightlifters. To lift smoothly in this seemingly cramped setting requires some discipline. If a little etiquette is applied and you drop the chit chat, what seems like a cramped space is actually plenty of room. A focused athlete can turn almost any location into a seamless training environment.

Champions are very good at blocking out distraction and using what they have at their disposal. In an odd way, lifting for them has the appearance of being on the hunt. If you have ever been hunting or observed the orderliness and ingenuity it takes to stalk prey then you will understand my analogy. This same orderliness, discipline, and ability to block out interference is applied by the weightlifter who wants to get his or her lifts in within a certain amount of time. Training is not amusing for the champion. It is his or her job and is taken seriously.

There is a comfortable rotation to be found among any group of lifters with little space. A small 2m x 2m platform with two bars can support six to eight weightlifters. The group needs to be broken up into lifters who lift at or closely near to the personal records of each other. For example, four of these lifters SN 150 -170 kilos. This will be group A. The other four lifters SN between 90 and 110 kilos. This will be group B. Once the training groups per bar have been established, each lifter sits down and surrounds the platform. This eliminates the distraction and gives attention to each lifter on the bar simulating the audience in competition. Group A’s bar is loaded and set at the back of the platform. Group B’s bar is loaded and set at the front. Once all the lifter’s in group A have lifted, then all the lifters in group B lift. All lifters can get through their lifts within three to five minutes. This will flow ever more smoothly if the weightlifters training together are training consistently.

Even if you have fifty athletes within a small space the same idea can be applied. The only difference now is you have to break up days and/or times for the selected groups. These larger groups should be divided into similar age brackets. This keeps a competitive edge within the training group giving the teenagers a chance to lift with other teenagers, or the seniors and masters to lift with other seniors and masters. With this many lifters, selected groups may have to train Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, while the other selected groups train the days in-between.  Time slots can also be implemented. Days one, three, and five for example can have two training sessions. The first training session can be at 1600 and the second session can be at 1800. These same times can be implemented on days two, four, and six. Utilizing time and space this way due to limited equipment is a great way to accommodate many interested weightlifters. Training will run smoothly with practice, self-discipline, and a good sense of awareness.


Sub Ex # 67

Bridge Pulls
By Donny Shankle

Bridge Pulls are pulling to a fixed height or “bridge”. The exercise can be done with either a Snatch or Clean grip. To perform the exercise, fix a wooden stick or PVC pipe onto a set of squat racks. Loosely tie the stick to the top of the squat racks and position them perpendicular and off to the side of you. Make sure the end of the wooden stick or PVC is positioned directly over the end of your bar. At the completion of each pull your goal is to strike the stick. When using a Snatch grip, fix the height of the bar to sternum level. For the Clean, fix the height of the stick to navel level. I first came across the exercise in World and Olympic champion Tommy Kono’s book “Weightlifting, Olympic Style”. In it Tommy Kono explains the three benefits of the exercise.

1 - “It teaches the lifter to stretch his or her body or extend the body to get maximum height…”
2 - “It teaches you to start the pull with your legs…”
3 - “It teaches you to control the output of your power…”

Often lifters will drop the chest down to the bar while doing regular High Pulls. I have never been a fan of pulling this way. The Bridge Pulls keep you from doing this because dropping the chest will not necessarily enable you to achieve the height of the bridge. You have to extend your body tall and straight to hit the bridge. Therefore, Bridge Pulls teach you to pull fully and straight. The exercise also teaches you to be patient with your set up off the floor. It concentrates on bringing your hips low and setting your back straight at the start thus allowing you to smoothly push off the floor with your legs. It also allows you to concentrate more on the acceleration or fluidness of your pull from start to “Finish”. For example, I have used the exercise with lifters who hitch during their pull and it seems to correct this mistake very well. I refer you to Mr. Kono’s book for a detailed description of the exercise and its complete benefits.

REPS: 1-3
SETS: 3-5
DURATION: 10-20 minutes
PLACEMENT IN TRAINING: Either after Snatching to increase the strength of the pull or as a substitute to Snatching allowing the shoulders to rest.


Ya Gotta Eat!

My Favorite Foods For Getting Stronger
By Donny Shankle


One of the best foods you can eat right before training are bananas. Bananas are high in the mineral potassium which helps the transmission of signals sent by your brain to your muscles telling them to apply force. Low levels of potassium in your diet will cause fatigue, muscle weakness, and a lack of coordination. Bananas are also cheap, contain plenty of calories, and are rich in sugar. This will help keep your weight on and fuel your training. Along with eating a banana before training, try eating one in ice cream before bed if you have trouble gaining weight.