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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.


Sub Ex # 85

500 Meter Row
By Donny Shankle

Coach Pendlay had me row at California Strength once for 500 meters. Since then I have incorporated it into my training on occasion. Of all the subordinate exercises, it is least tied to the lifts but it’s fun. Weightlifters should not row for long distances because of the poor posture you are in but a short burst of speed and power is fine. Challenge yourself at the end of training to a race amongst your teammates. Concentrate on using your legs and pulling fast the same way you would pull the bar. 

Reps: N/A
Advanced Way: N/A
Duration: As long as it takes to complete 500 meters.
Placement in Training: At the end as an additional exercise.

Ya Gotta Eat!

Rice Porridge
By Donny Shankle

1 1/2 Cup Long Grain Rice
6 Cups Chicken Broth
4 Chopped Bacon Strips
1/2 Chopped Onion
4 Minced Garlic Cloves
1 tbsp Butter
Black Pepper

I’m always looking for easy rice dishes in the kitchen. Rice is cheap and porridge is easy to make. Here’s a simple rice porridge that was inspired by Chinese congee.

In a 2 qt saucepan over medium heat, render the bacon until it’s soft and then add onion and garlic. When onion and garlic are cooked, add the chicken broth and 2 cups of water. Bring it to a boil and then add rice. Let the rice cook for around 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes so it doesn’t burn at the bottom. Once the water has reduced and the rice is cooked, bring the heat down to medium-high. Let the rice continue to cook for another 30 minutes or until it has reached porridge consistency. Continue to add water as needed. At the very end, add in butter, salt and pepper to taste. This recipe serves about 4 weightlifters. Enjoy.



By Donny Shankle

All athletes respond positively to incentive. For the most part, your incentive to show up for training will be to win the competition. However, this is not enough and you deserve more. Raise the stakes during your next training session and put something on the line. Challenge yourself to a new personal record and reward yourself or your teammates if either of you succeed.

I’ve never had a problem with having the discipline to train hard. Yet all of my best training has been when there was a little ancillary incentive in the gym. Coaches know this too. I remember teaching a group of 10 weightlifters in Okinawa. During training Snatches they all kept taking unnecessary steps forward when standing up from the bottom. “These small steps at light weights will turn into big misses at heavier weights”, I said over and over. It wasn’t until I told each of them to give me 1000 yen and told them whoever makes it through the rest of the training session, without taking unneeded steps wins the pot. Once they heard this, they all started to pay closer attention to their feet. By the end of training, they all got their money back. None of them took another unnecessary step forward again.

Money is always a great incentive especially for struggling weightlifters. With all the money spent on food, memberships, gear, etc. a little extra money goes a long way. At California Strength the training sessions were always more exciting when Dave or Glenn put up some money to the winner of a challenge. Things like whoever can increase their PR total the most or whoever can complete 90% of their Snatches for 5 singles with the least amount of misses wins $200. All of our eyes got wider and our concentration sharpened like fighter pilots locking in on their target. We were stoked to find out who was going to be the best weightlifter, strongest man, and fiercest lion that day. Money wasn’t always the reward though. Simple things like having lunch bought for you, a t-shirt sent by a sponsor given to you, being able to drive the Porsche to the city on the weekend, or more intimate promises from your girlfriend can all be incentives to help you improve. Even overlooked things like a pat on the back or a handshake from your coach or training partners you look up to will sometimes be the best incentive you can get. Uncle knew this too. Whenever you made a PR in front of him, he would smile and shake your hand. His handshakes meant more to me than any amount of money.

Exploit the favorable reactions you get from occasionally dropping in some surprise incentive. During your next training session reward yourself or any lifters you teach with something to increase their motivation. You deserve to be rewarded for all the hard work you put in, for adhering to the sports code of conduct, for not cheating your way to the top, and for staying in and resting instead of going out with your friends and partying. These rewards will lead to new PR’s and these PR’s will lead to more rewards. It’s a pleasant circle to find yourself in especially if you have been in a training rut.