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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.


Every Day

Going To Maximum Every Day
By Donny Shankle

Going to maximum everyday may sound intimidating. But after you have lifted this way for a few years, you begin to see it’s not. Many lifters like to refer to this system of training as the “Bulgarian System”. This system, however, has a lot more to do with training in a group as a professional and less to do with taking the weight to maximum every day. The group environment within the Bulgarian system is the essential pillar to keep the adaptation within training from abating. Regarding yourself as a consummate professional, and training with other professionals all competing against each other for a spot to lift on a world stage are enough to keep the returns coming. So long as you continue to fight instead of take flight and quit. The group must be composed of champions passionate to still improve. Youth, health, and single mindedness within the group are also required to take it to the maximum everyday. It isn’t courage which gets you through this type of training. Courage can be spoken of after the fact. To get through going to the maximum everyday is about having the right attitude. Get aggressive and attack.

Lifting at the maximum everyday is a very rudimentary idea and common sense for a champion. If you lift heavy weights, you get strong. No shit. If you constantly challenge yourself, you will adapt to the challenge only to be presented with a new challenge to overcome. Once you have put in many repetitions training this way, you start to gradually develop into a master weightlifter. The amount of tonnage you can lift each week rises. Your body and mind in turn change and becomes stronger from all the continued load you put on yourself. The gains will continue to come so long as you remember to move gradually and train in a group with other champions who lift efficiently and aggressively. It’s the misses that take its toll on you in training. Therefore, before you begin lifting to the maximum everyday I would suggest you first learn how to lift. The structure within going to maximum everyday is simple. It also isn’t so strict to not include going by feel some days. It’s the group environment, however, which will keep your feelings and your teammate’s feelings honest. If the person to the left and right of you is still pushing it to the maximum everyday, why shouldn’t you be able to?



It’s All In The Hips
By Donny Shankle

As you pull off the floor with a tight back the next thing to do is bring the bar into the hips or as close to the hips as possible. This will be different for each lifter depending on the length of their arms. Once there, you bring your hips through powerfully on the “Finish” of the pull and extend your body tall. This follows with moving your feet and quickly changing direction getting yourself under the bar. It’s all in the hips. This is the seat of your power and where all of your strongest muscles are located. This is a fact that will never change and it’s why weightlifters spend so much time squatting. The squat improves hip power while at the same time strengthening your legs and back. Focus on making your entire body strong with extra emphasis on training yourself to powerfully bring your hips through. Spend some extra time moving your lighter sets fast or practice jumping exercises before lifting begins. This will get the hips firing and call the muscle fibers in and around the hips, back, and legs to come to work.