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10th Must
Stay Off Your Toes
By Donny Shankle

Stay off your toes when you are lifting. You should never be on your toes except when “Finishing” during the pull, the last moment of the “Drive” during the Jerk, or when having your back heel up during the “Split”. Some coaches will tell you to pull from your heels or the center of your foot. I find it’s easier to think about just staying off your toes. If you go to your toes during any point of the Snatch, Clean, or Jerk then the bar is controlling you and pulling you out of the LOB. This reduces your chances of completing the lift. For the pull this is usually caused from having a weak or inflexible posterior chain. Setting up to the bar incorrectly could also be a factor. An easy way to ensure your set up to the bar is exact every time is to bring the first eyelets of your shoes directly under the bar. Poor flexibility in the wrists and shoulders, having a weak posterior chain, and being anterior dominant will all contribute to lack of coordination during the Jerk. When you Jerk, think about dipping and driving in a Smith rack. The straighter you can keep it the better. Weightlifting is not ballet. Move your feet with authority. The stronger you get the easier it will be to stay off your toes and the more coordinated you will be.

 For training consultation and/or video analysis of lifts, you can email Donny at Fee is donation-based.


Front Sight

Focus & Concentration
By Donny Shankle

Focus and concentration are two different states of mind. Focus pertains to clearly knowing what your goals are and remaining in a constant training state to achieve them. It applies to what you do both in and out of the gym. These may include keeping your training bodyweight slightly above your competition bodyweight, going to bed on time or getting plenty of rest, staying off your feet and conserving as much of your energy as possible for your training sessions, remaining positive when improvement in the gym is slow, and having a stable personal life. Focusing on having healthy relationships, managing other responsibilities, and getting the proper nutrition are all examples of what you can focus on out of the gym to improve in the gym. When you are in the gym, your focus should always be on getting stronger, improving your efficiency, remaining consistent, prioritizing your weaknesses, or increasing the weekly tonnage. Your focus is always on building muscle, raising minimums, improving consistency, or pushing the maximum effort. Focus in the gym follows sharply adhering to the principles I have laid out for you in the “How To Train” chapter. I am always in focus but I concentrate more on particulars right before lifting.

Concentration pertains to detail. Are you keeping track of your progress? Do you understand why you missed a lift? Are you looking at your training history and going over it with your coach at least once a week? Concentration is taking the focus you have and centralizing it on a specific task, target, or immediate action. Concentration increases as you increase the weight on the bar. As you sit in between attempts, this is when your concentration intensifies along with your aggression. If remaining focused means to apply certain principles (or truths) both in and out of the gym to achieve success then concentration means applying the Musts I have laid out. Things like keeping your back straight and timing oscillation to work in your favor are examples of what you can concentrate on right before you go after an attempt. Your concentration is not limited to the 12 Musts. Individualization, for example, is a principle which increases the more you advance in your level of development towards mastery. The more you can concentrate on what you are about to do, undisturbed from what is going on around you, is a step towards excellence as a weightlifter or any given discipline. The better you can concentrate on what you need to do in order to turn a miss into a make, the easier it will be for you to fearlessly let go and react once you decide to approach the bar.

I liken focus and concentration as a weightlifter to my days shooting on the rifle range in the Marines. I wasn’t the greatest marksman but I endlessly studied and practiced the principles I was taught by my instructors. I was always in focus even when I was not putting rounds down range. For example, to improve my comfort in my seated position I would practice sitting indian style all throughout the day. I practiced adjusting my sling perfectly to my arm in order to find a solid prone position that worked for me. When I was on the range, I had to focus on my breathing, not mistaking someone else’s target for my own, and adjusting my rear site aperture to how hard the wind was blowing that day. All of this attention to focus both off and on the range improved my ability to relax and better concentrate on my front sight tip. Whether I was 200, 300, or 500 meters out from my target, it didn’t matter because I learned the fundamentals, trained endlessly on having no weaknesses, and payed attention to what I was being taught. Even if I had to go over it again on my own one hundred times a night. My concentration on the rifle range was so sharp I could hear nothing but my own lungs taking in and expelling the air around me. I use this same adherence to focus and concentration when I am snatching, cleaning, or jerking. I focus on the hard work it will take to get from point A to point B, concentrate on each step taken, then attack the bar with more confidence felt in one moment than some men will feel in a lifetime. Train diligently.

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Sub Ex #1

By Donny Shankle

I prefer doing push-ups with my hands clinched in a fist because it’s easier on the wrists. This will keep the pressure more evenly dispersed along the length of the entire forearm. Elbows are kept tucked into the sides of the body and the eyes are looking at a 45 degree angle. Do not let the head drift forward and down as this will cause a strain on the neck. The torso is held in perfect alignment from the feet to the crown of the head improving the isometric strength of the entire body. As you push up, the concentric phase is held for two seconds with the arms completely locked. The pectoral muscles, front deltoids, and triceps are the prime movers. The muscles of the abdomen and along the spine are the stabilizers. The isometric stability of this exercise teaches the weightlifter to keep their body as rigid as possible when standing up from a clean, snatch, or when dipping for the jerk.

SETS: 2-3
REPS: 10-20
ADVANCED WAY: add weight plate across the back



9th Must
By Donny Shankle

When all else fails, get aggressive. This Must has to be applied especially at the heavier weights. Every time you increase the weight on the bar, your aggression increases. Aggression is the key to unlock the potential of every other Must instantaneously. The more pissed off you get, the tighter you will hold your back, the more violent you will use your hips, the more quickly you move your feet, etc. Great weightlifters can turn their aggression off and on like a switch. You do not see champion weightlifters approaching the lifting stage from the warm-up room with fear or doubt in their eyes. In that one moment they possess a prolific amount of confidence and are the baddest sons-of-bitches walking the face of the earth. Their shoulders are rolled back, there is an eagle’s stare in their eyes, and their hands can’t wait to get on the bar. If you can’t unleash this aggression within you for the few seconds it takes to lift a heavy weight over your head then maybe you are in the wrong sport.


Ya Gotta Eat!

My Favorite Foods For Getting Stronger
By Donny Shankle


Eggs are easy. They can be prepared a variety of ways and are a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. One large egg contains approximately 70-80 calories with 5-7 grams of complete protein. Some hard core people out there like to eat eggs raw. I would suggest you do not do this unless you want to risk the chance of acquiring salmonella. Free range eggs are higher in certain vitamins and minerals and are especially higher in Omega-3’s. I eat about a dozen eggs a day when I am training hard and trying to build muscle. One of my favorite snacks or quick meals is fried eggs served over rice. The preparation is easy and it gives me plenty of protein and carbohydrates. Keep a storage container of hard or soft boiled eggs in your fridge. When you get hungry, snack on them with some vegetables and plenty of water. Before you go to bed eat a couple eggs. Bring some eggs with you to work for your lunch or snack on one or two during training. The protein in the middle of your training will help to pack on the muscle and give you energy. Any way you look at it, eggs are convenient, good for you, and one of mother nature's miracle foods.



8th Must
By Donny Shankle

Moving with speed and a sense of purpose takes a conscious effort on your part. I can either walk from point A to point B lazy and disinterested or I can get there like my life depends on it. All this takes is a greater effort from the weightlifter to move at exactly the right moment and to move like you mean it. Just before you lift, you should sit down and go over in your mind everything you could be doing to make the lift perfect. Once you stand up and put your hands on the bar, you react. There is no more thinking at this point.

There are no nuances when I speak of speed. See this speed in your mind, get aggressive, then attack. The platform is not the place to be uncertain. You see this lack of speed in weightlifters who lack emotion when they lift. They either do not move under the bar fast or they do not commit. This lack of attentiveness is typically caused by nerves, over-thinking by the athlete, over-coaching by the coach, a lack of motivation, or poor nutrition. Any wane in energy or focus to move under the bar with conscious speed needs to be addressed immediately.



7th Must
By Donny Shankle

When a boxer throws a punch he does not start with his fist tight because this makes the punch slow. A solid jab for instance is fast because the boxer does not tighten up his fist until the moment of impact. He stays relaxed so he can dodge and weave. His arms and shoulders are relaxed so his punches can move fast. Your entire body acts the same way when you are lifting. The only part of your body that's tight prior to pulling is your back. Every other muscle should feel like jello.

You never see a great weightlifter tense before he lifts. He is always cool and relaxed. The more you can relax the faster your snatches, cleans, and jerk will be. One of my coaches used to say, “Do not fight the bar”. If you are fighting the bar, you are not moving with the bar. Relax, trust in your hook grip, go someplace else mentally, then react without thought. Thinking causes you to anticipate which makes you slow.