Do Your Chores
By Donny Shankle
This is mainly for the young weightlifter but if you're older you may also get some use out of it. I truly believe the person who can speak about their passion with an analogy seen in every aspect of life is a voice to be heard. Learn to see your discipline in every dimension and far reaching scale. Even when you are not training on the platform this does not mean you cease practicing becoming the champion.
Much of what you can learn to become a great weightlifter as a young boy or girl starts off the platform. It starts around the house listening to mom and dad when they give you chores to do. When I was a boy my father used to get on me whenever he thought I was being lazy or wasting time. Both my father and mother taught me to take pride in my chores and helping my family. Self-discipline is the most important value to have for any young athlete and attention to detail in your chores will help you in your training as you get older. When you become an adult this self-discipline will become self-reliance. What you gain from your chores will transpose not only into being a successful weightlifter but also establishes character traits you will take with you in life.
Below is a list of 10 chores you are probably already familiar with but may have not found their benefits in regards to your performance as a developing weightlifter. Let me explain how certain chores can teach you everything from balance, ambidexterity, patience, etc. All attributes which will help you one day to become champion.
1 - Washing & Waxing the Car – Ambidexterity
As a weightlifter it is very good to have complete coordination on both sides of your body. Washing and waxing the car is great for teaching the young weightlifter how to use both of their hands and arms with precision and strength. Also, this chore is great for injury prevention because it washes away strength imbalances. Often times the dominant side of the body will apply the greater amount of force. This chore teaches the young weightlifter how to deliberately use both sides of their body evenly. A much needed attribute when lifting maximum weights overhead.
Without fail every Saturday morning my father would get me out of bed to wash and wax the cars. The chore took me about 4 hours to complete since we had 3 cars so I made sure to get up early. Washing alone teaches the weightlifter about attention to detail. To put your focus on hard to reach areas first (e.g. right under the tire well). This will come in handy in your training as it will teach you to always train your weak points first. For instance, if you tend to stand up with your cleans strong but struggle with the jerk, you may need to prioritize rack jerks.
When waxing, apply the wax with your dominant hand and after waiting for the wax to dry, buff it off with your opposite hand. When taking the wax off you are going to need to apply some elbow grease and this will help develop the strength in your weaker arm. The temptation to switch arms will be there but resist it. Over time you will get faster and work with your weaker hand just as well as your dominant hand.
When you are finished you should feel a since of accomplishment and pride as you look at the cars shining brightly in the sunlight. The same hard work you apply here will carry over in training but instead of looking upon brightly shining cars you will be standing in front the mirror looking at your brightly shining gold medals.
2 - Cleaning the gutters – Balance
For the young weightlifter learning to use the stabilizer muscles in the legs and having to use your feet consciously will help you on the platform to hold on in order to save a lift. Bill Starr related this to imagining using your feet like eagles talons and gripping the platform.
Gutter cleaning is a great way to learn the athletic attribute of balance. Have someone initially look out for you in the beginning in case you fall but soon the muscles in your calves and ankles will develop the needed strength to stay on the ladder even when you are reaching into hard to get places. Soon you will be moving the ladder around and easily stepping up and down with no problems.
This chore is also a great way to get away and meditate on the great things you will do as a weightlifting champion one day. I love to do this even today and just get away from it all. After I clean out all the gutters, I will sometimes just sit up on top the ladder and wait for the sun to go down.
When I was a boy my yard had lots of trees in it which my brother and I used to climb all the time. Climbing is also the best way for a young person to develop upper body and grip strength. Those same trees we climbed, however, always made for much hard work to be done in the fall.
3 - Mowing the lawn – Grip/Pulling power
There is a special way I like to cut grass which I learned from cutting ditches growing up in the bayou state. There are not many ditches out here in California but you can use the same principle. Instead of pulling that lever which makes the mower move automatically, try cutting your lawn by pulling the mower along instead of pushing. Use a hook grip as you do this and practice relaxing your arms and relying on your hook grip to hold on.
Getting your entire yard cut this way will, over time, develop many muscles along your posterior chain and teach you how to pull on the bar keeping your arms relaxed. As a bonus, any shakes you may get on the platform, you can just tell yourself it isn't you shaking but instead it is that damn lawnmower cutting away.
I had huge ditches in front of my yard growing up. You had to start at the top and drop down with the mower bending at the waist holding on so you could then pull it back up and hit the next patch. My back used to ache in school the next day but I am convinced it made me stronger. Cutting ditches or low areas this way is a perfect beginning for leaning how to finish your pull especially when the grass is long and you have to pull that much harder.
4 - Making your bed - Sleep
It's no secret that a well made bed is inviting to get into at night. As a weightlifter getting proper rest is essential for you to train hard and stay ahead of your competition. The young weightlifter who takes the time to make their bed in the morning will sleep easier at night and be stronger for it.
I started putting greater care in this detail when I was in the service. After a day of being in classes, shooting on the range, and learning close quarter take downs, it was always nice to get back to the rack and squeeze into the snug sheets even though it was only for a few minutes most times.
Making your bed tight will also help teach you to take pride in your appearance when you are on stage in your singlet. The crowd not only loves a champion but a good looking champion as well. The weightlifter who pays attention to smoothing out the folds in their bed will also pay attention to chiseling out the muscles of their body and wiping away chalk from their singlet.
Be the competitor who is in such fantastic shape that your enemies on competition day are already intimidated by you before you have even touched the bar. Be the professional whos appearance is always neat and clean.