August 28, 2012

I’d like to present to you a couple links if you haven’t seen them already.

The first is an ARTICLE from Matt Foreman of Catalyst Athletics.

The second is a video interview of Dave Spitz, head coach and owner of California Strength.  He is one of the smartest people in our sport and I’m not sure why this video has such a low amount of hits.

Both of these people put a great deal of emphasis on environment. What are you doing to ensure that yours is the optimal training environment for you or your athletes?

“Do You Even Lift?”

August 27, 2012



I don’t know about you, but if I were a news anchor, I wouldn’t try to do something on television that I didn’t already know how to do.  But still, it was cool being on TV promoting our event and I’m thankful for the opportunity to do so.  I’m sure it’s clear that a career in television is not in my future but I’m also pretty damn proud of the fact that after this segment was shot, we shot another quick one in which I performed an extended set of behind the neck snatch grip presses in the background while my team was being shot playing a game of Blackjack in their singlets.  Now that’s television.

Our fundraiser was a success.  I’ll write more on it when I get some time.


August 22, 2012

Let me introduce you to Sally.  Sally loves long walks on the beach, farmer’s walks, fat bar lat pull-downs and creatine.

“Sup, girl. Can I grab a set on this lat pull-down machine? (sit’s down on machine without waiting for confirmation) Oh, this is really light, I guess I’ll just have to do a warm-up set of 40.”

Let me first start off by saying that counting attempts is not all that difficult and there is no correct way to do it.  That being said, it can be extremely stressful as your lifter’s chance for success can be greatly influenced on how good of a job you do warming them up and how well you can predict when their weights will be called.  This stress can obviously be multiplied if you have multiple lifters in one session.  In either scenario a team of two is optimal although you can still do a good job with just one person.  If you have the luxury of having other lifters on your team loading weights then pat yourself on the trap because you now have a weightlifting pit crew at your disposal.


Besides being stressful, counting attempts can also be a lot of fun as there is also a good amount of skill and luck that comes into play (depending on the session.  Some can be pretty cut and dry).  Coaches will be huddled behind the card table attempting to get an approximation on how much time their lifter has until they’re called to lift.  Due to the rules of the sport, cards will occasionally be shuffled around and lifters are given more or less time depending on the situation.  This is when things can get heated.  I remember when CC and I traveled to So-Cal for a local meet and she got in her first real duel with another lifter.  Likewise, I was in a similar situation with the lifter’s coach.  In the end, most local meets are held to make all our lifters better so coaches will usually establish some level of communication to optimize everyone’s rest time.  This is not the case at national meets.  And in most contests, everyone will be lifting similar weights which can affect the warm up process in a number of ways.  The lifter must be prepared to compete no matter what.  Suffice it to say, sometimes shit just happens and you had better be able to get out there and lift even if you just took your first set at 50 or if you’ve been sitting for 10 minutes or if your singlet tears a hole in the pudendal region.  Get out there and compete, we’ll worry about what went wrong afterwards.

Wow, tangent much?  I suppose I just wrote two paragraphs on why counting attempts is important because newcomers to the sport will often underplay the importance of the warm-up process.  You have to remember that weightlifting is a sport.  Just because you can clean and jerk 150 in the gym doesn’t mean that you are going to automatically do well in the game of weightlifting.  If you don’t want to deal with the process of counting attempts I would suggest getting really good at weightlifting before you start competing and just plan on being the last lifter of every session you compete in.  But seriously, learn the sport.  Why practice the lifts if you don’t test yourself in competition?  And why test yourself in competition if you are not prepared with all the tools that will aid in your success?

Alright, now that we’ve got that out of the way, I can finally explain to you a few key points on the warm-up process.  If you are new to the sport, I would suggest first familiarizing yourself with the basic competition format.  I apologize if I leave anything out.  For something so simple, it seems like there’s a lot to cover.  The first step in a proper warm up is determining how many sets your lifter will take.  You and your lifter should establish communication about this beforehand and I would suggest setting up a standard warm-up sequence for when your lifter takes up his/her lifts.  This way, nothing will change in competition.  For example, whenever CC takes up the snatch to maximum she will always take 1-2 sets at bar, 1-2 sets at 35, then 45, 55, 60, 65, 70 and then whatever we strategically think she should open up with.  Let’s say she opens up with 74; that would mean that she needs 8 sets before she takes her opener on the platform.  She may want to take 74 backstage so let’s go ahead and say she wants 9 sets.  Most coaches will count 3 attempts on the competition platform for every set their lifter takes in the warm-up area.  Some lifters warm up a little faster than others but most lifters will get moving around 21 attempts out.  The reason we’re counting attempts on the platform is because each attempt will take about a minute or so plus the time it takes to load the weights.  This time will vary for a number of different reasons.  There may be a group of lifters taking the same weight or a lifter will miss and be given 2 minutes to follow himself/herself.  But the number of attempts is something that you can always count on.  The weight on the competition platform only increases and every lifter is given only 3 attempts, so every lifter before yours will count for 3 attempts until the weights become close to what your lifter has asked for.  Then you have to use your powers of guesstimation to determine the number of attempts that those lifters will account for.  For example, CC is opening at 74.  Sally Sue is opening at 65.  Is she going to take big 5kg jumps?  Is she going to miss her opener?  This is where you’re going to have to make a few educated guesses.  Not knowing anything about Sally Sue, I saw her miss 55 and 60 behind her.  She is also nervously pacing back and forth and texting her boyfriend on her iphone.  We can safely assume that she will miss at least one or two attempts.  Luckily there are two other lifters on their second and third attempts at similar weights, so I’m sure that Sally Sue won’t slow down the competition by following herself.

Declaring what weights you want to take also must be a strategized decision.  If there are eight other guys in your session and they are all opening at 100kg, I would suggest either opening at 98 or 102 to pace yourself a little before or behind the pack.  Either way you’re going to have to do a bit of waiting, but I would much rather be waiting on my 2nd attempt then sitting down for 5 or more minutes before my opener.  Let’s say that you chose to do the former and there are literally eight other guys taking 100kg.  You will be waiting a while.  In situations like this, where you are 5 or more attempts between your next, then you may want to take a light power snatch to stay warm, preferably 3 attempts out from your next lift.  Or not.  It’s up to you.

At times, other coaches will fuck with your count by declaring a certain weight knowing that they are going to bump at the last minute.  The only way to combat this is to know the other coaches and lifters that you are lifting with and determine the probability of other lifters bumping up.  Like I said, weightlifting is a game and this is all part of it.  Sometimes with my greener lifters like Em or Derek, we will declare a lighter weight and then take our opener in the warm up area.  If it feels good, then we’ll get greedy with the kilos and bump up.  If we miss it, then we have another chance to make it on the platform and we’ll leave the card as is.  I’ll do this occasionally as well.  With my old and frail body, it’s hard to know for sure how I’m going to be feeling on meet day.  So I will declare something light just in case.

Working with another person counting cards is great because you can double check each other’s count or count for multiple lifters more efficiently.  I wouldn’t recommend more than a team of two counters.  That’s just too many cooks in the kitchen.  In our last contest, I was counting for four lifters in the same session.  Luckily, I had Sarah to help me with the counting.  We divvied up the lifters on two separate platforms grouped in pairs.  We actually worked together on all four but it was helpful being primarily responsible for only two.  Also, one of us could also be by a lifter’s side on the competition platform while the other one was getting everyone else ready.  It was a beautiful symphony.  I felt like I had eyes in every corner of the room.

Anyways, that’s how I count attempts in competition.  If that didn’t make any sense at all, then I apologize but I really don’t have any other way of explaining it.  E-mail or leave a comment if you have any questions or if I left something out.

Happy coaching and happy lifting.


The Power of Belief.

August 18, 2012

In case you haven’t noticed, I have not posted any training updates for over 3 weeks.  That’s because there have been none.  I injured my back while warming up for front squats 4 weeks ago (I’m not sure of the exact date).  This is isn’t usually a big deal as my back will seize up at least a couple of times a year but I am usually fine within a week.  I took care of it; iced and got a massage (72 hours later, after the acute phase of injury) and was back to training the next week.  That Wednesday, it happened again while taking up my snatches for doubles; this time it was much worse.  I haven’t been able to do much of anything besides upper extremity bodybuilding until today.  In truth, brushing my teeth without being supported by the bathroom sink was impossible and tying my shoe was a painstaking operation.  I couldn’t even do flat bench press for a couple weeks as it caused too much pain in my back.  I was referred to a talented PT by one of my clients.  After a quick examination, he performed an adjustment.  My SI joint was out of place.  And what was once shooting pain with every movement was reduced to a hearty inflammation of my back extensors (that I can deal with).

A quick word on receiving medical treatment due to injuries received in training:  You are going to have to be proactive on receiving appropriate attention.  A general physician is going to have no idea what you are talking about when you say that you are actually an Olympic weightlifter.  He is going to see your developed physique and as soon as you say, “I hurt it while lifting weights” he is going to immediately stop caring and assume that you foolishly injured yourself on your twelfth set of heaving bicep curls.  He will prescribe you some weak anti-inflammatories and send you on your way.  It’s not his fault.  You see, it’s not your doctor’s job to care about any athletic goals that you may have or if you are able to continue pursuing such goals, possibly at a detriment to your health.  It is your responsibility as an athlete to find professionals who regularly deal with athletes and have at least some perspective on what it is you are doing.  This will most likely cost you some money, so be prepared; better than wasting a fifteen dollar co-pay on some pencil neck doctor or PT who could care less about your athletic pursuits.

A few weeks ago, I told you that I don’t miss workouts.  And I still haven’t.  What have I been doing you ask?  A whole lot of this.

Backs on backs on backs.

Getting JACKED.  If I had two broken legs and a broken back, I would do seated bicep curls until my veins burst.  That’s just how I am.  I don’t miss workouts.  I will find something productive to do with my time no matter what.  I’ve been slowly adding in overhead work.  And today was my first day that I was able to do anything pertinent to Olympic weightlifting.  It was humbling to say the least.  Yes, my back still hurt.  But my pride hurt more than anything else.

I did some power cleans off the high blocks with 60kg.  After a few reps, I realized that it probably wasn’t a good idea to continue.  The squat program for today called for BS 5×5.  CC texted me earlier asking if 102.5kg was a good weight to use for her worksets.  I texted back, “Yes.”  I used 100kg.  What made it even worse was that I felt it necessary to use more support than I usually need, so I borrowed one of the powerlifting belts hanging up at my gym (we share space with Team Supertraining).  The first belt that fit was initialed “M. Bell.”  I was ashamed to be using it for such weights.  I finished up with some presses and 225 reps max on bench.  I had recently surpassed my original max of 20 reps by 1.  I did 20 and called it a day.

This was me a few months ago.

And within a few week’s time I was reduced to this.

The thing is, when this video was taken, I have never wanted to quit the sport of weightlifting so badly.  It was just too much.  I was trying to make rent, trying to finish school, trying to coach a team, trying to not hate myself.  And now that I was reduced the possibility of doing lat-pulldowns for the rest of my natural life, I had never wanted to get on the platform so bad.

Last week over dinner, I was discussing how badly I wanted to get back to lifting weights, how badly I wanted to surpass myself from a few months earlier.  My coach (like all good coaches must) provided the voice of reason.  He reminded me that I am not a young man anymore, that I would not be able to train the same way that I did when I was seeing gains even a year prior.   But I have an advantage over my age: I started training late.  I was 18 by the time I discovered the sport.  And I was still wrestling full-time 3 years into my training.  So I have still a few more years to go before my competitive career is done.  My knowledge of the sport has grown as well.  I now have the ability to give myself direction, a target for my arrow to shoot.  I don’t just train, I train with purpose and perspective.

I will come back a tank; a big, brown fucking tank that will crush weights underneath my booted heel.  I have no regard for constraints such as physique or weightclass.  If I gain weight it will be because I am stronger.  If I lose weight it will be because I am working harder.  I would advise all lifters who are not at the top of the national ranking list to do them same.  Having been reduced to only doing general strengthening for my upper body, I now have a newfound respect for being generally strong as well as a strong Olympic lifter.  For years I refused to do any upper body work out of my misplaced pride of being an Olympic weightlifter.  I now know that this was just an excuse to be weak.  I figured that the best lifters didn’t do anything besides Olympic weightlifting, so neither would I.  This is called arrogance.  Never compare yourself to dominant high-level Olympic lifters unless you yourself are a dominant high-level lifter.  Don’t listen to lies about how your arms will get too big to be a talented weightlifter.  I’ve only met two people whose arms are literally too big to do cleans and I guarantee they are not you.  If you have shitty mobility it is because you have shitty mobility.  That is all.  I believe that I will come back in 15 weeks stronger than ever.  And I will show it on the platform.


August 18, 2012

Make sure that you befriend people of varying sizes so that you can post cute instagram pictures of yourselves wearing matching DONNY SHANKLE T-shirts.

Like this one.

Buy a shirt.  Support a hero.  Rep my drawings.

Also, you will be able to do things like this.

I’m currently lobbying to make synchronized drinking an Olympic sport.

For those who are 21+.  Stay sober, kids.


CC’s 175 total.

August 15, 2012

CC was dismayed when I told her that my fumbling mitts had dropped my camera and consequently lost all the footage from the Kono and recent training.  Luckily her parents were also filming.  So she put together this sweet video of her PR total from the meet.  So proud.


If you didn’t know already, I’m a pretty big fan of the Brooklyn group known as Yeasayer.

I was first introduced to them through THIS Youtube video.  I loved the first album and enjoyed the second.

HERE is a link to NPR where you can stream the new album.  I haven’t had a chance to listen yet but I’m interested in hearing the new sounds.

Just sayin’.

With great traps comes great responsibility.

Squats revised.

August 12, 2012


Here is the new squat schedule for the next 16 weeks.  I had to revise it due to the United Barbell meet being moved to the 23rd.  It’s going to be a long and exciting 16 weeks.  Bring your muscles, get your rest and do your mobility.

Squats 2012 pt 2