Words from Donny

Maximum Effort
By Donny Shankle
One must need to be strong – otherwise one will never become strong.” Nietzsche
All of the principles I have laid out mean absolutely nothing without pushing your Maximum Effort (ME) each and every day. Pushing the 90%, applying priority, finding flow in your jumps, all mean nothing if you are not applying the champion weightlifters most important principle. Maximum Effort is like the foundation which every other principle sits atop of and going after new maximums must be as constant as the beating of your heart. By pushing yourself to the maximum each and every day you not only create a strong body, but a champions mind.
I have had the opportunity to travel to many fantastic places across the world and teach my philosophy On Weightlifting. The most important thing I try to get across whilst teaching is making sure weightlifters and all athletes understand pushing your efforts to maximum. Notice I did not say “push your maximum percentage everyday.” Most people I come across honestly don't know what Maximum Effort is or how important it is to bring in training above anything else. I get asked my opinion on the latest program out there and get samples of weightlifters programs emailed to me wanting my advice when these lifters do not even have base weights set for themselves - What the hell are you trying to program? Until you are looking at competing in front of the world don't worry about any program. Instead, get your ass in the gym everyday and snatch, clean & jerk to maximum until the thought of this makes you sick and you become stronger than an ox. If you have to ask whether or not this or that program is right for you, or whether or not you should tweak this or that in your program, then it's not time for you to be lifting within a program. Go and push yourself to maximum each day first and see if you are tough enough to meet the adaptation and improve that way. Once you are doing this consistently after a period of years then you will understand there is only one program anyway – Maximum Effort. Till this day I do not worry about any set program. I bring to the gym the principles I have outlined because without them no amount of programming matters. When you ask me whether or not I am going to go to maximum for the day my response will invariably be each and every day, “You're god damn right I am.” Something will change, something will improve.
Maximum Effort is not the same thing as maximum percentage. If what you can lift for the day ends up being twenty kilos below your best then so be it. You still went to your maximum. The question at that point becomes;
  • Are you being honest with yourself?
  • Will you begin to fight hard in training to make sure you never walk into the gym again and lift so poorly?”
  • Will you bust your ass and raise your minimums to reach your maximums?
  • Will you keep applying the maximum effort and toughen your mind or quit?
Going to Maximum Effort everyday is also the best way to teach you how important the other principles behind training are. When you go to maximum you end up wanting to take longer rests, prioritize your weaknesses first, and utilize the 90% more often. The Maximum Effort will also encourage you to bring incentive to the gym as well as a competitive attitude, if one is not there already. You will also learn about how to prolong your efforts when chasing the maximum and what you are truly made of. This in turn will build your reserve strength and once I talk to you about bringing variation into your training you will learn how to push the Maximum Effort multiple times a day. If you are used to pushing the maximum often in training then competition becomes a piece of cake. You are not afraid of heavy weights anymore because you confront them all the time. Fear is renounced for the man who constantly increases the weight in front of him because with every kilo added his confidence increases with it.
The current idea in training today seems to be completely backwards for some weightlifters. They will use repetition first as they work up to their Maximum Effort instead of getting to the Maximum Effort quickly and then using repetition to continue to push the Maximum Effort again. Here is an example of what I mean. A lifter will ask me to watch them work up on their squat. I then get excited at the prospect of seeing a personal record but, end up watching a bodybuilding session instead of seeing the kind of weights that need to be lifted to make you stronger. I will see a set of ten, then eight reps, followed with five reps, and eventually the lifter will look at me and say, “OK, now I am at my working triple for the day.” By this point I am not only exhausted from watching but bored too. “What the heck is all that shit about?” I say. “You just burned up so much energy playing around and on top of that, you are not even going to see if you are capable of new maximums while I watch you?” Single up and see what you are made of, then choose another exercise and single up again to maximum. Your choices should not be hard, aside from squats you only have three other exercises to choose from. (snatch, clean, jerk)
I am happy to say that I am at least starting to hear “Go to maximum” being used in the language between weightlifters which makes me happy. Usually it begins by me telling a lifter to, “Rest and do it again,” after he misses a PR attempt and by the third time I say this you start to hear giggles from around the corners of the gym as well as seeing the frustration coming out in the lifter. This is nothing to laugh at or get frustrated with. It is the essence to getting stronger. You have to push yourself. When I say rest and do it again it means sit down, then get up and push your efforts to maximum again. Once I say this enough times and the weightlifter begins to see it is only his mind which disrupts his potential and you see the fight that started with three tries eventually move towards six tries and more, then everyone begins to understand and respect that fight, then everyone begins to see what it really takes to become a champion. Every time the Max Effort is met with mockery and ridicule from spectators, it immediately shuts up those same spectators when the weight is finally lifted, and it is the man who adds another kilo after reaching new maximums for the day within the same session, who will eventually be on top of the podium. Be a champion and go maximum all the time.