Guest Post by Olympic Lifter Daniel Flagg

Me (1)

Don’t let Daniel’s big smile fool you. This dude is one bad ass lifter.

Today I have a guest post from Olympic lifter Daniel Flagg. I met Daniel this summer when he first joined PVCF this summer. Dan is an amazing lifter and has strong interest in mental toughness training. After an intriguing conversation we had about toughness development, I asked Daniel if he would write what we just talked about. Luckily for all of us at, he obliged and wrote this wonderful post.

If any of you would love to write a guest post on your personal experience with mental toughness training or any other relevant topic, please contact me. I encourage all of you to write about your journey. Also, if you come across any videos, articles or books on mental toughness please send them to me.  This site is dedicated to all things about toughness. The more variety and different points of view we have on this site, the better it can service all of us as we pursue our inner strength.

Now here’s Daniel:


We encounter fear in all aspects of our lives and how we face that fear determines who we are. Life affords opportunities to face fear, but those opportunities fall outside the realm of our control. Is it possible to prepare for such moments? Can we be ready to face our fear when it seizes us when we least expect it?

Sport gives us the ability to train our response to fear. I will talk about the fear I have faced as a weightlifter, but I feel that all sports allow us to face some kind of fear. Weightlifting is my passion for this reason among many others. To describe what weightlifting means to me would require much more that a single blog post.

In weightlifting, if there is no fear as you approach the bar, you are not going heavy enough. Whether the weight is on your back or being thrown overhead, there is true fear to be found with a barbell as things get heavy. The first time you stand in front of three judges and a crowd, stage fright can occur no matter how much you have prepared for that moment.

You have to look no further than a squat to grasp the fear that weightlifting can bring. The mental battle against panicked fear as a lifter gets under a heavy squat is very real. Unracking a maximal weight makes you feel as though you are going to be crushed. As you descend you push out the alarms telling you that there is no way you will be able to stand back up. In the hole you tell those alarms to go fuck themselves; then you stand. Congrats, you survived, now add 5 pounds next time. Anyone who has done high rep squats (20 rep breathing squats anyone?) knows that you feel true fear at rep 15, legs shaking, wondering how you can still stand let alone complete 5 more! But if you push through that fear you discover something amazing; you are capable of much more than you could initially believe.

In these experiences are the true beauty of sport and weightlifting. We are able to face primal fear and test our response. Do we give up and leave the weight on the rack for another day? Do we push harder and smash through the barriers to our progress? This controlled environment in which we can do this is priceless for success when life throws you for a loop.

Do you feel fear when you train?

Daniel’s WOD –


20 Minute every minute on the minute

1 Clean and Jerk

Starting @ 80% of 1RM

Add weight as long as form is maintained, no misses. When you are done, work on doing single sets till you reach a new PR with your front squats. 

If you don’t have clean and jerks as part of your workout regimen, you can do the following alternative strength WOD –

5 reps for 5 sets


Back squats

Push press

Bent over rows

Good mornings

Let’s go with Daniel’s theme today about conquering fears. If you are doing the alternative strength WOD today, try to progressively add weight on your last two sets. Even if the weight is just a little bit, like 5 pounds or even 2 pounds, keep piling up the load. If you add the weights and it doesn’t make you quiver ever so slightly, then add more. Once you packed on the barbell and you feel somewhat nervous at the sight of so much weight, that’s when you should stop. Today’s drill is about handling fear. I want you to feel a high degree of mental anguish on the final two sets today of each movement. If you are not out of your mental comfort zone today, you are not taking up Danny’s challenge today.

During these last couple of very heavy sets, you will hear that negative voice that Daniel talked about. It will come up between sets, right before you pick up the weight and during the lift. In fact, it will dominate your thinking pattern to the point that you will become scared as shit of doing the movement. In terms of mental toughness growth, this is a good thing. Like what Daniel said, this is how you will be tested. The battle between your head is the real war. Honestly, picking up heavy shit is easy. We all have the capacity and inner strength to lift heavier loads that we ever could imagine. What is holding us back is this negative voice that tells us we can’t do it and the fear that eventually cripples us. The negative self-talk will be really bad leading up to the set 4 and set 5, but during the lift, you must always take Danny’s advice and tell the fear to go fuck itself.

And when you do, make the fucken lift.

Thanks, Danny for today’s mental toughness challenge and a great piece of writing.

Scaled back version of this WOD –

1. Do 3 reps for 3 sets.

2. Omit the good mornings

Acceptable alternatives –

1. You can use a barbell or dumbbells for the presses.





8 thoughts on “Guest Post by Olympic Lifter Daniel Flagg”

  1. Glad to see a fellow lifter on this site. Welcome Daniel!

    Cool post. I relate totally with what you wrote about, especially the part where you talk about the bar smashing down on you. Weightlifting is also my passion and changed my life. Once you lift, your whole perspective on life changes.

    I’ll report my C and J new numbers when I do them on Sat.

    Wish me luck!


  2. Great post! I’ve never dabble with the olympic lifts, but after watching the Crossfit Games, I’ve been wanted to give them a try. The only problem is that I can’t afford a membership to CF. What books or DVD do you suggest to help a beginner like me to get started? Can I do it on my own?


  3. Oh, one more thing – my gym doesn’t have olympic weights. Can I do the training without the bumper plates?

    Thanks again everybody

  4. When it comes to learning the Olympic lifts you really do need a coach. It may be possible to learn them on your own but starting from scratch will mean alot of wasted time and frustration. Learning the movements alone is hard enough with a coach. Without that extra eye you will have to put in alot of time analyzing videos of your lifts and the lifts of others, not to mention alot of time studying from texts.
    While it is possible to lift without bumpers, I don’t recommend it. Not only is it more dangerous but it will break the equipment (your gym will definitely not appreciate that haha). Bumpers allow you to bail safely. Also if you don’t have bumpers I doubt the gym has a real oly style barbell (you can tell by the way the collars rotate on bearings and how the bar flexes).

    So overall, I am sorry to tell ya but unless you find a box nice enough to help you out with minimal cost or you can find a coach of some kind its kinda hard to get into weightlifting. It really is a specialized sport.
    However, there are some alternative movements that you can play with that are easier and more accessible. Kettlebell and dumbell variations are great. Russian KB swings are awesome.

    Also, don’t let what I have to say make your decision. The internet is an amazing place with lots of help and resources. Google it!

  5. Nice job Dan.

    Although I respect Dan’s expertise on Olympic lifting and agree that getting a coach would be to your advantage, I would say there is A LOT you can do on your own without a coach.

    The most difficult and technical part of lifting is the “catch.” However, there are a lot movements you can do without worrying about this phase of lifting like high pulls, push presses, front squats, jump shrugs, and overhead squats. I would google these movement and learn how to do them as proficient and safe as possible.

    You still should look for a affordable gym along the way, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do things on your own to learn how to do aspects of the lifts. Here is a good article – It will be much harder on your own, nobody’s arguing this point, but doing something is better than nothing.

    Good luck!

  6. I first learn the lifts on my own. I thought I did an okay job, but I developed a lot bad habits once I met an experienced weightlifter. I’m still working on overcoming lot of them.

    Does does mean , I think you shouldn’t do some lifting on your own? No, experiment and have so fun. We all have to start somewhere, even if that’s mean practicing our snatch in front of youtube. Learning by yourself really sucks, but you will meet people only the way to give you tips and help you out. If you are not trying to be a world champion lifter, go for it.

    My advice is to do all of you lifts from a hang. It much easier. Here is one of the best tuturials on there on lifting –

    good luck

  7. You can get the same benefits doing ketttlebell clean and jerks, snatches. Plus, you can take them outside and train on beautiful day. Can’t do that with a barbell and bumper plates.

  8. Nice post! I like the combo of Jackson and Daniel’s writing. Very motivating. Great job guys.

    Like some of the responses, I don’t have much experience with olympic lifting, but would love to try someday. For now, I just want to get through this mental toughness workouts. Yesterday’s WOD of the presses and running was a true test of my mental toughness. I have never combine both lifting and running so it was a rude awakening to me.

    But, I loved it! Looking forward to more!
    Thanks all

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