Thursday, June 14, 2018

Tommy Kono's Training

Charles (Chuck) Vinci 
February 28, 1933 - June 13, 2018.

As told to readers in the Soviet magazine "Theory and Practice of Physical Culture"

In a letter received by Tommy Kono, V. M. Kasyanov, editor in chief of the Soviet publication "Theory and Practice of Physical Culture," asked for a detailed article covering all phases of Kono's rigorous training schedule, to be read by all Soviet athletes now training for the Olympics. He asked the following questions: 

1) At what age did you begin heavy athletics? 
2) What results did you have from your earliest competition? 
3) How did you solve the problem of all around training? 
4) How did your training program advance:
a] quantity of weights used
b] length of each training period
c] loads of weight used at each increase
d] length of each training program
e] what particular points did you pay most attention to in your training
f] sequence of exercises used
g] what aim did you set - what problem was set before you for fulfillment 
h] repetition of exercises used
i] how were mistakes corrected
j] do you practice the hot bath and massage during training periods
k] food and sleep habits during training period.  

Thanks Again, My Friend! 

Tommy Kono: 

Born to sub-normal health, I have always been keenly interested in physical culture. I suffered the first 14 years of my life with severe attacks of asthma and, therefore, it was common for me to miss one-third of my school days during those early years. At the age of 14, when I was 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighed approximately 105 pounds, two close friends introduced me to the value of progressive weight training. 

Although my primary aim in weight training was to improve my health (strength and muscular development being second in importance), I had a tendency to drift into the sport of weightlifting. But it wasn't until March of 1948 when I was almost 18 years of age when I first competed in a weightlifting contest. I managed to place second in the lightweight division in the Northern California Championships with an unimpressive 585 pound total -- 175 Press; 185 Snatch; 225 C & J. 

During my early weightlifting career I did not experience any "fantastic" improvements in the lifts in any short space of time, but I did manage to make steady gains. My total progressed from 585 pounds to 780 in two years time; showing improvements in my total in every contest that I entered.

In May, 1950, I entered my first national contest in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I competed against Joe Pitman, defending National Champion, and Dave Sheppard, sensational New Yorker. At the completion of the match in the lightweight class only 5 pounds separated the three of us with Pitman for the first place with a 765 total. Dave Sheppard and I tied in total with 760 but because I had weighed in a half pound lighter than Sheppard I was awarded the second place position.  

My progress was stopped temporarily when I was called to military duty in early 1951. Later that year I was granted permission by the Army to compete in the National Championships. Although I only managed three workouts before the match, I again totaled 760, once more trailing Pitman. Actually, this was encouraging for it showed that I had the potential of lifting superior poundages if I had the proper opportunity to practice the sport regularly.

During the early part of my weightlifting and physical culture work my principal instructions were gathered from the teachings of Bob Hoffman, U.S. National weightlifting coach. I used his courses and many articles as the basis to conduct my experiments on myself and carefully study my findings.  

I learned long ago that individual lifters vary to a certain degree; no two persons can derive the same benefit, equally, from the same course. 

I have been fortunate in discovering the ideal course for myself. But it has been by trial and error, experiment and study that I have managed to filter out all the finer points in scientific, progressive training for the sport of weightlifting. 

Originally, I worked out two to three hours, three to four days weekly. My program consisted of many basic exercises such as the Press, Bench Press, Upright Rowing Motion, Dead Lifts, Squats, Curls, etc., performing them from 2-3 series (sets) of 8-10 repetitions with the heaviest weights I could handle. 

I "specialized" in these basic exercises because I learned early in my training life that it is through the strength developed by the basic exercises plus the coordination of the movements that one is able to elevate heavy poundages. Therefore, it is my belief that all aspiring lifters should go through preliminary training where they devote many hours to developing their all-around bodily strength before ever going into the sport of weightlifting.

At present (1956) I work out from 60 to 90 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week. I either train exclusively on the three lifts plus one or two supplementary movements or perform 5 to 6 exercises paralleling the Olympic lifts.

I consider boredom in training as one of the chief causes of stagnation in lifting. For this reason I rearrange my training methods and program about every three weeks. I fear that if I spend too much time on a single course my interest in the sport would diminish. I also time my workouts and exercises so I do not get absentminded and devote too much time to any one particular exercise. I believe time is an important factor in training so I govern my workouts by it.

Three to five weeks before an important match I go on a program exclusively built on the three lifts plus the Deep Knee Bend exercise. I attempt to schedule my training program so that I use progressively heavier and heavier weights as the contest time approaches -- the contest itself being my peak performance.

During this time I make it a point to devote as much attention to one lift as I do to another for it is the sum of three lifts that counts. In all the lifts I keep the repetitions low in number because too many reps would create muscle fatigue. I also avoid extremely heavy weights in my training for the use of too close to limit poundage would be exhausting on the nerve. The number of repetitions I found ideal for my purpose was three repetitions per set except at the beginning of my workout period when I use light weights to warm up, doing five repetitions.

I use 135 pounds to warm up for the lift I will practice, performing as many sets as I think necessary to step up blood circulation. After I am thoroughly warmed up I gradually increase the poundage on the lift. From 205 pounds I go up in poundage until I approach my maximum or near maximum poundage for three repetitions. Normally this would be on the 4th set. When I reach the desired poundage on the lift I attempt to remain with the poundage for 3-4 sets of 3 repetitions.

When I am in very good condition on the lifts I take a precautionary measure in training in increasing the poundages on each workout. I am limited to a certain extent to the amount of improvement I can make during a certain period of time so I do not try to increase the poundages per workout. Rather I try to increase the weight when I think it is feasible.      

There are many important things in training. The principle behind a rigid training program is to condition the body to work at maximum efficiency. To do so entails many hours of training to improve speed and power, balance and timing, and form and technique. Yet, I believe one of the most important factors in training and commonly overlooked detail is

THE DISCIPLINE OF THE MIND IN RELATION TO THE LIFTS. The complete mastery of the mind over the body enables the body to handle heavy, limit weights.

My training at the beginning of my lifting career has varied quite a bit owing to the constant search for a better, improved method of training. Throughout the years that I have participated in weightlifting I have always made a careful survey of my lifting needs and then attempted to correct the fault of mistake by selecting the right exercise or exercises and incorporating them in my regular training. 

It is only by constant practice with the correct style that one learns to execute the lifts perfectly. Any deviation from the right form I try to rectify by locating my mistake, analyzing and correcting it before it becomes a habit. 

When I have the opportunity to train with other lifters or have someone who knows the finer points in lifting watch, I seek their advice. My theory being that no one person knows all there is to know about the science of the sport, so I ask for criticism which I evaluate to suit my needs.

The end result in all training and studies in any field of athletics is to become the very best in the chosen sport. However, from the beginning of my lifting life my primary aim was to show continued progress in the sport. Winning or losing a contest is secondary. I would rather gamble for a new record than win a championship by performing my mediocre best. Above all I enjoy competitions. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than to know that I tried my best and won.

When I am not in actual competition then I compete against myself, a challenge where I have to be at my very best. In other words I try to surpass all previous marks made by myself whether the previous marks happen to be world records or not.

There are many factors which help my lifting but I believe that diet and sleep are two of the main factors outside of good training and proper coaching. I have been fortunate in my training in that I was able to show improvement constantly. This has been to a great extent the result of following the right method of training for my needs; but of late, I have made faster gains in my lifts. I attribute this mainly to the correction of my nutritional deficiencies by Dr. Richard W. You of Honolulu, Olympic team physician. In the past I have made a study of the properties of food and foodstuffs and I have employed to the best of my knowledge the correct eating habits. But it wasn't until I placed myself under the capable hands of Dr. You that I really derived the full benefits from the correct nutritional standpoint.

After having all my dietary deficiencies corrected by Dr. You I have maintained a diet rich in vitamins, minerals and high protein content to continue my progress in lifting. Correct and adequate diet is important in progressive, scientific training as it has been proven to me by my rapid recuperative power during the past year. I am able to arrive at my peak condition faster and remain in top condition over a longer period of time.

Perhaps my worst drawback in lifting at the present time is my very poor sleeping habit. I sleep soundly and well but the hours of sleep are very short. I often go for weeks at a time with as little as 5 and 1/2 hours of sleep per night because of the pressure of business and other matters which takes up much of my attention. However, before an important contest I increase the hours of sleep to 8 hours per night. I believe that I could show faster improvements on my lifts if I am able to sleep and rest longer hours.

My training does not include hot baths or massage. I do believe that correct use of both the bath and massage would help relax and tone the muscles after a strenuous session with the weights but I classify both measures as luxuries that I can do without. I have never used hot bath as a part of my training and only on rare occasions when I have over-trained or cramped my muscles by undue exertions have I had massage.

In conclusion I would like to say that I enjoy lifting and lifters. I have learned the true value of progressive weight resistance as a means to improve one's physical appearance, strength, and above all the prize possession of health. I have been fortunate to be able to travel around the world, visit many countries, meet kings and dignitaries and have made many foreign friends because of the ability I have developed through the use of weights. But above all I have won my health, and that alone was worth all the time and effort that I have spent in the weight room.      

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