Thursday, October 11, 2018

On Quality Training - Tommy Kono

Some years ago I wrote an article and entitled it "On Q.T." It is as timely now as it was then, and it is reproduced in this book ("Olympic Style Weightlifting" 2001) because it carries a very important message. 

Why is it that some lifters keep progressing and others seem to stand still no matter how hard they seem to train? Some lifters seem to make very good improvement even though they spend only half the time others do. And again, why is it that world champions and national champions who are already lifting record poundages continue to improve while mediocre lifters who have a long way to go seem to be stuck for years and years? 

Let's take a close look t their training methods and their approach to training. We may be able to find the answer. It is true that some lifters are endowed with certain natural ability to improve. For them a little training goes a long way, but for every easy gainer there have been literally scores of "unnaturals" who have made the grade in national and international competitions.

Some lifters who have been training for years and years cannot show much in the way of development or improvement in power. This is akin to a boy who graduated from school but does not seem to know much. He attended classes for 12 years but if he did not make any effort to learn, though he possess a diploma, it means more likely that he just occupied a seat in school for twelve years. It is one thing to attend school and another thing to go to school to actually learn something. So it is with barbell training. It isn't enough that you stay in the gym for 2-3 hours. You must be productive or otherwise you are just wasting time and effort.

I have seen too many lifters wasting their time in the gym performing the exercises incorrectly or performing the wrong exercises. Their whole approach to training is also incorrect, so consequently they make very little progress even though they "sweat blood" and spend hour slaving away doing endless sets and repetitions of the Olympic lifts and the auxiliary exercises. 

Believe it or not, some of the best lifting I ever did was when I was so busy I had to budget my time so I could squeeze in 75 minutes of workouts 3-4 times a week. Even with the little time spent in training, I was able to improve on world records. Incidentally, I was never a "natural gainer" nor one gifted with extraordinary talent.

I have always followed the principle of Q.T. - Quality Training. I have always thought, and still maintain the idea, that it is not so much the quantity of work but the quality that counts. This is what makes the difference between an ordinary weightlifter from the title winners and champions who continue to show progress.

It is true that you have to spend some time training, but if you channel the energy in the right direction and plan your training wisely, you can derive more benefit from less time and with less energy.

In weightlifting I have seen an outstanding lifter of international caliber spend 2-3 hours a day 6 times a week performing wrong exercises. Somewhere along the line he incorporated some wrong ideas and after months of this type of training he did miserably at the Pan American Games. I saw him go through one workout and it proved to me that he was doomed to do poor lifting. He was doing countless reps and sets of useless exercises which just took up time and energy and left him feeling extremely good and in outstanding physical shape BUT NOT FOR OLYMPIC LIFTING. 

Many lifters (and coaches as well) fee that since a little exercising will increase your strength then more time spent in the gym will bring faster progress. They also feel that since heavy weights handled in training will increase your strength that heavier weights will develop strength even quicker.

How wrong they can be in thinking this way. In many instances a longer time spent in the gym can retard your progress and using extremely heavy weights can ruin your coordination, reflex, timing and technique.

Recently a lifter approached me and asked me to watch him train. He wanted my opinion on whether or not he was doing the lifts correctly. After watching him train for 40 minutes and making a few minor corrections on his technique, I asked him to go through his supplementary exercises. 

The first exercise he did was high pulls for the clean. His top clean and jerk was 264 lbs., and he began performing high pulls with 286. He then jumped to 308 and then to 330 for 3 reps. He was going to load the bar to 352 for his 4th set but I stopped him by asking him why he was working up so heavy.

He informed me that he always worked up to 352 x 3 on the high pulls. The high pulls he was about to perform were 88 lbs. above his top clean and jerk weight. When he performed this "high pull" with 352 it turned out to be nothing more than a slow dead lift with a little shoulder shrug at the finish. These are high pulls? 

One of the Caribbean lifters who can clean and jerk 352 as a lightheavy worked up to 462 on the high pulls as part of his training program. In both of these cases the lifters believed that the heavier the weight for the high pulls, the stronger they will become for the cleans. A weight that is 80-100 lbs. in excess of your cleaning ability will force you to pull completely differently than in the clean lift. Because the weight is extremely heave, you can not move fast nor pull it high. More likely it will prevent you from maintaining the correct back position to pull correctly for your cleans.

To perform a proper high pull to work as a supplementary movement for your clean, you must be able to pull the weight at least to navel height smoothly and with accelerating speed. If the pull does not reach your waistline (and I do not mean by leaning forward to meet the bar), or the bar goes up in a jerky fashion, then you are not getting the maximum benefit out of this exercise nor using the correct poundage. 

To receive the maximum benefit from the high pulls, you should use a weight from 20 lb. below your best clean weight, up to 11-15 lb. above your best cleaning weight if your are going to perform 3 repetitions per set. Some lifters use about 20 lb. above their best clean weight and perform single reps with this weight.

The idea behind this exercise (when used to improve your Olympic lifts) is not to see how heavy you can go, but rather how heavy you can go and still maintain a high enough pull to have the semblance of cleaning the weight. Maintaining the correct accelerated speed and proper pulling technique is also a determining factor in this one exercise.

Remember, dead lifting ability does not mean that you can clean more. Many years ago a 181 lb. lifter was capable of dead lifting over 700 but his top clean and jerk was between 300 and 310 lbs.

Would you believe that you can have a tremendous, exhaustive workout in two hours if you go about it correctly? Any more time in the gym could be wasted time and effort.

In weightlifting, as in other sports, if you become fatigued then your reflex and coordination will be off which, in turn, will affect your timing, balance and technique. A prolonged workout, when you are tired, will not help you progress but will instead prevent you from improving.

It is also imperative that you approach your training program with enthusiasm and full of pep. If you go to the gym with the thought of, "Another 3 hour workout" you certainly will not show much improvement for it would be a negative approach. If your training program is short, but intensive, you can get more improvement from the workout than if you had a long drawn out session that you tolerated because you think it is necessary.

Too many lifters approach training with the idea that if a little is good, more would be better. A little of the right kind of training far outweighs the long, drawn our session of the wrong kind. I also maintain that you have a better chance of improving by being under-trained rather than over-trained. 

Of course, there are some lifters who slave away by the hours but still continue to make improvements. Many would point to them as prime examples of what hard training can do. To these rare exceptions I say that they were able to make progress despite the wrong approach to training. I am sure that they would have made faster gains by following a sane training program. 

If you have ever studied world champions training, you will find one thing common among them all. They all take training very seriously and they all seem to know exactly what they are going to do. It is as though they are following a script and they concentrate wholly on the work plan before them. They will joke and play around between exercises, but when they lean over a bar to do an exercise, you know they mean business.

Their workouts are fast moving, and if four lifters are working on one bar, you will hardly see that bar laying idle. No sooner does one lifter set the weight down then the next fellow is loading the bar to the weight he desires. Their workouts are dynamic and intense for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours at the most.

You can see that they are purposeful in their workout and concentrate on each repetition. They perform each lift with precision and work toward perfection instead of just going through the motions of lifting. Each training session is yet another step toward their goal. 

The session is in the right direction and not just another workout in the gym. 

After each training day you should be able to say, "I learned something about myself which will help me in future training." The more knowledge you accumulate about your ability, the more you will be able to arrange your training to achieve maximum results. 

Let me explain this a little further. If you follow training routines as most lifters do, you usually approach a workout with some definite ideas as to what weights you are going to lift for the day. If you find you are not physically or mentally up to the weight you intend to handle, you should be flexible enough to use a lesser weight. To flog yourself by trying to keep up with your pre-planned training poundage could be disastrous. Of course, you should not confuse laziness with an actual fatigued condition.

I trained for two world championships in the basement of my house without a training partner. 

Yes, it's Tommy Kono's basement gym. 
Comes with wheelbarrow! 

As a middleweight my best official Clean and Jerk was 371 lbs., a world record at the time. Believe it or not my cleaning ability, under normal training conditions, in the basement of my house was 305. If I was able to clean 315 it was an exceptional day. However, if my brother would come downstairs to see me train, I could clean 315 without too much difficulty. When a fellow weightlifter dropped by to see me while I was training, I would be able to clean 325.

My best clean under the roof of my house was 345 which I was able to make only once in all my training sessions there. Training by myself taught me to concentrate. It also made me realize my limitations under various circumstances. it made me "KNOW THY SELF" in regards to my lifting ability. With these 305, 315, 325 clean and jerk guides, I could safely start with a 345-350 clean and jerk in a contest.

It may seem that I went off on a tangent, but the point I am trying to stress is that by being able to gauge yourself you can achieve a more satisfying, productive workout. Sometimes when I know I am not in the proper mood for the heavy workout called for in my schedule, I stick to lighter weights and go for repetitions. Repetition training is a little less demanding on the nervous energy side, but it is taxing by way of endurance and develops a tenacious quality. Sometimes I find myself with a new personal record for three reps at the end of my training or a new workout record. 

To achieve the maximum result from each training session, you should have certain basic factors that would prepare you to receive the gains. You should have adequate sleep and rest, eat good wholesome food and plenty of it and leave out all the bad health habits that have a retarding effect. Most of 'em, anyway. I mean, really, let's not get too silly with this "lifting" stuff, eh. What. You're a bloody monk with a barbell? Stop that. Grow up. Enjoy all aspects of life. Or not. It matters not to me. But remember that you can not fight the law of nature and still make maximum gains. 

Your training program should be well planned so that there is no wasted time nor useless exercises. Your training program should also include a long range goal and a short range goal. The short range goal should be a step toward the major goal and each goal should be dated. Be realistic about choosing your goals so that you give yourself ample time to hit these targets.

Do not waste time! You can acquire a better workout if you time yourself and allow just enough time between exercises to catch your breath. You'll find too that by timing yourself you zip through your training and have more enthusiasm and a less fatiguing workout. You can also learn to concentrate more on what you are doing because you are conscious of the fact that you are training and not trying to continue the "story" with the other lifters. 

To achieve Q.T. you must have a positive attitude. I remember when I was about to embark on the national scene as a weightlifter I used to get together every now and then with a friend for a workout. many times I didn't particularly feel like training nor felt able to go heavy in my training, yet I used to enter the gym with the idea that I would get a good workout.

My friend habitually complained. He used to tell me how his married life was or how demanding his job was. I recall him saying many times, "Don't you feel tired?" Having him as a training partner was a real detriment. I vowed then that I would never let myself influence others negatively. Or, another way of reacting would have been to vow to never get caught after caving in training buddy/whiner's head with a dumbbell. Your knowledge of body parts and human anatomy should help with disposing of the leftovers that remain (shovel, wheelbarrow, bag of lime in basement training quarters), knowing full well that the inner thigh of the human is the tastiest cut. In fact, I became so positive in my disposition compared to my deceased complaining friend that whenever I stepped into a weightlifting room I used to exude raw cannibal enthusiasm mega, Bro. 

Isaac Berger employed Q.T. and Norbert Schemansky always impressed me as one who never wasted time in the gym and knew exactly what he had to do and did it. His was a training program with quality, as was John Davis's.

If you have been in a rut in your lifting for some time, it might be that you have overlooked many of the points of Quality Training. A good lifter even takes care in making a 135 lb. lift. Do you use this weight only as a warmup poundage?   


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