Sunday, December 8, 2019

Kono's Coaching Clinic - Bill Penner (1972)

Courtesy of Liam Tweed

First, here's an interesting, in depth post by Gwen Sisto on weightlifting shoes:

No, really, there's some interesting observations there . . . 

 Click to ENLARGE

Check out her blog for a lot more very cool stuff! 

By the left: 
Vic Boff, Harry Greenstein (son of The Mighty Atom)
Tommy Kono, Steve Stanko (seated)
Norbert Schemansky, Joe Greenstein (The Mighty Atom)
and Leah Greenstein, Atom's wife.

On Friday, June 9th, before the two days of lifting at the Senior Nationals, Tommy Kono presented a weightlifting clinic. It was fairly well attended and was quite interesting, as Tommy had recently returned from the European Championships held in Romania.

Since this was the day before the beginning of the national championships, Tommy started off his remarks with things he thought might help those who would be competing in the nest two days of lifting. Although this is certainly not official, I would say that the majority of those present at the clinic were not those who were to be competing on the next two days. Does this say anything? Perhaps. I'll let you be the judge.

Tommy's opening remarks were directed at the knotty problem (sometimes) of making weight for your bodyweight class. For Supers this hardly ever poses a problem, but for those poor souls in a lower bodyweight class, it can prove to be quite sticky at times. First of all, it was brought out that a lifter should monitor his bodyweight for at least a few days before the contest. 

Note: Tommy Kono set World Records in four weight classes. 

This matter of making weight should definitely NOT be something that becomes a concern only on the day of the contest. Even if you are close to the limit and have not had trouble making weight in the past, it would be wise to at least glance at your weight the few days before the contest. This enables one to lose weight (if necessary) over a period of several days rather than all on one day. Losing many pounds on the day of the contest can prove to be quite enervating. This enervation CAN and DOES result in lower-than-maximum totals. 

Another item to remember in regard to making weight is to NOT assume that the scales you are using will be identical with the ones used to weigh in. So, just to be safe, Tommy advised that a lifter strive for a weight slightly under the limit to allow for a possible difference in calibration of the two scales. You might say, "Well, the scales should be exact." Yes, this would be desirable, but we live in an imperfect world and it appears that it will stay that way for some time to come. So, just to be safe, try to be just slightly under the limit. It may very possibly save you from the traumatic experience of finding that you are overweight and have only 15 minutes to lose the necessary weight. This can be very exasperating, to say the least. 

After a lifter has arrived at the competition site, stepped onto the scales, and has found that he has some weight to lose, what does he first do? 

Tommy's advice is to do something to start the perspiration process in motion - it is then much easier to keep the sweat going. It was mentioned that a sauna can be an excellent medium through which to induce sweating. However, it was also advised that this can be hard on an individual who is not used to it. 

Another method of losing pounds is through use of a diuretic, however, Tommy made clear the fact that usage of diuretics is precarious because the lifter may lose more than he had planned; i.e., it isn't possible to tell when the diuretic effect will stop. 

Besides making the weight, the well-prepared lifter will make sure that he has all of the necessary appurtenances (!) for the competition. Nothing is more nerve racking than to get to the competition site and find that you have forgotten your wraps, a jar of honey, tape, a lifting belt, or any other accessory. One simple tactic that can be used is to make a little list of all the things needed before the competition and check over this list BEFORE leaving your house or hotel or motel room.

Another item well to remember is to always arrive at the competition early so that there is plenty of time to get drunk, score coke and hook up with some local whores, er, take care of the necessary things and not be rushed. It would be much better to be an hour early than an hour late. This again may seem to be something which is almost too simple to mention, but it requires advance planning to make sure that one gets to the competition with plenty of time to weigh in, get dressed, etc.

Another common practice which is undesirable, is to eat heavy food after the weigh-in. To be sure, the time for protein-rich, heavy food is definitely not after the weigh-in. Protein should be taken care of at breakfast. The type of food needed after the weigh-in and before and during the competition is of the energy type. The lifter needs something which will digest easily, not something that will remain in the stomach and take hours to digest. Many lifters have used honey during the competition since it is easily digestible and provides a source of quick energy. Some lifters feel that they need something to pep them up during the competition, but it is ill-advised to take stimulants such as methamphetamines. Many doctors feel that if an athlete needs a boost, coffee will do just fine. 

One problem which seems to plague every lifter who has ever stepped onto a lifting platform is the problem of choosing poundages. Since Tommy had returned not long ago from the European Championships, he had some interesting statistics to point out regarding the percentage of successful lifts for several of the teams that competed in Romania. With a nine man team and nine attempts per lifter, we come up with a figure of 81 possible lifts for a full team. The most successful team was the Bulgarians with 56 successful attempts out of the possible 81. Second was the Russian team with 45 successful attempts, still more than a 50% success rate. Third was the Polish team with 39 successful lifts, just under the 50% figure of 40-1/2. 

Tommy analyzed the practices of the Bulgarians as compared with the Russians and others and found that the Bulgarians started lower and took a much larger jump between their first and second attempts. He said that many of the Bulgarians jumped 22 lbs. between their first attempt and their second attempt. On the other hand, the Russians usually never jumped more than 11 lbs. between their first and second attempts. 

Tommy also pointed out that 3 out of the 9 lifters on the Bulgarian team made 9 successful lifts. Also, included in the Bulgarian team tally of 56 successes was one lifter who missed all three presses. So, you can see, the Bulgarian team as a whole chose their attempts well.

The basic truth in the wise selection of poundages is - START LOW! This can never be overemphasized. Tommy also pointed out that if a lifter chooses his own poundages, he is almost always too optimistic, whereas if a coach is choosing the poundages the selections are usually more reasonable. Thus, it is to the lifter's advantage to have a coach present who knows the lifter's strength and will choose the starting poundages wisely. A lifter is almost always overconfident of his abilities and will rarely make adjustments for any facts which might warrant a lowering of the starting poundages, such as hot weather, lack of sleep or any other factor. 

It is also worth mentioning that if a lifter will not heed the advice of his coach and will only argue with him concerning the poundages, then there is very little use in having a coach present. Those who have been to international meets can attest to the fact that in many European countries, notably the USSR, the coach does, in fact, choose the poundages and the lifter has absolutely NOTHING to say in the matter. In Lima, I personally saw Alexei Medvedev, the head Russian coach, write down a lifter's next poundage on the expediter's card even before the lifter had left the stage. Thus, this is the categorical evidence that Medvedev was the one who chose the poundages and that the lifter had really nothing to say about it. This, by the way, is just one example of how the Russian lifters are disciplined.

Another problem which can plague a lifter is what to do to keep warm between attempts. Depending on how many competitors there are, there may be only a few lifts between a lifter's attempts, or there may be 15 or 20 or more. What to do to keep warm is always a problem and especially so when there are numerous lifts between a lifter's attempts. There are basically two methods of warming up. One is to use light weights and do many sets, but with little or no increasing of the poundages from set to set. Another method is to use progressively heavier weights from set to set. Tommy feels that one method is not necessarily any better than the other, but that lifters should experiment to find out which method suits them better. 

Tommy mentioned seeing Tony Garcy warming up at an International competition with numerous sets of presses with 132 pounds. Also watching Garcy warm up was the famous Polish lifter Baszanowski. Tommy recalls Baszanowski coming up and asking if Garcy was actually going to lift in competition. Baszanowski said he was not used to seeing a lifter warm up with light poundages, but this type of warmup suited Garcy quite well. Garcy would do many warmup sets with 132, then jump to a warmup set with 220, and then come out for a first attempt press with 264. For Garcy this system worked well. For someone else it might be preferable to use progressively heavier poundages. Try both and see which works better for YOU. 

Tommy also mentioned the factor of team unity and how the top teams usually seem to have a high degree of team unity. Tommy feels that this was one of the reasons for the superiority of the American teams of bygone years. Many lifters seem to like lifting because they feel they are doing something "on their own," however, a lifter will actually do better if he is lifting "for the team." If a lifter is lifting for a cause - for a team - he will do better. 

Also mentioned was the fact that a lifter's daily living habits will affect his performance on the lifting platform. Live a strict, disciplined life and you will do better. No lifter can expect to make maximum totals when he doesn't get a regular amount of sleep each night. There is no need to refrain from having fun, but an attempt should be made to keep regular hours. Believe it or not, there have been cases of U.S. lifters on international teams who were out taking in the bars and night spots THE NIGHT BEFORE they were to lift. This may sound unbelievable, but it's true, nonetheless. The time for celebrating is AFTER  the competition, not BEFORE. 

A lifter must sacrifice in order to become a champion. If you want to be an elite lifter, it almost has to be your first goal in life. You have to want it badly. Many potential champions fell by the wayside because they didn't have a strong enough desire to make an absolute success of their lifting. Tommy brought up the fact that there was a lifter in the U.S. who had potential to be the greatest lifter in the world. However, because of his living habits, this lifter never reached his ultimate capability. 

An item of extreme importance in competition is the matter of conditioning. A lifter MUST be in top condition with a great amount of endurance or he will just simply run out of gas toward the end of the competition. This is probably one of the most serious mistakes made by American lifters in their training. Tommy mentioned that the Russians and other European lifters can take extra attempts in the press and snatch for records, and still they are fresh right up to the last clean & jerk and even make records on a fourth attempt clean & jerk, in some cases.

Somehow I have the feeling that many American lifters feel that endurance and conditioning work will detract from their development of strength. This is really not the case. Tommy mentioned that most of the European lifters spend literally hundreds of hours in training and conditioning. In fact, it is extremely possible that the majority of their training is not spent on power movements, that that perhaps the majority of their training time is spent on conditioning and factors involved in making a lift, other than power movements. 

So, it is possible that American lifters spend too much time worrying about power movements and not enough time working on conditioning and form work, etc. Power is important, let there be no mistake about that. But, what good does it do to have a tremendous amount of strength and not be able to fully use that strength on the clean & jerk because you are fagged out due to lack of conditioning. It is entirely possible that a weaker man could defeat a stronger man simply because he developed the necessary conditioning tot enable him to be fresh when it comes to the clean & jerk. 

Thus, strength is important, to be sure, but it won't be nearly as effective as it could be if it is not coupled with a generous amount of endurance and conditioning. This matter of conditioning should not be taken lightly as it can have a very definite effect on your total.              


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