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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review: Championship Weightlifting, Beyond Muscle Power, The Mental Side of Lifting

Championship Weightlifting, Beyond Muscle Power, The Mental Side of Lifting
by Tommy Kono



I confess that, even after reading this book, I know very little of Tommy Kono. Beforehand, I knew even less, but my father (who bought me this book as a birthday present), tells me that Kono was one of the heroes of his youth, and an inspiration for his forays in weightlifting. While still haven’t learned much more about Kono’s history, I learned a LOT from Championship Weightlifting.


Championship Weightlifting seems to be intended as a companion or follow up piece to Kono’s other book, Weightlifting, Olympic Style (which I have not read). My understanding is that Weightlifting, Olympic Style, covers the mechanics of Olympic Weightlifting in great detail. Championship Weightlifting is not about specific mechanics so much as it is about a proper mindset and attitude.


Fortunately, much of Kono’s advice, while specific to weightlifting, is really applicable to anyone who wants to do spectacularly well at a particular activity. And make no mistake—this book assumes that you want to be, well, a champion. While Kono does not disdain the “hobbyist” weightlifter, he does make it quite clear that there is a difference between being a hobbyist and champion, and that if you want to be the latter, you must think and train accordingly. Kono’s instructions and ideas for maintaining a proper mindset and focus about weightlifting are easily transferable to other activities, and I suspect I’ll be recommending this book for those ideas alone.


But there is a lot of other interesting goodness here too. Kono’s advice on programming and training I found interesting. In a nutshell, Kono vehemently decries the “Eastern European” style of training, arguing that competitive lifters should be training in short, focused sessions, three or four times a week. What should they train? The competitive lifts (snatch, clean & jerk), plus the press (which was a competition lift during Kono’s competitive career) and some squats. That’s it. Do your lifts, do THEM RIGHT, and go home.

I highlighted do them right because that was one of the other things that stood out to me about this book. Despite being a book about a sport that the author describes as being about “putting as much weight as possible over your head” (not an exact quote), Kono is adamant about the need for proper technique over strength. You could take out the weightlifting terminology and replace it with martial arts terminology, and Kono’s writing would read like that of so many martial arts instructors. Focus on technique, form, and precision, not power. Power will come.


The book also includes some excellent discussion of Kono’s coaching philosophies and methods, some technical pointers regarding the lifts, and the “ego section”, which summarizes Kono’s incredible list of accomplishments as a competitor and coach.


There is a wealth of useful information for anyone in this book. Certainly, competitive lifters will get the greatest benefit from it, but even the humble hobbyist can gain something. If you are an athlete, or coach athletes, or just want to improve your mindset…get this book.

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