Tommy Kono Workout Routine

Tommy Kono (June 27, 1930 – April 24, 2016) was born in Sacramento, California, U.S.A. He moved to Honoluli, Hawaii, where he managed a physical culture equipment and health store.

Kono started his weight lifting career in 1948.
During the 1950’s, from the time he won his first Olympics in 1952, Tommy was invincible. He was undefeated internationally until the 1960 Olympic Games, where he took a silver metal. He set a total of 26 world records in 4 weight classes!

Arnold Classic

Back in those days Tommy was indeed a legend. He even motivated Arnold Schwarzenegger to start weightlifting (Yes, Arni was a weightlifter before turning to Bodybuilding). 

Tommy Kono’s normal weekly training shedule

Monday Power Cleans, Cleans and Jerk
Tuesday Press and Bench Press
Wednesday Power Cleans and Snatch
Thursday Press
Friday Power Cleans, Cleans and Snatch
Saturday Press and Bench Press
Sunday Rest

Note: Kono hated boredom in training and he changed his shedule or rep sheme very often. Below I will go more into detail about Kono’s thoughts.

His sets and reps were as followed

Power cleans: 4-6 sets 3 reps
Cleans 4-8 sets, singles
Squats 3-4 Sets 3 reps
Press 7-8 sets, 3 reps
Bench Press 3 sets , 3 reps

Tommy’s training philosophy and diet!

During his early weightlifting career he did not experiece any fantastic improvements, but he managed to make steady gains. His total progressed from 585 pounds to 780 pounds in two years!

Mr. Kono has been fortunate in discovering for himself the ideal way of lifting. But it has been by trial and error, experiment and study that he has managed to filter out all the finer points in progressive training for the sport of weightlifting.

In the above shedule you would see that Mr. Kono trained 6 days a week. But he needed variety and there were periods he would also workout 3 – 4 days weekly (2-3 hours daily).

His program consisted of many basic exercises such as the Press, Bench Press, Upright Rowing Motion, Squats and Deadlifts.
He performed 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions with the heaviest weights he could handle.

He either trained exclusively on the three lifts plus one or two supplementary movements or perform 5 to 6 exercises paralleling the Olympic lifts.

Tommy Kono:
“I specialized in these basic exercises because I learned early in my training career 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 in developing their all-around bodily strength before ever going into the sport of weightlifting

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 absent-minded 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. “

Competition training
Three to five weeks before an important match he went on a program exclusively built on the three lifts plus the Squat. He attempted to shedule his training program so that he used progressively heavier and heavier weights as the contest time approaches – the contest itself being his peak performance.

He devoted as much attention to one lift. In all the lifts he kept the repetitions low in number because too many repetitions would create muscle fatigue.

He also avoid extremly heavy weights because it would be exhausting on the nerve. The number of repetitions he found ideal for his purpose was three repetitions per set except at the beginning of my workout period, when he used light weights to warm up. He did 5 repetitions.

Mental attitude

Tommy Kono: “I believe one of the most important factors in training and commonly aim was to show continued progress in the sport. Winning or losing a contest is secondary. 

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.”

Diet and Supplements
There are many factors which helped Kono lifting but he believed that diet and sleep are two of the main factors outside of good training and proper coaching (He was coached by Bob Hoffman). 

He made great and faster gains. He attributed this mainly to the correction of his nutrional deficiencies by Dr. Richard W. You of Honolulu, U.S. Olympic team physician.

He maintained on a diet rich in vitamins, minerals and high protein content to continue his progress in lifting.
Tommy: “Correct and adequate diet is important in progressive training”

“Perhaps my worst draw-back in lifting at the present time is my very poor sleeping habit” – Tommy

He used to sleep soundly and well but the hours of sleep were very short. He often went for weeks at a time with as little as 5 1/2 hours of sleep per night because of the pressure of business and other matters which took up much of his attention.

Before an important contest he made an effort to increase the hours of sleep to 8 hours per night. He believed that he could show faster improvements on his lifts if he is able to sleep and rest longer hours.

His training did not include hot baths or massage. He believed that correct use of both the bath and message would help relax and tone the muscles after a strenuous session with the weights but he classified both measures as luxuries that he could do without.

Training Notes
For Kono it was important to keep notes!

Tommy: “The more I became involved in weightlifting the more training notes I started keeping. It was at this point that I noticed that the amount of improvement made in my lifts was in direct proportion to the amount of notes I kept.”

One of the greatest advantage in keeping a training log book is the fact that it helps you organize your training, exercises and sequence of exercises. It also helps you concentrate on what you are trying to accomplish with your training.

Another worthy point is that it helps you form a better training plan for the future by being able to evaluate your previous plan.

He listed every set, rep, and weight that he lifted in training and competition.
According to Mr. Kono you can become more detailed in your note taking by including other factors such as the amount of sleep you had the previous night and any rest period you may have taken during the day prior your workout, your general feeling – which is subjective but may help you evaluate your training later on.

Mr. Kono died on April 24, 2016 in Honolulu. 2019 he was inducted into Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame!

Weightlifting accomplishments

1952     Olympic Lightweight Champion                                               Helsinki, Finland
1953     World Middleweight Champion                                                Stockholm, Sweden
1954     World Light-Heavyweight Champion                                         Vienna, Austria
1955     World Light-Heavyweight Champion                                         Munich, Germany
1956     Olympic Light-Heavyweight Champion                                     Melbourne, Germany
1957     World Middleweight Champion                                                Teheran, Iran
1958     World Middleweight Champion                                                Stockholm, Sweden
1959     World Middleweight Champion                                                Warsaw, Poland
1955     Pan American Games Light- Heavyweight Champion                Mexico City, Mexico
1959     Pan American Games Middleweight Champion                        Chicago, Illinois
1963     Pan American Games Light-Heavyweight Champion                 Sao Paulo, Brazil

Bodybuilding accomplishments

1954     “Mr. World”            Roubaix, France
1955     “Mr. Universe”        Munich, Germany
1957     “Mr. Universe”        Teheran, Iran
1961     “Mr. Universe”        Vienna, Austria     

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