Hail to the Dinosaurs!
American weightlifters have won a total of
15 Olympic gold medals.
It might have been 17, but two freak accidents
derailed two of our greatest lifters in their final
In 1956, Pete George was training in the York
Barbell Club gym -- one of the most famous
gyms in the world at the time. George had
won the World championship in 1947, 1951,
1953, 1954, and 1955 -- the silver medal at
the 1948 Olympics -- and the gold medal at
the 1952 Olympics. So a second gold medal
in 1956 was a very real possibility.
He hit a heavy lift in practice -- and the lifting
platform split apart under him as he hit the
And with a heavy weight at your chest, that's
And that was a freak accident, if there ever was
one. The York Barbell Club was the last place
where you expected to see a World and Olympic
champion get hurt because of a bad lifting
So Pete George went to his last Olympics with a
pair of banged up legs from the freak accident --
and took second to a Russian lifter in a hard
In 1959, Tommy Kono was giving a lifting exhibition
to a group of Boy Scouts. He had won the Olympic
gold medal in 1952 and 1956, and was gunning for
a third gold medal in 1960.
Kono used the squat snatch in competition, but
decided to show the Boy Scouts the split snatch.
He used a mere 135 pounds -- well under his
World record of 294.5.
But somehow, he hurt his knee on that lift. Not
bad, but bad enough. It got worse and worse,
and was a real problem at the 1959 World
Championships. By the time of the 1960
Olympics, it was even worse. And Tommy
Kono ended up taking second place.
Now, please note -- I am NOT in any way
being critical of these great lifters. Their
accidents were freak events. Extreme
cases of bizarre bad luck.
But there's an important lesson for all of us:
Always do everything possible to avoid training
Check your platform or training area before
Be sure there's nothing (and no one) in your
way. Nothing to trip on, slip on, or stumble
If you train outside, check for slick spots.
Wear good, high quality lifting shoes. Keep the
soles clean. When they wear out, buy new ones.
Check your bars, benches, racks, squat stands
and dumbbells before using them.
Make sure your bar is loaded correctly before
If you try a new exercise -- or an old exercise
that you haven't done for a while -- be very
smart, and go very light and easy. Take some
time to relearn the movement and to work on
the flexibility the movement requires.
Do NOT emulate the Facebook heroes and
YouTube warriors who try to set a new PR in
something they haven't done for a couple of
months (or a couple of years). (For some
reason, we see this all the time in the
deadlift -- which is truly a bad exercise
to max out on if you haven't been doing
it for a while.)
Don't go for a new PR 20 pounds over your
current best. Break it into smaller increments
and get there in 2.5 or 5 pound jumps.
Use a power rack or safety bars for squats
and bench presses -- with the bottom pins
set to catch the bar if you miss.
Make perfect form a priority on every rep and
Give yourself time for a good warm-up.
If you don't feel good, or you can't get loose
for some reason, make it a light day, and save
the heavy stuff for another time.
And don't even get me started about doing
barbell squats on a stability ball.
Despite your best efforts, a freak accident can
always happen. So do your very best to avoid
the accidents that are avoidable.
It might not mean the difference between an
Olympic gold medal and a silver medal -- but
it might mean the difference between a long
and healthy training career and getting
sidelined by an unnecessary injury.
As always, thanks for reading, and have a
great day. If you train today, make it a good
one -- and a safe one!
Yours in strength,
P.S. Older Dinos need to give extra attention
to smart training, rest, recovery, recuperation,
and avoiding unnecessary wear and tear on
their bodies. Gray hair and Black Iron gives you
detailed advice on how to train and gain as an
P.S. 2. My other books and courses are right
here at Dino Headquarters:
P.S. 3. Thought for the Day: "Train hard, but train
smart. As you get older, train smarter." -- Brooks