Author: leo


Leo Totten, MS

Head Coach, Totten Training Systems

Head Coach, East Coast Gold WL Team


One of my favorite things to do first thing in the morning is to tune in to Mike and Mike on ESPN.  I like to catch up on the latest scores and the back and forth banter of two very cool sports talk show hosts.  Mike and Mike often bring on special guests who offer their expert opinions on the topic of the day.

Herm Edwards, an outstanding football coach and now expert analyst, was brought in to discuss the professionalism (or lack thereof) of a particular pro athlete.  His perspective was very enlightening and his point was how he breaks down athletes into two basic categories – those who are “interested” and those who are “committed”.

As a coach, how many times have you come across athletes who talk a big game and have big plans on doing this or achieving that?  But when push comes to shove are they just “interested” in attaining those goals or are they really “committed” to doing all that it takes to actually make it happen?  Are they willing to put in the long hours and discipline to persevere through the highs and lows that it will inevitably take to get to the top?  Are they willing to do the things off the platform and away from the coach’s eye that are needed to continue their progress?

Get to know your athletes.  Dig in their psyche.  Find out what makes them tick.  Don’t assume that each person is the same with the same aspirations or same motivations.  Do what needs to be done to help them maximize their performance for what “they” want and need, not necessarily what “you” want or think they want.  

Don’t get me wrong.  As a coach, you absolutely treat the athletes as if they are as committed as you are and as you know they need to be to reach their true potential.  You always push them to do the things they need to do to succeed.   You always try to get them to evolve from someone who is just “interested” into that “committed” athlete doing what they need to do.

However, don’t beat yourself up or get frustrated if your athlete doesn’t “get it”.  You can only do so much and the athlete himself or herself has to get it into their heads that all the little things that need to be done when you aren’t around can only be done if they are truly “committed”.  Keep pushing but understand that all athletes are different and have different motivations.

Reminds me of the great “bacon and eggs” analogy – the chicken is “interested” but the pig is “committed”!


For those who know me well, you will know that I am a huge Green Bay Packer fan and have been one since way back in the day when Vince Lombardi was coach and Jim Taylor was my first real football hero.  Recently, a college buddy of mine (who just happens to be a huge Packer fan as well) emailed me an article by Dan Oswald (CEO of BLR) in his “Oswald Letter”.   The article really summarized one of the major reasons Lombardi is one of my all-time favorite coaches.

The following story was chronicled in the article.  Going into the coaching clinic given by Coach Lombardi, another great coach was at the clinic thinking he knew a lot about football (John Madden).

He was astounded by what occurred during that clinic.  In his own words, “I went in there cocky thinking I knew everything there was to know about football, and he spent eight hours talking about one play – the power sweep.  He talked for four hours, took a break, and came back and talked four more.  I realized then that I actually knew nothing about football.”

Here are the major concepts to be taken from this clinic by Vince Lombardi:

  • Attention to Detail:  Lombardi spent 8 hours just going over one single play.  It is often the little things that make a big difference.  As he once told his players, “Gentlemen, we will chase perfection and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it.  But, along the way, we shall catch excellence”.
  • Mastery of the Subject:  As a teacher/coach/leader of athletes, your knowledge inspires those around you and makes success possible.  As Lombardi says, “Success demands singleness of purpose”.
  • Clear Understanding of Each Person’s Role in Success In order to work together as a “team”, the coach has to clearly convey what each person’s role is as part of the whole.  Lombardi stated, “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual”.
  • The Importance of Teaching Good coaches have to be good teachers.  Even as a manager, you must be a good teacher.  You can’t expect your people to properly execute movements they don’t understand.  As Lombardi said, “You cannot coach them what they have not been taught”.

Think about these concepts and how they apply to your situation as coach/teacher/leader.  Are you on the path of consistent, quality coaching?  There are a lot of so-called “experts” out there.  Seek out the highly qualified, highly respected coaches and teachers who they themselves are constantly learning.  The primary lesson to be learned is – be humble, be a life-long learner.  There is SO much information out there.  Keep learning and never be satisfied that you know it all!  For me, the lessons taught in this one session are great lessons to be learned.  In fact, I try diligently to use these concepts in the way I teach and coach and the way I manage my team (East Coast Gold).  It has proven to be a successful game plan!

MENTAL TRAINING – Making the Difference!

mentalcdsFred Hatfield, renowned lifter, coach and educator, once told me, “Training is all about being either good, better or best”.  How true!  If you are really aiming to be the very best, then you must train every aspect of athletic development.  Everyone can train the physical part, but not everyone takes the time or effort to train the MENTAL part!  It truly can make the difference whether you reach your goals!

Mental training, which includes relaxation, visualization, goal setting and positive reinforcement, should be as important a part of the lifter’s training as any of the physical training.  Unfortunately, it is often ignored altogether.  The great athletes know that ALL aspects of training make the most complete and efficient lifters.  If you ignore one or more of these important aspects of training, you will never reach your full potential!

I have put together a two disc set to help you on your way to developing skills to get that mental edge.  They are designed specifically for the weightlifter in mind.  One disc is for pre-workout or on non-workout days and the second disc is for immediately after doing either the snatch or the clean and jerk.

 Disc One:      Pre-Workout

 Use this disc before the entire training session starts or between training sessions.  It begins with relaxation to make you more receptive to the information being processed and then visualization starts.  Remember, you can either visualize from the “outside looking in”, like viewing yourself in a video, or from the “inside looking out”; with this technique, you look outside your body to perceive your surroundings, your focal point, the sights and sounds and smells, etc.  Either way is fine.  For this session, position yourself in a comfortable, reclining or seated position.  You can even perform the session before you go to bed.

 Disc Two:       Post-Workout

This disc is used between lifts.  You would actually stop after one lift workout (either snatch or clean and jerk), and take 15 minutes or so to listen to the disc, relax and do the mental and kinesthetic imagery.  While performing this visualization exercise, you can either be seated or reclining, but you will not be able to get as comfortable as the other disc since you will be in or near the gym.  Also, touching the bar, chalk, etc. tends to enhance the effect of the training.   After the session is complete, then finish your workout.  By performing the exercise after the lift, you reinforce what you have just done.  Part 1 (the first 15 minutes into the disc) is for the snatch and Part 2 (about 15 minutes into the disc) is for the clean & jerk.

To get the Mental Training CDs, check out our store.



“Setup” to Fix That Problem JERK!

Adam_JerkThere is nothing more frustrating than missing the jerk after a great clean!  And, think about it, to hit a good split jerk, you really only have to push the bar about 6-8” or just above the hairline.  You should never miss a jerk! (Well, in theory anyway!)

The biggest problem I have seen is an improper setup.  Without a strong, tight core, the bar “sags” on the dip, driving the bar forward and enough out of position to cause the miss.  In order for the bar to be driven overhead properly, ending up “right behind the ears”, the setup has to be right.

Here is what I look for in the perfect setup:

  • Take a big breath in
  • As the inhalation takes place, “lift and spread” the chest setting a wider “table” for the bar to set on (the bar sitting on the clavicles and shoulders)
    • Be careful not to lift the shoulder so the bar loses contact with the clavicles
  • The elbows will spread out a bit and even drop down just a tad
    • Many lifters try to lift the elbows without spreading them but when they “dip”, the elbows tend to drop, particularly with heavier weights
  • Relax the hands but keep the core tight

With this proper setup, now the body is in the correct position for the dip to be straight down with the elbows staying in that same neutral position as at the start.  Think of the body as the “fulcrum” allowing the bar to get that nice bend and rebound.  The bar has an elastic quality to it and this allows the bar to work for you.

Bottom line is that a proper jerk is all about center of gravity.  By getting the body in the proper setup position, the center of gravity of the bar stays as close to the lifters center of gravity as possible.  Then, on the dip and drive, the lifter is able to utilize his/her powerful legs and get the most out of the drive.  Straight down, straight up, perfect split position.

Never want to miss a jerk again??  Set it up right and you are on the right track!

East Coast Gold Weightlifting Team – How We Tick!

ECC26Our weightlifting team, East Coast Gold, was developed in 1992. It started as a small, four-man team that was fun but not real impressive in numbers. But, we had the core of great athletes who made it possible to build and develop from there. Now we are one of the biggest teams in the country and we are very active in many USAW activities.  We have created lifters and coaches throughout the entire east coast (and beyond) with satellite centers and various sites for training and coaching education.  It is a plan that is working!

The team was developed on the premise that the INDIVIDUAL athlete would profit from being on a team. This would be from a lifting standpoint as well as a financial and social aspect. By providing team support, the athlete could perform better if they didn’t have to be concerned with many of the small details that the team could help alleviate. From working in the warm-up room, to developing workout plans, to offering nutritional advice, to helping with rooms and flights, the team is there for the individual. It has turned out that many lifters were seeking such support and wanted to benefit from the team concept. By having the team take care of many of the extrinsic factors, the athlete could really focus on the task at hand – lifting bigger weights!!

As it turned out, the premise sort of snowballed into a much larger picture. After a period of time, the individual was still number one on the priority list, but the team itself was beginning to take on a larger role. Doing well in team competitions became an integral part of the strategy. This improved the individual even more! The motivation of performing for individual improvement as well as boosting the team seemed to help the lifters reach higher heights.

The social aspect of performing with a team is an incredible boost to the lifters as well. Many lifters are out there training alone and have no support at all. By being a member of a team, they are able to train and compete, knowing that no matter what happens, their teammates are there to help and support. This means so much for the individual performances.

There are many awesome teams in the U.S. I feel we are fortunate enough to be counted as one of them. It is because we put the athlete first that the team has succeeded.  We continue to grow and prosper and, even though, we are a really large team, through constant communication via the web and team newsletters, we all seem to stay in close touch with each other.  We like to view it as a very large family!

The “Secret” of Weightlifting

normal_2006_Natls_Men_94_Fondale_132I have been very fortunate to have been selected to work as coach or team leader for numerous World, Pan Am and Olympic Games.  Working with the best in the United States is always an awesome experience!  To watch them train and to discuss training philosophy is always an enlightening experience. Their work ethic and mental approach are always fun to explore.

There was one incident that stuck in my mind from way back at the Pan Am Games years ago.   It is nothing earth shattering  but something that needs to be discussed. Robin Goad has always been one of my favorite lifters – besides being a World Champion, Pan Am Gold medalist, former World Record holder and many time National Champion and record holder, she was also an outstanding representative of our sport and always extremely competitive no matter what the conditions. (Now she can even boast of having a daughter who is following in her famous footsteps!!)  In spite of all these glowing credentials, she is still trying to learn more and more to make herself even better.

Men’s National Team Coach at the time, Dragomir Cioroslan and I were walking down the hall of the dorm at the Pan Ams when we passed the room of one of our lifters. In the room where a group of our women lifters were just hanging out and talking. Dragomir and I stopped in to say HI when Robin asked Drago – “What is the secret to weightlifting?”   Here was one of the best lifters in the USA as well as the World and she was asking for the “secret” of weightlifting!

What intrigued me about this seemingly simple question, was that it was coming from one of our best all time. As good as she was, she still wanted to get better. As good as she was, she wanted to have any information out there that others might be utilizing for improvement that she was missing out on.

Well, the bottom line is that there is no secret. If there were some magic formula that would make great weightlifters, we would have tons of them. The only so-called secret to success in weightlifting (or any endeavor for that matter) is hard work, discipline, determination and persistence. Having the discipline to work on weak areas and doing what it takes to get the job done. As Vince Lombardi once said, “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will”. These traits are the “secret” to success. We all have within us the ability to succeed!

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