The only way to raise a 400-pound barbell over your head is to think it up there. It helps to have several cubic feet of muscle packed around the shoulders and loins, but the muscle becomes superfluous if the thought is missing.
This, at least, is the conclusion of Norbert Schemansky, who can lift more pounds of barbell overhead than anybody else on earth. Not long ago, he gave a rather awesome demonstration of the power of thought at a YMCA in his native Detroit. After tossing around some trifling 200-250-pound weights in a conventional warmup—"to draw the blood"—Schemansky attacked a 400-pounder. He walked slowly up to the bar, like a massive mahout approaching a truculent bull elephant. Placing his shins next to the bar, he squatted, wrapped his hands around the bar, and then stared pensively ahead (above) in what appeared to be a two-second prayer for success
Suddenly he had the bar off the floor, then at waist level, then overhead; and just as suddenly, back on the floor—set down as gently as if he were shooing a kitten.
Later, he explained his moment of prayer. "If you go up there and you're not thinking, the thing'll seem pretty heavy. You just can't get coordinated. Before you start, you got to try to get all your thoughts into seeing how much drive you can put in the lift, so you have a pretty good idea you can do it. Then, in those last couple of seconds, your mind's almost a blank, just thinking about getting that thing up there. If you make it right, you don't even feel the weight. Just use your legs to come erect and there you are."
Schemansky usually makes it right. At the world's championships on Oct. 10 in Vienna he set a world total-weight record of 1,074� pounds in the three Olympic lifts (see pp. 30, 31), and another record of 331� pounds in the snatch. A week later, he traveled to Lille, France, for another international competition and set the most awesome individual-lift record now on the books: 424 pound in the clean and jerk.
Another positive thinker, whose middleweight and light-heavyweight lifting records are almost as impressive as those of heavyweight Schemansky, is Tommy Kono (next page), a soft-spoken Japanese-American with cat-quick reflexes and the title of The Most Beautiful Athlete in the World.
Concentration, to Kono, is the essence, although he admits to greater awareness of muscle than Schemansky.
"While you're walking up there to the bar, you try to think of what you have to do. You try to concentrate to eliminate any noise going on. When I get there, I try to have a positive attitude. I try to think of myself lifting it—whether my back breaks or not.