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Leo coaches national powerlifting athletes

Jona Leo of rural Lennox spent most of last week coaching powerlifters in Austin, Texas. 

Leo, who operates Liberty Barbell off the Tea exit, served as the assistant bench press coach to about 30 American lifters in the highest level of competition at the International Powerlifting Federation’s World Bench Press Championships. This was Leo’s second time serving has a bench press coach. The last time was in 2018 when he was also a competitor at the championships in South Africa.

Leo brings a wealth of knowledge to the assistant coach position after competing in powerlifting in high school and college, followed by competing in nine world championships before being inducted into the USA Powerlifting Men’s Hall of Fame in 2022.

Since there is no centralized location for American athletes to train, coaches review a lot of athletes’ training virtually.

“We can do a fair amount of video analysis so athletes can send their stuff into us,” he said.

As a coach, Leo wants to make sure the athletes’ lifts are going to be acceptable to the international judging community and suggest some technical improvements to their performances. As a past competitor on this stage, Leo can help athletes through the daunting task of competition logistics from the weigh-in process, properly timed warm-ups, the competition itself, and the drug test procedures.

Coaches make sure the correct lift attempts are being put in and serves as the advocate for the athlete if there is a disagreement on whether a lift was good or not.

“I had to take a additional certification courses such as Safe Sport and Adel (which covers anti-doping procedures),” he said.   

“On the International level coaches are have a huge responsibility to athletes as attempt selections cannot be changed once submitted to the scoring table.  This can make the difference in final placing in the competition.  We have the goal of them placing the highest possible based on their ability.” Leo said.

He was looking forward to seeing friends from his competitive lifting days.

“Coming back and serving as a coach, I have yet to figure out if that’s a stepping stone to being an athlete again, but it’s going to be fun to be back.  Whether it’s badmitton or bench pressing, it awesome to watch people at the highest level compete and use their God-given abilites.  I’m blessed to serve this coaching position on relatively short notice (notified in February) but will have more to work with athletes getting ready for Drammen, Norway next year,” he said.


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