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Interview: Kevin Cornell
Matt Foreman

Eighteen years old is a late start in Olympic weightlifting, if you’re talking about making a serious run at the Olympic Team. Many of you are old geezers who started this sport in your 20s and 30s, so you’re scoffing at the idea that 18 is “old” in the sport. However, you have to remember that the vast majority of Olympic-level athletes have been raised in the sport from their pre-teen (or earlier) years.
 
Kevin Cornell started this sport when he was 18, and he’s currently sniffing around a 160 kg snatch (352 lbs.) and 200 kg clean and jerk (440 lbs.) in the 105-kilo class (231 lbs.). Those are serious weights, brothers and sisters. Kevin’s rise in the sport has been quick, putting him within striking distance of representing Team USA at the top international levels. The Pittsburgh native has incredible strength and potential, with his shot at the big time looming just a few years away. As the 2016 Olympic Games approach, several American lifters are in the running for the coveted spots on the team. Without a doubt, Kevin is in that mix.
 
Fortunately for our sport, he’s also working to build opportunities in this sport to help others.  Through his personal training business and his passionate desire to grow the sport, Kevin is a tremendous asset to USA Weightlifting. The Performance Menu is proud to give you a look at his life.    
 
Tell us about your background. Where are you from, where do you currently live, what’s your occupation, family life, what kind of sports background do you have outside of lifting, etc. 
 
I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, which is where I am living and training right now. My coach is Lorne Wilson and I train out of CrossFit Habitat in downtown Pittsburgh. I own my own training company, Kevin Cornell Fitness, and have been doing personal training, as well as online coaching and seminars for the past two years. I have one dog, Tyson, and one cat, Kit Kat and am married to my beautiful wife, Katie. I enjoy spending time with family as well as reading in my down time (which is very limited) and am looking to get into Real Estate after weightlifting is over. I am also a huge Call of Duty fan, which I justify playing quite a bit, by calling it “active recovery.”
 
Outside of weightlifting, I have played baseball (college level and how I found weightlifting) football, wrestling, and gymnastics. I had a lot of offers to go to D-1 schools for baseball, but after 20 years, I decided to give it up for my interest in weightlifting. It was a scary decision at the time, but has seemed to have paid off now.
 
Describe your weightlifting history. When/how did you start? Who have your coaches been? What are your proudest accomplishments?
 
I started weightlifting when I was 18 years old (which is late in the sport) because I had already been playing college baseball. My younger brother, who was a respectable pitcher in his own right, started training at a club near my house called Pittsburgh Barbell Club, which is originally how I found weightlifting. I didn’t really know what to think of weightlifting at the time because it was so different from the way I had been training up until that time. However, as time went on, I started to see potential in myself at this sport. I was always strong growing up and wanted to see how strong I could get.
 
Within the first year of weightlifting, I made some huge achievements in training. I had no idea what competition was or what I would need to lift to be competitive because I was still so new. However, I can remember snatching 110 kilos as an 85-kilo lifter within the first six months of training. I later found out how competitive I could be at this sport and that is why I stopped playing baseball and went full-time into weightlifting.
 
My career really turned a corner when I was invited out to the most prestigious gym in the country known as California Strength. This is when I really learned what real weightlifting was all about. I made vast improvements when moving out there and will never forget the great experiences and lessons both Glenn Pendlay and Dave Spitz taught me about weightlifting and life. I am now back home and training out of CrossFit Habitat with my coach Lorne Wilson and looking to do big things in 2015.
 
Please give a basic description of your training method. Just tell us as much as you can about your program, weekly/yearly planning, etc.
 
I basically just do what I am told, as I have the utmost confidence in my coach and my program, but from what I can see, we do a lot of volume in both the strength lifts (squats, deadlifts, presses) as well as the [Olympic] lifts. We are doing a lot of complexes now, as well as conditioning at the end of training. Bodyweight metcons, sprints on the rower, bodybuilding, etc. This is to help improve recovery as well as strength in the body and reduce fat for better muscle quality.  Some of my favorite exercises to do are back squats, clean and jerks, and any shoulder work. I do not like front squats or deadlifts very much, and I do not like the conditioning, which is what we seem to program a lot these days.
 
I train 10 sessions a week, all two-hour-long sessions. Squats and presses in the morning and the lifts at night. We seem to always be going heavy, with no power movements involved (which is actually what I prefer). I have a great team that I train with that pushes me to be better and better each day. My training partner Tom Duer, who has just started training with me, has a lot of potential and will be doing big things this year as well. I am in the perfect place to make the 2016 Olympics and couldn’t be happier.
 
Describe some of the obstacles you face, or maybe some things that frustrate you in your weightlifting life. What kinds of changes would you like to see, either personally or with the sport in general?
 
I never become frustrated, or at least try my best not to, because it takes away from my own training. Also, I do not know the whole story when it comes to “growing the sport,” which is something that I would like to see happen. This sport has a lot of potential and a lot of great athletes that the world needs to see. I feel that strength sports like weightlifting are respected enough to gain massive amounts of popularity in not so long of a time. CrossFit is obviously the best thing to happen to weightlifting in the history of the sport and we (the athletes) seem to be capitalizing on it just fine. It was every once in a while where you would see our top names like Farris and Vaughn taking photos and recognized for their work via seminars or clinics. Now these guys, along with other up and coming lifters such as myself, are respected not just nationally, but internationally as well. So from an athlete’s standpoint, we are doing everything we need to do. However, from an administrative standpoint, I see some flaws that I feel can be fixed. Again, to know the story is to have heard both sides of it, which I have not, so I cannot say too much on this subject as I am not fully informed. However, what I can say is that there is a great amount of opportunity to invigorate the sport of weightlifting and bring it into the main stage of sports in America. If we as a nation want to see our athlete’s winning gold medals, then we must stand behind our athletes not just emotionally and spiritually, but financially as well. 
 
What are your plans and goals for your weightlifting career? How do you see your future in the sport?
 
I have a very positive outlook on my career. I have only been competing for eight years and have broken many state records as well as won a couple of prestigious titles (2x Arnold Classic Champion). I would like to win every national meet I enter this year as well as make the Pan American and World Championships Team and represent my country to the best of my ability. I would also like to make next year’s 2016 Olympic Games, as it has always been a goal of mine. I want to take a revolutionary role in the sport of weightlifting as well, much like a Hulk Hogan of wrestling or Arnold Schwarzenegger of bodybuilding. I want to help grow this sport, as well as myself, and take my career to the next level. I would also like to create a company, much like Cal Strength or Catalyst Athletics that caters to high level weightlifters so I can give back to the sport that has given me so much.
 
Who are some of your major influences, people you look up to, etc.? Who are the people you want to thank for your success?
I am very lucky to know people who have made great strides in the strength and fitness communities. Having their support in my own training pushes me to levels I could not achieve on my own. I am very fortunate to know many world champion athletes who give me daily advice on how and why to be a champion. A man everyone knows and respects in the strength community is the 3x World Strongest Man, Bill Kazmaier, who I am fortunate enough to know and get feedback and life advice for when training gets tough. I am also very thankful to know the godfather of weightlifting, Dave Spitz, who has created one of the most electrifying training atmospheres in the country at California Strength. I also have one of my very good friends and coach Lorne Wilson to help me with programming as well as sponsorships, nutrition, mental training, and life advice every day in training. I do not know where I would be in my career if I had not sought him out and started training under him.
 
I would also like to thank Matt Foreman and Greg Everett for this opportunity to share my story with all of the weightlifting fans that they have accrued over the years. Thanks again and remember to “Train With No Limits.”
 
Your limits are miles away, Kevin.  Our readers wish you the best of luck as you continue to work harder and reach higher in your weightlifting journey!  

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Matt Foreman is the football and track & field coach at Mountain View High School in Phoenix, AZ. A competitive weightliter for twenty years, Foreman is a four-time National Championship bronze medalist, two-time American Open silver medalist, three-time American Open bronze medalist, two-time National Collegiate Champion, 2004 US Olympic Trials competitor, 2000 World University Championship Team USA competitor, and Arizona and Washington state record-holder. He was also First Team All-Region high school football player, lettered in high school wrestling and track, a high school national powerlifting champion, and a Scottish Highland Games competitor. Foreman has coached multiple regional, state, and national champions in track & field, powerlifting, and weightlifting, and was an assistant coach on 5A Arizona state runner-up football and track teams. He is the author of the books Olympic Weightlifting for Masters: Training at 30, 40, 50 & Beyond and Bones of Iron: Collected Articles on the Life of the Strength Athlete.


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