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Interview with Powerlifting Legend Ed Coan

Strength Oldschool

By Wade Hanna

 Powerlifting USA Magazine - Ed Coan

SO: Okay, let’s start with the obligatory biographical stuff; height, weight, age, and stuff like that?

EC: Okay, I’m 5′-6″…most of the time, 35…I’ll be 36 July 24th. Ummm….240lbs or so, anywhere from 235-245. Just depends if I am training heavy or not. Most of the time I am a personal trainer and do a bunch of seminars, a bunch of routines and all kinds of stuff like that.


SO: So when you are personal training are you tailoring it towards Powerlifting?

EC: It all depends on what they want, you tailor it to what they want.


SO: When did you start Powerlifting and how did you get interested in it?

EC: My first meet was in 1980, I weighed in at like a 154 or 153 pounds or something like that and I actually tried Bodybuilding before that. Like every other little kid I watched Pumping Iron when it came out. When I bodybuilt I went into one contest…like the Central USA Teenage division and I took like 800th in my class of 15 or so. I am pretty pale…people who know me know that I am pretty pale, so there wasn’t a lot of sun and dieting going there and it was actually before they even posed to music. I really did not like that….I didn’t like the dieting and losing strength bit. So I went into my first power meet, back then it was a class III novice. I believe my lifts were like…485/295/495. The racks didn’t go down low enough, they actually had to take the bar off the racks and put them on my back. I missed the first two, until I got it right on the last one.

Ed Coan - Deadlifts


SO: So was that USPF or was it AAU?

EC: It was all USPF.


SO: Who has been the most influential people in your career? Who did you “look up to?”

EC: Uh, lookin’ up to is Kaz.

Bill Kazmaier - 1980


SO: Yeah, I think that is a pretty common one! (laughing)

EC: Yea…that is the man. Especially now cuz’ Bill is so nice to me…after I did my total in Vegas he called me up and left like a ten-minute message on everything he liked about me and how I was the man and I was better than him in Powerlifting….and every other thing you could think of….it was incredible! I made it to 6′ tall that day.


SO: That would be a nice message to get….well, one of my favorite things to ask about is the 2400 total but, since you have pretty well decimated that….

EC: I was stronger at the 2400 total than I was at the 2463.


SO: The total at 220 right?

EC: Yeah, pretty much I was stronger because I was at a lower bodyweight the only thing was that I had less injuries. The weights were a little heavy there which is why I called for a 898 second attempt DL to break 2400 and it was actually 901 as it weighed out to be. I missed a 920 DL which was probably about 923 or 924 probably because it was anti-climactic. I benched a real easy 545 with no shirt that day, and I did a 959 squat which was 962 and I missed like 986 which was probably 989. Only cuz’ I don’t lift if I don’t have to on those pieced together rubber mats because once you get your foot set…you can’t move it and one side was set a little different than that other and I got pitched forward but, the deadlift before that meet I doubled 900…very, very easy but, I was just a little spent after the big deadlift, emotionally it took something out of me. Back then I could go sumo, now I just don’t want to go sumo because I tore the outside, lower part of my hamstring where it inserts into the calf. I also hurt my left groin a bit, the adductor….I just don’t want to get hurt again so I figured I would go conventional and I know I’m gonna’ pull over 9. It is more of a challenge, but y’know…..but, if I could go sumo still….I would pull 950. I can guarantee it.

Ed Coan Deadlifting - Quads Gym


SO: wow…….(totally awestruck and hating the sound of my own voice!). So where do you think 2500 sits?

EC: um, good.


SO: So that is the next target?

EC: Yea, yea. To do what I can in the meet, if I do what I know I can in a meet I’ll be fine. As long as I don’t overtrain. My problem before is I used to overtrain. I used to like going too heavy, and hittin’ it hard, and it used to be gone by the time I got to the meet. Now I hit it hard but, I only wore my suit for 3 weeks last time. 2 weeks with the bottom and 1 week with the straps up…and you can ask Tony and Jason who helped me get it up how loose it really was. No briefs, none of that stuff …and I don’t wear a deadlift suit. Not comfortable enough…the way I am built if I wear anything that gets a little bit snug it pitches my butt right up in the air.


SO: Speaking of your build…how would you classify yourself?

EC: Short legs, longer upper body, longer arms. If I sit down next to someone who is 6′ or barely over 6′ were actually looking eye to eye. It’s not like I have a long torso and the lower part is long, like the ab region. It is more like the whole torso was supposed to go on someone a lot bigger. I have real, real wide shoulders and back and long arms. So it kind of makes up for not having a really long abdominal region.


SO: I realize this is an “old news” question but, how has the weight jump up been?

EC: In Vegas I think was the first time I felt it. Before I was just a little bit of a bloated 220lb’er. So now I think I am starting to fit in there, my body is getting used to it.


SO: So has it been helping a lot?

EC: It’s starting to now, I’m just starting to feel it now.


SO: So what are the plans for next meet?

EC: Probably the USPF Nationals at the end of July. I think I lift on the 24th and 25th so right then I’ll be 36….my first Seniors was the day before my birthday, before I turned 21, 1984. No, 1983…..no, 1983 I was still 19 years old and the next day after I lifted I turned 20. I missed weight by like 1lb and I had to weigh in later for the 181lb class.

Ed Coan Deadlifting


SO: About how long have you been in each weight class?

EC: uhhhh, longer in 220 than anything else. I just kept growin’, I think it is cuz’ of my upper body being so large. I have great hip structure…from mid thigh up to mid back is the power zone and I was born with the ability to develop that.


SO: What do you put more emphasis on in your training, volume, heavy weight, periodization like your example BP routine that is on the net etc?

EC: It is all developing all the time, you learn different things all the time. It is more based on some form of periodization, even if you used percentages all the time you still gotta’ go up in weight here and there. It is just a different form of periodization but, I do like that the best. Off season is the best…you get rid of all your equipment and you will find out where your weak points are at in a hurry. Then you just gotta’ hit them hard, it doesn’t mean you lay off the other stuff but, you just gotta’ remember to hit your assistance work hard right where your weak points are. Your not going to overtrain as long as generally……the only thing your going to do is over peak for a meet but, your not going to overtrain per se, as long as you are getting enough nutrients to recover.


SO: Weak points. Do you work specifically on them or bring them up in the process of performing the three power movements?

EC: I’ll tailor some assistance work to my specific weak points. My weak point are my quads in my legs, so I’ll hit some high bar squats and front squats in the off season. I’ll do stiff legged deadlifts instead of regular all off season off a 3″ block. Bench work…my biggest problem is technique, I’ve been working on my technique a lot now and it seems to be getting better. I think I will bench 600 this year.


SO: Do you put more less emphasis on the bench under the assumption that you can get more total with Squats and Deads?

EC: I used to just because I never used to like to bench but, I think this year I’ll put it together. I think the bodyweight has given me added incentive where it feels better, more natural. I have the long arms and real wide chest and shoulders so it wasn’t all that fun. The extra size provides a little more incentive.

Ed Coan Squatting


SO: Do you put any emphasis on any particular areas in your training?

EC: I like to squat….I like deadlifts…I like my back work. It’s the foundation of everything. I love bent over rows, chin-ups and everything else.


SO: What about abs?

EC: Don’t do them that often because I very rarely even wear a belt. Just light enough to keep them tight. I used to do them for so long, for so many years that I just don’t do them that much anymore. In the off season if you squat and dead without a belt your abs are going to get pretty strong…they’ll get enough stimulation.


SO: There are so many training principles now, you have HIT, you have Fred Hatfield….

EC: ya know, I use to hang out with Fred in California a lot. A lot of Fred’s principles are sound and basically what mine were built on and what everyone elses is built on. My stuff is only as good as the guys before me, I mean we learn from what comes before us…there is no information there if no one did it right? So you just keep doing it and adapting it to your own body…that is all I did.


SO: Would you say the user of the system is more important than the actual system?

EC: The right person……it is only if the person can identify the problems with that system. If they are for him/her….I think Fred is the greatest Powerlifting educator of all time. Fred went over to Russia to learn from the olympic weightlifters, and everything Fred talks about he has tried. I like his stuff, generally, better than anybody else.

Ed Coan and Fred Hatfield


SO: There has been a lot of talking on the net lately about the 3×3 and other types of Russian/ Bulgarian volume type training. What is your take on this type of training?

EC: What people gotta’ remember is that a lot of this stuff, the Russian and Bulgarian stuff, is based on speed strength and a lot of that is with Olympic weightlifting and not powerlifting. Which takes a degree of absolute strength and limit…..I mean I don’t think you’ll find a weak squatter over in Russia and I’m sure there are quite a few good deadlifters but, you have to adapt it and I think there are a few changes you have to make.


SO: Drop volume and increase some of the heavier training maybe?

EC: Bink does a lot of volume and it works well for him and he probably trains harder than anyone I know. I haven’t seen Mark Phillipi ( pic below ) train but, Bink learned a lot of stuff from Mark.

Mark Philippi

Mark is, and you can quote this, he is a “ball buster and a tough son of a bitch.” I’ve watched Bink when he’s come back to Chicago to train and he definately inspired me to get back in shape. I thought I was training hard again and I was training to slow, I was a dinosaur….y’know, they died.


SO: Basically just depends on the person?

EC: Yeah, though there is a lot of similarity and a lot of good routines. There has to be….I think Louie Simmons has inspired a lot of people to change. People cannot be afraid of change, to try new things and his assistance work is extremely innovative and a lot of it is just plain cool. Basically it is whatever the hell works…a lot of cool little Louie things, or stuff Pacifico or Bridges or Don Reinhoudt, Kaz…I mean all these guys did. There’s a reason why these sons of bitches were so damn strong without all the equipment they have now.


SO: Do you mean that these variations they devised for themselves acted as their…”silver bullet?”

EC: Well, they worked their basic stuff really, really hard. Then they would do assistance work accordingly. Not as an end all be all which is why Kaz has such an incredible physique, which is why Don Reinhoudt ( pic below ), while heavier, could still move. I mean Don Reinhoudt could still deadlift, I mean how many really big heavy guys can still deadlift? You know why? Cuz’ you can’t cheat it and its not easy.

Don Reinhoudt Deadlifting


SO: Let me shift gears a little bit, what role do you feel your mind plays in your training?

EC: It’s the strongest tool you got. You got to have the ability to not just visualize a lift, you have to visualize the perfect lift in your mind and how it feels EVERY single step of the way….from walking up to the bar, to putting your hands on the bar, to getting underneath it, wiggling to get your position, to tightening up what muscles you want to be tight, to walking out with every single step to the set up. Then it is over with and you just hit it.


SO: So do it in your mind down to the minutest detail…

EC: I can feel it in my mind, its kind of weird. You are just trying to duplicate the perfect lift whether it is 135lbs or 1000lbs, you just try to duplicate it.


SO: Do you feel that your weights feel the same? Does 700 feel any different than say 900? (I know they feel different but, I was searching for a more esoteric description)

EC: Usually, a lot of times 900, or the heavy set of the day, feels better than the lighter ones because you tend to focus more on the heavier one because you got your eye on the prize.


SO: So where do you want to try to get before you are done?

EC: I don’t know….I just want to be healthy. I want to get my 2500 with a regular loose suit, with a skinny little loose shirt, and no deadlift suit or something loose. I am against the monolift really because the guys before us Powerlifting was set, squat, bench, deadlift. So we know we have to squat/bench/ and deadlift, one of the elements of being strong is being able to take that bar out of the racks. If you took all the elements of safety, or lack of safety out of every single sport….what Football would be Flag football, Basketball players would get thrown out for charging, you know what I mean? You would get so much stuff thrown out, because it is such a question of strength being able to set up.

There is an old lifter named Chip McCain from Texas, Chip had such a hard time setting up in the squat I mean it was like 5 minutes it felt like. If he could have set up right he probably would have squatted close to 900 but, that was just a weak point of his. That is like saying lets start wearing straps in the deadlift because you still are pulling the weight. It is an element of strength, someones grip. Being able to walk back and set up with that weight is huge element of strength. If you are just going to do the monolift then you may as well just do leg presses or something…or a Smith Machine. I think it is a lowering of standards, and I catch some heat sometimes because I don’t agree with it but, that is my own personal opinion and I don’t agree with it. If you want to do that, go ahead. You just can’t compare that to someone who is doing it another way. That’s a big beef I got, those who can do…those who can’t don’t. It’s a lowering of standards, if I’m going to make up my own Powerlifting federation, Eddy Coan’s Powerlifting Federation, if I have some of the stupidest rules in the world that doesn’t make it right y’know? How does that make it right? You know people say well we only follow the rules of the federation so that is okay but, not if you are talking pure powerlifting. You are getting into an area where you are changing what powerlifting was all about, you are changing the rules to a point too far from the actual truth and it is not the same thing anymore. It is no longer the essence of what the sport was founded on.

Ernie Frantz and Ed Coan Two Man Deadlift

Pic above: ) Ernie Frantz and Ed Coan Two Man Deadlift


SO: Okay, I am going to really go in a different direction here. Let me ask you about squats, do you ever find you have a hard time getting your upper legs out of the way of your hips?

EC: No…open up your groin.


SO: Do you mean to push your knees out?

EC: Don’t push your knees out, open up your groin. There is a diffence…Doug Furnas ( pic below ) taught me this. When you squat….I don’t push my ass out that far, I stick it back just a little bit right when I start, then I open up my groin as I’m bending my knees then I drop straight down from there.

Doug Furnas Barbell Squat


SO: I am trying to imagine (in reality I was trying to squat in my living room with the phone wedged between my shoulder and my ear) what that….

EC: Just keep your groin open way up high, and you’ll know.


SO: Similar to the sensation of rolling up on the outsides of your feet?

EC: Yeah but, it is a muscle thing. You gotta’ keep it out there. You don’t physically roll onto the outside of your feet. Just don’t sit back that far and keep your back arched lower, middle, upper.


SO: How much do you arch your lower back?

EC: Well, there’s only so much you can arch your lower back anyway. You gotta’ squeeze every damn thing together…you want to make your body like a rubber ball, you drop a rubber ball what happens? It bounces up, look at a water balloon…doesn’t bounce very well.


SO: Kind of “compress” your torso?

EC: Yeah, squeeze it all. You know what I don’t do though….is I don’t squeeze my hips on the way down, or else your not gonna’ be able to let them drop. I get it all in my upper thighs, hips, and lower mid back.


SO: Do you get much flexion at the hip, or do you lean and then set your hips and drop?

EC: I have a lean and I maintain it the same throughout.


SO: Do you try to do anything in particular with your abs?

EC: Don’t really think about it, I just try to keep them tight.


SO: Well, that is about all I have. I don’t want to monopolize your entire evening. Anything I have missed or anything you would like to touch on?

EC: Let me reiterate about the old guys. Fred is probably the greatest educator of all time. Whereas Kaz is the greatest. You gotta’ look at the older guys, I mean their still goin! That’s incredible because we owe these guys everything. The started doing this before we did and made all the mistakes well before we did so we wouldn’t have to. We are just working off their foundation and evolving. You know I did see Ken Leistner make some comment about listening to me or Kaz about training. It was something about how you wouldn’t listen to Eddy Coan or Bill Kazmaeir about training or something. Basically something about how it wouldn’t be good to listen to me or Kaz because any routine would have worked for them because of their determination or their genetics or whatever. That’s a bunch of Bullshit! Such a cop out, everybody has the ability to lift a certain amount of weight. It doesn’t matter if you may be good at bench press and bad at deadlift and better at squats and so on and so forth. To say just because they have some body structure you shouldn’t listen to them because they are determined. Well, there are a hell of a lot of guys out there who are a hell of a lot more determined than I am and might even train harder but, that doesn’t mean there going to get there. The ability to use your mind in your training is your biggest tool, technique and what not.


SO: Would you consider yourself a technician?

EC: Oh yeah, you gotta’ be able to put your body in the best position to be able to do the weight. That’s biomechanics y’know, that’s just the way it is. If you are not in that position, that groove, it just isn’t going to work.


SO: That will vary for every person.

EC: Yes it is, it is easy to lift light weight with bad form. It changes dramatically, gravity works…very well.


SO: Well, I can’t say enough nice things Eddy, you have been extremely helpful and I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.

EC: Well, thank you too. Anytime…just ask.

 



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