Ed Coan: The Roots of the Greatest Powerlifter

Ed Coan is unquestionably considered the greatest powerlifter of all time based upon the dominance he displayed over all others as well as for the length of time during which he performed at such a stratospheric level.  Ed probably does not remember me, but I have met him twice and I attended one of his seminars in Massachusetts when I was still a teenager.  

Ed judged me at the 2005 Atlantis Strongest Man in America Contest, which was dominated by my friend Josh Bryant, who happened to be mentored by Ed Coan. Ed’s career has been well documented in such works as the Ed Coan, The Man, The Myth, and the Method as well as in the Purposeful Primitive- two outstanding books by Ed’s coach Marty Gallagher.  When I was approached by Mr. Berg to create content for this site, I informed him that my goal is to always portray strength athletes in the most positive light I can as well as adding in my personal experiences regarding the subject because I prefer to write about people I have met and seen perform in person.  Ed Coan certainly qualifies under those criteria.

Ed was born in 1963 to a large loving family in the Chicago,Illinois suburb of Evergreen Park.  Ed did one bodybuilding show as a teenager but he did not like the idea of losing weight, he wanted to become as big as possible.  

A 13 year old Ed saw Bill Kazmaier powerlift on television and he was instantly hooked.  There is no one who cannot recall the first time they saw the Kaz in all his glory, 6’2” and 335 of the most muscular strength athlete the world had ever seen when he held the World Powerlifting Total record for a decade while winning three consecutive world strongest man contests.  

Ed described to Marty Gallagher that a boyhood friend named Ken Rice brought a barbell set that they trained together with in Ed’s family home basement for two hours every day, doing sets of 10 reps for every exercise displayed in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Education of a Bodybuilder.  Coan detailed in the Man, the Myth, and the Method that he gained approximately 40 lbs that first year because he trained and ate like a mad man.

Fortunately for Ed, the Chicago metro area had great gyms in the early 80s, with the Chicago health club Ed began training at was the home base for James Rouse, a world class powerlifter who set a masters world record in the bench of almost 500 lbs raw at 198 lbs.  Ed credits James with starting him out correctly.  Ed also recalled that he read every bit of training information he could, which was plentiful at that time with Powerlifting USA, the Original Peary Rader Ironman, Strength and Health, Muscular Development and Muscle and Fitness always having useful training information.

I personally do not recall much from Ed’s seminar in 1988, except that it was on the North Shore of Massachusetts, I believe at either Nautilus Plus Revere or Danvers. It was crowded with over 100 attendees, as Massachusetts had many meat heads back in the day.  Ed answered questions and presented material, but he did not demonstrate any lifting nor did he conduct a workshop with any lifters on their form etc, he just did the seminar format of the day.  I do recall realizing for the first time seeing the greatness lifter in person how much shorter he was than I am 6’2”, yet he was very thick unlike my teen self.

In the 1980s, Ed Coan was Powerlifting, with numerous appearances in Powerlifting USA Magazine as well as being under contract to the Weider Magazine empire by being the face of Powerlifting in Muscle and Fitness Magazine.  Ed closed out that decade of total domination with a world record 2400 lb total at the 1991 USPF Senior Nationals in Dallas, including a 901 lb deadlift in the 220 lb class.

The next time I saw Ed Coan in person was at the 1998 WPF Worlds in Las Vegas, Nevada where I went to handle my training partner Art La Bare.  What I saw that day, was one of the most incredible thing I have witnessed in my life, Ed Coan’s last warm up squat.  Ed was being handled by Marty Gallagher, who was the only one back in the warm up room with Ed, although Coan had arrived with a possee of at least twenty strong when he entered the venue.  Of all the squats I have ever seen in my life, Ed’s last warm up with 880lbs still is burned into my mind.  Ed manhandled this weight, but it was not easy by any stretch of the imagination as you could see how he had to give up his hips to move that much weight to proper depth with his suit straps down, and just his knees wrapped and his belt.  Ed’s shoe laces were untied and only Marty Gallagher was acting as a spotter.  

The final time I saw Ed was at the 2005 Atlantis U.S. Strongest Man Contest in Western Massachusetts.  The day before the contest we got to talk with Ed and he was like a kid at Christmas telling us how much fun he was having training with professional strongman Brian Schoonveld who was competing in Powerlifting meets and training with Ed.  Ed gave legitimacy to this Atlantis type of Strongman competition with his judging and mere presence.  

This clip shows Ed judging the author’s pull up attempt by standing on a ladder in order to judge if my chin got over the bar:

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A few years after judging at this competition, Ed entered the USPF National Championships and squatted 931 on the surgically repaired knee he blew out in 2002, following twenty years of high level competition.  

Note by site owner Mr. Berg: The article was written exclusively for neckberg.com. Use the tag system for more articles

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