Jon Cole had a reputation as a great all-round athlete. Strongman, Armwrestler, Weightlifter, Powerlifter, Philosopher and the first Strength Coach in the United States.
Jon Frederick Cole was born in Chicago, IL, on April 1, 1943. As a newborn he weighed 11 lb. Who would have expected that this baby would grow into one of world’s strongest man?!
He grew up in Arizona and his father, Fred Zena Cole, was going to be the world’s best in boxing despite the handicap of a bum leg from a gunshot wound in war!
But when Jon was 10 years old his father died at 47 from a heart ailment, after being weakened by rheumatic fever.
At the age of 12 and weighing only 97 lbs., Jon Cole bought his first weight set through a magazine ad. From that day forward lifting weights became his passion. As his strength and size progressed, he recognized the importance of nutrition in relationship to the gains he wanted to attain in his lifting. He began to research and study everything he could find about the human body and its nutritional needs. When he added the results of his research to his weight training, his natural abilities were enhanced so greatly that he became a champion athlete.
Jon posted an incredible 1200lb total in Olympic lifting with only a few contests under his belt (430lb press, 340 snatch ,430 jerk). In the 60’s he used to armwrestling!
Peary Rader of Iron Man magazine said “..after many years of looking we finally may have a man to challenge the might of the Russians in the Superheavyweight class. This is a man of enormous bodypower – a true champion in another field – John Cole.’
Jon Cole “The First Strength Coach”
In high school, Jon was All- State in Track and Field two years and State Champion in the Discus throw as a junior and senior. He set the National High School Record as a junior. Jon graduated with academic and athletic honors, and was offered scholarships to universities all over the United States. He accepted a four year full scholarship from Arizona State University.
He arrived on campus with a borrowed pickup truck full of barbells, dumbbells, benches, squat racks and over 3,000 lbs. of weights, all of which he had accumulated since the age of 12. Other athletes and their Coaches thought Jon was crazy because he spent so much of his time lifting weights. It was a common belief in those days that lifting weights would make you muscle bound and ruin your athletic ability. However, their thinking changed when Jon set the School, State and Conference Records in the Discus and Shot Put.
After seeing what weight training had done for Jon, many of the football players asked if he would give them a weight-training program.
Jon created a program for each one of them; designed for their particular position on the team.
The results of the programs Jon designed for the football players were so incredible that Jon was asked by Head Football Coach Frank Kush to be the Strength Training Coach for his teams. Jon accepted the offer and was hired; thus becoming the first official Strength Coach in a college or university. It was at this time that Jon began to compete in Powerlifting and in 1968, he decided to participate in his first AAU National Power Lifting Championships
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jon Cole!
Even Arnold Schwarzenegger knew and admired Jon Cole’s strength level. Arnold has also written an article about him calling ‘JON..OF ALL TRADES MASTER OF ALL’. Arnold cites Jon Cole will be one of the potentially great strength athletes of all time!
The article reported the “1968 state championships”. Jon planed to break George Frenn’s total record (1900lb).
Jon’s Final attempt in bench: 485lb. He completed the lift with power to spare.
He squatted 740lb and was able to break George Frenn’s record by 8 pounds.
His final deadlift was 750lb which gave him a total of 1,975lb.
He made it and broke George’s total by 75lb. Furthermore it was found that the bar was heavy which made the total come to a magnificent and unbelievable 2,004lb!!
1970 Sr. National Power Lifting Championship
This competition was the biggest day for Jon Cole. Jon’s sole competition was Mel Hennessey , who was built like trash compactor at 228, 10lbs lighter than Jon. He twice missed 550lb when it was discovered that all bench press weights above 480 were overloaded by 20lb.
He succeeded with granted weight was loaded 550lb, then a new U.S record of 571 Cole notched all three – his final of 520 was actually 540lb! The bench press master saw his 50lb. lead evaporate in the squat as Cole notched all three- the final being 760. Hennessey finished runner up with 1885. Cole pulled up a monster 780 deadlift for 2060.
He outlifted, at 242lb, all Superheavyweights who would became famous – Donald Cundy, Russ Fletscher, Hugh Cassidy, Jo Jo White and Big Jim Williams!!
Heavyweight (Bench, Squat, Deadlift)
Jon Cole 520lb – 760lb – 780lb = 2060lb
Mel Hennessy 570lb – 665lb – 650lb = 1885lb
Jacob Stefan 420lb – 610lb – 670lb = 1700lb
Aaron Rawlings 415lb – 630lb – 640lb = 1685lb
Superheavyweight (Bench, Squat, Deadlift)
Donald Cundy 500lb – 755lb – 785lb = 2040lb
Russ Fletcher 490lb – 810lb – 740lb = 2040lb
Hugh Cassidy 540lb – 730lb – 740lb = 2010lb
Joseph White 425lb – 660lb – 645lb = 1730lb
Big Jim Williams 615lb – 700lb – 0lb = 1315 (Yes, Big Jim failed his deadlift attempts)
Jon Cole set up a 2060 total without the aid of the all too familiar wrappings used in many local contests.
In El Paso, Texas, in November
Jon really clicked doing 525-780-785 for 2090. MUSCULAR DEVELPOPMENT magazine called him PERHAPS the best powerlifter in the world. At 242lb bodyweight he was far better than any Superheavyweight champion. Jon’s technique of lifting was explosive. In an old PL USA article there was written the following: “despite a tendency to crash and bounce out his squats. Cole seemed to absolutely RIP the weights-up he was worried more about maintaining his image..”
1971 14th March Tolleson, Arizona
The 27 year old Jon benched 525lb, squatted 800lb and deadlifted with 815lb for a total record of 2140.
First AAU World Powerlifting Championships, 1971 Harrisburg
Jon Cole decided to skip the first World Powerlifting Championship that transpired November 6, 1971, At Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In Cole’s absence Cassidy won a hard fought bodyweight. Victory (2160) over the Big Black Bear Jim Williams. During the year Jon increased his weightlifting total: 400-315-400 = 1115 at 242
1971 Senior National Powerlifting Championships
At 266 pounds Jon cole hoped to squat 850, but he missed 775, 800 and 820. Providing that everyone can have a bad day, but later he was back! (reference: PL USA 1990 May)
Mariposa (Arizona) County Championships 1971
820lb Squat as a super, a new American record. As an interesting footnote to that great lift, what Cole wore got as much press as the actual lift: Jon had been under attack in some circles for allegedely using too much support gear, so Bruce Wilhelm (highly decorated weightlifter) attended the meet to observe not just what Jon squatted, but also how he dressed for the occasion. Bruce was reporting that Jon was waring legal wraps and clothing. (reference: PL USA 1990 May)
1972 Senior Powerlifting Championships Denver
Jon wanted to negate the negative innuendos circulating regarding the credibility of his lifts. He wanted to put an end to it once and for all. 570lb bench 865 squat(869)-820 for 2255. Above you can see Jon cole is tugging 860lb and then pulling it off the floor. He finished 860lb but got reds for riding it the last few inches.
Bill Starr (Strength-Coach) wrote in his Weightlifting Journal: “his first two benches looked like he could have done them for reps. His controlled squats looked like yo-yos. Bill labeled Jon as a strong, intelligent athlete with dynamic charisma. His success would give powerlifting national attention and breed more success, exactly what the sport needs.
28. October Arizona State Powerlifting Meet
Jon picked a meet near home with his wife due to deliver their second child. Because of the pre-meet ordeal with his wife (in labor for 19 hrs.) he almost missed the competition. He rewrote powerlifting history. Cole was in great shape and getting stronger every day. He benched 555 and 580 easily. Six hundred stalled inches from lockout when those mighty triceps stalled out. When the gas tank goes dry, that’s it! Jon’s squats were amazing. He negotiated 850, 885 and 905 (901.25, a PR and the most by anybody in competition) with pure power. Reports that he could have done 930 were no exaggeration. There was much more left. His deadlifts were hauled up with monstrous strength – 820, 860 and finally 885 (882). Jon crashed the 2300 barrier for the first time in history 2305, 2345 and finally 2370.
1972 Nov. 10 AAU World Championships – Harrisburg, PA
This competition may have been Jon’s biggest claim to fame. This meet was the greatest in powerlifting history and for Jon Cole it would be the biggest opportunity to prove his incredible strength level.
As you know Jon Cole had the reputation to be the Strongest Man in the World. He got also attention from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Big Jim Williams held the world record in the benchpress and squat. He took offense to Jon Cole and challenged him. Jim challenged all big names in powerlifting to compete in the 1972 AAU World Powerlifting Championships to determine who really was the strongest!
Jon Cole was listed as a competitor in the ’72 Worlds meet program…but he was a no-show. Olympian hammer thrower, George Frenn who held squat and deadlift and total records at 242 and Superheavyweight was also listed on the program but he also didn’t appear!
Some people suggested Jon Cole was avoiding competitions and some athletes or tried ducking from John Kuc and Jim Williams, other said his ego was too big to risk his reputation. But who knows?
In this meet Jon Kuc squatted 900lb and Big Jim benched 675lb!
Full Meet Report: The First International Powerlifting Meet
First 900lb Squat?
There is much controversy about Jon Cole’s status over being the Strongest Man in the World. And the question about being the first 900lb squat is also very controversy. Who was the first 900lb squatter, John Kuc or Jon Cole? Cole had been often under attack in some circles for using too much support gear..I really don’t know and I think it depends on whose side you want to take..
Jon Cole’s philosophical thoughts
In an old Powerlifting USA magazine Gus Rethwisch interviewed Jon Cole and it turned out that the Strongman was very interested in thinking and reading about philosophical thoughts. Excerpt from the interview:
HG: How did you persevere in your lifetime ambitions? Was it fate or destiny?
Jon Cole: Fate? There is no fate. Between the thought and success, God is the only agent (Quoting Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton)
HG: What of destiny?
Jon Cole: Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.
HG: Who inspired that pearl of wisdom?
Jon Cole: William Jennings Bryan, one of my favorite philosophers.
HG: What is the most rewarding part of your career – lifting or coaching?
Jon Cole: To compete and achieve is satisfying. Helping others succeed is more so. It is like a projection of yourself through them. They succeed, and it gives your own self-esteem a kick in the pants. Food for the Spirit. The Bible teaches us it is more blessed to give than receive.
As for John’s eating habit, he eats one meal a day, consisting of either meat or fowl for dinner. He also drinks a lot of milk. He believesin taking vitamin supplements as well. Breakfast consist of a large healthfood shake. He also tries to get 8-10 hours of sleep each night.
Life After Powerlifting
Divorced and not remarried. He lived with his grown daughter residing with him. His favorite companion is “BEAR”, his huge canine – an original German Shepherd/Timber wolf mix. Jon rescued him from euthanasia years ago and has never regretted it.
He used to buy old wrecked cars, restoring them into vintage automobiles, and re-selling them. Jon Cole became a successful businessman with his own health club called “Jon Cole Systems”, based in Scottsdale. He had little time to train due to his business committments.
He coached many athletes, here is a short list from PL USA
Coached by Jon Cole
Football: Mark Gastineau, NY Jets; Dan White, Dallas Cowboys; Len Dickie, Green Bay Packers; Mike Hayes, New Englang Patriots; John Jefferson
Baseball: Floyd Bannister; Rick Monday, Ernie Banks; Reggie Jacksom
Boxing: Thomas “Hit-man” Hearns
As I said he was a strength coach and became millionaire with his patented courses. He also built his own Health Studio (22,00 square feet big). Jon had 22 professional employees working for him.
Jon Cole died of lung failure in January 10, 2013.
Lifting News; Jon Cole – Versatile Athlete
Muscle Builder August 1969
Muscular Development 1970