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From The Desk Of Clarence Bass

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"[Ed Coan] is a once in a millennium strong man. We won't witness
anyone as strong in all three lifts again in our lifetime.
Let's enjoy him while we can."
Captain Sean Scully, Head Coach of Team USA

Ed Coan, The Mozart Of Strength

I love learning about people who are the best at what they do, especially obscure athletes. Marty Gallagher calls Ed Coan the Wolfgang Mozart of powerlifting. Like Mozart, Coan was a prodigy -- he squatted with 500 pounds at a body weight of only 155 in his first contest -- who went on to exceed the loftiest expectations. Gallagher believes that, like Mozart, his accomplishments will be discussed by strength aficionados two hundred years from now. Unlike Mozart, however, outside of powerlifting Coan is practically unknown.

In COAN: The Man, The Myth, The Method (1999), author Marty Gallagher (with the help of many of Coan's friends and supporters) makes a yeoman's effort to collect and disseminate Coan's achievements. He starts by chronicling Coan's background, including his family, the neighborhood where he was born and still lives, his friends and, of course, how he got into powerlifting.

In a long section called "Power Wars" Gallagher gives a blow by blow account of Coan's competitive career, from his first powerlifting contest in 1981 to his astounding and unprecedented performance at the 1998 USPF World Championship. Importantly, he does it in a way that both powerlifting fans and those that know little or nothing about the sport will find interesting. Gallagher not only tells what happened and the significance of each contest (33 in all) he includes pithy comments by Coan himself, relating what he learned from each competition.

Training Philosophy Works For Everyone

As you would expect, Gallagher gives a detailed description of Coan's training philosophy, including his weight routine, lifting technique, diet and mental approach. Surprisingly, however, he makes it relevant to those of us who have no hope of squatting with 1000 pounds (which includes just about everybody). Coan believes we should all train basically the same. He says, "Whether you are young, old, fat, skinny, male, female, strong, weak; we all are subject to the same biology, the same over-riding scientific realities." As long as you want to increase strength and build muscle, "why would you train different from me?" he asks. "Lighter certainly, but not differently."

Coan does only one or at most two work sets per exercise after warm-up and trains in cycles of 8-16 weeks, using the concept of periodization. "The idea is to make small poundage jumps each week," Coan explains. He advises starting the cycle light, using high reps, and then stair-stepping your way upward week by week, attaining weight and rep goals established prior to commencing the cycle. "Periodization is a concept I have used for fifteen years and I can attest to its effectiveness," says Coan. "Build strength and muscle will follow. Don't overcomplicate the issue." The specific -- and useful -- details are clearly set out in the book.

What exactly makes Coan so special?

Untouchable Since 1984

Partly by choice and partly by necessity, Coan trains for his own personal satisfaction. His orientation is self mastery, not competition. He finds joy in the process of training. He competes with himself, because he's essentially in a class by himself. He always wins by a very wide margin.

At 21, he became a world powerlifting champion, beating the best in the world by a huge 138 pounds. "Jarmo Virtanen, the fearsome Finn who took second place, would stay a light heavyweight [181 pounds] and rule the international roost for the next decade," Marty Gallagher tells us. Coan moved up in bodyweight and over the course of the next decade and a half successively obliterated the competition in the198, 220 and 240 pound classes. "He has stood atop the powerlifting world untouchable, since 1984," Gallagher reports.

Listen to Gallagher put Coan's lifting in perspective: "Many experts assert that Coan's 2402 total at 220 [squat 962, bench press 545, deadlift 901] was the greatest single powerlifting performance of all-time. ... Ed's 2402 was 14.5% better than the rest of the world. This might be unprecedented in sport. Imagine a track athlete exceeding the world record in the 100-meter dash (9.64 seconds) by 14.5% and running it in an astounding 8.24. ...What if a high jumper broke the existing 8-foot world record with a 9+ effort. ... These are the kind of numbers mainstream athletes would have to post to dominate the way Coan has."

That was in 1991, and he wasn't done, not by a long shot. On December 20, 1998, at the USPF World Championship in Las Vegas, NV, Ed Coan lifted more combined weight in the three powerlifts than any other lifter in history - regardless of bodyweight. He squatted 1003, benched 573, and deadlifted 887, for an aggregate total of 2463. He weighed only 239. His total surpassed the all-time marks in the 242, 275, 308 and super heavyweight classes!

What's next? "I feel I can exceed 2500," says Coan. "The best is yet to come."

Coan Update

True to his word, at the 1999 WSPF Nationals held July 24-25 in Dallas, Texas, Ed squatted 1019 and almost reached his goal of 2500. Lifting in the 242 pound class, he was just short of lockout with a 589 bench press and 876 deadlift. Powerlifting USA reported that his second attempt squat with 1003 was "almost laughably easy, and his 1019 was so strong that he looked good for as much as 1036."

Sure looks like Ed Coan is well on his way to becoming the first powerlifter - of any body weight - to make or exceed 2500. Go Ed!

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Ripped Enterprises, 528 Chama, N.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108, (505) 266-5858, E-mail: cncbass@aol.com, FAX (505) 266-9123.  Office Hours:  Monday-Friday, 8-5, Mountain time.

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