What Michael Jordan is to basketball, Tiger Woods is to Golf, Arnold is Bodybuilding, Ed Coan is to powerlifting.
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Transcript From Inside the Mind of Ed Coan | The Greatest of All Time Video
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Welcome to the show that entertains and educates. Welcome to the Wolf’s Den. My name is Mark Ottobre. And, today’s guest, well, what Michael Jordan is to basketball, what Tiger Woods is to golf, what Arnold Schwarzenegger is to body building, Ed Coan is to powerlifting.
I want you to imagine going to the gym, and putting ten 20 kilo plates on one side of the bar, and another ten 20-kilo plates on the other side of the bar. It’s a lot of plates; that’s twenty 20-kilo plates. Now, imagine getting under that bar and squatting it for one rep.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, even if you did that, you still wouldn’t break Ed Coan’s squat record. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for Ed Coan. Welcome to the show, sir.
Thanks for having me, Mark.
Thank you, the honor and pleasure is all mine. How have you finding Australia?
It’s always fun, I come here every year, sometimes twice.
What been a career … I mean, there’s so many career highlights from you, breaking 71 world records. Or more than that, some of them still exist.
I never counted.
Yeah, a lot. What’s been some of the career highlights along the way?
Actually, a lot of my trophies and all that stuff are at my sisters’ houses. So, I don’t really care about that. Records are nice. I mean, accolades are great. But, I can go anywhere in the world and have friends, so that’s pretty cool.
That is very cool. In terms of gifts, in terms of powerlifting, some people talk about levers, so talk about … I mean, one of the gifts that you have is the size of your hands.
It’s amazing. Can we get a close up for the camera? These are just ordinary hands, Ed Coan hands. How instrumental, just on that topic, do you think it is to be set up?
Well, you never have to worry about a grip problem.
But I think overall, just by being able to grip things tighter, has a certain effect on your whole upper body anyways. Just by being able to squeeze, goes through your arms, your shoulders, your lats, and stuff like that.
But if you talk about the anatomy of someone’s outside grip, obviously, some people talk about, “If I’ve got long arms, therefore I’m going to be a bad bench presser.”
That’s bullshit. ‘Cause I have really, really long arms too. I have a long torso and short legs. So, it really wasn’t as advantageous as people would think, because of the way I lifted. But, if you’re smart enough, you find a way to use your gifts in the right manner and technique to compliment what your sport, or with me, it’s squat, bench, deadlift.
So, in terms of achieving that world record, you think it’s more about what you put into it, rather than just being set up for something.
Yeah, everyone can train hard, but you’re going to have to train smart. And then, you got to find the right position for your body to be in, for how you’re built, to get the most out of it.
If we can talk about the Ed Coan training system, ’cause a lot of people talk about the training system, whether it’s five by five, or five, three, one, wave loading, et cetera. You were very much, from what I understand, in speaking to you, it’s all about the way you felt. But, at the same time, you did blend into that. You preplanned all your numbers ahead of time. So, if you can speak to the guys in –
I would have, if it was 10, 12, 14 week training cycle, I would have every set rep weight exercise planned out beforehand to get me where I wanted to go, and I would never deviate from it. But, I’d know that before I even started the training cycle. You can’t go in the training cycle and change anything, ’cause then it changes your goal at the end. Changes the result right away.
So, you something at the Strength Summit, which is over the week, on Thursday, and you said the way you live your life is also the way you trained, and that’s with a plan.
How did you get to those numbers though? Number one, if we wanted to mimic and model you, as you’re the peak of the sport, and we wanted to model you as obviously the lifter, and we want to decipher what you actually did, where do we start? How many days a week would we be training, do we process?
I usually only train four.
Okay. And how would you set those up?
Squat day on Monday. Tuesday would be bench day with accessories. A lot of tricep work. Wednesday would be off, Thursday would be dead lift and all back work. And, Friday would be another upper body light day, with extra accessories in there.
What would you go to –
See, I treated my compound accessories, my heavy ones, just like my main lifts. Because at the end of the day, if I’ve gotten stronger in all these extra lifts, I’ve gotten a big, strong suit of armor. Wherever you hit, there’s a chunk of muscle and strength there, that compliments all the other lifts, so there’s no weakness.
If we were gonna write a book, the Ed Coan System, and try and decipher that, how do you come up with the numbers? So, let’s just say, for example, I wanna hit a 260 kilo deadlift. My best deadlift right now is 240 kilos. Or even, let’s round it up and say 300, right?
First, it has to be doable. You’re not gonna go from 240 to 260 in a training cycle.
So, where should we be aiming at then?
What you would do, you would give yourself an estimate. You may have to write it down a few times. I used to write my training routines down dozens, and dozens of times, with different numbers, till I found out what was doable.
Or you start at the backend, the last training week. And then, you just work your way back. Sets, reps, weights and all the other stuff, and see if everything is doable from the start when you get there. If not, erase it, start over again. Write your numbers in, till you find out what’s gonna be doable.
So, what would you expect if you’re using my example of 240? What would you try and achieve in a training cycle?
It would depend on how new you are to the sport. It would depend on injuries. It would depend on how I watch you, how your technique is. If your technique’s off. Well, once you have a technique change, for the better, you’re gonna have a chance of it going up even higher.
If you’re like a seasoned veteran, you wouldn’t worry … That’s usually stuff that you don’t even have to worry about. So, you would just break it down even further. Usually, it’s number selection then, for a veteran.
So, for you, we’re you aiming … Like say for example, your first time to hit 300 kilo deadlift, right? We’re going then, “I’m gonna try and get 310, 320.” What was your thought?
Yeah. I would look at what I did the previous training cycles. And, I would just up a little bit, at the start.
What’s a little? 10 kilos? 5 kilos?
Yeah. But see, the mistake people they don’t think about is if I upped the 10 kilos from last training cycle, that means almost every single exercise I do though, throughout the whole training cycle, in let’s say it’s 12 weeks, is upped, no matter how minute a percentage.
So, look at total value, total weight added, the whole training cycle, and how more you lifted that adds up in different spots. So, it’s not like I just 10 kilos onto the squat. Well, I added extra weight on bend over rows, and stiff leg deadlifts, and squats, power squats. And, over head presses you. You name it. I added weight to that the whole time.
So, as a cumulative effect, at the end, it wasn’t just 10 kilos. You see what I mean?
Yeah. I hear what you mean. The whole tonnage of that. How long would a workout for you … When you-
Depends on how heavy I get weight.
The main exercise, I would take more time. And, the other ones, I speed it up, just a little bit.
Shortest workouts, longest workout?
Shortest workout could just be an hour and a half.
Right. And, did you ever warm up? What was your rituals, if we were gonna model …
We didn’t even know. See, no one knew. The only thing people knew back then was just a little bit of stretching stuff, and some just warm up on different exercises. No one knew anything about building or anything, back in those days.
Do you think that was to your detriment, or was actually to your favor that you weren’t? Do you think you were staying kind of functional tightness with power lifting?
A little bit of both, ’cause you start learning different ways to do things to warm up, and to stretch properly, to get yourself to where you wanna be. And sometimes, people get too, I would say, anal about having to do to the newest thing that Kelly Starrett puts out, or this guys puts out, or you gotta try this shit.
And, instead of concentrating on what does your body really want, need, that’s gonna benefit it.
So, I know there’s a lot of powerlifters who will be watching this on YouTube and listening to it on the podcast. And, the probably watch a lot of your stuff. And, everyone is thinking the same thing, or at least I am.
From my perspective, how did he do it? Because your records, for the most part, probably won’t be broken any time in the near future, especially at the weight class. You did it at 100 kilo weight class. How did you do it then?
It was actually really simple. But, it’s how you apply it. Like I said, when you pick all the right exercises, and all the weights and stuff like that, and pick your system’s exercises properly, to work on your weaknesses in your off season. That’s all my off season was. It was weakness training. That’s a genius part of it.
So, if you did four, five, six training cycles, however long you had them in a year, and just do that for five year, and pick all the right weights, and do all the right exercises the whole time, what are you gonna look like after five years, and how strong are you gonna be?
It’s pretty cool.
But then, I suppose that begs the question of, “Okay! How do I come to the conclusion of the right weights? And then, how do I come to the conclusion of the right exercises?”
Just look at where do you stall at in a lift, and what does your physique look like.
Right. When you say your physique look like, it’s where you’re lacking muscle, that what where you should start?
Usually. I mean, I was brutally strong from here to here. So, my whole off season was a closer stance, high bar, Olympic lifting squat. All off season. There was deficit deadlifts, with no belt, or stiff leg deadlifts, and a deficit with no belt. It was benching with my feet up in the air. It more close grips and shoulder work.
And, you’ve also said about that, with your body and having long arms. A lot of the time people would say, shorten the range of distance on the bench. For you, you best bench was … I know you’ve said before that you’ve benched at multiple different grips and widths.
But, your best bench was with a close grip?
A closer grip, yeah. That’s where my strength was.
Which goes, obviously, in contrast to what the-
What you’re taught to believe.
Yes. So, not many people … There’s very few people in the world, there’s probably .1% of people in the world who have achieved what you’ve achieve. Obviously not just in powerlifting, but in anything in the world. What life lessons … What are some tips to that success, that level of success?
Take your time, and stick to the plan. I didn’t worry what anyone else did. I only worried about myself. As long as I could get better, that’s all I cared about. So, when I went into a contest, my idea was, “What can I do today, and not miss? I can’t do anymore based on what anyone else is doing. It’s only what my body can do.” So, I didn’t care about it.
Let’s go into the genesis of Ed Coan. As a child, were you a particular skinny child? Were you picked on?
Little, short, 4′ 11″, 45 kilos when I entered high school.
So, where does this passion, and pure love for powerlifting come from?
Well, I was pretty introverted. So, I try to build to body build. And then, I met Arnold. And, when I turned around, my head was in his chest. So, I could be Arnold. So, I tried to be Franco, ’cause short, he liked strength.
Then, I saw Bill Kazmaier lift on TV at a powerlifting meet. And, I was like, “Well, you could be that big, that strong. Not have to diet like that. One of those skimpy trunks on stage, and pose.” So, I tried that. And, I just loved right away.
Was there a fear element with the type of weights that you were lifting? Did fear ever come into your mind?
Mm-mm (negative). More apprehension than fear. As long as I set up properly, then the lift was gonna go how it was supposed to, ’cause my training dictated that already.
If you were working with athletes, again say powerlifters watching this, who they are PI’d, they’re coming up to the PI, or they’re getting numbers that they haven’t done before, what’s your advice?
Just make it feel light. Really. I treated light weights like I did heavy weights. So, it was always the same weight done. I could walk out a weight. I could walk up to a deadlift, set up for a bench. Everything was exactly the same, all the time.
So, that variable was already gone. So, there was no negative thought walking up to the bar. I didn’t need to be slapped, or need ammonia, or anything like that, ’cause I was confident.
What don’t you ever use ammonia? Why do guys use ammonia? And, why didn’t you?
My personal reason is I think people need it to break negative thoughts.
Have you ever coached or seen lifters using any, you thought, you pulled the aside, and said, “Hey!”
What a waste of energy? Save it.
And then, psyching up to the bar. You never did that?
No. I didn’t have to.
Have you ever brought someone like a powerlifter inside, and said, “Hey! I’m Ed Coan. Stop doing this.”
Save your energy.
And, they listen, and they got better?
So, it would be a mistake to then all the over psych up?
It’s a waste of energy, mental and physical.
Yeah. The wraps that you used to use to squat, can you talk a little bit about that?
They were just old, cloth like, two meter knee wraps.
Not the same standard of-
No. Not even close. We didn’t even have knee sleeves back then. They weren’t even invented yet.
How are your knees today?
Well, after I made a mistake on stage of setting up wrong, I blew my patella in half. I never had any problem.
Can you tell us that story?
When I set up, and we used to have to walk it out, like men-
No more lifts.
As I set up too fast, and I put right leg out just a little too far. So, on the way down, it started coming in. And, I was like standing in front of a train, knowing it’s gonna hit you. It just snapped in half. That’s a YouTube video.
I actually had to watch it, unfortunately.
Ed Coan injury.
Yeah. What did you say when that happened?
I kinda screamed at first. But then, I realized when it snaps in half, everything goes dead. So, I didn’t feel a thing.
There’s an urban legend that you said at one point, “Get me out of way.”
Oh! I did. ‘Cause there was another round after me. There was a third round of squats. So, I said, “Just get off of stage. The other guy is got to squat.”
This is with your patella snapped?
Torn and snapped in half.
I have a cousin who’s a good orthopedic surgeon.
Has there been any other injuries along the way?
Not … I mean, got chucks of stuff missing. But, that’s gonna happen a lot of times when you’re young, and you start growing really, really fast, something’s gonna give at some point. So, it was like I learned from my mistakes.
But, I got two new hips. My ma had rheumatoid arthritis her whole life. So, I got that gene. So, I had to have my hips replaced.
When you say there’s chunks of stuff missing, what exactly do you mean?
Put your hand right there.
That’s a chunk.
How did that one happen?
I was like 18 years old, and at 82 and a half kilos, I was already benching like 220. And, I was like, “Whoa-
So, I was like, “Whoa! Two days of bench is great. Let me throw another day in.”
Jeez. So, was your … ‘Cause benching 220 at 18, it’s not may 18 year olds who would ever get close to those numbers at 18, particularly-
It could’ve been 19 or something. But, it-
But, it was when you were young.
It was while I young, yeah.
So, was that your first noticing, maybe there’s actually something different about me?
No. I never thought anything different about. I just like to train. I didn’t think about any of that.
So, really is an internal process. Okay. This is what I really wanna get at, because in some ways, I spent a bit of time with you at summit. I got to speak to you on Camera. But, how do you control?
It seems to me, at least, that you have such an internal process of the way you live your life. So, how do you get rid of the distractions of life? I mean, are you aware of them, or is it just a matter of you just focus on you?
It’s not a distraction. I didn’t care. I only cared about lifting. That was what I wanted to do. That was my main focus. That’s my goal the whole time was lifting. And, I didn’t have to give up anything ’cause I was already rewarding myself by lifting, ’cause that’s what I loved.
So, how would a day look like for you, back when you were just lifting?
I slept a lot. I ate a lot of whatever I wanted, based on my weight class. My rationale of my diet back then was, “Well, if your mind controls what your body does, I’m gonna keep my mind really happy.” So, I’d do whatever I can within the weight class. But, we didn’t know enough about nutrition. We just trained.
I think the sleeping part. I used to sleep all the time.
How many hours?
But, when you say like you’d go to bed. So, you’d train … What time would you normally get up and train?
Usually in the morning, I would be at the gym by 10:00. And then, there would be another two hour nap in the day, before and after meals. And then, little TV and whatever else that night. And then, back to sleep.
We you working at that stage, or?
When you did start working, what was your profession?
I just trained people.
And, a lot of them went on to powerlifting comps?
Some. But, it was more about people wanting to feel and look better. Not all of them even competed. But, they just wanted to be strong.
If we can go back to the topic of injuries, ’cause I know it’s hit me. I mean, are they inevitable in powerlifting?
No. Some people say yes, I say no. If you do everything the right way, you’re not gonna get hurt.
And, I know a mutual friend of ours, a great guy, the guy in powerlifting, Ahmad. I’m gonna have him at some point, and interview him, ’cause-
Good luck trying to get him on.
No. He’s agreed. So, I’ll get him here. I’ll get him on. I know I will. But, he’s a guy … His story is absolutely incredible. Blows my mind, ’cause he had three-
Yeah. Severe injuries with his arm.
Spiral fractures and stuff.
And, came back. And so, I suppose the question is, injuries, they set back your momentum, and I don’t know if it’s happened to you. Well, it has happened, ’cause you were squatting, and you had the snap. How did you motivate yourself to get back? Right now, I’m not squatting my 400 kilos.
It was no big deal. I just wanted to come back. So, I did what I had to do to get back. But, if you just take your time … If you don’t take your time and rush it, you’re not gonna get back to where you were, what you love to do.
So, I was just focused. It’s badly you want it.
So, the internal process of, “All right. I wanna hit this PI.” Let’s say it’s 400 kilos. I snap my knee. I gotta start back again. No big deal. What was the time frame that you thought you’d get back in?
I didn’t squat for six months. And, as soon as I did it, it just boom! Went straight back up. I gave myself time to heal, the right way.
So, you allowed the six months, didn’t stress out about the process?
It’s kind of completely the opposite-
I never even looked at my leg for six months. I didn’t wanna look at it.
Was that a psychological-
Yeah. ‘Cause it would down spiral?
Yeah. It would probably make me depressed. So, I was like, “No. Don’t look at it. Just as long as your range of motion is coming back, you’re starting to get back strength, don’t even worry about it.”
Were you training during those six months?
Yeah. Every other thing I could do, yeah.
Just not legs?
All my upper body stuff, yeah. And, a little bit of the other leg.
Yeah, single leg.
Just leg presses, leg extensions, like curls, those little things.
Again, what advice … You must have had [inaudible 00:19:35] Do you know what I mean? You’d feel really bad. I mean, press day, blah blah blah. What do you say to those guys?
Do you wanna get better?
And, if they say yes. They say yeah, cool.
Take your time. Whatever the doctor tells you to do, do extra at home. And, don’t try to go too heavy. Too many people try to go too heavy right away. They test it, which is a mistake. You don’t test it. When you come back, you just slowly move up according to how you can do it.
You don’t say, all of a sudden, “Well, let me see how this feels.” That’s not a good thing.
So, the mindset, for you, you really just happy powerlifting. But, I mean, there’s something to your mindset that I’m trying to deconstruct in that, you’ve reached just a high level. And, it doesn’t necessarily, this question, relate to just powerlifting. But, let’s take business, body building, any sport. What is the mindset that you think …
What is your mindset? And, what do you think is the mindset to create a champion?
It’s how fucking bad do you want it? If you want it, then you have to earn the right to have it too. So, you gotta put in your time. And, that’s it. If it’s business, well then you stay late. Well then, you study later. Then, you figure out the new … Then, you say, “Well, fuck! I don’t need this meal. I gotta get to a meeting. I gotta do this.”
You sacrifice a lot of shit to get to what you want, so you can live your life the way you want later.
And, food for you. You said there was a balance of keeping yourself happy. What’s your favorite foods? Like, what would that look like?
Well, favorite cheat food is a hot fudge Sunday, or donuts. But, usually, like now it’s just meat and rice. More stamina from eating vertical diet stuff that keeps it simple.
How many calories would you be eating back when you were-
Never counted. I could look in the mirror and scale. That’s all I cared about.
How did I feel in the gym. There.
And, was there a routine with your food?
Not really. When I hungry, I ate.
Very little. Most of the stuff back then was shit anyways. You end up just spending more time in the toilet shitting out all your money.
True, true. Is that something [inaudible 00:21:47] for the interview been looking into more supplementation wise?
Yeah. I traveled, and we did a bunch of seminars together. So, I mean, he’s on speed dial so I can him anything.
What has brought into your routine now?
It’s more just keeping it simple. I watch what he does. And, I learn what the vertical diet is all about. And, it just makes it a lot more simple. There’s good, there’s better, and there’s best. I try to stay to the upper part of better. The best is for someone who is like at the top of their sport, and they have this huge goal that they have to compete, that’s at the end.
I can maintain better for a lot longer period of time than I can maintain best. So, it makes me a lot healthier along the way.
Supplementation, have you added anything?
Little. Just vitamin D3 and some other little things.
That’s pretty much …
Coming back to the rules, I suppose, of powerlifting, it’s something I spoke to Sebastian Oreb with. And, he quotes like the [inaudible 00:22:55] family, for example. The rules that apply to say someone who’s super strong squatting, 400 kilos, there are different rules for someone who’s squatting only say 200 kilos. And, there’s different rules for say someone who’s squatting 100 kilos.
Usually, someone who squats 400, they have better technique, and a little more knowledge of the game. They’ve been doing it for a long time. They have some experience. Someone who’s not squatting that much, if they’re large enough … Like say, if you had a little guy squatting 200 kilos, well, he might have been doing it for a long time.
But, in general, someone who’s doing that doesn’t have as much knowledge and experience behind them. So, they have to careful more.
What are the most common mistakes that you see? Let’s go through each. What are the common pitfalls that you see, like a squat?
Technique and people going too heavy.
That’s pretty much across the board?
And, I mean, obviously there’s a lot of good coaches where people go to a powerlifting comp. And, the thing I love about actually competing is it tells you if your technique is actually any good, because you have squat to depth, you have to bench properly. You obviously have to properly walk it out.
My thing is it has to feel really natural and look really good for your body to do it the way to wants to do it. So, there’s no really set perfection. It’s more perfection per individual.
In a study, I’ve been privileged enough to meet a lot of high level athletes who have achieved great things. One of the universal truths is almost paradoxical, which is, find out what works for you.
So, people say, “Find out what works for you.” And, it gets thrown around a lot. But then, at the same time, find out what works for you is not a lot, say for the beginner watching this.
They don’t know what’s good for them.
So, that’s why you need a coach. Or you just gotta take your time at lighter weight.
Have you seen any? What are the universal truths? Like someone watching this go, “Right. This is guaranteed.” What are Ed Coan’s guaranteed principles?
Just take your damn time.
Take your damn time. Focus on technique.
Yeah. And, build a huge base. After each contest, I went back and did power body building so I built a bigger stronger base.
A lot of time power body building, I feel like a lot the time now, in today’s routines, we’ve not really seen as much power body building. You’re seen a segmentation of body builders, and of the powerlifters. I think it kind of has gone in waves, almost.
It used to be everyone all together. Then, separation, then [crosstalk 00:25:08]
A lot of people, like at the beginning of my routine was more reps, more different exercises., less rest. Now, it’s called a hypertrophy routine, and they charge an extra $50 for it.
What’s the highest reps in a training phase?
10? Yep. For all supplementary as well?
Even, yeah. I never went that high with all the supplementary.
Did any routines where you’d just ripping out like singles for examples. Like 10 sets of one, or something.
No. There’s some speed stuff you can do. Like 10 sets of three, with little rests, that can you … That’s an alternative for the off season training, based on the Russian speed, explosive techniques. They were not as much into speed, as they were on explosiveness.
So, it doesn’t have to be necessarily a light weight. As long you forcibly try to explode and drive through that bar, you’re still … Your brain is still reacting and causing a response to make you more explosive.
So, who are your biggest influencers? Or, I suppose, what systems? Is it not Russian, West Side?
Powerlifting US West Side wasn’t even around then. Louis wasn’t even on West Side. There was no West Side then. Was a friend of mine named Doug Furnas, who was a really good powerlifter and athlete. And, I would probably say Fred Hatfield.
Right. In the foreword of your book, which is The Ed Coan, The Man, The Myth, The Legend. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “It was a body capable of enough leverage. A cruel body.” My first question is, well, who’s Scott Fitzgerald?
He was a famous poet or something, writer back then.
Way, way back then.
Also, he was-
Way before me. Way, way before me.
Yeah. And, he’s the forward in saying about … But, who actually put that quote in that book?
Marty Gallagher. The guy that wrote it. He’s big on quotes. That and Samurai quotes.
And, how was that process of writing that book?
Just tons and tons of interviews. And, going back and looking what he wrote. And, redoing it, and correcting what he wrote, compared to what I thought, and I looked on paper.
Is there anything in there that you kind of look and go, “I wanna add more to it”?
There’s a lot more now. I mean, just the interviews I do now. The stuff that we’re talking about now isn’t really in it as much, and explained as much.
Well, if you could rewrite it, what would you add? Like is there anything in particular?
A lot more in depth mentally in the process-wise.
Exactly the shit we’re talking about now.
Awesome. Go us. So, some of the people I’ve spoken to, I know is more of a comment, more that it is a question. But, they have asked, “What made Ed Coan so great?” Because you’re a very humble guy, which is just … It’s quite amazing.
You are who you are, on the platform after that. I mean, I can’t run the business they way you do. I can’t change the oil on my damn car. So, someone’s always better at something.
But, it was this perfect marriage of being kind of born for it, with the absolute passion that this is just what I wanna do in life.
So, when you were a kid, and you started getting into sport, and that kind of stuff. And, it was being small, essentially.
Yeah. I played all the sports. Basketball, baseball, football.
Did you ever get into any combat sports?
No. I’ve been doing that for a bunch of years lately. When I retired from powerlifting, I wanted to be able to move more, and be a little more [inaudible 00:28:28].
So, if we were looking at like the whole argument of correlation, causation, all this kind of stuff. And, we looked at your childhood. I mean, you’ve got brothers, sisters?
Yeah. I’ve got a brother and three sisters.
Do they have a natural affinity to strength?
Yes. My brother and two of my sisters. My brother was a great athlete, except he was a son of bitch with his attitude. And, two of my sisters, I trained them. I mean, I gotta tell you, I trained them for a while, in a basement for a while.
And, all of sudden, they started getting traps and upper back muscles and stuff started popping up. And, that’s why they quit. They were like …
So, there’s definite genetic component in the … Was your dad, mom, strong?
Strong minded, that’s about it.
Right. Was there lessons, ’cause I mean, you’ve definitely got a patient, take your damn time, kind of that attitude. Were there lessons in your childhood that stood out to you?
No. I think because I was so introverted as a kid. When I was a kid, I had no hand eye coordination. So, I had to go the Illinois Institute of Technology at night, with pretty like horse blinders on, bouncing the ball on a straight line, with special glasses.
And, I was pretty introverted. So, I think powerlifting, and lifting weights was something I could just do by myself.
So, was the … That was gonna go into my next question, which is what is it exactly that you love about powerlifting? What lights you up?
It’s you. I mean, it’s you versus weights, and that’s it. How do I get there? I like the process of training, the physical part of it. Like I said, that was my reward. It’s straining my ass off in the gym, shitting my pants doing a set of squats, or whatever, throwing up, getting bloody noses.
All that stuff was a reward, actually. I loved it. I loved the whole process of it.
Can you tell us the poop story?
Sure. I did a set of five reps, with 410 in the squat. And, at the beginning, it started. But, the way I thought was, if I stop now, I have to come back and do the set. So, I finished, like you know [inaudible 00:30:33] That was me.
So, it was like clean up afterwards. And, that was it. But, how many people would shit their pants to be able to do 900 pounds for five reps. Quite a high percentage. And, that was it.
But, there were tons of bloody noses, and this and that. And, that’s fine.
The bloody nose, I actually knew that you were-
I had to have it cauterized three time before. Yeah.
The bloody nose is actually a sign for you?
It’s a fucking turn on.
Yeah. Ready to go. Yeah. This is it. Amazing. So, the level of passion that you have for the sport is truly, truly admirable. Were there any dark times, or were there any times you wanted to quit? Were there any times … What kept you going for over many decades? It was four, five decades.
There was nothing bad enough to make me wanna quit, nothing. I mean, it saved me. It’s part of who I am.
So, let’s say, for example, life lessons could sometimes the perception to the public. And, I hope this video goes out, and it gets spread. But, the perceptions of the public, anyone who kind of trains in the gym, whether be it body builder, powerlifter, strongman, all they’re just meatheads, right? What are the life lesson that they are in-
Stefanie Cohen is a doctor of physical therapy. You know what I mean?
I think there are a lot of older guys who are highly intelligent people.
So, it’s not just meatheads.
But, anyone that has reached that high a level can’t be that stupid really, ’cause they were smart enough to learn how to get there. It’s just you have an athletic ability to get there. You athletic ability to be good. Maybe really good. But, you don’t enough athletic ability to be the best, unless you take your time and do shit right.
But, I suppose most of the point of the question, what are life lessons that the average person, from … Like so, your experience from lifting, what are the lessons that the irons taught you?
I became a student of the game. I know everything about every powerlifter and body builder, and strongmen from freaking 50 years ago, if not more. And, I studied everything all the time.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but basically if I was to steal everything that you’re saying, really, the rules to the game of success at any high level is; number one, absolutely love it. And, if you don’t absolutely love it, go home, because if you don’t absolutely love it, you’re not gonna enjoy the bloody noses, the shitting the pants, the broken bones, everything, the sweat, the tears. So, you gonna give up.
But, when you actually love it, then it’s your responsibility.
Because I always knew I could get better. I didn’t retire till I knew I couldn’t get better.
What was that like? When you thought, I can [crosstalk 00:33:04]
It was fine.
My time was up. That was it. I didn’t wanna be a tragedy. I didn’t wanna be that old boxer that comes back and looks like shit.
The Rick Flair?
Yeah. I didn’t wanna be the George Foreman that comes back at fifty something years old, and tries to beat up a young guy, and looks like crap.
And then, you have your own ego that you gotta deal with. I just wanna be a little bit of who I was. Look pretty good. And, not have too much pain. I’m fine with that.
That’s truly remarkable, because I mean, guys getting to the end of their career, they don’t know when to stop.
No. I’m happy with the way I did things, and the weights I lifted. I probably could’ve done a little more, if I changed a couple of little things with injuries and some fuck ups I did. But, that’s all part of it. And, I learned from that. I can pass that on.
What would you say to a guy who’s struggling to pass the torch? Or was there a torch passing for you? Did you see a younger guy, and go, “He’s gonna be-
There’s plenty of strong people in the world. They’re gonna go, no matter what anyways. But, no. I didn’t have to really like mentor someone to say, “Here, take this.” No. It was just everyone didn’t have to worry about taking second anymore.
So, I’m not sure you’ve seen the rest of the movie.
Yeah, I did.
So, yeah. I mean-
That was pretty sad.
Yeah. Using that example metaphorically for guys, in anything. Powerlifting or wrestling, or even body building, who aren’t … What advice do you give the older guys who are struggling to give up that spotlight?
How good do you feel every morning? How happy are you doing the sport that you’re doing at that much pain, and you can’t do it as good as you used to? It’s not really that rewarding. Not at all. You didn’t get into it to be a tragedy. You got into it to be a success.
I don’t need to go back now and go to Pro Raw next year, and steal some master’s records and shit like that. I don’t need to do that. Let the little guys do that.
Simple, but very, very, very profound.
It’s just why did you get into it? To be the best. You can’t be the best anymore. And, you keep going downhill. And, your body looks like shit. And, you feel like shit, every fucking second of the day. And, you’re not happy doing it. You gotta be … I can go in the gym and be really happy doing what I do.
What year was it when you realized that for you?
2007 is when my first hip, when that started acting up. Then, I waited some years after that before I had it done. But, it had started.
So, with that said, as a segue way, 2015, you squatted 300 kilos. Can you tell us that story?
Well, that was Sydney. The guy putting on the meet came to me the night before and said, “Some Russians have bowed out.” He goes, “I’m just gonna a light squat ’cause everyone knows me.” He goes, “Would you do the same?” I said, “Sure. What are you squatting?” He says, “300.” I said, “Okay. That’s easy. I can always do that.”
So, after I did that, it was easy that I didn’t need knee sleeves, no knee wraps. And, I said, “That felt really good. I guess I should get off the platform then, ’cause you gonna wanna go more.” I didn’t have to prove anything.
Have you done anything similar to that level after that?
Oh, yeah. Just in training. Just a little test here and there. I don’t do that anymore. I just train hard. I’ll figure out a way, like when I train today at Ahmad’s place, I’ll do a high bar, close stance, pause squat, Olympic lifting.
So, it’s a lot harder and keeps me in check so I don’t have to go up. If I put the bar down low, and open up a little bit, I can squat anything ’cause that’s where my strength is. But, that’s where you’re gonna get in trouble too.
How much weight would you be using today?
I have no idea.
I’ve been on my feet all week, so I don’t know.
So, it’s just based on feel?
Yeah. I’ll just go up and have some fun.
So actually, as we’re speaking now, you’re gonna train in a couple of hours. You don’t have a process of how much actual weight you gonna put in there?
Back in the day, where everything was written.
Yeah. Now, I don’t have to worry about that crap. I don’t have to compete. So now, I just go, “What do I wanna do today?” And, sometimes I’ll do like mini training cycles of six weeks or something like that, just to build up a little bit. But, nothing too crazy.
So, coming back to the topic of food, ’cause I just wanna kind of rehash this is really, it was just a case that you ate what you wanted in the confines that it was still good food. But, you more importantly within the weight class, you ate what made you happy. What were the foods …
Oh! You’ve already said that the Sunday was one of the things. But, as a staple, I suppose this is a generality, like was it meat?
Meat. Every night before I went to bed, I had a steak, at midnight, every night.
So, you go to bed at midnight?
And, wake up about?
Okay. Nice. If we can talk about the experience, ’cause you’ve told me some amazing stories, and I’ve heard you say it before, but one of the highlights of your career was you being inducted into many hall of fames. So, what was the first hall of fame that you were inducted to?
One of them is the United States Powerlifting Hall of Fame. And, the other is York Barbell Hall of Fame was pretty cool, ’cause Arnold, and all those other body builders, strongmen, and powerlifters are all in there. All the OGs of the sports.
You showed me the photo. I think I saw the photo of all the people who … And, I think Evander Holyfield was …
That was the Arnold … That’s the Arnold and Columbus. That’s the International Sports Hall of Fame. That was with one that one.
Was that ever a goal? To be inducted into the hall of fame?
No. I just wanted to get strong.
What did that mean to you, personally?
It’s really nice to be accepted by your peers, to say you’re one of the best ever.
Well, the best ever.
I’ll let the say it.
The best ever. So, rules to greatness, have a plan, stick to the plan, love what you do. Am I missing anything?
Yeah. You can’t miss them. You can’t miss. Everything you do, it has to be doable though. In a training cycle, every week builds a part of the next week. And then, you get what you want. You can say jump from here, and this is all great. So, I’m gonna go up to this level. There’s a process in training, in sports, just like there is business. You can’t jump a process. You have to take your time and get there.
And, you learn a lot more too.
Interesting thing, this is a side note, ’cause a lot of guys and girls, particularly now there in an age of supplements, and that they like to jerk themselves up with caffeine and all sorts of things. You’re not a coffee drinker, at all.
No. Very rarely. Once in a while, when I travel long. I have a half cup of coffee. That’s it.
So, before a workout?
Don’t need it. Sometimes I’ll take two sips of a monster, and that’s it. If that, I don’t need it.
Any rituals that you’d have?
Before a meet, any rituals?
And, I know a lot of guys, when they’re competing, they kind of … Their persona maybe changes a little bit.
I get quiet. I would get quiet, ’cause everything gets internalized then. I gotta save my energy, all my mental energy for what I want.
Night before a meet, was there food that you’d go to and eat?
No. It was all based on body weight.
So, if you were low, for instance, what would you be eating?
And, if you were high?
If I was high, it would be like chicken breast and a salad, or nothing.
And, would it affect your lifting?
‘Cause your weight would always stay relatively close. And, you weren’t dropping huge amounts of-
Yeah. Most I would get above weight would be like five kilos at the most.
Did you ever have to do sauna? Spa?
Yeah. At the beginning, we didn’t … No one knew about water loading and all the easy stuff now. It was just almost dieting, and then it was almost like an old wrestler. Sit in the freaking sauna.
Has there been anyone who you’ve met that potentially influenced the way you see training, or started to train? Like you had your system. But, was there someone who you met and thought …
I just read the magazines. That’s it. I just figured it out for myself. When I first started, I maxed out twice a week, on the squat, till I hit 500 pounds. Then, I was like, “Well, it’s not gonna go any further. And, my legs are still skinny. So, I better do something.”
So, what did you turn to for that?
It was power body building.
Was that something you read? Was that like-
No. I just started doing it myself.
Now, one of the things that I like to do on this show is do kind of the word association game. So, for instance, if I say, “Superhero.” You might say, “Batman.” For instance, right? So, ready?
All right. So, it’s a word, or a phrase, or a sentence. If more comes to mind, obviously, go for it. But, favorite athlete.
Who is Bo Jackson?
He did American football and baseball at the same time.
He’s that guy I’ve seen, I think it’s-
Just do it.
Yeah. And, clips a pretty phenomenal-
Yeah, he was amazing.
He hits the ball, and just runs. And, like actually jumps over people, and-
Yeah. Or he hits a home run, then he takes the bat, snaps it over his knee.
He’s a … Definitely if you haven’t checked that out. Amazing. Worth watching. Career highlight?
I like the Arnold Hall of Fame.
Blowing out my knee.
Something most people don’t know about you?
Probably ’cause I’m actually really introverted and quiet.
Tea or coffee? I think I know the answer.
I would rather have tea than coffee.
Which tea? What type of tea?
Don’t even know. I had one … When I was in Kuwait, I was sick as a dog one day. And, they gave me some type of tea. And, it cured everything. The way it felt right away, I don’t even know what it was.
Nutrition for powerlifters?
It’s not that different from body builders, except I think you have to keep for fats a little higher. And, carbs are just based on depending on how much weight you wanna gain, what are your energy requirements.
One fitness body building, powerlifting mag everyone should read?
The old Powerlifting USA magazine.
If you were an exercise, what exercise would be?
A bend over row.
Really? Why bend over row?
It was one of my favorite exercise.
And, when you’re doing the bend over row, were you going all the way to the flow? Were you pulling from block? How were you-
No. I would … Either way. Starting on a block, or standing on the floor, I would let it touch the ground. I’d do it with no belt.
Okay. So, was you back bended or?
Raised a little bit, locked up.
So, were you happy with the … So, locked in with [crosstalk 00:43:43]
That developed my core more than anything.
And, where were you bar to?
Low. So, bringing the lats in?
Bringing the shoulders forward a little bit?
Yeah, because where do you put the bar when you squat? What do you lay down on when you bench? What do you pull with in the deadlift?
Right. So, that was your go to-
If your shoulder’s hurt, you can still walk around, sleep, do whatever you want. If you’re knee’s hurt you can do the same. If your back hurts, you can’t do anything.
What day would you put then in on?
Not squat day?
Not chest day?
Deadlift. And, you do the directly after deadlift?
And, what’s your record for a bend over row?
260 for two.
And, wide grip, the same as you’d bench, or you’d bring it in?
Just fairly wide.
So, to mirror your bench basically.
So, it’d almost be like the way you bench?
Well, it was more comfort than anything, ’cause if went too close, it was just so much bicep and [inaudible 00:44:33] because of my long arms.
Right. So, if I try and picture it in my head, the way you try and do it is almost the set up that you’d use for a bench? But, you don’t actually know, because you’re pulling here.
You just pull lower.
Yeah. Got it. Favorite exercise? We’ve already covered it. Least favorite exercise?
Is there a supplement that you can’t live without?
Overrated or least favorite supplement?
Something that you’d like to see more of?
Cool contests like Pro Raw.
That was a great contest on the weekend. Amazing. Something you’d like to see less of?
Was there a couple of bad calls?
No. Well, there’s gonna be a couple of little bad calls in every contest. But, some places there’s way too many bad calls, where people go and get shit passed.
Yeah. Not walking out.
No. It [inaudible 00:45:33]
A respected peer?
I’m here, so I would say Ahmad.
Biggest myth in power lifting?
You have to be big to lift weights, big weights.
’cause you broke that …. Yeah. You absolutely-
Fucking look at little Stefi Cohen and [inaudible 00:45:51]. At 60 kilos in body weight. They both squat at 227 this weekend.
I don’t know if I should probably, but for the purposes of this video, I thought I’d ask it on camera too is that, do you feel any way that you would get more out of yourself, if you had a competitor who was close you at your time?
Why is that?
‘Cause I was self driven. I didn’t give a shit. I only cared about me.
That was the case, that was the case the whole time?
I just would … I wanted to be the best I could possible be. Excuse me. As long as I knew I was growing, then one or another, you can list 10 different ways that can be improved, whether it’s size, strength, body fat, technique, all that stuff, mental.
And, you just start putting those together and get better. Now, you got a total package. So, as long as I knew I could keep improving, I didn’t care.
Do you watch Netflix at all?
I’ve got it now. So, once in a while.
What do you watch?
Just really, really bad B-movies.
What’s the last movie you watched in Netflix?
I think it was a horror flick, I don’t know which one. But, I love vampire movies.
Have you seen, on Netflix, have you seen the Punisher?
Not the series. Not the series.
But, you’ve watched the movies.
I like the movies better.
Game of Thrones fan? No?
Never really watched it. But, I could say I could call Thor if I wanted to.
That’s a pretty cool thing to have. Complete this sentence. I’m scared of …
Ed Coan’s favorite powerlifter?
Oh, wow! Well, I’ve got favorites because like a friend of mine who had passed away, Doug Furnas, who mentored me a lot, and taught me a lot. But, there’s so many, because … And, it’s not what they lift.
Like when I was at the contest this past weekend, everyone’s so nice. That’s what I enjoy the most. So, it’s too many to even list.
So, the personalities is what really …
Yeah. If the people are nice, and they’re lifting, and they’re having fun, that’s freaking great.
Lifting is kind of secondary to the personality.
Yeah, it is.
Going to these big events, I mean, how is it for you? Everyone obviously know who you are. It’s Ed Coan. I mean, is overwhelming at times? How do you take it all in?
No. I’m thankful for it. People come and say, “Oh! I know you. I know you’re just sick of taking pictures.” No, I’m not. It would be shit if no one did. It’s nice. Of course it’s nice to be recognized.
But, they’re gonna come up to you, because you’re a personable and you’ve been nice back. If you’re a dick, no one comes up to you. So, don’t be a dick.
For breakfast, Ed eats?
Usually red meat and rice.
Had I asked you comfort food?
And, favorite barbell to lift with?
You see, in the US, we didn’t have Eleiko and all the other ones like that. So, it’s a Texas power bar. The company Texas, from Texas, of course.
You mean that’s what you used to lift with, or that’s what you lift with now?
That’s what I used to lift with all the time back then.
I’ve got one. They’re Texas deadlift bar now. Like one of those-
They’re Texas Strength Systems, I think it is. But, yeah. They had a Texas power bar that was used in almost every single meet, ’cause a lot of the meets I used to go into were IPF. So, you had to have the same bar for squat, bench and deadlift.
Any final thoughts?
Let’s give Ed a round of applause.
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Welcome back folks to this episode of The Wolf’s Den. You’re watching, with the greatest powerlifter of all time, Ed Coan. My name’s Mark Ottobre. And, we’re gonna hit back to audience question, with the first question being?
With a lot of athletes, you hear that they have visualization techniques. Did you have anything is particular that you did to achieve your goals, in visualization?
The visualization technique I used was more I could feel the weight. I could just know the steps, like walking out a squat, how I walk up to it, how many steps it takes, where I put my hands on the bar, how I get one side under, then the other. How I wiggle into it, and squeeze it into my body. How I take it off. How I walk it out.
But, I can feel it. A lot of people can see themselves doing it, but they can’t feel it. And, I think that’s a big key.
I remember reading that to improve your bench press you used behind neck press. How did you come to that?
I hated front shoulder presses. I didn’t like the way it felt at all. And, all of a sudden, I started doing … I tried a starting one, behind the neck. I didn’t like it. I tried a seated, and varied my grip. And, I found the right grip to where it felt like I was using my triceps and shoulders to mimic the bench press.
So, is there any reason why it actually converted over to increasing the weight in your bench press?
I used to go by how it felt, like how did it feel with a heavy bench press on the bottom, when I started to push from here. That’s the same feel I got from a behind the neck press. The thing is, a lot of people don’t do them right because they start too heavy.
And, I started them at a young age, with really light weight. So, I attained the mobility, and strength in those areas to be able to do them as long as I did.
In your lifts, you talk about your concentration. And, do you sort of see yourself lifting in a meditative state? Or can you talk about what you focus on when you sort of get to the bar?
Totally. The process, everything we do, starts in your mind. The mind controls every damn thing we do, no matter what it is. So, I would have to concentrate on what I did, or what I was going to do. I could just close my eyes. And, as I said, I could visualize it, but I could feel it.
And, when I got to a point where I could go and do the whole lift in my mind, I knew that it wasn’t gonna be problem on a stage. I could do it in training too. It was just at a faster pace.
But, on the stage, it was most important. That’s when you have to, I think, have the most concentration and focus. And, like I said, a lot of people, they get smacked around, they get too hyped up. And, that’s because they don’t the focus and confidence that they know that they’re gonna get it.
So, I think that’s where it comes from.
Do you meditate outside of lifting?
Not consciously. But, since I was always thinking about what I was going to do, and how I was gonna do it, I’d say yes. I wouldn’t even listen to the radio on the way to the gym because I was thinking about what I had to do, and how I was gonna do it.
Just to piggy back off that last question, would do any visualization techniques on your days off? Obviously when you’re not training, what were you doing? Was there anything …
Yeah. ‘Cause actually in my mind, I was training on my days off. Just different. Positive reinforcement, and did I do anything wrong? How do I make it feel better? How are all my numbers? And, whatever I gotta do to get better. So, it was always on my mind.
And, my question is, as the body gets older, where I’m finding myself in late 40s. What do you do manage it, keeping up your strength?
You could more volume, but you gotta keep the reps lower. That the amount of intensity you could put into a set. You can’t do … You can keep the volume higher, and then your intensity has to be a little bit lower. Or you do, keep your intensity higher, and do less sets. You can have them both.
You can’t just go … If you’re body building, you can’t go all out on each set, trying to get this pump shit. It’s not gonna work. You won’t recover enough. So, you have to pick and chose things a little bit better, like what exercises hurt. Well, those are the one you go real, real light on.
So, you wouldn’t do benches anymore first. You could put them in last. You could do inclines, or incline dumbbells first, or dips first, or something else first. You have to … Whatever doesn’t hurt, or you have a problem with, that what you have to put first.
And, how about recovery-wise as well? Do you find that you need to recover, take your time?
More mobility work, light stretching, and walk. I find that if you’re in shape, you recover way better.
You said, in your career you were always thinking about your lifts and thing like that. What are you always thinking about now?
I still think about them. I just don’t go as heavy. I just think about, “How am I gonna recover. And, how do I fix my aching shoulders a little bit better?” And, some of it is inevitable.
Like I said, I have the arthritis gene. So, you try to shift and figure out other ways to do things. Like I just told him, I won’t start off with certain exercises like I used to. I’ll make them at the end. So, I can still do them, just not as heavy. Then, I’m all warmed up.
When you blew out your knee, did you have a particular recovery process that you did? Like exercise-wise. I know you didn’t look at it but-
My therapist, who worked for my cousin, who did my surgery … Actually, my cousin came in the therapy room and said, “Eddie, you know how to get stronger. He knows how to get your mobility and your range of motion stuff back. Don’t get hurt.”
So, we figured out. Like new little shit, where we were using bands and chains, and all kinds of stuff, in there that no one has ever done before. And, he actually did his doctoral thesis on my knee, to be come a doctor of physical therapy.
So, do you use a lot of stuff now if you see powerlifters, or you coach them, on to help with their injuries? Like stuff that you have-
A lot of times, a reason guys get injured now is poor technique and poor weight selection, ’cause they’re not recovering, and their form sucks.
So now, if you can get your technique really, really good, that is actually a nice form of mobility work to teach your body how to do the exercise correctly. And, you will recover a lot faster.
It’s only when you have a little bit bad technique, or a lot bad technique, and you train too hard, and you fuck up your central nervous system, and you don’t recover, that you have problems around that.
If you do the exercises properly, and you don’t overtrain, you usually don’t have any problems whatsoever. ‘Cause a lot of these mobility things, and a lot of things everyone does all the time, it makes them feel good for a really, really short period of time. They have to keep doing them two, three times a day.
It’s like, well, they’re not really working. What else is wrong here? That has to change. It’s usually a pure form of body movement. I think body movement can fix almost anything.
Thank you for watching The Wolf’s Den. That was Ed Coan, greatest powerlifter of all time. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, make sure you subscribe, ring the bell on YouTube, and check us out on iTunes as well. And also, check out the previous episodes. And, feel free to share your thoughts. Share this great information on all things social media.
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