Learning from Ed Coan

Ed Coan Deadlift

(The following is the result of another discussion Jason Ferrugia and I had at last week’s IYCA Summit).

Ed Coan is a pretty smart guy.

And in case you missed it, he’s pretty strong as well.

Any guy that has squatted over at grand at 242, benched close to 600, and deadlifted 900 pounds in the 220 pound weight class must know a thing or two about strength training.

I’m a huge fan of Ed Coan, even though I’ve never met the man.  And as I was driving home this past weekend, I started to think about some of the things he did in his training that might have played a part in his success.  Keep in mind he wasn’t only strong, but for the majority of his career he was very orthopedically healthy as well (by powerlifting standards, anyway).

After reviewing articles, videos and even audio clips discussing his training, here are some interesting tidbits that may help keep you strong and healthy as well.  Enjoy!

  • He actually used an off-season program where he would mix up exercises, stance widths, and work on weaknesses.  For example, most powerlifters nowadays only focus on low-bar, powerlifting style squats.  Ed was a huge proponent of high-bar and even deep paused squats in his off-season regimen.
  • He actually used a form of linear periodization, starting off with higher rep sets (even into the 8’s!), and then progressively worked to lower reps with higher weights.
  • He was a huge advocate of technique.  If you had to think excessively about technique with a maximal load, you were in big trouble.
  • He did quite a bit of upper back work.  Pulldowns, rowing variations, etc.

While we’re quick to argue about everything under the sun that’s training related, sometimes we forget about the basics.  By most standards, Ed Coan’s training was pretty boring – but I also feel his mastery of the basics made him one of the strongest powerlifters on the planet for the last 2-3 decades.

If you’ve read much about Coan, what are some things you’ve taken away from his training and methodology?  Leave your comments below!

Stay strong



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  1. I've only just gotten into powerlifting personally, and after reading this post, it looks like the guy how has been organising my training (Andrew Logan) uses the same methodology. Especially with linear progression and a huge focus on technique.

  2. While many things may have a time and place for application, it is not surprising to see that the best lifters tend to keep things toward the simple end of the spectrum.
    IN today's "information overload" society, I think sticking to the basics and avoiding a tendency to get overly complicated gives the clarity needed to keep the focus on effort and consistency over developing training A.D.D.

  3. I've trained with and around Ed a few times. The two biggest things I took from it were mental intensity/toughness and glute activation in the deadlift. Ed has stated many times over that he's not one to get all riled up and go nuts before a lift, so he's not intense in that way. But he has this way of being intense without saying a word. His workouts are intense too. You can be having the worst day in the world, be off on diet, etc – basically all the excuses I routinely make for myself – but your training is going to be intense and hard and you're going to blast through it, get all your work done (and his stuff is generally pretty decent volume) and leave a better and stronger person. This is something I'd say is my biggest weakness as a lifter… I give up or scale back too soon, I think. I wish he was in the gym every time I go in, though, because that would change in a hurry.
    The glute activation thing is a lot simpler. Just make sure you're thinking about them and firing them earlier than most people do. Try actively to squeeze them and drag the bar across your knees to break the skin. Getting them involved sooner can help you power through that below-knee sticking point conventional deadlifters have. Almost everyone I see, even very good lifters, is bad at this. And it's a really easy change to make.

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