The Ed Coan Story – What I Learned from the Strongest Man in the World


Ed Coan with Dr James Stoxen DC 1986

What I Learned from the Strongest Man in the World, Ed Coan. 

In 1986, I graduated from National Chiropractic College, (National University Health Sciences, formerly National College of Chiropractic). a year and a half early at 24 years of age. I was one of the youngest graduates in the college. In fact my father recommended that I grow facial hair as I did not look old enough to be a doctor.

My very first patient was Ed Coan. I thought that something/someone greater was taking care of me because when someone gets into the medical field to do sports medicine and the first patient that walks in the door is pound for pound the strongest man in the world, someone must have been looking out for me.

Ed Coan had been described at that time “the greatest powerlifter in powerlifting history” and the “powerlifting equivalent of Michael Jordan.”

At the time he held all the world records for powerlifting.   The powerlifting records were split between the APF, American Powerlifting Federation, the IPA, International Powerlifting Association and the ADFPA American Drug Free Powerlifting Association.

Not many cared what Powerlifting federation you belonged to or if they were drug tested or not.  The fact was at that time he was the  “strongest man in the world“.

What does it feel like to be the chiropractor to the world strongest man?

When we would go to the powerlifting competitions, as Ed walked in the room, people would whisper, “there is Ed Coan”  After a few years they would say “There is Ed Coan, and that is Dr. Stoxen, his chiropractor

If you were a beginner powerlifting enthusiast, looking for tips for workouts like, powerlifting programs, powerlifting training tips, powerlifting workouts, powerlifting routines, weight lifting workouts, free weight lifting or just strength workouts for powerlifting and bodybuilding or other sports, Ed Coan was the man for advice.

I was using weightlifting for sports like rugby, running and overall health.

I learned a lot from him on how and I believe he learned a lot from me.

Ed Coan has set over seventy world records in powerlifting.  He became the lightest person to cross the 2,400 lb. barrier in the powerlifting totaling a sum of three lifts:

Ed Coan,” greatest powerlifter in the history of the sport”

  1. The deadlift
  2. The bench
  3. The squat

He set an all-time powerlifting record total at 2,463 pounds (weighing 239 lbs), even though at the time he was not in the heaviest weight class.

Ed Coan’s best result in an international, and drug tested, competition is 1,035 kg (2,282 lbs) in the 100 kg weight class at the 1994 IPF International Powerlifting Federation, Senior World Championships. This at the time was a world record.

Ed Coan’s best single ply lifts at 239 pounds:

  • Squat – 1019 lbs (~462 kg)
  • Bench press – 584 lbs (~265 kg)
  • Deadlift – 901 lbs (~409 kg)

Prior to treatment, I did a thorough rundown of his history and found he had a number of nagging injuries.

You can read in more detail about this in the Chicago Tribune article; Chicago Tribune: “He’s 5 Foot 7 and 215 Pounds and There`s No One Stronger”, by Bill Hageman, click here

We decided to study his form and technique during Ed Coans deadlift routine and his squat routine. Together we watched his squat and deadlift technique in a mirror and noticed that as he descended, his body made a corkscrew motion, which placed an imbalance of weight on his feet.

I knew that these minor mechanical flaws were causing major stress and strain on his 5’6” 220 pound frame –especially when 900 to 1000 pounds of weight were loaded on it.

We knew eventually, as he continued to push his body to the limit, lifting record-breaking weights year after year, that he might sustain a major injury forcing him out of the sport for good. Or Worse.

I accompanied him to the 1986 World Powerlifting Championships in Maui, Hawaii.  It was there that I watched in excitement and horror as he completed a record-breaking squat of 965 pounds.

Ed Coan Stretching with Dr james Stoxen DC before a world championship

As he descended with this enormous weight, the steel bar bent, his face turned purple-red. Blood vessels exploded in his back as he completed the task.

Ed seemed to take it all in stride but I didn’t. It really freaked me out! I was responsible for the health and well being of this man and that was scary.

You can read in more detail about this in the Chicago Tribune article;Chicago Tribune: “Lifter Puts His Power Behind Commitment” with Dr. James Stoxen DC and Ed Coan

It was then that I realized for Ed’s level of powerlifting training, he would need more than weights for lifting, routine chiropractic adjustments and therapy to ensure near perfect biomechanical motion.

I came back to Chicago curious as to how much load was put upon Ed’s L5 disc as he performed his record-breaking squat. I took Ed’s measurements to Dr. Triano at the NCCC biomechanics lab. He calculated Ed’s spine withstood 6700 pounds of pressure.

How could the spine handle such a burden without breaking or herniating a disc?

I immediately called Ed, suggesting that his corkscrew descent was mechanical in nature and, if so, we needed to correct it pronto. I was not about to wait for an injury to take him out of competition.

Besides his four day a week powerlifting, weight lifting for strength, the plan was for him to come in three times a week so I could examine his body and with my bare hands remove every spasm weakening in his frame — from the lower back to his feet.

I called this “connecting the knots”.

For all of you training for powerlifting, training for weight lifting or weight lifting to prepare for competitions its important for you to read on.

Though I didn’t fully realize it at the time, I was essentially removing the stiffness or what I call preload tension from his human spring system.

Just think if you wanted to max out 500 pounds in the squat. However you had muscle tension you did not know was in your legs and back that preloaded your legs with 40 pounds of tension on the right and 15 pounds on the left.

Your max just went from 500 to 460 on the right and 485 on the left.

If you loaded the bar to 460 on a warm up you were shifting weight to the left

If you loaded the bar to 485 you might feel pain on the left knee, hip or lower back or even a herniated disc because the preload stiffness or tension made the right side overloaded.

Got it?

This is why I took the time to remove every single tiny spasm from his entire lower body before every heavy lifting routine.

The result?

Ed broke numerous world records for another six years without one single major injury.

Why reserve this level of treatment only for top athletes like Ed?

Surely everyone deserves this level of care. So I began using this approach on my regular patients.

I soon noticed the knots or muscle spasm patterns in patients were interconnected. Often times they followed consistent, repeatable predictable patterns.

What I didn’t realize until later is that a lot of the time these interconnected from the back down to the foot. I also noticed the spasms in many cases seem to have intersected at a joint in the middle of the arch where the arch springs on landing. (metatarsal cuneiform joints)

The other thing I kept noticing is that when the suspension system muscles (tibialis posterior and anterior) which suspend this joint fatigued, the arch had a tendency to stiffen.

The knots oftentimes traveled up from the arch of the foot (spring floor 1), to the ankle joints (floors 2 and 3), to the knee (floor 4), hip (Floor 5), lower back discs (floor 6) all the way up to the head (floor 7). Just like the nursery rhyme, the foot bones connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bones connected to the shin bone…

Many times I felt these spasms created a stiffening of the weight bearing joints,to the effect of a stiffened impact resistance mechanism (I call the spring mechanism).

Discs in the spine are sometimes referred to as shock absorbers. What is the difference between a shock absorber and a spring. A shock absorber absorbs shock from impacts. A spring absorbs the shock from impacts then springs back the force of the impact in a sort of elastic way.

If a vertebral disc was a spring it was a compression spring. It could compress then decompress. Then I looked up the definition of physics.

Elastic deformity – When the material (or mechanism) deforms its shape, stores energy in the deformation, then reforms to its original shape and in doing so releases the energy.

Plastic deformity – When the material (or mechanism) deforms, stores energy, then fails to return to its original shape, and in doing so only releases part of the stored energy.

If you have restriction on the material or mechanism it cannot deform completely, therefore it cannot store as much energy or release as much energy.

Would this mean that the capacity to lift safely is reduced if the capacity of the disc to store lifting or impact forces is less because of this preloaded force from these spasms in the muscles?

What if there was a preload force on the entire human body weight bearing joints from toe to head?

If the person lifted the weight they normally but since there was a reduced capacity to store the forces… where does the forces or load go?

It would make sense that it would cause a plastic deformity as this is what science says if materials exceed the maximum yield force capacity.

It is not uncommon for joints to experience a force exceeding the maximum yield force. Think of a sprained ankle. When the forces exceed the ligament strength the ankle ligament sprains. However with the normal RICE treatment (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) the ankle heals just fine.

However we know not to put pressure on it.

Internal and External Forces and Conditions

What if we had an internal force on the kinematic chain that we did not know existed that maintained a certain internal force on the herniated disc?   It would seem it would be difficult to get complete healing of a herniated disc with these circumstances.

When we treat herniated discs sometimes we do nothing to take the pressure off the disc. (injections, medications)

Sometimes we treat the area around the herniated disc to take the pressure off the disc. (adjustments, traction, distraction)

What if the original internal pressure that preloaded the disc actually came from below the spine in the area of the foot and ankle spring mechanism? If so, then we would have to release this internal force from below the spine to release pressure on the disc for it to heal.

What does a stiff foot feel like?   What does a normal foot feel like?

Why don’t you wiggle a childs foot and then wiggle your foot.  After that wiggle your grandparents feet.

Some of the feet I examine are so stiff stretching them and doing deep tissue on them feels like Im trying to thaw out out a 1 inch thick frozen steak with my bare hands. Its not cold like a steak but its as stiff as a steak.

What Im getting at is that once a foot is so stiff it cannot just release its rigidity by itself.  Depending on your age, it has been locked in a binding device called a shoe for decades, inhibiting the 3-dimensional motion that is required for it to absorb impacts.  I recommend you work to stretch your feet every day to reverse the ill effects of the different footwear that can cause stress and strain on your feet.

If you could run barefoot as a kid but cannot do it now is that the first sign of aging?   I think when you used to be able to do something then you have lost the ‘ABILITY’ to do something and that means you are aging.

What is normal aging?

Im 50 years old and just ran 5 miles barefoot down the street.

When the 33 joints of your feet are stiff and many lost springy, joint play, walking can go from feeling like you are springing off the ground to more like banging into the ground.

The next step in the protocol for the human spring model is to release the tension on the human spring suspension system and the mechanism throughout the entire flooring system of this integrated spring mechanism.  We start at the foot and work out way up.

Look at the videos below where I show you how to release the human spring with my deep tissue release tips:

Be sure to start on Video Tutorial # 78 and go through Video Tutorial #89:

Watch above as Dr James Stoxen DC Demonstrates Self-Help, Deep Tissue Treatment Of The Knee Popliteus Muscle

Watch above as Dr James Stoxen DC Demonstrates Self-Help, Deep Tissue Treatment Of The Gluteus Medius Muscle of the Hip

Watch above as Dr James Stoxen DC Demonstrates How To Self-Help Deep Tissue Treatment Of The Ankle (Subtalar Joint Inside)

Watch above as Dr James Stoxen DC Demonstrates How To Self-Help Deep Tissue Treatment Of The Ankle (Subtalar Joint Outside)

Watch above as Dr James Stoxen DC Demonstrates Self-Help Deep Tissue Treatment Under The Big Toe And Second Toe

Watch above as Dr James Stoxen DC Demonstrates Self-Help Deep Tissue Treatment Above The Big Toe And Second Toe

Watch above as Dr James Stoxen DC Demonstrates Scissor Stretching Of The Feet

Watch above as Dr James Stoxen DC Demonstrates Stretching Great For Mortons Neuromas And Narrow Heels

Watch above as Dr James Stoxen DC Recommends The Best Shoes To Prevent The Foot From Deforming

Watch above as Dr James Stoxen DC Demonstrates Self-Help Deep Tissue Of The Ankle Mortise

Watch above as Dr James Stoxen DC Demonstrates Stretching Of The Foot While Sitting At Your Chair

Watch above as Dr James Stoxen DC Demonstrates A Stretch To Increase The Flexibility Of The Arch Of Your Foot

How do you tell if you have a springy walk or hard bang and twist walk?

What you have to do is get a inexpensive HD camera and video tape yourself walking 10 steps or so barefoot with shorts towards the camera and back. Then repeat the walk at the fastest walking speed you can.

Then download the video into the computer and move the curser at the bottom slowly to watch your foot plant yourself.

These are the walking tips to change your walk

  • Keep the second toe pointing toward the target.
  • Totally relax the foot and rest of the spring on impact so there is maximum loading of the force on impact
  • Maintain the center of your pelvis or center of gravity just ahead of where your spring (foot) impacts the ground (for an accelerated spring landing/take off).
  • I recommend you stretch and work on your feet every day.

Dr James Stoxen DC with Ed Coan APF World Championships 1988

More About Ed Coan

Nobody has dominated powerlifting or any sport for that matter like Ed Coan has. Coan discovered he wasn’t made for bodybuilding but when Ed first started squatting he squatted 2x per week and maxed out each time, going up 5lbs per time till he hit 500. By this time he knew he was going to be special in the world of powerlifting . Coan began powerlifting as a 181-pound lifter. He squatted and deadlifted 780-pounds and bench-pressed 485-pounds. He got bigger in his early twenties and at 198lbs Coan squatted and pulled 863-pounds while bench-pressing slightly over 500-pounds.

As a 220-pound lifter, he set over seventy world records and became the lightest man to shatter the 2400 barrier. When he shattered the 2400-pound barrier, nobody was even close- the second best 220-pound powerlifting total was 2102.Coan exceeded the all-time powerlifting total with an historic 2463-total. He became the all-time greatest powerlifter in the history of the sport. Coan not only dominated his weight class but he dominated the giants in the super heavy weight classes- Not only did he beat the 350lbs giants but he destroyed them! Even though, he weighed nearly 200lbs less then the greatest super heavy weights of all time his best numbers were in the same exact ballpark as greats like Kaz and Paul Anderson.

Ed Coans World Records:

Current Men’s Junior IPF World Deadlift Record Holder in the 82.5 kg class with a 347.5 kg pull in Dallas in 11/24/84

Current Men’s Junior IPF World Total Record Holder in the 82.5 kg class with a 875 kg total in Dallas in 11/24/84

Current Men’s Open IPF World Squat Record Holder in the 100 kg class with a 423 kg squat in Johannesburg in 11/18/94

Current Men’s Open IPF World Deadlift Record Holder in the 100 kg class with a 390 kg pull in Jonkoping in 12/4/93

Current Men’s Open IPF World Total Record Holder in the 100 kg class with a 1035 kg total in Johannesburg in 11/18/94

Current Men’s Open USPF Squat Record Holder in the 90 kg class with a 390 kg squat in 1985

Current Men’s Open USPF Squat Record Holder in the 100 kg class with a 436 kg squat in 1991

Current Men’s Open USPF Deadlift Record Holder in the 82.5 kg class with a 360 kg pull in 1984

Current Men’s Open USPF Deadlift Record Holder in the 90 kg class with a 390 kg pull in 1985

Ed Coan broke many records from 1986 – 1991 but they are not included in this list as these were broken in the APF American Powerlifting Federation.

Current Men’s Open USPF Deadlift Record Holder in the 100 kg class with a 409 kg pull in 1991

Current Men’s Open USPF Total Record Holder in the 90 kg class with a 1000 kg total in 1985

Current Men’s Open USPF Total Record Holder in the 100 kg class with a 1090 kg total in 1991

Shane Hamman, Dr James Stoxen DC and Ed Coan




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