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Beginning Powerlifting

Q: I want to get into powerlifting. What books and other resources would you recommend?

A: There are several major powerlifting organizations, and the rules vary with the organization.

Ed Coan is one of the great powerlifters of all time, breaking more than 70 world records and being the lightest lifter to total 2,400 in the three lifts. Coan did his most impressive lifting in the 220-pound weight class, and his best lifts include a 2,463 total, a 578 bench, 1,038 squat and a 901 deadlift. Coan said he preferred to lift in competitions sanctioned by the International Powerlifting Federation, which follows more of the traditional rules in powerlifting and doesn’t permit the use of extreme equipment that is supported by other organizations. That makes his accomplishments even more impressive.

In May I invited Coan to do a presentation at our Eleiko Strength Summit at the Poliquin Strength Institute in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. He shared his simple yet effective approach to training, which includes focusing on perfect technique on every lift. For insight into that remarkable athlete’s training philosophy and the accomplishments that have made him a legend in the sport, pick up a copy of Coan: The Man, the Myth, the Method by Marty Gallagher.

Of course, no discussion about powerlifting would be complete without mentioning Louie Simmons of the Westside Barbell Club. He’s one of the most accomplished powerlifting coaches in the history of the sport. Simmons’ lifters compete in organizations that permit the most liberal use of equipment. Using such equipment, especially the ever-evolving bench shirts, can be quite complex. Simmons has written profusely on how to train with the new lifting gear and under the rules of those organizations, so I would recommend his books and DVDs on the subject.

Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most successful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit  IM

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