Ed Coan and Dave Tate sit down at Omaha Barbell to share what first inspired them to pursue careers in powerlifting. Whether it was aspiring to be the next legend of the sport, reading industry magazines, or simply setting personal strength goals, once Coan and Tate got their first taste of powerlifting, they were hooked.

Initial Powerlifting Inspiration

Coan’s initial powerlifting inspiration was sparked by popular industry magazines such as Powerlifting USA. As he began to follow the sport more closely and started watching national competitions on television, a lightbulb seemed to turn on in his head. He saw men who were big and strong, but did not have to adhere to overly strict diets or pose on stage in tiny outfits (like bodybuilders typically do). Once he tried powerlifting, he never stopped. He maxed out twice a week until he reached 500 pounds, explaining that he weighed roughly 140 pounds at the time.

Being Like Franco   

Chuckling, Coan admits that he actually started out body-building because he saw Pumping Iron with Arnold Schwarzenegger and, like so many others, he wanted to be like Arnold. However, after meeting Arnold in person, Coan jokes that he had a change of heart when he realized how big and tall Arnold really was. Instead, he set his sights on being like champion powerlifter Franco Columbu who, despite not being terribly tall, was incredibly strong.

In fact, Coan recalls a specific conversation that he had at the Arnold Sports Festival after meeting Franco for the first time. Coan was shocked and delighted to discover that Franco, his long-time powerlifting role model, actually knew who he was. As they talked, Franco shared an observation with Coan that really resonated with him, and still continues to ring true today:

“Franco said, ‘You know what I don’t understand? Why guys nowadays are so big, but none of them can lift any weight – they can’t do a damn thing with those muscles. This is what I wanted, I wanted to be able to lift a lot of weight…and even though I had these muscles, it had to have a purpose for me.’”

Inside vs. Outside Focus

Franco’s observation strikes a chord with Dave Tate as well, as he chimes in to reflect on his early impressions of powerlifting. He recalls one of the first Senior National Powerlifting competitions that he attended, where he saw athletes who were so jacked that it was intimidating.

However, he realized that those seemingly strong guys were not the powerlifters that he really had to worry about from a strength perspective. In fact, it was the smaller and skinnier powerlifters who were deceptively strong, and who posed much larger threats to him as competitors. Coan nods in agreement, emphasizing that many powerlifters make the mistake of focusing far too much energy on the “outside stuff” that makes them appear stronger, as opposed to the “inside stuff” that actually makes them stronger. As an example of the “inside stuff” that Coan is referencing, Tate recalls a past tactic that is a truer test of a competitor’s strength:

“I think it was Alekseyev that wrote that he used to test his competition, and he would give them a hug before the Olympics and pat them on the spinal erectors…he said that if the erectors are there, then I know that this man is strong.”

Despite their early impressions of what strength should look like, it is clear that both Coan and Tate have been able to tap into the “inside stuff” and focus their training where it really mattered – their successful powerlifting careers alone are proof enough of that.

Passion Trumps Everything

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