Jon Cole (above) stood five foot ten inches, weighed 258-pounds, (in this photo) looked like Zeus come to life, and was married to Wonder Woman Linda Carter’s better-looking sister (for real.) Jon Cole was ball of fast-twitch muscle fiber. Weighing a few biscuits shy of 260, he ran a 9.8-second hundred-yard dash on a bet. But that was just the tip of his athletic iceberg.

Born in 1943, Jon Cole was a sort of athletic Mozart, exhibiting from an early age an extraordinary gift for flinging and throwing things. Despite being only 5 foot 10 inches tall, dwarfishly short for a track and field thrower, Cole set throwing records that still boggle the mind. For example, he remains to this day the shortest man to ever throw the 16-pound shotput 70-feet. Cole set national and world records in the training exercises he used to improve his throwing.

Jon Cole entered high school in Arizona in 1959 and as a junior caused a sensation when he broke the national high school record for the discus. He was named a high school All-American in the discus in 1961 and again in 1962. Jon won the prestigious Golden West Invitational in 1962. The top five high school athletes in the United States are invited to participate in a track or field competition. Cole’s convincing win made him the top discus prospect in the country.

At age 12, Jon Cole began resistance training. He sought the size and strength lifting could provide. His lack of height was a definite throwing disadvantage and to offset his shortness he compensated by using free-weight training to add thickness, muscle, and power, effectively turbocharging his inherent explosiveness. Cole had a heavy bone structure that allowed him to add a considerable amount of bodyweight over the course of his athletic career.

Jon went to Arizona State on a full-ride track scholarship. He began training at the famed Thorebeck’s Gym, one of the first truly hardcore training facilities in the nation. Members included powerlifting superstar John Kantor, WWE wrestler Superstar Billy Graham (Wayne Coleman,) the ASU football players, and the scholarship sprinters and throwers: everyone at Thorebeck’s sought the same things: muscle, power, size, strength.

Any athletic task Cole tried his hand at, he was good at. In 1967, at age 24, weighing 240-pounds, Cole threw a baseball 435 feet, as measured by ASU head baseball coach Bob Winkles. At age 26 he ran an official 9.8 in the 100-yard dash in an AAU meet, weighing a hefty 258-pounds. It gets crazier, Cole kicked a 68-yard field goal measured and witnessed by head ASU football coach Frank Kush. Within a month of first trying his hand at the Javelin, Jon made one of the ten best Javelin throws in the country (241-feet) that year (1968.) Jon Cole won the AAU discus title in 1968.

All the while he was throwing at the national and international level, Cole lifted and competed in Olympic weightlifting. He also competed in the newly formalized sport of powerlifting. The ASU community became the hotbed of lifting in the southwest. Jon Cole’s Olympic lifting technique was brutal: no finesse, no technique to speak of; everything was bulled-up, manhandled, gotten overhead somehow.

Every lift every time was different and it all looked awkward – yet the man became the 4th American to break the 1,200-pound total record when he clean and pressed 430 (!) snatched 340, and finished with a bulled-up 430-pounds clean & Jerk push-pressing it to lockout in an awesome display of brute strength. His powerlifting techniques were also rough. His barbell squats were high by today’s IPF standards and his deadlifts were herky-jerky, all back, and painful looking.

Powerlifter Jon Cole barbell squat RAW with Marty Gallagher Article Powerlifter Jon Cole barbell squat - RAW with Marty Gallagher

 

In 1968 he entered the powerlifting national championships in Los Angeles. He came out of nowhere to capture the national title in the 242-pound class with a 705-pound squat, a 465-pound bench press and a 720-pound deadlift. He won the outstanding lifter award, given to the single best lifter of the entire competition. In 1969 Jon skipped the AAU national powerlifting championships held in York, Pennsylvania. I sat in the front row with Hugh Cassidy as we watched George Frenn win the title in the 242-pound class that year, braking Cole’s squat and deadlift record in the process.

Cole came back with a vengeance in 1970. Once again, he won the national championships, this time in New Orleans, his second win as a 242-pound powerlifter: he squatted 760, bench pressed 520 and deadlifted 780, a huge improvement. Hugh Cassidy was one of the lifters Jon decimated that day. It was then Hugh decided to move up to super heavyweight. Cassidy felt there was no way he could beat Cole in the 242-pound class. Cole’s physique and rate of improvement was freaking the other lifters out.

In an Arizona competition, as a warm-up to the national championships, Cole squatted 800, bench pressed 525 and deadlifted 815, becoming the 4th man in history to deadlift 800. This was to be his last competition as a 242-pound class lifter. As Jon had gotten older, he had found it increasingly difficult to make weight as a 240-pound lifter. He pushed his bodyweight up to 270-pounds and began breaking world records as a superheavyweight.

Powerlifter Jon Cole barbell deadlift - RAW with Marty Gallagher Article Powerlifter Jon Cole barbell deadlift - RAW with Marty Gallagher

 

His deadlift style with big weights was controversial. Here he leans back locking out 860-pounds.

It was announced that the first world powerlifting championships would be held in York, Pennsylvania in 1971. Photos of Cole breaking world records appeared back East and his main competitors, the fearsome Big Jim Williams and Williams’ equally fearsome power protégé, young John Kuc, began to cast doubt, to put it nicely, on the legitimacy of Cole’s lifts. His squats were “Sky high,” according to Big Jim and his deadlift style was “A circus trick.” Cole’s techniques would not pass muster, Williams and Kuc asserted, were he to come east and lift in the 1st world championships.

Cole indicated he would be there, and it shaped up as the power battle of the titans. Cole, Williams and the fast-rising Kuc, would slug it out, Ali-Frazier style, at the first world championships. Jon Cole was a no-show. It was said that he tripped over a cord in an appliance store, fell, and suffered an injury. As it turned out, both Williams and Kuc were bushwhacked by my mentor, Hugh “Huge” Cassidy when Hugh pulled a clutch deadlift to win the world title.

At the 1972 national powerlifting championships, Cole competed as a superheavyweight lifter weighing 271-pounds. His lifts were subject to the same scrutiny as everyone else and he decimated the field, squatting 865, bench pressing 570 and deadlifting 820 for a world record 2,259-pound total.

Powerlifters Jim Williams, Bob Hoffman and John Kuc RAW with Marty Gallagher article Jim Williams, Bob Hoffman and John Kuc

 

Big Jim looks mighty damn big at 370-pounds. Kuc flanks Bob Hoffman and weighs 330.

Coming off his incredible performance at the national championships, Cole was expected to lift at the 1972 world championship. Cole was a no show. John Kuc was on fire that year: he raw squatted 900-pounds, raw bench pressed 600-pounds, and deadlifted 845 for a 2,300-pound total as he steamrolled to the world title.

Keep in mind that this was 1972 and this was Cole’s peak year for shot and discus. He was now competing in four sports. In addition to being world level in discus, shot and powerlifting, Cole is also pushing his way up the American rankings list as an Olympic weightlifter. Once again, Cole’s peak year as an Olympic weightlifter was 1972.

Cole became the head strength coach at ASU. He started cranking out amazing athletes on a routine basis: hall-of-fame baseballer Reggie Jackson was trained by Cole. Sack master Mark Gastineau of the Jets and Superbowl MVP Danny White of the Dallas Cowboys trained under Jon. Len Dickie of the Green Bay Packers; Mike Hayes, New England Patriots. John Jefferson of the Chargers…Cole also trained baseball pros Floyd Bannister, Rick Monday, Ernie Banks (!) and the afore mentioned Reggie Jackson. Cole was called in to strength train Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns prior to a title defense.

Jon Cole Powerlifting USA cover December 1994 Jon Cole Powerlifting USA cover December 1994

 

Jon Cole was known for his savage training ethic. Having to train for discus and shot, having to train for powerlifting, having to train for Olympic lifting, meant he had to cover a lot of training bases. He was also training a battalion of ASU athletes. Between training himself, training others, between competition prep and travel to compete in three sports, Cole virtually lived in the gym. He was the epitome, perhaps the patron Saint, of the volume + intensity approach. Here is a typical two-week training snapshot…Cole would think nothing of taking three hours to work through a training session.

Week one – three workouts this week

Day 1
Bench Press                            10,8                 then 5 sets of 5 reps
Full squat                                10, 8, 6            then 5 sets of 5 reps
Upright rows                                                   5 sets, 8-reps, adding weight with each set
Standing tricep press                                      5 sets, 8-reps, adding weight with each set
Standing barbell curls                                     5 sets, 8-reps, adding weight with each set
Toe raises                                6 sets 20-reps ( toes out, toes in, toes straight, 2 sets each)

Day 2
Power cleans                           5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Incline barbell press                10, 8,               then 5 sets of 3 reps

Lying tricep presses                                        5 sets, 8-reps, adding weight with each set
Standing barbell curls                                     5 sets, 8-reps, adding weight with each set

Day 3
Bench press                             10,8                 then 5 sets of 5 reps
Full squats                               10, 8,               then 5 sets of 3 reps

Standing tricep press                                      5 sets, 8-reps, adding weight with each set
Standing barbell curls                                     5 sets, 8-reps, adding weight with each set
Toe raises                                6 sets 20-reps ( toes out, toes in, toes straight, 2 sets each)

Week 2 – three workouts this week

Day 1
Front squats                            10, 8, 6,           then 5 sets of 3 reps
Incline barbell press                10, 8,               then 5 sets of 5 reps
Curls                                                               5 sets, 8-reps, adding weight with each set
Lying triceps                                                   5 sets, 8-reps, adding weight with each set
Toe raises                              6 sets 20-reps ( toes out, toes in, toes straight, 2 sets each)

Day 2
Deadlifts                                 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Bench press                             10, 8                then 5 sets of 3 reps
Standing triceps                                              5 sets, 8-reps, adding weight with each set
Barbell curls                                                   5 sets, 8-reps, adding weight with each set

Day 3
Full squats                               10, 8, 6            then 5 sets of 3 reps
Incline barbell press                10, 8                then 5 sets of 5 reps
Barbell curls                                                   5 sets, 8-reps, adding weight with each set
Upright rows                                                   5 sets, 8-reps, adding weight with each set
Lying triceps                                                   5 sets, 8-reps, adding weight with each set
Toe raise                                6 sets 20-reps ( toes out, toes in, toes straight, 2 sets each)

Note: lots of arm work and no direct deltoid or lat work. Cole used the incline barbell press as his only training for the Olympic press. No jerks and no snatches done in training.

source: Powerlifting USA Feb/1982

I get exhausted just reading Cole’s workouts. It was a superhuman amount of work. As he matured, Jon Cole found himself drawn out of the athletic universe and into the business universe. With his good looks, brains, connections, athletic pedigree and cutting-edge ideas, he found himself and his methods in high demand. He morphed into a successful businessman. Cole died at age 71. His athletic versatility was other-worldly. We have not seen his multi-dimensional equal for the past 50-years and I doubt we ever will.

RAW with Marty Gallagher, J.P. Brice and Jim Steel Podcast RAW with Marty Gallagher, J.P. Brice and Jim Steel Podcast

 

About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of multiple books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.