Boyer Coe: The Thinking Bodybuilder

Boyer Coe was a dominant force during the Golden Era. His competitive career spanned over four decades and he competed against the biggest names in bodybuilding. In an era of tough competition, Coe became a world-class bodybuilder worthy of the Mr. Universe crown. 

Boyer Coe started training at just five years old. As with many great bodybuilders, Coe built his foundation with calisthenics. When he was thirteen, Coe found a discarded muscle mag when fishing. Doug Strohl was on the cover. After reading several magazines and learning the mechanics behind building muscle, Coe moved his attention to weight training. Boyer Coe found inspiration everywhere. After watching Hercules, with Steve Reeves as the lead, Coe ran 5 miles home and did as many push-ups as he could in the next 24 hours. Coe often recalls the support of his parents as a big motivator that led him to bodybuilding glory. His parents supported the pursuit and drove him around the country to compete. 

Boyer Coe had an obsession with bench pressing 400lbs before he graduated high school. Coe would write 400 everywhere he went. After having his pen and paper confiscated in school, Coe carved 400 into the desk. Coe reached his goal of bench pressing 400lbs before his diploma. 

By the time he was fifteen, Coe had built a physique that stood out amongst his peers and decided to step on stage. Coe learned of the Mr. Louisiana contest just seven days before the show. Boyer had one week to prepare. Whilst backstage prepping, Coe missed the announcement for the bodybuilders to go on stage. Coe panicked and ran out the side door, which was locked behind him. Coe was left outside in his posing trucks in January. His competitive nature kicked in and Coe ran around the building, barging through the main entrance as his name was called. Boyer ran to the stage and began his routine. The crowd loved it and thought it was part of the show. Boyer Coe placed top five in the Mr. Louisiana competition, aged fifteen. 

After the success of his first show, Coe continued to compete. Coe won his first major title in 1964 after being crowned Mr. New Orleans. He claimed the title three days before graduating high school. Boyer’s success continued and he became a dominant force in the bodybuilding industry. Coe was thirty years old when he joined the IFBB in 1976, with more than fifty competitions under his belt. Boyer claimed 18 titles during the 70s and 80s. Coe’s titles included Mr. Universe (1971), and Mr. America (1975). Boyer also secured top four places in the Mr. Olympia contest in 1977, 1978, and 1980. This included the controversial 1980 Mr. Olympia contest which saw Arnold take home the crown. Not many bodybuilders ever competed in as many shows as Boyer Coe. 

After dominating the 70s and 80s, Coe competed in the 1994 and 1995 Master Olympia shows. Coe placed 3rd and 10th respectively before hanging up the trunks for good. Boyer’s competition history spans over thirty-three years. After competing came to an end, Coe took up a role as the co-host of FLEX Magazine Workout TV. Coe was also a regular contributor to muscle mags and opened his own health food store. Coe later opened a gym in New Orleans. Boyer Coe is still alive today and training five times a week. Below is a list of some of his career highlights. 

1962 Teen-Age Mr. South Contest

1964 Mr. Louisiana

1964 AAU Mr. New Orleans

1965 AAU Mr. Louisiana

1965 AAU Mr. Southern USA

1965 AAU Mr. Texas

1966 AAU Teen Mr. America

1968 AAU Jr. Mr. USA

1968 AAU Mr. America (Most Muscular)

1968 AAU Mr. USA (Most Muscular)

1969 AAU Jr. Mr. America

1969 AAU Mr. America

1969 NABBA Mr. Universe

1970 NABBA Pro Mr. Universe (Short)

1971 IFBB Mr. America (Medium)

1971 IFBB Mr. International

1971 WBBG Pro Mr. World

1972 WBBG Pro Mr. World

1973 WBBG Pro Mr. World

1973 NABBA Pro Mr. Universe

1974 WBBG Pro Mr. World

1975 WBBG Pro Mr. World

1975 NABBA Pro Mr. Universe

1975 PBBA Pro Mr. Universe

1981 IFBB Canada Pro Cup

1981 IFBB Belgium Grand Prix

1981 IFBB Massachusetts Grand Prix

1981 IFBB Wales Grand Prix

1981 IFBB Grand Prix World Cup

1981 IFBB Professional World Cup

1981 IFBB World Grand Prix

Training & Workouts

Coe was known as the “thinking bodybuilder”. Similar to Mike Mentzer, Coe was an intellect who studied the anatomy of the body and always looked for new ways to train. Boyer Coe worked closely with Arthur Jones, known for taking Casey Viator threw The Colorado Experiment. Boyer worked with Arthur Jones in 1982 and found the training style that worked for Mentzer and Viator wasn’t a good fit for him. Coe believed he had less genetic potential and therefore needed to train in a different way. Boyer Coe said Casey Viator only needed to look at weights to grow!

Coe didn’t believe in the advanced principles used for adding additional stress to a workout. Coe’s philosophy was similar to that of Steve Reeves; a complete range of motion with full contraction and full extension. Coe believed the joints wouldn’t last when forcing out partial reps beyond failure. 

Work Capacity Training

Coe referred to his training methodology as Work Capacity Training (WCT). The idea behind WCT was to take the principles of Mike Mentzer’s High-Intensity Training (HIT) but focus on pyramid sets and shorter rest times. Coe moved slowly through his reps and after reaching failure, he would drop the weight by 5lbs for the next set. 

High Standards

Coe set very high standards for himself. He would be in the gym at 5 am and work to his maximum capacity every workout. Boyer Coe believed he didn’t have the genetic potential of those he competed against, so he had to work harder and smarter. As with many bodybuilders of the era, Coe placed a lot of emphasis on the mind. He believed the mind-muscle connection was crucial in developing a well-rounded physique. Coe believed training was hard not because of the physical weight, but because of the mental state needed to will your body into isolating the muscle. Coe’s mantra was “100% effort, 100% of the time”. 

Boyer Coe followed many workout routines throughout his career. Below is one of the most common splits he used during competitions. 

Monday: Chest & Back

Tuesday: Shoulders & Arms

Wednesday: Legs

Thursday: Chest & Back

Friday: Shoulders & Arms

Saturday: Legs

Sunday: Rest

Training Tips

Warm-Up & Abs

Coe started his workouts with the core. Coe believed this would help warm up the body and get his mind focused for the workout ahead. He also viewed his abdominals as a weak spot, so he preferred to train them first to give them more attention. Although his routines changed, Coe was a big believer in warming up. Boyer credits his long career and lack of injuries to following proper warm-up routines. 

Pyramid Sets

Coe focused his workouts on a variation of pyramid sets. The exercises he used for each workout are simple. Coe followed the basic compound and isolation movements seen in most bodybuilding routines. Every exercise would start with a set of 12 perfect reps, with slow and deliberate form. Coe would rest for 60 seconds and drop the weight by 5-10lbs. Coe would then perform 10 reps. Coe would then flip it and increase the weight to more than the original set, for a set of 6-8 reps. This is an unusual approach to training but worked for Coe. Below is an example for clarity. 

Bench Press

Set 1: 225lbs for 12 reps

Set 2: 215lbs for 10 reps

Set 3: 235lbs for 6-8 reps

As with Mike Mentzer, Coe experimented with a lot of different training techniques. Coe used trial and error and kept an open mind to bodybuilding. Test the routine, monitor the results, and make changes. Boyer Coe has released some excellent books over the years so if you’re interested in finding out more, I suggest you start there. 


Coe’s nutrition was simple. He followed the standard bodybuilder diet of the Golden Era; high protein, high fat, low carb. Coe’s main source of protein came in the form of raw eggs, beef, fish, chicken, and pork. During competition time, he would cut down on carbs to get improve his conditioning for the stage. In the off-season, carbs would increase to allow him to work harder and build more muscle.

Coe’s bodybuilding career evolved from doing push-ups in his room to taking the stage at the Mr. Olympia show. Boyer Coe is a true inspiration as his genetic potential was far less than those he competed against, but he still made a name for himself in the bodybuilding industry. There’s a lot to learn from a man whose career spanned over thirty-three years. A true bodybuilding legend and still training to this day. 

You may also like...