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1954 Interview with Strongman Doug Hepburn

By Ray Beck

* NOTE by Strength Oldschool *

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On to the article....

On the 24th of April, 1954, I interviewed my friend Doug Hepburn and asked him some of the most frequently asked questions concerning himself and his training. Some of the opinions Doug voiced may surprise and even shock the gentle reader, so please bear in mind that these are the opinions of Doug Hepburn and not necessarily those of the writer or this magazine. I am using the Q & A format, quoting Doug directly.

Q: How about a few vital statistics, Doug?

A: I’m 27 years old, weigh 296 lbs., chest 57½ normal, thigh 32½, arm 22 (on anybody’s tape), forearm 15¾ held straight and I span 26 inches across the shoulders.

* Here is a man who actually does turn sideways when he goes through a doorway.

Q: What is your present diet?

A: I adhere to no set schedule . . . I eat when I feel like it. In the case of a man competing with heavyweight lifters in an area where they weigh up to 300 lbs. and over, he must force-feed himself to get and maintain this needed bodyweight. Forced food intake is not a healthy thing, but there is no moderation for a competing man. Extra weight around the midsection acts as a support in pressing by giving better leverage and acts also as a cushion in squatting . . . A strongman should be 5’10” tall and have a “squat-like” build like Paul Anderson.

* Doug went on to say that he eats large quantities of protein supplement to retain his heavy bodyweight because “it’s easier assimilated than other foods".

Q: Who is the best lifter?

A: Pound for pound Tommy Kono is the best lifter.

A number of Russian lifters in the lighter divisions are very outstanding. The most efficient lifter, I think, is Norbert Schemansky. I have great respect for men lifting such enormous poundages at such a bodyweight. Marvin Eder is a very strong young man, especially in the pressing department, and should do well in the three lifts if he can get amateur standing.


Q: Can you give some hints to would-be strongmen?

* This question led to several other topics and his principal comments are quoted here.

A: I must see a man try . . . train for six months before I would help him . . . he must have the drive. It is harder to be a lifter than a bodybuilder . . . lifting is purely masculine whereas bodybuilding entails feminine traits. Bodybuilders remind me of a woman getting ready to go somewhere. Can you tell me that greasing your body up and posing in front of a mirror is masculine? A bodybuilder puts strength secondary to his physique, whereas the lifter puts strength foremost because it is more masculine to do so. The reason bodybuilding is on the upward trend is that the opposite sex have more and more influence over the males. Women do not like the large waistline necessary for the weightlifter . . . No! You don’t have to first become a bodybuilder to become a weightlifter.

Three reps in the various exercises are all you need to build size and strength. Low reps give a maximum improvement in strength and size of muscle and a minimum of fatigue. You don’t need a “pumped up” feeling to get big muscles. I tried high reps for my arms when I wanted to make them larger and I found they did nothing for my arm size. In any exercise I like doing 3 reps and no more than 5 reps. Sometimes I do one rep for good results. Exercises should be devoted to increasing the strength in regard to certain muscles used in lifting and that does not include the calves, pecs or biceps.

I work out when I feel like it and do as many sets as my energy will allow.

My personal observation of Doug is that he does only one or two exercises a day when training for strength, and these exercises are: the full squat, supine press, and military press. He is now working really hard on the dead hang pull-ups in reps of two. This has brought his clean up to 400 lbs., which he did while training.

* Doug then went on to say, “I believe the king of all exercises is the bench press. However, I did get most of my power from handstand presses at which I did 15 reps at a bodyweight of 245 lbs."

* Doug doesn’t do these handstand presses anymore, nor does he do the deadlift very often, except when training for a record in this lift, although he thinks they are important strength-giving exercises.

Q: What hours do you sleep?

A: I average ten hours sleep a day. Weightlifting is very hard on the nervous system, so therefore sleep and rest is needed for the muscles and the nerves to recover.

* Doug’s regular sleeping hours are from 2 a.m. to 1 p.m. He keeps late hours.

Q: Doug, what do you do in your spare time?

A: I rest . . . lay around in the sun . . . conserve my energy. Among my recreational interests are playing snooker, going to the cinema, reading my encyclopedia, discussing philosophy, memorizing poetry.

* He then gave a wonderful 10-minute recitation of Kellogg’s Spartacus to the Gladiators at Capua.

* Added by Strength Oldschool

* Memorizing lengthy bits of poetry is only a small part of Doug’s literary activities. He is well read on many subjects pertaining to human behavior and is at present studying Yogic teachings and mysticism as interpreted by Paul Brunton.

* Doug is constantly enlarging his knowledge and understanding of life and its many forms.

To Doug Hepburn, weightlifting is hard work. His right calf deficiency will not permit the full movement necessary for heavy cleans. This is a barrier, one that he is fighting in order to please public demand that he continue in the Olympic lifts. He is a weightlifter by public pressure and not by personal choice. He is and will be by his own choice a strongman, in the true sense of the word. He enjoys doing feats which require a minimum of skill and a maximum of strength. He can’t picture Louis Cyr doing the Olympic lifts. He wants to be known, for years after his death, as the strongest man that ever lived.

It is quite common to hear Doug say something like this:

Where is it all getting me? You do a 381 clean & press and they want 400. Do 400 and they want 430. And what do you get for it? Pats on the back . . . all the pats on the back won’t buy you a meal when you’re fifty and forgotten. I want security now and in my old age. Sure, I could go on remaining an amateur and more than likely clean & press 430, but why should I? Cleaning that much weight would require much hard work on the clean . . . something I don’t enjoy doing . . . something which is painful and difficult for me because of my right calf deficiency.” ~ Doug Hepburn

By Ray Beck


* NOTE by Strength Oldschool *

Quite a revealing interview on the mindset of Doug Hepburn. I've always loved reading articles by Ray Beck. Does anyone know if Ray Beck is alive and well? I believe his last message on Twitter was Aug. 15, 2022. Both his websites are down which isn't good news.

Further info on the life of Doug Hepburn can be read by purchasing Hepburn's book entitled "Strongman: The Doug Hepburn Story" by Tom Thurston.

Strongman - The Doug Hepburn Story by Tom Thurston

Doug Hepburn's complete "Drug Free" Size and Strength Building System can be read here.

If you wish to make comments on Doug Hepburn, this article or about the Author of this article, Ray Beck, please visit the links below:


If you long for the good ol' days of "Old School Bodybuilders and Strongmen" check out my Vintage Muscle Magazine videos on Youtube!

Thanks for reading and keep training hard folks!

All the best,

Strength Oldschool

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