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Strongman Doug Hepburn - My Complete Drug-Free Strength Building System


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* The following training system and information is from the book "Strongman: The Doug Hepburn Story" by Tom Thurston.

Edited by: Strength Oldschool


Strongman Doug Hepburn - Drug Free Ultimate Strength and Size Training Programs


This chapter contains all the information that you will need to make yourself as strong as you wish to become. The product of over sixty years of study, experimentation and training, it is easy to understand and employ, works equally well for either sex and produces regular and continuous gains that are precise enough to last months, possibly years, into the future. Since there are no tricks or drugs involved, the strength that results is real and will last well into later life.

The first step is to decide how many times a week you will be able to train. For best results, the minimum is two times and the maximum is six times per week. Less than twice will not allow the body enough exertion to realize its potential in either size or power; more than six will not give the body enough time fully to recuperate between workouts - especially if the workouts are rigorous.

The second step is to choose the exercises that you feel will most efficiently work the muscle groups that you wish to strengthen, and to organize these routines into a weekly schedule that never exceeds more than three exercises per workout, never work the same muscle group more than three times per week, and if you are working out more than three times a week, never include upper and lower body exercises in the same workout. Failure to follow these rules can over-tax the body within a few months, or even weeks, into your training.

If you desire a total body workout but can train only two or three times a week, you should choose the three exercises that will most effectively work the three largest muscle groups. My experience has shown these exercises to be the full squat for the legs, the bench press for the chest and the deadlift for the back. For example:
 

TRAINING 2 TIMES A WEEK

(Tuesday + Thursday)

  • Bench Press
  • Squat
  • Deadlift


TRAINING 3 TIMES A WEEK

(Monday + Friday)

  • Bench Press
  • Squat
  • Deadlift

(Wednesday)

  • Olympic Press
  • Squat
  • High Pulls


If you desire a total body workout and can train four to six times a week, you should choose six exercises. Three are those mentioned above. The other three should target muscle groups that complement the first three. For best results, I would suggest arm biceps curls (pictured below) for the front of the arm, since the bench press thoroughly strengthens the back of the arm; leg biceps curls for the back of the leg; high pulls for the upper back, since deadlifts thoroughly strengthen the lower back.
 

Strongman Doug Hepburn Barbell Curl


TRAINING 4 TIMES A WEEK

(Monday)

  • Bench Press
  • Deadlift
  • Arm Biceps Curls

(Tuesday)

  • Squat
  • Leg Biceps Curls
  • Calf Raises

(Thursday)

  • Bench Press
  • High Pulls
  • Arm Biceps Curls

(Friday)

  • Squat
  • Leg Biceps Curls
  • Calf Raises


TRAINING 6 TIMES A WEEK

(Monday)

  • Bench Press
  • Deadlift
  • Arm Biceps Curls

(Tuesday)

  • Squat
  • Leg Biceps Curls
  • Calf Raises

(Wednesday)

  • Olympic Press
  • High Pulls
  • Arm Biceps Curls

(Thursday)

  • Squat
  • Leg Biceps Curls
  • Calf Raises

(Friday)

  • Bench Press
  • Deadlift
  • Arm Biceps Curls

(Saturday)

  • Squat
  • Leg Biceps Curls
  • Calf Raises

 

With the 3, 4 and 6 times a week schedules, you will notice that on some training days the bench press and the deadlift have been replaced with the Olympic press and high pulls (pictured below).
 

Strongman Doug Hepburn High Pulls


This is because they work more or less the same muscles as the bench press and the deadlift, but are not quite as taxing. If you prefer to employ the more strenuous bench press and the deadlift in place of the Olympic press and high pulls (respectively) this will be fine. Just be aware that in doing so, because you are working each muscle group three times a week, you increase your chances of encountering muscle stagnation. Conversely, if you adhere strictly to the aforementioned training rule of never exerting your maximum lifting ability during training, muscle stagnation should not become a problem.

If you want to strengthen a specific muscle or muscle group rather than the body as a whole, feel free to employ any exercises that fulfill the requirement. Take care, however, that you give equal attention to opposing muscle groups. Failure to do so can throw the body out of muscular balance and, as a consequence, make it more susceptible to injury. Two common failures are doing bench presses without doing opposing rowing or high pulls; doing arm biceps curls without opposing arm triceps extensions.

Once you have organised your exercises into a workable schedule, your final step is to choose an appropriate training program for each exercise. While scheduling establishes what you want to do, programming outlines how you will do it, by giving precise starting poundages, poundage increases and repetition increases for each exercise. For the purpose of developing maximum size and power in the shortest time possible, my "A" and "B" programs have yet to be beaten.


DOUG HEPBURN'S "A" TRAINING PROGRAM FOR SIZE & POWER

The "A" program, although the less rigorous of the two, has been designed to increase the lifting capacity of any large muscle group (pectoral or thigh, for example) 120 pounds per year and any small muscle group (biceps or triceps, for example) 60 pounds per year. It is composed of two routines: a POWER routine for developing maximum strength in the muscles, tendons and ligaments, and a PUMP routine for developing maximum muscle size and endurance. The power routine is always completed first. To begin the "A" power routine, pick a poundage/weight that you can lift eight times in a row without resting (eight continuous repetitions) but not nine. For your first workout, perform eight sets of two repetitions with this weight, which is written in weightlifting shorthand as: 8 x 2. A set is one group of continuous repetitions (in this case, one group of two) and you always take a two to three minute rest after each set. For your second workout, add one repetition to what you did in your first workout to get seven sets of two repetitions plus one set of three repetitions, or 7 x 2 and 1 x 3. For your third workout do 6 x 2 and 2 x 3 and keep increasing repetitions in this manner until you can do eight sets of three repetitions, or 8 x 3. At this point, increase your training poundage no more than ten pounds for large muscle groups and five pounds for small muscle groups and return to the 8 x 2 formula. So your workouts should look like this...
 

  • First Workout: 8 sets of 2 reps
  • Second Workout: 7 sets of 2 reps and 1 set of 3 reps
  • Third Workout: 6 sets of 2 reps and 2 sets of 3 reps
  • Fourth Workout: 5 sets of 2 reps and 3 sets of 3 reps
  • Fifth Workout: 4 sets of 2 reps and 4 sets of 3 reps
  • Sixth Workout: 3 sets of 2 reps and 5 sets of 3 reps
  • Seventh Workout: 2 sets of 2 reps and 6 sets of 3 reps
  • Eighth Workout: 1 set of 2 reps and 7 sets of 3 reps
  • Ninth Workout: 8 sets of 3 reps


Once the above-noted power routine has been completed, take a five minute rest and begin your "A" Pump routine. Reduce your training poundages by about twenty percent and, for your first workout, do three sets of six repetitions, or 3 x 6. For your second workout, do 2 x 6 and 1 x 7 and keep adding repetitions in this manner until you can do 3 x 8. At this point, increase your exercising poundage five to ten pounds (less if you feel the need) and return to the 3 x 6 format. So your workouts should look like this...
 

  • First Workout: 3 sets of 6 reps
  • Second Workout: 2 sets of 6 reps and 1 set of 7 reps
  • Third Workout: 1 set of 6 reps and 2 sets of 7 reps
  • Fourth Workout: 3 sets of 7 reps
  • Fifth Workout: 2 sets of 7 reps and 1 set of 8 reps
  • Sixth Workout: 1 set of 7 reps and 2 sets of 8 reps
  • Seventh Workout: 3 sets of 8 reps

 

Doug Hepburn - 1950

 

DOUG HEPBURN'S "B" TRAINING PROGRAM FOR ULTIMATE SIZE & POWER

Once you have employed the above-noted "A" program for at least one full year and wish to embark on a more rigorous training schedule, the "B" program is the ultimate for developing both power and size. Like the "A" program, it is composed of both a power routine and a pump routine - with the power always performed first. It differs from the "A" program in that it incorporates "heavy singles," where the athlete lifts a weight only once before resting. The advantage of this procedure is that it allows you to employ the heaviest poundages possible during your workout, thereby allowing you the fastest strength gains. Be aware, however, that because the poundages used are considerably heavier than those in the "A" routine, there is more danger of injury or overtaxing.

To begin the "B" Power routine, choose a warm-up poundage that you can easily lift once. Take a three to five minute rest and increase the poundage to a weight that you can comfortably lift once. After a three to five minute rest, increase your poundage to a weight that you can do for three continuous repetitions but not four, and this will be your training poundage. For your first workout, do five sets of one repetition, or 5 x 1, making sure to take a three to five minute rest after each heavy single. For your second workout, do 6 x 1 and keep adding one repetition per workout until you can do 8 x 1. At this point, increase your training poundage by five to ten pounds (less if you feel the need) and return to the 5 x 1 format. So your 'Power' routine should look like this...
 

  • First Workout: 5 sets of 1 rep
  • Second Workout: 6 sets of 1 rep
  • Third Workout: 7 sets of 1 rep
  • Fourth Workout: 8 sets of 1 rep


After completing the power routine, take a ten to fifteen minute rest and do the "B" Pump routine. Decreasing your training poundage to a weight that you can comfortably lift for eight but not nine consecutive repetitions, perform six sets of three repetitions, or 6 x 3. For your second workout, do 5 x 3 and 1 x 4 and keep adding repetitions in this manner until you can do 6 x 5. At this point, increase your training poundage by five to ten pounds (less if you feel the need) and go back to 6 x 3. So your 'Pump' routine should look like this...
 

  • First Workout: 6 sets of 3 reps
  • Second Workout: 5 sets of 3 reps and 1 set of 4 reps
  • Third Workout: 4 sets of 3 reps and 2 sets of 4 reps
  • Fourth Workout: 3 sets of 3 reps and 3 sets of 4 reps
  • Fifth Workout: 2 sets of 3 reps and 4 sets of 4 reps
  • Sixth Workout: 1 set of 3 reps and 5 sets of 4 reps
  • Seventh Workout: 6 sets of 4 reps
  • Eighth Workout: 5 sets of 4 reps and 1 set of 5 reps
  • Ninth Workout: 4 sets of 4 reps and 2 sets of 5 reps
  • Tenth Workout: 3 sets of 4 reps and 3 sets of 5 reps
  • Eleventh Workout: 2 sets of 4 reps and 4 sets of 5 reps
  • Twelfth Workout: 1 set of 4 reps and 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Thirteenth Workout: 6 sets of 5 reps

 

Since the number of workout days in the 'Power' routines are different from the number of days in the 'Pump' routines ( 9 workout days in the "A" power routine compared to 7 workout days in the "A" pump routine; 4 workout days in the "B" power routine compared  with 13 workout days in the "B" pump routine. It is extremely important that, when you reach the end of either a power or pump routine in either program and are directed by that routine to return to its beginning sets and repetitions, you do not automatically return to the beginning of its corresponding routine at the same time. Each routine must be completed as written, or you will overtax your body by increasing your repetitions and training poundages too quickly. Follow the directions of each routine separately and the programs will take care of themselves.

To obtain maximum benefit from these two programs, adhere to the following rules: always keep as relaxed and at peace with yourself as you can; always follow a power routine with its indicated pump routine; never miss a workout, repetition increase or poundage increase; never attempt to accelerate your progress by taking drugs or altering the program.

Above all, never "over-train". In other words, never push your body faster than it can physically withstand. This is probably the main reason why lifters fail (notice that I said lifters and not programs) and most lifters are guilty of it at least once in their lives. Sadly, many lifters over-train on a regular basis, but remain unaware that they are doing it. Look at it this way: when a lifter arbitrarily decides to increase his or her training weight ten pounds a week, he or she is really saying 520 pounds a year or 1,040 pounds in two years - a completely unrealistic and unattainable goal. Unable to keep up with such a rigorous schedule, the body will quickly "stagnate" - a weightlifting term that means become unable to lift past a certain poundage due to muscle fatigue. Although all programs will probably result in stagnation if followed long enough, it has been my experience that faithfully following the two rules about repetition and poundage given above will produce constant and predictable gains for at least one year - quite probably two to three. What's more, you will never feel that you're struggling. As friend, protege and twice Canadian weightlifting champion Paul Bjarnason explains it:

Quote

"You never seem to be working that hard. You go through your regular, relaxing workout, making your regular relaxing increases as indicated, yet a few months later you are lifting all this weight that you never dreamed that you would be able to lift." ~ Paul Bjarnason


Should muscle stagnation occur, there is a simple cure. Eliminate the "Power Routine" for two to three weeks and continue the "Pump Routine". If the problem persists, drop the power routine for another two weeks. If the problem is still present and you are adhering to the "no more than one repetition increase per workout " rule, then your training poundage needs to be reduced. You have either started with too heavy a weight or are adding weight too quickly. For best results, a good rule is "never expend your full lifting capability while working out." Occasionally, you can load up your barbell or dumbbell for a maximum lift to gauge your progress. But do this no more than twice a month - and only after your regular workout, followed by a fifteen to twenty minute rest.

If a five to ten pound resistance increase becomes too much for your body to handle during any of the aforementioned programs or routines, feel free to reduce the amount of your increases to whatever you feel comfortable with. Since every person gains strength at a slightly different rate - depending on a variety of hereditary factors - it is just a matter of finding what works best for you. Also, be aware that when a person begins a strength program, he or she will usually gain fairly quickly because the muscles will be relatively fresh and quick to respond to the stimulation. As the program continues, however, progress will usually slow as the body begins to feel the effects of the extra work you are putting on it, and you might need to reduce slightly your rate of increase to compensate. Listen to your body as you exercise and you will know exactly when and how much. As long as you regularly increase your training poundages to some degree, your strength will increase in direct proportion. In this case, "slowly but surely" is the only rule to follow.

Another common reason why athletes fail in their strength aspirations is because they embark on a program that they do not have the time to maintain. Outside obligations and distractions invariably get in the way until the athlete either skips workouts (thereby destroying the program's long term effectiveness) or quits altogether. It is imperative, therefore, that you examine thoroughly your social obligations before you schedule your training. Better a moderately rigorous schedule that you can stick to, than a super-rigorous schedule that you can't. This is particularly relevant if you plan to compete, because every pound that you are unable to lift due to irregular training is one more opportunity that you give your opponents to beat you.
 

Olympic Weightlifting Legend John Davis


Once you have a specific goal firmly fixed in your mind, whether it is a future meet that you wish to win or a certain amount of weight that you wish to lift by a certain date, spend time meditating on it while you perform your workouts. The more you can visualize yourself succeeding at your goals, the more likely you will be to succeed for real when the opportunity arises. Seven-time World Weightlifting Champion John Davis of the United States (pictured above) once confided to me that he never attempted a lift - either in training or in competition - that he wasn't absolutely certain that he could complete. Former World and Olympic Champions, Paul Anderson, of the United States, Yuri Vlasov of the Soviet Union and Vasili Alexeyev of the Soviet Union also adhered to this philosophy.

Visualizing yourself succeeding during your non-training hours also enhances your lifting ability. Many times, while I was preparing either to enter a contest or to attempt a maximum lift, I would spend the entire day before the event not just "watching" myself complete the lift but actually "experiencing" myself completing it - over and over until it felt as though I had performed it hundreds of times. When the time to perform came, I was so "hyped up" I literally exploded with power and confidence.
 

The Bulk of Doug Hepburn - Photo by Ray Beck


Another mandatory and too often overlooked requirement for maximum size and strength gains is the maintenance of a proper diet. If you wish to gain a lot, you must eat a lot. In preceding chapters, I have referred to the massive amount of food that I consumed during my training (over 10,000 calories a day). If your goal is to compete on a world-class level, you must do the same. If your goal is to get strong for the sake of getting strong, then listen to your body and feed it well every time it asks for food. Just as some athletes find it impossible to realize that the body needs time to recuperate after a heavy workout, so others seem unable to comprehend that it also needs to be adequately fueled after hard exertion. On numerous occasions I have watched enthusiastic athletes undergo a lengthy training session only to sit down to a meal that wouldn't sustain a field mouse. They then wonder why they failed to gain more strength or size. When forcing your body to handle ever-increasing poundages, your food intake must be ever-increasing as well.

Your diet must never be random. For maximum strength gains, it must be balanced and high in vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates and complete amino acid-based protein. Dietary information has increased dramatically since the '50s, so do some research. Read books and talk to professionals for a program that is compatible with your goals. Once you begin training, weigh yourself daily (in the nude for accuracy) and keep a lifting journal. If you don't experience substantial increases in both strength and body weight, re-evaluate your lifting program and food intake.

Also emphasize liquid calories and nutrients. Shakes made from milk, juices, eggs, protein powder and honey are digested more easily than solid foods. Liquids also let the body assimilate more foods in less time, accelerating progress.

I also recommend milk, juices, shakes and other liquids during the actual training session. I have, on many occasions, consumed as many as three quarts of milk during a single session, with no ill effects. As a result, I have actually gained weight during my workouts. The only solid foods that can be consumed during a workout are easily digestible high-energy foods such as dates, figs, raisins and honey. But they should be taken in small doses only. This rule also applies to all cold liquids, including water.

One of the best ways to obtain quick energy during a lifting session is to drink a mixture of coffee and honey. Since coffee contains caffeine, however, it is recommended that you follow this practice only when you are competing, demonstrating or attempting a maximum lift.

Once you have established an effective diet and training program, it is crucial that you receive regular sleep and relaxation to offset your physical exertions. As previously noted, heavy barbell exercise temporarily depletes the body's energy reserves and the only time that the body can replace this energy is when it is at rest away from the gym. At least one hour of extra sleep a day is recommended if you are following the "A" program, and two hours if you are following the more rigorous "B" program.

Perhaps even more important than getting enough physical sleep every twenty-four hours is getting enough mental relaxation. Regular meditation will allow the mind, which is constantly racing to keep up with the hectic pace of the world around it, to slow down and relax. Tensions will melt away and you will soon be better able to distinguish those aspects of your daily life that deserve concerned attention and those that do not. During important competitions or public demonstrations, I made it a habit never to stand when I could sit, and never to sit when I could lie on my back with my eyes closed. A lot of athletes and spectators perceived this to be laziness, but it was a simple technique that many world class lifters of the time employed. The great American lifter John Davis, had so conditioned himself in this method that he was able to sleep immediately prior to competing and had to be awakened when it was his turn to lift.

As important as it is, at times, to be able to blot out everything around you except lifting and thoughts of lifting, it is equally important to be able to blot out all thoughts of competing and training. Life is more than just exercise; in order to be truly happy, you have to know how to give equal time and attention to such endeavours as family, career, hobbies and relaxation. As philosopher Paul Brunton once said:

Quote

"We must be selective and take no more from the world than we need to attain our goal. Many may laugh at this belief, but they produce nothing extraordinary." ~ Paul Brunton


Be aware, also, that by faithfully following the above-noted programs, you will discover more of yourself. What you accomplish, you accomplish on your own because you have the faith, honesty, courage and determination to delve into yourself and discern your exact capabilities. While dishonest lifters struggle to create an illusion, you tear illusion away and, as a consequence, build a strength of spirit that no dishonest lifter can come close to, and no amount of aging can destroy.
 

Strongman Doug Hepburn Bench Presses 525 lbs


Before my conception and implementation of these training principles, the general state of weightlifting was at a standstill. No one in the world, for example, had been able to bench press 500 pounds (which is why it was referred to as the "500 pound barrier"), and most world strength authorities considered it impossible. Not only was I the first man on the planet to do so (completely drug free) (1953, June 30 - Western Sports Centre, Vancouver), I added another 85 pounds to my world record within a few months.

My methods were emulated following my gold medal win at Stockholm. The Russian and Bulgarian lifting teams began studying and adopting my principles and training procedures - to the point of following me from competition to competition. This is because they were able to realize early that the total poundage that an athlete lifts over a long and controlled time period is infinitely more beneficial than a series of maximum or near maximum lifts performed over a shorter, more sporadic time period.

What you must understand if you are to get the most from your training, is that these principles will work as well fifty years from now as they did fifty years ago because the timing of the routines has been synchronized, as far as possible, with the body's inherent rate of response to training with heavy weight. Athletes and other so-called experts in the field have resorted to drug use because they have been unable to accelerate the effectiveness of these programs and routines in any other way.

In conclusion, let me re-affirm the promise that I made at the beginning: this information is all that you will need to become as strong as you wish to become on all three levels of your existence.

The rest is up to you. Good luck and good training.


Doug Hepburn
 

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