Wrist Curls, The Bench Press, and Enrique Hernandez
by Joseph Horrigan, Soft Tissue Center
Barbell Crossover Stars
by Dresdin Archibald
Profiling World Champ Enrique Hernandez
by Grant Williams (1977)
"I don't have any kneecaps, and haven't had them since 1967," Enrique Hernandez told me. I stared at him in total disbelief. It simply couldn't be true, not with a man who was an Olympian in 1968, and a world champion at powerlifting. Nobody without kneecaps could possibly squat an official 472 world record at 132, or at a training weight of 136 do a triple with 475 totally without wraps.
"Yes, Bill, it's true. I was on my way to a weightlifting meet in 1967, when the driver of a jeep in which I was riding ran a stop sign. We were broadsided by another vehicle. The jeep flipped over on top of me after I fell out, and my legs were smashed. In my right leg alone, there were three compound fractures, and my kneecap was completely ripped away. After the accident they couldn't even find it.
"The damage was so extensive that for some time the doctors were going to amputate my right leg. The only thing that saved me was being on the U.S. Air Force weightlifting team and having somewhat more status than the average airman. Had I been a nobody, they would have cut the leg off. That day they transferred me to another hospital for a specialist to look at me, and the leg was saved. This happened in May of 1967, and in May of 1968 I made the Olympic weightlifting team for my native Puerto Rico, meeting the qualifying total for all nations."
The bottom line on Enrique Hernandez's legs is that he's been lifting for the last 10 years without a kneecap on either side. "It causes some limitations," he admits. "For example, I've been doing leg extensions for 10 years and haven't been able to improve 10 pounds in the movement. Nor can I do any sort of jumping. Still, I've worked my legs so hard that I've overcome the handicaps.
"My legs do hurt. In 1971 I was doing 475 for a squat triple, all the way down, with no wraps. It's deteriorated since then. The squat is still my best lift, but it's so hard to train. Usually my legs are dead after a workout."
Holder of a Master's Degree, Enrique is an Assistant Professor in the Physical Education Department at San Diego State University. His education and resultant knowledge of anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and biomechanics have greatly influenced his training. So have his studies of Soviet Olympic lifters.
Hernandez training in cycles, gearing his overall workout plan to peak at three to five meets a year. As competition approaches, his training gradually becomes more intense, a procedure which helps him peak higher each meet. He told me about his workouts . . .
"Right now I'm doing something entirely different than in the past. I train two days in a row and then take one day off, which gives me at least 48 hours of rest for each muscle group. If I do bench presses on Monday, I will do them again on Thursday and again on Sunday (this is not a 7-day, week-based repeating cycle). According to physiologists it takes about 48 hours to recuperate from a strength workout, and that's the reason I now use this system of training.
"If benches are done on Mondays and Thursdays, squats and deadlifts will be trained on Tuesdays and Fridays. I often work out on a Sunday like any other day, because the regular three-day cycle hits that day too. Day One: Bench; Day Two: Squat and Deadlift; Day Three: Rest. Repeat.
"I use the same type of sets that the Bulgarians and the Russians do with their Olympic lifters -- no more than 2 or 3 repetitions, but a tremendous number of sets. Sometimes my workout will last a full hour and a half for each of the lifts, so you can see that I do many sets. This could be 30, 40, or 50 sets for each of the three powerlifts, because I do a lot of assistance exercises."
Enrique's deadlift has come up quite a bit in recent months. "To improve my deadlift I do pulls from above the knees, and plenty of negative movement deadlifts. I think the negatives have done it for me. In the power rack, using straps, I managed 750 from my knees, but that area of the lift is usually not my problem. Ordinarily I have trouble starting the weight from the floor."
With such training Hernandez has official lifts at 132 of 472 squat, 336 bench, 510 deadlift, 1296 total, and 275 Olympic press. His training performances are far more remarkable. At his normal bodyweight of 136, Enrique has done a single bench press of 370, double with 350, and 10 consecutive reps with 310. He's also done 500x1 and 405x10 in the squat, 310x3 incline press, incline dumbbell press 150x5,dips with 250, five pinch grip pullups on 2x12 rafters, a front squat of 405 and an Olympic press of 292! With such lifts in mind, it's easy to believe he'll do the 500-350-550 for a 1400 total that he's predicting at the '77 Senior Nationals.
Enrique Hernandez has won well over 200 trophies in Olympic lifting and Powerlifting during his 12 years of competition. In Powerlifting he was Pan-Am Champion in 1973, World Champion in 1975, and National Champion in 1970, 1973, 1974, and 1975. He was Olympic lifting champion in 1971 and has even won awards in freestyle wrestling and arm wrestling.
Since he has gained considerable success in both of the Iron Game's lifting sports, I asked Hernandez if he prefers one over the other. "No. To me they are not as individually important as simply being able to compete in one or the other. Actually, I've been told that I'm in the wrong sport and should be in wrestling. Experts say that I'm a much better wrestler than weightlifter or powerlifter."
Perhaps Enrique's approach to personal physical fitness has had much to do with his success in powerlifting, as well as in other sports. "I love to maintain my own physical fitness, and I believe all athletes should be fit. I'm 32, and very few can keep up with me in running, swimming, wrestling, gymnastics or powerlifting. Because of my fitness I can train with anyone for three or four hours and never run out of gas."
Hernandez runs between 20 and 30 miles per week, in addition to his powerlifting workouts. This is usually in the form of three to five miles per day at a six-minute mile pace (remember the kneecaps?). Such training has dipped his pulse rate down to the under 60 beats per minute range.
As great as his success has been, Enrique feels he will do better in the future. "From 1967 to 1970 I made extremely good gains because I was in the Air Force, had plenty of time to work out, good facilities, and fine coaching. Right now, my wife and I are trying to get ahead in life, and I have many debts from my schooling. As a result I have less workout time, it's difficult to concentrate on a good diet, and I have only a minimum of coaching.
"If I can find time to work out, I think I can keep making gains in powerlifting for 10 more years. I'm getting stronger and stronger, and am hardly training when compared to past years. As Gloria and I become more established in life, my training situation will improve and gains will come quickly."
Enrique lifts for the Thompson Power Team from which he receives travel support and equipment. The greatest influence in his life, however, has been his wife, Gloria. "When I met her I was a nobody and had no ambitions. My wife has been the best thing that has ever happened to me!"