Pat Casey: King of the Powerlifters
by Bill Pearl
I first met Pat Casey in 1956. He was competing in a teen-age physique contest in
. At that time, points were given for athletic ability. These points then became a part of the scoring system. During the interview with Pat I asked him, “How much can you bench press?” Pat said, “Over 400 lbs!” I made some smart remark like, “Yeah, I bet you can!” Pat replied, “You wanta see me do it?” I said, “Yes.” Pat turned around and headed for the warm-up area with all the judges in pursuit. Pat loaded over 400 lbs. on to a cheap bar. He laid back on a bench (with no padding) while two of us handed him the bar. He benched it with ease. I couldn’t believe it! That was the heaviest bench press I had ever seen anyone do regardless of age. Here I was the ‘hot dog’ of the physique world and this seventeen year old kid was handling more weight than I ever hoped to. I don’t remember how Pat placed in the contest that day but I do remember I gained a lot of respect for him which I still have to this day. Berkeley, California
When I bought Redpath’s Gym in
in 1958, I inherited some of the strongest and best world-class athletes I have ever associated with. Every monster who lived in the Los Angeles area and those who came to visit ended up training there, Pat was a part of that crew. Pat was younger than guys like Dallas Long, chuck Ahrens and Steve Merjanian who were also ungodly strong. But he had the mental attitude of a seasoned veteran who knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish with his training. In my opinion Pat was not blessed with a physique hat went along with the weight he was capable of handling. He has long legs, long arms, and a short torso. This is the opposite of people like Paul Anderson or Doug Hepburn who were built for strength. Pat overcame this handicap through his methods of training and positive attitude. All the years he trained in my gym he never missed a scheduled workout. He was meticulous about keeping records and was serious about setting short-term goals that led to long-term goals. Because of Pat’s strength increases over the years I eventually had to weld extra supports o the benches he used. I was afraid the benches would not hold the weight. He would do chest exercises with 220 lb. dumbells in each hand. There was a corner of the gym where Pat stored his weights for special lifts. The 220 lb. dumbells were there along with a 330 lb. dumbell he used for dips. Nobody touched Pat’s weights and nobody other than Pat wanted to touch his weights. L.A.
One exercise that Pat liked to do was Seated Dumbell Presses on a special bench that was built to sit directly on the floor and had a back support. He would clean one of the 185 lb. dumbells to his shoulder and I would usually hand him the other. It got so I dreaded seeing Pat haul out the bench because I knew I was going to have to bust my ass helping him with the exercise. I can verify some of the marathon training sessions that Pat put himself through that are mentioned in this booklet. He would make up his mind that he was going to lift a certain amount of weight in a certain way and in a certain time and I never saw him fail. I have stories that could go on for hours about Pat. When a lot of us “Old Timers” get together and start talking about strength, Pat Casey gets top billing. The years we trained together he inspired me and everyone in the gym to become the “best we could be.” He continues to do the same today.
by Bruce Wilhelm
What is of particular interest to me is the fact that as a youth he was not overly large or strong. There was no indication from those beginnings that Pat would become the first man in the world to Bench Press 600 lbs. or 500 or squat 800 or total over 2000. This was when there were no bench shirts, just plain old hard backbreaking work. Hopefully, these facts will act as a catalyst to improve your training and inspire you to greater lifts. One other interesting side fact is that Pat came from a broken home and as a youngster ran with some hardened criminals. By getting hooked on Iron, he learned to press big weights in gyms and competitions, not license plates in the State pen. So with that little tag line, let’s get into the world of Pat Casey.
Born July 15, 1939 in
, Pat Casey weighed approximately nine pounds. As a child he ran around and played the usual neighborhood sports. Nothing early in his life on gave an indication of what was going to begin in 1954 or what was to come in the next 15 years. He actually began training at home on and off. His father bought Pat his first weight set, a 110 pound Paramount Barbell set. As with a lot of people who take up lifting weights, there was a reason. The area of Los Angeles L.A. that Pat grew up in was definitely not Beverly Hills, try more like Watts. Self-defense was necessary for your physical survival. The neighborhood bully enjoyed bouncing Pat around as a 12 year old. Pat retaliated by lifting weights to add muscle and strength. Eventually he was indeed able to kick the bully’s butt. But at the same time, the budding confidence of young Pat Casey was beginning to develop.
During these early years, Pat says he was running with a bad group of thugs who were into how-wiring cars, theft, extortion and petty crimes. Pat gives full credit to the weights for turning his life around. Weight training gave him focus and direction. He also could see the changes in his body development and like a perpetual gushing oil well his enthusiasm grew.
Pat is also generous in his praise of Gene Mozee, who gave him confidence and encouragement in the quest for strength. Gene was somewhat of a strength star himself, being the first man to officially bench press 400. He did this at a bodyweight of 181, later upping his record to 455 at 230. We’ll revisit Mozee later.
Pat discovered Redpath’s Gym at 1943 West Manchester in
. This is where he really started to bloom. He started out with a 135 pound bench press. Prior to joining Redpath’s, he had trained at home with the exercise set his father had purchased and obviously had made good use of it. It gives one a moment’s pause to think that almost all great strength athletes started out with a 110 pound set. Some piece of equipment. As far as training, Johnny Bazakus actually started Pat off in bodybuilding. This was when he was a sophomore at Los Angeles George Washington High School in . At age 15 in 1955 he entered a physique contest and took second place. His bodyweight was 185/190 pounds. He won the 1956 Mr. George Washington contest and then concentrated on the up and coming Teenage Mr. Los Angeles America in . He did indeed enter that contest, and placed 5th. He felt that he deserved 3rd. Berkeley
It was also at this time that Pat was actually bench pressing 420 pounds. It is at this point that I have to digress somewhat and repeat a comment that Bill Pearl (Mr. Everything) made to me about Pat. Bill was one of the referees at the above mentioned teen contest. At this time, if I’m not mistaken, one had to demonstrate some athletic ability as part of the point system in effect back then. Casey blew
’s mind by benching 400-plus pounds. You have to remember, not many people anywhere could bench 400, let alone, a 17 year old high school student. Pat’s weight was about 215. This also says a lot about Pat’s ability to be able to always perform at a high level. He did not have to check his bio-rhythm chart, or to be totally rested or to have his own equipment to do his best lifting on. His training for the bench press at this time consisted of 5 sets of 5 reps done twice a week. Pearl
Pat said after getting his butt kicked in the Teenage Physique contest, he went back to Redpath’s and hooked up with Gene Mozee. They soon went to
for a bench press contest and Gene was a real inspiration to Pat. He benched 405 with a two-second pause and a narrow grip at a bodyweight of 180. Pat cranked out a 425 at 215 and 17 years of age. The last two factors, his age and weight, really stunned some of the seasoned onlookers. They had never seen anything like this before. It is also interesting to note that this lifting in front of a lot of people was really inspiring to Pat and for the first time in his life he was just completely excited about lifting. It was a little while after this exposure at Muscle Beach that Pat entered a chin and dip contest and was able to perform 15 chins and 40 dips at a weight of 225. Muscle Beach
During the next several years Pat’s training took on a somewhat inspired note during his lifting at Gene Mozee’s Pasadena Gym. There were plenty of strong lifters as well as Mozee himself. There wasn’t a day that some strongman did not show up to train. It was a great environment, somewhat reminiscent of Bill “Peanuts” West and his Westside Barbell in
in the late 60’s and 70’s. Everyday personalities were 205’ discus thrower Bell Neville, bodybuilder/strength athlete Dennis Melke (495 bench press at 220), as well as the reclusive Richard Kee who is a story in and of himself. Pat remembers Kee doing a 300 behind neck press circa 1958 and no drugs. Mozee actually gave some other details on Kee, such as a 525 bench with feet straight out. However, I’m sure this only served to spur Casey on to greater heights. There is nothing like competition. It either brings the best out of a person, or he folds like an accordion. Within a matter of several years Pat would blow by these other lifters like they were standing still. Culver City
One interesting note here. Pat claims that Gene Mozee talked him out of playing football his senior year. He got Pat to focus on his training. Gene told him better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond. Gene saw at an early juncture in Casey’s career that he had awesome potential and that with good training and guidance he could be a world beater. Actually during 1961 Mozee tried to introduce Pat to Bob Hoffman, the “father” of Olympic lifting, Powerlifting etc., etc. This was in Santa Monica 1961 at the Senior Nationals. Hoffman had been talking about America needing to get big strong men into Olympic lifting, but according to Mozee, Hoffman said “at a later time.” One never knows what Pat could have done with serious specialization, but one only has to look at how well Shane Hammond has done (Powerlifter turned Olympic lifter – 407 ¾ Snatch and 485 Clean and Jerk).
During the early 60’s Pat continued to do his backbreaking workouts. During these early years there was no lack of other strength athletes for Casey to spar with. At Redpath’s gym, Dallas Long, at that time closing in on a 500 bench press, Dave Davis right behind at 490. Rink Babka, 1960 Olympic Silver Medalist and world record holder in the discus, also came by for an occasional workout.
1964 saw Pat training off and on with Steve Marjanian who was also blossoming as a strength athlete. Merjanian favored pressing like Casey, but preferred to concentrate on the incline press. I distinctly remember reading and seeing pictures of Big Steve in IronMan Magazine. I believe it was a picture showing him doing some seated dumbell presses. A later shot showed him at
attempting 440 on the incline. I have to tell you, I really get a kick out of seeing the lifters of the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s. They always wore oversized flannel shirts, preferably long-sleeved, always toting a half gallon of milk. Beings back memories of Chuck Fish, Chicago Power House 1959-64, later into pro wrestling; Charles Ahrens, recluse of all time, great in partial movements as we all know; Richard Kee, Pasadena; Merjanian, L.A. And then you compare with the spandex lifter of today (this is author’s digression). Muscle Beach
Getting back to training. It would take place at Redpath’s, Peanuts West’s Gym or with Merjanian at
. I know you are wondering just as I did, what the heck is Lincoln Heights ? This is truly a story that has to be told. Lincoln Heights Lincoln Heights is where Pat’s father lived, one mile east of Chinatown. As mentioned earlier, Pat came from a broken home. He was actually raised by his loving mother, but did some of his workouts at his father’s home in . Today it would be called East L.A. Out back there was a little shack about 10’ x 10’ where Pat paid his dues. And did he ever pay his dues! He would bench there and also do lockouts off wood and metal milk boxes, but more to the point, this was the location of Pat’s first 600 bench press, although unbeknown to him at the time. There was 585 pounds on the bar. The plates were Lincoln Heights . As you’ll see later when you look at his training log workout, the 585 was tough. However, upon moving the weights several years later to his health club, Pioneer Health Club in Paramount , they weighed the plates and found the 45’s to be somewhat over weight. The 585 was actually 605. It was after this massive effort that the injuries began. From then on, there was always some nagging injury that he had to compensate for or train around. He feels that, in retrospect, the injuries came from massive overtraining as well as some stupid things he did. One that might be classed more as careless than stupid was his attempting a 550 Bench one night with NO SPOTTERS. Also, the electricity was off and had a candle lit. As he was benching, the wind blew out the solo candle and the bar came down and rested on his neck. He tilted the bar to one side, but the plates hit the wall and would not come off. He finally got out from under the massive load, but even to this day he does not remember how. Another time he was being spotted by his former wife. He missed the weight and she could not pull it off his massive chest. So then he told her, “Pull a 45 off each end.” She did and dropped one on her foot and broke it. I have to tell you, I had tears in my eyes hearing these two stories. They do, however, tell the story of the importance of a spotter. Better safe than sorry. Norwalk
One of the things which Pat did for which he is probably paying the price for today was his marathon dipping sessions. One time he did dips for 8 hours. Yes, 8 hours. Also note that at a bodyweight of 300, he did a single with 380. In several of these “insanity marathons” he would dip with over 100,000 pounds in this 7 or 8 hour period. He also experimented with some lifts that few would ever do, let alone even know. He would do a neck bridge pullover and press. His best, a mind-boggling 405. Try that on the old noggin sometime.
I queried him about his prodigious tricep power. He said that it came after years of hard work. His style was actually somewhat unusual in that he took the bar off the rack, hooked his feet under the bench, leaned back and then proceeded to do his lying tricep extensions. His usual workout would be as follows:
135 x 10, 225 x 5, 275 x 3, 315 x 2 or 3, 365 x 1 or 2.
The best he ever made was 365 x 3. Folks, that is some weight! Just remember that these lifts were performed under less than perfect conditions. Also, no EZ curl bar. Nothing but a straight Olympic bar.
As I stated previously, Pat was always in a positive and upbeat lifting environment. His attitude was always positive, and in all truthfulness, he never said much about any of his competition. He felt a person’ lifts should be his calling card. Why badmouth other lifters?
Some of the outstanding athletes he was either training or training with were from football: Ron Mix, USC great, later played pro-ball with the San Diego Chargers. The McKeever Twins, two awesome animals from USC who played football as well as track and field. Mike Henry, who later played Tarzan in the movies. From track and field, Dallas Long, world record holder in the shot put and Olympic champion. Pat felt that with a period of specialization
could have benched 600. Pat says that he would come into the gym and find him half asleep. Then he’d start his workout with Pat spotting him, and he’d bring the weight down slowly with his trademark 22” grip and then fire it off his chest like a rocket. His tricep strength was unbelievable. As I mentioned before, Pat’s training was truly enhanced by being around, as well as training with, great athletes. Dallas
He said that, in reality, he did not have any advice since he mainly trained by himself. But as we know, at certain times in his career he did train with others. However, I can attest to the fact that he had truly weird training hours. One night way back in ’61 I was upset that I had to go to
with my father. As a reward for going I would go by Redpath’s Gym, now owned by Bill Pearl, to see if anyone was inside or training. Well, on this one particular night Pat was supposed to be in L.A. doing an exhibition or contest. Well, I saw him, there in the back of the gym, moving weights around and doing some dips. Now there is nothing abnormal about this except for the fact that it was 11:45 p.m. There wasn’t a soul in the gym. My father at the time commented to me that it indeed did seem to be late to be working out. However, as my father later would attest, it wasn’t that many years later that I woke him out of a sound sleep at 12:30 a.m. to spot me on the bench press for 435 x 5. I always did my homework before training. I thought that I had better be a good student because Uncle Sam was waiting for me to finish my Master’s degree before going on active duty. Berkeley
But getting back to Pat, he said that he always had to motivate himself. He would read all the magazines he could get his hands on and see what other lifters were doing, what type of routines they were using. At this time there was no amount of information like there is today. Today it seems as though everyone has a guaranteed bench routine to add 50 pounds in one month, or a new bench shirt that will add 100 pounds, or there is some supplement that will add pounds of muscle. As Pat said himself, “I knew that to reach my goals I would have to do a tremendous amount of hard work.” And that is the story. He never looked back and plowed forward, breaking barrier after barrier, setting record after record. He wowed thousands with his performance, but I think that most importantly he did it with dignity and style. He never became an arrogant athlete claiming to be the “World’s Strongest Man,’ or ‘world’s greatest bencher.” He did what he did without the effects of magical drugs and super clothing. I really have wondered what he could have done had he continued for one or two more years. I have always been of the opinion since I have known Pat and seen him lift that he unquestionably would have done over 700 the way he was going. There is not a doubt he could have done in the high 900’s in the squat and if he’d ever worked the deadlift, 750. That would have given him 2400 back in the late 60’s.
For those of you in the know, Pat retired from powerlifting in 1967. He had promised his wife Carol that when he broke 600 on the bench and 2000 total he would bag it. That is why in his
competition with Terry Todd he did not take a 3rd attempt in the bench press. He said he could have easily done 608/614. (More about that contest later.) But another reason was because at his weight of 340 he felt uncomfortable and that his blood pressure was moderately elevated. In his last contest when he was red lighted with his 2nd attempt 825 world record squat, the bar rolled or shifted somewhat and caused him to partly black out even though he finished the lift. Now for the funny story about his contest that he later related to me. Bob Hise, Sr. ran up to him and said, “are you going to take your 3rd attempt, you don’t have much time left.” Pat retorted, “Hell no!” He could barely see was still exhausted and dizzy from the effort. One other funny story about Hise and Casey. Pat was lifting in a contest in San Diego and Bob Hise was one of the referees. He came up to Pat before attempting 600 for a Bench Press World Record and told Pat that he had an engineering background and that he had determined that the bench was not stable enough to handle his attempt at 600 and to be careful. That is surely one hell of a note to tell a man before attempting a world record. Needless to say, Pat missed the attempt. So much for mental toughness. L.A.
The next part of Casey’s history is the following question and answer session:
Pat Casey: That is bullshit. I was continuously in some state of injury in 1964, ’65 and ’66, even some in ’67. I never entered a competition, from 1964 on, that I was not injured in some way, shape or form. The other factor was all the lousy benches they had. It was great if you were benching three or four hundred, but when you started to get up in the big weights you needed a stout bench. You’ll notice in some of the photos of me benching that I had my own bench at the contest. The meet equipment was so rickety that I would never use it. They were happy when I brought my bench. It was designed to last. And to finish the story about being a West Coast lifter and never meeting the competition head on,
York, i.e. Hoffman sent out the self proclaimed strongest powerlifter around to do battle with me in . As I recall the events of the day, there was overall quite a bit of distance between him and me. Or course I am talking about Terry Todd, San Diego ’s man and a very good lifter, but that day he seemed to be off. York
Obviously Casey was being somewhat generous in his assessment of Todd’s battle with him. Casey smoked him. It was no contest. At this contest in
against Terry Todd, Casey totaled over 2000. San Diego
His attempts were 2 in the bench press – 570, 592, passed his 3rd attempt where he was confident of doing 608/614. Completely caught Todd off guard with all 3 successful squats: 700, 740, 775 and finished it off with a deadlift of 635. Casey won by 120 pounds. Todd attempted to salvage some face by trying an 800 deadlift with straps which he was able to get near his knees. Pat’s victory certainly eliminated the title of “West Coast Lifter,” as he put away the best entry the entire
had to offer. He certainly did not avoid this contest, besides trouncing Todd by 120 pounds. In retrospect it should be noted that Casey hurt his back 5 days before this competition and seriously considered pulling out. But he was so tired of hearing about how great Todd was that he was determined to compete and win. Not only did he win, but he became the first man to total over 2000. United States
BW: It has been rumored and even spoken by Hepburn, words to the effect that you copied Big Doug’s routine for the bench (Doug Hepburn was the 1953 World Weightlifting Champion and one of the first true powerlifters. He was known for his pressing strength as well as squat. He used a collar-to-collar grip in the bench.).
PC. Such kind words, Bruce. But the fact of the matter is that I did buy his course and read it. It helped. I did not do that much if any Olympic lifting as Hepburn did. And you will note that I trained more bodybuilding movements. So putting it in perspective, he did single attempts and Olympic lifting, while I did seated press and seated press behind neck, chins, dips. lying triceps extensions and lockouts 4” and 7” off the chest.
BW: You seemed to have put an unusual emphasis on dips, especially with heavy weights. I believe your best was 380 x 1 @ 305 bodyweight. And as a side thought, the only other great benchers I can think of who used dips were Marvin Eder and Dallas Long. (Note:
Eder should be familiar to all as a powerlifter/Olympic lifter who did a single dip with 434 pounds at a weight of 198.)
PC: Marvin was the reason I did dips. This movement works every part of the body, but most importantly it puts special emphasis on the triceps and deltoids. As I’m sure you are aware, triceps make up 2/3’s of the arm and that explosion off the bottom and continuous follow-through, especially lockout at the end of the bench press comes from triceps strength. The last workout I did on dips was one of my marathon workouts. At a bodyweight of 300 and using a 250 pound dumbell I did 200 repetitions. I started with sets of 5, then 4, gradually descending all the way down to singles. I did this over a 7 hour period of time and I can readily attest to the fact that I was totally thrashed. I felt shot for the next two weeks. But for some reason at that time I felt that they helped. On several other occasions I did over a 100,000 pound workload dipping, working over a period of 8 hours. I might add that while I was in this pre-power phase I truly trained to exhaustion. I really had to drag my butt home. In addition, I would also go on these marathon binges with the press behind neck. In looking back now, it was total insanity. It caused numerous injuries and I stopped this type of training in ’65. I can probably trace many of my shoulder injuries to this type of workout. Looking at the situation today, if I were training heavy now I would cut the sets back to probably 5 or 6 sets. I would still do dips, but no marathon sessions.
BW: How about listing out the exercises you used and then take us through a typical workout?
1.) Bench Press
2.) Bench Press lockouts 4 and 7 inches from chest.\
3.) Dumbell Incline or Barbell Incline (stopped DB incline after 285 bodyweight.
4.) Lying Tricep Extension
6.) Seated Military Press
7.) Press Behind Neck – Seated
9.) All forms of rowing
Bench Press Lockouts: . Singles from 4 inches off chest. 3 singles from 7 inches off chest. After lockouts, 2 sets of regular benches with 405 x 3.
Dumbell Incline: 3 sets of 5 reps warmup. 120 x 10, 200 x 3 sets of 5 reps. Best: 220 x 6 @ 285 bodyweight.
Lying Triceps Extension: 5-6 sets of 3-5 reps.
Chins: 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.
Curls: 3 sets of 5 reps @ 100 pounds. I feel that I should have done more curling.
Squats: 135 x 5, 22 x 3, 315 x 2, 405 x 2, 585 x 2, 650 x 5 singles, 515 x 10.
Leg Extension: 3 x 20 reps.
Leg Curls: 2 x 12 reps.
Deadlifts from below knee: (working on sticking point) 315 x 5, 405 x2, 515 x 1, 565 x 6 singles.
Wednesday and Thursday
Rest. I worked an 8 hour job during the day.
Bench Press: 135 x 20, 225 x 10, 315 x 5, 405 x 5, 515 x 1, 560/570 x 5 singles, 405 x 10, 315 x 20.
Seated Military Press: I had to turn my head to the side to get the barbell past my face. 135 x 10, 225 x 5, 315 x 3, 400 x 1, 315 x 5, 225 x 8.
Dips: Bodyweight x 3 sets of 5 reps, then 10 sets of 205 x 5 reps.
Lockout Squats: above parallel, squat down and stop on pins. Dead stop. No bounce at the bottom. 135 x 10, 225 x 5, 315 x 3, 405 x 2, 515 x 1. 585 x 1, 650 x 1, 750 x 5 singles, finish with full squat – 405 x 5 with a pause at the bottom. These lockouts were mainly for the feel of handling heavy weight.
Leg Extensions: 3 sets of 20 reps.
Leg Curls: 2 sets of 12 reps.
I would also throw in some bodybuilding movements and neck work.