Part One is here:
No one makes it to the top of their profession without an abundance of intelligence and truckloads of discipline. Pat Casey has both. He also is probably the hardest working son-of-a-gun whoever graced a bench with uprights growing out of it. consequently, like E.F. Hutton, when Pat Casey talks about bench pressing, you listen!
As Pat grew into manhood, he did a lot of the same exercises both you and I have done trying to get his bench press up. As every weight trainer knows, it's easier to make gains at first. Somehow, Casey was able to push his lift in a non-plateauing fashion naturally. Sure, he increased his bodyweight steadily, but plenty of lifters have tried that route and failed miserably. As Casey got higher and higher, he needed to look deeper and deeper for sound reasoning to make his bench move. I asked about his training theories and this is what I found out:
"After reaching 500 pounds, I found it much more difficult not only to gain bodyweight, but to make my bench move. At the peak of my power, this is the program I think had the most result-producing gains with . . .
"On my first day I'd start with bench press lockouts. I'd do low and high lockouts. My theory was that if I strengthened my attachments and tendon strength, I could do more volume work in other exercises without breakdown or injury. I was after the mental effect of handling real big weights too, and was hoping for a muscle learning effect at two angles, one was where my pectorals first seemed to fail leverage-wise, the second (high lockout) was where my triceps failed endurance-wise. I had something set up on my bench like a miniature power rack. I'd do a variety of repetitions off the pins 3-4" above my chest and then a bunch off the pins about 7-8" off my chest. I'd do lots or warmups, but then get down to brass tacks quickly. I'd always do around 5-6 singles from each of these positions. I've always liked singles and believe they do much more than test strength. After all, your level of muscle fiber-nerve recruitment is highest on a single attempt. Once a week is all I'd do this move. Following the singles at the top position, I'd pull the pins and do two sets of 20-25 repetitions with 325 for a full muscle pump. Remember, the bigger your chest, the shorter the distance you have to press the weight.
"My second exercise would be incline dumbbell presses at a 35-45 degree angle. Usually, I'd do about 5-6 sets of 3-5 repetitions. I'd use between 180-220 pound dumbbells. I developed a style for cleaning them by setting them high on my thighs on end, tossing my body backwards at the same time I thrust my legs up and pulled on them suckers. I got damn good at it. My best was 5 sets of 4 one day with 210 pounders. Later on, I switched to barbell inclines where I hit 535 for a 45 degree single back about 1966-67. I'd do the same thing, sets of 3-5.
"My third exercise was bar dips. Here I'd used bodyweight with 300-385 pounds strapped on me. At one time, my total weight was easily in excess of 700 pounds. I'd do 5 sets of 3 repetitions. I guess my best was around 720 pounds for one rep.
"From here I'd go to seated military presses with my back braced, using a wide grip on the bar and starting the move at chin level. Again, I'd get 5 sets of 3 reps. By keeping my elbows wide and directed outward, I tried to simulate a bench press in a seated position. I got somewhere between 310-330 for my sets of 3, did a single at 405 and would always finish with a pump down set of 20 repetitions.
"Up to this point, I had hit the pectorals from different angles of force with my lockout and inclines. I hit deltoid-pectoral attachments in my dips and deltoids-upper pectorals with the presses. The dips got my triceps too, mostly the sides.
"I went to lying triceps pullover and presses for my back triceps plus pressing power. I'd lie on a bench, take a 10" grip on the bar, lower the weight back behind my head and pull it over and press it. I did this with 300 pounds for 5 sets of 3-5 repetitions. My best was 350 for a double.
"That was it for Monday and, boy, would I be tired!"
On Tuesday, Casey would squat and deadlift when he could. He applied the same science to his squat and became the first man to do 800 pounds, actually getting 825 one time. Had he used a supersuit and wraps and downed pharmaceuticals in doses some consider standard today - what's your guess? 900? 950? 1000?
That's theoretical, so lets get back to the real.
On Wednesday and Thursday the big man rested, and on Friday it was back to his real love . . .
"I'd consider this my medium day. Starting with regular benches, I'd do 135, 225, 315, 405, 495 for reps for warmups. Then I'd jump to anywhere from 545-570 for 5-6 singles. Each fortnight I'd try to move up 5 pounds on these singles. Then I'd do 3 down sets of 5-10 second pause reps with 405 (shades of Ronny Ray!). Finally, I'd get 2 sets of 20 reps at 315.
"I'd skip the lockouts and the dips, but the rest of the program was exactly the same as my first day. My volume and intensity were both lower on this day.
"I'd also throw in some strict curls and I liked to do chins too." (Actually, Pat held the world record in the ultra-strict curl for a long time at 205 pounds and could do 10 strict wide grip chins, top to bottom, even when he weighed 330 pounds.)
The was the exact workout that produced the power of the greatest bencher of his day. I couldn't help but ask Pat to give me some off the cuff comments on some of today's champs and some of the old timers he lifted with. I also got his opinion on what he thinks he could have done under today's situations and what he thinks of today's scene.
Marvin Eder -- In my opinion, pound-for-pound the strongest man who ever walked the face of the Earth. He had tremendous natural gifts, thick joints, great leverage. Lifting before the era of drug popularity, he did a 360-lb. military press at 208 bodyweight. He also benched 500 lbs. weighing 195 (touch and go, wide grip), but the most amazing thing he ever did was extend his arms out straight in front of him and allow a man to hop up on his lower forearms and do dips! A 180-lb. man once did 10 dips off Eder in this fashion. This astounded me so I tried the same thing with a 150-lb. man. I held for a while, but I felt like all the muscles in by body would blow any second. My stomach muscles were strained for weeks after that. I never with it again and wasn't even close to his feat! Perhaps Kazmaier. with his delt strength, could do this. I don't know.
Reg Park -- A real idol of mine. You can see the bodybuilding influence in my training; that came from Reg Park. A big, naturally strong man who behind the neck pressed 325 pounds strictly and benched 500. I loved his physique over the years. I feel the same way about Bill Pearl, another strong bodybuilder.
Chuck Ahrens -- Oh Boy! There's so much to say about this guy. Never seemed to train very hard. A strange, but friendly guy. I'll tell you what I actually saw him do:
I saw him clean a 320-lb. dumbbell unassisted and press it strictly for 2 reps with one arm. I saw him sit at the end of a bench and do 2 reps in the cheating alternate curl with 200-lb dumbbells. He did these exercises plus heavy rows, triceps presses and shoulder presses. I never saw him bench although claims are made he was a great bencher (one rumor says 28 reps with 405 pounds?). He trained 2-3 times a week and had this great opera voice. The guy never wanted to enter anything. Chuck went around 315 lbs. and at 6 feet and never trained his legs. He was the widest man who ever lived, I think. No jive, Jeff, he was 72" around his shoulders wearing a thin T-shirt. His bi-deltoid width was 29". Steve Merjanian was 26-27" bi-deltoid width and he was ungodly wide. One time Ahrens was driving down the street and some idiot passed him, nearly sideswiped him and drove him off the road. Chuck regained his composure and followed the guy until he came to a red light. Chuck hopped out, went up to the car, reached in and actually ripped the poor guy's steering wheel off its frame so he couldn't drive anymore. The guy just sat there stupefied as Chuck drove around him and away. Chuck drank milk and ate more bananas than any gorilla ever. He'd throw everything in the back seat of his car. It was full of milk cartons and peels. [and steering wheels, I couldn't resist].
Steve Merjanian -- I'll say this about Steve. He's like this guy Kazmaier. Naturally strong at everything he did. A real athlete. Great, fast, explosive football player and big, Big, BIG. A super nice guy, working today as an extra in the Hollywood studios. Still works out, I understand, at World Gym in Santa Monica. He's an auto mechanic too (probably doesn't use a hoist). He regularly went of 500 lbs. in the incline press. It was his specialty. If he trained as hard as I did, he would have been better than me, I know it.
One time, we were walking down the street engaged in a lively conversation. Steve just ambled along and never moved for anyone. One time he picked up this 150-lb. guy up like doing a straight arm from lateral raise and set him off to the side like a paperweight without breaking stride. He didn't want to move as he walked along. God, it was incredible. That's what I mean about natural strength.
Bill 'Peanuts' West -- A real pioneer, now deceased. The granddaddy of powerlifting. He started the concept of wraps, box squats with Frenn, assisted pad benches; you name it, he thought of it. He got a lot of guys together in his gym: Dave Draper, Len Ingro, Ken Leistner, Jon Cole, Wayne Coleman, Steve Merjanian, George Frenn, Marv Phillips, Larry Kidney. Man, there were some great training sessions.
Bill was also the father of over-training. I think we all tried so hard we all over-trained! Back then, you know, we used to train through injuries all the time.
Terry Todd -- A real southern gentleman. Very affable and friendly. Smart and strong, a rare combination. Always regretted not being able to lift against me at a National match, I think. I hope he fore me for it. One of the best writers too. I read his stuff, yours, Leistner's and Hatfields.
Jim Williams -- What a different guy. I can't understand how he bench pressed so much, working his bench five days a week. That's so foreign to me. Did a 675 bench and was a real giant strongman. Certainly deserves the ranking given to him. I never saw him and never met him. Some day I hope to. I still wish he'd do a comeback, if he has the desire. He has my utmost respect.
John Kuc -- Wow! This guy is something. I have following him since he came on the scene. I have no doubt that had he been able to stay heavy and healthy, he would have totaled 2500 pounds. I have no doubt! His 2350 back in the early '70s was so clean, so strict. I saw him doing 625, 1000, and 875-900 in a year after his 2350. He may have been the world's strongest powerlifter. Overall, he may not have the functional, natural, raw strength that Kazmaier has, but in powerlifting he was and is the man! Now he's natural and just did 2100 pounds. Now, that's something. I think he will hit 2200 as a natural 275er soon.
Dallas Long -- Boy ya know the great natural benchers, don't you, Jeff. A phenomenally smart and naturally strong shotputter, as was Matson, but Long had much more strength than Randy. Listen, I saw him bench press 525 in 1965 weighing 260 pounds at the time. He did this after it was handed to him at his chest, after he held it there for five seconds. He just blasted it up and used a 20" grip, man! So explosive. I saw him press two 190-lb. dumbbells for 2 reps together in strict style. A real strong guy, he was. I think he's a dentist somewhere now. (Long won the 1964 Olympic gold in the shot put).
Mike McDonald -- A real specialist. I don't know where those big benches came from, as he has such small bones. I guess he's what you call a total pec-bencher. Based on lifting record weights in a variety of weight classes, he was the best.
Ted Arcidi -- A newcomer who I haven't seen much of. He looks to me to be the most logical candidate to his 700 lbs. first. At 5'10" and 280 pounds or whatever he is, he must have tremendous leverages for the bench. From his pictures he looks like he is much heavier through his pectorals than I ever was. The best bencher in the world now. I wish him much luck. God, though, there are so many good benchers now, how about that 220-pounder who just did 610 or so! Man, that's scary!
Jon Cole -- I think he was without a doubt the best athlete to be in powerlifting. He Olympic pressed 430 and threw the discus 210'. Once, he threw a softball 425'. This guy was something, Jeff. What about his 905 squat and 885 deadlift? Cole's taken a lot of stuff over the years concerning backyard meets. Well, I saw him lift. I saw him do an easy 870 squat and he wore nothing but the standard equipment. Had he bulked up to 300 pounds, I shudder to think what he'd have done. He's in the same class as Kuc, a real immortal.
Bruce Wilhelm -- Old Bruce! I'll tall ya, we go a long way back. Bruce was another great athlete. He had great coordination, that's for sure. He used to come over to my pool and do backflips off my board when he weighed 310. He won the World's Strongest Man contest twice. George Frenn used to practice running with the refrigerator and tried to get Bruce to also, but Bruce used to say a strongman like himself is strong naturally at everything and doesn't need to practice! I think he threw the shot 67-68' or so, which I believe is still the left-handed record. A great Olympic lifter too.
Don Reinhoudt -- Well, what can I say. The man held the total record at 2420 for so many years with nobody even pushing him. I never met him, but anyone who did says he's the nicest, finest man in all of powerlifting. I honestly don't think Don ever knew his real strength; what he really could've done had he been able to stay with it longer. I still think he could come back and clean house on just about everybody.
Paul Anderson -- It's a shame. People today just don't or can't appreciate this man's strength. People disparage his squatting as not low enough. Even it that were true (which it's not), how about a 450 clean and slow press, his 340 snatch, his 6200 lb. backlift, his tremendous pressing feats with the dumbbells. Listen, I have no doubt Paul was strongest man, or at least powerlifter, who ever lived. I saw him, at Muscle Beach in 1956, squat to parallel with 800 for a set of 10. My memory is not clouded. He was parallel. I stood no more than 10 feet away from him when he push pressed 535 off racks at Muscle Beach the same year! He just bent his knees slightly and drove the sucker up. Man, he was something else, that guy. Anderson was the strongest of all time. No one comes close. When I saw him he was 5'9" 360 pounds and hard to the touch. His tendons and joints were enormous.
Bill Kazmaier -- I hope he is making a bundle for his efforts. He keeps his weight up all the time. I don't understand how he's able to do that, except he carries that weight better than any man I ever saw. He looks like solid muscle and bone. Surely, he's the most versatile strongman who ever lived. I put him in the class of Merjanian, a natural strongman who could do anything he tried. Evidently, he also is a great athlete. Yes, I think he is the greatest strongman in the world today. He destroyed everyone in the contests, no doubt. I think he's amazing too to come back from the terrible injury he suffered in his pec-shoulder area. I don't know though, if I had been Bill, with his talent, I think I would have gone for football. I know I would have if I had to do it all over again. He did have a real solid chance to get 700 first, up until that injury.
Karl Norberg -- Jeff, how many guys know who Karl is? Let me put this man in perspective for all the readers. I lifted in an exhibition with Karl many years ago.
The first time he came into a weight room he was 60 years old. Some guy was trying to deadlift 600 pounds, but couldn't. Karl walked up to it (without a warmup) and popped it up easily. There, my friends, was a real world's strongest man candidate. He could've been another Anderson, had he started earlier and concentrated on lifting.
Incidentally, I never saw Anderson max in the bench. I see no reason, with his short arms and deep chest and shoulders why he couldn't have done well over 600 pounds, as was claimed for him.
Big John Studd -- John who? Never heard of him.
Pat Casey is a man who looks back at his career with proud reflection. He says, "I was never a natural, I had to work for everything I got."
So what does he think of the use of steroids today?
"Well, people that use them still have to work for what they get. People tell me that I would have lifted 700, maybe 750 if I did what they do today. I don't know, it's not really important, I couldn't go back today, because I'd want to be the best and I think it would be impossible unless I used steroids, which I won't do! I wouldn't want to feel the effects later. I know some guys who have been on the since the early 70s and it's starting to hit them -- problems with arteries, blood pressure, kidneys and other things. Some guy told me a couple years ago that he used 100 Dianabol a day. My God, that's sure suicide.
Nonetheless, I was a cop for 16 hard years. I saw it all -- suicide, violent robberies, terrible accidents, rapes. Sometimes I have dreams that I'm back there again and I can't sleep at nights, and I know from these experiences that you could put a million narcs on the street and people are still going to use drugs. I'm for drug-free lifting, but it may be impossible to accomplish today."
And what of my own (Jeff Everson) thoughts and opinions, dear readers? I think Pat Casey is such a nice guy, he'd never admit he was the best bencher of all time. I don't care what paltry reasons anyone out there cares to offer me on why they are the greatest bencher who ever lived. When you take the measure of a man's accomplishments, you must compare his contemporaries. Joe Louis was a great champion, unbeaten for 13 years, yet in all likelihood Ali in his prime would have boxed him silly. George Mikan revolutionized professional basketball and dominated the center position for years, but Chamberlain and Jabbar would've made him look bad. Today there are only a handful of men actively benching in excess of 600 pounds (Moran, Arcidi, Dicks, Hardman, etc.). Kaz made 661, Arcidi has done his thing, Williams and McDonald were ahead of their time. How much has the record gone up in the bench in the last 20 years. What transpired during that time. Super-shirts, elbow wraps, tight suits, and the potential of super-steroid use.
Twenty rears ago Pat Casey took 620 pounds off the rack, unassisted, held it for a full two seconds at his chest, and rammed it home. He was so far ahead of everyone then that there was no idea of what could and couldn't be done.
Casey was the best bench presser who ever lived.