Sunday, July 14, 2019

Doug Hepburn - Gerry Baxter (1952)

Taken From This Issue (November 1952)
Courtesy of  Liam Tweed. 


A few nights ago I had a very unpleasant experience. I'm a fairly big guy myself, 210 lbs., 48" chest, 17.5 arm and the rest in proportion, and I was made to feel about the size the local bantamweight champion of the ping-pong club must feel when stands beside somebody my size. 

In short, I met Doug Hepburn! 

Apart from the rest of this huge guy, the first thing you notice is his arm. I've been around a lot and I've seen some big arms during my travels, an 18" arm is normal so far as I'm concerned, but for the first 20 minutes of my initial meeting with Doug I just couldn't take my eyes of the 21" hunks of muscle that hung down off his shoulders. I've heard it said that, taking into consideration his waistline, he must have about a 19" arm and the rest is fat, but whoever wrote or said that has never had his hands on those arms. They're iron hard and all muscle, apart from the bone that is, and I'd hate to try and find that. 

Doug at a Lighter Weight

Doug himself is a genial, easygoing fellow, full of fun, always laughing, always giving a word of encouragement to the other guy . . . until he starts a training session, then gone is the funny man, the joker, and in his place is a man full of determination with time for nothing but absolute concentration on the job in hand. 

This change that you can notice in Doug as soon as he starts training is, in my opinion, the thing that has made him the great strength athlete that he is. He believes implicitly in the correct psychological attitude to training and the determination and concentration that he exhibits whilst working out are far beyond that which I have seen exhibited by any other lifter. Whilst watching, you are no longer aware of the tremendous size of the man but become aware of the sheer brute power that he possesses. This power is evident in every movement he makes and is frightening to see.

Everyone I have talked to here in Vancouver who knows Doug and has seen him train says the same thing. They have all felt the same awe at seeing such huge poundages handled with such ease, not scientifically, but simply by virtue of this colossal power he has. Doug himself is well aware that he has not fully used this power yet. When he does, and he will some day, certain world records are going to soar to unbelievable poundages. 

Why hasn't he done so already? Here's part of the answer: Doug's main problem is, and always has been, in gaining recognition for what he does. Only now (1952) are people beginning to believe that the poundages he was reporting years ago are really true. It takes years of concentrated work with no time left over for any other interest to achieve what Doug has achieved, and when you've done it, and the world doesn't seem to care anyway, well, it's disheartening to say the least. 

For the last few months Doug had been taking a prolonged layoff. When you train as hard as he does it's very easy to get stale mentally through not engaging in any outside interests whatsoever, and so, bearing the old adage in mind . . . 

. . . Doug has himself a rest now and then. 

He loves nothing more than a good game of snooker, and he and I have already had several battle royals over the green cloth. He can also play a harmonica like nobody's business. Two wonderfully relaxing hobbies, knocking some balls around and enjoying a tune played on the mouth organ. When in a serious mood you're apt to find him deep in some serious literature of one kind or another. 

I was very interested to find out what sort of shape these long rest periods leave him in, so I went to watch his workout. His power had hardly deteriorated at all, and he got right to work handling poundages the same as those he used in his last workout, several months before. For the first time, of course, he didn't work out for quite so long as usual, about an hour, which is next to no time for him. He tells me that during a heavy workout it is quite usual for him to spend about two hours doing squats alone. 

Note: For example, let's say 4 warmup sets then 8 doubles that are being worked to triples over time. 12 sets in about 120 minutes. Sure! 10-plus minutes or so rest between hard sets. A half hour of so break before the second lift of the day. Maybe a different set/rep goal with it. Why not! Working from the initial 3 singles on up over time to 10 singles, let's say he's at 8. More warming up for singles, eh, let's say 6 sets, plus the 8 hard singles. Call it a dozen sets again with an easy 10-plus minutes between 'em gives you another two hours. Unless he's up this session for additionally working the second lift from 5 triples to 5 x 5 over time with some challenging weight. No warmup needed on the same lift for higher reps, 5 more sets with another 10-plus minutes rest between 'em makes for another hour easily. So, he's got about 2 + 2 + 1 plus some time between the different lifts = 5 or 6 hours there. Easily. That's for two lifts a day. Sounds pretty much exactly what my older friend told me went on at the Hastings Gym later on. Tough strength sets, even though they're low reps, are not the same animal as bodybuilding sets. If you're lifting for strength, try giving yourself a nice long rest period between hard sets and notice the difference. Guys say stuff like, "Anything more than a minute is unnecessary if you're well conditioned." So, on a day when you have ample time, give yourself a good 8 to 10 minutes rest between hard sets of 1 to 5 reps and notice how the poundage feels, note the bar speed, observe how you perceive the 'weight' of the bar, the whole thing going on each set

Experiment with it yourself a few times and come to a conclusion, just like Hepburn did.

The article continues . . . 

During the summer months Doug has an ideal job. He is employed a a life guard on one of Vancouver's many lovely beaches. Apart from beating off the girls with a large stick he keeps especially for that purpose, the only exercise he gets is the odd save he makes, and what he does with the weights.

I forgot. He also gets quite a bit of exercise carrying the large bag of groceries to work with him in the morning. It's said that the local grocery store would go out of business if it weren't for Doug. He gets though 6 quarts of milk a day regularly, pounds and pounds of fruit, and at lunch time can usually be seen tripping gaily down the beach from the butchery with two or more pounds of raw steak hanging from one hand, soon to be duly cooked up on the hot plate which the City Council provided especially for that purpose. 

From knowing Reg Park personally, and having studied other great physiques such as Clancy Ross, Eiferman, Reeves and the others on the American scene at close quarters, I know that the photographs of them which you see in the mags never succeed in doing them justice. This is very true of Doug Hepburn. Until you have actually been in his company, seen him turn around carelessly to talk to someone behind, and noted the huge sweep of his back and the great "bunch" of triceps at the back of his arm you'll never really know how big he is. 

Note: I only saw Doug in person a couple two-three times. Some phone conversations. Once, I went to his shop on 2nd Ave. to check out a rack some guy didn't pay for or pick up after agreeing to (this happened much more than once, I'm sure. Doug was a bighearted guy who refused to lose his faith in humanity), and maybe getting him to add a pulley to the thing. He was barbell curling a-plate-and-a-25 a side every so often while we talked. Hell, I thought, I strain more brushing my fucking teeth in the morning. This guy is nuts! And he was big. BIG! The width of his shoulders and back, and the size of his arms and forearms, especially when he was curling that bar. 

The article continues . . . 

So far as his bad leg is concerned, you never notice it until you start to look at it. Doug himself has so completely mastered this great handicap that it has ceased to have any importance at all. True, it mars the symmetry of his otherwise tremendous legs, but since he is essentially a strong man with no aspirations to a "bodybuilder's perfection of form" it doesn't seem to matter. 

Note: I disagree here. The lack of ankle flexibility and strength had a great impact on Hepburn's lifting technique, and on the options available to him when it came to lifting. Hence his greater than average dependence on raw power to make up for the missing finer points of technique in some lifting movements. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying he lacked style and form, I'm only saying that it was necessary for him to compensate for the physical impossibility of assuming certain positions integral to elite technique by developing great strength. His speed, I do not believe, was a real issue. He was fast and light on his feet at any weight. However, when you consider the limitations his bad lower leg was responsible for, I think you'll better understand just how massive the accomplishment was, and how much effort it took to overcome his disability. Motherfucking WILL was demanded, and HE PROVIDED IT APLENTY. Next time you get all pissy and start into moaning about your lack of "natural gifts" consider this. Get in there and use what tools you do have to kick ass.  

The article continues . . . 

Since Doug is now in full training again I'd just like to mention what his immediate plans are (1952). Doug himself would like to go on record as saying that withing the next two years he plans, note I say "plans" and not "hopes" to put the world's Press record up to at least 380 lbs. 

[During the 1954 Western Zone British Empire Games Weightlifting Trials, Hepburn broke the World Press record with a lift of 381 pounds.]  

Up until now, the world's Clean & Press record has been limited by the weight that Doug could clean into the shoulder. He could always Press anything he could pull in. I'll be getting into trouble for disclosing his training secrets if I say much more but I'll risk it and just say that Doug is now concentrating on the Clean almost to the exclusion of anything else. With a guy like this, once he MAKES UP HIS MIND, it's only a matter of time. 

Note: I don't recall ever hearing anyone say Doug Hepburn held back the ideas and the results of his training experiments. Well, no one who wasn't an asshole, anyway. Over the phone (rotary dial land line, Baby!), I found that he would talk at length, unless business interrupted him, when asked a reasonable training question. Of course, some of that length included the wonders of the protein powder he sold. Hey, come on! Lack of Money forgives no one its sting. 

Continuing with the article . . . 

If you asked Doug how he became "world's strongest man" the answer would probably boil down to "singleness of purpose." A man who believes, as Doug does, that every world record was made to be broken, and also believes that if he can break it himself  he is accomplishing something great and worthwhile, cannot fail. He is willing to subordinate everything else to that one aim and that is the secret, so far as he is concerned. 

The strongest man is not only strong physically but mentally too. Doug knows, there are a lot of good times to forsake, a lot of dates you could make if you didn't go down to the gym and train instead, but so far as Doug is concerned, it's worth it.    



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