Doug Hepburn was one of the strongest men of his era, being the first man to bench press 500 pounds. He won the World Weightlifting Championships and performed feats of strength that few could come close to matching.
There are two components to this training system, the first focuses on developing maximum strength and the second on developing functional hypertrophy.
In the early days of the Iron Game there were several amazing athletes who achieved Herculean levels of maximal strength. Their formula for success was an optimal mix of principle-based training, sound nutrition, adequate recovery, and a drive to improve. One such athlete was Douglas Ivan Hepburn.
Hepburn was born in Vancouver, Canada, on September 16, 1926. Born cross-eyed and with a club-foot, Doug took up weight training when he was 15 and overcame his disabilities to become incredibly strong. By age 18 he could squat 340 pounds, bench press 260 and strict curl 140. Many strength historians would argue that at his peak Hepburn was the strongest man in the world.
Hepburn won the gold medal at the 1953 World Weightlifting Championships as a superheavyweight and could push press 445 pounds and deadlift 705.He was the first man to bench press 500, eventually lifting 545, and his record-breaking success in such basic strength exercises earned him the title of "Grandfather of Modern Powerlifting."
Note: The design on the medal features Victoria, the goddess of victory, handing out a laurel wreath. The shield of Canada is at her feet, a train of maple leaves is at her back, and the North Shore mountains are in the background.
The system that follows was inspired by Hepburn, with a bit of Hungarian and Romanian weightlifting methodologies mixed in. It is called the Modified Hepburn method and consists of two parts.
Part 1: Heavy Singles Work
With this system, after a good warmup you use heavy weights that will recruit the highest-threshold motor units (i.e., fast twitch fibers). Specifically, you start with a weight you can lift for 5 singles and progress to where you can complete 8 singles with the weight.
After you have done your singles, go back down to a weight at which you can complete 5 sets of 3 reps. At this intensity step you want to get to the level where you can successfully complete 5 sets of 5 repetitions.
Perform the singles with 95% effort. It is the volume of high intensity, not just the intensity, that dictates the training effect.
On the 8th single, if you feel particularly strong, take note and increase the weight for the next workout.
Provide enough rest between sets to ensure adequate recovery (at least two minutes).
Part 2: High-Threshold Hypertrophy Work
At this intensity step, you should work with about 72 to about 78 percent of your 1RM. Again, rest at least two minutes after each set to ensure adequate recovery. The idea is that once you have excited the nervous system with the singles completed in Part 1, you do hypertrophy work for the higher-threshold motor units.
For a practical example, let's look at one individual's progression -- we'll call him Tom -- using this training system. in this case, Tom's best incline press is currently 320 pounds. His workout progression for his first three workouts could look like this:
Part 1, heavy singles, 50X0 tempo. Note the slow eccentric.
305 x 1, 1, 1, 1, 1.
Part 2, high-threshold hypertrophy work, 3010 tempo. Note the cadence.
240 x 3, 3, 3, 3, 3.
Tom was conservative on his first workout to ensure he completed all his reps. Let's look at his next workout . . .
305 x 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1.
Tom reached the goal of completine 8 singles. For his next workout, Tom should aim at doing 8 singles with an even heavier weight.
240 x 5, 5, 5, 4, 3.
Tom fell short of his goal by three total reps, so he will stay at that weight for his next workout.
310 x 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1.
Tom again reached his goal of doing 8 singles, so he needs to try to perform 8 singles with more weight on his next workout.
240 x 5, 5, 5, 5, 5.
Tom completed all 5 sets! He should now increase the weight so he has to back down to at least 5 sets of 3.
After completing seven workouts using this system, Tom should rest five days and then attempt a new max on the incline press. At the rate he was progressing he would probably finish with 347.5 pounds, which is 27.5 pounds above his previous best.
This training system can be used for other body parts. For example, here is an advanced arm workout, performed twice a week with at least two days rest between workouts.
A1. Decline Close Grip Bench Press, 8 x 1, 50X0, rest two minutes
A2. EZ Bar Reverse Grip Scott Curl, 8 x 1, 50X0, rest two minutes
B1. Decline Close Grip Bench Press, 5 x 3-5, 40X0, rest two minutes
B2. EZ Bar Reverse Grip Scott Curl, 8 x 1, 3-5, 40X0, rest two minutes.
You can't find a more solid formula for strength training than Dough Hepburn's. Doug died in 2000, but his legacy is proving that the human body has not dramatically evolved in the last 50 years and that basic hard work still prevails.
There are no shortcuts -- that's the Doug Hepburn way . . .
Enjoy Your Lifting!