Monday, December 12, 2022

Doug Hepburn Interviews, Part One -- Jake Striefel

Doug Hepburn, John Grimek

John Davis, Doug Hepburn, Humberto Selvetti 

September 6th, 1982.

Q (Jake Striefel): We're talking to Doug Hepburn, 1953 World Champion Olympic weightlifter and the 1954 British Empire Games champion. Doug, did you always practice the power lifts along with Olympic lifting? 

A (Doug Hepburn): I was personally a power lifter from the start, I was never an Olympic lifter. It was basically power lifting. I got strong from powerlifting and I got strong enough that I could compete in Olympic lifting, but not because I was a good Olympic lifter, because I developed this strength from powerlifting and I was so far ahead of the others in the press primarily. 

I wasn't good in the quick lifts, but through powerlifting and the bench press I developed this tremendous pressing power which enabled me to get such a gain on everyone else in the world that I could win. 

You could say that the things that I did were unique because in the world today how many men could go out in any given lift and and best the competition by 60 pounds, which I could do in the press, because I could press about 380 and the next man in the world was doing about 330. 

Q: What type of gym did you train at when you started out? 

A: I first went to the YMCA when I was about 15 or 16 and from there I started to train at the Western club down on Hastings street. In those days they had meets there, not powerlifting. Powerlifting wasn't heard of then, all the squat and that was for was to develop strength. There was a many called Johnny Tutt and he was an old-timer, and he used to put weightlifting meets on at the Western gym, about one a month or maybe two months. Then I appeared and he told me one time, "Doug, you're one in a hundred thousand." Even before I became World champion, because at that time the best press in Canada was 220 and I was pressing 230 pounds. 

Q: What happened to Johnny Tutt? 

A: I don't know whether he's still alive. He moved outside of Chilliwack, he had a farm out there, he may still be out there, I don't know. He was one of the first old-timers in the Olympic lifting around here. 

Q: When you started out, who was your idol? 

A: In bodybuilding it was John Grimek. In weightlifting it was John Davis, because he was the man at that time.   

Q: You eventually beat him.

A: Yes, I did. 

Q: On December 10th, 1953, at the Marpole community center you did a 502 pound bench press, and that is still the B.C. record today. Was that the first time that you officially bench pressed 500?

A: Yes, it was. I was the first man to do 400 and the first to do 500. 

Q: You were the first to do 400? 

A: Yes, I think so, I think I did the first 400. I'm sure of it and then I got to this 500 pound bench press. I was fooling around one time in New York because I was in Weider's warehouse. I went there and worked for a while. He had a whole bunch of plates up there, stocked in his warehouse, and one night I was fooling around on the bench, all alone too, nobody there. I kept piling the plates on, and I kept loading them on and I did a 500 pound bench and the first one that was ever done, believe it or not, was done all alone in an old warehouse with no spotters or nothing. I just took it off and pushed it up. 

Ernie Fulton, he knows me from way back, told me the other day, he says, "Doug, I saw you in Grandview Gym, I spotted you. You did 530 in the bench. I lifted the bar off for you, in the Grandview Gym about 25 years ago," and I says I don't even remember it. I said, did I bounce it? And he says, "No, you did a good one." 

Q: Was your 502 in 1953 done strict? 

A: I don't even remember doing it. 

Q: Was this done at an Olympic contest after or a strength show? 

A: It probably was a strength show. I heard there was some contest on with a bench press and I just went down to Marpole. I was probably capable of it because Ernie says he saw me do a strict 530 bench. 

Q: Is that when you got your trophy for the first man in the world to bench 500 pounds? 

A: Not one, they sent me about six of them. They were coming in from the gyms in the United States, and I didn't even know, and it came through just hearsay. 

Q: After you did this 502, the publicity got you all these trophies. 

A: Yes, they came in from all the gyms in the states, down in California. The mailman's bringing these cups in, every gym had a cup. I didn't even know about it, they were coming in the mail.

Q: We heard the Province newspaper donated you one.

A: They may have done it too, but what I'm saying is there's gyms down in the States that had cups that had been sitting there for a couple of years for the first man to do it.

Q: Do you still have some of them? 

A: No.

Q: I noticed in the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame that one has gone out of there that used to be in there.

A: I don't know, I lost all my cups, they were all lost or lifted or what the hell. 

Q: What do you figure you weighed around when you did that 500? 

A: Around 250 or 260, I wouldn't have been that heavy yet. I didn't get real heavy at that age. 

Q: What was the most you weighed?

A: I weighed 311 pounds at my heaviest, at the time of the British Empire Games. I remember at that time, after the games I went in my street clothes, smoking a cigar. I used to always smoke cigars all the time, and I walked in to the warmup room and there were two lifters there from Trinidad. I took my jacket off and there was a power rack there with a bar on it. I took 400 pounds from the rack and pressed it I think it was 5 reps, standing. Their faces went as white as a sheet. 

Q: How old were you when you started lifting? 

A: I fooled around when I was quite young. I wasn't serious, just a little bodybuilding and fiddling around. I started when I was about 15 or 16.

Q: What was your best lift of all time on the bench? 

A: If you're talking about the bench then you're referring to now. I had a style of bench pressing where I took a wide grip and I'd give it a little bounce off the chest. I did more weight that way; one workout when I was hitting my peak, I did 5 consecutive reps like that with 550. 

Q: What about strict, 32 inch grip with a pause, what would you figure? 

A: I would probably say my best would have been around 525 to 535, somewhere around there. One time in Montreal doing an exhibition I was warming up with 400 and I knocked off 10 reps with the audience counting them out. It just kept going. I think that night I could have done about 18 reps with that 400, because I quit at 10 and I still wasn't even tired. They really had me going, they were all shouting out One, Two, Three, and there were about 2,000 people in there who had ever seen a 400 pound bench press and I'm knocking them off for reps. I know I did 10 reps and I wasn't in the least bit tired. I went on with my show but that was a warmup and I think I had about 6 or 7 more sets. 

Q: When you say, you figure you were the first man to do a 400 bench was there somebody else around at that time doing benches that heavy? 

A: The best guy I think, along with me at that time, was Marvin Eder in New York. Marvin Eder was capable of that at that time and I don't know whether he did it first or not. I met him later. Marvin was a very strong guy. 

Q: Did he weight as much as you? 

A: No, he only weighed 198, and he did 460. He was very powerful.

Q: What about the squat, what was your best? 

A: One of my best squat sessions was 36 consecutive reps with 500 pounds. 

Q: What about for a single? 

A: 760 pounds. 

Q: What about the deadlift? 

A: I was very poor in the deadlift. I could probably deadlift a little over 700. I never trained on the deadlift. I disliked it, and if I had to do the 700 deadlift at that time I would have had to use straps. I couldn't hang on, but I did get it at the British Empire Games before the Games. I was working pulls, mostly high pulling and I had 750 above the knees, with straps, but I didn't straighten up with it. 

Q: I heard you did 740 with straps one time.

A: I don't know. 

Q: What do you think you could have got under today's rules? Could you have gotten 600? 

A: Oh, more than 600. I've done more than 600 in training. I think at my strongest at one time I was working out on the pull and I used to work right up to a deadlift. I didn't do deadlifts but I kept doing heavy pulls, and when I couldn't pull it anymore I would do power cleans, and when I couldn't power clean any more I used to work up with singles in the deadlift, and I did do a 700 pound deadlift every pull workout, properly with a reverse grip with no straps. One lift I was exceptionally proud of along with the pulling . . . I could take a weight and I could high pull in, you know, with a shrug, I could high pull and shrug in 350 with no knee bend whatsoever. 

Q: What about the curl? 

A: They gave me credit for a strict curl of 260 pounds, and incidentally, the experts claim that was my greatest lift, and they also claim, I've read this in the magazines, that no one in the world has ever done that even today, they say no man so far has done a strict curl with 260. Kazmaier tried, and he couldn't do it. Remember that curl contest against the pole? You know what I found out? I says what the hell is wrong, when you first put your back against the wall you have to strap a guy there, because when you start a curl it will pull you away from the wall, there's no earthly way you can stay there with that kind of poundage. If you strap me against that pole so I can get my start I could curl it, because a lot of lifting has got to do with speed, and I was stopped in regard to the balance. I couldn't use my strength, mind you my curl wasn't up there but I know if I'd been tied or if someone held me I could have done it. 

Q: What about when you lifted against Ben Cote? 

A: Just the one contest. The Cote one was a snow job. That was down East, in Chicoutimi. I got snowjobbed there.   

Q: What was the story there, about the rules? 

A: I'll tell you the story. I was drinking . . . 

continued in Part Two.

Enjoy Your Lifting!


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