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Workout Systems: Modified Hepburn Method
3/22/2016 12:59:18 PM
 
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 Doug Ivan Hepburn.
 
Hepburn was born in Vancouver, Canada, on September 16, 1926. Born cross-eyed and with a clubfoot, Hepburn 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 curl 140. Many strength historians 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 super heavyweight and could push press 445 pounds and deadlift 705. Hepburn was the first man to bench press 500 pounds (eventually lifting 545), and his record-breaking success in such basic strength exercises earned him the title of “Grandfather of Modern Powerlifting.” 
 
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 warm-up 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 do 5 sets of 5 repetitions.
 
For success with this strength building system you must adhere to the following guidelines:
 
  • Perform the singles with 95 percent 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, increase the weight for the next workout
  • Provide enough rest between sets to ensure adequate recover (at least 120 seconds)
 
Part 2: High-Threshold Hypertrophy Work
At this intensity step, you should work with about 72 to 78 percent of your 1RM. Again, rest at least 120 seconds 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 can 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:
 
Workout 1
Part 1: (heavy singles) at 50X0 tempo
Set 1: 305 x 1 
Set 2: 305 x 1
Set 3: 305 x 1
Set 4: 305 x 1
Set 5: 305 x 1
 
Part 2: (high-threshold hypertrophy work) at 3210 tempo
Set 1: 240 x 3
Set 2: 240 x 3
Set 3: 240 x 3
Set 4: 240 x 3
Set 5: 240 x 3
 
Tom was conservative on his first workout to ensure he completed all his reps. Let’s look at his next workout.
 
Workout 2
Part 1: (heavy singles) at 50X0 tempo
Set 1: 305 x 1 
Set 2: 305 x 1
Set 3: 305 x 1
Set 4: 305 x 1
Set 5: 305 x 1
Set 6: 305 x 1
Set 7: 305 x 1
Set 8: 305 x 1
 
Tom reached the goal of completing 8 singles. For his next workout, Tom should aim at doing 8 singles with an even heavier weight.
 
Part 2: (high-threshold hypertrophy work) at 3210 tempo
Set 1: 240 x 5
Set 2: 240 x 5
Set 3: 240 x 5
Set 4: 240 x 4
Set 5: 240 x 3
 
Tom fell short of his goal by three reps, so he will stay at that weight for his next workout.
 
Workout 3
Part 1: (heavy singles) at 50X0 tempo
Set 1: 310 x 1 
Set 2: 310 x 1
Set 3: 310 x 1
Set 4: 310 x 1
Set 5: 310 x 1
Set 6: 310 x 1
Set 7: 310 x 1
Set 8: 310 x 1
 
Tom again reached the goal of doing 8 singles, so he needs to try to perform 8 singles with more weight on his next workout. 
 
Part 2: (high-threshold hypertrophy work) at 3210 tempo
Set 1: 240 x 5
Set 2: 240 x 5
Set 3: 240 x 5
Set 4: 240 x 5
Set 5: 240 x 5
 
Tom completed all 5 sets! He should now increase the weight so he is 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 rests between workouts:
 
A1. Decline Close-Grip Bench Press, 8 x 1, 50X0, rest 120 seconds
A2. EZ Bar Reverse-Grip Scott Curl, 8 x 1, 50X0, rest 120 seconds
B1. Decline Close-Grip Bench Press, 5 x 3-5, 40X0, rest 120 seconds
B2. EZ Bar Reverse Grip Scott Curl, 5 x 3-5, 40X0, rest 120 seconds
 
You can’t find a more solid formula for strength training than Doug Hepburn’s. Hepburn 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!
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