I was sent a question regarding the Doug Hepburn method of training, so I figured I would hammer out my thoughts in a thread. Feel free to share your thoughts.
The specific question was:
I was wondering what you really think about the Hepburn Program?
I noticed it is not a very popular routine compared to what most others use.
Let me first address the issue of popularity. Were Doug Hepburn a modern lifter and alive today, his system would be much more popular.
We live in a muscle magazine world. 5 years ago when I first popped into Internet lifting forums I had no idea fullbody workouts and derivations thereof (like Hepburn's) existed. Despite the fact that Arnold himself built most of his mass on a fullbody and the basics, modern lifting culture is obsessed with splits and volume training.
How is it possible that after 20 years of lifting I was unaware of fullbody workouts? Muscle mags. There may have been a stray fullbody tucked into Flex or MM2K somewhere, but I surely didn't notice it. For 20+ years all I saw was splits, splits and more splits.
So, Hepburn's training didn't so much die off because of ineffectiveness, but rather it wasn't something Weider could make any money off of. From the early Mr. Olympia contests to Pumping Iron to the mid-80s Flex magazine, Weider peaked and profited.
He had to sell the pumping plans of his stars. Taking it a step further, superstar workouts were often forged and filled to the brim with Weider Principles. I personally struggled through a decade of magazines where the Weider Principles were rammed down your throat on nearly every page.
So, bottom line...classic lifting didn't fit into the Weider paradigm or business model.
Hepburn. Park, etc. got left behind. Even today a good percentage of forum lifters think classic routines are a joke.
Well they're not.
The magic secret has nothing to do with programs, per se. Gains are about consistency, hard work on primarily the basic lifts, proper food intake, training evolution and the king - PROGRESSION.
Use these principles on nearly any workout, even poorly designed ones, and you'll see results. I see transformation stories and natural bodybuilder workouts every day. It's part of my job. I see people succeeding on all kinds of crazy programs. Really. Some of the programs are downright borderline Happy Town material, yet the gains come. Progression, food and consistency are HUGE factors.
So, here's what I believe
. I believe all trainees should focus on the basics for several years, and many classic style programs fit this bill. Once a base has been built, they evolve their training based on needs, weaknesses and goals.
This is far different from create a "buffet style" training split, where people write down whatever sounds good.
Rippetoe. Starr. Wendler. Stronglifts. Jamie Lewis. John Christy. Steve Shaw (oh yes, I just did that). Rattle off any top strength name in the modern game and they tell you the same song and dance I just did. Start with the basics, evolve your training on needs, not on whims.
Some excursions are certainly ok. Training isn't life and death. But train smart if you want to maximize progress.
The Doug Hepburn method has a lot to offer. Hard work on basics, a focus on slow, smart progression, and enough volume to build your body into a beast.
Don't fall for the notion that complexity or splits are somehow inherently better because they are shinier, popular toys. Instead, focus on what really matters:
- Compound Movements
- Balanced Training
- Proper Food Intake
- Appropriate Recovery/Deloading
- Training Evolution Based On Needs
^ Do this for 5 years on a program like Hepburn's and you'll make great progress and then some.
T-Bone from the forum has been using a program I created based on Hepburn's workouts. Instead of doing both heavy and pump work in the same workout, he does heavy work one week and pumping work the next.
In a year's time he has made solid improvements in size and strength. He kept his nose to the grindstone, pushed for one more rep each workout, remained patient and made gains.
That's what it's all about, no matter what the program.