Thoughts on the Hepburn Method
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:
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:
^ 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.
One of the most logical things I have ever read.
I think you've absolutely hit the nail on the head there Steve. The popularity really needs to be taken into account of in the bigger picture. Certainly among lifters who I can describe as 'in the know', it is a very popular approach. Most stronger people here for example will use multiple low rep sets on the basics at some point in some incarnation.
I've written about this before, this is what I would have a rank beginner do 3 x weekly:
Overhead Press - 3 x 8
Squat - 3 x 12
Bent Row - 3 x 12
Deadlift - 3 x 8
Bench Press - 3 x 12
That done 3 x weekly would allow the trainee to build up their conditioning and form, both of which are vital to success later.
At the point where form has been ingrained and the lifter is beginning to see some gains, the workload would likely be too much to sustain so I'd simplify into 2 alternating full body routines. Something like:
A year or two on that would then allow the trainee to see where they'd like to go next. Different goals would have different paths but at that point the trainee would have a base of muscle, form and conditioning which will set them up for greater gains down the road.
very interesting read
For those who do not follow my log. I just completed 4 months on the Hepburn System, Plan "A" Here are the results:
4 months on Hepburn routine (Start and Finish 1RM)
Bench: Start - 167, Finish - 220, up 53 pounds
Squat: Start - 167, Finish - 255, up 88 pounds
Deads: Start - 211, Finish - 302.5, up 91.5 pounds
Total: Start - 545, Finish - 777.5, up 232.5 pounds
Don't anyone try to say basic, compound movements don't work...especially for beginners like me!
Also, all you beginners out there.....no curls...see the photo to the left
No calf work...and strangers who see me in shorts ask about how I "got" them calves....Which I reply "I have always had them...just not this big"
I'm going to start one of the Hepburn methods but don't know which one works the best for strength and muscle.
The ones I know of are:
8x2->8x3 + 3x6-> 3x8
5-8x1 + 5x3->5x5
8x2->3 + 6,5,4,4,3 + 10 (in Hepburn's law)
and the one alternating 4-10x1 and 4-10x3. (twiceborn)
I'm thinking of uniting the 4-10*1 and 4-10x3 workouts to same week if that would still work?
mon: Bench +ohp 4-10x1
Tue: Squat + dead 4-10x1
Thu: Bench + ohp 4-10x3
Fri: Squat + dead 4-10x3
Do you think this could work?
Hepburn might argue singles were the best! He lauded singles in his biography as his great invention which allows him great gains.
Okey, thanks for the response
I just thought that there is very little volume doing only singles and because the other program (plan b?) already had singles and fives in a one workout I felt it would've been manageable doing separate days.
I might start with the 4-10x1 and try that to increase strength only for a few months. But at first I do 4 weeks of Pavel's russian bear program to get some muscle mass and conditioning.
What will get you bigger and stronger overall? 4 weeks of high volume or actually getting to the point where you are Benching 300+, and Squatting 400+?
Just start on something and stick with it, the magic will come in adding weight to the bar over time.
I've been doing "low" volume training all year, first faleev's 5x5 and then last three months John Christy's 5/3/1 and I wanted to try short high volume program before I stick with Hepburn's plan, mainly because I've never done it and also as a little mental break.
But what u say sounds right, it feels quite funny to think that one four week block would matter in a years of training. Maybe I skip straight to the Hepburn and stick with it.
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