Training Lessons From Doug Hepburn

Never attempt to accelerate your progress – Doug Hepburn

What Doug Hepburn, 2x Olympic Gold champion and 760lb Squatter, meant was that you shouldn’t try to increase the weight faster than laid out in the program you’re on. Apply Hepburn’s philosophy to StrongLifts 5×5 and this means:

  • Don’t start the program with more weight than recommended
  • Don’t add 10lb every workout but stick with 5lb increments
  • Don’t do 5 sets until failure because 5×5 feels easy

All of that is bad, dumb and stupid because it – ironically – almost always results in the opposite of what you want: slowing down your progress. The guy who starts SL5x5 with too much weight will get so sore he’ll miss workouts. The one who ads 10lb/workout will plateau sooner (especially on the Press). And the guy who must reach failure on each set doesn’t understand it’s the weight that matters. As Justin Haguisan shared on the StrongLifts Facebook page

A lot of people, even the trainers, comment on how I lift. They keep telling me to wear gloves and belt when I squat and deadlift and then someone, SOMEONE, decides to spot me without asking on my bench press. I was doing fine then when I hit 5th, he told me “You can still hit more!”; I kindly replied “I only do 5 reps…”

Justin is right, you only do 5 reps and add 5lb the next workout. Few guys know that muscle size is directly related to strength and that Progressive Loading is therefore vital. Consequently, few guys have results to show for doing that failure training crap that I did for 5 years before discovering the 5×5 method.

Keep in mind there’s no need to accelerate your progress because the weight increases fast already. On StrongLifts 5×5 you’re gaining 60lb/month on Squats. This means you’ll be Squatting 225lb within 12 weeks. Here’s a new success story posted on the StrongLifts Facebook page by Richard Dean (Swindon, UK) …

I’ve got a success story for you, in January I weighed about 16.5 stone at 5’8″ with probably 40% bodyfat. Started the stronglifts system and couldn’t even squat with no weight – just a bit tubby.

I’m now down to 85kg(188lb) and have just completed 5×5 squat at 117.5kg(261lb) and deadlift 1×5 at 157.5kg (350lb). My one rep maxes are 150kg (333lb) and 185kg(411lb) respectively.

If this fat bastard can do it anyone can! I haven’t even hit a fail on either of those exercises yet!

Doug Hepburn’s philosophy applies beyond SL5x5 too. On Madcow 5×5 you also don’t want to start with too much weight because that would make you plateau earlier. Heck, you’re gaining 10lb/month on Squats (120lb/year!) anyway. Do the program as laid out and you’ll easily Squat 400lb within 2 years of training like StrongLifts Member Harrison (“Maslow”, 24y, USA) who just Squatted 390lb after starting StrongLifts 5×5 with only 65lb on the bar in March 2009.

Hepburn was right, you got to stop trying to accelerate your progress. Instead start delaying short-term gratification in favor of long-term strength gains.