Muscles of Iron

Greatest Feat of Strength Ever?

Back during the 1950s, an editor of Muscle Power magazine was once asked by a reader what he considered to be the greatest feat of strength ever performed. The editor responded to the subscriber's question by giving honorable nominations to Peter Cortese, who did a one-arm deadlift with TRIPLE body weight, and to Norb Schemansky, who did a clean and jerk with DOUBLE body weight. However, neither of these two mighty lifts stood as the greatest in the mind of the editor. The muscle writer explained,

“There is one feat which stands out in memory most. It concerns Doug Hepburn, who a few hours after he had traveled several thousand miles from Vancouver to New York, went with us to a local gym. Engaged in conversations with us, he noted a dumbbell on the floor. It was an unwieldy, poorly balanced, plate loading bell, covered with dust from lack of use. Doug walked over to it, placed his powerful hand on the bar, raised it to his shoulders in more of a curl than a clean and pressed it above head in good military fashion, replacing the weight without comment on the ground. Only after he was told that the weight was 165 POUNDS . . . or a new world's record in the one arm military press, did he offer any comment. He said, ‘I thought the darn thing felt a little heavy!’ We nominate this as the greatest feat we have ever seen.”
Doug Hepburn pressing a pair of 157-pound dumbbells.
The mighty Doug Hepburn pressing a pair of 157-pound dumbbells (314 pounds total) for a new world record, circa 1953. The gentleman to the right of Doug is John Davis, a former World Champion and one of the greatest weightlifters America has ever produced.

Doug Hepburn was the first person to officially bench press 500 pounds (Reg Park was second). Hepburn also set a world record with a 440-pound two hand press from a rack. Both of these incredible lifts helped solidfy the contention that the big man from Vancouver was “The World's Strongest Man.”

The strength writer's recollection of Hepburn's 165-pound dumbbell press left me in awe. However, in my opinion Hepburn's 440-pound rack press ranks as the greatest exhibition of strength in the history of the Iron Game. Consider these facts. He pressed this enormous weight without the aid of drugs, without a lifting belt, without a lifting suit, without support wraps, and with only a very slight back bend. I could be wrong, but I doubt that any other lifter, past or present, could match that incredible demonstration of pure strength.

Although Hepburn practiced many different exercises over his training career, he found that he gained strength and size fastest when he concentrated on just six basic movements: the squat, the standing press, the bench press, the barbell curl, the dead lift, and the barbell row. In addition, Hepburn credited his practice of the one-arm dumbbell press for helping him develop tremendous overhead strength. See Doug Hepburn and the One Arm Press to learn more about this secret weapon for building pressing power.

Yours in strength and health,
Rob Drucker

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