Doug Hepburn - Wikipedia


You might ask “I thought this guy only reviewed powerlifting programs….this is a powerbuilding program by definition”. Well Doug Hepburn is one of my hero’s and one of the greatest strength athletes in history.

Douglas Ivan Hepburn or Doug for short was a Canadian national strength athlete and to this day is revered and respected as one of the greatest strength athletes. He won a gold medal in the 1953 Word Weightlifting Championships in the 1954 British Empire Games.

Doug was best known for his inhuman power, and was the first to bench press 500 pounds (227 kilograms), and at the age of 54 he squatted over 600 pounds (272 kilograms) with ease. Doug was also a complete tank of a human as seen below, he stood at only 174 meters tall however weighed 300 pounds (136 kilograms). Not only this Hepburn was born with a club foot and vision distortion called esotropia (cross-eyes) and thus went through multiples surgeries.

heavy lifter

Whilst training for the 1953 games he developed two programs called Program A and Program B. Yes, the names are far from creative or original, however, this was the fifties.

Hepburn’s training focused on low repetitions, higher sets and heavy weights. Hepburn tended to train three to four times per week and split his training into a power and pump phase. The Power phase would be your strength training at 80% or 90% of your one rep max. The pump phase would be the hypertrophy training at 60% of your one rep max focusing on volume training.

From my understanding from reading online sources you would run the ‘Power’ first then the ‘Pump’ phase during the same training session.


Program A

Program A is claimed to bring incredible results adding 120 pounds (82 kilograms) to any compound lift in one year of training. In addition you can add 60 pounds (13 kilograms) to any isolation exercise.

Extreme Powerbuilding: The Hepburn Method | Muscle & Strength

He claimed it’s more than possible to run this program for more than one year. This program option I consider to be more of the Powerbuilding program than Program B to be a Strength and Power program.

The program is split into two phases, the Power and Pump phase. The Power phase is more strength focused, and the Pump Phase is more of a hypertrophy/muscle building phase.

Program A Power Phase

The power phase is a four week phase, you are training a frequency of four times per week except week four whereby you train six days per week. I split the program rep training schemes into two parts, part one is sets of two and part two is sets of three. The following is the schedule:

  • Squat and Bench Press (Day 1 and 3 = Monday and Thursday )
  • Deadlift and Strict OHP (Day 2 and 4 =Tuesday and Friday)

You perform all work at 80% of your one rep max starting at 8 sets of 2 reps and finish the program at 8 sets of 3 reps. There is a logical progression on how you achieve this outlined in the below table:

As you can see you you just take off one set of 2 reps and replace it with 1 set of 3 until you reach 8 sets of 3 in week four. You Squat and bench press day one and three and deadlift and strict OHP day two and four. The below is the program outline table to demonstrate this:

Once you have completed the above add 5-10 pounds (5 kilograms) for large muscle groups (squat and deadlift), and five pounds (2.5 kilograms) for small muscle groups (bench press and overhead press) and go back to 8×2 starting the process over again.


Program A Pump Phase

The pump phase is performed after the power phase, aim to take a fifteen minute break between each phase, and then begin the pump phase. Decrease the weight lifted by 20% meaning you will be performing all work at 60% of your one rep max for all lifts during this phase.

Pump Phase Rep Scheme Table

As you can see in the above table you start week one performing 3 sets of 6 reps and finish week four performing 3 sets of 8 reps. Ass you can see I split each training rep scheme into two parts, part one you start with 3 sets of 6 reps, then reduce the number of sets each session until you can do no more. Then reset and Week three you start performing sets of eight starting with 1 set of 8 and max out at 3 sets of 8 reps.

Part 2 you perform sets of 7 reps, you follow a ascending and descending pattern in terms of number of sets. Starting with 1 set of 7 reps week one, maxing at 3 sets of 7 week 2, then descending back down from 3 sets of 7 reps to zero. Below is a table demonstrating the Pump Phase.

Program A Pump Phase Overview

Program A Accessory Exercises

You perform old-skool style accessory exercises for Hepburn training, for Program. There are three options for you to choose from:

  • Pendlay Rows
  • Weighted Chest Dips
  • Chin-ups

I would advise doing one of the above exercises each session then on day four you perform either one of the following for the phase or alternate them weekly:

  • Tricep Extensions
  • French Press
  • RDL (Romanian Deadlift)
  • SLDL (stiff legged deadlift)
  • Ab Roller
  • Weighted Planks
  • Lunges
  • Bulgarian Split Squats


If you find the training to be too much to handle, and you aren’t making progress, Hepburn’s recommendation was to cut out the power routine, and do only the pump routine of each program for two to three weeks. Alternatively, you could start the power phase with 3×1 at the first workout, to give yourself more time to work up to 8×1.

Program B – Strength and Power

Program B I would consider to be the Power and Strength program and Program A being the Powerbuilding program.

Program B Power Phase

The power phase for program B is just heavy singles at 90% of your one rep max starting at 5 sets of 1, then each training session at 1 more set until you max out at 8 sets of 1. This phase lasts a total of two weeks training each lift twice a week and a frequency of four days per week.

Power Phase Rep Scheme Table

Once you finished the power phase you then progress to the pump phase, DO NOT RUN BOTH TOGETHER. During this phase you can perform the suggested Accessory exercises such as; Pendlay Rows, Weighted Chin-ups, and Dips, I would advise choosing one for each training session performing 4 sets of five to eight reps, then day four perform an isolation exercise such as; tricep extensions, dumbbell side lateral raises, leg extensions, calve raises or lat pulldowns for 5 sets of ten reps.


Program B Pump Phase

The Pump Phase is 60% of your 1RM and is a seven week training program, you perform all lifts twice a week and train a frequency of four days per week with exception to week seven.

Pump Phase Rep Scheme Table

You start part one performing sets of three maxing out week four then starting sets of four. Starting at five sets of four you then reduce the number of sets each training session until you reach zero sets of four.

Part two you start with sets of four maxing at six sets of four, then change rep scheme to sets of five adding one set each training session until you reach 6 sets of 5 reps. Therefore you start at 6 sets of 3 and finish at 6 sets of 5 reps showing a true strength adaptation.

Pump Phase Program Overview Table

Excel Spreadsheet

YouTube Breakdown Video

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