Doug Young And The Origins Of Power Bodybuilding

Welcome to the first of what I hope to be many articles on some of my favorite strength related athletes.  But not only will I obviously speak of their accomplishments, but I will also add some insight into aspects of their training routines that were crucial to their success and how it might even benefit you and your goals.

The subject of today’s article is none other than the Lone Star State’s own Doug Young.  By the time I discovered the late Doug Young in the spring of 2009, I had already begun research into the type of training that wound up steering my interests away from Bodybuilding and more into Powerlifting.  So since I just happened to be online I just type in “powerlifting” on YouTube and I found clips of the 1977 IPF World Championships held Perth, Australia and televised on NBC Sports with commentary by Powerlifting coach Terry Todd and a very young Bryant Gumbel.

Doug Young didn’t come to the platform for his first lift until about the 1:30 mark in the video.  He’d apparently already accomplished a lot in a span of a few years, having won 1st place for Team USA the last two years in a row with respective totals of 2,000 and 2,005.  But the big story here was that as this big behemoth with this intense, intimidating look on his face approached the Squat rack, he’d apparently dropped thirty pounds in just seven days in order to make the 242lb weight class.  You have to think about the major possibility of strength loss with something that dangerous.  He began growling to psyche himself up and to hear it was to believe it because that growl was frightening!  He successfully hit a 699lb Squat attempt before bending over in pain.  He had broken three ribs.

He had miraculously gone on to actually win first place again with a 545lb Bench Press and a 710lb Deadlift, even after fainting from the pain twice.  However, what intrigued me about Doug Young, equally as much as the fact that he apparently was a man’s man, was what I heard him say in an interview about his training.  He mentioned that in between Powerlifting training days he actually performed Bodybuilding style training, saying that he thought it was just as important to look “pretty” as it was to be strong.  What he was talking about is known today as Power Bodybuilding, or Powerbuilding for short.  Power Bodybuilding, in essence, is overloading a targeted major muscle (ex:chest, legs, back, etc.) with heavy weights, low rep ranges and relatively long rest periods, breaking down the Type 1 (fast twitch) muscle fibers to strengthen it, and then  with light weights, high rep ranges and shorter rest periods to stimulate growth by breaking down the Type 2 (slow twitch) muscle fibers.

Doug’s Chest Training

According to Starting Strength author Mark Rippetoe, Doug Young was more known for his Bench Press throughout his lifting career, having Benched 612lbs in 1978 with just a t-shirt on, in the 275lbs weight class, making him the first person under 300lbs bodyweight to hit that kind of number.  Doug’s training, as evidenced by the NBC Sports interview segments, were very high volume, which is more akin to Bodybuilding, as alluded to earlier.  In short he started his routine with Bench Press, warming up with singles until he made his targeted weight for two sets of singles, followed by two high rep dropsets.  After that he’d go on to perform multiple isolation moves for the shoulders, triceps and lats such as Front Delt Raises, Lat Pulldowns, Cable Flyes, Tricep Press and even One Arm Concentration Curls for up to six sets of six reps.  Very high volume.

He used a routine containing all these moves to increase his Bench Press by 235lbs within an eight month period.  The big key to this kind of routine was that Doug performed this three times a week, only Squatting every tenth day and Deadlifting every fifteenth day.

Looking back, I feel like Power Bodybuilding is slowly becoming more prevalent today, with Powerlifters such as Dan Green who not only are strong, but undoubtedly look the part with physiques that look more aesthetic than almost any competitive Bodybuilder not named Dexter Jackson!  I think programs such as Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 are also a major part of this movement, with multiple low and high rep ranges per muscle group to stimulate growth, strengthen the muscle, as well as even condition the body because now more and more athletes and lifters are finally aware that strength and even conditioning go hand in hand when it comes to staying in shape.  Big muscles, strong muscles, and little fat.

Here’s Doug Young’s 699lb Squat from the IPF World Championships:


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