The one-rep max is the ultimate measure of strength and a symbol of success and achievement, so it’s no wonder we judge ourselves and others by it. And whenever you feel like your strength and power are lagging, you need to take a look at what the best powerlifters are doing. Take some tips from the “King of Powerlifters” Pat Casey to hit a new record 1RM sooner than you thought was possible!
Pat Casey: The King of Powerlifters
Often credited as the first powerlifting superstar, Pat Casey was born to a poor family in Los Angeles in 1939. As a relatively undersized kid, he was often the subject of bullying from other kids in the rough neighborhood he grew up in. Luckily, that made him develop the toughness and fortitude he would later need on his road to becoming one of the world’s greatest powerlifting champions. At 16 years of age, he placed fifth in the Teen Mr. America event. By the age of 17, he was benching in over 400 lbs. He chose to focus on strength training with Gene Mozee as his coach and entered many strength contests at Muscle Beach. Pat gained a lot of respect with his bench pressing ability at a very young age and trained alongside many prominent lifters of the day who inspired him to work harder and improve his technique.
Pat Casey was unarguably the best lifter in the world when powerlifting became an official sport in 1965. He was truly a powerlifting pioneer and a man that built an extraordinary physique by using raw powerlifting techniques and bar-bending poundage in never-ending training sessions. Every person who ever had the chance to see him lift at his peak was awestruck – this guy’s bench pressing and seated overhead pressing feats are legendary. He was the first man to bench 600lbs (with a 2-second pause on the chest, even arm extension and no bouncing the bar off the chest!) and he was also the first to break the 800-pound squat barrier and the 2.000-pound three-lift total barrier.
Back at those days when terms such as “bench shirt” and “squat suit” were non-existent and it was just man versus gravity, Casey’s training was varied and included plenty of assistance work and his training ethic was nothing less than savage. Also, according to Casey, increasing the overhead press was one of the best ways to increase the bench press. This man had some serious knowledge about strength development and all of us have a thing or two to learn from him.
Casey’s Top 5 Exercises
Casey’s genetic traits were less than favorable – he had long arms, short torso and long legs. With the help of a smart selection of exercises and brutal training sessions, he was able to overcome his genetic disadvantages, upgrade his body composition and build spectacular amounts of power.
In “Pat Casey: King of Powerlifters” by Bruce Wilhelm, Casey claims that after hitting 500 pounds in the bench press, he hit a major plateau and used the following five exercises to power through it:
Casey found that lockouts build tremendous strength by primarily utilizing fast-twitch muscle fibers. After warming up properly, Casey would go for five heavy singles at two positions: 4’’ and 7’’ off his chest.
#2. Incline Dumbbell Press
The incline dumbbell press was Casey’s go-to exercise for hitting the chest muscles at a different angle than the usual one and developing the delts and the entire shoulder girdle.
#3. Weighted Dip
Weighted dips were another staple in Casey’s training. He used them to improve overall upper body strength and increase his bench press numbers.
#4. Lying Triceps Extension
Casey would go brutally heavy on pullover/triceps extensions to push his back, shoulders and triceps to maximize force production. Starting with the bar on the ground behind his head, he would pullover the weight and then do 5-6 sets of 3-5 reps of triceps extensions.
#5. Seated Press
Casey stated that the seated press is one of the crucial exercises that helped him build his mammoth bench press and he used a wide grip to press the bar overhead. In his opinion, very few other exercises come close to the seated press when it comes to building unprecedented shoulder strength.
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Other than these five exercises, Casey also used chins and rows to develop the physique that provided him his rather short yet stellar career as the best powerlifter on the planet. He trained hard, heavy and often and complemented his marathon lifting sessions with a huge caloric intake. While it’s true that the frequency of his training eventually caused injuries that would end his lifting career too early, we encourage you to try his approach whenever you face an ugly training plateau – or when you simply want to step up your game and make sure your muscles are exactly as strong as they look!