The Hepburn Method : Increase Your Strength and Power

Week One

Squat 6 sets of 2 reps @ 80% 1RM
Deadlift 3 sets of 6 reps @ 60% 1RM
1-2 core exercises of your choice

Bench reps 6 sets of 2 reps @ 80% 1RM
Dumbbell rows 5 sets of 6-10 reps
Overhead press3 sets of 6 reps @ 60% 1RM
Face pulls 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps

Deadlift 6 sets of 2 reps @ 80% 1RM
Squats 3 sets of 6 reps @ 60% 1RM
1-2 core exercises of your choice

Overhead press 6 sets of 2 reps @80% 1RM
Pull ups 5 sets of 5-8 reps
Bench press 3 sets of 6 reps @ 60%
Face pulls 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps

Rest 2 minutes between 80% sets and 90 seconds between 60% sets and 60 seconds between all other exercises. On the upper body days, feel free to superset push and pull exercises to save time.

Note – where no 1RM% is given, just use a moderate weight so that the last rep is hard but not all out. Aim to increase either the weight lifted or the reps performed week by week.


In week one, you perform 6 sets of 2 @ 80% of your 1RM and 3 sets of 6 @ 60% of your 1RM. In week two, you add one rep per exercise so instead of performing 2/2/2/2/2/2 reps of the squat, you would perform 3/2/2/2/2/2/ and 7/6/6 in the deadlift. Apply the same rationale to other key exercises. Week three becomes 3/3/2/2/2/2 and 7/7/6 respectively. Continue adding reps in this fashion until you are performing 6 sets of 3 reps and 3 sets of 8 reps. At this point (after 7 weeks) increase your weights by 5kg and start the whole process again using 6 sets of 2 and 3 sets of 6. Your training diary should look like this…

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

On completion of week seven, add 5kg and start back at week one.

This programme is designed for the long haul – that is to say that you should stick with it for at least four months or more. Hepburn regularly used a version of this programme for 12 months at a time and often added 25 kilos to his 1RM in the process. This might not sound like a lot but when you consider how many gym goers never actually get any stronger, 25kg is pretty impressive. The first few weeks of training should fee easy, remember, it’s an “easy strength” programme, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work. Stop chasing fatigue and you’ll start seeing some impressive strength gains and also a lot less joint pain and injures.

Exercise Instructions

Targets: Entire lower body especially quads
How to perform: Stand with a barbell held across your upper back and your feet shoulder-width or wider apart. Push your hips back, bend your knees and descend until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor. Drive back up and repeat. Keep your abs tight and your chest up at all times.
Tips: Do not allow your lower back to become rounded. Use a barbell and not a Smith machine. If you prefer, you can substitute front squats.

Targets: Entire lower body especially hamstrings and glutes
How to perform: With a barbell resting on the floor, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your toes under the bar. Bend down and grasp the bar with a shoulder-width grip. Lift your chest, drop your hips and create a strong arch in your lower back. Keep your arms straight and stand up until you are fully erect. Push your hips back, bend your knees and lower the bar back to the floor.
Tips: if you prefer, use an alternating grip but make sure you switch had position set by set. Do not allow your lower back to round.

Bench Press
Targets: Chest, shoulders, triceps
How to perform: Grasp a barbell with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip and lie on a bench. Hold the bar directly over your chest. With a slight arch in your lower back and your feet flat on the floor, bend your arms and lower the bar to your chest. Push it back up to arms’ length and repeat.
Tips: Do not bounce the bar off your chest as this can lead to injury.

Standing overhead barbell press
Targets: Shoulders, triceps
How to perform: Hold a barbell across the front of your neck using a shoulder-width overhand grip. Your elbows should be below and slightly in front of your hands. Lift your chest and tense your core and legs. Without jerking using your legs, press the weight up and overhead to arms’ length. Lower it back to your shoulders and repeat.
Tips: Avoid leaning back as this can place an excessive strain on your lumbar spine.

Dumbbell Rows
Targets: Latissimus dorsi, biceps
How to perform: Hold a dumbbell in one and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hinge forwards from the hips and place your free hand on a knee-high exercise bench. With your spine neutral and the dumbbell hanging straight down from your shoulder, pull the weight up and into your ribs. Slowly extend your arms and repeat.
Tips: Do not allow your lower back to round when performing this exercise.

Face pulls
Targets: Middle trapezius, rhomboids, biceps
How to perform: With a cable pulley set to shoulder-height, hold the ends of a triceps rope in each hand. Step back and extend your arms. Using a staggered stance for stability, keep your elbows high and pull your hands into either side of your face. Really pull your shoulders back! Return to the start position and repeat.
Tips: This is not a heavyweight exercise – instead, go for form and control.

Pull ups
Targets: Latissimus dorsi, biceps
How to perform: Hang full stretch from a sturdy overhead bar. Bend your arms and pull yourself up so your chin travels above the bar. Slowly lower yourself down and repeat.
Tips: You can perform this exercise using an overhand or underhand grip as preferred. If you can’t do pull ups, do lat pull downs instead.

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