Pat Casey: King of all Powerlifters
|The massive Pat Casey performing shoulder presses.|
When I first fell in love with powerlifting - and power training in general - in the mid '90s, I immediately had a few heroes. Some of the early 19th century strongmen such as George Hackenschmidt, Arthur Saxon, and Louis Cyr were all fascinating to me. As was my favorite power bodybuilder of all time, Marvin Eder ,and then, of course, there were guys like Bill Kazmaier, Don Reinhoudt, and Bruce Wilhelm. But, once I discovered him, Pat Casey might have - just might have - been my favorite.
Several different things fascinated me about Casey. First, was his strength (obviously). He was ahead of his time when it came to the bench press and the squat. Second, was his physique. He looked as if he could - at any time - strip some fat and step onto the bodybuilding stage. And third was his training. And it was this 3rd thing that I think I loved the most. A lot of his training influenced my own training at the time, since I was trying my best to find the most innovative, effective, state-of-the-art forms of lifting I could.
What follows are a few snippets from different articles written about Casey back in the '80s - long after he was retired. If you are a powerlifter - or just interested in increasing your bench press - you should find some interesting stuff here.
First off, here is a typical week of training that Pat would perform:
Bench Press Lockouts: . Singles from 4 inches off chest. 3 singles from 7 inches off chest. After lockouts, 2 sets of regular benches with 405 x 3.
Dumbell Incline: 3 sets of 5 reps warmup. 120 x 10, 200 x 3 sets of 5 reps. Best: 220 x 6 @ 285 bodyweight.
Lying Triceps Extension: 5-6 sets of 3-5 reps.
Chins: 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.
Curls: 3 sets of 5 reps @ 100 pounds. I feel that I should have done more curling.
Squats: 135 x 5, 22 x 3, 315 x 2, 405 x 2, 585 x 2, 650 x 5 singles, 515 x 10.
Leg Extension: 3 x 20 reps.
Leg Curls: 2 x 12 reps.
Deadlifts from below knee: (working on sticking point) 315 x 5, 405 x2, 515 x 1, 565 x 6 singles.
Wednesday and Thursday
Rest. I worked an 8 hour job during the day.
Bench Press: 135 x 20, 225 x 10, 315 x 5, 405 x 5, 515 x 1, 560/570 x 5 singles, 405 x 10, 315 x 20.
Seated Military Press: I had to turn my head to the side to get the barbell past my face. 135 x 10, 225 x 5, 315 x 3, 400 x 1, 315 x 5, 225 x 8.
Dips: Bodyweight x 3 sets of 5 reps, then 10 sets of 205 x 5 reps.
Lockout Squats: above parallel, squat down and stop on pins. Dead stop. No bounce at the bottom. 135 x 10, 225 x 5, 315 x 3, 405 x 2, 515 x 1. 585 x 1, 650 x 1, 750 x 5 singles, finish with full squat – 405 x 5 with a pause at the bottom. These lockouts were mainly for the feel of handling heavy weight.
Leg Extensions: 3 sets of 20 reps.
Leg Curls: 2 sets of 12 reps.
I would also throw in some bodybuilding movements and neck work.
I would also throw in some bodybuilding movements and neck work.
One interesting thing about Casey was his emphasis on performing dips in his workouts. Marvin Eder, of course, was a huge fan of dips, and apparently Casey was influenced by Eder. Here is what Casey had to say about dips when asked in an interview:
Marvin was the reason I did dips. This movement works every part of the body, but most importantly it puts special emphasis on the triceps and deltoids. As I’m sure you are aware, triceps make up 2/3’s of the arm and that explosion off the bottom and continuous follow-through, especially lockout at the end of the bench press comes from triceps strength. The last workout I did on dips was one of my marathon workouts. At a bodyweight of 300 and using a 250 pound dumbell I did 200 repetitions. I started with sets of 5, then 4, gradually descending all the way down to singles. I did this over a 7 hour period of time and I can readily attest to the fact that I was totally thrashed. I felt shot for the next two weeks. But for some reason at that time I felt that they helped. On several other occasions I did over a 100,000 pound workload dipping, working over a period of 8 hours. I might add that while I was in this pre-power phase I truly trained to exhaustion. I really had to drag my butt home. In addition, I would also go on these marathon binges with the press behind neck. In looking back now, it was total insanity. It caused numerous injuries and I stopped this type of training in ’65. I can probably trace many of my shoulder injuries to this type of workout. Looking at the situation today, if I were training heavy now I would cut the sets back to probably 5 or 6 sets. I would still do dips, but no marathon sessions.
|Casey performing one of his insane dip workouts.|
In an interview with Bruce Wilhelm, here are some tips that Wilhelm garnered from Casey:
1.) Train twice a week, cut the reps and sets back
2.) Get more rest.
3.) On diet, he probably wouldn’t have consumed so much. He did, and still strongly believes in supplementation. When he was training heavy he would drink 6 quarts of mild daily plus ½ dozen eggs with protein. He would also take numerous vitamins.
4.) On wraps and supportive gear: Feels that the equipment today must be extremely helpful. If the bench shirt is only for joint protection, then why don’t the athletes build up their strength through hard work and lockouts and innovative training? It looks like it takes 2 very strong men to just put the bench shirt on the lifter. That seems like a lot of work for a piece of equipment that is only used for protection! The same goes for the squat suit and knee wraps.
Pat may be somewhat envious here as he was never afforded the opportunity to wear such gear. It is beyond my mind to think what poundages he could have handled had he been afforded such opportunities. Also keep in mind that he never used a power belt, only a 4” Olympic lifting belt. I am sure that we could let our minds wander a little, and could really visualize some fantastic lifts. But then again, that is pure speculation and we want to keep away from that.
Bruce Wilhelm: Did you have any innovative or creative ideas?
Pat Casey: Not really, but I have always wondered why if they have a rule on 32” grip on the bench, why they don’t set a limit on foot stance for both the squat and deadlift. Hell, some of the squats, the lifter barely goes down. That is not really a squat. The same goes for the deadlift. I don’t really like the sumo style deadlift either. I don’t see it as much of a lift with that style.
BW: What is your opinion on performance enhancing drugs?
PC: I feel that it is a personal opinion and should be up to the individual. One has to weigh the potential side effects as well as the moral issue. Then there is also the issue of trying to be a role model for young kids. Kids should look up to you for the way you live your life. You want them to know that good things happen to those who work hard. Just remember – easy come, easy go.
BW: What do you think about the lifters of today versus the lifters of 20-30 years ago?
PC: That is a difficult question to answer. The one great thing that holds all lifters together is the pursuit of strength. The means and methods you use to get there vary as well as how you go about it. But most important, it is the quest for strength. It is really a great fraternity, but I feel that some of the lifters today are more self-centered. They have no respect for the past and the history of the sport. They are too self-centered.
Tips for Lifting
Bench Press: As far as performance on the bench, try and get everything into the start. Explode! Bring the weight down in a controlled manner, pause, then blast off the chest. This exploding, Pat felt, would carry you to the sticking point or a little past, and then the triceps would kick in. Position on the bench is also important. Feet tucked back, but not so far as to cause pain or cramping.
Squatting: Set up with the weight as quick as possible. Don’t waste time backing out and moving around. Inhale, descend under control, blast out of the bottom. Think explode. Head back as you fight through the sticking point.
Deadlift: Grab bar, drop hips and explode off the ground pushing with legs, keep arms straight like cables.
BW: I asked Pat about his heavy power rack lockouts. Why and how? What was the purpose?
PC: I needed something to jolt my body once I got past 500 in the bench press. I thought about doing the lockouts from two positions: 4” off the chest and 7” off the chest. The thought being that I would strengthen my tendons and ligaments. Then I could do more volume work in the other exercises without breaking down or getting injured. I was also after the psychological effect of lifting tremendous weights as well as thinking there might be some motor pathway carryover. (i.e. a muscle learning theory whereby the body takes a movement and incorporates it into a similar movement. For example: a partial movement in the bench press would correspond with a full movement. To reinforce such motor pathway transference, a last set would be done with a lighter weight doing the full movement.) When doing this type of rack training I would warm up very thoroughly, then go to doing 5 or so singles in these two positions. I felt that singles were best for building strength, but they also called on your fast twitch muscles to fire. So that was my theory and it worked well for me.
The 2nd exercise I used was the heavy incline dumbell press. I’d do a warmup set and then go straight to a heavy weight for 3 sets of 5 repetitions. The reasoning for this exercise was to attack the chest muscles from a different angle as well as working the deltoid and general shoulder girdle.
The 3rd exercise was dips. This developed tremendous overall body strength, especially when attaching a dumbell and doing reps. It really affected the strength of my triceps, but also worked deltoids and pectorals.
The 4th important exercise was the lying triceps extension. As I said before, I would lean forward and take an Olympic bar with a narrow grip and hook my feet around the bench, then lean back on the bench. I would then do a pullover/triceps extension. I would do 5-6 sets of 3-5 reps. My best was 365 x 3 in this pullover and extension movement. This exercise really strengthened my entire upper body.
The 5th and last exercise for improving my bench was the seated press. I would use a fairly wide grip and would press the weight, having to turn my face to keep from hitting it with the bar. This movement aided me in the bench press enormously.
These exercises plus the lockouts in some form were the key for me improving my bench. Almost all top bench press artists use some of them in improving their lift. These just happened to work for me and so did the sets and reps that I did with them. The great thing about training is that you can use ideas from other and “cut and paste” to get the “right” routine. So good luck in your endeavors to bench more.