The Bench Press and Steroids – They Love Each Other history of the bench press and drugs

| by Truth Seeker |


There has been a parallel ascension of both – bench press records and physical enhancement powered by drugs. You cannot have one without the other, for the fact that the human body has not changed over the last century as much as they want you to believe. Therefore, the new highs have been the result of two factors – increased popularity of the bench press (larger pool of lifters) and anabolic steroids. Training strategies, nutrition, supplements and modern barbell voodoo (overthinking) are of the smallest importance.

History of The Bench Press

The life of the bench press begins with the floor press – the lifter would roll a barbell loaded with big 19-inch plates over his face and push it.

The floor press is now dead except in powerlifting and home gyms. Powerlifters like it because it helps the bench by building “honest” upper body strength without leg drive and excessive arching. Meanwhile, individuals who train with limited equipment also floor press to develop their pushing muscles.

In 1898, George Hackenschmidt floor pressed 361lbs/164kg according to the history books. The record stood until 1916 when Joe Nordquest broke it by 2 pounds – 363lbs/165kg – weighing 190lbs/86kg.

Photo Courtesy of Jarett Hulse | via:

Soon the floor press transformed into the belly bench because many lifters started to implement the so-called “belly toss” technique – a method relying on a glute bridge to get the weight up. About three years after Hackenschmidt’s record, his trainer Georg Lurich belly-benched 443lbs/201kg.

Eventually, Bill Lilly belly-tossed 484lbs/220kg (three times his bodyweight), thanks to his ridiculously flexible spine. This acted as a revelation – people began to admit that the belly-bench is a soulless exercise, for it doesn’t hit the upper body over a great range of motion. The lifting community started to viciously criticize the movement. Even the iron guru Bob Hoffman talked against the lift.

By the mid-1930s, lifters started to press from wooden boxes or benches in order to increase the range of motion and the contribution of the chest muscles which push the barbell out of the bottom position.

In 1939, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) made this kind of pressing a standard and pretty much killed the belly-bench.

Were steroids available between 1898 and 1930?

The Use of Drugs in Professional Sports Dates Back to 1889

During the late 19th century, the Harvard professor Charles Édouard Brown Séquard extracted a ”rejuvenating elixir” from the testicles of dogs and guinea pigs. At 72 years of age, he injected himself with the juice and reported energy and strength gains.

Quote: ”I have made use, in subcutaneous injections, of a liquid containing a very small quantity of water mixed with the three following parts: First, blood of the testicular veins; secondly, semen; and thirdly, juice extracted from a testicle crushed immediately after it has been taken from a dog or guinea-pig.”- Séquard.

One of the first professional sports players to use performance-enhancing substances other than food and supplements was James Francis “Pud” Galvin – an American Major League Baseball pitcher inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1965.

During the 1889 season, Galvin openly used the Brown-Séquard elixir (the one described above). Ironically, the American media praised Galvin for relying on the new serum. Here’s an excerpt from an article on Galvin published by the Washington Post:

“If there still be doubting Thomases who concede no virtue of the elixir, they are respectfully referred to Galvin’s record in yesterday’s Boston-Pittsburgh game. It is the best proof yet furnished of the value of the discovery.”

Did George Hackenschmidt and Joe Nordquest rely on the “elixir”?

Most likely not. George Hackenschmidt probably wasn’t even aware of the elixir’s existence since he wasn’t American. One thing is certain, though. At the time, there were no steroids as we know them today.

The early form of testosterone appeared in the 30s. On May 1935, in Amsterdam was reported the isolation of crystalline compound from bull testes. The compound was named testosterone (testo=testis, ster=sterol, one=ketone).

The period between the 1930s and the 1950s remains known as ”The Golden Age of Steroid Chemistry”.

In The 1940s Steroids Became Cheaper and Even More Affordable

During the early 40s, Russell Earl Marker, an American chemistry professor, discovered that the raw materials required for testosterone synthesis could be derived from the plant diosgenin. In 1942, he started an expedition in Mexico funded by the pharmaceutical company Parke-Davis. The goal was to find the ultimate natural source of diosgenin.

Marker discovered the “barbasco” variety of wild yam. Since the American pharmaceutical houses rejected the proposal of Marker to commercialize the new discovery, he founded Syntex SA in Mexico City, which became a major importer of hormonal drugs in the United States.

1000 Different Steroids Were Synthesized Between 1948 and 1955

Between 1948 and 1955 the company Searle Pharmaceuticals founded in 1888 by Gideon Daniel Searle synthesized over a thousand different testosterone versions, hoping to create a steroid with minimal androgenic effects.

What happened on the bench press scene after the 1930s?

Doug Hepburn happened.

In 1950, he pressed 400lbs (181.82kg) weighing roughly 251lbs/114kg at 5 feet 8½ inches/173cm.

In 1951, he pressed 450lbs (204.55kg)

In 1953, he pressed 500lbs (227.27kg).

Hepburn eventually lifted over 560lbs/254.5kg and was on the road to a drug-free 600lbs/272.72kg bench press when he injured his shoulder. His maximum bodyweight was 290-300lbs/145-150kg.

Was Hepburn natural?

Many sources say that he despised steroids and couldn’t have known of them during his bench press prime.

In an interview taken by Bruce Citerman (Monster Muscle the Magazine), Hepburn states the following:

Steroids started in 1950. I was told this by the professors at the University of British Columbia. I believe this because I was head and shoulders above every other weightlifter in the world. Nobody was lifting the heavy weights I was lifting. The 1950’s came around and hundreds of strong men came out around the world lifting close to the weights I was lifting. My comments on steroids! The advent of high potency drugs, especially anabolics and prevalent usage has obliterated all but the last vestige of sanctity in sports.”

Ultimately, it is hard to know with certainty whether Hepburn was a “full-blown natty” throughout his whole career. There are a few things that are certain, however:

1.He remains one of the most natural men who have bench pressed 500lbs.

2.The steroids from the early 50s were not nearly as advanced as the product available during Arnold’ era and beyond.

3.Hepburn was extremely heavy for his height. He may have been over 40% body fat at his heaviest. The extra bodyweight helps tremendously. Want to know that fastest way to add 20lbs to your bench? Just gain 20lbs of bodyweight. Fat works too.

In the photos below, you see Hepburn bench. Notice the wide grip and the thick chest – two elements that make it possible to lift heavier barbells thanks to the shorter range of motion. However, the excessively wide grip places too much stress on the shoulders and the chest tendons.



There is also a snippet from an article supporting the conclusion that Hepburn’s grip was ultra-wide.


BW: It has been rumored and even spoken by Hepburn, words to the effect that you copied Big Doug’s routine for the bench (Doug Hepburn was the 1953 World Weightlifting Champion and one of the first true powerlifters. He was known for his pressing strength as well as squat. He used a collar-to-collar grip in the bench.).  {source}

5.The bench was a relatively new lift. Therefore, the natural possibilities were unknown.

6.Benching 500lbs while weighing over 250lbs makes the lift less than 2BW (two times bodyweight). In theory, a very gifted natural may get close, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for the average population.

In 1959, the wrestler Bruno Sammartino benches 565lbs/256.8kg while weighing 270lbs/122.72kg at 5’10” (1.78m). The photos of Sammartino available in the public domain reveal that he wasn’t really lean, but he wasn’t as fat as Hepburn either. Truth be told, most average dudes of the same height would be sumo material at 270lbs.

Was he natural? We can’t answer that question with certainty, but it is worth mentioning that steroids were a part of the wrestler’s regimen in the 60s. For instance, Ric Drasin whose debut was in 1965 is openly talking about all the drugs that he and his friends used to take. During Drasin’s era, the anabolic drugs available on the market were very potent and of enormous variety. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to wonder whether “lighter product” had already infiltrated the lifting and wrestling circles before the 60s. After all, Hepburn himself stated that “steroids started in 1950”.

The next bench press record is under the name of Pat Casey who presses 615.5 lb (279.7 kg) on March 25, 1967 to become the first man benching 600lbs officially.

Was he natural? He must be, right? After all, the kids want to believe that all their idols who have black and white photos were clean. Of course, that’s not true. Even with today’s drugs, benching 600lbs or even 500lbs is considered incredible.

Yes, Casey wasn’t lean or close to it, but he was carrying a ton of muscle nevertheless. He weighed around 329lbs at 6′ something when he did the record and held the weight rather well, although he was obviously on the fat side. But honestly, just about anyone would be fat at 329lbs/149.5kg.

In addition, steroids were already an established cell of the lifting community during that era. Strength athletes, bodybuilders and other sports figures doing “whatever it takes” to win relied on the drugs.

Put yourself in the shoes of men obsessed with breaking records. Why would a lifter remain natural when his rivals aren’t? Due to some sort of self-righteousness? Yeah, right.

When you are trying to break limits, you are already sacrificing a lot. Men like Casey did not feel comfortable being that heavy because the habits required to maintain the extra weight are far from pleasant. You are constantly forcing yourself and overcoming inner voices. And if you are doing all of that to set records while competing against others who are doing the same but also roiding their brains out, the option to remain a full-blown natty brah is simply not on the table.

In 1972, Jim Williams benches 675lbs (306.8kg) with ace bandages on his elbows, wearing a T-shirt. He was 6’1” tall and weighed 340lbs. Natural? He must be because he was on the fat side too? Yeah, right. The powerlifters from the 70s who made it big were as natural as Arnold.

John Kuc – one of the best powerlifters of all time and a training partner of Jim Williams is open about his steroid use. He calls roids “currently outlawed ergogenic aids“. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to doubt whether Williams, who by the way was a pimp, relied on the same “ergogenic aids”. It is also worth mentioning that Williams unofficially benched 700lbs/318kg – a number that will forever remain superhuman.

The next truly enormous bench goes to Ted Arcidi who lifted 666.9lb (303kg) without wrist wraps on April 1, 1984 in Honolulu while weighing significantly less than his predecessors – 286lbs/130kg at 5’11”/181cm.

In 1985, Arcidi benches 705lbs/320.45kg in a bench press shirt which in his words was only keeping his shoulders warm. Unlike the modern bench shirts which require two more men to get them on the lifter, Arcidi was capable of putting on his “armor” without extra help.

Was Arcidi natural?

In the following excerpt from an interview, he says that he has used.

Q: Do you feel that drugs, and I am talking about STEROIDS, are necessary for promoting exceptional strength gains for a powerlifter?

I feel they’re necessary for gaining strength. Especially at a world-class level because everyone else is taking them. I’ve tried a few, but if they work as well as people have said they work, then I thought I’d be seeing more people benching 700lbs. I’m the only one in the 700 lb club right now. I think a lot of it is not the steroids. It’s nutrition and rest and a good lifting cycle and a positive attitude and a good, well planned ‘rep’ by ‘rep’ lifting cycle. absolutely!!!! {source}

Beyond 700lbs

James Henderson officially broke the 700lbs/318kg raw barrier in 1996 by pressing 705lbs/320.45kg without a bench press shirt while weighing 390lbs (177kg) himself.

Many want to believe that he was 100% drug-free because he was tested, but there’s a difference between passing a test and actually being clean.

Obviously, steroids were already widely available at the time. And just like with the other cases, we have to ask ourselves what is the likelihood to reach the top in a venture that has been powered by drugs since the beginning? If someone can bench over 700lbs naturally, how much could he bench with the help of steroids? 900lbs? I think you realize how absurd that is.

Since then Henderson’s raw record has fallen three times. In 2003, Scot Mendelson presses 715lb (325 kg). In 2013, Eric Spoto lifts 722lb (328kg). In 2015, Kirill Sarychev sets the current world record – 738.5lb (335kg).

Great Modern Lifters Think and Inject Alike

At the highest level, strength sports work like this – either all of the top dogs are taking or none of them are. Why? Because the gap in terms of strength and size between a natural and a non-natural is simply way too big. You can’t just fill it with fat, hard work and genetics. The drugs offer irreplaceable superhuman advantages that no natural method can match.

Honestly, the chances that all bench pressers over 700lbs are natural are as high as seeing YETI dance. The record holders may not be as lean as the bodybuilders who dance around in thongs, but both carry a similar amount of muscle mass in the upper body.

So, how much can a natty expect to bench press?

1.5 times your bodyweight seem like an adequate number. If you weigh 150lbs/68kg, that would be a 225lbs/102.2kg bench press. If you weigh 200lbs/90.9kg, the number will be 300lbs/136.36kg.

Note that I am talking about a full range of motion bench press – no excessive arching other than what is required to do the lift correctly. Pausing is good, but you don’t have to do it unless you are in a competition with strict rules.

If you really want to reach very high numbers as an average natural (high 300s and 400s), you will have to carry extra weight. I am sorry, but this is the only way for the average human.

Of course, there are freaks of nature lifting more, but the exceptions do not count. They don’t offer anything useful other than fuel for worship. So what if some guy is gifted and benches a car? Who cares? How do you benefit? Are you going to download his genetics and install them on yourself? Do you really think that following his program will make a difference?


Returning To The Natty Reality

The brain of the modern natural bodybuilder is overstimulated by never-ending information.

YouTube, sites, blogs, Reddit, social media, magazines and all kinds of gossip are filling the head of the natty with info that results in over-saturation and a mutated perception of reality.

Modern people communicate mostly through their digital alter egos. But when you put the filters and the online legends aside, you are left with a world far different from the Internet fairly tales.

We mentally conceive of the Internet as one person – a person better than us at virtually everything. There’s always somebody online who is winning while you are losing. But the truth is that nobody can win against the Internet. In fact, the more you try, the more you lose. The harder you bang your head against the wall, the more it hurts. There is always another man lifting more in every sense of the word. As long as you are looking for that person, you are going to find him. The more you focus on something, the bigger it becomes. The more you try to satisfy Internet’s requirements, the more your soul suffers.

We spend too much time worshiping the “stars”. We look at their pictures, videos, social media accounts. We read the articles with open mouths, thinking how great those men and women are. And while it may be useful to have someone to look up to, it comes at a price – when done wrong it deprives you of your love for yourself. You give it away just because the system wants you to think that you are unworthy if you can’t bench press some arbitrary number. But that could happen only if you are unaware of your inherent value.

Have you ever seen a cat thinking that other cats are better? Have you ever seen an animal that allows itself to love itself only after reaching a certain degree of self-improvement? I doubt it.

Animals are not born with an inferiority complex. They may develop it, but in general, it’s not in their nature. To a certain extent, we are the same, but the system and our ego teach us that unless we satisfy certain criteria in the human realm, we are worthless. We ask the world to give us value. We beg for a label. As long as we do it, we will continue to feel inferior.

If you need to bench X number to love yourself, you haven’t learned the lesson.


V.C. Medvei (1982). ”A History of Endocrinology” ISBN 978-94-009-7304-6

Patrick Lenehan (March 1,2004). ”Anabolic Steroids” ISBN 9780203634530

Ralph I. Dorfman and James B. Hamilton (February, 1940). ”Concerning the Metabolism of Testosterone to Androsterone”

Gallagher TF, Koch FC (November 1929). ”The testicular hormone” J. Biol. Chem. 84 (2): 495–500.

Butenandt A, Hanisch G (1935). “Umwandlung des Dehydroandrosterons in Androstendiol und Testosterone; ein Weg zur Darstellung des Testosterons aus Cholestrin” [About Testosterone. Conversion of Dehydro-androsterons into androstendiol and testosterone; a way for the structure assignment of testosterone from cholestrol]. Hoppe Seylers Z Physiol Chem (in German) 237 (2): 89. doi:10.1515/bchm2.1935.237.1-3.89.

Butenandt A, Hanisch G (1935). “Uber die Umwandlung des Dehydroandrosterons in Androstenol-(17)-one-(3) (Testosterone); um Weg zur Darstellung des Testosterons auf Cholesterin (Vorlauf Mitteilung). [The conversion of dehydroandrosterone into androstenol-(17)-one-3 (testosterone); a method for the production of testosterone from cholesterol (preliminary communication)]”. Chemische Berichte (in German) 68: 1859–1862.

Ruzicka L, Wettstein A (1935). “Uber die kristallinische Herstellung des Testikelhormons, Testosteron (Androsten-3-ol-17-ol) [The crystalline production of the testicle hormone, testosterone (Androsten-3-ol-17-ol)]”. Helvetica Chimica Acta (in German) 18: 1264–1275. doi:10.1002/hlca.193501801176.

Pud Galvin: The Godfather of Juicing By Joe Halverson, Correspondent Jan 15, 2011. Bleacher Report: Los Angeles

David KG, Dingemanse E, Freud JL (May 1935). “Über krystallinisches mannliches Hormon aus Hoden (Testosteron) wirksamer als aus harn oder aus Cholesterin bereitetes Androsteron” [On crystalline male hormone from testicles (testosterone) effective as from urine or from cholesterol]. Hoppe Seylers Z Physiol Chem (in German).

Millard Baker “The Amazing History of Anabolic Steroids in Sports.” August, 2011. (accessed March 5, 2017)

Conor Heffernan “Pumping Iron: The History Of The Bench Press.” April,2016. (accessed February, 2018)

“Pat Casey – Part One – Bruce Wilhelm” April, 2008. (accessed February, 2018)

Dennis B. Weis “Ted Arcidi The Boss Of The Bench Press” 2002. (accessed February, 2018)

Bruce Citerman “Doug Hepburn Strongman” (accessed February, 2018)

Katterle, S (February 2009). “Power Surge: The Bench Press – History, Records and Raw Lifts”. Ironman Magazine. p. 237.

Josh Levin (2004-08-09). “One Giant Lift for Mankind: The race for the 1,000 lb bench press”. Slate. Retrieved 2009-12-06.

Jim Williams – a Powerlifting Pioneer”. House of Payne Powerlifting. 1993-09-26. Retrieved 2009-01-02.

Vasquez, Johnny. “600 Pound raw Bench Press Hall of Fame”.

video: Jim McDonald “Eric Spoto 722 lbs (327.5 kg) World Record Raw Bench Press – Official Video | SuperTraining.TV”

James Henderson Powerlifting statistics (incomplete)”.

video: IRON BODY “Kirill Sarychev 335 kg(738.5lbs) RAW Bench Press World Record 2015”

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  1. Brett

    Great article. Although I appreciate the time it took for the history lesson, I preferred the second half of the article. Anytime someone bashes the internet and it’s blue pill function I get intrigued. Lately I have become more withdrawn from society (I don’t mean anti-social though) I have gotten so rejected in all walks of life that I barely give a fuck about anyone else anymore. My skin has gotten so thick and I only really care about myself. Even though most would say this makes me a cold person, its the world that made me and all people like me this way, we had to become this to succeed. It seems the more you don’t care about people or what they think the more they try to get your attention. Funny how that works.

    1. Arun nt

      I resided virtually without human contact other than my family members and lover for 3 years but
      I felt happy when I started including dogs and cats as my pets which r way better than my due to circumstances I left my home and reside in a city for my studies but I feel like killing myself missing my dogs and’s not wrong for u to isolate urself as humans r evil idiots

      1. Simon

        That’s sad to hear. Can you go back to see your dogs and cats?

    2. Truth Seeker Post author

      We become more and more desensitized as we grow older – like a muscle that’s been beaten a few too many times and now doesn’t register light weights as dangers. It’s sort of natural because you have a more realistic worldview.

      Eventually, you realize that you can’t change the world and give up for better or worse.

      1. Riki Pianola

        Thats right. You can’t change the world. Hence you go with the flow and not think too much about it. In your own words-“Who’s more happier? a person who wrote an entire blog on shortcomings of natural bodybuilding, or a happy bruh drinking whey protein/BCAAs between workout sets”

    3. swabbie

      I came to the stage where I rather prefer to be alone instead with people
      It’s very hard anyway to find more profound people who appreciate real values
      Most people are very bland, boring as fuck and they are only in materialistic and commercial shit, its better to be alone instead of wasting your life on blank people

  2. Robert

    Always get that dopamine hit when I notice a new natty or not post lol

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      I guess that makes me a good dealer. Thank you for the support, Robert.

  3. Daniel

    Good post, what you think about 20 rep squat program?

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      I think people expect too much from it. If you are looking for a quick way to gain muscle with it, look away. It won’t work and is imbalanced.

      1. joe santus

        In my forty-five years of PED-free bodybuilding (with below-average maximum-muscle-mass potential), I’ve used various squat routines for long periods of time (at least twelve months at a time; and, by the way, if hypertrophy is the goal, squats aren’t the only productive compound — leg presses produce as much hypertrophy as squats for most guys).

        My best quadriceps hypertrophy gains occurred during my first three consecutive years of training while doing squat programs of three worksets of 5-9 reps ( 7 reps was my psychological favorite) twice in seven days.

        After my fifth consecutive year of training (I was age 21 at that point), my hypertrophy gains had completely stopped. That was in 1977, pre-internet, so, while I did realize then that genetics were the most important variable for building mass, I was unaware that hitting genetic ceilings after the fourth or fifth consecutive year of proper training/eating is normative. I didn’t realize I’d reached my maximum mass so couldn’t add additional lean mass. Therefore, I began experimenting with what I hoped would add more quadriceps muscle, including radically different rep ranges.

        Among those experiments were 20-rep squat sets. Not “breathing squats” (for those familiar with that deliberately-lighter-poundages variation), but 20-rep squats with heavy and gradually heavier poundages.

        The 20-rep sets did nothing to stimulate further hypertrophy (nor did anything else I tried; and, again, I used each program for at least one year.)

        What I do recommend 20-rep (and even higher) rep squat sets for, though, is for maintenance bodybuilding, especially for guys past age 45 (I’m 62 this year).

        Maintenance bodybuilding is what bodybuilders do after reaching their genetic ceilings — they continue training/eating in order to maintain the muscle they built in those first four or five years. For myself, that’s amounted to forty years of maintenance bodybuilding. I found that using 20 and even as many as 50 rep squat sets (with as much poundage as possible) maintains quad mass but also has a mid-range cardiovascular effect which contributes to overall health and fitness, which is especially important as a guy ages past age forty-five.

        1. Rob

          Interesting, it’s good to read about drug free older lifters and their experiences and results. I’m 40 now and even though I squatted a lot when I was younger squats never really did anything for me, leg presses on the other hand were the best thing for my legs by far.

          1. doug

            I am 40 this year and have lifted for 24 years. I hit peaks around 5 years in. I tried all sorts to kick start it again. I then joined the army and played lots of rugby with a maintenance type routine for 10 years to keep my strength at that level. I then tried again to get some PBs at around 34 and got back to the same levels again. I then cleaned up my diet, focussed on form and not missing sessions due to work and kids at 38 and have got some new PBs. They are minor PBs though, a few kgs here and there but I am still pretty pleased though. My Dad is 72 and used to do the highland games etc PL and did BB too and was anti-steroid which has helped me and now my kids. He does what he calls his keep-fit training which is hundreds of reps with low weight. He considers himself puny now but he still hits a double bicep with 16″ and impresses my kids.

  4. Average guy

    Thanks a LOT for your articles(Already read your book), sorry forgot your name 🙂
    I am 34, was lifting for 3 years. I am counting calories, weighting myself daily, taking photos, hitting gym 4 times per week. Biggest gains came after first 1.5 years. I gained quite a lot of muscles. I am 174cm / 73kg with low body fat( who knows how much, abs are visible, calipers shows 12%), I look better than most people. I have good genetics, wide shoulders and I was always more muscular than my punny friends(too bad I am short :)). However after the 1.5 years the muscle stopped growing. Like completely. No more mass. I thought I was just starting, because I want to get as big as these guys on Internet. I was desperate because I was doing everything right and stopped growing while not looking like these monsters. Well, I guess I will not get much more bigger naturally, like ever. Thats ok, I look good.Thanks to your site I get insight how this all muscle circus works. That actually saved me sooo much time, you cant imagine. I can imagine that I would chase these dreams for a long time, because I am really stubborn and dedicated guy. Thanks for saving my time! (and health)

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Thank you for the support, Average guy. Enjoy your physique and never quit. Good luck 🙂

  5. Arun nt

    Excellent article.I have been waiting for a long time for this article.the thing which intrigues me is your toned down humour as I loved it a lot when u word fuck idiotic morons.that’s certainly missing in this post unlike ur harrybicepflexkilla series.I fear u choose to abandon humour,in this informational article u gave credit to naturals but I came into believing building muscle natural is impossible .if advanced steroids only came in 60s then reeves ,leroy and other liars turn out to be natural or using inefficient short I would love if u revert back into ur old writing style.I loved this article too but I never laughed as I do when I read ur articles. I once used dianabol 20 mg a day for one month and put on 8 kg and retained 6 kgs bringing me to 85 kg until now after 5 fucking years.I never used anything after that as I just lack money for steroids.I feel liars and self motivating morons r vastly downplaying the effect of steroids and other anabolic cocktails as problem with naturals is gaining fat which is virtually impossible with steroids unless u eat like an elephant.please don’t stop ur humour

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Thank you for this comment. I will take your criticism into consideration. This was more of an informational piece. Good luck 🙂

  6. Fatman

    Hepburn had terrific leverages for the bench press, used a grip much wider than what later became legal and did not press the weight strictly. The other lifters you list all did it under competition rules. They all took steroids, and were very open about their use. Steroid use was widely accepted in the 1960s and 1970s and no one even thought about it as weird or shameful. It wasn’t until later that the denial started, thanks to hysterical and fact-free anti-steroid propaganda.

    Natural lifters bench pressing 500 pounds, even with a bounce and arched back, are so rare to be virtually nonexistent. Hepburn may have been one. Mike MacDonald might have been another one, but he was some sort of medical anomaly anyway. Two people in the entire history of the lift – that means it’s impossible, for any practical purposes.

    1. joe santus

      “Natural lifters bench pressing 500 pounds….Two people in the entire history of the lift — that means it’s impossible, for any practical purposes.”

      EXACTLY. And, that’s the balance between “no human can do it, ever” and “you can do it if you want it badly enough and work hard n’ long to succeed.” No, it’s not necessarily humanly impossible, period, but — for 99.99+% of naturals, it IS impossible.

      If the smoke n mirrors muscle marketeers can’t keep you believing “anyone can do it, and we’ll sell you the secret how”, they hope you’ll assume you’re that rare exception who can do it.
      Probability says, “Assume you’re NOT that anomaly!”

      1. Rob

        I agree with you guys and I’ll even go as far as to say that the number of men bench pressing over 405lbs drug free is already very small.

  7. M

    Nice article, thanks for enlightening us.

    @TruthSeeker: Can you please myth-bust or confirm Warrior diets? Do they really work??

    Thank you.

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      What is the warrior diet? Eating only in the evening? Meal timing is not that important. What’s important is how much you eat and what you eat.

    2. Thorgal


      Warrior diet ? I know it, one main meal a day in the PM, very light stuff otherwise (like a few nuts or piece of fruit, not to feel like you’re starving until the evening).

      What do you mean by “really work” ? For what purpose ? Some ppl use this way of eating with the hope that they will body-recomp. It’s nonsensical.

      Others are doing it because they tend to eat too much otherwise. It could make sense but that’s because they don’t know that hunger is triggered in the brain according to energy status regularly signaled from your body stores. So one meal a day or not, your hunger system in your brain will make sure that you eat the right amount of foods according to the so-called “set-point”, no matter what you try to achieve by will power. You need to look at this in the longer term, not the occasional day skipping early meals – be sure that you will regain the calorie deficit if you don’t exercise your will all the time – which is practically impossible.

      As TS said, what matters by far is the amount you ingest and how much you “burn” (via TDEE, i.e. total energy expenditure, which includes EVERY way the body burns energy).

      I suggest you read The Hungry Brain by Stephan Guyenet, you will learn a lot about how this works. Eat regular meals, with proper natural foods, and you’ll be fine.

    3. swabbie

      Actually I read that book – The Warrior Diet by Ory Hofmakler
      Just another fitness book full of broscience, pseudoscience and doubtful historical data and claims
      Good part of the book is written on asumptions and not real data, evidence and science
      Also very expensive and difficult diet regime to maintain – you have to starve whole day, eat only organic food, and buy expensive supplements which author conveniently sells for that purpose
      In short – just another shitty fitness book and scheme designed to milk money from guilable people
      When you strip marketing hype you will get just one more variant of intermittent fasting (all about fasting you can easily find for free online, and you don’t need any special food or supplements)
      Similar crap is also Jason Ferruggia book Renegade Diet
      Just stick mostly to whole food, eat regular meals and track your macros and calories and you will be fine

    4. joe santus

      Pete Grymkowski (google him) used this type of eating schedule in the later 70s while he was winning big titles (and, as he freely admits and details, using copious quantities of AAS and ancilliaries).

      He ate one main meal per day, pointing out that large carnivorous mammals such as lions typically ate only one huge meal per day; he supplemented the one large meal with protein drinks. He nor anyone else seems to have had a name for his style of eating.

      Meaning, like almost 99% of programs, protocols, diets, and methods, “The Warrior Diet” is not an innovation, not novel, not a thing never used before “this modern era”. At best, if its promoter(s) honestly were unaware it existed before, it’s merely a re-discovery of an old method.

      Like nearly any eating protocol which manages daily average protein and calorie intake, it can work for some people, same as other protocols work well for other people. It’s not a magic secret-to-success, no more nor less than any other eating schedule. It obviously worked for Grymkowski (although, as he himself explains — it was the high doses of steroids he used which was the primary reason for his success at top physique levels).

  8. Rob

    I weigh 68kg and 1rm is 105kg! I’ve made it! I guess I can retire. Would still love to deadlift 200kg one day. But at 42yrs old, just having abs and not having to do cardio is good enough.

    1. Brett

      Isn’t this funny. My brother can back squat and deadlift 100 kg for 4 reps. I can only front squat 60kg (5×5) and deadlift 90kg for 5 reps. We both 6’1. He’s 17 I’m 22. I weigh 85 he weighs 74. Shows you that strength doesn’t always equal size, although fuck his thighs are getting swell and I’m sure they are almost bigger than mine.

      Rob forget about numbers bra, just stay lean, and lift for yourself, granted when us 10 years + lifters have already reached our genetic potential all we have left are numbers and weights, but still some days I like to just lift for the sake of lifting. Let’s be honest we only really care about numbers as naturals cause deep down inside we still hold onto the hope that by getting our lifts from 100kg – 120kg we are going to look it. Maybe a little, but never the way we want too.

      1. Thorgal

        Well, we all have an affinity with one of the compound moves.

        I tend to be better at deadlift. I am 1.73cm (5.8′) and 66kg. I deadlift close to 160 kg (1RM) but that’s because my arms tend to be long, or let’s say I have flexible shoulders, while my legs aren’t. So I do not have to lift very high + my back / core is pretty strong, e.g. I have no problem “planking” for long times (idiotic exercise but some buddies of mine insist we do it because they feel like it will help them tightening their “gut” 😀 so I play along, just to annoy them).

        When it comes to bench-press, I suck. I can barely lift my own weight more than twice. I have thin wrist and small body frame. My skeleton is slimmer than normal – even though I look decently muscular, I am not a big guy at all – actually, the muscles I have seem almost out of place on me … 😀 .

        I see some guys that can afford very wide grip. But with me the bar looks impossibly long so I am limited in the distance between my hands when I hold it. Needless to say, it makes bench-pressing a rather annoying exercise but I do it anyway, just not with heavy weights (usually one plate is enough for me).

        1. Fatman

          “When it comes to bench-press, I suck.”

          That’s pretty normal. Good leverages for deadlift are bad leverages for bench press. For me, it’s the other way round. I have been able to get away with a very wide bench press grip for years. OTOH, my deadlift is mediocre and I have had several setbacks through injury.

          1. wordtobigbird

            100% true; we all have one lift that we own. Mine’s the deadlift. Drug free at BW of 200lbs I pulled 565 when I was 23 (15 years ago). It took me 3 years to get there from 315 at BW of 165. I lived, breathed, slept, and ate the deadlift to get to that point.

            Also left me with life long sacroiliac issues, so not worth it at all.

            Years later, never doing any squats or DLs, I can still pull 365 at 170BW any day (tested it just a few months ago, actually) due to my leverages; long legs, long arms, short compact torso.


            I can’t do a full squat with 135.
            I can barely bench 135.

            People need to stop dreaming when it comes to the reality of their own bodies and just accept their strengths and weaknesses.

    2. Rob

      Deadlift 1rm is 176kg currently so I am happy with that

  9. matt

    Yea, the at my biggest body weight several years ago at 195lb I could bench 270lb with eating alot of food and training hard. Now at 175lb, I am only bench close grip and the need to bench high numbers is not in my game. This lift has been easier for me due to shorter arms.

  10. lass lassiter

    Truth Seeker, once again your TRUTH is well researched and enlightening. Salute!

  11. Bane

    I am 21 6’3” 9% body fat 235 lbs ! NATURALLY ! What’s you excuse ? You are not working hard enough and don’t know shit about nutrition !! ……………………………………………………………………………. Ok i’m 36 6′ 3” , more like 16% body fat 190 lbs , i chased an instagram/youtube like physique for 10 years and i finally realized what is a real natural limit ! Now i don’t chase shit, i lift cause i enjoy it and i’m aware of how slow the gains are coming, i am not fooling myself that i’ll look like matt ogus or jeff said if i count macros .. I love “nattyornot” cause it will slap you in the face with the truth and nothing but the truth !

    1. Thorgal

      I think the truth is much more appealing than the fake shit the closet pinners try to sell. It’s just my opinion but I think they look like shit. All these stringy looking dudes look like mutants from Zero-Fat planet, a fantasy world. It’s like those chicks that try to look like a barbie doll : have you ever looked at such a doll with a critical look ? When my daughter started to say that she would like to look like that, I showed her what was wrong with it and made sure such ideas no longer polluted her mind …

      1. alphonse

        even roid users hit the wall and realized how ridicolous they look, I remember I was once speaking with a obvious roid user, he said that he did not want to get bigger because it looked “bad” (not because he had reached his natural llimit and surpased a long time ago but because it looked bad) hope this side becomes more famous, it would really help lots of guys who are stucked with ridicoulous standards

  12. Hall

    I’m reading this article and thinking to myself – How the fuck this guy knows what a cat is thinking?

  13. CeagBozz

    Never stop writing mate. I don’t usually comment on articles but your work has inspired me to start writing too. Would be nice to see more pure comedy articles again. Like the Harry The Biceps Flex Killa stuff. My all time favourite is the types of brahs on one though. Still search for that to read now when I feel like a good chuckle or to cheer me up.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Thank you for the support, CeagBozz.

    2. Piscontino

      Brah same here, if you enjoyed those series you will love this: jhonnys adventure in the muscle world from the blog Irongansta. It never gets old. Btw, love the job done by TruthSeeker here and his previous blogs. Keep up the work man.

  14. Wittgenstein

    Some key words. Paavo Nurmi, 1921, recomending one prohormone called rejuvetin. Male hormones were discovered in 1859, do you really think docs were 70 years with folded arms? Also, dont start buying the “you cant look pretty but you still can be strong” new wave, its the same shit once again.

  15. JoeFour

    To paraphrase the author–“So how much can a natty bench(?)…1.5 times bodyweight seems about right…”

    This fits right in with my experience…in my early 30s (I’m 64 now) I maxed out my bench at 305 and weighed just under 200 pounds at 6′ 2″.

  16. Dave

    Hey Truthseeker,
    Just wanted to ask if you’re still a big proponent of low carb diets?

  17. Hossein

    I first came here looking for a bodybuilding issue but now i come here to be informed about most lies around us. I have been also thinking realistically about my physique potentials. Thanks

  18. Simon

    What is your opinion on Paul Anderson – was he using anything to achieve his lifts?

  19. dmitry

    hi there truthseeker, is it ok to benchpress like joe nordquest? thanks again.

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      I don’t think so.

  20. Forget modern society

    I honestly don’t see the big deal in wanting to bench press or squat or whatever stupid amounts of weight say if you are 180 lbs and you Bench 275-300, Squat 315-335 and Deadlift 385-405 that’s honestly more than enough strength to be useful in the real world and healthy because you are not lying and pinning, plus the strength you build is yours not from a drug. Thanks to social media and bodybuilders and fake naturals, we have grown accustomed to not be happy with our own progress and it’s ashame.

  21. Aron Noble

    I think thruthseeker is on the money in terms of what can be expected naturally if you train and eat correctly. I am a lifetime natural bodybuilder/powerlifter and have been training since 11 years of age (turning 43 tomorrow) I have competed in nabba, nabba wff, inba and nzfbb in New Zealand and had success in all of these federations in the classic, athletic and physique class categories (I weighed around 61-65 kg at a height of 5ft 5- 165cm). As a powerlifter in the NZPF (at the age of 40) I squatted 155kg, benched 112.5kg and deadlifted 205kg at a weight of 68.1kg. Which is 2.28, 1.65 and 3 x bodyweight respectively for those lifts. Yes it did take dedication to training and diet year round for years and years, however, I enjoyed it and still enjoy every minute of it. Keep up the good work truth seeker!

  22. Vikrant Singh

    train me on bench press

  23. Steve

    I think what’s most fascinating about this article is just how much muscle and strength Hackenschmidt built. He certainly was a genetic outlier, but it certainly speaks for what is achievable for SOME people. Also, it’s clear he never really got ultra lean, which made it able for him to hold onto his muscle mass. I think his build is healthy and what people can strive for.

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