Doug Young's Bad-Ass Bench Press Program

Are you stuck in a bench press plateau? Demolish it with this bad-ass Doug Young–inspired training program.
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Everything is bigger in Texas! Whether it’s the fabled 72-ounce steak in Amarillo, eight-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman, or the 56-plus-inch chest sported by the 260-pound, late Doug Young.

Anyone in the Lone Star State that was around the iron game in the 1970s remembers a tan cowboy sporting a 22-inch neck dressed in tight Wranglers, a short-sleeved shirt and cowboy. To add to the mystique, the cowboy had narrow hips, a tapered waist and wide shoulders that terrorized the most jaded tailor and took out door jambs. That was Doug Young all right!

Doug Young won multiple world championships in powerlifting and played a role as a personal trainer before that was an established profession, serving as mass-building consultant to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

To this day his lifting and almost supernatural presence is discussed at powerlifting meets, gyms and even at local taverns over Lone Star beer and Bob Wills Music.

Doug’s Journey

On January 26th, 1973, weighing 178 pounds, Doug Young bench pressed 305 pounds. Over the next eight months, Doug embarked on a strength-gaining odyssey, packing on slabs of muscle, gaining 82 pounds and making insane gains in power and strength.

On October 1st, 1973, Doug weighed in at 260 pounds and worked up in the bench press to a max of 540 pounds. That’s not a typo — 540 pounds — a gain of 235 pounds in eight months.

Legendary iron game historian and former powerlifting champion, Terry Todd, described Doug in the following way:

“Some men are broad, some are thick, but very few are both.
Big Doug is one of the few.”

Doug’s Routine

Eventually, Doug went on to become the first man under 300 pounds to bench press more than 600 pounds, setting a world record of 611 pounds in the 275-pound weight class. The record stood for years.

Young was no one-trick pony, either. He was also a great squatter and deadlifter, defeating legends like Jon Cole along the way

The following routine is what Doug Young used to increase his bench press 235 pounds over an eight-month period.

  • Bench Press: Warm-up, 425 lb. x 1 rep, 465 lb. x 1 rep, 485 lb. x 1 rep, 500 lb. x 1 rep, 515 lb. x 1 rep, 530 lb. x 1 rep, 540 lb. x 1 rep, 540 lb. x 1 rep, 490 lb. x 9 reps, 300 lb. x 14 reps
  • Front Delt Raise: 50 pounds for 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Triceps Press: 175 pounds for 6 sets of 6 reps
  • Stiff-Arm Pulldowns on Lat Machine: 100 pounds for 6 sets of 6 reps
  • Flyes with Cables: 50 pounds for 6 sets of 6 reps
  • One-Arm Concentration Curls: 55 pounds for 6 sets of 6 reps
  • One-Arm Rowing Motion: 110 pounds for 6 sets of 6

This was 43 working sets! Doug did this workout three times a week throughout that eight-month period. Because of the high volume, outside of this workout, Doug squatted every 10th day for 5 to 7 singles and deadlifted every 15th day for five to seven singles.

High Volume

Doug used this routine to bench press 540 pounds. Find your own max and divide by 540 to figure out a starting point for how much weight to use. If you bench press 270, your max is 50 percent of Doug’s, multiply the numbers he used on the bench press by .5. For the accessory work, go as heavy as possible without sacrificing technique.

Doug Young was clearly not afraid to work! And under Doug’s tutelage his brother, Bob went on at the age of 37 to win NFL lineman of the year long after pundits considered him done. And Arnold clearly did well under Doug’s consultation.

If you’ve hit a plateau, give this routine a shot for 4 to 6 weeks. Do it three times a week and back off the other days. Make sure you keep leg work on low volume maintenance mode.

Final Thoughts

In world of shake weights and eight-minute abs, this old-school, blood-and-guts powerbuilding routine might seem cruel and outright scary. Even if you never attempt one of these routines, it’s important to honor our forefathers and learn the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

Time to hit the pig iron!!