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Physical Culture History Lesson: Pat Casey – King of the Bench Press
By: Adam benShea
Born on July 15, 1939 in Los Angeles, Pat Casey would become known as the “King of the Powerlifters.” As an undersized teenager, Casey started to train at home with a 110 pound weight set, but in 1943 he discovered George Redpath’s legendary gym near Inglewood on the corner of West Manchester Avenue and South Western Avenue. Finding Redpath and his training facility was a fortunate discovery because the allure of physical culture and the images of the powerful gym rats performing feats of strength pulled Casey away from his involvement with petty crime. Redpath was a colorful character who has been described as a muscular vaudevillian acrobat. Redpath’s gym would lay a deep physical cultural foundation in the Southland and under his tutelage Casey developed quickly.
In a true Jailhouse Strong style of training, Casey mimicked what he saw at Redpath’s facility and focused on simple barbell lifts and basic movements. Famously, he also ate large volumes of food. For instance, Casey drank 4-6 quarts of milk on a daily basis and he would often take a brief respite from his lengthy training sessions to eat a meatloaf sandwich covered in mayonnaise before returning to his workout.
This program worked for Casey. He placed fifth at the Teen Mr. America bodybuilding event. At 17, Casey joined the 400 pound bench press club. Mind you, this was a time when maybe a dozen men in the world were hitting that mark.
In 1958, the legendary bodybuilder Bill Pearl bought Redpath’s gym and Pearl provided more guidance in shaping Casey’s growing physique. Alongside Casey, there were many legends of the iron game training at Pearl’s facility, including the shot putter Dallas Long and the man of mystery Chuck Ahrens (who we featured in a Jailhouse Strong video on our YouTube channel). Unsurprisingly, Pearl remembers the massive weight hoisted by Casey, this includes the 225 pound dumbbells which were designated as Pat’s weights. As Pearl says: “Nobody touched Pat’s weights.”
More than simply his physical strength, it was Casey’s incredible mental fortitude that Pearl remembers. This internal resilience aided Casey in his legendary marathon workout sessions. For instance, he once performed 8 hours of dips! Beyond that, Casey also had a certain strength of the will. Pearl explains that Pat “would make up his mind that he was going to lift a certain amount of weight in a certain way and in a certain time and I never saw him fail.”
This intentional focus served Casey in 1967 when he became the first man to officially bench press over 600 pounds with a lift of 615 pounds. The same determination served him in many stressful situations. For instance, Pat used to train alone in a tiny 10 x 10 shed behind his house that had no electricity and required light from a lone candle. One night while benching 550 pounds without a spotter, a strong came through and blew out the candle. Alone and in the dark, the bar dropped on Pat’s neck. He tried to dump the weight, but the narrow walls blocked the plates from sliding off. With a miraculous degree of focus, somehow Pat found his way out from under the weight.
Although he is known primarily as a bench presser, many forget that Pat was also the first man to break the 800 pound barrier in the squat and the 2200 mark in the total. Of course, this was all done without the extravagant powerlifting equipment of today. In addition, he could perform strongman type feats, like a neck bridge pullover and press with 405 pounds.
After retiring from powerlifting, Pat served his community as a police officer in Seal Beach and later in Huntington Beach. After which, he spent time as a private investigator.
To get a sense of Pat’s training, here is a typical workout week as Casey described it to Bruce Wilhelm:
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.
Squats: 135 x 5, 225 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 x 2, 515 x 1, 565 x 6 singles.
Wednesday and Thursday:
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: 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.
Finish with neck work and bodybuilding movements
Adam benShea, PhD, is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and has won the California, Pan Am, and World Championships. He teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is a college lecturer on California’s central coast. Adam is the coauthor of the Amazon bestselling Jailhouse Strong series and The Saga of the Tijuana Barbell Club.
Inspired by the Amazon bestselling book, The Saga of the Tijuana Barbell Club, and its tales of hard core training, heavy weights, and mythic lifters down in Old Mexico. Breathable shirt to keep you cool in the weight room or the board room. Heather Grey – 65% polyester/35% cotton blend. Soft and form fitting. Tapered neck and shoulders with double-needle sleeve and bottom hem. Proudly support old school physical culture. Grab it on Amazon HERE.
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