HIDEAKI INABA: THE LEGENDARY POWERLIFTER OF WHOM YOU'VE NEVER HEARD
Meet Hideaki Inaba, a leprechaun-sized powerlifter who hilariously hailed from Japan rather than Ireland, who hit huge numbers consistently for three decades even though he didn’t touch a weight until he was 33. Far more powerful than his tiny, adorable, fun-sized stature would imply, Hide served as powerlifting’s Pikachu and managed a ridiculous 4.6x bodyweight squat in an old Marathon suit, which is essentially like doing it in briefs now.
Not only that, but this man, who would likely need a booster seat if he dined with you at Applebee’s hit a 4.25x bodyweight squat with Ace bandages for knee wraps, which still stands as heaviest squat in that class by 45 pounds… only two years after he started lifting. In fact, once you remove the actual little people from the equation (they hold the two highest raw squats in history) no one is even in the conversation about squatting period at that weight class- there is just one little old Japanese man standing atop a pile of broken, vanquished opponents, and that’s Hide.
However, Inaba competed at 27 consecutive world championships and won them for 17 straight years. His personal bests are goddamn bananas, and the dude is so natty that he probably has his water drug tested before drinking it. Competing at 114, he’s squatted a wrapped 485 and a single ply 535 at 123. He’s benched 264.5 raw at 114, and he’s pulled 534 in a suit and 496 raw. That’s not even the crazy part, though, because the most insane bit is his longevity. Hide consistently posted sick totals until he was 60- raw, natty as a human being has ever been, and small enough that he had to lift weights to keep the other leprechauns from trashing him for his lunch money.
When I say this man had every excuse possible to name and he still wrecked shop consistently over 25 years, even into old age, I mean every goddamned excuse you could name. Man let? Hell, he’d have to put on 40lbs and grow six inches to reach that goddamn size, yet he squatted four times his bodyweight in every meet in which he lifted after 1977 (he was 33 in his fourth meet at that point) … and he competed until 2003. Age? Hell, he was 33 when he started competing, in a country known for having a bizarrely high number of asexual and hyper stressed men with bizarre psychoses that have them forever confined to the freaking house.
By the time he was done competing, most people have given up on life and just park their asses in front of a television, watching shit box daytime television, eating cat food, and waiting to die. Not only that, but even competing single ply early on, his Marathon squat suits gave him less pop than the newest breed of knee wraps- the dude was moving weight, and no matter how many excuses Redditors, those pussies on Bodybuilding.com, Facebook, or any of the other shit pile social media excuse-making generators popular among the Low T/Pride-free populations could put forth to excuse shitty performance, this tiny little badass still totaled between 1100 and 1300 every time he touched a platform, competing on every continent with a human population for 26 years.
HIDEAKI INABA’S YEAR-LONG TRAINING SCHEDULE
Inaba’s training schedule basically revolved around competing, which frankly is a novel concept to me. Especially at that time, no one cared so much for competition, because there was plenty of that in every gym. It does make sense if you think of powerlifting as a real sport in the same way American football is a sport, and the training as simply practice (I had the all-time, all fed raw world record total at 181 for a while, so I feel comfortable saying powerlifting isn’t much of a sport in my mind- it’s an exhibition that ends in a ranking).
Frankly, this might account for both the stagnation of his lifts and the consistency of them over the course of 25 years- though he never made massive gains in strength, he also never backslid, even as he approached the age at which he could draw social security and most of his peers were prepping themselves for the Japanese salaryman’s inevitable series of heart attacks. Food for thought when you’re constructing a program, I guess, if that’s what you’re inclined to do. Though a year or two of hyper-intense training for powerlifting is certainly possible and the easiest way to make quick, huge jumps in the weight you’re moving, you’ll need a more measured approach to training if you plan on moving big weights for longer than most of you have been on this planet, and Inaba’s methodology does just that
Dec-Jan-Feb– Long Layoff
Mar- April– Power Training
May– Japanese Nationals
Sept-Oct– Power Training
Nov– World Championships
HIDE’S POWERLIFTING TRAINING SCHEDULE
Hide’s training during his powerlifting cycles was straightforward. He’d train two hours a day on his heavy days and an hour or so on Sunday doing accessories. At the beginning of a heavy cycle, he would focus on rep work with lower volume to build a base, then gradually increase the volume as the meet drew closer.
Sunday– Assistance Work
Monday– Heavy Bench / Light Squat / Light Deadlift (10-15 sets of benches, then 5 sets of light squats and dead’s)
Wednesday– Heavy Squat / Light Bench / Light Deadlift
Friday– Heavy Deadlift / Light Bench / Light Squat
For the first seven years of his training, Hide trained outdoors in his backyard. Using a ricket-ass stand, rusty plates, and some plywood, Hide built the basis of a physique that moved the biggest weights ever at 114. Around 1980 or 1981, he started training at an actual gym in the Kadaira district of Tokyo. Furthermore, at that point he developed the system listed here- no accessory work on main lifting days and one day of accessories in his backyard.
Inaba’s rep schemes are reminiscent of the type of programs you’d see in the magazines in the 90s- pyramiding up and then back down. Using these, you get a decent amount of volume and build conditioning without neglecting the heavy shit, and though they have since fallen out of vogue, plenty of lifters have had success with these (including myself and Tara Chaos).
MONDAY: HEAVY BENCH
Beginning of Cycle– 135 x 2 x 10; 175 x 2 x 8; 200 x 2 x 6; 155 x 2 x 6; 135 x 2 x 10
Midcycle– 135 x 2 x 10; 175 x 2 x 8; 220 x 2 x 4; 245 x 2 x 1; 200 x 1 x 6; 175 x 1 x 8; 155 x 1 x 10; 135 x 1 x 10
Pre-Competition– 135 x 2 x 10; 175 x 2 x 8; 220 x 1 x 3; 245 x 1 x 1; 255 x 1 x 1; 260-265 x 1 x 1; 220 x 1 x 5; 200 x 1 x 8; 175 x 1 x 10; 155 x 1 x 10; 135 x 1 x 10
WEDNESDAY: HEAVY SQUAT
Beginning of Cycle– 265 x 2 x 8; 310 x 2 x 6; 350 x 2 x 4; 395 x 2 x 3; 330 x 2 x 5; 290 x 2 x 7
Midcycle– 310 x 2 x 6; 350 x 2 x 4; 395 x 2 x 3; 440 x 2 x 1; 460 x 2 x 1; 374 x 1 x 4; 330 x 1 x 4; 285 x 1 x 8
Pre-Competition– 265 x 2 x 8310 x 1 x 6350 x 1 x 4395 x 1 x 3440 x 1 x 1465 x 1 x 1485 x 1 x 1505-540 x 1 x 1285 x 1 x 8
FRIDAY: HEAVY DEADLIFT
Beginning of Cycle– 330 x 5 x 4
Midcycle– 330 x 2 x 4; 400 x 2 x 3; 440 x 2 x 2; 375 x 2 x 4; 305 x 1 x 4
Pre-Competition– 330 x 1 x 4; 375 x 1 x 3; 420 x 1 x 2; 460 x 1 x 1; 475-505 x 1 x 1; 415 x 1 x 3; 375 x 1 x 4; 330 x 1 x 4
Of note: Inaba incorporated sumo deficit deadlifts. Not only are there photos of him doing so, but the speed of his pull from the floor to knee height would seem to indicate he worked hard on them.
INABA’S “STARVE YOURSELF TO VICTORY” DIET
As you would expect from a grown man the size and weight of Australopithecine, Inaba barely ate anything at all, and he certainly didn’t eat like an Westerner. In fact, he hated American food, presumably out of some belief that it would sap the power bestowed upon him by Shinto spirits or because it would upset the sleep of Unit 731’s corpses. Maybe he thought eating American food would rouse Godzilla from his slumber. Whatever his beliefs, Hide just stuck to traditional Japanese food.
In addition, Inaba’s diet consisted almost exclusively of soy and raw fish. For breakfast, he would eat soybean paste soup, Japanese-style pickled cabbage, and rice. At lunch, he’d chow down with his coworkers in the cafeteria, really sticking to the Japanese ethic of conformism the Japanese hold so dear. In the evening, he would go white girl in her 20’s in a major metropolitan area and eat sashimi and sushi, though I highly doubt he chugged a Starbucks coffee while he did so. What he did not do was take any sort of protein or eat pork, chicken, or beef, and his reasoning for this is remains a complete mystery.
So, there you have it- the Pikachu of powerlifting. Though he likely looked about as dangerous as a stuffed animal and refused to eat any of the food one might think necessary to build superlative strength, Hideaki Inaba was one of the most powerful pound-for-pound powerlifters that the world will ever see. Perhaps the most decorated powerlifter to ever live, Inaba set 43 world records and still holds the world record in the wrapped squat 40 years after setting the record (in addition to having the highest wrapped + raw non-little person Wilks in his weight class). If you learn nothing else by his example, is that even if you’re a tiny person who doesn’t start lifting until they’re 33 and refuses to eat meat, you can still move big weights if you want it badly enough.
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