Ken Patera Training Routine

Ken Patera was one of the most famous professional wrestlers in the world. At the height of his career, he held the WWF’s Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship and he also captured the “Pro Wrestling Illustrated” Most Hated Wrestler Award. 

Ken was a national weightlifting champion before he turned from clean and jerk to ‘grappling’. In this article you will learn about Ken’s weightlifting philosophy.

Ken (b. 1943) grew up in an athletic family. His youngest brother Dennis was All-Star pitcher in little league and during high school he was city and state champion in the discus. Patera liked playing basketball but he broke his foot and had to wait 12 weeks before he could compete again. By this time he was 5’9″ and weighed 165lb.

As a youngster he also wrestled for 2 months and decided to start practicing shot-put and discuss throwing, so he quitted wrestling. He was really interested in the shot and discuss and he had some background in weight training, but he had only access to about 150 pounds.

He trained about three months out of the year during high school and his routine consisted of military press, benchpress, curl, squat and sit ups. He did not go to college the next year but he did find out what real weightlifting was all about.

He started training at Sam Loprinzi’s Health Studio in Portland. In 1962 he trained three times a week for six months. By the end of the next year he was 18 years old and 6’1″/183cm and weighed 220lb/100kg.

The Olympic lifts were his favorites and he had personal bests of 265lb/120kg press, 225lb/102kg snatch and a 305lb/138kg clean and jerk.

Ken became the first American to clean-and-jerk 500 pounds, and the only American to press 500 pounds officially.

In 1968 he stopped Olympic lifting and started to powerlift to build more strength and weight for shot-put. His weight went up to 295lb/133kg while he bench pressed 520lb/235kg, back squatted 820lb/371kg and deadlifted 725lb/328kg. He injured his back during the Spring and it got progressvely worse and then in April he broke his foot.

By the time the Olympic Trials arrived in August he was very discouraged and disappointed. His training was hampered by injuries and he placed 5th.

This was when he decided to quit shot-putting and seriously attempt Olympic lifting. He knew he could be good if he could avoid injuries and train nine or ten months each year instead four or five.

How do gain or lose weight?

Ken had to drink one gallon of milk each day, but the real thing that did it for him was protein drinks twice a day. He used one quart of milk, three raw eggs, 1/2 pint of yogurt and 4 tablespoobs of Hoffman’s Super Hi-Protein (doesn’t exist anymore). When he wanted to lose wight he just cutted down on his milk and other liquids.

His weight got to 335lb and his pressing strength went up also. It went up so rapidly that it shocked him and his training partners.

He started his pressing routine after a couple of months of conditioning and rehabilitation for his knee.

His first workout was 355lb x3. Five days later he did 395lb x3. Five days later he did 465lb. After five more days he pressed 495lb x1 and 530lb x1. All of these were taken from the squat rack.

In California he gave a pressing exhibition and there before 500 people he pressed 355lb x3, 405lb x2, 455lb x1, 505lb x1, and 535lb x1.

He had 550lb going overhead but could not lock it out. After this exhibition he entered the California State Championships and pressed 485lb real easy for a new American record. 

He then jumped to 507 and pulled a leg muscle during the clean and had to drop out of the meet. He tought for sure that he was through for the year but it healed up just in time for him to strain his back.

According to Ken warming up properly with the right stretching exercises will eliminate 75% of all injuries.

Ken Patera’s training routine

Ken: “There are so many different routines in Olympic lifting it’s hard to say which one would be best for any particular person.
I have three routines which I use, one for strength, one for conditioning, and one for technique.

The most important one is of course strength. Most of my training is on strength, about 70% with 30% of my time being devoted to technqiue work. Conditioning comes on different days and during long lapses between meets.”

Here is a typical shedule that Ken Patera used prior to the Olympic Games. With these exercises he strenghtened every position and every movement in Olympic lifting

Training prior Olympic Games

Monday, July 3, 1972
Exercises Weight x Rep
Overhead squats 135lb x3, 205lb x3, 255lb x3, 295lb x2, 325lb x2
Front Squats 225lb x3, 315lb x3, 405lb x3, 455lb x2, 520lb x1
Snatch high pulls from blocks 225lb x3, 315lb x3, 365lb x3, 405lb x3
Press behind neck 135lb x3, 205lb x3, 255lb x3, 305lb x3, 345lb x1


Wednesday, July 5
Exercises Weight x Rep
Press off the racks 135lb x5, 225lb x3, 295lb x2, 355lb x2, 405lb x1, 440lb x1, 480lb x1, 325lb x5
Clean grip high pulls 255lb x3, 305lb x2, 355lb x2, 405lb x2, 455lb x2, 505lb x2, 555lb x2
Hyperextensions No weight, 3 sets of ten reps


Friday, July 7
Exercises Weight x Rep
Snatch 135lb x3, 205lb x3, 255lb x2, 295lb x1, 315lb x1, 340lb x1, 360lb x1
Inclines 225lb x5, 295lb x5, 345lb x3, 405lb x3, 430lb x1
Good mornings 135lb x5, 205lb x5, 255lb x5, 305lb x5

The following are the exercises the he used including his best poundages in each lift:

Clean and Press: 485lb
Press off the racks, 535lb
Incline press (45): 465lb
Press behind neck: 375lb
Power clean: 440lb
Squat clean: 505lb
clean grip high pulls: 585lb
Snatch grip high pulls: 440lb
front squat: 615lb
Back squat: 820lb
Good morning: 525lb
Dips: Bodyweight
Hyperextensions: 130lb x10
Roman chair sit ups: he used 50lb
Overhead squats with snatch grip: 410lb

What now follows is a random sampling of Ken’s “typical” weightlifting routine 

Monday Weight/Reps
Power clean with push press 235lb-3; 305lb-3; 330lb-3; 360lb-3
Slow jerk pulls 400lb-2; 450lb-2-2-2
Fast jerk pulls 355lb-3-3-3
Light snatch 235lb-2-2-2
Incline press 45° 280lb-5; 325lb-3; 370lb-3-3 
Front squat 325lb-3; 375lb-3; 425lb-3; 475lb-3
Power snatch 145lb-5; 205lb-3; 235lb-2; 270lb-1
Press of Rack 135lb-5; 235lb-2; 325lb-1; 365lb-1; 390lb-1
Squat to bench 2″ above parallel 350lb-3; 450lb-3; 575lb-3; 665lb-3
Power clean and press 230lb-2-3; 280lb-2; 320lb-2; 350lb-1
Snatch grip pulls 300lb-2-2-2; 330lb-2-2

Note: Usually Ken will do the Olympic lifts on Saturday and go for a total. He usually went heavy.

Ken Patera’s thoughts about coaching

Ken Patera: “Weightlifting is a sport in which everyone needs coaching and most important, he needs people around who are enthusiastic and willing to help out. I trained at the LA YMCA during the winter of 1972 and picked up a lot of good advice from Bob Hise, Sr. 

I will complete my training in San Francisco at Alex’s Sport Palace under the watchful eye of Jim Schmitz who owns and manages the gym.
He is also a good friend who generates a lot of enthusiasm and has a good knowledge of the Olympic lifts.

Weightlifting has been good to me and I would like to continue to compete but I’m going into professional wrestling as soon as the Olympic Games are over. What I mean when I say that weightlifting has been good to the Olympic Games and to the Pan American Games. Now that my goal has been reached I will bow out and let someone else fulfill his dream of making the United States Olympic Team in 1976.”

Editor’s note: I can remember that Mr. Patera was also coached by Bill Starr (highly decorated strength coach). Use the tag system below and you would find some training routines by Bill.
-Mr. Berg

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