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First in David Gentle’s Q & A series. David is an internationally acclaimed Physical Culture historian and author and has contributed to over 25 top Muscle magazines . Acknowledgement to Dianne Bennett, former editor of Body Power magazine (ceased publication) where David’s series first appeared.
I am 25 years old and 5’6″. If I take up bodybuilding, will it help me to grow taller?
TO be blunt, NO! Height is determined mainly by hereditary factors, plus the results of exercise and diet in your formative years. All you can do now is to ensure good posture, sit and stand ‘tall’ at all times.
Many, many bodybuilders today belong to the short classes and have excellent physiques. Make the most of what you are and indeed take up bodybuilding.
The author introduces the “Pre-Exhaust Principle” which claimed maximum gains in the shortest possible time. The chest schedule was designed to work the entire chest area, i.e. the top, middle and bottom. The Pre-Exhaust idea was invented by the late Bob Kennedy who was the Editor of Muscle World magazine and the publisher of Muscle Mag International and Muscle Mag’s Annual.
The Author recounts his personal story how he became involved in weight training and the unforgettable impact his mentor, Pat McShane had on his life and in reaching his strength and physique goals. The author’s journey began with the BULLWORKER system which “whetted his appetite.” One day his journey lead him to the Coatbridge Health and Strength Club in the town where he lived in Scotland. The owner was Pat McShane, “a stocky powerhouse of a guy”.
I first met Gil through his Maxalding website and over the years our friendship developed. We always try to meet up whenever I am in the UK. Gil’s passion for physical culture and his desire to make information and access to old books available for all was evident from the start. I know he spent countless hours and personal finance in order for this to occur. I feel he deserves to be more widely known for his efforts in preserving and disseminating the history of physical culture. This is especially relevant regarding the Maxalding system which I feel without his and friend Roger’s efforts may have been all but lost. Now however it is making somewhat of a comeback in some quarters and surviving into the 21st. Century. I appreciate him taking the time to answer my questions with a special thanks to his wife, Christine for donating her time and typing skills.
1. HOW OLD ARE YOU NOW AND WHAT AGE DID YOU BEGIN TRAINING?
I’m 74 at the moment. I started training at about the age of 13, without apparatus.
2. WHAT WAS THE REASON YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN PHYSICAL CULTURE?
If I’m honest I should say Charles Atlas on the back of my comics but I also had an uncle that was interested and had been a weightlifter in his time and had talked at length to him about my interest. I think really also I was very thin and short and I was fired also by Wilson of the Wizard but unless you’re of a certain age and from the UK you probably don’t know who I’m talking about. I’m sure you remember him Peter.
3. WHAT TYPE OF TRAINING DID YOU START WITH?
I started with press-ups as organised physical activity but, really, testing my strength down the local woods lifting logs and doing chin-ups on the branches of the trees was the start of my strength training. I was then given a course by Lionel Stebbings; the course is now featuring on HOPC. If you read it, you’ll see that it was complete rubbish but it kept my enthusiasm going. I was then given part of a Charles Atlas course, which I followed religiously, making one or two gains before moving onto my next phase, joining a local club. The club I joined was the Police Boys Club in Halifax, Yorkshire; there I was introduced to weight training.
4. WHO GUIDED YOU IN YOUR TRAINING?
It was at the Police Boys Club where I met a man called Maurice Reaney, an excellent weightlifter and instructor and a good mentor and guide to an inexperienced young boy. I was 14. And as you know, Peter, there wasn’t the amount of information around then as there is now. Weider magazines were just breaking through into the UK and the Reg Park magazine was another but these magazines were basically adverts for the publishers’ systems although they did give some kind of guide to the beginner. Then more and more Weider magazines started flooding the market along with Hoffman’s magazines Strength and Health and Muscular Development; although the information in them was not wholly for the beginner they fired the enthusiasm and gave a goal for the young trainee to aim at.
5. OVER THE YEARS WHAT TYPES OF PHYSICAL TRAINING HAVE YOU DONE AND WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST EFFECTIVE FOR YOU PERSONALLY?
Oh dear. This is a leading question. It should be what kind of physical training haven’t you tried – it would be easier to answer. I tried at first every method under the sun. Chest expanders, Bullworker, isometrics etc etc but quickly realised there was no perfect method and the only way I was going to get where I wanted to go was hard work. Along with the weight training I then discovered Maxalding, which I still practice today. This taught me one thing, how to put my mind inside the muscle. Training up till then had just been a mechanical action, the brain wasn’t brought into play at all and, as you know; getting that mind inside the muscle is the most important part of any kind of training. I then acquired a booklet of the Weider course without the charts and Weider had gathered together all the different training methods he’d come across and put them into one book. I found that really helpful.
6. HAVE YOU EVER ENTERED ANY COMPETITIONS AND IF SO WHAT KIND AND HOW DID YOU FARE?
Yes. In my early days I practised the Strength Set which was a precursor to powerlifting. The lifts were, if I remember rightly, bench press, dead lift and curl. I fared very well in this lifting fashion as I was quite strong by then, winning titles in West Riding and North Riding of Yorkshire as a junior. As a senior I went into the Yorkshire Championships in which I came second. I was quite proud of this as there were a lot of good weightlifters in the competition. I was even more proud when I found out I’d actually won it as the fellow who won it had been taking Dianobol and virtually cheated his way to the win. I tried Olympic lifting but didn’t fare well, not having the co-ordination to do the snatch and, after falling on my back several times from the squatting position and seeing a barbell dropping towards me, I decided to quit.
7. WHEN DID YOU BEGIN COLLECTING YOUR PHYSICAL CULTURE MATERIAL AND WHAT WERE THE FIRST ITEMS IN YOUR COLLECTION?
I think I really started collecting when I never parted, much to my mother’s disgust, with any magazine that I bought. Some of the magazines I gave you I actually bought as new when I was about 15/16 I think. My first book was called I believe Physical Culture but I cannot remember who the author was, it was given to me by the aforementioned uncle. I believe this book is somewhere on the site. I definitely remember the next book I bought, Muscle Control by Maxick, which became my bible then and I think still is my bible. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it. From there my collection just started growing and growing. The internet and eBay have put the prices up of the physical culture books. I remember I spent many hours rooting through old bookshops and paying pence for what I considered valuable books.
8. WHAT WERE YOUR FAVORITE AND RAREST ITEMS?
My favourite items were any Maxalding items. The rarest is probably The Construction and Reconstruction of the Human Body by Eugen Sandow. I remember I gave this copy to Kev Collings (Kev the Rev) for his collection. I have many other rare books; too many to really mention. I also have a book collection of Indian physical culture books. I took quite an interest in Eastern methods of physical training and so built up a collection of books and articles. These can be seen on the site.
9. WHICH PHYSICAL CULTURISTS HAVE INSPIRED YOU THE MOST?
This is really hard. I think really Reg Park was a great inspiration to me. I worked as a Saturday boy for a while in his warehouse or shop and was paid in protein tablets, which looking back I think the box was more nutritious than the tablets! Charles Atlas must be fairly high in the inspiration stakes but I think I follow a lot of physical culturists in this choice. Uncle Joe (Weider) was the man I think did more for physical culture and bodybuilding than anybody else. Hoffman was more interested in Olympic weightlifting and the British magazines, with the exception of The Bodybuilder, were very rejecting of any ideas that contradicted the three sets of eight method of training that me and you were brought up with. In the UK I think Oscar Heidenstam did a lot for physical culture whilst running NABBA but I believe made a mistake in joining in and taking sides in the war between Hoffman and Weider. The war was after all just a commercial battle with a lot of name calling and racism on Hoffman’s part.
10. HAVE YOU MET ANY FAMOUS PHYSICAL CULTURISTS AND IF SO WHOM?
Yes, I have. Reg Park is probably the obvious one. I met him quite a few times when he buzzed in and out of his shop in Leeds and always had a friendly word and he could be asked for advice. A man from your side of the Pennines was somebody who I met and who gave me some very good advice in strength training, Jim Halliday. Jim had been trained by Bill Pullum in what he called assistance exercises. For quite a while Jim and I corresponded, with Jim virtually writing me a correspondence course over several months and I followed his advice to the letter. I also met Tom Woodward in Blackpool. A lot of people won’t have heard of him but he was an excellent coach and wrote many courses in balancing, muscle control and strength. He ran a gym in Blackpool which was welcoming to all comers with friendly words of advice. He also published a very good publication, which was Skill Magazine which I’m sure you’ll remember well Peter.
11. YOU RECENTLY AND VERY GENEROUSLY GAVE ME YOUR COLLECTION OF WEIDER MAGS FROM THE 1950s-60s. YOU SAID YOU REALLY LIKED THE WEIDER MAGS OF THAT PERIOD. WHY WAS THIS?
I think I’ve mentioned above the Weider mags weren’t very good for advice to new starters but they were very good inspirational magazines and I looked forward to the copies of Muscle Power coming on the stall in Halifax market every month. When he published a further one, I believe it was Mr Universe, which meant that magazines were appearing on the stall every 2 weeks instead of every 4. Mr Universe I believe was first published by Reg Park but I could stand corrected on this. Weider and his magazines I believe fetched bodybuilders of the 50s and early 60s out of the cellars and basements and into gymnasiums. No more training with 2 tracksuits on and gloves. As I mentioned previously Weider had catalogued all the different training systems he came across and called them Weider principles. One principle featured each month in the magazine. I must admit I tried them all, most of them not for the beginner.
12. WHO DO FEEL HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF PHYSICAL CULTURE/ WEIGHTLIFTING/ BODYBUILDING ETC. IN THE 20TH CENTURY? CAN BE MORE THAN ONE OF COURSE.
I know I’ve mentioned this before but Charles Atlas did more to bring bodybuilding to the general population than anybody but not weight training, that was left to Weider. I’ve said all that needs to be said I believe about Weider, I just haven’t mentioned his supplements. Supplements in those days were fairly unknown. I think we had Casilan and Complan and that was it. There were quite a lot of muscle pedlars advertising in popular publications like Titbits and Weekly News which fired the imagination up of many a young man. Weightlifting I’d like to mention Hoffman, I know he did a lot for the American weightlifting team but was very partisan. Bill Pullum trained the British weightlifting team of 1948 to a high standard, these men like Jim Halliday, Norman Holroyd and others had just come back from the war, hadn’t trained and some were broken men. Pullum’s methods rebuilt them in time for the 1948 Olympics in London.
13. WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM TO START A SITE DEDICATED TO THE HISTORY OF PHYSICAL CULTURE?
On the old Sandow site there was a dedication to my daughter C E Hunter, she was the real start of the site. Catherine had asked me in 1999 what I wanted for my birthday and as I’d lost my Maxalding exercises I asked her if she could find any Maxalding exercises anywhere, knowing she was internet savvy. Not only did she find a set of Maxalding exercises but also my friend Roger Fillary.
14. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AND WHO HELPED YOU AND HOW DID YOU GATHER MATERIAL?
Roger and myself, and I honestly can’t remember whose idea it was, decided to put it on the internet and with my Maxalding books we had the start of a site but dedicated to Maxalding. It caught the attention of Maxaldists up and down the country and before long we were getting contributions to go on the site and the site grew. I had a large collection of physical culture books so I suggested to Roger that we should put these on a site running along with the Maxalding site. We didn’t have a title, not even a working title, for the site until I sent Roger scans of all my Sandow books and Roger called it the Sandow Museum. The title we found out belonged to Christian Anderson in America so we had to change our title. By this time other books were getting put on the site by other authors so we renamed it Sandow Plus, which was run until Roger’s death. Thanks to the physical culture community, we started getting books loaned for us to scan and put on the site. We then had to return them to the loaners, which cost a fortune in Registered Post but it was worth it. Looking back now, the one thing that I didn’t enjoy was being up late at night scanning. Somebody emailed me and said scanning sucks, whoever it was was never more right! The more we got known the more contributions came in and people had found out that we could be trusted with their valuable books and courses and they would be returned as soon as we’d got them onto the site. I’d just like to say thank you to all these people for trusting us with their collections. I feel as though I should mention here that scans and other stuff I sent to Roger and Roger put them on the internet. I hadn’t got the technical expertise for this – I was the collector.
15. HOW LONG DID YOU RUN YOUR SITES AND WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO PASS THEM ON?
We ran the site from the year 2000 to Roger’s death in 2014 and as I explained I hadn’t got the technical expertise to continue running it, besides Roger’s passwords had died with him and the people who hosted our site for us would not in any shape or form let me have access to the site, even though my name was jointly on it. They just kept quoting Data Protection. I was then helped out by my daughter’s partner Tom who managed to download the whole site and put it on his server to save it for me until I found somebody that could run it. I had quite a few offers, all of them commercial who wanted to charge for access to the site. We’d set it up free of charge for everyone and I wanted it keeping that way.
16. WHAT WAS YOUR AIM WITH THE SITES?
I felt there were many bodybuilders out there in the wide world that didn’t know the history of their sport and I’m afraid the collections of books, magazines etc were held in the hands of just a few, me included. I felt I would like to share this with the world. I didn’t think that big at first, thinking only people in the UK would read the site but I quickly realised we’d gone international with emails, contributions and support from all over the world from countries as far away as Australia, New Zealand, United States, South America, India etc etc. I was more than surprised; I was shocked but extremely happy that my dream had been put into practice. Sandow Plus had been born.
17. I KNOW YOU WERE LOOKING FOR THE RIGHT PERSON TO PASS ON THE INFORMATION TO, HOW DID YOU GET IN CONTACT WITH DIANE?
I contacted my friend David Gentle who had been a supporter of the site right from the beginning and I told him my problems. David then suggested I should try Diane, who was hosting his material on the David Gentle site to see if she could help. Diane immediately said yes. Then she found there were all sorts of technical difficulties which to this day I don’t understand, being not very technical minded but thanks Diane, you sorted it all out and the History of Physical Culture is the result.
18. HOW DO FEEL ABOUT THE DIRECTION THE HOPC IS GOING IN?
I feel it’s going in the right direction and that Diane has taken it to levels that Roger and I never could have done. Another thank you Diane.
19. THIS IS A MORE PERSONAL QUESTION BUT I KNOW YOU HAD TO DEAL WITH AND OVERCOME A SERIOUS HEALTH CONDITION OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS. HOW DO YOU FEEL YOUR YEARS OF TRAINING HELPED YOU TO GO THROUGH THIS AND REGAIN YOUR HEALTH?
In 2010 I had a shock to my system when I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Three weeks after the diagnosis I was on the operating table and thanks to my past training and fitness and an excellent surgeon I made a very good recovery, going back to work after only 6 weeks. But the euphoria was short-lived when I was put onto a course of chemo. This did what the operation had failed to do, it knocked the stuffing out of me and whilst on the treatment I felt myself sinking into a depression. I’d stopped training and lost the will to do most things. After the chemo finished, six months later, I started picking up again and training started again. Initially it was just light stretching exercises, some Maxalding and isometrics. This shook me out of feeling sorry for myself and I was definitely back then on the mend.
20. WHAT KIND OF TRAINING ARE YOU DOING NOW?
My daily training consists of Maxalding exercises B, C, E, GG, KK, P and exercise X every other day. All the exercises can be found on the site. These exercises are performed every afternoon along with muscle control. I am fortunate I can take control of most muscles in my body and simulate weight training exercises whilst holding the muscle in contraction. I also have an array of kettle bells, training bands, an ab wheel and a Bullworker; these are brought into play just to relieve the boredom of the same routine and also to challenge my strength. This about sums up my current training. But of course there’s also the little challenges like shifting sacks of garden compost etc etc.
21. ANY ADVICE FOR THOSE STARTING OUT TRAINING OR ANY THING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SAY?
My advice to anybody just starting out training is to get to know their own body. Training is not just lifting a barbell in a repetitious way and performing an exercise mechanically. There is a saying “one man’s meat is another man’s poison” and this is true of training. What’s good for your neighbour is not necessarily good for you. You must put your mind into the muscles, the brain is the most powerful training instrument and by using that to feel the muscles you’re using you’ll make a lot better progress.
I would also like to say, as you know Peter, I absolutely abhor drugs. They’re a poison in every sport as well as in the athlete’s body. Leave them alone and you’ll have a healthy future.
I think that’s it now Peter. I think I’ve said everything that I need to say. I never knew an interview could be so trying and I’d like to thank everybody who tunes into HOPC and keeps the history of physical culture alive.
(c)An Interview wtih Gil Waldron by Peter Yates
Thanks for taking the time to do this Gil. The body of work you compiled has been a most significant contribution to physical culture history and can certainly be seen as your legacy. All the best, Peter
Renowned for his fabulous good looks and out of this world physique, Mr. America and Mr. Universe Steve Reeves became famous through the medium of the Hercules muscle movie videos, and yet ironically, the film star Reeves was but a shell of his pre-movie days, being ordered to slim down for the widescreen epics to appeal to a larger audience. Despite the passing of time and it is actually 40 years since Steve won the Mr. America crown, he remains the pinnacle of perfection to millions of fans despite all those muscle fashions and fads, with an aesthetic physique many still attempt to emulate. Real beauty is timeless, as is good taste. Get a hundred people to choose between freaky muscle champs, or classic figure, and my bet is Reeves would score, as classic, over 90 percent of opinions.
Born on 21st January, 1926 in Glasgow Montana, USA of parents Lester Dell and Golden Viola Reeves. Steve’s father was killed when he was just one and a half years old. His first award in a lifetime of honours and he has received more awards recently than during his world active bodybuilding career, was, the healthiest baby in Valley County Montana. Even with today’s vast choices of physiques, Steve Reeves because of a strong combination of facial as well as physical beauty and symmetry had and still has the most universally envied development in modern times. World famous photographer Russ Warner is quoted in Milton T. Moore’s super book “Steve Reeves One of a Kind” as saying, I don’t think there is one chance in 50 trillion that the particular mix of heredity genes that formed the product we see in Steve Reeves will occur in combination again. Steve was a very unusual bodybuilder. He had the overall beauty that no other bodybuilder had ever been able to achieve. I have had the occasion to work with photographically most of the top bodybuilders in the world but when the good Lord made Steve Reeves he threw the mold away.
Steve commenced bodybuilding when he was about 15 years of age, being the first to admit he had a good foundation and was an easy muscle gainer and after a year or so, soon had a potentially powerful physique.
His first instruction was at Ed Yarick’s gym in Oakland California where he was firmly encouraged to enter and won, all the local bodybuilders and physique competitions. A well balanced and harmonious development was always his aim.
Drafted into the United States army from 1944 to 1946 during which period of time, he spent nineteen months in the Far East, Philippines and Japan – being involved in the battle of Balete Pass, and witnessing the many horrors of warfare and later contracting malaria.
Steve all the time managed to obtain some form of training albeit often with Tarzan-like rope climbing, general free exercise such as push-ups or dips and tension exercise. Later he designed his own weights and basic pulley apparatus.
On leaving the 125th Infantry in the Philippines and the service, he resumed training at Yarick’s making rapid progress. His first major contest was entering and winning the Mr. Pacific Coast in 1947. Steve won the Mr. America contest in Chicago on the 29th June being just 21 years old competing against amongst others the popular Alan Steven and even younger Eric Peterson who at just 18, won the Most Muscular division. Steve with his fabulous physique went on to greater glories. Eric despite his most muscular body faded into obscurity as some sort of lesson there.
The Battle of the Giants
Already highly popular after giving many exhibitions throughout the USA, Steve again competed in the Mr. America in 1948. This time being closely beaten by the great Clancy Ross. Another man with a great balanced body thought by many to excel that of Grimek. Steve came second and Alan Stephen made third place with this fame preceding Reeves came over to London in 1948 complete with highly fashionable soot suit and purple wide shoulder jacket on the 23rd August to compete for the very first time in Europe in the now classic battle between Reeves and legendary John C. Grimek. The battle of the giants. Now physical culture history saw Grimek nearly forty years old wining the first ever NABBA Mr. Universe title . There had been an earlier (Mr. Universe) and Steve still on his way up in the world of bodybuilding taking his loss like a true champion. Like a true champion he said perhaps you will permit me to say that I believe the judges imminently fair and had the audience said that night there is only one John Grimek and I only hope in future I will be able to emulate the position he holds in the bodybuilding world.
Encouraged by the late great Oscar Heidenstam, who instantly recognized Steve Reeves classic line. They both traveled across the channel to France and just three days later on the 26th August in Cannes, Steve won the title of Le Plus Bel Athlete Du Monde and Mr. World from the Federation François Physique. One year later in 1949, Steve, along with almost a who’s who of American bodybuilders, tried for the Mr. U.S.A. crown. Again he was beaten by Grimek the winner and Clancy Ross who took second place. Reeves came third and genial George Efferman of huge pectoral fame came fourth. Possible reasons for Steve’s placing being this was the age of huge bulk and competitors often not knowing before it was too late, whether the judge sought sheer size or as over in Europe, little muscle other than good deltoids and razor cut abdominals. Physiques are influenced greatly by judging requirements and of course of beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
The Physique of the Century
To the delight of his European fans in 1950, Steve who was then instructor at Bert Goodrich’s gym (Bert was arguably the premier Mr. America) decided on an all out attempt at wining the NABBA Mr. Universe title competing against a list of top stars including Britain very own Reg Park. Later himself a triple winner said it all when he remarked on Reeves. The man had everything. A physique of the century. On 24th June at the Scala Theatre, Steve Reeves won the Mr. Universe title and the unique originally designed Sandow statuette later copied and muscled up for the Olympia winner. Reg Park came second and third place went to the late Jean Ferrero, another highly aesthetic physique. Steve’s measurements officially recorded at the event something that is no longer followed were weight 214 pounds, neck 18 inches, chest expanded 52”, arms 18 and a half, forearms 14 and half, wrists 7 and quarter, calf 18 , thighs 26 and height 6 foot, 1 inch. Although Oscar Heidenstam considered that Reeves was in fact taller and more like 6 foot, 3 inches (actually I have stood next to Steve several times and he appeared to be the same height as me. i.e., 6 ft 1 inch DG)
Certainly at times Reeves gained or lost muscle size almost at will yet always retaining harmonious and balanced physique. Never did one feature lag behind or outshine another. In his recent book Steve Reeves, “Building the Classic Physique the Natural Way”, Steve sets out his idea about the ideal physique proportion, this being arm size 252% of wrist size calf size 192% of ankle size, neck size 79% of head size, chest size 148% of pelvis size, waist 86% of knee size and weight 295% of height. My opinion of all this is that it all looks far too complicated to work out and that only the human eyes could judge in an instant through physical symmetry.
As mentioned earlier, Steve was the first to admit that he had the perfect foundation and right from the start was an easy gainer. His premier workout schedule consisted of the following exercises:
Dumbbell swings for warm-up, 1 x 20,
Cleans 1 x 10,
Overhead press 1 x 10,
Supine press 1 x 10,
Rowing 1 x 10,
Reverse curls 1 x 10,
Good morning 1 x 10, and,
Deep breathing lateral raise for great chest expansion 1 x 10.
Even the very earliest photos of him at 15 displayed an already impressive physique with obvious star potential. His handsome features, healthy styled mop of hair, and general vitality were also enormous assets for any future muscle star and film icon. Even had the pleasure of his company in recent years at the Oscar Foundation Awards, I can vouch he had lost none of his charm or physical charisma.
Reeves Training Philosophy
Steve Reeves basic training philosophy, like a breath of fresh air considering the majority of today’s steroid assisted growth monsters, with their marathon kill a bull, workouts, is in his own words, from a personal interview, he gave me as follows: “Since the first workout I believe that a successful schedule is composed of exercises that the bodybuilder enjoys performing. If you like certain exercises, it is obvious you will put more effort into your training period. You should go through a program not as a duty but as something that it is a real pleasure. Train only three nights a week and enjoy it that way. Any more time in the gym will be both mentally and physically draining to me and I think it is for those dedicated zealots who spend most of their waking time in the gym. You will notice that usually burn themselves out in time making little progress for the many hours of slaving they did.”
Certainly many of Reeve’s contemporaries disappear into obscurity once they lost balance in training. Full body workout will benefit cardiovascular fitness just three times a week. Despite being considered old fashioned by some, still work best for most professional bodybuilders.
When training Steve was always dedicated and determined, otherwise, “There is a time and a place for everything and a time and a place for training and training talk is in the gym and not everywhere”. Continuing Steve’s own words, “When I walk into the gym for my workout, I banish all outside thought and influence in my mind. I am there for one purpose, the best possible workout I can get. Throughout my workout I concentrate to the maximum on my exercises. But once my workout is done, I leave the gym. I concentrate on enjoying life and the many things about me.”
On training, Steve said, I have never been too concerned with measurements (although he has always had some mighty muscles), working always towards proportion and symmetry instead of tape measurement size.
On training various body parts, e.g. biceps, “In building the bicep one should make it a point to use full extension and contraction. If this method is not used, the arm will not develop that long full bicep”. (Although others say bicep shape is predetermined by genetics)”. His favourite exercise was the incline bench curl.
Regarding triceps: One thing that in my opinion is not given enough time and thought is the outer head of the tricep (silicon implants in those days). When fully developed, it gives a more distinct horseshoe shape. A good exercise for the other head is the tricep bench extension, using just a moderate light dumbbell.”
For chest, and Steve Reeves had the original Gladiator style pectoral shape suiting his film epics to a tee and his Roman army chest plates were designed according to physical ideal. Reeves had them naturally. He preferred to use the incline press for upper pecs and for the lower pectorals, “I have found that the best exercise to really build bulk in the lower pec, is the dumbbell bench press, performed wide. Wide standard bench press with barbell, put most stress on the upper pecs, and not tricep.”
For shape and definition, he preferred bent arms laterals. Steve also said, “Avoid overtraining the obliques, (side waist muscles) and trapezius (muscular base of the neck). It will make your shoulders look narrower.” Reeves shoulders measured with calipers, reached 23 and a half inches. The only man I have seen with wider shoulders was the late Rubin Martin.
When it came to back exercise: “The one-arm rowing is one of the best shaping exercises for the lats allowing for the full extension and contraction (he always did full range movement.) I would also add that my personal lats exercise is the lats machine pulldown (Reeves in fact enjoyed any type of cable exercise).”
Finally training legs, Steve says, “The exercise which is my favourite (for the legs) is the front squat (a safe exercise for the lone trainer as it is easy to drop the bar after the last few reps). With regards to calves, I rely on the donkey raise for my calf development. This is performed by leaning over the waist and having a trainer sit astride my hips. I really enjoyed this exercise doing many sets of maximum reps. Reeves preferred higher reps rather than low reps with heavy weights. ‘I also tried to work my calves elsewhere. The bench is a good spot and running and walking in the sand are good for development.” Steve trained regularly just three times a week training all body parts in one workout, usually, employing eight to twelve repetitions with about five to six sets per exercise.
Steve’s Mr. America Routine
Naturally over the course of the year, Steve trained using literally hundreds of different routines and used just about every exercise system and apparatus, but for posterity, here’s his actual routine when training for the Mr. America, one that helped him maintained and built his great shape.
For this Chest he performed:
Wide grip bench press three x 10 reps.
Inclined press, arms outward, 3 sets of 12 reps.
For the Deltoids (shoulders)
Front raise 3 to 5 sets x 10 reps.
Overhead downward pull on the lats bar 3 x 12 reps.
Rowing 3 x 12 reps.
Cable pulley rowing 3 x 15 reps.
For Triceps any Extension Movement
Using dumbbell with both hands 3 x 10 ,
Triceps extension 3 x 10, decreasing weights at each set.
For the Biceps
incline preacher bench curl, 5 to 6 sets of 10 reps.
Front squat on a high block 3 x 15 reps
Hack squat 3 x 15 reps
Legs curl4 x 10 reps
toe press on the legs machine using high reps and large number of sets and, For lower back
Hyper-extensions 4 x 12 reps
Whatever the program, history records that Steve Reeves eventually won the Mr. America and all of five decades later will still remain one if not the most admired of all physique stars to ever grace the posing dais.
(c)Steve Reeves – Classic Routines by David Gentle All Rights Reserved
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