(Steve Reeves in Hercules was Lean, Strong, Not Overdone, & Natural.. This 1950’s California Kid is the One Fitness Model Pioneer I’ve Always Admired & Patterned My Strategies After.. I Don’t See Reeves as a “Bodybuilder” because His Size & Look Is More Similar to Today’s Fitness Models. Steve Was More of an Aesthetically Balanced Trainer that Didn’t Want to Ruin His Hollywood Looks with Grossly, Overgrown Muscle Mass.. Steve is a true legend of “Get Lean” Fitness..)
While everyone was obsessing over Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gigantic muscles, I was busy studying 1950’s Steve Reeves workout & diet strategies.. I always felt Arnold’s huge arms, and mammoth chest were the by-product of superb genetics and steroids, so mimicking Arnold’s workout would burn me out more than build a 54″ chest.. Steve Reeves was a pure & natural, blue collar guy in the weight room that just outworked everyone, & I really respect that.. He didn’t have the genetics, or steroid support, Arnold had, and was never focused on King Kong mass like bodybuilders of today.. Steve Reeves was a California Kid that valued aesthetics, & clean, good looking muscle that looked as great at the beach, as they did on the Fitness Stage.. He was big, but not too big or overdone, & looks more like a fitness model than a conventional bodybuilder.. He took the “Strongman” mold from the early 20th century, & pioneered those techniques into Muscle-Shaping regimes to create a well balanced strong, & attractive body.. He was always well-groomed, and represented a bodybuilding style that I see as acceptable and a regime worth looking into.. When I’m faced with adversity in any niche of my life, I always go back to the fundamentals & “basics” to clear confusion & redefine purpose.. Too many people look for the “quickest & easiest shortcut” to get results when approached by difficulty, but I think the fundamentals never change & have to be resorted too.. Steve Reeves represents the foundation of natural clean, lean muscle shaping, so his plan is the fundamental for me if I’ve ever in a “funk” in a need of a shock of lean muscle growth.. (Arnold used high octane steroids to create his look, so its hard to decipher what his real, clean aesthetic really is.. Because of this, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s regime has never inspired me.. His results are blind to my mind because of the abusive, steroid use.. The thing I do like most about Arnold though would have to be his personality.. I think muscles got his foot in the Hollywood door, BUT his cocky/arrogant confidence is what made him great.. He really was a pretty funny & intelligent guy with a well-devised plan to become a Hollywood Star..) Let’s look into what Steve Reeves valued to make his body one of the most Legendary Fit and Attractive Bodies of all time..
Steve Reeves Only Lifted Weights 3 Days/Week.
You see many bodybuilding splits today that promote working lifting 5-6 days per week, but to build classic, hard muscle that natural way, you only need 3 days per week of training.. This is great news for those on a busy schedule.. I’ve noted in many previous posts, that fitness enthusiasts encourage excessive weight lifting for building muscle, but this leads to over-training way too easily.. Lifting weights is extremely taxing on your nervous system & muscle fibers, so less is actually more if lean, hard muscle is the goal.. Steve’s workouts were also full of compound movements promoting strength gains & testosterone production.. This should be the focus of 75% of your workout.. Squats, Deadlifts, Barbell Presses, Pull Ups, & Barbell Curls are all powerful exercises that will add hard, dense muscle to your frame leading to “Leanness”.. No matter your body type, these are the best exercises for Gaining Lean Muscle.. This is a strength-focused workout that has to be endured to build a classic lean physique..
Steve Reeves Split His Calories Into: 60% Carbs, 20% Protein, & 20% Fats
Put a Low-Carb diet in front of Steve Reeves & I doubt you’re gonna sell him on it.. I think strategic cycling of carbs, can be effective for a short period of time, but the best way to get lean is Old Fashioned Hard Work.. Steve worked out with intensity & performed cardio to stay lean, while letting clean calories hold on to his hard-earned lean muscle.. Even though he ate a lot of carbs, Steve didn’t consume useless calories leading to fat gain.. He kept his meals to 3 per day, with a few protein shakes in between.. There’s no rocket science to the way Steve Reeves ate.. He put healthy, natural foods in his body, and completely avoided white flour & white sugar.. Steves favorite healthy energy booster and carbohydrate was Oatmeal with fruit & almonds in it (My favorite too!) Also, note his lack of importance for Protein.. Conventional bodybuilding diets request you eat 50-60% of your calories from protein. Protein is a bit overrated, & shouldn’t be the focal point of your diet.. Clean Carbs will keep your metabolism ramped up, keeping fat off your body and your lean muscles full of needed glycogen for a toned appearance. Clean Carbs are the most important piece of your diet that won’t make you fat, if you’re eating the right kind.
(This is a Great Picture of Steve Reeves on the left.. He looks pretty big there, but I think this was the peak of his size, which still isn’t grossly overgrown & was always lean.. What I like most about this pic is his style.. Even though this picture was taken in the late 1950’s, it could easily pass for a 21st Century “Look”.. He was Definitely a Trend-Setter & Presented a Polished Look that Won-Over Hollywood.. The pic on the right shows a more recent view of Steve Reeves focusing on the cardio with competitive biking.. He’s slimmed up alot as he aged and always kept cardio in his regimen to keep body fat levels low & his “ticker” healthy..)
Steve didn’t perform High-Intensity Cardio.. He Power Walked.. Great Technique for Holding on to Lean Muscle, While Cutting Unwanted Body Fat..
This is interesting but makes sense if you’re lacking muscle.. When trying to add lean muscle to your body, excessive cardio can interfere with needed development.. Aerobics is a great way to get “cut” and tone your body, but if you abuse it, muscle will be burned in the workout slowing “Get Lean” Progress.. Remember our ultimate goal is to be lean & toned, but neither can happen if you don’t have that foundation of muscle.. Steve Reeves felt power walking wasn’t intense enough to where his thinking was blurred by flooding/rushing blood to his brain from exhaustive cardio (Steve approached cardio as an opportunity to fuel his well-being, almost as a form of active meditation.. This can’t be executed if you’re exhausted from overly-intense cardio, performed in HR ranges higher than the “Fat Burning” Zone..) Steve’s power-walking wasn’t zapping calories by the second, but it was performed for long enough that a high number of FAT ONLY calories would be burned.. Its important to never eliminate cardio from your regimen, but regulating the intensity & duration has a dramatic impact on your shape.. If retaining, or building, muscle is in your “Get Lean” plan, consider Power walking, or Walking on an incline to burn FAT ONLY calories.. I use this method when I’m trying to add a little muscle to my frame, or feel too much muscle is being burned from excessive intensity on the treadmill..
Below is a list of Steve’s Suggested Body Weight with Heights to Own a Classic Physique, the Natural Way.. (I’ll add that this list suggests an appropriate weight with no more than 10% of body fat)
Here is the height-to-weight chart for building a classic physique: (This chart represents a Meso/Endomorph Body Type; the Same Body Type Reeves Was.. If you are a Ecto/Meso or Pure Ecto (Thinner Bone Structure than Steve Reeves), I would subtract 10-15 pounds to keep your thinner frame from shooting for a Weight that Will Make you Look Bulky)
5′5″ – 160 lbs.
5′6″ – 165 lbs.
5′7″ – 170 lbs.
5′8″ – 175 lbs.
5′9″ – 180 lbs.
5′10″ – 185 lbs.
5′11″ – 190 lbs.
6′0″ – 200 lbs.
6′1″ – 210 lbs.
6′2″ – 220 lbs.
6′3″ – 230 lbs.
6′4″ – 240 lbs.
6′5″ – 250 lbs.
I really respect and admire Steve Reeves.. He was a highly confident, successful guy fueled by sweat equity & hard work.. I’ll end this post with a few great quotes by Steve..
“Today, everything about the top bodybuilding champions is oversized; they have lost the whole purpose of bodybuilding which is to create a harmonious whole, not to exaggerate the development of one part or parts, of the body… If a man’s arms appear bigger than his head, his body is thrown out of proportion.”
“Today’s bodybuilders are carrying too much muscle for their frames, which distorts and obscures the natural lines of the body. Why these men would aspire to deform themselves at such tremendous sacrifice is incomprehensible. This has been indulged in to such an extreme that I’m thinking of sanctioning a special Steve Reeves Trophy to be presented at shows to the man whom I think has the most classical proportionate, tastefully developed physique. The man who doesn’t actually win the contest might win my trophy, which in the long run might be more prestigious.”
“I don’t believe in bodybuilders using steroids. If a man doesn’t have enough male hormones in his system to create, a nice hard, muscular body, he should take up ping pong.”
My Favorite Quote! (I Agree with Him Here..)
“I’m often asked how I would compare myself with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I think Arnold Schwarzenegger is in great shape. But if there were two buttons, and I could push one button and look like Steve Reeves did in Hercules, and push another button and look like Arnold Schwarzenegger did in Conan, I’d push the Steve Reeves button..
John Fit.. (Still Working Hard in the Gym.. I hope you are too!)