Training the Steve Reeves Way
All of a sudden you see him; the shock of dark black hair, the ruggedly handsome face, the tall, rangy figure emerges as if from another realm--the figure overwhelms the senses at first appearance, then you start to see, as your eyes flash from place to place on that legendary physical terrain--the triceps, fully formed and popping out three-dee, wriggling as if trying to escape their skin; the long, sculpted biceps which swell and fall across your view, massive yet portioned out just so, then, that carved chest which sits under unendingly wide shoulders, gives way to a vision of thick delts that rise and cap not a mountain, but a statue of a man; the non-existent waist supported by powerful legs and outrageous, flared calves, glide this heroic figure across the screen. You have just witnessed something incomparable, and though your mind knows it’s Hercules--cinema make-believe, your bodybuilding awareness tells you the physique is real enough: Steve Reeves’ physique. Steve Reeves, the man.
Before Arnold, cinematically and in bodybuilding annals, there was Steve Reeves. With the breathtaking lines and classic style, the man took his genetic blueprint and raced away with it, creating arguably the most impressive physique in the history of the planet. No, not the biggest (though he had great size), and no, not the most ripped (though he had considerable definition), but certainly as greatly and carefully proportioned, shaped and attended a physique as we’ve ever seen.
Let’s get something out of the way right now: the idea that the Reeves physique has been surpassed, that it’s outdated, that today’s champs are much bigger, better, and on and on. (Can you say, anabolic steroids?) Reeves maintained his was a different style of physique, drug-free (natural) and classic. That is to say he trained for an entirely different objective than today’s champs, who train for ultimate size and ultimate definition, while consuming ultimate amounts of drugs. If you are part of the “bury me big” crowd, where absolute size (eternal bulking up) without regard to the overall shape, appearance or function of a physique is your thing, then of course Reeves’ 6'1", 215 pound Michelangelo-hewn body will mean nothing to you. But for those of you who are interested, who want not to merely admire the Reeves achievement but to get some of that for yourself, that’s where we’re going.
Too many drug-free bodybuilders train wrong, and with the wrong objective. They simply borrow the standards of the pros, who take their genetic gifts in a direction that no amount of whey protein, creatine, or high-intensity workouts without drugs will ever yield: the 300 pound, fat-free physique. And while this is not the time or place for a bodybuilding debate about the value or lack of such an objective, what drug-free bodybuilders are doing is akin to travelers trying to get to Australia by aiming instead at the moon. To say it another way, many naturals will argue that they have a bigger, better physique than Reeves, but what they may have actually achieved at best is usually a scaled down version of the drug pros. An achievement of sorts, and if that’s your thing you are welcome to pursue it, but for other naturals, you might get a vastly better physique by incorporating something of the Reeves approach to training. Not that you’ll be Reeves--you don’t get Larry Scott’s arms by doing his arm workout, but in the case of Reeves-style training, your chances are very good that you’ll be on the road to achieving your own best physique, with your own individual style. Sound good? Let’s go.
- Greg Sushinsky, January 2013
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