I remember a time when bodybuilders were not ingesting or injecting steroids or other muscle enhancing drugs. This was the late 1940s through the 1950s and into the 1960s. This was before the first Mr. Olympia contest in 1965.

Steve Reeves was a symmetrical bodybuilder who also became a movie star. He was the best bodybuilder in his era and arguable the best ever.

Steve’s symmetry was best shown by his identical measurements for biceps, neck and calves – all 18.5 inches.

For those who have never heard of Steve Reeves, here is an introductory video.


Steve wanted to create a “classic” body, not necessarily a huge physique. He was 6’1″ tall, at around 215 pounds. He didn’t do oblique exercises, since he felt they might widen his waist. Steve didn’t do shoulder shrugs for his trapezius muscles, thinking these would minimize his shoulder width. Unlike many current bodybuilders, he did neck exercises.
He recognized the value of rest days. This was because he needed to recover from workouts that went from 2-4 hours. Here is his general schedule for workouts:

  • Sunday – rest
  • Monday – train in the morning
  • Tuesday – rest
  • Wednesday – train in the evening
  • Thursday – rest
  • Friday – rest
  • Saturday – train in the morning

Steve recognized that muscles grow when at rest, not as they are worked. The muscle fibers had to heal.

Steve wanted perfect form on all of his lifts. Two seconds to the top, three seconds back down. If the weight became too heavy for correct form, he would lower the weight.

He was a strong believer in progressive overload and wanted to improve even slightly in each workout, by using more weight or doing more correct reps.

Steve didn’t take any performance enhancing drugs, nor did he take many supplements of any kind. He did like protein powder.

He didn’t want to get into a rut of always doing the same exercise movements, so he changed his routines. Here is a typical Steve Reeves workout:

  • Dumbbell swings to warm up (3 sets of 15-20)
  • Upright rows – 3 sets of 8-12
  • Bench press – 3 sets of 8-12
  • One arm row – 3 sets of 8-12
  • Dumbbell lateral raises – 3 sets of 8-12
  • Incline bench presses – 3 sets of 8-12
  • Triceps press down – 3 sets of 8-12
  • Barbell curls – 3 sets of 8-12
  • Seated dumbbell curls – 3 sets of 8-12
  • Squats – 3 sets of 8-12, supersetted with
  • Pullovers – 3 set of 8-12
  • Deadlifts – 2 sets of 8-12
  • Good mornings – 2 sets of 8-12
  • Partner assisted neck flexion – 1 or 2 per side of 15 reps


Steve followed a diet of 60% protein, 20% fats and 20% carbs. His breakfast drink was 2-3 raw eggs, 1 tablespoon of gelatin 2 tablespoons of protein powder, a banana, fresh orange juice and a tablespoon of honey.

To pack on muscle for a contest, he would go for steak, salad, potatoes and fruit.

He avoided the following:

  • Excess salt
  • Added sugar
  • Junk food
  • Food with empty calories
  • Fast food
  • Artificial ingredients
  • Chemical additives

For cardio, Steve would run initially, but felt that he was damaging his knees. He began to do power walking and may have started an exercise form that is still popular today.

Steve began power walking when he walked with his horses on his California ranch. This was a low impact form of exercise, but he would place weights on his ankles or waist and take long strides. He would walk for 45 minutes, especially if he wanted to lose weight.


I am an Amazon associate, which means I can post their links within my articles and earn from any qualifying purchases. This has no effect on pricing and adds to my content. Here are some relevant links:

Steve Reeves – Powerwalking

Steve Reeves – Bodybuilding Journal

Whey protein powder

Vegan protein powder

Please note – each Amazon link includes descriptions, reviews and other similar choices at different price points.


I am also an associate of Dick’s Sporting Goods, as well as a customer for several decades. I may earn from any activity on my links. For that reason, I keep a permanent link at the side of my website for them.
Steve Reeves used free weights in his workouts – barbells, dumbbells and various benches. When I was younger, I would get my weights and other workout equipment and accessories from DSG. I knew I could trust the quality and service.

I received a message today that DSG was offering 45% off on select fitness equipment and gear.

Click here or on my sidebar link. With our spring weather coming, be sure to consider your tennis, golfing or other sports needs.


I remember watching Steve Reeves in Hercules movies in the late 1950s. The girls were also impressed, since he was quite a handsome dude.

His workout and general health habits have set a standard for anyone, even those who do split routines and use machines that were not even invented in Steve’s era.

Today’s bodybuilders are likely to be bigger than Steve, but it is hard to believe that any have the symmetry or aesthetics that he had. Or the overall healthy lifestyle.

Please leave me any comments or questions in the “Comments” section below. Or email me, richard@myworkoutathome.com.

Be well and let’s all get outside for some fresh air!


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