Steve Reeves is a former professional bodybuilder as well as a TV and film actor. His sports career lasted 10 years: from 1940, when the athlete just started his training, until 1950, when he won the “Mr Universe”. Reeves became the first pro bodybuilder to succeed in Hollywood. Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger would follow his example (there were other heavy sports pros who succeeded in the media, but it was these three who reached the maximum).
Steve Reeves Biography
Steve Reeves was born on January 21, 1926. The future bodybuilding legend was born in Glasgow (Montana). It is a small settlement in the northwestern part of the United States (population – no more than 3.5 thousand people, area – up to 4 square kilometers). As in the middle of the last century, today it cannot boast of a developed sports infrastructure.
Steve Reeves has been fond of sports since childhood. Like most American boys, in his youth, Steve was primarily interested in playing disciplines such as football or baseball. He began to engage in the development of physical form (bodybuilding) at a serious level closer to puberty: in 1940 he began training with weights (according to an independently developed training program); classes took place at the Edd Yarik gym, which was located in Oakland (California).
After graduating from high school in 1944, aspiring bodybuilder Steve Reeves was drafted into the army. After completing a 6-month military training course, he was sent with the unit to the Philippines, where the fighting took place (as a private in the US 25th Infantry Division, he fought in the Battle of Ballet Pass). Steve returned from military service 2 years later and immediately went to Oakland to see Ed Yarick to resume training.
In 1946, after just 3 months from the date of his dismissal from the army, Steve Reeves took part in his first competition. It was the Mr Pacific Coast tournament in Portland. Despite the lack of any practical experience, Reeves prevailed, beating more experienced competitors.
Steve Reeves’ first victory in the competition happened in 1947: he won the title “Mr West America” at the tournament of the same name in Los Angeles. At the same time, he received separate awards for the best pumping of arms, chest and legs. A month later, Steve became the youngest ever winner of the “Mr America” competition: he beat 35 contenders, among whom were future bodybuilding stars George Eiferman and John Farbotnik (each of them later won the title of “Mr America” himself, in 1949 and 1950 respectively).
The next major competition for Reeves was “Mr USA” in 1948. It was the first Mr USA in history. It was organized by Bert Goodrich and based at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The best bodybuilders in the world were invited for the competition – several former “Mr America” at once. Steve did not win the tournament, but took an honorable 2nd place after Clancy Ross.
The biography of Steve Reeves confirms that he was never a weak-willed person, so it is not surprising that the loss did not upset him, but only spurred him on. After the defeat, the athlete trained even harder than before, which bore fruit in 1950.
It was in this season that Steve Reeves won the most important bodybuilding championship of those years – he won the “Mr Universe” from NABBA. The competition took place in London and attracted an incredible number of spectators for the middle of the 20th century (the organizers did not calculate the exact number, but according to independent estimates, the tournament was attended by up to a thousand people).
Note that the IFBB “Mr Olympia” was first held only in 1965. Before that, and several years after, it was NABBA’s “Mr Universe” that was considered the main bodybuilding competition where the giants of heavy sports competed.
After winning the coveted trophy on July 24, 1950, Steve Reeves ended his career as a bodybuilder. But he did not disappear from the spotlight, but switched to cinema.
Steve Reeves became the first ever famous bodybuilding actor. This was an unprecedented case for Hollywood. In fact, Reeves in the 40-60s of the 20th century was what Arnold Schwarzenegger later became in the 70-80s. Thanks to his films, mainly two films about Hercules, which even made it to the screens of the USSR, the general public learned about bodybuilding (in general, about a sports lifestyle).
The main roles of Steve Reeves, by his own admission and according to the opinion of film critics, are Hercules in two films: the first – “Le fatiche di Ercole”, 1957, the second – “Ercole e la regina di Lidia”, 1958). Both tapes were a resounding success in the world box office, collecting a total box office of several tens of millions of dollars (today, when Avatar and The Avengers boast of billions, such numbers will not look impressive, but believe me, for the middle of the last century they were exactly that).
Other highly regarded films by Steve Reeves are: “Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei” (1959), “Morgan Il Pirata” (1961), “La guerra di Troia” (1969), “Romolo e Remo” (1961) and Il figlio di Spartacus (1962). Note that he got the role mainly in historical or pseudo-historical cinema – “fantasy”. This is due to the fact that the athlete’s appearance was ideal for playing the heroes of myths, legends and fairy tales. The actor starred in as many as 15 such films, and in total he had 17 roles on the big screen.
Interesting fact: during the filming of the tape “Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei” Reeves received a serious shoulder injury, however, he continued to perform all the tricks on his own. Unfortunately, this damage further prevented him from continuing his bodybuilding career. Steve left heavy sports not only because he won the main bodybuilding title at that time, but also because of the inability to fully train.
As an actor, Steve Reeves started in the USA, but continued to develop in Europe (he moved in the late fifties). That is why it gained maximum popularity not at home, but abroad, including the Soviet Union. By the way, before filming, both in the USA and in Europe, Reeves had to specify its own weight in the contract, sometimes even lose weight, so as not to look pumped on the screen. Schwarzenegger and Ferrigno would later face similar demands, as they also seemed overpowered for some heroes.
Steve left his acting career in the late sixties, as he was no longer given major roles. In addition, by his own admission, he was very tired of the bohemian life. In the seventies, the former bodybuilder devoted himself to horse breeding. In this case, he also succeeded: he was the grand marshal of the once a year parade in Escondido and the president of the “House of the Morgan Council” in San Diego.
Steve Reeves died on May 1, 2000. The cause of death is a consequence of the operation (he had a blood clot). He died in the city hospital Escondido (California) under the supervision of doctors who, unfortunately, could not save his life.
We can say that with their roles in the cinema, Steve Reeves, and later Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger, made the maximum contribution to the popularization of bodybuilding. Until the sixties of the last century, bodybuilding was, to put it mildly, a niche sport. Films with the participation of Steve, Lou and Arnold have shown that developing your own physical form is not only beneficial, but also promising.
For nearly three decades, the first and last name “Steve Reeves” have been a household name, as they symbolized hard sports or just a strong person. And since the beginning of the eighties, this symbol has become “Iron Arnie” (after filming in “Conan”).
Anthropometric data of Steve Reeves by modern standards may not look outstanding, but believe me, for their time they were exactly that: with an increase of up to 185 centimeters, Reeves could boast a competitive weight up to 98 kilograms, and its proportions inspired fear in competitors:
- Neck – about 47 centimeters;
- Chest – about 128 centimeters;
- Biceps – about 46 centimeters;
- The waist is about 73 centimeters.
At the peak of his competitive form, Steve Reeves made a stunning impression on those around him. Which is not surprising, after all, in that era, only initiates knew about bodybuilding, and only a few were engaged in it. For nearly 30 years, Steve has been the star of Muscle Coast (Venice Beach). Crowds of onlookers followed him, struck not so much by his good looks as by his gigantic muscles.
Bill Howard (editor of several heavy sports publications) described his first meeting with Reeves:
“I first came to Venice Beach (Los Angeles) in 1963. Then I was just 14 years old. In search of a better life, I left my native land, going straight to California, where the best of the best bodybuilders trained. day: in the morning I went for a walk along the beach and somehow by itself came to the sports ground. And then I was dumbfounded. A real bodybuilder was exercising. He was unusually wide at the shoulders with stone hands. At first I did not see his face, however, looking closely, realized that Steve Reeves himself is standing in front of me – “Mr Universe”!”
Steve Reeves Workout
In the nineties, Steve Reeves’ personal training notes were accidentally discovered, left before being drafted into the army in the forties. The records were found by the current owner of the house where Steve once lived. They were left on the board and covered with wallpaper. They stood in such a form for almost half a century. The find was later published by “Flex”, which released on its pages a special material with photographs of the same board.
Based on them, as well as from excerpts from interviews, the following Steve Reeves training methods were compiled.
- Perform 8-12 repetitions in each approach, and for the legs and abs, it is optimal to carry out up to 20 repetitions;
- Try to perform any set “to failure”, and exercise the exercises technically accurately, otherwise their effectiveness will be lost;
- Monitor the progress of the working scale. If you are capable of performing 8-12 technically accurate repetitions with the current weight, then increase it, and reduce the number of repetitions to 7-8. Then gradually bring the number of repetitions back to 8-12. And then do the cycle again – again increase the working weight and decrease the number of repetitions. And so on to the limit;
- Technique should always be central to the exercise. Try to find a balance between technicality and increased working weights. The other should not suffer from one;
- Feel free to change your grip on the barbell, from wide to narrow and vice versa, or dumbbells. This approach allows you to work out the muscles more fully;
- Load your legs only at the end of the workout, at the beginning and in the middle, they should move you, and not hold you back due to fatigue;
- Between loads on different muscle groups, you should rest for an average of 3 minutes. It is also useless to train more than 3-5 times a week. After all, muscle mass grows precisely during recovery;
- If a workout in the gym lasts more than 2.5 hours, taking into account the warm-up, this is a mistake;
- Drink water during your workout, preferably lemon juice and honey diluted with water. Even such a simple isotonic drink will help restore electrolyte balance and replenish energy reserves. At least 12 glasses of liquid per day;
- Cross-country hiking is a working combination of relaxation and aerobics. And weighted walking is effective for burning fat;
- Tweak your diet individually. Learn what is useful and what, on the contrary, harms your specific body. From the list of healthy foods, choose the ones that taste stronger. But do not forget about the variety of the diet;
- Get plenty of sleep. You should sleep on a hard mattress and always in a ventilated area;
- Sunbathing is useful. Spend at least an hour in this activity in sunny weather and be sure to use sunscreen. So, you will provide yourself with a stable and safe nutrition with vitamin D;
- It is psychologically important to set yourself not only global, but also local goals. An athlete shouldn’t be motivated by just winning one of the biggest competitions. Simpler tasks, such as gaining 5 kilograms of weight, pumping up your arms or learning to box, will help you move forward, constantly feeling progress.
Did Steve Reeves Use Steroids?
It should be understood that no steroid doping, like sports nutrition, existed in the 40s of the 20th century. Many active ingredients that are relevant today, such as Testosterone Cypionate, Methandienone, Stanozolol, Nandrolone Decanoate, Methenolone Enanthate, Oral Turinabol, Oxymetholone and others, were not yet developed or mass-produced in order to be available to everyone.
Therefore, Steve Reeves is a real “natural” bodybuilder. At least during his athletic career, he never used anabolic steroids. And whether there was the use of steroids in preparation for filming a movie, history is silent. Probably not, because the job in Hollywood did not require such honed muscles, which was needed in bodybuilding.