Large, broad shouldered, an easy laugh, well dressed, displaying a big neck, 3 times Mr. Universe Winner AND Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reason to start bodybuilding. Here’s the story of Reg Park!!!
Reg Park was born on the 7th June 1928. He had an average childhood and was above average in swimming and athletics.
Reg’s interest in development was influenced by his grandfather who worked in a coal mine. During this time, he had pushed trucks full of coal along tunnels and thus he had developed a pair of enormous calves. Furthermore, his grandparents had two paintings of an ancient Greek wedding where the man wore a toga and Reg Park’s thoughts were as followed: “The groom had wonderful legs but his upper arms were poorly developed!”
These memories go back to the time when he was about 8 years old, so it is apparent that he was physique conscious at a very early age.
At school he reveled in sport, in particular soccer, athletics and gymnastics, but although he possessed an athletic physique, at 16 he was 6 ft. and weighed only 160 lbs., certainly nothing to set the world alight. At the Leeds open-air swimming pool, he was constantly aware of men who possessed good physiques, and he supposes it was inevitable that sooner or later he would meet someone who for those days possessed an outstanding physique in the shape of Dave Cohen.
It turned out that Dave trained with weights in a room in his friend’s house, and when Reg Park asked if he could join him, he readily said yes.
Reg started weight training in about August/September 1945, and after about six months of training he was drafted into the British Army for two years. Most of this time was spent in Singapore as a Sergeant in Physical Training. Though he was not able to do much training during this time, he returned home to England in 1948 weighing around 190 pounds and just in time to see the spectacular Mr. Universe contest, which was being held in London for the first time.
John Grimek won the Mr. Universe title that year, Steve Reeves took second and Andre Drapp, a well-built Frenchman came third.
Reg Park: “When Steve competed at Mr. Universe, to my mind he was superb. The man had everything. Looks, physique, skin, hair, and teeth…all perfect. There was the physique of the century…a wonderful, God given combination of grace, power, size, definition…Superb Manhood!”
It was then that he made his epic remark that he would be as good, if not better than Steve.
He recalled telling Oscar Heidenstam, who was also a contestant in this contest, that he was determined to win the Mr. Universe contests. Oscar didn’t believe him, or thought he was making a foolish boast or that Reg was extreme egoist.
1949 Mr. Britain
In 1949 he entered and won the 1949 Mr. Britain contest. John Grimek made an appearance as a Judge at the Britain Show which has never been forgotten. This also gave Reg his exhibitions again. Seeing Grimek again go through his exhibition gave him added incentive to train harder than ever before but still with the Mr. Univere title as his goal.
Reg’s measurements when he won the ’49 Britain title were:
Weight 214lb; Chest 50in; upper arm 17 3/4 inch, thigh 26 in, calf 17in
Then a very pleasant thing happened to him: for his 21st birthday present his parents bought him a round trip ticket to America, which gave him a chance to visit many of the states. During this tour he met and trained with such bodybuilders as Ed Theriault, Floyd Page, Clarence Ross, Marvin Eder, Abe Goldberg, George Eiferman and many others.
USA Trip Marvin Eder the famous ‘Benchpress Freak’
During this time, he trained and became friends with Marvin Eder, at that time a 19-year-old muscular sensation weighing 190lb, and measuring 5ft. 7in tall.
Marv demonstrated the various exercises and Reg’s eyes almost popped from their sockets as Marv’s huge muscles rippled and writhed under heavy exercise.
Back to England: Reg park vs. Steve Reeves
By June 1950 he returned to England and started to train for the forthcoming Mr. Universe contest. Due to moving about so much his bodyweight dropped to 218 pounds. This made him lighter but gave him sharper muscularity.
Reg was ready to do battle with anyone for the 1950 Universe title. Reg weighed only 215lb against Steve Reeves who weighed around 225lb.
Reg and Steve Reeves were called before the judges time and time again and must have repeated their posing routine a dozen times. And at the end Reeves won the title that year. Reg was extremely disappointed.
He thought he was more muscular than he was and had a good overall size. Apparently the extra 10 pounds Steve had over him made him look much heavier than Reg Park appeared. This taught him a lesson.
Maximum muscular size with good definition was his main goal. And thus, he began to train with this ideal in mind.
Oscar Heidenstam witnessed this contest and wrote: “I have never seen anyone put more determination into his posing as Reg did! His muscularity was fantastic, but perhaps not being so big as he was later, Steve won on overall shape and general physical beauty.”
Reg Park was socially loaded up for the weights and he was determined to get so good that it would be impossible for anyone to beat him.
The greater part of his training was done in a garage near his home with one or two chosen friends. Throughout his training sessions Reg hardly rested at all, and talking and joking was OUT. His concentration was intense and 100% effort was put into every single exercise.
There was no luxury about the place as people often imagine. Reg went to work winter and summer in a cold, dreary garage in winter with two candles to light the gloomy place and rags to fill the broken windows. The equipment was nothing more than a mass of old discs, a couple of bars, dumbells, Squat stands and a make-do bench and dipping bars and chinning bar. The garage, which Reg rented specially to train in, was about 12 x 10. Those training sessions had to be seen to be believed, the sweat and concentration were frightening. In those days Reg used as heavy weight as possible even if it meant not doing the exercise correctly, that was the general trend. It brought results but Reg realised later that it also brought muscular aches and joint troubles.
1951 Mr. Universe
From 1950 to ’51 he added 10 pounds of solid muscle to his frame, and that year he won the Mr. Universe title. He was 23 years old and his strength also increased. He was squatting 5 reps with 450lb. Handled 185 pound dumbells (one in each hand) in the bench press for 5 reps. He pressed 200 pounds behind the neck five reps..
Stats: weighed 225lb Height 6ft 1in, neck 18in, thigh 28in, calf 17in
At first Reg flew to New York and of course missed many meals. Reg said he was “pretty well pooped”. He wanted to visit and see Sig Klein at his famous gym. John Grimek had visited this gym in 1932.
After that he was in Detroit. He met George Yacos and trained at his gymnasium. George arranged for Norbert Schemansky to be present. Reg Park said Norbert injured his vertebrae a year ago and has been unable to train really hard. Reg had also back injuries he recommended to Norbert to contact his physiotherapist, Mr. Ted Truscott Of Leeds. Norbert bench pressed around 300lb and pressed 200lb from squat stands. His bodyweight was down to 200lb.
In the U.S.A he won the title for “The World’s Best Developed Athlete”, but Reg decided to abdandon contests and build up his business Reg Park Barbell Company established in Leeds with his father at home. His training from 1951 to 1955 was limited and he could train only when he found the time.
He even had a loaded Olympic bar at his offices in Leeds and would nip upstairs for some extra work and some particular area he thought needed attention. Some weeks when travelling, this was his only training.
From 1956 his interest were normal and he got down to regular strength training instead of training for muscular size alone. As a result his bodyweight went up to 238 pounds. He squatted 600lb for a single
Wife south Africa
Reg made a trip to South Africa and had fallen in love with a lovely South African girl, who became his wife Mareon Isaacs. She lived in Johannesberg. Reg brought his wife Mareon home and settled down in Leeds, where he bought a house. He took his wife to many of his shows until his first child was on the way, then Mareon returned to S. Africa until after the arrival of their little daughter.
She returned to Leeds but never seemed able to settle down in Britain. Mareon was a former ballet dancer and really keen on keeping fit herself. The ideal partner for Reg.
Reg took his wife home to S. Africa several times during the next few years to visit her people and eventually her people were to come to Britain to be near their daughter and also Johnny Isaacs ( brother-in-law), who spent some time in Britain. But they could stand the climate in Britain and after a few months they returned to S. Africa.
Second child, a boy John, was born around 1958 and once again Mareon went back to S. Africa.
1958 Mr. Universe
In 1958 he had finally decided to live in South Africa and open a big health Studio. He decided to try again and enter the Mr. Universe contest in hope winning both the Amateur and Professinal titles. Reg’s only real rival was Bruce Randall. He had to admit that he never expected to beat Reg. Bruce was greateful to compete against Reg and was inspired enough to return in 1959 looking easily fantastic and taking the Professional title himself. So Reg in 1958 became the first person ever to win two Universe titles.
The years passed and Reg was in Rome making a Hercules film. Reg’s movie “Hercules Rescues Atlantis” has been shown all over Britain.
From 1959 until the end of 60′ he has been in South Africa very busy. He operated his Health Centre. This project incorporated seperate studios for men and women, a judo and karate section, as weel as a mail order equipment business which involved whole sale and retail sales
1971 Reg Park, Frank Zane, Bill Pearl and Sergio Oliva
In the year 1971 and 1973 Reg tried entering the stage again. Reg Park (number 56) competed against big wolves like Sergio Oliva, Bill Pearl (55), Frank Zane and took third and in 1973 second.
Reg Park: “The fact that I had already won all the major physique titles made me feel that I was through with entering any more physqiue contests. Nevertheless I continued my training to maintain my muscularity and stay in good shape. I find that when I train regulary I feel more alert mentally, have lots of energy and seem to enjoy life more fully.”
Reg Park and Arnold Schwarzenegger
He retired from competing and started his own business in South Africa. He even invited many bodybuilders.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and the whole oldschool bodybuilding gang would come out to South Africa to stay with Reg Park and train. Arnold won the title of Mr. Universe in 1966 and received a letter from Reg Park inviting him to tour through South Africa together. He wrote a report for one of the biggest German bodybuilding magazine “Sport Revue”.
“Munich- Zurich- Nairobi – Johannesburg – Durban. 10 000 flight kilometers in 15 hours. Height about 12,000 meters.
During the flight I was allowed to spend about three hours with the pilots in the cockpit, an honour reserved only for prominent passengers. The flight captain had recognized me as the Mr. Universum winner.
Johannesburg – The fascinating city with over a million inhabitants. Two hours stay. Glowing red like a fireball, the hot sun sinks into the cloudless horizon. Seconds later it is pitch-black. There is no transition twilight – night, as in Europe. The dry air prevents the scattered light of twilight.
Just as quickly it becomes day again. I landed in Durban. The airport is small.
A large figure in a sports shirt rises out of the waiting crowd – Reg Park. As soon as I got off the plane, he waved at me with a big smile. Unmistakable: His massive upper body with the broad, massive shoulders and the masculine head with the long hair. So we know him from countless pictures. Adept in the world and self-confident in his appearance.
We greeted each other warmly and then drove to his family. We met again with his charming wife, whom I already met in London.
Acquaintance with his two lovely children: Chinice (14) and John John (10 1/2), who belong to the South African top class in swimming. A truly sporty family.
An Indian, colorful like a bird of paradise, showed me the sights of this interesting city.
The day before the respective event we had television, radio and press interviews, whereby I noticed pleasantly that bodybuilding is fully recognized as a sport in South Africa. The reports were factual and positive – a merit of the personality Reg Park, who has great influence and many friends in influential circles. As we know Cassius Clay, he proves as a living example that body culture and personality make up the whole person. Healthy mind in a healthy body.
Reg Park’s events were perfect shows. Karate and Judo. Beauty competitions followed and as a highlight our performances together, whereby I demonstrated power movements (benchpress 185kg 3 reps, Curl 115kg 4 reps).
The people wanted to know: “Is this boy really as strong as he looks? – Well, you were satisfied.”
Our muscle show to classical music (Reg: “The legend of the mountains”, Me: “Autumn concerto”) was always rapturous with applause.
Outstanding show was that of Reg Park in the crowded City Hall of Johannesburg. 2400 enthusiastic people.
The program was as followed:
Election of Miss Teenagers ( price 5000 german mark/3000$)
Election of Mr. Johannesburg
My power demonstration
Posing Reg Park
My Posing Free Dance
A great experience – even for me – was Reg Park’s posing freestyle, in my opinion the best in the world. Wonderful classical music accompanied his masculine-powerful poses. Nothing soft about him. All growth and dynamics.
Reg Park remains a role model for me.
Great gigantic back muscles, massive shoulders, calves 52cm – the best in the world; arms, legs, abdominal muscles – all world class. And that at the age of 40, when some of our contemporaries are already thinking about their retirement.
I’ve already read many stories about this man. Very few of them were true. But now I was able to experience him up close for three weeks. My impressions:
How’s his day going?
6 a.m.: getting up, breakfast
6-9 a.m. o’clock training
9-10 a.m.: second breakfast
10 – 13 o’clock Work in his company
14-19 h Work in his company
After 7 p.m. The evening belongs to his family.
How does he train?
I looked quite surprised when Reg knocked on my room at 6 a.m.: “Arnold get up! – I wasn’t used to that. We have a different rhythm of life in Central Europe. In South Africa, on the other hand, it’s very hot. You have to train so early, otherwise you get tired too quickly.
At 6 a.m. we drove to the studio, where 50 students were already training. Opening time is already at 5 o’clock in the morning. The studio is on the 4th floor. It is 500 sqm and the most modern one I know. It offers the highest comfort: sportswear, towels and toiletries are provided.
On the 5th floor level businessmen and women train. The 6th floor houses the offices of the Reg-Park sports goods company.
We started the training, during which I noticed that Reg was following the same system as me. He also prefers basic exercises benchpress, neckpress, pull ups. All sentences are executed with the heaviest weights. Short breaks, after every sentence a sip of orange juice – a fad of Regs. In three hours, 100 sets were completed daily, e.g.
30 sets Latissimus
25 sets of triceps
25 sets chest
20 sets of calves (which Reg trains every day)
-All with heavy weights!
His best performances at the time
Triceps machine 80kg
Triceps – Pressing lying 115kg
Dumbbel Press each hand 50kg (8reps)
A hard training – but we are used to it.
I was touched by the fact that Regs woman loved his sport. She is proud of her Superman, whom millions of women envy.
What is his personality like?
Wherever I saw him perform or speak, he impressed people. Sovereign and full of natural authority, he captivates his listeners with his voice. Fascinating, how he convinced the sceptical listener on the occasion of a television interview on the question of meaning and purpose of bodybuilding with a 10-minute standing grip response of how important this sport is for people in our time.
What is the fascination of this personality?
A lively life so far is a single struggle for the perfection of body and mind. Highly intelligent, he recognized early on the shaping power of self-discipline. Since then he has walked the path of strength – the path for whole men, courageously and consistently. He gave meaning and direction to his life, which he kept relentlessly against himself. ” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
Life After Bodybuilding
He retired from competing and started his own bodybuilding manufactur in Johannesburg, South Africa. He had his own magazine ‘Reg Park Journal’ but it ran for a few years.
Now I want to introduce somebody who is living in South Africa and used to train in Reg Park’s Gym. He is a big fan of oldtime bodybuilding…His name is Liam Tweed! The following references and claims are based on Liam’s memory. Thanks for the permission to share your memories!!
Liam Tweed: “This was 1978 (I was 17) and Reg was very much a well known public personality and a huge force in the South Africa physical culture scene. While walking with my friend through Braamfontien (a suburb near to the University of the Witwatersrand), we stopped transfixed by the sight of this giant of a man. Working with a team of other men loading weights and gym equipment onto the back of a truck. The giant spoke in a strong tone clearly identifying him as the someone with authority. We looked down on this scene (the road was much higher than the yard of what must have been Reg’s equipment warehouse ) and my friend whispered …”that must be Reg Park!!”.
I just stood there transfixed, unable to say anything. Here was this famous man, someone I was always reading about standing there in the FLESH, real and larger than life. Reg was dressed modestly (as always) but his muscles bulged through his shirt as he shifted the weights onto the back of the truck. We stood there and watched, and wer’nt noticed by the men below, eventually the job was done and the men went back into the building, we continued our journey, talking about how lucky we were to see the great Reg Park and how impressive me looked, truly a lasting impression.”
In the late 80s
Reg was the head trainer in a Franchise gym and Reg had to sold most of his businesses. Furthermore Reg would still hosting the local bodybuilding shows (mainly NABA) which were a good standard and well attended in the 80s and 90s.
“Liam Tweed” recalled watching Reg Park on the corner of the stage at many shows, he was articulate and humble, always giving credit to the competitors.
“I just want the audience to appreciate the time and effort that this competitor invested to entertain you with two separate posing routines”. Once a routine was posed to the Sinatra song “New York , New York” and this had Reg bopping at the corner of the stage.
Reg Park was personal trainer in the gym called “Sports Connection”.
Liam Tweed: “Every morning as we entered at 05:00, Reg would be sitting in the eating area waiting for his first client of the day. Every morning without fail he would greet us with a hearty “good morning”, and there would always be a big smile. Such was the nature of the man, in spite of his fame he remained humble and friendly to all. I had a discussion with one of the competitors at the gym once about the fact that hardly anyone in the gym actually knew who they were dealing with, he was just an elderly personal trainer to them, but we knew different and my respect for the man just grew.”
One day he was standing next to Liam Tweed and he turned and said “the old man has gone”. He was of course referring to the passing of his good friend John Grimek (20 November 1998). He told him what a great dancer John had been and that he would watch as John would take his wife Mareon for a spin on the dance floor.
Until his early 50s he was running several gym related business and phased out over time (as these areas became dominated by the big players). According to Liam he was very happy helping people train right up until his cancer made him too weak to continue this.
“More time passes (as it does) and I started training at home (new home gym), this was a lifelong dream, but I missed my chats with Reg and I would wonder how he was doing.
On day I heard Reg was battling skin cancer, this made me sad as I knew the prognosis was often poor. I knew one thing though Reg would deal with this challenge with determination, bravery and grace as he had approached all of his life challenges, I also knew he would be surrounded by the love of family and friends, his reward for “a life well lived”. A year passed and the inevitable happened.
I was driving home, already in a gloomy mood, facing yet another round of retrenchments (22 November 2007), stuck in traffic and fighting through pouring rain. On the local talk radio (702), the death of former Mr. Universe Reg Park was announced, his death made the news that day, say no more about the respect he had earned in South Africa.”
Death (quoted from wikipedia.com)
Reg Park died on 22 November 2007 in his home in South Africa, after an eight-month battle with metastatic melanoma (a form of skin cancer). Park’s legacy is continued by his son Jon Jon Park, a personal trainer and former Olympic swimmer. Reg Park raised and trained Jon Jon in South Africa. Today Jon Jon Park is the owner of the Legacy Gym, a popular gymnasium in West Los Angeles. Reg’s daughter, Jeunesse, founded Food & Trees for Africa, a non profit that changed thousands of lives and landscapes.