Workout to Build Steve Reeves Physique!

Iron historian Steeri Larsen knew and outlined Steve Reeves favorite exercises and his training training philosophy. Big thanks for your effort. 

“Bodybuilding is a matter of proportions. Wide shoulders, narrow waist and hips and well shaped thighs, that’s what really makes a man a bodybuilder. Big arms, a deep chest and rippling abdominals are all very impressive, but combined with the ultimate in overall body shape they are unbeatable. All bodybuilders, both novices and advanced men, want that tapering effect, but virtually none know how to go about it.

Getting wide shoulders combined with narrow hips and waist takes more than just a couple of widegrip chins; you must constantly work for width. You must learn how to work your individual body parts to create an illusion of width. Yes, illusion, for that’s what it really is most of the time.

Steve Reeves was the first bodybuilder to realize the importance of overall body shape and symmetry, and he did it so well that very few have beaten him since. Size? Oh, yes, many of today’s top stars are bigger than Reeves was, but still more than decades after his heyday there is no one who impresses the youngsters as much as he.

Steve Reeves had the proportions needed to become a top star, and his training was carefully planned with this in mind. If you, too, want that athletic, symmetrical appearance, then you must plan your training accordingly.

Lateral Raise Bill Pearl

Steve Reeves’ favorite for the deltoids was the lateral raise. This is a rather isolated movement, but we’ll isolate it a bit more: bend forward slightly from the waist and keep the outside of the palm higher than the inside at all times.

Try grasping the dumbbells close to the posterior inside collar so that they are out of balance; this will help keep your style strict.

The upper back is most important. This is what Steve Reeves once said on back development: “The latissimus is the most impressive of muscles. It extends from the armpit to the waist (when the muscle is developed to its fullest) and its tapering effect is responsible for the impression that a person’s shoulders are wider than they actually are. This is one of the reasons that the latissimus muscle’s full development is so desirable, they are a big asset to the fellow whose natural shoulder girdle is not too big, as they make the shoulders appear to be inches wider than they actually are.”

Wide-grip chins is the best exercise for a broad back; try to isolate and flare the scapula when in the down position. You may chin behind the neck or in front, as long as you use a wide grip to pull the shoulders and latissimus out. Lat machine pulldowns are great as an alternative or for those who are not strong enough to chin themselves. Steve Reeves preferred pulldowns to chins as he was able to control them better.

Exercises like bent-forward rowing and similar pulley movements where the arms are drawn backwards to your waist or chest instead of downwards are better for increasing back thickness and depth and will not influence width as much as chins and pulldowns. 

They are most important for overall back development, though, so don’t neglect them.

Also, these movements work the lower latissimus more than the upper. For advanced bodybuilders, the lower latissimus is most important; beginners need not pay much attention to it. A lightly built person will look wider if most of his latissimus development is in the upper area of the muscle.

Do not overdevelop your lower pectorals. Too heavy pectoral muscles make the body appear to narrow; especially if your deltoids aren’t too big. Concentrate on the upper of your chest, the pectoralis minor.

Incline presses with barbell and dumbbells, and laterals on a 45 degree bench are great and will help you look wider. Avoid dips and decline movements, and don’t do too much flat bench work. By the way, these are the principles Steve Reeves utilized to build his famous ‘gladiator pecs.’

When doing flat bench presses, try using a wide grip and lowering the bar to your neck. This will help accentuate that wide look. Reg Park has not worked his pectorals for the last ten year because of the reasons given here; he claims that he keeps them in shape by doing chins behind neck.

Your rib cage is also important. High rep squatting and pullover movements give good results in widening and deepening your chest. Note that too much abdominal training pulls your ribs downwards and makes your rib cage smaller and narrower. Results do not come as fast as in pure muscle building movements, so don’t defeat your own purpose by including lots of sit ups along with a specialization routine for expanding the rib cage.

Apart from your shoulder breadth, your V-shape is controlled by the trimness of your waist. Trim your waist and your shoulders grow wider at the same time. If you are a bit smooth, go on a diet and you will be amazed at the improvement in your appearance after losing five or six pounds.

If you are grossly overweight you won’t believe your eyes if you can stick to your diet long enough to trim down. Apart from this, the best way to keep your waist small is simply to avoid working it.

However, by doing so you will be cultivating a weak link in your appearance since you need a certain amount of abdominal development to look good, and also to protect you against injuries (you may get ruptured if you strain with heavy weights and have weak abdominal muscles).

Keep to the frontal part of the area, though, and don’t develop the obliques. By the way: don’t intensify your abdominal training a la Reeves in an effort to keep the fat off your waist.

This sort of “sport reducing” won’t work; just train your abdominals as any other muscles when you want to build them. If you’re not interested in further development, just cease working them or keep the work down to a minimum.

Hips. Most of all avoid the regular deadlift and be careful about your squatting style: use a 2 inch block and sit as upright as possible.

Vince Gironda is against squats (he does not even have squat stands in his gym), but both Sergio Oliva and James Haislop have used squats a lot and this has given them enormous thighs and small hips. 

And finally, thigh development. Once again we may use Steve Reeves as an example: his favorites were front and hack squats. 

The basic idea is to avoid leaning forwards as this puts stress on the gluteus muscles and builds the thigh up under the hips.

A bodybuilder is more concerned with lower thigh development which makes for a more pleasant appearance and makes the hips look smaller. For more isolated thigh work we have Roman chair squats and sissy squats. For building size you should rely on front and hacks, with an occasional period of regular squats. “


IM Nov 70,
Article: Sterri Larsen – so you want that Steve Reeves shape

Leave a comment

Consent Management Platform by Real Cookie Banner