As a young kid, I was always intrigued with Greek mythology. I remember seeing pictures of Zeus, Achilles and other mythological gods who were always portrayed as muscular icons, but to me, none were greater than Hercules. Hercules' powerful and chiseled physique was respected and envied by many and no one could portray this Greek hero better than Steve Reeves. I don't remember exactly how old I was when I saw Steve Reeves for the very first time, but he was playing my mythological hero Hercules in "Hercules Unchained". I was in awe of his physique. His body epitomized strength, power, symmetry, ruggedness, and it was then that I decided to start lifting weights.
Steve Reeves was born on January 21, 1926 in Glasgow, Montana to Lester and Golden Reeves. His father died before he was two in a farming accident and when he was ten, he and his mother moved to Oakland California. Steve was always interested in developing his strength and physique by arm wrestling friends and playing around with weights. It wasn't until he was in high school that he started training seriously with the help of a man named Ed Yarick. Ed owned one of the top bodybuilding gyms in the world and educated Steve on the game of weight training.
Steve took his training and his physique to new levels and after 2 years of hard training, went off to fight in WWII. After his return from fighting in 1946 he was back in the gym training harder than he had before and entered and won the Mr. Pacific Coast title in 1946 and Mr. Western America in 1947. It was also in 1947 that Steve captured the Mr. America title.
After capturing his Mr. America title, Steve became some what of a celebrity when pictures of his massively chiseled muscles and his strikingly good looks were noticed by Hollywood. In fact, the famous director Cecil B. DeMille originally pursued Steve for the role of Samson, but was afraid that the world wasn't ready to accept someone of Steve' physical prowess and wanted him to lose 20 pounds. Steve emphatically refused and obviously didn't get the role but this was only a minor setback for him. In 1948 he placed second in the Mr. Universe and Mr. USA and took first in the Mr. World contest. His greatest bodybuilding accomplishment was winning Mr. Universe in 1950 at the young age of 24.
It wasn't until 1957 that Steve made headway into mainstream Hollywood by landing the role of Hercules in the movie appropriately titled "Hercules" which catapulted his career in filmmaking. In 1959 while filming "The Last Days of Pompeii", Steve suffered an injury to his shoulder when the chariot he was driving crashed into a wall. Steve finished making the film but every succeeding film he continually re-injured his shoulder, which inhibited his film career along with his ability to train heavily with weights.
Since Steve could no longer train as effectively as he had in the past, he devised a way of training to maintain a healthy and progressive physical life style by originating his "Power Walking" program. Steve felt progressive training was the way to achieving peak strength and conditioning and he implemented that theory in his "Power Walking" program.
I remember reading in one of the commercial bodybuilding magazines a few years back about Steve Reeves training routine. I was amazed at the brevity of his workout and the obviously results he obtained. He trained full body workouts with 1-2 sets per movement using mainly multi-jointed exercises to failure three times a week. I remember this very well because there were pictures of him on the beach with all these beautiful women hanging all over him while he commented how others languished in the gym about their training. Now I know the man had good, no make that great genetics, but he had the right idea training briefly, infrequently and intensely to facilitate progress in his bodybuilding endeavor.
Steve Reeves, with his classically sculpted body winning such notable titles as Mr. World, Mr. America and Mr. Universe has contributed so much to the iron game that it is a shame that today's bodybuilders don't follow the path that he worked so hard at paving over 50 years ago. If you were to take away all the steroids, growth hormones and whatever else illegally that produce the freakish bodies that are around today they wouldn't be able to hold a candle to Mr. Steve Reeves.
I think that Hercules and Steve Reeves will always be synonymous to me. I still cruise around the channels hoping to find a Hercules film on television so I can see my bodybuilding idol. I will always credit Mr. Reeves as the person who started my interest in bodybuilding and I hope that more people would take pride and have the dedication that Steve had. Today's bodybuilders are not concerned with training hard and progressively; they are more concerned with getting their hands on good drugs to produce their physique. I suggest taking on the Herculean task of working hard, brief and intensely to produce a natural and long lasting physique.
IRON GAME/PHYSICAL CULTURE HISTORY