Steve Reeves had one of the most aesthetic physiques of all time.
Even in the modern world, people talk about the amazing aesthetics of Reeves, and how they too wish to look like him.
As a matter of fact, I was one of these people.
I really admired Reeve’s physique, and I would spend hours on the internet trying to learn his secrets.
If there’s an article that’s been written on Steve Reeves, I have most likely read it.
Therefore, I know where you’re coming from, and I also understand how difficult it is finding quality information that seeks to develop the body of Reeves.
So we’re going to cut right past the history, and go straight into the practical stuff.
In this article, I will be examining all of Steve Reeve’s muscles, ranging from the weak ones to strong ones and how that came to be.
Then, I shall compile all the information into a complete 4 week full body concurrent training system.
With that being said, are you ready to acquire old school bodybuilding aesthetics?
If so, let’s get started.
Steve Reeves Chest
Steeve Reeves had an aesthetic looking chest.
However, it was definitely not the biggest one.
Just like Jeff Seid, Steve Reeves seems to have similar chest development.
Although the picture you see displays good development, you must consider that this shot was taken from a low angle.
When you look at Steve Reeve’s chest from the eye level, you immediately recognize its lack of mass.
It still looked good though! Actually, it looked really really good.
There is absolutely nothing wrong about having medium sized pecs.
Most oldschool bodybuilders had this look anyway.
it was preferable to aim for symmetry and overall physique balance, rather than being a monster.
Due to this fact, the chest development of Steve Reeves was intentional.
That’s right. He did not want watermelons popping out of his chest.
To develop the chest that he had, he would often times perform various incline presses with barbells and dumbbells, and he performed many pullovers.
This would allow him to get very strong on presses, while specifically emphasizing the upper pecs to ensure that the overall chest size would not be overwhelming.
Therefore, in this program, we will use the same pec building strategy as Reeves. There won’t be much flat pressing, but there will be flat flyes to develop and maintain a certain amount of mass.
The pullovers will also suck our stomachs in, thus accentuating the chest without actually having it get bigger. In this way, we get the illusion of size.
Steve Reeves Shoulders
Although Reeves had some nice looking shoulders, they were proportionately smaller in comparison to his biceps and triceps. If you look at the side chest shot, you can clearly see how the arms are wider than the shoulders.
In the second shot, the same thing is true, by which the arms peak over the shoulders.
Now you may be wondering, why were Reeves’ shoulders not as developed as they could have been?
Well, it has to do with his philosophy of aesthetics.
By intentionally keeping his shoulders small, it would automatically draw eyes to his arms. Moreover, because his chest was medium-sized, the lack of shoulders makes it appear bigger proportionately.
Therefore, the true reason why Reeves has small shoulders was to accentuate certain bodyparts in his physique. It is complicated, yet so genius at the same time.
Additionally, I feel that both the front and rear delts of Reeves were undeveloped.
The only thing that was somewhat decent were his side delts, which makes sense because almost all oldschool bodybuilders focused on this region. (It accentuates back width, that’s why. You always want broad shoulders.)
For this reason, we will prioritize this area while keeping the volume low.
Steve Reeves Back
Wow, that back is impressive!
Steve Reeve’s back is arguably his best bodypart.
In my opinion, it is his best bodypart.
The width he’s carrying is just out of this world. When he wears a suit, you can still see the lats.
That is when you know lat training is going to be very important.
In this program, we will train the back like there’s no tomorrow. We will incorporate all the vertical and horizontal pulls that focus on width and thickness simultaneously.
However, we will stay away from deadlifts (more on that later) heavy shrugs and barbell rows, as this tends to overthicken the trap region.
Because if there’s one thing about Steve Reeve’s back that does suck, it’s his traps.
There was absolutely zero size or mass. Pure pencil neck.
And don’t think I am hating on the dude. All the old school bodybuilders had this look.
As a matter of fact, this is a strategy used to accentuate lat width.
That’s cause having bigger traps makes your upper body appear more narrow.
By intentionally making them smaller, it gives the illusion of broad shoulders and wide lats.
So if we make our back big and strong, while simultaneously neglecting the neck/traps region, bam we now have a back that looks like Reeves.
It’s so simple, yet so damn awesome.
By the way, as drug free lifters, the only way to get any serious amount of mass in the lat department is to increase strength on weighted pullups and rowing variations. I suspect that you will need at least 90lb weighted pullups before your back starts to resemble Reeve’s.
Oh, and for the spinal erectors we will perform hyperextensions.
This way, we get the Christmas tree without the added trap in there too.
Steve Reeves Arms
As I alluded to earlier, Steve Reeve’s arms were absolutely phenomenal.
Amazing biceps, forearms, and triceps. Not one lagging area.
You know, I’ve heard stories of this dude curling over 90lb dumbbells.
When I look at his arms, I become a believer of these stories.
Whether it’s true or not, however, it still strikes an important point.
To look like Reeves, you need to focus on your arms. A lot.
But now we have a problem. We can’t rely on close grip benching or pressing, because doing so will make the shoulders and chest get too big.
So how are we supposed to get big arms while staying away from the big heavy compounds?
Well, I would usually say to use accomating resistance such as bands or chains to make the triceps work harder, but in this case I don’t think that’s appropriate.
Besides, I have another alternative. If we know that the majority of Reeve’s physique was crafted off illusions and proportions, then can we not do the same for the arms?
And here’s what I mean. Take a quick look at this triceps anatomy chart.
As you can see, there’s the lateral head, medial head, and long head.
The lateral head and the medial head are the ones that give the horesehoe shape.
However, they are on the SIDE of the arm.
This is extremely important, because just because you have a nice horeshoe, does not guarantee that your arms will be big.
Interestingly, 99% of all presses focus extensively on the lateral and medial head of the triceps, but not so much the long head.
This is perfect to know, because this essentially means that you don’t have to perform presses to get big arms.
Anatomy tells us that the long head of the triceps is the back of the arm, where all the width comes from.
Therefore, we can get arms that look like Reeves without focusing on the presses.
All we must do is perform lots of overhead extensions, done with barbells, dumbbells, machines, bands, and cables.
The result is that your arms get big in the right places, which gives you the illusion of mass.
Isn’t that awesome? Once again, we can use proportions to our advantage. By the way, pullovers (which are included in this program for various reasons) also work the long head of the triceps. So there’s a lot of long head work in here.
As for the biceps, Reeves was a big fan of exercises that used the stretch reflex. This makes sense from a physiological perspective, as the stretch reflex allows you to use heavier weights, and has been shown to aid in gaining muscle mass.
For this reason, we will mimic the same strategy by performing lots of curls that use the stretch reflex. Incline curls (Reeve’s favorite), preacher curls, and spider curls will be the name of the game. Done with different variations of course.
And for the forearms of Reeve’s, I don’t think it’s necessary to hit them, but if you notice that your forearms do not have adequate size, employing wrist curls. hammer curls, or reverse curls should fix that issue.
Steve Reeves Midsection
Steve Reeves had very tiny abs.
As a matter of fact, they were not his main focus.
Instead, he prioritized what is known as the vacuum effect.
This was accomplished through incorporating various pullovers in his workouts, as well as performing tummy vacuums on a daily basis.
Mind you, his vacuum effect was not as good as Frank Zane, but he still had one to say the least.
So here is what we have essentially…
Small abs + vacuum effect = Illusion of bigger chest, back, and smaller waist.
It’s the ultimate combination for upper body aesthetics. Literally.
Therefore, we will do precisely the same as Reeves.
Few bodyweight ab exercises (to prevent overbulking the midsection), with many pullovers and tummy vacuums.
Also, you will need to get within the 10-15% bodyfat range.
It’s not shredded, but it’s still some work. Make sure your nutrition is sound.
Steve Reeves Legs
Steve Reeves had very nice legs.
Not only were they super aesthetic, but they had a perfect amount of size too.
The entire front of his leg, such as the quads, VMO, and adductor, were all thoroughly developed.
The backside, however, which includes the hamstrings and glutes were not quite as good.
To the powerlifter or strongman, this is a problem, but for the old school bodybuilder, this is desirable.
As a matter of fact, Reeves intentionally wanted to have this look.
He is known as the guy with nice legs but no ass. It’s funny, but true.
Actually, if you look at the history of the dude this is the guy who popularized the hack squat.
Reeves believed it would strengthen the entire anterior chain, while minimizing size in the posterior chain region.
Clearly, this strategy worked for him.
Although we will not mimic this perfectly, we will still prioritize the anterior chain like never before. This will be accomplished through various leg presses, pistol squats, sissy squats, etc.
And obviously we will stay away from squats and deadlifts, because this thickens the posterior chain way too much.
Finally, if you look at Reeve’s calves, they were thoroughly developed.
He diamond shaped calves, with a good amount of size to go with it.
I believe they were 18 inches, which is quite impressive to say the least.
As a result, this program will have a high emphasis on calf work.
In sum, it’s going to look like this.
Anterior chain exercises + high volume calves = Steve Reeves Legs
Now that we have all the information we need, it’s time to compile everything together into a well-organized program.
The program will be executed in a full body concurrent training style, which means that you will be performing full body workouts 2-4x a week, while frequently rotating exercise selection.
We do this to prevent accommodation and build overall strength and hypertrophy.
Plus, as you may have noticed, there’s a lot customization that goes into building the physique of Steve Reeves. This was demonstrated through his oldschool bodybuilding physique, with all the muscle illusions present.So we must make sure that we attack this look in every possible way.
Anyhow, I now present you a 4 week Steve Reeves program that will give you his aesthetics.
Although it’s only a 4 week program, it’s completely repeatable. Plus, it gives you an idea as to how Steve Reeves programming would look like. So you can copy this format and make it better (if you can).
So without further ado, here’s the program.
PS: If you learned something or have any questions, leave a comment down below!
Incline Pause Bench Press 4-10RM + 3 Back-Off Sets/Triple Dropset
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 4×12
Seated Cable Flyes 3×15
Overhead Barbell Extension 5×8
Dumbbell Pullover 4×12
Weighted Pullup 4-10RM + 3 Back-Off Sets/Triple Dropset
Unilateral Machine/Hammer Strength Row 3×12
Cable Side Raises 3×10
Incline Curls 5×10
Hack Squat 4×10
Sissy Squat 3xAMRAP
Seated Calf Raises With 3s Pause 5×10
Donkey Calf Raise OR Toes-in Standing Calf Raise 5×20-30
Bent Knee Hanging Leg Raises 3×10
Incline Close Grip Bench Press 4-10RM + 3 Back-Off Sets/Triple Dropset
Neutral Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 3×AMRAP (15-30 reps)
Flat Dumbbell Flyes 3×12
Overhead Rope/Band Extension 5×10 + last set triple dropset
Dumbbell Pullover 3×10
Dumbbell Row 3×10
Gironda Sternum Chins 5xAMRAP
Dumbbell Side Raise
Dumbbell Preacher Curl 5×10
Single-legged Leg Press 5×8
Pistol Squats 3×AMRAP
Standing Calf Raises With 2s Pause 5×12-20
Calf Raise On Leg Press 5×12-20
Bicycle Twists 3×20
Reverse Grip Bench Press 4-10RM + 3 Back-Off Sets/Triple Dropset
Landmine Press 4×10
Incline Dummbell Flyes 3×10
One Arm Overhead Dumbbell Extension 5×12
Dumbbell Pullover 3×8
Weighted Chinups 4-10RM + 3 Back-Off Sets/Triple Dropset
Underhand Lat Pulldown 3×10
Power Side Raises 3×8
Spider Curl 5×10
Low Leg Press Close Feet 5×20
Jumping Pistol Squats 3xAMRAP
Standing Calf Raises Off Block 4s Bottom Pause 3×10-12
Seated Calf Raises Toes-in 5×10-15
Incline Pushups 5xAMRAP
Timed Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 1×1-3 Minutes
Pec Deck 3×10
Two Arm Overhead Dumbbell Extension 3×10
Barbell Pullover 3×12
Lat Pulldown 5×10
Close Pullups 3xAMRAP
Bent Arm Dumbbell Side Raises 3×10
Barbell Preacher Curl 5×10
Bulgarian Split Squat 4-10RM + 3 Back-Off Sets/Triple Dropset
Hack Squat 4×12
Calf Raise on Leg Press 5×30
Standing Calf Raise 5×10
Straight Leg Hanging Leg Raises 3xAMRAP