Muslce Power, Vol 3 No 7, Page 26, December 1947

Steve Reeves, Mr. America 1947

by Gene Jantzen

ONE of the most astonishing muscle men ever to make his appearance at a best physique contest is Steve Reeves of Oakland, California. His Li'I-Abner type physique, tremendous shoulders and latissimus muscles tapering into a wasp like waist of scarcely 29 inches, makes the beholder gasp with amazement. His hips are narrow of course, and his legs are truly phenomenal. The thighs are well developed with plenty of separation, and the calves are every bit of eighteen inches, with definition that is tout of this world. Steve started to work on his calves when he was ten years old, but more about that later. Of course you know that Steve won the Mr. America crown in June, from the largest group of muscle men yet to compete in a best built man contest anywhere. I doubt that there was one man in the contest who did not believe that Reeves would win, after seeing him. For months I had been hearing about this West Coast giant by mail and by word of mouth. Few people had seen him or his pictures, but they had all heard about him. The West Coast and its sunshine has produced a lot of terrific physiques, but this man Reeves is the most striking example so far. He is the most perfect personification of what weight training can do that we have seen in many a day. I heard many comments when he was going through his routine such as, "I've never seen anything like it", "I can't believe it", "He's out of this world", etc. The audience was truly amazed. Steve is also handsome. His face is about as perfect as they come, with regular strong features that fit his physical development to the letter. He has all of the physical assets that go to make up a truly phenomenal muscle man. He has a lot of native intelligence and plenty of ambition. I see no reason why Steve should not hit the top in any profession if he sets his mind to it. I learned to know him quite well during the few days we spent together in Chicago, and from his conversation I gathered that he has always been ambitious. He has always chosen the straight narrow road rather than the easiest one. Reeves has worked hard to build the body he has and I am sure he will continue to work hard to succeed in his chosen profession, whatever that might be.

Steve Reeves was born in Oakland, California, twenty years ago. He was a very average child physically, except in this, that he always liked to try the hard way when it came to physical ability. When he was ten he had a paper route which he covered with a bicycle. His bicycle was a very important piece of equipment in his young life and it is responsible for the terrific calves he displays today. When Young Steve came to a steep hill with his bike, he did not follow the example of his playmates who dismounted and pushed their wheels to the top, instead he set his jaw, pedaled three times as hard as usual and rode to the top. He was also in the habit of riding his friends around on the handlebars of his bike arid of carrying heavy loads of papers along his route. In all of his pedal pushing Steve used the ball of his foot on the pedal, rather than the arch, another point which aided greatly in his calf development. I have always claimed that one needs to start at a very young age to develop really large calves and Steve agrees with me. No doubt there are those among our readers who will say that they rode a bike when they were ten and younger and have very average calves today. My answer to them would be, you did not ride hard enough or often enough and you did not follow through on your leg development in later years. Steve did all three of these things, and he stayed on his toes while doing them. Today he displays a pair of calves that take your breath away. Even though Reeves was an ambitious young lad he developed a bad habit which many tall people are subject to, that of walking with a slouch. Drooping shoulders and a rounded back became so much a part of Steve's child hood appearance that his mother threatened to make him wear shoulder braces if he didn't straighten up. This condition was soon corrected once Steve became acquainted with body building at Castlemont High School, his favorite institution of learning. It was here that Steve first learned the value of chinning, push-ups, climbing the rope, etc. This period of initial training was a sort of hardening period just prior to his being introduced to weight training. Steve says it was his "prelude to weight lifting" and points it out as being the most important phase of his work, because it instilled in him the burning desire to excel physically. "Had it not been for the body building equipment at Castlemont" Steve says, "I might never have gotten the bug. I owe my old Alma Mater a lot of thanks". However, according to Steve's own words his greatest debt of gratitude belongs to his mother. "She is the one who kept me going when the rough times came along. She is the one who encouraged and inspired me with her good advice and kindness. She has been my greatest inspiration." This is what Steve has to say for his mother, and it sounds mighty good. Many a mother could take an example from Mrs. Reeves and do the same for her young son. Too many mothers discourage their youngsters when it comes to weight training, yet they think it is wonderful that their boys play football, regardless of the fact that they do so without any supervision, at an age when there is a very great danger or serious injury. This danger does not exist in weight training, but the possibilities of becoming America's best built man -- do exist.

Castlemont High was also the scene of Steve's first introduction to Barbells. This occurred when he was sixteen years of age. At first the weights were slightly more than a curiosity and Reeves did little more than fool around with them for the first few months. He soon realized their real value however and began a regular training schedule when he was sixteen and one-half years of age. At that time Steve weighed 156 stripped, he was six feet tall, his neck was 13 1/2", chest 37 1/2", expanded 39 1/2", waist 30", thigh 22", calf 16", wrist 7 1/4", ankle 9 1/2" and knee 13 1/2". Keep those measurements in mind and watch what happened. Steve used as much weight as he could handle for each exercise of ten reps and his initial training program included only one set or each exercise. In other words he started out right. He took it in his stride and did not try to overload his body with too much exercise at a time when his system needed most of its energy for growing and for normal development.

This is Steve's first work-out program. Warm up exercise: ten reps, 60 pound clean, military press 60 pounds ten reps, prone press 70 pounds, rowing ex. 60 pounds, reverse curl 30 pounds, regular curl 40 pounds, squats 100 pounds, breathing dumbbell pull over 20 pounds, good morning exercise 60 pounds, breathing lateral raise 10 pounds each hand. All of these exercises were done in ten rep. sets, one set only of each. As soon as Reeves reached twelve reps in anyone exercise he increased the weight five pounds and dropped back to ten reps. This program was followed for the first nine months of his training after which he used the same exercises, the same system of increasing poundages and the same number of reps, but he did two sets of each exercise instead of one set. This second training period lasted another six months, when again he changed his work routine to the following system. Warm-up with dead hang cleans, upright rowing, prone press, one arm rowing, a set of laterals, each of which was repeated for three sets of ten or twelve reps with as much weight as he could handle. Then he did four sets of inclined presses, started with heavy weight and worked down. These reps were done very rapidly and with little rest between sets. Then the pulley triceps curl and the reverse curl were executed ten reps of each, then four sets of dumbbell. curls seated, next a set of full squats and pullover on bench, then a set of half-squats and pullover on bench, ten reps in each case. His work-out was concluded with a set of good morning exercises, again ten or twelve reps. Steve does all of his squats with a two or three inch board under his heels. This is, of course, the best way to practice full squats. Steve discovered this fact on his own, because he used to do squats in high heeled field boots and found that the exercise was of far, greater value when done in this manner. This last system of training was followed for another nine months, rounding out his first two years of training. His weight was now 203, he Was six foot one inch tall, neck 17 1/4",chest 47 1/2", waist 29", biceps 17 1/4", hips 37", thigh 24 1/2, calf 17 1/4".

After two years of body building Reeves was inducted into the service. He was stationed in the states for five months and then shipped to the Philippines, in the Twenty-fifth Combat Division of the Infantry. In June of '45 Steve contracted malaria and had seven very severe attacks of it during the next seven months. During this time his weight dropped from 205 to 170 pounds. Prior to his malaria attacks his weight and measurements had remained the same as they were when he was inducted. After a month or two of malaria Steve was transferred to the Quartermaster Corps and in March of '45 he was sent to Japan as part of the occupation troops. Up to this time he had had no chance whatever to train with weights and sick as he was, very little incentive. However, in Japan he began to feel like himself again and with the war over and a new lease on life, he decided to do something about his muscles and more. So, typical of a weight trained man he took the bull by the horns, and found himself a Japanese interpreter who took him to a foundry. There he designed and gave instructions for construction of a 210 pound barbell set, for which he paid one hundred dollars in American money. These he kept under his bed in his barracks. Then he built an exercise bench which passed army inspections, because it looked enough like an ironing board to fool the inspecting officers. Actually the bench was often used as an ironing board. Steve says it was a success both ways. He also managed to acquire several mirrors which were hung near his bed and so you see there was a well equipped body building studio in the heart of Japan. Reeves used this setup for his work-outs the last six months of his career in the service. During this time he increased his body weight from 170 to 195 Ibs. In Sept. 1946 he returned home.

Home once more, Steve renewed his training with gusto. He began to work out at the famous LaLanne Gym and within a few weeks be was back to 205. In December, '46 he entered and won the "Mr. Pacific Coast contest'" in Portland, Oregon. He continued to train and to gain and in May of '47 he again won the title "Mr. Pacific Coast". His greatest ambition has always been to compete in a Mr. America contest, which ambition he now realized and with the greatest success he could have hoped for. Steve also won the best back award. He was an audience choice as well as the choice of the judges for the Mr. America title.


- One of the most astonishing developed musclemen, is our present "Mr. America" - Steve Reeves of Oakland, Calif. Steve stands well over six feet and weighs 213 lbs. It is claimed that he now looks better than ever.

- Steve Reeves believes in hard training, and is here seen working out with "Weider DeLuxe" barbell. Watch for more of Reeves' exclusive photos.

- In these two phoots taken by our staff photographer Tony Lanza, we see the classical lines, the herculean proportions and the excellent definition that Steve Reeves possesses.

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