Sunday, September 30, 2007

Eating for a Classic Physique: The Steve Reeves Diet

So what kind of diet did these classic physique builders of the Golden Age of Natural Bodybuilding follow?

Well, here is the Steve Reeves Diet as outlined in his book Building The Classic Physique The Natural Way (available at It represents a typical day's diet when he was competing.

It isn't the modern "eat protein every 3 hours" or "eat six or seven small meals a day" type diet that we see today. Instead, it is based on the old "3 meals a day" plan.

Breakfast: The Steve Reeves Power Drink consisting of:

14 ounces of freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon of Knox gelatin
1 tablespoon of honey
1 banana
2-4 raw eggs (he recommends that pasteurized eggs might be safer today)
2 tablespoons of High-Protein Powder (which he made himself)


cottage cheese (with a handful of nuts, raisins)
2 pieces of fresh fruit (in season)


1 huge salad
1 swordfish steak (or turkey, tuna, or lean ground beef)

He describes this diet as "well-balanced with something from each of the food groups...". That's it! Pretty simple. He doesn't seem to have needed to eat protein every three hours as is recommended today. His home-made "protein drink" was taken as a meal replacement and he limited it to once-a-day for breakfast.

While we wouldn't recommend anyone using raw eggs today, his diet is well-rounded and healthy. It is interesting and encouraging that without the in-depth, scientific knowledge of nutrition that we have today, bodybuilders like Steve Reeves were able to produce classic physiques that are still unsurpassed today!

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Golden Age of Classic Physique Building: The Classic Ideal

What made the Golden Age of Classic Physique Building "Golden" was a conscious effort to emmulate the classic ideal. This can be seen quite clearly in the physique photography of that era (from 1940 - 1959).

Take a look at the above photo. It shows Clancy Ross (Mr. America 1945, Pro Mr. America 1946, Mr. USA 1948) on the cover of the March, 1956 issue of Joe Weider's Muscle Power magazine. Clancy is shown next to a classical Greek column. This is a clear attempt to portray bodybuilders as exemplifying the classic ideal of a muscular, powerful, symmetrical, yet attractive body. There is no glorification here of "freaky" size. Many other examples of this kind of physique photography can be found from the Golden Age of Classic Physique Building.

In the Golden Age of Classic Physique Building (before the advent of steroids), a classic physique was valued as the ideal. Today, that ideal has been lost in the mainstream bodybuilding world. Our mission here at Classic Physique Builder is to bring it back - if not to mainstream competitive bodybuilding, then to regular guys who want to build a fantastic physique and have no interest in using drugs. Many would be proud to have an all-natural, classic physique like that of Clancy Ross!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Classic Physique Building: The Greek Ideal

In a pervious post, we discussed the ancient Greek roots of Natural Bodybuilding. It is certainly true that bodybuilding can trace its roots back to the ancient Greeks. However, the classical Greek ideal of what constituted the perfect male body was a little different from our ideal of a classic physique!

The classic physique ideal is one in which the neck, upper arms, and calves have the same measurement. The shoulders are broad and the waist and hips are as narrow as possible to produce that "V-shaped" torso.

The classic Greek ideal is one in which the upper arm is a bit smaller than the neck (~1/2 inch smaller) and the calves are a bit smaller than the upper arms (~ 1 inch smaller). The waist and hips are also a bit larger than the classic physique ideal.

Although we, at CPB (Classic Physique Builder), prefer the classic physique ideal, we also value the classical Greek ideal as well. It is often easier and a more reasonable goal for a person to attain the classical Greek ideal first in their natural bodybuilding efforts. Having achieved that goal, it is then easier to bring the arms and calves in line with the neck to attain the classic physique ideal.

Check out this calculator at the Sandow Museum site ( that will give you your "Greek Ideal Measurements" based on your wrist size.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Classic Physique Supplements of the Golden Age of Natural Bodybuilding

Just what supplements were available during the Golden Age of Natural Bodybuilding? Well...we won't give a comprehensive list in this post. However, flipping through the May 1953 issue of Joe Weider's Muscle Power magazine we find ads for the following supplements:

1) Weider Hi-Protein Supplement (which included vitamins & minerals)

2) Weider Weight Gaining Supplement (which included vitamins & minerals)

3) Weider Reduce Aid Supplement (which also included vitamins & minerals)

4) Dr. Tilney's Goat Milk Capsules & Peppermint Tea

That's it! Just 4 ads for supplements in the entire 82 page issue! Quite a difference from today's bodybuilding magazines where it's hard to find the real articles among all the supplement ads and/or hard to tell the ads apart from the articles.

Take a look at Reg Park (Mr. Universe) on the cover (above photo) of the May 1953 issue of Muscle Power and just think - it was possible to build that physique without the high-tech supplements of today! For the average guy that goes to the gym who can't afford to spend an entire paycheck on supplements, this should give you some much-needed perspective and hope! With some basic protein supplements, vitamins & minerals, a good diet, proper training and rest, you can build an impressive, classic physique!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Joe Weider - Father of Classic Physique Building?

We have mixed feelings about Joe. On the one hand, he was certainly in the position, along with his brother Ben, to stop the take-over of classic physique building by steroid-users in the 1960s. He was in control of his magazines and he and his brother Ben were certainly at the reigns of the IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilders). However, it may well have been that no one could have stopped it - this is what Joe says in his book Brothers of Iron. He might be right, but perhaps he could have done a lot more to prevent the decline of the Golden Age of Classic Physique Building.

That being said, no one can deny that there probably would have been no Golden Age of Classic Physique Building (from 1940 - 1959) without Joe's magazines (Your Physique, Muscle Power, Muscle Builder), training equipment, muscle-building courses, supplements, contests, and tireless and relentless promotion of bodybuilding! So what can we say? How can we not like Joe! He is rightfully recognized as the "Father of Classic Physique Building."

Joe certainly practiced what he preached. Though he never won a major title (although he did place 5th in the tall class of the 1951 Mr. Universe contest after being "forced" to enter the contest by his friend Reg Park), he certainly did build an impressive physique! He appeared several times on the cover of his first magazine - Your Physique. The above photo on the left shows Joe on the cover of The October 1944 issue. It looks like he was about 170 lbs at that time. He was certainly no Steve Reeves, but you see a developing classic physique!. The above photo on the right shows Joe sometime between 1947 - 1952. He oftern used this photo in his byline for his magazine articles. It looks like he packed on more muscle mass and his body weight is up around 200 lbs. His measurements, as reported by Sig Klein in Muscle Builder magazine in 1955 were: chest - 51 in., neck - 17.5, waist - 34.5, upper arm - 17.3, thigh - 25.2, calf - 16.8, height 5'11". These are definitely classic proportions! Not bad for a magazine publisher!

The Classic Physique vs. The "Hulk"-like Physique: Traps and Neck Appearance

Another point to consider in comparing the classic physique with the "Hulk"-like physique is the development of the traps and its effect on neck appearance. Not only do over-developed traps make the shoulders appear "rounded" and more narrow, but they also "swallow" and hide the neck making the head appear to be directly attached to the torso.

Compare the photos above (left: Ronnie Coleman, Mr Olympia; right: Steve Reeves, Mr Universe). Who has a neck and who doesn't? Which physique is naturally more attractive? Whose physique would you rather have?

A column-like neck that measures the same as the upper arm and calves is one of the hallmarks of a classic physique.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Classic Physique vs. The "Hulk"-like Physique: Traps and Shoulder Width

Another important difference between the classic physique and the "Hulk"-like physique is in the development of the traps and the appearance of shoulder width. In the chemically-enhanced, cartoonish "Hulk"-like physique (remember the "Hulk" was a cartoon/comic before they made it into a TV series and film), the traps are almost always vastly overdeveloped compared to the classic physique.

The problem with overdeveloped traps is that they make the shoulders appear more "rounded" and narrow rather than square and broad. One of the hallmarks of the classic physique is broad shoulders. So to enhance the appearance of broad shoulders, classic physique builders would intentionally not overdevelop the traps. In some instances, upper traps would not have to be exercised at all.

In his book, Building the Classic Physique The Natural Way (p. 70), Steve Reeves explains "Don't misunderstand me, the trapezius is a good muscle to develop - for supreme strength. If you're a competitive weightlifter or powerlifter, then you need that trapezius development to generate the extreme power required to make heavy lifts. But if your goal is to have a good physique, and be strong (if not necessarily the world champion in a strength sport), then you don't need that extra development in the trapezius."

Take a look at the photos above (left: Steve Reeves - Mr Universe 1950, right: Ronnie Coleman - Mr Olympia 1998-2005) and judge for yourself. Whose physique looks as if the shoulders are broader? Whose physique would you rather have?

Classic Physique Building Inspiration: The Films of Steve Reeves

Need some classic physique building inspiration? Check out the films of Steve Reeves. After winning the Mr. America 1947, Mr. World 1948, and Mr. Universe 1950 titles, Steve went on to star in 17 films! He was the first to make the transition from bodybuilding into films (well before Arnold!). His film Hercules (made in 1957) started the "Sword and Sandal" movie craze of the late 1950s and early 1960s. In the early 1960s, Steve and Sophia Loren were the highest paid actors of their time.

Here is a list of Steve Reeves' 17 films:

1. Jail Bait (1954)
2. Athena (1954)
3. Hercules (1957)
4. Hercules Unchained (1959)
5. The White Warrior (1959)
6. Goliath and the Barbarians (1959)
7. The Last Days of Pompeii (1959)
8. The Giant of Marathon (1959)
9. Morgan the Pirate (1960)
10. Thief of Baghdad (1961)
11. The Trojan Horse (1961)
12. Duel of the Titans (1961)
13. The Slave (1962)
14. The Avenger (1962)
15. Sandokan the Great (1963)
16. Pirates of Malaysia (1964)
17. A long Ride From Hell (1969)

Most of these films can be bought (as DVD or videos) online at the Steve Reeves International Society (,,, and other sites! (The photo above shows Steve in Hercules - notice his tremendous "V-shape"!).

Friday, September 7, 2007

Classic Physiques in Magazines from the Golden Age of Natural Bodybuilding

If you are looking for inspirational classic physiques in today's mainstream bodybuilding magazines, then good luck! They and few and far between. You might see an occasional article about a Golden Age bodybuilder. You might find a regular "natural bodybuilding" column (maybe) in some of the mainstream mags. You might even stumble across one of the modern day natural bodybuilding magazines like Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness or Fitness & Physique - which are geared toward contest competitors and which most stores and bookshops don't carry. In any of these cases, what you won't find are magazines filled with classic physiques from the Golden Age of Drug-Free, Natural Bodybuilding.

So aside from coming here to Classic Physique Builder, where can you go to find that inspiration? Well, you can go to some of our recommended sites. You can also still find back issues of the major bodybuilding magazines of the Golden Age of Natural Bodybuilding (1940-1959) at such places as At Ebay, all you do is search on the magazine name, and whatever is available will pop up.

What were the major bodybuilding magazines of the Golden Age (as we define it)? There were actually quite a few. Joe Weider published most of them: Your Physique, Muscle Power, Muscle Builder, and Mr. America. Other publishers put out IronMan, Strength and Health, Health and Strength, and The Reg Park Journal.

Between the years 1940 and 1959, these magazines portrayed the best of natural bodybuilding. All bodybuilding was natural then because this was the time before the introduction of steroids. It was also a time when a proportionate, classic physique was highly valued rather than "freaky size." So not only do these magazines, during this time, provide a source of inspiration, but the training info is not bad either - since it worked well enough to produce classic physiques like those of Steve Reeves, Reg Park, John Grimek, Clancy Ross, Armand Tanny, Marvin Eder, George Eiferman, Jack LaLanne, Vince Gironda, Leo Robert, Leroy Colbert, Harold Poole - just to name a few!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Classic Physique vs. The "Hulk"-like Physique: Leg Shape

There are many differences between the classic physique and the over-developed, chemically-enhanced "Hulk"-like physiques of today. An important difference is in leg shape and proportion.

Look at the photos above. Leg shape in the classic physique (above photo: left) is what Vince Gironda - the Iron Guru - calls "straight." In other words, there is not much of a difference in measurement between the upper and middle thigh. Leg shape in the "Hulk"-like physiques of today (e.g., above photo: right) are what he calls "turnip-shaped" or "carrot-shaped." In other words, the upper thigh is much larger than the middle thigh, giving the thigh the shape of a carrot or turnip.

In the"Hulk"-like physique, overdevelopment of the thigh (specifically the adductors and lateral aspect of the quads) makes the calves look proportionately smaller thus destroying the balance between the thigh and lower leg. In the classic physique, the straight, properly developed thigh does not dwarf the calves, so that the flare of the calves is more prominent and adds more to the attractiveness of the physique.

In the above photo, take a look at the classic physique on the left (Steve Reeves, Mr. Universe 1950) and compare it to the "Hulk"-like physique on the right (Jay Cutler, Mr. Olympia 2006) in terms of leg shape and proportion. Which do you think is more attractive?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Classic Physique Building: Ancient Greek Roots

Classic physique building in the western world has its roots in the culture of the ancient Greeks. Classical and Hellenistic sculpture give ample evidence of the Greek ideal of a muscular, well-defined body of symmetrical proportions. This can be seen in the well-known sculptures of the Discus Thrower by Myron of Eleutherae (5th Century B.C.E.), the Spearbearer by Polykleitos of Argos (5th Century B.C.E.), the Scraper and Farnese Hercules by Lysippos of Sicyon (4th Century B.C.E.).

Not only was athleticism a strong cultural value among the ancient Greeks, but physical aesthetics – how the body looked – was clearly an accompanying interest. Polykleitos published a book called Canon which outlined the ideal mathematical proportions or symmetry for the various parts of the human body. This idea that the beauty of the body was dependent upon the harmonious proportions or symmetry of its parts was embodied by his sculpture the “Spear Bearer.”

Although, at this point in history, there is no evidence of bodybuilding for the sake of physical aesthetics alone, it is from the ancient Greeks that we derive our ideal of an aesthetically pleasing muscular, well-defined, and symmetrical body. (photo: above left - The "Farnese Hercules by Lysippos)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Classic Physiques of Reg Park and Steve Reeves

Reg Park (photo: left) was an English bodybuilder, businessman, and film actor. He won the Mr. Britain 1949, Mr. Universe 1951, 1958, and 1965 titles. After winning the Mr. Universe title again in 1958, he went on to star in five Italian Sword and Sandal films – a genre first popularized by Steve Reeves. His films include "Hercules in the Haunted World" (1961) and "Hercules and the Captive Women" (1963). In the 1950’s, he published The Reg Park Journal – a bodybuilding magazine featuring the best bodybuilders of that time.

Although Reg's physique seems bulkier and more massive than Steve Reeves (photo: right), actually their measurements were very similar. Reg's measurements were: height (6' 0"), weight (218 lbs), neck (18 in), arms (18 1/4 in), calves (17 1/2 in), chest (53 in), waist (32 in), forearm (14 1/4 in), wrist (8 in). Steve's measurements were: height (6' 1"), weight (215 lbs), neck (18 1/4 in), arms (18 1/4 in), calves (18 1/4 in), chest (52 in), waist (29 in), forearm (14 3/4 in), wrist (7 1/4 in).

This comparison shows that despite having different looking physiques (Reg's "appearing" more massive and bulky and Steve's "appearing" more sleek), both actually embodied the ideal of the classic physique. So, it doesn't matter whether you have thicker bone structure and a more massive appearance or a thinner bone structure, you can still build a classic physique!
Visit Reg's official web site:

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Your Physique: Joe Weider's First Bodybuilding Magazine

In a previous post, we stated that our beginning date for the Golden Age of Classic Physique Building was 1940 - the year that Joe Weider published his first bodybuilding magazine, Your Physique. Here is a brief account of how Joe put together his first issue (August 1940, vol.1, no.1).

Joe was 17 years old. He went through back issues of Bob Hoffman's magazine Strength and Health and wrote down the names and addresses of guys in the "Pen Pals" section. With his 7 dollars in savings, he bought 600 post cards, sent them out to his mailing list, and sold subscriptions to his new magazine (75 cents for 6 bimonthly issues) - which didn't exist yet! With the money he received, he rented a typewriter and worked at night on his dining room table when his mother was asleep. He hand-lettered the big display type, drew his own muscle man illustrations, and typed 22 pages onto mimeograph stencils. He ran off copies on a rented mimeograph machine. Only the cover page was professional printed. He stapled the pages together and then sent them out. More subscriptions poured in! His second issue was sent to a real typsetter and printer.

Your Physique ran from 1940 to 1952 through 17 volumes. Many Weider magazines, exercise equipment, muscle-building courses, and supplements were to follow and the rest was history! Not bad for a 17 year-old kid with 7 bucks to his name!

Above is his first issue of Your Physique (August 1940, vol. 1, no. 1). Barton Horvath is on the cover. You can find an archive of Your Physique covers at You can also read more about Joe Weider in his book Brothers of Iron - which is available at most bookstores.