Welcome to the world of Classic Physique Builder! Find information and inspiration from the steroid-free, Golden Age of Classic Physique Building to help you build a muscular, powerful, symmetrical, healthy, and attractive physique.
(Above photo: Golden Age Mag - Muscle Builder Magazine, July 54 issue)
Are you a beginner interested in gaining muscular weight? Have you been training for a few months and yet have seen no results? Well, you are not alone. Many in the Golden Age (the 1940s and 50s) experienced the same thing. Here is some classic advice from the Questions and Answers column of Joe Weider's Muscle Builder Magazine (July 1954 issue):
Question: Dear Sir, I've been exercising for 3 1/2 months now and have made good progress, so far as strength and muscularity are concerned. But I've not gained weight. I maintain a good protein diet and still no results. Please advise me on what to do. D.L. Brooklyn. N.Y.
Answer: Donald, you are an example of what the Weider Research Clinic has always taught...Each man is a law unto himself where bodybuilding is concerned. One man will make great gains in bodyweight, but little in strength, during his beginner's peroid in weight training. Another man will get powerful and muscular in his first training months, but make little gains in weight. But these physical qualities gradually reach the point of balance with each other. Progress in power...bulk...muscularity, is made in a series of steps...a little gain, then maybe a slight drop or a leveling off, then a slight gain once more. You appear to have gained first in strength and delineation. I am not too concerned with your failure to gain weight at this present stage of training since you have only been bodybuilding for 3 1/2 months. If you had been weight training for a year without any great bodyweight gains, then I'd say you had something to worry about. My advice to you is this. Cut down slightly on your upper body work such as the various curls, presses and rowing motions. Shorten your routine to the bench press, barbell curl, squat and breathing pullover. Use as heavy a poundage as possible in the squat and alternate each set of squats with a set of breathing pullovers. Rest up completely on your non training days. Get at least eight hours sleep each night and at least 10 hours in bed! Don't hurry. Don't worry...and buy the Weider Gaining Food Supplement.
CPB Commentary: So there you have it - a classic, abbreviated routine to kick start some muscular weight gaining. In a nutshell, here is the routine again:
Use as much poundage as possible (so that you can barely squeeze out the last rep). Keep pushing the weight up as you get stronger. It wasn't specifed, but fewer sets (e.g., 2-3 sets per exercise) and low reps (e.g., 6-7 reps) were usually recommended for such routines.
Note how important a lot of sleep and rest are as well as not worrying & hurrying. The Weight Gaining Food Supplement that was recommended was really a vitamin B complex supplement that acted as an appetite stimulant.
So if you are having trouble gaining weight, you can give this classic routine from the Golden Age a try! It's worked before and may well work for you! - CPB
(Above: Steve Reeves doing dumbbell incline presses)
It is very instructive to look at the routines of the Golden Age champs to see what training without steroids was like. Below is one of Steve Reeves' favorite routines. It appeared in an article that he wrote in the May 1951 issue of Joe Weider's Your Physique magazine.
Steve's routine is a full-body workout which he did 3 days a week (e.g., M, W, and F). He used a great deal of concentration when doing the exercise and performed each set "all out" (or to failure). Each exercise was done in a strict style, resting 45-60 seconds between sets and 2 minutes between different exercises.
That's it! This is a routine that he used at his advanced level! So it is not for a beginning or intermediate classic physique builder.
Look at the total number of sets he is doing for each body part:
1. Chest - 8 sets
2. Thighs - 4 sets
3. Biceps - 3 sets
4. Deltoids - 4 sets
5. Lats - 6 sets
6. Lower Back - 1 set
7. Triceps - 3 sets
8. Calves - 1 set
Of course, some of the compound movements like bench presses also hit the triceps and anterior delts as well as chest, so the situation is a bit more complicated than outlined above. Nevertheless, we can still see that the total number of sets for each body part is much lower than is typically seen today (just open any modern muscle mag).
Why? First, Steve was not on steroids, so muscles under natural conditions are easily overworked if too many sets are employed. Second, he is using a great deal of mental concentration and focusing intently on the muscle fibers being worked (instead of talking, listening to music, getting distracted, etc). Third, he is using weights heavy enough to cause failure at the reps indicated. Fourth, he is getting the negative reps on the way down.
Joe Weider was so impressed by Steve's ability to concentrate and get results that he said in his book, Brothers of Iron, that Steve "could get more, out of less, than anybody I knew. He'd go to the gym and make phenomenal gains with shorter workouts than the other guys, lifting only medium heavy, and beat fellows who lifted huge and trained until they fell over. To his credit, Steve trained very efficiently with no down time and no wasted motion."
Our point is that training under natural conditions is very different than training under steroids This can be seen easily when comparing the relatively low volume (low sets) workouts of the Golden Age (1940s and 50s) to the high volume (high sets) workouts of the Chemical Age (the 1960s to the present). So, if our goal is to build a classic physique naturally, then we can learn best from the champs of the Golden Age (like Steve Reeves) who knew best how to do it! - CPB
(above left: Eugen Sandow; above right: Farnese Hercules)
If we were to look to a founder of modern, classic physique building, our search would take us back to Eugen Sandow. Sandow was a very popular strongman of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who lived most of his life in England. Unlike some other strongmen of his era, his physique was not rotund or ponderous, but instead was muscular, symetrical, and well-defined. He soon realized that his popularity was due as much to his classic physique as it was to his feats of strength.
With Sandow, we see all the elements that would later flower in the Golden Age of Classic Physique Building (the 1940s and 50s). He started his own magazine, Physical Culture (later renamed as Sandow's Magazine of Physical Culture), published books and courses on training, sold exercise equipment, opened his own gyms (Physical Culture studios), posed for physique photos, and even sold his own supplements (Sandow's Health and Strength Cocoa). He also sponsored the first, large-scale, national physique contest called "The Great Competition" (in 1901) which involved a series of qualifying contests at the regional level.
In the photos above, it is significant that you can see Sandow (left) recreating the pose of the Farnese Hercules (an ancient Greek sculpture). This demonstrates Sandow's clear recognition and promotion of the classic ideal in physical development. From this beginning, classic physique building would flower in the Golden Age (the 1940s and 50s) and then decline and dissappear in the 1960s as chemically-enhanced bodybuilding took over the scene.
(Above photo: Cover of a Joe Weider "Course/Catalog" circa 1958)
How different was the Golden Age of Classic Physique Building (the 1940s and 50s) from today's mainstream bodybuilding world! Some of the differences are captured above on the cover of Joe Weider's 1958 "Course/Catalog" - Eating for Super-Muscles, Super-Vitality. Look closely at the images on this cover. What do you see? How was Joe able to market the classic physique of the Golden Age?
First, we see Joe Weider himself depicted with a classic physique holding a trophy - the image of a champion. You can even see a light glow about him - almost a "halo" type of effect indicating "greatness." Below him are images of a discus thrower, a weightlifter, two football players, and a boxer - in other words, various representatives of athletics. At the bottom right is a well-built man (with a classic physique) holding an adoring female in his arms at the beach.
So what is the message here? The message is directed to "everyman" or "every teenager" that if you build a classic physique, you will not only follow in the footsteps of the champions, you might even become one yourself AND your classic physique will make you better at athletics AND give you "sex appeal."
When you look at the classic physiques of the 40s and 50s (like those of Steve Reeves, Clancy Ross, Armand Tanny, George Eiferman, Alan Stephan, etc), this message is totally believable! First, it was not a major stretch of imagination to believe that with a few years of working out, you too could have a physique like the champions. Second, a person with a classic physique certainly did look like he could excel at practically any sport. Third, it was completely believable that a guy with a classic physique could more easily attract members of the opposite sex.
So Joe's message/marketing was right on target. How many guys in those days sent away for muscle building courses because they wanted to look like the classic physique champions, be better at sports, and be more attractive to women? Quite a lot! Of course, in the Golden Age (before steroids), there were many muscle building courses available through the muscle mags.
For those interested in building a classic physique today, those messages and motivations still hold true. With a few years of proper training, proper nutrition, and proper rest, a person today can still build a classic physique like the Golden Age champs! Such a physique will certainly make a person better in sports. Women today do find such a physique attractive! And the best thing is that building a classic physique will make you healthier, more confident, and happier!
So stay tuned to CPB! If there is enough interest, CPB will collect and organize the info from the Golden Age into courses and make them available soon next year (please see and take our poll on the sidebar). In doing so, we can side-step the "muddy pool" of the chemically-spoiled mainstream bodybuilding world and drink directly from the "pure fountain" of the Golden Age! It is still there for the taking! - CPB
In a previous post, we discussed Steve Reeves' beginning workout routine (click on the sidebar label "beginning workout routine"). It was a routine that he put together, at the age of 16 (in 1942), after doing a lot of reading in magazines such as Bob Hoffman's Strength and Health. Steve said that it was a good routine and that he gained about 8 pounds on it in about 4 months.
After that, Steve started to train in Ed Yarick's Gym in Oakland, CA. This was one of the premier gyms on the West Coast in the early 1940s. Ed put Steve on an intermediate workout routine that Steve called his "Second Workout Schedule." In just four months on this routine under Ed's supervision, Steve gained 30 pounds!
Now, we must remember that Steve was 16 and so he had a lot of natural, high levels of testosterone circulating in his system. Under Ed's supervision, he was also resting and eating properly. But, that being said, this is a great, full body routine of 14 exercises that can produce results in a short period of time for the intermediate classic physique builder!
Here is the routine (amwp = as much weight as possible):
So there you have it! This is a full body routine that Steve followed 3 days a week (e.g., M, W, and F). Today, there is scientific research that shows that exercises such as squats release a substantial amount of testosterone. So doing a full body routine with squats can result in an extra boost of growth for the entire body. In the Golden Age of Classic Physique Building (the 1940s and 50s), they didn't have this research, but they knew this from their own training experience. Certainly, Steve made great gains on this routine in 4 months!
For complete exercise descriptions and other insights into his training, see Steve's book Building the Classic Physique the Natural Way which is available through the Steve Reeves International Society at http://www.stevereeves.com/. It is a great book that we highly recommend.
We report Steve's intermediate routine - without any changes - for historical purposes. This is indeed the routine that he actually followed. However, CPB does not recommend doing the "Good Morning" exercise because we feel it is too easy to get injured. We believe Steve's routine would be just fine if this one exercise were dropped.
This isn't the only type of intermediate training schedule that we find in the Golden Age. There are many other routines. However, this one certainly worked for Steve. So if you are an intermediate classic physique builder, perhaps it can work for you as well! - CPB
The mission of Classic Physique Builder (CPB Blog and CPBzine) is to: (1) promote the ideal of developing a classic physique, (2) demonstrate what kind of body can be developed naturally,(3) preserve & learn from the history of the pre-roid Golden Age of Classic Physique Building, (4) serve as a source of education & inspiration to all; and (5) help initiate a Renaissance of Classic Physique Building in the 21st Century!
For a free 1 year subscription to Classic Physique Builder (CPBzine) - a pdf zine patterned after the muscle mags of the pre-roid, Golden Age of Bodybuilding (the 1940s and 50s) - just send your name, the name of your city (not your address), state/province, & country to firstname.lastname@example.org. That's it! CPBzine is published quarterly (Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter issues).
CPBzine - Winter 2010 Issue
Vol 2 No 1: Cover - Clancy Ross (Current Issue)
CPBzine - Fall 2009 Issue
Vol 1 No 3 - Cover: John Grimek (see Back Issue info below)
CPBzine - Summer 2009 Issue
Vol 1 No 2 - Cover: George Eiferman (see Back Issue info below)
CPBzine - Spring 2009 (Premier) Issue
Vol 1 No 1 - Cover: Steve Reeves (see Back Issue info below)
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About Us & Our Mission
Hi and Welcome to CPB!
I'm Anthony Miller - a PhD in anatomy & cell biology, researcher, scientist, academician, pre-roid Golden Age aficionado, and aspiring classic physique builder. I founded CPB because I got tired of waiting for someone else to do it!
For those of us who have no intention of using drugs to build our physiques, it is nearly impossible to get good, muscle-building info that works for non-drug users or inspiring images of classic physique champs from the extreme, steroid-oriented muscle mags of today. Fortunately, there is a vast wealth of pre-roid, Golden Age information from the 1940s and 50s that we can use to build Golden Age physiques that are drug-free, healthy, muscular, powerful, symmetrical, and attractive!
It is the mission of Classic Physique Builder (CPBBlog and CPBzine) to make pre-roid, Golden Age bodybuilding information available again to all, so that we are no longer held captive to the extremism of the modern muscle mags and so that a new, 21st Century Renaissance of Classic Physique Building can arise!
If our mission appeals to you, then please join us in spreading the CPB Movement wherever you are and in whatever way you can. Help us get the word out to people that Golden Age Classic Physique Building (true, pre-roid bodybuilding) is a better and brighter alternative than what the current, mainstream, drug-based bodybuilding world provides!
Please consider supporting the CPB mission through your donations (see donation button above). This will allow us to continue to offer CPBzine free for those (especially young people) who truly cannot afford it. - Thank you!
Steve Reeves - 1948 Mr. World Clip (2nd Clip from Top)
Steve Reeves - "The White Warrior" Clips
Steve Reeves - "Hercules Unchained" Clips
Reg Park - "Maciste in King Soloman's Mines" Clips
John Grimek Interview Clip
Harold Poole Clips
Reg Park Clips
George Eiferman Clips
Mainstream Bodybuilding Ideal - Cartoon Characters: He-man, X-men, The Thing! (2nd clip from top)