(Photo Above: Classic Physique Builder Champ Steve Reeves doing Military Press)
In previous posts on CPB Blog, we have listed Steve Reeves' beginning and intermediate routines. However, a list of exercises, sets, and reps, doesn't tell the whole story behind how he made such spectacular gains! Part of his secret was his high intensity approach! Joe Weider said of Steve that "he could get more, out of less, than anybody I knew." As an advanced trainer, Steve almost never did more than 3 sets per exercise and 3 exercises per body part (so a total of 9 sets per body part). He really put everything he could into each set! How?
He did it by:
1) using maximum weights on his first set and lowering the weight each set - Steve didn't use any warm up sets. He warmed up at the beginning of his routine by doing dumbbell swings. Then he would start his first set with the maximum weights he could use to get 8 reps. Then, on the 2nd set, he would lower the weight a bit and still go for 8 reps. On the third set, he would lower the weights again and go for 8 reps. So he would decrease the weight on each set and try to keep the reps the same. Over time, he would increase his reps to 12 using these same weights and then he would increase the weight on each set and start the process all over again (with reps moving back down to 8).
2) training to failure or near failure - As described above, he would choose a weight where he could barely complete the 8th rep (and knowing that he would fail after that). So he didn't just do 8 reps and then stop if he could do more.
3) not resting more than 45 seconds between sets - Steve kept the rest between sets short, about 45 seconds or "just long enough for a training partner to finish his set." This, actually doesn't allow the muscle to completely recover - which is why he lowered the weight on the 2nd and 3rd sets. But this increases the intensity.
4) getting the negative on each rep - Steve said the proper cadence to do an exercise was 2 seconds for the positive (concentric) aspect and 3 seconds for the negative (eccentric) aspect. So he would not just let the weight drop after his contraction, but would lower it more slowly than he raised it. Today, we know that this technique - of focusing on both concentric and eccentric contractions really results in the most muscle growth.
5) concentrating fully on the muscle being worked - Steve would practice "muscle control" often which increases the ability to focus/concentrate on the muscle being worked during a set. This focused concentration increases intensity. He didn't get distracted by being plugged into an iPod. His mind was "in his muscle." He often said "no brain, no gain"!
6) avoiding all distractions during a workout - Steve would not talk to anybody during a workout or allow himself to be interrupted. No idle chatter or "shooting the breeze" or "talking while exercising." He told everyone that he would be more than happy to talk before or after a workout, but never during a workout. Wow! How many times have you seen people talking while doing a set?!
7) doing no more than 3 sets per exercise and 3 exercises per body part - Steve believed that if you could not fully stimulate your muscles in 3 sets of an exercise, then you simply were not putting your mind and effort into it! He said that if you knew you were going to do a lot of sets, then there was no way you could go "all out" on all your sets. You would have to hold something back in the early sets otherwise there would be no way you could complete all those sets. In other words, he believed that "high volume training" necessarily required you to use "low intensity." His approach was the opposite.
These are the main aspects of how he put "high intensity" into his workout and into each and every set. Now, there are certainly other methods that work. But his method was and is effective. So with this knowledge, you now have a better understanding of how Steve was doing his routines! And now you can see that there is definitely more to a routine than just a list of exercises, sets, and reps!
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5 years ago