Monday, August 31, 2009

Classic Physique Definition: Principles and Practices!

(Photo Above: CPB Champ Leo Robert - Mr. Canada 1951, Mr. Universe - Pro 1955)

One of our CPB Readers asked how the pre-roid Golden Age champs achieved their definition without doing all the cardio that is popular today. This is an important question because the time will come, in building a classic physique, when you will want to improve your definition. So it is important to understand the principles and practices that they used.

First, we should re-emphasize that classic physique definition of the pre-roid Golden Age was different than the "ripped, shredded, cadaver-like" look of today. The ideal of that age (the 1940s and 50s) was to have a classic physique that "radiated with vitality and the glow of health." For this look, the muscles had to be defined, yet there had to be a higher level of bodyfat (compared to modern bodybuilders) in order to provide the skin with that radiant look of vitality and health. So they (classic physique builders and judges) were not impressed by straited gluts and seeing every subcutaneous vein. The definition they admired still recalled the muscularity seen in the ancient classical Greek sculptures of the gods and heroes.

The following list is an incomplete list of principles and practices that the pre-roid Golden Age champs used in order to achieve their classic definition. These principles and practices would have been used differently by each individual depending on their circumstances (e.g., whether they "bulked" up and needed to "trim down" or whether they stayed in shape and simply wanted to improve their muscularity a bit). So please don't think that they necessarily used all these principles at the same time. Feel free to discuss these principles and practices in our comments section. It is the comments of the CPB Readers that really enrich CPB Blog!

Here is the partial list:

1. Cut calories and lower carbs (especially starchy foods and any foods considered fattening)
2. Use a very low carb diet (Vince Gironda's approach)
3. Use a higher rep range on exercises (e.g., 12-15 reps per set)
4. Cut down the rest time between sets and exercises
5. Increase the number of exercises and sets per body part
6. Some champs did add running to their exercise regimen (this was not a universal practice)
7. Switch from a 3 day per week full body schedule to a 4, 5, or 6 day split a few weeks before a contest
8. Train with chest expanders (steel cable exercisers)
9. Take a vitamin-mineral supplement
10. Reduce salt intake
11. Don't eat between meals
12. Avoid excessive rest and do not take naps
13. Be more active in general

Again, this is a partial list (gathered from the muscle mags and courses of the pre-roid Golden Age). But it gives you a good idea. They didn't need high tech "fat burning/thermogenic" supplements or intense, daily "cardio" sessions, roids, or even extreme diets (except in the case of Vince and his very low carb approach). You will notice that their principles and practices also didn't cost a lot of money! Theirs was a simple and effective approach and left them with physiques that looked great and healthy! What more could any classic physique builder want!


P.S. For a free 1 year subscription to Classic Physique Builder (CPBzine) - a pdf "zine" (do-it-yourself magazine) patterned after the muscles mags of the pre-roid Golden Age of Bodybuilding (the 1940s and 50s) - just email your name, the name of your city (not your actual address), state/province, and country to That's it! Any info you send us is strictly confidential. We don't share info with anyone, so you won't get on any unwanted lists or receive any unwanted, automated email (even from us!).


Johnny G said...

good article only one thing I differ is the rest area - the more sleep you get the leaner you get is a proven fact - there is a connection with obesity and the lack of rest - sleep apnea is one issue in its self- also the more you can build muscle the leaner you get - I still feel because we are a society that doesn't walk as much so I feel we need a little more cardio then people a generation or two ago

- CPB - said...

Hi Johnny G!

Great point about the walking! I think this is very true - particularly here in the U.S.A. It seems like a day here can be: get up, go to the car and sit to drive to work, get to work and sit some more, get back in the car and sit to drive home, and then get home and sit in front of the TV before going to sleep!

Of course, this is a bit of an exaggeration on my part, but I think many can relate to this.

I wonder how it is in other parts of the world? We have CPB readers from all over the globe, so perhaps they can let us know how it is in their countries! For those of you outside the U.S.A., is your lifestyle more sedentary in your country than it used to be? Let us know!

All the best,

CPB (Anthony)

Dzenan said...

In Bosnia people walk a lot more. Most old European cities are built smaller, but with more population per sq. mile than in USA, so that you can get around places without transportation. Public transportation is great, but people still walk a lot bus and train stops, etc. Parking is difficult to find as well, so whenever you go somewhere in a car, you might have to park far away and rive. There are no school buses, all schools are 20 minutes away on foot. Young people like to play energy intensive sports like soccer and basketball. Hanging out is also crucial. People go out and take walks along long promenades and avenues. They stop by in a cafe, get some coffee, something to eat, and then go walk back home, or go to a park or something. Jobs are more physical and tougher. Almost everyone is slim even though they eat junk food and huge amounts of grease and white bread. If I had to guess, I'd say the macro ratio would be 70-15-15 in favor of carbs.

You can see that this has a massive effect, because when they get older, they stop or limit these energy-expending activities, and then they start getting fat and suffering from fat-induces diseases. The ones who manage to stay on the slim side due to good genetics or through staying active seem to hold up well in the old age.

I can easily imagine that this is how it was in the US back in the day, when cars weren't massively popular and when all your activities were outside of home, because it was boring staying inside.

They also didn't eat a lot. Look at Reeve's meal plan in his book, there's probably no more than 2000 calories in there. Park, despite his claims of eating a lb of steak a day (which I do too now to good effect) didn't always eat like that. I remember reading that either during or after WWII, there were food rations in Britain, and there wasn't much to eat.

You can contrast all this with our lifestyles in the US today, where majority of regular people don't really do anything during the day. After work, they either kick back with some beer, football, and chips, or go to a bar or restaurant - in cars. You can't blame them for this last part, cities here are terrible for walking, imagine walking from a suburban home to downtown :D

You have to couple this relaxed lifestyle with the mentality of the society in general, such as instant gratification. People go on crash diets that last 2 weeks and hope to achieve something. Greedy businesses and marketers use this to sell all kinds of magic products, from nonsense weigh loss exercise "systems" to magic pills capable of altering hormones that are to blame for fat gain.

As for our purposes of Classic P.B., I'd say not too much food, more daily activity, if that's not possible, than you have to run a little, and most importantly, you need time.

UK Steve said...

In the UK we seem to be somewhere in between these two descriptions - although we are getting more like the US model of driving everywhere, but without the gym culture. Obesity is becoming a real problem.

I have never owned a car, and never learned how to drive - most Americans gasp in horror when I tell them this!! Living near London I find I can walk or rely on public transport and the occasional taxi. I was discussing this the other week and we observed that out of my group of friends - everyone that did not drive was slim!

Johnny G said...

there is a man who lives in my old neighborhood and is 85 years young - he still goes out for a 5 mile walk and can still do pullups & pushups - just a tad under 6'feet tall and weighs 205lbs of muscle - just by keeping active on a daily basis - his name is George Havrilla and is a former Harrisburg, Pa police officer - I'm just impressed that it is easy to hang up on life at that age, but he still gets fired up - You know Anthony and the rest of the gang is this, if you are going to have a objective in the long term why not be a bad ass old man like George Havrilla - fit - strong and the want

- CPB - said...

Hi Johnny G!

Absolutely! We (CPBers) should have a long term goal of being healthy and maintaining our fitness and physiques well into those later years! Your story reminds me of Jack LaLanne - still going strong at 90+ years of age. This is a great reason for young people to take the long view and not to mess themselves up with roids and other health-destroying practices.

All the best,

CPB (Anthony)

Balamurugan said...

In India there are different class of people, still we can see so lean people,physical workers having physique of sprinter and weight lifter. but other extreme population of employers with pot belly even at 27-30 years of age. drinking is now becoming common practice. with the availability of good transport facilities and food fat deposition around mid gut! its is predicted that India will lead other countries in total number of persons with obesity/cardio vascular diseases/diabetics.

Anonymous said...

Hello CPB,

I would like to know when will have the next CPB Magazine?

Thank you

- CPB - said...

Hi Anonymous (and Everyone)!

The next issue (Fall 2009) of Classic Physique Builder (CPBzine) is scheduled to be released on Sept 21!

All the best,

CPB (Anthony)

A said...


Just wanted to say that I really have enjoyed both editions of the zine. I am a dedicated lifter and have been such for the last 6 years. But after coming across your blog/zine I finally feel I have a body type to shoot for. Obviously when reading Muscle and Fitness I would know that I didn't want to look like most of the guys pictured in the magazine but didn't really have a lot of other reading options. Now that I have come across Steve Reeves and Reg Park I actually have something to shoot for. So yeah, thanks.


- CPB - said...

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for your support! I'm glad you found some real inspiration from the real physiques of the pre-roid Golden Age champs!

It is my hope that others feel equally inspired when they realize that such classic physiques like those of Grimek, Ross, Stephan, Reeves, Eiferman, Delinger, Park, Eder, and many others were built naturally - without roids and even without modern supplements (not even commercial protein powder)!

So hopefully this can be very liberating to us all! Just train properly, eat properly, rest properly, and be persistent and we all can build classic versions of ourselves that are healthy and look great!

I suppose the main challenge of the historical knowledge of the pre-roid Golden Age presented in CPB Blog and Zine is really this - Why not build a classic version of yourself without roids and without modern supplements like the pre-roid Golden Age champs did (perhaps protein powder and vitamins excepted)? Then, and only then, should you think about spending your money on modern, high tech supplements. But by then (when you have your classic physique), you will be more than happy and will truly realize that there really is no need! :)

All the best,

CPB (Anthony)

Johnny G said...

This should have been under training frequency, but here I go - Better to overtrain and back off when needed, than to undertrain and never achieve - to many people on a general rule never really push it to the limit - they feel or think about over training so much they never achieve a honest workout - Dave Draper feels that the general public never really over trains, but they go along talking more in the gym than kicking butt an achieving their goals - Reeves seldom talked in the gym - he had his game face on when he went to workout - It till comes down to one thing and that it is important to bring your friend to the gym and your friends name is Mr. Intensity - you really got to push and find out what works for you - Their is nothing etched in stone on how to workout in this blogg, but just to stay away from drugs & over use of supplements - I have been critical at times with Anthony, but he is truly bringing common sense approach to physical excellence which I do applaud him - But guys & gals get to the gym kick butt & take names - later all

Anonymous said...

I agree with Johhnny G, there probably is more undertraining than overtraining , and the reason why people want to do a routine of 2 days a week for 15-20mins of 1 set to failure is because it appeals to their lazy nature. You've got to have a combination of volume and intensity for overall fitness.