Saturday, April 10, 2010

Classic Physique Building: Symmetry Over Size!

(Photo Above: Bruce Lee from the Film "Way [or Return] of the Dragon")

OK...We all know that Bruce Lee wasn't a Classic Physique Building Champ from the pre-roid Golden Age of Bodybuilding (the 1940s and 50s). So why did I post his picture above? To illustrate a point - especially to young, aspiring classic physique builders of today. This point is that SIZE ISN"T EVERYTHING - THINK SYMMETRY!

Now, of course, as modern CPBers, most of us favor the Steve Reeves look in both symmetry and size! And those CPB champs like Monty Wolford (with 16" neck, arms, and calves at a height of 5'8") have the Reeves look of symmetry and classic size. But, Bruce Lee's physique shows us that symmetry is even more important than size!

Bruce was certainly quite a bit smaller than CPB standards and the CPB champs. Here are his best measurements (based on 1965 measurements at a bodyweight of 140lbs, height 5'7"):

Neck: 15.25"
Arms: 14"
Calves: 12.75?
Chest: 43"
Waist: 28"
Forearm: 12"
Thigh: 22"
Wrist: 6.5"

His neck, arm, and calf measurements don't quite reach the CPB ideal of being exactly the same, but they aren't that bad - the neck and calves are within about one inch of the arm measurement. And look at those lats! How's that for a classic V-taper? Quite impressive!

What these measurements demonstrate, that we can learn from, is that you don't have to have great size to have an impressive physique! That should be great news for those of us who are smaller in height and have a lighter bone structure. It is not even necessary (although it is our ideal) to aspire to the same level of mass that the CPB champs had! So instead of just thinking and being overly concerned with size, THINK SYMMETRY! Which of us would not be proud to have a physique like Bruce's in the above photo?

Now, I know that there have been allegations by some that Bruce used steroids. There seems to be evidence that he did use steroids which were prescribed for a back injury that he had. But, if he did use steroids after that (as some say), it certainly was not for the purpose of gaining extreme muscle mass! In fact, as a martial artist, he did not want large mass. Anyone can get his size without steroids! Steroid use might have contributed to his "shredded look" in his last film "Enter the Dragon." But, as CPBer's, we are not interested in the "shredded look" in any case. Our point here is simply that if you focus on symmetry, you can have a nice physique - even at a smaller size than CPB standards!

So, even though most of us might aspire to the classic Steve Reeves standard, there is nothing wrong with going smaller! And there's certainly no need to follow in the footsteps of the mass monsters of today's roid-based bodybuilding world!


P.S. For a free, 1 year subscription to Classic Physique Builder Zine (CPBzine) - a pdf "zine" (do-it-yourself magazine) patterned after the muscle mags of the pre-roid Golden Age of Bodybuilding (the 1940s and 50s) - just email us your name (first and last), 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 or data with anyone. So you won't get on any unwanted list or receive any automated email/spam (even from us)!


Christian Doig said...

Now, this post just made your blog even better. The Little Dragon absolutely had a model beautiful body, and beauty is the ideal of the physique you are advocating.

Ibrahim said...

You don´t have to be big to look impressive
This is exactly the way i´m thinking. The main goal should be symmetry and build proportioned muscles.
Depending Steve Reeves, Reg Park etc.
they were competitive bodybuilders and they so it´s normal that a lot of CPB´s had more than average muscle mass. But like in the Q & A Seminar which is included in the "Building the Classic Physique" book, Steve Reeves says he never tried to bulk up. All he did was to build quality muscle mass.

That´s the ideal, for me.

Anthony do you have the book about Bruce Lee´s training, too?
His forearms looked pretty big compared to his other body parts.
If someone says he build his muscles with steroids, than they have no motivation or dedication in training.
Bruce Lee trained everyday and everytime he could. Of Course he trained with weights several times a week in between some cardio work and the martial art practices.
I think that makes a quite impressive "shredded" look.

Also to "think" symmetric also prevents injuries to which was known before the CPB age.
The old time strongman told very often how important symmetry is.

I´m looking forward to the zine

Johnny G said...

Now shredded is in and vogue with Classic Physique because Bruce Lee was shredded mmmmmm- I guess it depends on what you are looking for or to whom for that inspiration ??? I take BACK ALL WHAT I SAID about Steve Shaw and Dave Goodin(so I OPENLY give a apology to you Steve Shaw and Dave Goodin and I truly mean this truly Steve & Dave) - So if you are shredded and Bruce Lee(who did openly admitted to drug use) that is fine,but if you are a natural bodybuilder like Dave Goodin and shredded that is not fine - Since this site tries to steer us toward Classical Physique then throws us a curve ball with Lee I am confused - So let us be truly open with out all the drug talk - If I could be built like anyone else for only one day I choose Arnold Schwarznegger in Pumping Iron 1975 Mr. Olympia so the let the truth be told I confess- I choose Arnold over Reeves and I guess Christian Doig & Ibrahim choose Bruce Lee

Jeffrey said...

I thought the intention of the original post was about the importance of symmetry and not the super shredded look. As a long time fan of Bruce's I don't think he ever had the shredded to the bone and sinews look that the "naturals" had.

- CPB (Blog and Zine) - said...

Hi Jeffrey,

Yes...that was the point of the original post!

Johnny....if you reread the post, you will see that:

1) I didn't say Bruce was a CPB Champ - I said very clearly that he was not!

2) I was up front about the allegations that he used steroids - but I will have more to say about that in another comment.

3) I was not praising his "shredded look" in Enter the Dragon - I was implying that he had gone too far and said clearly that we CPBer's DONT admire that look.

4) The photo I used was from Way of the Dragon where his look was not shredded - the level of muscularity you see is not that different from CPB standards.

5) My point was to say to people that it is OK to have a smaller physique, that SYMMETRY matters more than size! I wanted to make this point because there are many who have smaller bone structures and are smaller in height and they may never be able (genetically as natural trainers) to reach the mass of a Reeves or even a Monty Wolford. But they can still have a great looking physique!

6) I presented Bruce's measurements so everyone can see that it does not take steroids to achieve 14 inch arms or 13 inch calves - yet even at those measurements, one can still look great if you are training for symmetry.

So I was not praising his drug use (he did use marijuana occassionally and cortisone). I was not presenting him as a CPB champ - just as an example that a smaller physique can still look great!

I hope this clears things up!

All the best,

- CPB (Anthony)

- CPB (Blog and Zine) - said...

Hi Everyone, is what I know about Bruce's alleged steroid use through my own reading/research over the years.

The allegations come from Tom Bleecker - Linda Lee's second husband (she married him 15 years after Bruce had died). Their marriage lasted only a brief time and they divorced. During their marriage, Tom says that Linda never really talked with him about Bruce in detail. However, Tom had access to a room next to their garage that contained Bruce's papers/files/some medical records. After their divorce, Tom wrote the book "Unsettled Matters" about Bruce's death and the aftermath.

Tom says that the medical records show that Bruce was given cortisone treatments for a year after a back injury. Cortisone is a steroid. However, it is a corticosteroid - used in medicine to reduce inflammation. It is NOT an anabolic steroid. However, it appears that Tom did not know the difference! His allegations that Bruce used steroids are based on these cortisone treatments. Nowhere does Tom present any documented evidence that Bruce used anabolic steroids (not dianabol or anything else that was available at the time). So this allegation appears to be due to a misunderstanding of what anabolic steroids are on Tom's part. I don't know of or never heard of any bodybuilders using cortisone to build their physiques! Have any of you?

Well...that's the extent of the allegations. If anyone has any other evidence that Bruce took anabolic steroids, I would like to hear it or see it!

I hope this sheds some light on the matter!

All the best,

CPB (Anthony)

Ibrahim said...

Steve Reeves physique is great.
But his mass is not a goal for me.

Because i don´t want it and don´t need it. But Bruce Lee´s physique is to shredded for me.

The matter is here that if you get old the mass you build is counterproductive. So i want to have a symmetric and well proportioned physique at a height of 6' and a weight of 180 to 190 lbs.

The muscle mass of Bruce Lee is to little for me.

I want to have definitely much more mass.

UKSteve said...


I have been following Steve Reeves and Reg Park type routines for a while now - and I am experiencing the same problem that Vince Gironda describes with squats and deadlifts in that my hips and glutes are getting bigger - but only the tops of my legs.

My hips are now exactly the same size a Steve Reeves in his best condition - so I don't want them to get any bigger - but my legs and rest of my body are somewhat behind.

I know Vince Gironda recommended a rather complicated version of the sissy squat so:
1.) Does anyone know a good link to learn this exercise?
2.) I know Steve Reeves did hack squats - are these better in order to avoid hip / glute overdevelopmemt?
3.) What exercises do I sub for squats and deadlifts? Just sissy squats and back extentions?
4.) Will sissy squats give the sam level of systemic growth production?

Any help you guys could give would be much appreciated!


- CPB (Blog and Zine) - said...

Hi Steve,

Our Fall 2009 issue had an article that explained the Sissy Squat and how to do it. So you might start there. Also, NSP Research Nutrition (see our link on the sidebar) sells the original Gironda Sissy Squat course.


1) if you search google videos for "sissy squat gironda" or just "sissy squat" you should find an animated clip of how to do this. But it is best to either read our article or read Vince's original course.

2) hack squats are better than full or parallel regular squats. If you do them with a barbell or dumbbell you can avoid more hip involvement. Also, if you use a hack slide machine, instead of keeping your back flat on the slide and bending at the hips, you can keep your gluts forward with your back off the slide - this turns the hack squat into the first part of the sissy squat.

3) Definitely sissy squats are good substitute for regular squats. For deadlifts, you can substitute hyperextensions (if you are trying to work your lower back).

4) I don't think there is any study that compares sissy squats to regular squats in terms of the extra anabolic kick it gives. But if you do the first part of a sissy squat on a hack machine, then you can build up to considerable poundages. So I think it has got a good shot at having the same effect.

The critical thing in preventing more unwanted glut development is avoiding exercises (like the regular squat) that causes you to extend at the hip. Hip extension (the motion you do at the hip when you rise from a chair) involves the gluts directly. That's why Sissy Squats work. They work the thigh muscles without involving hip extension (because the hip joint is kept straight and stationary) - therefore they don't work the gluts. So bottom line - avoid anything that causes extension at the hip joint.

Squats and deadlifts do give you an extra anabolic kick if they are done as part of a full body routine. However, it is not clear that doing both is any better than doing just one. So don't worry about having to include both in your routine.

So, you might try doing the first part of the Sissy Squat on a hack machine. If you need more info/instruction/explanation, just email me.

All the best,

CPB (Anthony)

Johnny G said...

to UK Steve - you might want to do some pre-exhaust training for your legs - when doing leg extensions go right to hack squats or half squats - leg curls right to stifflegged deadlifts for high reps - another way is to go on a stationary bike and do sprints on it for 20 to 30 seconds really hard as you can then get off and do bodyweight deep knee bends as many as you can(WWOOO) - Velodrome bikers do these exercises but be careful or you will be throwing up - it is a really tuff exercise with the stationary bike and knee bends but when you see bike sprinters like Michael Hubner from East Germany in the 1988 Olympics then you realize how larger your legs get from volume training - Reeves use to do squats with just a 100lbs on back for over 100 reps + - try some volume training to bring along those lagging bodyparts

UK Steve said...

Thanks for the advice Anthony and Johnny G - I'll take it on board and do a little experimentation! I have been following a course of switching between a Reg Park 5 x 5 Program (often referred to as his beginners program) and the Steve Reeves intermediate course for a little while now. I've kept good records of my progress so one day I might post them up here as an example of an average persons experience following a CPB program.

Kind regards

Johnny G said...

to UK Steve & all - you know why Steve Reeves was so popular outside the fact he was a tall well built good looking man,that he knew how to train - He trained like a bodybuilder - He was unconventional at that time with lighter weight but high intensity - He knew that pumping the muscle and gorging it with blood gave great results - Sometimes we need to step back and evaluate our training(are we just weight lifting or are we bodybuilding) they don't always go hand in hand - We must be honest with ourselves(our physiques, training & diet) - sometimes maybe we need to ask for a unbiased opinion - Not easy taking criticism. easy to giving as I well know (I should read my own bloggs before I summit them to all I apologize)---- I know that training can get frustrating, but being open to old and new ideas is the most important - the old ideas are new if we never heard about them before -- So keep training hard and focus on developing the Classic Physique

Dzenan said...

I did both Reeves' full body 3 exercise per part routine and Park's 5x5, both 10% modified, but same when it comes down to it.

Reeves' routine took about 3 to 3.5 hrs while Park's only about an hour. I stuck to both of these for about a month, Park's one may be little longer, before breaking off due to injury in case of Park's routine (injury had nothing to do with the routine) and lazyness with Reeves' one.

I made good progress with both. Nothing spectacular, but solid, gaining little bit on reps or weight most times I went in. I must say I liked Park's 5x5 better. It was quick and gave you a feeling of power. Reeves' routine made you feel like you put in a good shift, you got a pump, but felt tired mentally after so long in the gym. I think Reeves' one truly did work muscles as he promised, since I didn't suffer any major side-effects that I remember, while working with heavy non-Mickey Mouse poundages (hehe some of you might understand) in Park's routine left me with niggling little injuries: a bit of inflammation in the knee, little in the elbow, I had sore chest, but not from muscle soreness, but underneath, probably tendons getting tougher or threatening to break, take your pick.

With both routines I ate tons of mostly clean food, and gained a little bit of weight. Looking back at it, I don't think I could have kept up the pace for long. They are both good routines to do every once in a while, may be once a year, but I don't think an average builder can keep it up indefinitely.

Of course, a month or two on each one is a bit short to judge it, I would like to hear from others who have tried it.

PS ******

Out of curiosity, after writing the post above, I searched for some old records in Excel from last year when I attempted to combine both Park and Reeves workout into one. I forgot about this particular attempt. On Mon and Wed I did Reeves' workout, while Sat I did Park's.

From Feb 5 to March 16, 2009, couple of my stats changed like this:

Weight: 186.5---->191

Bench: 155lbs x 5,5,5 ---->205/5,5,4 or 215/3,3,2 (last three "stabilizer" sets as Park referred to them)

Deadlift: 225/5,5,5------>255/5,5,5

I have some other stats if anyone is interested, but they all give the same picture, slow steady gains.

Johnny G said...

to Dzenan - you got it - you got to mix & match workouts - got to be flexiable with any program - I'm still doing the Reeves' program, but I am hustling thru it - takes me about a hard 2 hours - very little rest between sets - 9 sets per bodypart - 3 sets per exercise - trying to focus on the exercise but also looking around the gym for my next piece of equipment that I am going to do next since time is a factor - Reeves had to take breaks and I see why - It is a program for a herculean physique - for sure!!!

K'n Gourou said...

hi dzenan,

i also did the reeves routine, but the intermediate one...and yes it took me 2hours or so, it's a bit boring after a while. I also tried the Reg Park 5x5 routine but I got injured. I was going to heavy.

Now I'm doing some variation on the Reg Park one. I'm doing

Bench Press 4x6-8 reps
Barbell curls 3x6-8 reps
Bent rowing 3x8 reps
Behind the neck press 3x6-8 reps
Light breathing squats in superset with pullovers (1st set 20 reps - other two sets 10 reps)

I'll have to say that I'm doing this routine now for about one month (on Monday-Wednesday-Friday) and I have made great progress (both muscle mass AND power). Plus It only takes 1hour to finish the routine. It's the best routine I did so far.
After this routine, few weeks before July, i'll try something really different...I'm thinking to go for Vince Gironda's 8x8 routine to get muscle definition. Because the routine I'm doing now is mainly to bulk up.


K'n Gourou said...

Here are my current stats

weight: 162
Bench Press: 6x265 lbs
(Cheating) barbell curls: 6x132 lbs
Behind the neck press: 6x143lbs
bent rowing: 8 x 176 lbs

before I started with my routine (4-5 weeks ago) my stats were:
weight: 158
bench press: 6x 210 lbs
barbell curls: 6x110 lbs
Behind the neck press: 6x110 lbs
bent rowing: 6x 133 lbs

So as you can see i made most of my progress with bench press. That's beacause I always start my routine with bench press.

Johnny G said...

I recently watched a documentary caled Food Inc. - It was really informative - I thrown out my soy protein after watching this film - brought to light what we are really eating - How critical it is to really read labels and to buy from local farmers and know what you are buying - read & research is all I can say - Hope we can really talk about all the chemicals that we are comsuming which claims that it is natural - TYhe Golden Era was Golden just with the fact that obesity was so rare - If we are going to get a handle on this obesity problem it will have to be from all levels - Nationally - locally - internationally as well- This is where CPB comes in - not about how we look but how we feel as well- As Billy Crystal said when he was doing Fernado Lamas (Not how you feel how you look) should be the opposite - Diet Diet Diet will get ya to the Classic Physique faster then just training - Again the film is called Food Inc. rent it and I hope it opens eyes!!!

Dzenan said...

hi Bruno and Johnny,

thanks for the responses. It's nice to hear from someone else who did or is doing similar stuff. I'll take a look at that movie when I get a chance. And Bruno, that's a good routine, I'm doing something similar myself, those are great results and you have a lot of strength for your weight!

Anonymous said...

Is CPB no more?

- CPB (Blog and Zine) - said...

Hi Anonymous!

Yes...we are still here - alive and well! This past month, we had to take a "forced hiatus" (or break) because of general busy-ness, scientific meetings/travel, and replacing our computer system (with one that has a different operating system). We still don't have all our software in place though and we've been going through a steep learning curve. So it still might be a couple of more weeks before we are completely up and running again! Consequently, our Spring 2010 issue has been delayed - but not for long though!

So don't worry! Nothing will stop us from going forward with our CPB mission!!

All the best,

CPB (Anthony)