Perhaps the finest natural example of the perfect balance between aesthetic physique and phenomenal strength was Roy "Reg" Park (7 June 1928 – 22 November 2007).
It was Reg Park was the inspiration for a young Arnold Schwarzenegger to pick up his first set of weights.
"When I think of everything Reg Park meant to me over a friendship that lasted more than 40 years, I am still blown away.
I was a 15-year-old farm kid growing up in Austria when I was first inspired by a bodybuilding magazine with a picture of him on the cover from one of his Hercules movies. My life was never the same.
He was so powerful and rugged-looking that I decided right then and there I wanted to be a bodybuilder, another Reg Park. I could not have picked a better hero to inspire me.
Reg went from bodybuilding to the movies. He became a smart and successful businessman, and he was the first person who gave me a glimpse of what my life could someday become if I dreamed big and worked hard." - Arnold Schwarzenegger
The Beginning of Reg Park's Bodybuilding Career
After his military service in Singapore as a PT instructor, Reg Park would go on to win Mr. Britain in 1949 after being inspired by bodybuilders like John Grimek.
Although there was certainly a bodybuilding culture before him, his level of size and development raised the bar and would not be surpassed until Arnold himself appeared on the competitive scene in the late 1960s.
Park, who would go on to win the Mr. Universe title three times, stood 6'1" and weighed over 250 pounds - standards which were enormous for the time. (comparing the physique of Park to his predecessors would be like us comparing someone like Phil Heath to the bodybuilders of the 70s!)
The second man to ever bench press 500 lbs would go onto fame as an actor, primarily in so-called "sword and sandal" or "peplum" gladiator films, most of which were shot in Italy in the 1950s and 60s.
Park would later on get into the magazine business and open gym franchises, serving as a mentor to legions of younger bodybuilders.
How Reg Park Trained
No doubt everyone today has heard of the "5x5" training routine. It was Park who first became associated with and popularized this method of training which consists of five sets of five repetitions each for each exercise, using weights as heavy as one can manage in proper form.
Like Park, Arnold trained at this routine 3 times a week and it comprised mainly of heavy compound movements done with the "5x5" protocol.
Unlike the more popular 5x5 "sets across" that we would see later on in Bill Starr's routine, Park advocated that sets 1 and 2 are to be warmups for sets 3, 4 and 5 which are finishing or "stabilizer sets" in his terms.
In other words, once you hit your max weight for five reps after two warmups, then perform 3 sets of 5.
For example, if your bench press is a max of 225lbs for 5 reps (which is about 90% of 1RM), the first set would be at 60% - 135 lbs, then the next warmup set, the second set, could be 80% - 185lbs.
For example, this sort of pyramid progression would look like this if you were applying it to your bench press sets:
- Set #1: 5 sets of 5 with 135 lbs
- Set #2: 5 sets of 5 with 180 lbs
- Set #3: 5 sets of 5 with 225 lbs
- Set #4: 5 sets of 5 with 225 lbs
- Set #5: 5 sets of 5 with 225 lbs
Park also recommended taking a good rest between heavy sets, from 3 to as many as 5 minutes.
Park's Training Routines
What follows are a whole course of workout routines that Park recommended and used himself.
Reg Park's 1953 Routines
(taken from "The Reg Park Mr Universe Barbell & Dumbbell Course: Mr Universe Training Methods Revealed")
Workout #1 (followed for eight weeks)
Overhead Press 1-3 sets of 8-10 reps
Squat 1-3 sets of 8-10 reps
Straight Arm Pullover 1-3 sets of 8-10 reps
Toe Raise 2 (1 set for each leg) of 10 reps
Shrugs 1-3 sets of 8-10 reps
Bent-Over Rowing 1-3 sets of 8-10 reps
Barbell Curls 1-3 sets of 8-10 reps
Wrist Roller 1-3 sets of 8-10 reps
Neck Resistance 1-3 sets of 8-10 reps
Sit-Ups 1-3 sets of 8-10 reps
Workout #2 (followed for eight weeks)
Press Behind Neck 3 sets of 10 reps
Front Squat 3 sets of 10 reps
Bent-Arm Arm Pullover on Bench with Barbell 3 sets of 10 reps
Toe Raise 3 sets of 20 reps
Bench Press 3 sets of 10 reps
French Curl (aka "skullcrusher" done standing) 3 sets of 10 reps
One-Arm Rowing with Dumbbell 3 sets of 10 reps
Dumbell Curl 3 sets of 10 reps
Wrist Curl with Barbell 3 sets of 10 reps
Side Bends 3 sets of 10 reps
Workout #3 (followed for eight weeks)
Dumbbell Press 3-4 sets of 10 reps
Lateral Raise Standing 3-4 sets of 10 reps
Squat 3-4 sets of 10 reps
Straight-Arm Pullovers on Bench with Dumbbell 3-4 sets of 10 reps
Toe Raise with Partner 4 sets of 30 reps
Incline Bench Press with Dumbbells 3-4 sets of 10 reps
Lying Side Lateral Raise 3-4 sets of 10 reps
Dumbell Tricep Extension 3-4 sets of 10 reps
Stiff-Leg Deadlift 3-4 sets of 10 reps
Chin-Ups 3-4 sets of 10 reps
Incline Dumbbell Curl 3-4 sets of 10 reps
Curls 3-4 sets of 10 reps
Sit-Ups on Abdominal Bench 3-4 sets of 10 reps
Side Bends 3-4 sets of 10 reps
Reverse Curl 3-4 sets of 10 reps
Workout #4 (followed for eight weeks)
Press Behind Neck 3 sets of 8 reps
Dumbbell Press 3 sets of 8 reps
Front Squat 3 sets of 8 reps
Bent-Arm Pullover on Bench with Barbell 3 sets of 8 reps
Toe Raise with Partner 5 30
Incline Bench Press with Dumbbell 3 sets of 8 reps
Flat Bench Press with Dumbbells 3 sets of 8 reps
Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extension 3 sets of 8 reps
Parallel Bar Dips or Lying Triceps Extension with Barbell 3 sets of 8 reps
Shrugs 3 sets of 8 reps
Upright Rowing 3 sets of 8 reps
Barbell Curl 3 sets of 8 reps
Seated Dumbbell Curl 3 sets of 8 reps
Leg Raises on Chinning Bar 3 sets of 8 reps
Reg Park's Beginner's Routine
Reg Park's Beginner's routine below was the exact one used by Arnold in his late teens to get his massive size.
Back Squats 5x5
Chin-Ups or Pull-Ups 5x5
Dips or Bench Press 5x5
Barbell Curls 2x10
Wrist Work 2x10
Front Squats 5x5
Standing Press 5x5
Deadlifts 3x5 (2 warm-up sets and 1 "stabilizer set")
Wrist Work 2x10
Week 1: A, B, A
Week 2: B, A, B
Week 3: A, B, A and so forth.