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
Reg Park's 1953 Routines
Workout #1 (followed for eight weeks)
Workout #2 (followed for eight weeks)
Workout #3 (followed for eight weeks)
Workout #4 (followed for eight weeks)
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.