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Since its inception, bodybuilding has evolved from the golden era of Schwarzenegger and Zane to the current era of Yates and Coleman.

But before these greats came what many consider to be the godfather of bodybuilding, Steve Reeves.

As a pioneer of the sport, Reeves would naturally build a physique that many to this day consider to be the most aesthetically impressive.

So, how did Reeves achieve such an iconic build without chemical enhancements?

Today, let’s go through the Steve Reeves workout routine and diet plan. We will cover his training fundamentals, his beginner workout, and a three-day workout plan to help you sculpt an incredible physique.

Let’s dive in.

Steve Reeves Current Bio and Stats

Caption: Steve Reeves in the Film Athena (1954)

Stephen Lester Reeves was born on January 21st, 1926 in Glasgow, Montana. He moved to California at age 10 following the tragic death of his father. 

Steve’s interest in bodybuilding came while attending Castlemont High School. He began his training at Ed Yarick’s gym in Oakland, California.

After graduation, Steve’s bodybuilding aspirations would be put on hold. He enlisted in the United States Army during World War II, where he would serve and be deployed to the Philippines.

Once Steve completed his service, he returned to the United States and attended the California Chiropractic College in San Francisco.

During this time he would return to bodybuilding before winning titles of Mr. America (1947), Mr. World (1948), and Mr. Universe (1950).

With major success onstage, he became known for his incredible physique. Steve capitalized on the publicity and moved to New York to pursue a career in acting. 

It wouldn’t be long before he would return to California as there were few parts for men of his build at the time. 

His first audition came from Samson and Delilah (1949). However, he would decline when told he was too muscular, with the director requesting he should lose 15 pounds.

Following this, Steve would land minor roles in film and TV for the next few years before being spotted by Pietro Francisci in the film Athena (1954). The Italian director decided to cast him in his film Hercules (1958).

This would launch his career, reprising his role in Hercules Unchained (1959) before starring in many films including Morgan the Pirate (1960), Duel of the Titans (1962) and The Avenger (1962).

  • Height: 6’1” (185 cm)
  • Weight: 215 lbs (97.5 kg)
  • Birthday: January 21st, 1926
  • Death: May 1st, 2000
  • Occupation: Actor, Writer, Philanthropist


  • AAU Mr. Pacific Coast (1946, 1947)
  • AAU Mr. America (1947)
  • Mr. World (1948)
  • NABBA Mr. Universe (1950)


  • Chest: 52”
  • Waist: 29”
  • Biceps: 18.5”
  • Thighs: 26”
  • Calves: 18.5”

Steve Reeves Workout Fundamentals

Read More: John Krasinski Workout Routine

Steve Reeve workout fundamentals have a range of nuances that you rarely hear from an elite bodybuilder today.

He would train three times per week, targeting opposing muscle groups. This was widely adopted and even later used by Arnold Schwarzenegger in his famous chest and back day workout.

What was interesting about Steve’s approach is that he performed full-body workouts to help build symmetry. 

However, it was his choice to train legs at the end of his workout, favoring his upper body training.

He believed that training lower body first took a great deal of energy and would leave him fatigued and unable to perform his upper body training at his peak.

Steve trained for 1.5 to two hours each session, with 30-60 second rests between each set and two minutes rest between exercises, prioritizing his recovery after each exercise. 

This style of training allowed him to push with maximum intensity every set.

Steve Reeves Workout Routine

Steve Reeves’ workout fundamentals helped him create a workout split that targeted a few different muscle groups each session.

Below we have listed two different workouts. Check out his beginner workout and three-day workout routine, complete with exercises, sets, reps and rest times, and his weekly schedules.

Steve Reeves 3-Day Workout Routine

Steeve Reeves Workout Weekly Schedule



steve reeves workout routine
ExerciseSets RepsRest
Upright Row38-1230-45 secs
Behind Neck Press38-1230-45 secs
Bent Over Lateral Raises38-1230-45 secs
Bench Press38-1230-45 secs
Dumbbell Incline Press38-1230-45 secs
Dumbbell Flys 38-1230-45 secs
Chin-Up or Lat Pulldown38-1230-45 secs
Low Pulley Lat Pulldown38-1230-45 secs
Single-Arm Row38-1230-45 secs


ExerciseSets RepsRest
Standing Barbell Curl31230-45 secs
Incline Dumbbell Curl31230-45 secs
High Pulley Bench Curl31230-45 secs
Dumbbell French Press31230-45 secs
Bench Tricep Extension (Skull Crusher)31230-45 secs
Prone Single-Arm Tricep Extension 31230-45 secs
Half Squat31230-45 secs
Hack Squat31230-45 secs
Front Squat31230-45 secs


ExerciseSets RepsRest
Front Squat38-1230-45 secs
Assisted Leg Curl38-1230-45 secs
Leg Press Calf Raises12030-45 secs
Good Morning38-1230-45 secs
Partner Assisted Neck Flexion21530-45 secs

Steve Reeves Beginner Workout Routine

The following workout routine is Steve’s beginner routine that he used to write on his garage wall. 

In his beginner workout, Steve would train full body, hitting each exercise for a single set with many containing upwards of 20 reps. 

steve reeves workout
ExerciseSets RepsRest
Barbell Cleans1730-45 secs
Press11030-45 secs
Curl11530-45 secs
Bench Curl11530-45 secs
Leaning Row11030-45 secs
Bench Press11030-45 secs
Squats11230-45 secs
Pullover14030-45 secs
Back Bend12030-45 secs
Dumbbell Lateral Raises13030-45 secs
Upright Row11030-45 secs
Front Raises11030-45 secs
Dumbbell Press11030-45 secs
Dumbbell Tricep Extension11530-45 secs
Stomach (Abs)12030-45 secs

Steve Reeves Dieting and Food Preferences

Steve Reeves dieting and food preferences look very different from the eating plans we see today, as he would only consume three meals per day.

Reeves’ food preferences that would inspire man lifters in the golden era of bodybuilding. His choices consisted of shakes, cottage cheese, and lean meat. His macro ratios were 60% carbs, 20% protein, and 20% fat.

Below is a list of Steve’s food preferences.

steve reeves diet preferences
Meal 1Protein Shake (Protein Powder, Eggs, Banana, Orange Juice, Honey, Knox Gelatin) 
Meal 2Cottage Cheese, Nuts, Raisins, Fresh Fruit
Meal 3Lean Meat (Swordfish, Turkey, Tuna, Beef), Large Salad

Steve Reeves Diet Plan  

steve reeves diet plan

Steve’s food preferences showed that you didn’t need complex diets and unnatural substances to build an incredible physique.

To give you guidance and add variety, we have created the Steeve Reeves diet plan to help you build an aesthetic, natural physique.

Meal 1

Meal 2

  • Grilled Chicken Salad Wraps (Tomato, Red Onion, Lettuce, Light Mayo)
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Mixed Nuts
  • Banana

Meal 3

  • Pan Fried Swordfish with Lemon and Garlic
  • Italian Salad (Spinach, Cherry Tomatoes, Corn, Red Onion, Garlic Croutons, Pepperoncini, Italian Dressing)
  • Brown Rice

Meal 4

steve reeves workout and diet

Steve was a natural bodybuilder his entire life. He believed the sport was about optimizing his health for longevity, which he aimed to achieve through exercise and nutrition

If you are thinking of trying Steve’s training plan we highly recommend you do the same to ensure that you are hitting your calorie and macro targets.

To do this, we recommend using our advanced calorie and macronutrient calculator.

Just enter details such as your age, height, weight, gender, and activity level to receive a precise calorie and macro breakdown.

This will ensure you are getting enough protein to build muscle, carbs for fuel, and fats to absorb essential nutrients. 

Steve Reeves Supplement Preferences

steve reeves training supplements

Steve’s nutrient-dense food preferences provided him with the vital nutrients to pack on muscle and build his aesthetic frame.

Being a lifetime natural, Steve took advantage of a couple of supplements at the time to improve his recovery and build lean muscle.

Here is a list of Steve’s supplement preferences.  

Knox Gelatin (Collagen)Maintain optimal balance of amino acids
Whey Protein IsolateBuild muscle and improve recovery

Final Thoughts

Steve’s achievements in bodybuilding inspired an entire generation of lifters, with many regarding him as one of the greatest of all time.

His natural, lean physique and his dedication to overall health shows the world that you can achieve incredible results on your own.

If you are considering giving Steve’s workout routine a go, focus on eating a nutrient-dense diet high in protein. Train with a high intensity and prioritize recovery.

Combining these three factors will help you build a physique more like Steve.

So, are you considering trying Steve’s workout routine?

Let us know in the comments.

What was Steve Reeves workout?

Steve Reeves would perform a full-body workout three times per week for 1.5 to two hours each session. In many of these sessions he would train both upper and lower body, which he believed would help him maintain symmetry. 

How long were Steve Reeves workouts?

Steve Reeves workouts were 1.5 to two hours long. This is due to the sheer number of exercises. He would rest between 30-60 seconds between each set, and two minutes between each exercise to prioritize recovery.

How many days did Steve Reeves workout?

Steve Reeves trained three days per week. This allowed him to recover and hit his session with a greater intensity.

How to get a physique like Steve Reeves?  

To achieve Steve Reeves’ physique you need to eat a nutrient-dense diet and perform resistance training exercises. Perform exercises that target the shoulders and back to increase upper body width. Adding squats and lunges to increase lower body lean muscle mass will help you sculpt an aesthetic physique.

How much would Steve Reeves squat?

Steve Reeves could squat 400 lbs for 20 repetitions. This was a testament to his training style, which placed his leg training at the end of his workout. It required him to work through high levels of fatigue to build his incredible lower body strength.