T Nation

The Great Reg Park


Here is some interesting information about one of the old time greats: Reg Park!

Keep in mind this was before steroids, and Bench and Squat suits.


"In the course of his training, Reg broke a great number of British records, including the dumbbell press record by lifting 258 lbs in 1953. I asked him to quote some other poundages and he replied, ?In the early 1950?s I would regularly use 185 lbs dumbbells for reps on an incline and flat bench. I couldn?t fit any more weight onto the rods.

I could rep out with 510 lbs for squats (authors note: I know the top guys of today can do that or more but during that period a good squat was between 300-400 lbs. With the time scale involved it would be akin to squatting 1,000 lbs. or more) and did a 605 lbs bench press for 2 reps at Buster McShane and Ivan Dunbar?s gym in Belfast.

I also bench 500 lbs in March 1953, again in Belfast. I also benched 500 lbs in March 1953, again in Belfast. As well, I could press behind neck with 300 lbs, and also performed alternate presses with 120 lbs of dumbbells and curled 100 lbs. dumbbells. ?I?d ask you to reread those weights and consider just how far ahead they were above most of Reg?s contemporaries.

Prior to the influence of Reg Park most UK trainees would use comparatively light weights for just one set happily squatting with their own bodyweight. Following Reg?s example, top lifters soon raised their standards with bench presses going from 200 to 400 or more.
Reg, along with his father, had their own company selling weights, equipment, books and courses, all to promote bodybuilding for the masses.

Traveling extensively and doing exhibitions, Reg met his wife, Mareon, in South Africa. By 1958, he had emigrated to Johannesburg, where he owned and ran several large gyms and sponsored the Mr. Republic South Africa contests. For most of these shows he flew guest stars in especially in 1963 it was Len Sell, then Joe Abbenda, Bill Pearl in 1965 and also Larry Scott in 1966.

Another great star and personal guest of Reg?s was the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had developed what he himself admits was an intense desire to be the world?s best bodybuilder at the tender age of 15 and always cites his idol as one Reg Park. Reg recalls, ?I first met Arnold at a show put on by Wag Bennett during one of my visits to the United Kingdom from South Africa.

He had just come second to Chet Yorton in his first ever NABBA Universe show. It was obvious to me even then that he had lots of talent and I brought him over to South Africa as a guest posers, which he enjoyed immensely?.

In the same way Reg followed Steve Reeves in winning the Universe title, so he also entered the world of movies, by becoming famous for his role as Hercules. Unlike Steve though, Reg insisted on retaining his full muscularity and really did look the part. His first film, of several in which he also proved to be a good actor, was called Hercules and the Conquest of Atlantis, made at Cinecitta near Rome.

For reasons of his own he insists he never even watched his screen test for Hercules when offered the part. He said, ?I never concerned myself with watching movies in which I starred.? After a successful screen career, and Spa Cinema Rome offered Reg a great deal of money to continue, but he refused, he returned to his South African gym business.

He later returned once more to the UK to enter the Universe contest at the NABBA Silver Jubilee in 1973, coming 4th in the pro class aged 45 years, with a younger Boyer Coe taking top place. Reg has stayed with bodybuilding for most of his life and has received many accolades. Reg was presented with a commemorative plaque for his ?Outstanding Contributions to the Sport of Bodybuilding? via the American Bodybuilding Hall of Fame, in 1986, Atlantic City, New Jersey USA.

The Association of Oldetime Barbell and Strongmen awarded Reg their 1990 Highest Achievement Award in New York, and in 1993 he was awarded the Oscar Heidenstam Foundation Hall of Fame Award. An exceptional event in itself, made even more unforgettable by a tribute paid to Reg by his son, Jon Jon Park, and Reg?s own acceptance speech. As recently as 1996, Joe Weider, who?s seen them all over the years, said these kind words, ?Reg Park was, and is, a man of culture and a true gentleman.?

Today, Reg commutes form South Africa to California on a fairly regular basis to be with his family, his wife Mareon, daughter Jeunese, grandchildren Tamarac, Lana and Kaya. His son Jon Jon, married to Michelle, has a son of his own called Trent. Jon Jon trains, as does Reg sometimes, on a one-to-one basis often at World Gym in Santa Monica. Reg trains six or seven days a week for about an hour a day, usually in the morning, and says he still really enjoys training.

Finally, I asked Reg his opinion towards hardcore, drug taking bodybuilding. He answered, ?I think the guys who sell drugs to young bodybuilders especially females, should be jailed for life and the key thrown away. Youngsters who are taking drugs are advised to stop at once. The full effects are not yet known but those that are, and the deaths that have resulted, should say enough. It is not the quality of mind and body at age twenty-five you should consider, but how well you ill function when at seventy five?.

Ovid, the ancient Roman poet, once said, ?It is not wealth nor ancestry but honourable conduct and noble disposition that make men great.? I with many others think that Reg Park is one of the true greats of bodybuilding.

CHECK OUT THE WORKOUT--He performed this routine three times per week!

A classic Reg Park workout, with one of his training partners, Spencer Churchill, circa 1951, was:
Squats: 5 x 10 x 400 lbs.
Bench Press: 3 x 10 x 320 lbs., 2 x 10 x 350 lbs.
Dumbbell Bench Presses: 5 x 10 x 140 lbs.
Dips Between Chairs: 5 x 12 (with resistance added)
Cheat Barbell Curls: 5 x 10 x 190 lbs.
Swing Bell Curls: 4 x 10 x 170 lbs.
Triceps Extensions on Bench: 5 x 10 x 170 lbs.
French Presses: 5 x 10 x 170 lbs.
Calf Exercises - Donkey Raises: 5 sets
Chins with Extra 60 Lbs. Attached to his Waist
Abdominal Work

Reg usually trained from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., 3 days a week. He gained 25 lbs of muscle in just 10 months on the above schedule. Sleeping 10 hours a night, and taking protein mixes of honey, milk and cream six times a day.

Reg, like all good champions, must have trained on a million different routines and training schedules and soon discovered what exercises and routines gave him the best results. When asked what the secret of his success was Reg replied, "You must have the right mental attitude when working out and drive yourself hard through dedication and some real rough training."


Be in it for the long haul. Absolutely a mindset that seems forgotten by newcomers. Nice stuff, Zeb.


It's not unusual for bodybuilders to embellish their numbers.



It's also not unusual for lifters of today to underestimate what the pre-steroid champions of another era could do!


Thank you Zeb, Reg is one of my all time heroes!

Totally kick ass of you to post this.



Why did you have me scroll to almost the bottom of the page just to read that?


Sorry everybody about the length of my previous post I was trying to make a point for future referance but in retrospect maybe it was a tad to long to do it again.


The first mention I have seen of steroid use was in a 1938 Strength and Health issue where a writer asked about injecting Test Prop. Park talked about his steroid use later in his career.


When I look at success in strength and physique combined, I invariably look back to Park, Grimek, Reeves, and their contemporaries.


And Creatine was first "discovered" many years prior to the 90's when it was actually used.

I doubt Park had any Steroid involvement in the early 50's.

And if he did, it was probably pretty low level stuff compared to the likes of what is seen today at the pro level.

Why don't you give Park some credit for being a very strong dude!


The guy was strong and one of the first "big" bodybuilders at around 225, but I wont put him on a pedestal for others to imitate. I?m just not going to sell fantasy here...... the guy talked openly about using steroids.

I also collect and read the older muscle mags to see how the old timers trained, and thats where I discovered steroid use was common from 1940 on ... among some big names like Park and Eder, those who were the first to bech 500 and squat big. It changes the natural lifters perspective on their training volume and techniques.


Please show your evidence that Reg Park, Grimek and the others were using steroids "from 1940 on."


I agree, but are there any records of this besides Park saying it himself? Like when you read Muscle & Fiction and all the bodybuilders rep with 500 on the bench, and later someone comes clean and tells the true story. Also, they all say they have 22" arms, which is another load of crap.


And Bill Pearl too!


Sergio Oliva once said in an interview that the old timers (Reeves, Stanko, Park, Goodrich etc) where taking small amounts of steroids.

That is the only time Ive ever heard of steroids being mentioned in regards to the early days of bodybuilding and I dont know where he got his info from.


Arnold talked in an Interview about his steroid use and mentioned everyone else including his mentor Park. Of course he also noted that they were legal at this time, and everyone was using them openly.

The first known reference to an anabolic steroid in a US weightlifting/bodybuilding magazine is testosterone propinate in a letter to the editor in Strength and Health magazine in 1938.

I didnt say Grinmek, and I didnt say "from 1940s on", I said that steroid use was common in 1940 on among bodyduilders and olympic weightlifters.

Look at strength athelets Pre 1950 and the steady progression after until what we have today.


I always thought that our Olympic weightlifters were "first" with steroid use... very late 1950s, 1960 timeframe and that bodybuilders closely followed suit in the early and of course mid 1960s. Dianabol was invented by Dr. Ziegler in the 1950s (late?) as a synthetic derivative of testosterone. Prior to that it would have had to have been testosterone itself.

I love Park. I don't know what he did as far as steroids goes.


Please give me the source of this information. What publication was it? Where did you read it?

Creatine was actually discovered in the late 1800's! And was not used for strength purposes until the 1970's in some Olympic athletes. Then 20 years after that, in the 1990's, it was offered up to the general populace.


That steroids were written about in 1938 does not mean that Reg Park or any of the other big names of the day took them in 1940.

Here is exactly what you said:

As you can see you said "from 1940 on" and you also mentioned "Park."

Again I ask you if you have some evidence regarding Parks steroid usage please present it.


I don't think the phenomenal bodybuilders of the very late forties and early fifties (Reeves, Park, Ross, Pearl, etc.) were "on" at that time. Am I 100% sure? No. I believe I may have heard something about Reeves using testosterone at some time... again, who knows... very unsubstantiated.

However, I do believe that Grimek experimented with and was sort of a guinea pig for testosterone at some point in the late fifties. I don't believe he did this long-term.

Again, this stuff was all brand new at the time. Nobody (except perhaps Dr. Ziegler who later regretted what he had started) knew anything about steroids. When lifters first started using dianabol they likened it to wonder or magic pills.


I remember reading an interview with one of the oldtimers -- Gironda, I think -- who was reminiscing about how he and a bunch of the other west coast guys got together and had a long discussion about steroids and what they'd do to the sport when they were introduced in the mid to late 50's.