The Steve Reeves Method: Full Body Workouts

Steve Reeves was well known for his long and grueling workout sessions. Steve was an advocate of fewer training sessions, and longer recovery times.

Reeves trained 3 days a week using full-body workouts. He allowed a day and a half between sessions for recovery. Reports have shown Steve trained Monday (PM), Wednesday (AM), and Friday (PM).

Full-body routines were popular in the Silver Era. Since the introduction of anabolics workouts have shifted towards body-part splits. Performance-enhancing drugs allow your body to recover faster and handle more volume. Bodybuilders of the modern era now favor push-pull-legs or bro-split routines.

Full-body routines are still a great approach for natural lifters. You work each muscle group 3 times a week and allow for adequate recovery.

Programming full-body routines require some thought. Below is the order in which Reeves trained each muscle group.

  1. Delts
  2. Chest
  3. Back
  4. Biceps
  5. Triceps
  6. Quadriceps
  7. Hamstrings
  8. Calves
  9. Lower Back
  10. Abdominals
  11. Neck

This isn’t the order you need to use for your full-body routine, but it might be a good starting point. 

Check out Steve’s Classic Physique Workout which he used to get in shape for Mr. America & Mr. Universe. 

Upper Body Before Lower Body

Steve trained his entire upper body before moving on to any leg exercises. This is because your legs have a large role to play in the output of your upper body. As an example, a standing overhead press requires leg drive to increase the load you can lift.

It doesn’t make sense to fatigue the legs before training your upper body as this will reduce the load you can lift.

Larger Muscle Groups First

Train the bigger muscle groups before moving on to accessory work. Steve trained his delts, chest, and back before moving on to any bicep or tricep work. Training biceps and triceps first would cause fatigue on compound lifts.

Alternate Between Push & Pull

Steve’s full-body split alternates between opposing muscle groups. This is antagonist training. Focus on your chest then your back. Train biceps and then triceps.

Focus on Weaknesses

All physiques have strengths and weaknesses. For most, this is never an issue. For a bodybuilder, this is everything. Make sure your full-body split accounts for lagging body parts.

When programming your workout focus on lagging body parts early in the session. The more energy you have the more you can work the muscle. Lagging body parts needs a chance to grow so train them before you fatigue.

This is an example of how Steve Reeves scheduled his full-body routines. There are many other approaches, so find what works best for you.

Steve Reeves’ Bodybuilding Journal is available here – the book contains loads of workouts from Steve’s actual training logs.

Read all about Steve Reeves here.

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