Reg Park, ‘How I Trained for 1958 Mr. Universe,’ Health & Strength

Reg Park was one of the mid-twentieth-century’s most impressive bodybuilders. He was large, strong and possessed a symmetry that few of his contemporaries could rival. What is even more impressive was his longevity. As an avid reader of old Health and Strength magazines, I have seen countless photographs and articles on Reg Park from his early years as a Yorkshire teen to his champion bodybuilding days.

Here is Reg’s routine from his 1958 Mr. Universe days. Note how different it is from the 5×5 routine you often find linked to him. If nothing else, the man knew when to specialize!

Monday, Wednesday, Friday

  1. Heel Raises on Calf Machine, 5 x 30
  2. Heel Raises Donkey Style w/Partner, 5 x 30
  3. Prone Hyperextensions, 4 x 10
  4. Front Squats w/Heels Elevated 3.5 Inches, 5 x 5
  5. Deadlifts, 5 x 2
  6. Barbell Bent Over Rowing, 4 x 8
  7. 45 Degree Pulls to Chest w/Lat Machines, 4 x 10
  8. Chinning the Bar, 3 x 10
  9. Bench Press, 5 x 2
  10. Press Behind the Neck, 4 x 6
  11. One Arm DB Press, 3 x 8
  12. Upright Crucifix, 3 x 10

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

  1. Barbell Curls, 4 x 10
  2. Incline DB Curls, 4 x 10
  3. Seated DB Curls, 4 x 10
  4. Standing BB Tricep Curls, 4 x 10
  5. Lying Barbell Triceps Curls, 4 x 10
  6. Parallel Bar Dips on Extensions on Lat Machine, 4 x 10

If you want more information on Park’s bodybuilding philosophy, check out our previous post on his diet.

As always … Happy Lifting!

2 thoughts on “Reg Park, ‘How I Trained for 1958 Mr. Universe,’ Health & Strength

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  1. Any thought of this Park routine being contradictory to his typical 5X5 routines is explained by Park himself in another post on Conor’s site:

    As located on page 33 of that photographed magazine, Park (or whoever might have ghost-written for Park) wrote,

    “I prefer to devote the majority of my training time to such weight and strength gaining exercises as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and overhead presses and other variations of these movements; which as you can readily see work the larger muscle groups. I have done very little arm, midsection, or calf work – – nor have I in the sense of the word done very much body-building or shaping….
    As I only made up my mind to enter this year’s Mr. Universe contest just two weeks prior to the contest, I immediately assessed my physique…”

    Park continues to explain that he immediately designed a two-week routine for himself for specializing on exactly those three areas, his abs, arms, and calves, including not only the six-day routine listed in the post above but also 3 sets of 20 each of twisting sit-ups and leg raises daily.

    Park says, after listing the the six-day routine given in the post above,

    “Many of you may feel that my whole routine was a pretty demanding one – – but remember, it was only for two weeks….”

    In otherwords, his Mr Universe training routine was not his normal routine, not at all a routine he regularly used to build his muscle mass, but the intensive routine he used for two weeks prior to this contest. As Park implies in his apology for such a demanding routine, it’s not a routine that even he, with his elite genetics, had or could productively use in order to build overall mass; rather, as he explains, he considered the two-week routine primarily a SHAPING routine,

    “…my training was slanted first for overall shape and proportion and secondly for well developed musculature.”

    It’s a good example, especially to beginners, of why, whenever seeing a bodybuilder’s routine, the question needed asking is, Is this the routine he normally uses? Sometimes, what’s not mentioned in an article giving a bodybuilder’s routine, is that it’s not one of the lower volume, lower frequency routines he used or uses most of his training years to build mass, but a specialized, concentrated, short-term routine designed to sharpen the mass he’s already built, which he uses before a contest.

    1. So important to have that broader knowledge of the iron game, especially given that many bodybuilders used to use very intense training programs to cut down for competition. These routines were then often published as fact without the broader information and when and why these routines were deployed!

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