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Reg Park, The legend

Reg was born June 17, 1928 in Leeds, England. He was an sprinter in your younger days and also played soccer. He competed in various amateur track events around Leeds and achieved a fair amount of success as a sprinter. When he was sixteen, he turned a 10.3 second time on the 100 yard dash. He also had a long jump of 21' 10" (6,09 m) , what is amazing for a kid so young as he was because in that time the world record was the 8,13 m of Jesse Owens in 1936 Olympìc games. It's not a mad thing to say that if Reg would dedicated his life to athetics he would have been a world recordman. Finally, he also competed in the discus throw. Of course, he loved soccer. By the time he was fifteen, Reg was playing soccer for my school each Saturday morning and also played Leeds United Reserve Team in the evening.

The interest in weight training

During one of our soccer games, he wrenched his knee, which required a trip to the hospital. It ended his aspirations of becoming a professional soccer start. At the hospital his knee was reabilitated with weights. In those days, England had not discovered the leg extension machine, so they strapped an iron boot to his foot and Reg did extensions with his leg in an ever increasing number of repetitions. The whole thing was strictly therapy. Shortly after the release from the hospital, he started reading "Health & Strength." But Reg Park at that time was much more interested in gymnastics. He was a good gymnastic being able to do one hundred pushups easily in those days. One day, He was thumbing through a new issue of H & S, when suddenly stopped. The reason was a picture of an American bodybuilder of Vic Nicolette, who had just won the title of Mr. New York City. Vic was standing in a sort of semi-lat spread pose. The picture took me by surprise. All at once I knew this was how I wanted to look. In those days, American bodybuilders were light years ahead of anything Britain had to offer. I decided I would emulate Vic Nicolette.

Models of perfection

Grimek and Reeves both served to inspire Reg Park. Grimek for his mass, athletic ability and integrity; and Reeves for obvious handsome physical shape. But was a guy named Daved Cohen who was the really first and big influence. In 1946, while visiting a swimming pool in Leeds, he was struck by his impressive physique. He was a bodybuilder of considerable reputation and one of the world's best developed men. In those days, Dave had 17 inch arms, a 17 inch neck and 17 inch calves to boot. In the Reg's own words: I walked over and spoke to him. We immediately became fast friends and it is Dave that I give full credit for my start in weight training.

The first training workouts

Dave Cohen's training partner's mother had allowed the guys to set up a small gym in her front room. It comprised a bare room with a wooden floor on which stood a standard barbell and a pair of dumbells - no other equipment. They did the bench presses with his back on a sack. The first workout consisted of standing barbell presses, barbell curls, squats and pullovers and presses on the floor. Doing three sets of each exercise with a rep scheme of 10-8-6. Altougth Reg was one of the best strongest men of his time, he remembered begin pressing and curling with 40 pounds. This was the begginings!! He was only able to train three months with Dave. Then reg was called to serve in the Army National service for two years, most of it in Singapore. "I had no weights, but I compensated with freestanding exercises".

The Army serving time

Reg Park was a physical training instructor, which meant he was doing exercises with different classes from nine o' clock in the morning to five in the evening. He kept up with the weight game by reading Weider mags "Your Physique" and "Muscle Power", thanks to his friends of Leeds, but it was the news that the 1948 Mr. Universe contest was to be staged in London at the time of the Olympic Games that got the old juices flowing. It was then when he decided to make my fortune in bodybuilding, and even told his friends that some day he would win the Mr. Universe contest even though he had only three months training behind him.

There is not only time for bodybuilding!!

After his returning of the Army, Reg took two years of specialized study at the Leeds College of Commerce in Business Administration. It was difficult at times. He went to school during the day and trained at night. His early training was done in my parent's back yard. Stetting up two poles in the ground with a bar across the top for chinning exercises. (miracle exercise) He also had acquired a barbell and a pair of dumbbells and a flat wooden bench that he built according to the specs obtained from a muscle mag. Also, I set up a pulley machine that extended from my bedroom to the yard. Talk about cold, the temperatures dipped below zero in the winter. I took to training in three thick sweatshirts. Later, we were able to move to a more prestigious location - a three walled garage that had a tin roof and concrete floor, but no electricity. It was just as cold.

The first contests

The first contest of Reg Park was the Mr. Northeast Britain, in March of 1949, that easily won securing an invitation to the Mr. Britain contest. It was not an easy thing, because in the process he had to defeated the 1948 Mr. Britain, Charlie Jarrett. The invitation came one month prior to the contest, in September 1949. The contest was to be held October 28, 1949. Actually, it came at a bad time, because He was in the process of completing the final business administration exams. But Reg seems anexcelent boy in all he had, and he could successfully completed all the exams. Now he could dedicate all his time to training, but the only bad notice was that the it remains less than a month to the Mr. Britain contest. Meanwhile, he moved his gym from his parent's home, and joined Henry Atkin's Viking Gym for the express purpose of training for the Mr. Britain contest. With Henry's help, reg was able to increase his bodyweight from 196 lbs. to 226 lbs. in a month.

Training twice a day, six time a day in 1949!!

My life change when I trained twice a day, six times a week. In the morning, I trained the lower body with high repetition squats, hack lifts, calf exercises and sometimes heavy bench presses. In the evening, I worked the upper body. All the squat sets were done in 20 reps with very deep breathing. The upper body work consisted of heavy standing presses, curls, bench presses, both barbell and dumbbell rows at anywhere from 6 to 10 reps per set. At this time, I did no other activity and rested whenever I was away from the weights.

The Henry's gym had all the latest equipment of the day: pulley machines, incline benches, round yoga benches and tons of weight. The Viking Gym was equipped just like an American gym from the later 1940's. By the way, the Viking Olympic Barbell was used at the 1948 Olympic Games for Olympic lifting. It was designed personally by Henry Atkin.

Mr Britain 1949

And all this hard work has his reward. Reg Park became Mr. Britain for 1949. Paul Newington came in 2nd and John Lees, who in 1957 won the Mr. Universe contest, took third. Another interesting thing happened at the contest. John Grimek, who was flown from the USA to judge the contest, was asked to compare me with John Lees who weighed 200 pounds at 6' 2, Grimek noted, "Lee is a very big boy." And Park? "He's a very big man!" This statement pleased Reg a great deal. as Grimek (one of the references of reg) thought obviously that Park had the most "Americanized" physique of all the contestants.

Not possible without his parents

In the same words of Reg:"
Had I been given the opportunity of selecting my parents, under no circumstances could I have done a better job than destiny. I am an only child and my mother and father have always, at all times, encouraged me to participate in athletic pastimes, undoubtedly a contribution in no small way to the winning of many trophies. My pal, the late Rueben Martin said that my mother spent all her time around Leeds scrounging food for her son and that my father chased around the country making sufficient money to pay for it. In all seriousness, my mother is a marvelous cook and has always fed me with the best food obtainable. My father was a very capable fixer and had the type of personality that makes friends. Whenever I wanted anything done I only had to say, and my father fixed it. A good example of that was when I said that I would like to live at the Viking Club for a month prior to the Mr. Britain contest. The next day he was in London arranging it with Henry Atkin."

In those days, it was hard to get good publicity for weight training or for bodybuilders, but Reg broke new ground by having a life size double spread of his arms flexed in the "respectable" Picture Port magazine.

what about the strength in those days?

Altougth he did not arrive yet to his best marks, of course, He already regularly benched around 325 and was capable of a correct curl with 175 pounds. Also cleaned and pressed a pair of 100 pound dumbbells from the ground.

The travell to the USA

With a gift from his parents for wining the Mr. Britain title, Reg went to america. he had a great time in New York and trained at the old John Terlazzo gym with some of the greatest American bodybuilders as my training partners. His first American appearance was at the John Terlazzo show, Jan 27, 1950, at the St. Nicholas Arena, New York. Reg traveled extensively and although lost a little weight on the trip he learn a lot from the Americans (the main reason for his visit) He trained exceptionally hard while in America, and lived only for bodybuilding in those days.

The 1950 mr universe and the battle with Reeves

On June 24, 1950, the NABBA Mr. Universe takes place in London at the Scala Theater. "
I came in second to Steve Reeves and Juan Ferraro from France placed third. I felt I should've won the contest, not matter, I didn't win. Reeves won by a vote of four to two over me. I did win the Mr. Europe contest, which was held in conjunction with the Mr. Universe contest. I weighed only 215 as opposed to 225 for Reeves. I was much more muscular than Reeves and had good overall size. Apparently, the ten extra pounds Steve had over me made him look much heavier and larger to the judges.

Comeback to the USA again

After the Mr. Universe contest, Reg Park traveled back to the states and entered the widely publicized "America's Best Developed Athlete" event, September 8, 1950, at the New York St. Nicholas Arena. He won the contest with Floyd Page placing second and Alan Stephan taking third. Also competing were Ed Thereault and Alan Paivio. Suddenly, He was making headlines all over the bodybuilding world press.

Developing a train system of his own

Reg devised a training system that would not tax his body heavily. Reg began training with a system that will set the trend: a system of five sets of reps for each exercise, concentrating on presses behind the neck, bench presses, barbell presses and two arm dumbbell presses. His workouts lasted about an hour and thirty minutes, afterwhich he felt completely depleted:
I tried increasing the poundages whenever possible. My clean and dumbbell press had increased to 110. I found I enjoyed this system and it paid off. I trained five days was week, working the same bodyparts each session.

There he trained with the best bodybuilders of that time; per example: Marvin Eder would have to be at the top of the list, at Abe Goldberg's gym in New York. They would sometimes work up to 450 lb. Bent over rows and seated dumbbell curls with a pair of 100 pounders. Clancy Ross was another man of immense power, who did inclines with 160 lb. Dumbbells. Floyd Page was no slouch in the strength department, either.

Banned from the Mr World 1950

He can not compete in the Mr World that it would be celebrated in Paris, due to the title Reg has one in the USA (he had won the IFBB "America's Best Developed Athlete" in New York City). The IWF said the contest was a professional event because of the $500.00 offered in prize money. Anyway, I never received any of the money. John Farbotnik won the Mr. World contest.

Preparing for the 1951 Mr Universe and finnal victory

Prior to the Mr. Universe contest in 1951, Reg worked out three hours every day. Legs one day and upper body the next day. He worked out fast and furiously; they were murderous workouts. I ate anything I fancied including one dozen eggs and eight pints of milk daily. Most of the contest preparations were done in South Africa and he returned home to England just one month prior to the contest to put on the finishing touches. Later, Reg easily won the 1951 Mr. Universe contest (Sept. 1, 1951) in London. The first englishman! He was clearly more massive and muscular in 1951 than the year before and won with no opposition. With less than two years training, Reg Park had achieved the top of the bodybuilder ladder. By the way, Joe Weider placed 5th in class I out of twelve competitors. Since he had no more physique titles to strive for, he turned his attention to brute strength.

The business with the Weiders and the Reg Park Journal

Ben Weider showed up at my parent's house in 1951 with a Weider contract. So we established the Reg Park Equipment Co. and the Mr. Universe publishing company in England. My father was the business director of the company. Sot Te Mr. Universe magazine was published by Joe Weider with Reg Park as managing editor in Leeds, England. The first issue was published in March 1952 and the last issue in ecember 1952. But as Reg's father and Joe Weider didn't see eye to eye in business matters, the partnership was dissolved. Reg, for his part, always liked Joe because he was a true bodybuilding enthusiast.

The Parks started a new magazine called "The Reg Park Journal of Physical Culture" in January of 1953, that in January 1954 was name "The Reg Park Journal." The last issue was December 1959. Also, during this time, they published too a magazine called "Muscleman." that was was published from Sept. 1952 to Dec. 1953. "The Reg Park Journal" had over 60,000 readers in the 1950's. Say Reg:
During the next decade, I spent most of my time working extremely hard running the business. We sold everything from barbell to food supplements and everything in between. I also flew all over the world at the invitation of many countries giving posing exhibitions in all corners of the globe. Almost weekly, I traveled all over England giving strength and posing exhibitions. A giant work too, of mind!!

The matrimony with Mareon Isaacs and his childrens

Reg fell in love with a beautiful South African girl, Mareon, and they were married 10/22/52 in Johannesburg, South Africa. This was an union too of two bodybuilders: Reg and Mareon's brother, bodybuilder and film technician Johnny Isaacs, who almost took the Mr. Universe title in 1953 and came second after Reg in 1958. Jeunesse, was born in 1954 and today lives in South Africa with her three children. Jon-Jon, his son, was born in 1957. He lives in Santa Monica with his wife and two children. (Today Jon-Jon owns the World Private exercise gym in Los Angeles, named The legacy gym after the pass away of his father.

After the mr universe...

After the winning of the mr universe in 1951 and with the dissagree with the divison of the Mr universe in amateur and professional, he turned toward power type training.
: I always trained for power and size during my early competitive career. About the only time I did a pure bodybuilding program was for the May 11, 1957 Mr. USA contest where I guest posed. I believe that I was in my finest condition ever for that contest. I also bench pressed 445 during the show, but I hadn't done any benches for months prior to the USA. - His best lift were made in the 1950's as follows:

-Behind the Neck Press - 300 Lbs. For one rep.
- Behind the Neck Press - 260 Lbs. For four reps.
- Behind the Neck Press - 240 Lbs. For eight reps.
- One Arm Dumbbell Press - 165 Lbs. For two reps.
- Front Squat - 405 for a single.
- Lying Triceps Extension - 300 Lbs. For three reps. This was done at Muscle Beach in 1957.
- Standing Dumbbell Press - Two 120 Lb. Dumbbells for five reps.
- Standing Dumbbell Press - Two 140 Lb. Dumbbells for one rep.
- Dumbbell Bench Press - Two 185 Lb. Dumbbells for five reps.
- Squat - 605 for two reps at Buster McShane and Ivan Dunbar's Gym in Belfast.
- Strict Barbell Curl - 200 Lbs. For one rep.
- Incline Dumbbell Press - Two 185 Lb. Dumbbells for five reps.
- 258 one dumbbell press - A British Professional Heavyweight Record, keeping it as an strict military position.

The bench press of 500 lb and the Thomas Inch's

His most famous lift was bench pressed 500 Lbs. He was the first in the UK and second in the world to bench over five hundred. AS you know, Doug Hepburn was the first person in the world to bench 500 pounds on May 28, but 1953 at around 285 bodyweight. At that time Reg already get that big weight, but few time before he went to reproduce the lift in fron referees, they recieve the call that Doug Hepburn already had press it. He lost interest for doing it "formal", but he was required, and did it April 23, 1954, at around 225 bodyweight at a Health and Strength show in Bristol. The only record that he wanted break and he couldn't as he didn't have the appropiate eqipment was using pair of 200 pound dumbbells in the incline or flat bench press. Of course he could have easily done since I was doing reps with 185.

At the Viking Club (10/26/49), he tried to repeat Thomas Inch's three feats of strength.
I tried lifting Inch's "Challenge Dumbbell" (172 lbs. With a 2.47" diameter handle). It was impossible to move off the ground. In my mind, it is impossible to lift by anyone. I made mince meat of his cable expanders. They were very easy. I was unable to close his grip machine, which supposedly took 580 pounds of force to close. I did; however, register 525 pounds on it, which was fairly close to Inch's record of 556 pounds; this was the second best attempt done to that time.

The famous Reg's diet

He eat like a king, but only food that was good for him. he ate prodigious amounts of food during the day, but in order with a very balanced diet in where everything in proper proportions. (thanks, also to the stews that Mareon cooked for him.
My favorite food is steak, which I sometimes eat twice a day. I also like salads, orange juice and wine. I have a wine cellar in my home. I also have used protein supplements and take vitamin and mineral tablets.
There is a very good annecdote that when you dining with Reg, you could see him gargled three large plates of vegetable soup, then gulped chucks from his extra large and thick steak without his teeth sinking into the meat once, apparently, next stuffed many side dishes of vegetables into his ever open mouth and these include an extra large pair of baked potatoes, a huge bowl of salad, three glasses of milk and the last, a big dish of ice cream with cake. And all this, mind you, in about ten minutes!!!

A typical Reg's routine in the 50's

He didn't have a favorite workout routine. and like most advanced trainers, he have found what exercises and what routines give him the best results. What is good for one man isn't necessarily good for somebody else!! A primary order phrase that it is not well understood by many trainers. Here is a routine Reg used around 1956-1957 with good results:

Deltoids and Upper Back
- Press Behind Neck 4-10 Sets, 5 Reps.
- Heavy Bent arm Lateral Raises 5-10 Sets, 10 Reps
- Bench Press 5-10 Sets, 2 Reps (That's Right 2 Reps!)
- Squat 5 Sets, 5 Reps (of all exercises, this one was my favorite.)
- Hack Lift 5 Sets, 5 Reps
- Barbell Curl 5 Sets, 5-8 Reps
- Incline Dumbbell Curls 5 Sets, 5-8 Reps
- French Press - I did these standing and lying on the bench.
- Calf Machine 25 Reps, Many Sets.
- Donkey Calf Raises 25 Reps, Many Sets
- High Pullups 5-8 Sets, 3 Reps.
- Power Clean 5-8 Sets, 3 Reps.
- Chins Behind Neck 5-8 Sets, 5-8 Reps (weights tied to waist.)
Waist and Trunk Area
- Leg Raises and Side Bends 100 or more Reps.

He alternated upper and lower body exercises on different days. I worked each muscle group for approximately one half hour, practicing forces breathing between sets. One must have the right mental attitude when working out. Drive himself hard all of the time. Don't fool around, keep talk to a minimum, maybe a joke or wisecrack to ease the tension. Relax completely between exercises and concentrate only on the weight when exercising. Have one or two training partners to assist you, if possible. I also disliked working out in front of mirrors.

The legendaries routines

Here is his routine approuch to the mr universe, going throught the steps of the NE Mr Britain, Mr Britain first. From end of 1948 to 1951. In less than three years!!! In his own words:
My training started in earnest about September 1948, when I was 20 years of age and weighed 190 lbs. In those days I trained three nights a week and Sunday morning, and if my memory serves me well, my course was something like this:

Incline D.B Press – 5 sets of 5 reps
Flat Bench D.B. Press – 5x5
Pushups with Press – 5 x 10
Standing Barbell Press – 5x5
Press Behind Neck – 5x5
Standing Two D.B Press – 5x5
Chins – 5x8
Barbell Row – 5x8
D.B. Row – 5x8
Barbell Curl – 5x8
Incline D.B. Curl – 5x8
Central Loading Curl – 5x8
Standing D.B. Triceps Curl – 5x8
Lying D.B. Triceps Curl – 5x8
Triceps on Lat Machine – 5x8
Donkey Calf – 5 sets
Cross Bench D.B. Pullover – 5x8

I don’t recall doing any squats in those days, but when I look back I realize that I was doing about 90 sets a workout which I’m sure was far more than any British bodybuilder was doing in 48/49. By March/April 1949 I entered and won the Mr. N.E. Britain, beating the previous national winner, Charlie Jarrett, who was also placed in the 48 Mr. Universe. Not bad for only 7 or 8 months of serious training. At this time I weighed 205 lbs. and my measurements were 48 in. chest and 16½ in. upper arm.

This period of the Reg's life is amazing. I remember that he one time said something like: "The fivites were one of the better moments of our life. We were youngs, plenty of training, eating, happiness. We have everything we need and want..." But let's Reg Park himself continue his amazing training sessions:

Three weeks before the 1949 Mr. Britain final I trained at Henry Atkins’ gym in Walthamstow, London, during which time I worked calves and thighs (3 sets of 20 reps) superset with pullovers on the Yoga bench, three mornings a week, and trained upper body in the evenings. I ate and drank great quantities of food and liquid, and my bodyweight by the time of the contest was 226 lbs. I drank two pints of diluted concentrated orange juice with glucose and honey mixed in it at every workout.

Here Reg introduces the concept of 3 sets of 20 reps for growing, and after it also three sets breathing pullovers for rib cage expansions. Oh, ladies and gentlemen. The rib cage of Reg and his pectorals were thos mest amazing of the era of bodybuiding. Even the GH-friends of today ave not that incredible rib cage. But we must coninue, sirs... We are now in the 1950 Mr Universe, against Reeves:

On the day of the contest I weighed in at 215 lbs. and Reeves at 225. Reeves was bigger than I was, but I was terribly muscular, with my legs, torso and arms cut up with definition. Reeves won the contest, but he was a very worried man prior to the announcement, and I recall the then editor of Health and Strength, Johnson, striving to convince him backstage that he had won. When I reflected that with less than two years’ serious training I had given the very famous Steve Reeves, who had been training at least five years, such a good run for his money, I did not feel too bad, but then and there I was determined that no one would beat me in the 1951 Mr. Universe. From January until the Mr. Universe contest I trained regularly, hard and heavy. Regular poundages used in training were sets and reps with over 200 lbs. on the Press and Press Behind Neck, Incline and Flat D.B. Press sets and reps with 2x140 lb. dumbells, Bent Rowing with 250-300 lbs., Incline D.B. Curls with 2x70 lb. dumbells, and 3 sets of 20 reps on the Squat with 320 lbs.

This last is a monstruosity: 3 set od 20 reps with 320 lb and full squats!!! I have no words. The workouts in these days were:

Incline D.B. Press – 5x5 with 140 lb. dumbells
Flat Bench D.B. Press – 5x5 with 140 lb. dumbells
Press Behind Neck – 5x5 with 210 lbs.
Press – 5x5 with 210 lbs.
Two D.B. Press – 5x5 working up to 100 lb. dumbells
Dumbell Lateral – 5x8 with 50-60 lb. dumbells
Chins – 5x8
Bent Barbell Row – 5x8 with 250-300 lbs.
One Arm D.B. Row – 5x8 with 100-120 lb. dumbell
Lat Pulldown – 5x8
Central Loading Curl – 5x8 with 140 lbs.
Incline D.B. Curl – 5x8 with 70 lb. dumbells
Barbell Curl – 5x8
Lying On Back Two Dumbell Curl – 5x8 with 50-60 lb. dumbells
One D.B. Two Arm French Press – 5x8
Lying B.B. Triceps Extension – 5x8
Triceps Dips or Parallel Bar Dips – 5x8
Triceps On Lat Machine – 5x8
Donkey Calf On Machine – 10x20
Squat – 3x20 with 320 lbs.
D.B. Pullover – 3x10

Well, guys, that's the history till now. But we know that the history is a never ending staff and it will continue... one day.