By Osmo Kiiha
Reg Park was one of the greatest bodybuilders Britain ever produced. Until Reg appeared on the scene, as far as international standards were concerned, the British were “also rans.” Reg was the first British bodybuilder to compare with, compete with, and finally surpass the long time American champions.
Reg Park won the NABBA Mr. Universe title three times in 1951, 1958 and 1965 – an outstanding achievement for anyone. No one could rival Park in the early 60’s. He developed muscle size not seen before him, with sharp definition and muscularity. With the Park physique, we entered a new era, moving from bulk alone to a realization of what refined development could really look like.
He established training instructional courses and became a leading figure in British and world bodybuilding long before he moved onto the silver screen.
A shrewd businessman, Reg used his earnings to firmly establish himself in South Africa with a chain of gyms that have had a profound effect in producing some of the most superlative physiques in that part of the world.
It is not saying too much to acknowledge that Reg brought physical development to a new high by his work.
Today, Reg is retired from the gym business, having sold all of his health clubs. Reg still does one on one training in South Africa. I caught up with Reg in Santa Monica when he was visiting with his son Jon-Jon and his family for Christmas. What follows is an interview with one of the true gentlemen of the sport, Reg Park. I hope you enjoy it…
IM: Tell us about your personal background.
Reg: I was born June 17, 1928 in Leeds, England and currently reside in South Africa. I have a wife, two children and five grandchildren.
IM: I read that you were quite a sprinter in your younger days and also played soccer.
Reg: I competed in various amateur track events around Leeds and achieved a fair amount of success as a sprinter. When I was sixteen, I turned a 10.3 second time on the 100 yard dash. I also had a long jump of 21′ 10″ and competed in the discus throw. I loved soccer. By the time I was fifteen, I was playing soccer for my school each Saturday morning and also played Leeds United Reserve Team in the evening.
IM: How did you get interested in weight training?
Reg: During one of our soccer games, I really wrenched my knee, which required a trip to the hospital. It also ended my aspirations of becoming a professional soccer start. At the hospital they rehabilitated my knee with weights. In those days, England had not discovered the leg extension machine, so they strapped an iron boot to my foot and I did extensions with my leg in an ever increasing number of repetitions. The whole thing was strictly therapy. Shortly after my release from the hospital, I started reading “Health & Strength.”
I never missed an issue of H & S, but it never occurred to me to try my hand at bodybuilding. At the time, I was much more interested in gymnastics. I was able to do one hundred pushups easily in those days. One day, I was thumbing through a new issue of H & S, when suddenly I had to stop. It was a picture of an American bodybuilder; a fellow named 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.
IM: Who else inspired you?
Reg: Grimek and Reeves both served to inspire me.
Grimek for his mass, athletic ability and integrity; and Reeves for obvious handsome physical shape.
IM: Did any one person in particular start you out in weight training?
Reg: In 1946, while visiting a swimming pool in Leeds, I was struck by the impressive physique of Dave Cohen. 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. 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.
IM: Where did your first training session take place?
Reg: 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.
The first workout consisted of standing barbell presses, barbell curls, squats and pullovers and presses on the floor. We did three sets of each exercise with a rep scheme of 10-8-6. I remember pressing and curling with 40 pounds. It was not a great start, but at least it was a beginning.
IM: How long did you workout with Dave Cohen?
Reg: I was only able to train three months with Dave. I was called to serve my country in the Army National service for two years, most of it in Singapore. I had no weights, but I compensated with freestanding exercises.
I was a physical training instructor, which meant I was doing exercises with different classes from nine o’ clock in the morning to five in the evening.
IM: What events brought you back to the bodybuilding scene?
Reg: During my national service, I kept up with the weight game by reading Weider mags “Your Physique” and “Muscle Power”, thanks to the generosity of my friends back in 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.
IM: Did you make it to the Mr. Universe contest?
Reg: Not only did I make the contest, but it was there that I decided to make my fortune in bodybuilding and even told my friend that some day I would myself win the Mr. Universe contest even though I had only three months training behind me.
IM: Speaking of the ‘48 Mr. Universe, did you agree with the decision?
Reg: I was not totally satisfied with the way the contest turned out. John Grimek won the 1948 Mr. Universe, but in my book, Steve Reeves should have beaten him. When it came down to sheer physical beauty – which was what I thought the Mr. Universe contest was about – Reeves was way ahead of Grimek.
Grimek’s posing routine won it for him. John started off with acrobatics and presses from the floor into handstands, that and his muscle control, well, the roof almost caved in from applause he received. But there you are, that is what mass hysteria can do at a muscle contest. Of course, I thought I was the better man in 1950, when Reeves beat me at the 1950 Mr. Universe in London, but that is another story…
IM: Reg, everyone I speak to is impressed with your culture and evident higher education. Just what formal schooling have you had?
Reg: I completed the usual grad school courses and then took two years of specialized study at the Leeds College of Commerce in Business Administration.
IM: How did you juggle going to school full time and training?
Reg: It was difficult at times. I went to school during the day and trained at night. My early training was done in my parent’s back yard. I set up two poles in the ground with a bar across the top for chinning exercises. I had acquired a barbell and a pair of dumbbells and a flat wooden bench that I 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.
IM: When did you enter your first contest?
Reg: My first contest was the Mr. Northeast Britain, in March of 1949, which I easily won securing an invitation to the Mr. Britain contest. In the process, I defeated the 1948 Mr. Britain, Charlie Jarrett.
( Pic above: Reg Park - 1949 )
IM: When did you receive your invitation to the Mr. Britain contest?
Reg: 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; I was in the process of completing my final business administration exams. After I successfully completed all my exams, less than a month was remaining to the Mr. Britain contest.
IM: Were you still training in the garage at that time?
Reg: No, I had joined Henry Atkin’s Viking Gym for the express purpose of training for the Mr. Britain contest. With Henry’s help, I was able to increase my bodyweight from 196 lbs. to 226 lbs. in a month. For the first time in my life, 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.
IM: How well was Henry Atkin’s Gym stocked with equipment?
Reg: Henry 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.
IM: Did all of this extensive training pay off?
Reg: Yes, I 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 me a great deal. * [* Ed Note: Grimek thought Park had the most “Americanized” physique of all the contestants.]
IM: How about your parents? Did they encourage you in your training?
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.
IM: Did you receive any publicity for winning the Mr. Britain in any of the mainstream mags?
Reg: In those days, it was hard to get good publicity for weight training or for bodybuilders. I broke new ground by having a life size double spread of my arms flexed in the “respectable” Picture Port magazine.
IM: What kind of strength feats were you capable of in 1949?
Reg: I regularly benched around 325 and was capable of a correct curl with 175 pounds. In 1949, I met Reub Martin (for the first time) who was touring England in those days with Folies Bergere. It was Reub’s dressing room that I first cleaned and pressed a pair of 100 pound dumbbells – a feat of which I was very proud.
IM: After winning the Mr. Britain contest, did you travel to the United States?
Reg: Yes, it was a gift from my parents for wining the Mr. Britain title. I 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. My first American appearance was at the John Terlazzo show, Jan 27, 1950, at the St. Nicholas Arena, New York. I traveled extensively and although I lost a little weight on the trip, I did learn from the Americans, which was the main reason for my visit. I trained exceptionally hard while in America. I lived for bodybuilding in those days.
IM: On June 24, 1950, the NABBA Mr. Universe takes place in London at the Scala Theater. How did you fare?
Reg: 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.
IM: Did you return to the USA afterwards?
Reg: Yes, after the Mr. Universe contest, I 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. I won the contest with Floyd Page placing second and Alan Stephan taking third. Also competing were Ed Thereault and Alan Paivio. Suddenly, I was making headlines all over the bodybuilding world press.
IM: How did you train during this time?
Reg: I devised a training system that would not tax my endurance too heavily. I began training on a system of five sets of reps for each exercise. I remember that I concentrated on presses behind the neck, bench presses, barbell presses and two arm dumbbell presses. My workouts lasted about an hour and thirty minutes, afterwhich I 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 a week, working the same bodyparts each session.
IM: Who were some of the stronger bodybuilders you trained with?
Reg: Marvin Eder would have to be at the top of the list, at Abe Goldberg’s gym in New York. We 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.
( Pic above: Marvin Eder )
( Pic above: Clancy Ross )
IM: Did you enter the Mr. World contest in Paris, France (October 15, 1950)?
Reg: I was barred from competing in the Mr. World because I 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.
( Pic below: John Farbotnik )
IM: How did you prepare for the 1951 Mr. Universe contest?
Reg: Prior to the Mr. Universe contest in 1951, I worked out three hours every day. Legs one day and upper body the next day. I 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 I returned home to England just one month prior to the contest to put on the finishing touches.
IM: You easily won the 1951 Mr. Universe contest (Sept. 1, 1951) in London. You were the first Englishman to do so. Any comments?
Reg: I was clearly more massive and muscular in 1951 [than the year before] and won with no trouble whatsoever. With less than two years training, I had achieved the top of the bodybuilder ladder. By the way, Joe Weider placed 5th in class I out of twelve competitors. Since I had no more physique titles to strive for, I turned my attention to brute strength.
IM: When did you meet Ben Weider?
Reg: Ben Weider showed up at my parent’s house in 1951 with a Weider contract.
IM: Did you go into business with the Weiders?
Reg: We established the Reg Park Equipment Co. and the Mr. Universe publishing company in England. My father was the business director of the company. [Ed. Note – The 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 December 1952. There were eight issues in the collection.] My father and Joe Weider didn’t see eye to eye in business matters, so the partnership was dissolved. I personally always liked Joe; he was a true bodybuilding enthusiast.
IM: How did the business fare?
Reg: We started a new magazine called “The Reg Park Journal of Physical Culture” in January of 1953; then in January 1954, “The Reg Park Journal.” The last issue was December 1959. Also, during this time, we published a magazine called “Muscleman.” [Ed Note – “Muscleman” was published from Sept. 1952 to Dec. 1953. Three were 16 issues in all.] “The Reg Park Journal” had over 60,000 readers in the 1950’s. 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.
IM: When did you get married?
Reg: I fell in love with a beautiful South African girl, Mareon, and we were married 10/22/52 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mareon is the sister of bodybuilder and film technician Johnny Isaacs, who almost took the Mr. Universe title in 1953.
IM: What about children?
Reg: My daughter, Jeunesse, was born in 1954 and today lives in South Africa with her three children. My son, Jon-Jon, was born in 1957. He lives in Santa Monica with his wife and two children. By the way, Jon-Jon owns the World Private exercise gym in Los Angeles. He can be contacted at (310) 478-1233.
IM: Earlier, you stated that you turned toward power type training after the 1951 Mr. Universe…
Reg: 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.
I hadn’t done any benches for months prior to the USA.
IM: What type of diet did you follow?
Reg: I liked to eat like a king, but only food that was good for me. I ate prodigious amounts of food during the day, but adhered to a very balanced diet with everything in proper proportions. 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. [3. Earle Liederman once wrote in “Iron Man” about the gastronomical indulgences of bodybuilding starts, “Reg Park of England wins a good second to Mac Batchelor with his speed. Once, when dining with Reg, he 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, the piece de resistance, a big dish of ice cream with cake. And all this, mind you, in about ten minutes. Gee! I’ve seen hungry bloodhounds gobble down food, but Reg Park wins a can of fried grasshoppers as second place for amount, and first place for speed.”]
IM: When did you make most of your records and what were they?
Reg: All of my top lifts 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.
I also bench pressed 500 Lbs., April 23, 1954, at around 225 bodyweight at a Health and Strength show in Bristol. I was the first in the UK and second in the world to bench over five hundred. [6. Ed Note – Doug Hepburn ( Pic below ) was the first person in the world to bench 500 pounds on May 28, 1953 at around 285 bodyweight.]
I never cleaned my heavy barbell presses; they were taken off a squat stand. My only regret is that I never attempted a pair of 200 pound dumbbells in the incline or flat bench press. I believe I could have easily done both feats, since I was doing reps with 185. Also, when I made the 258 dumbbell press – A British Professional Heavyweight Record – I had to keep a strict military position, not the looser Olympic style, and I was forced to hold the dumbbells at my shoulders for almost half a minute before I pressed them to satisfy the referee’s demand for a low enough position. The lift was made August 29, 1953, which beat the old record of 235 which was also held by me.
IM: At the Viking Club (10/26/49), I understand that you also tried to repeat Thomas Inch’s three feats of strength.
Reg: 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. [7. The Inch Dumbbell today is owned by David Prowse and is on display at his gym.] 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.
IM: How about a sample routine from the 1950s?
Reg: I didn’t have a favorite workout routine. I have done every routine and every exercise in the book, but like most advanced trainers, I have found what exercises and what routines give me the best results. What is good for one man isn’t necessarily good for somebody else. My bodyweight fluctuated between 230 and 245 during those years. Here is a routine I 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.
I alternated upper and lower body exercises on different days. I worked each muscle group for approximately one half hour. I also practiced forces breathing between sets. I also feel that one must have the right mental attitude when working out. You must drive yourself 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.
IM: What were some of your measurements in the 1950s?
Reg: Ray Beck measured me April 29, 1956 in Vancouver, BC, when I was visiting my aunt and uncle. Weight 230, Height 6′1″, Arm 19″, Calf 18″, Thigh 28″, Chest (normal) 52″, Waist 32″, Wrist 8″, Neck 19″, Forearm (gooseneck) 16″.
IM: Did your bicep ever reach twenty inches cold?
Reg: Yes, I taped 20 inches when I reached 250 bodyweight; which was, by the way, the heaviest I ever weighed. My chest measurement was also 57″ expanded at the time.
IM: Did you ever make any tours of the USA after the 1951 trip?
Reg: I spent the months of March, April and May of 1956, taking tours of America, Hawaii and Canada. One of the highlights of that tour was the big Yarick show, April 21, 1956. I easily cleaned and pressed a pair of 125 pound dumbbells and bench pressed 350 and 400 in strict style followed by 430 for three easy reps. I made a three second pause at the chest on the third rep. Working out with Art Jones at Yarick’s Gym later, I did seated dumbbell curls with a pair of 120 pounders for 6 reps, and 130 for two reps. My best bench of the tour was made in Vancouver, BC, April 28th with 440 at a bodyweight of 230.
IM: When did you decide to leave England for South Africa and why?
Reg: Between the years of 1951 and 1958, I made five or six trips to South Africa and fell in love with the beautiful countryside and climate. My wife and kids were not faring well in Leeds healthwise, so I decided we should move to a warmer climate. We considered Hawaii and California, but eventually settled for South Africa where my wife’s family still lived. We made the move to South Africa in 1958. Reg park, Sr., my father, continued to run the barbell business in Leeds, England. The Reg Park Journal was terminated in December 1959.
IM: What did you plan to do in South Africa?
Reg: I planned to open a bodybuilding studio in SA, then it occurred to me that while my name was well known to health enthusiast and bodybuilders the world over, starting a business in a new country with a seven year old Mr. Universe title was hardly the best way to go – not when you could go out there and win all over again and be the current Mr. Universe.
IM: So what was the plan?
Reg: Two weeks before the 1958 Mr. Universe, I decided to enter the London contest again. I increased all my reps to 10 from five and lost ten pounds of bodyweight.
IM: What was the outcome?
Reg: I was the clear winner of the 1958 Mr. Universe contest. The worthy runner up in the tall men’s class was Bruce Randall of the USA. Bruce, by the way, easily won the professional Mr. Universe contest in the following year. My brother in law, John Isaacs, took the smaller men’s class in the Pro Mr. Universe. Our families were very pleased with the double victory.
IM: Any idea what your measurements were at the 1958 Mr. Universe?
Reg: Height 6′1″, Weight 214, Neck 18, Waist 32, Thigh 26 1/2, Calf 17 1/2, Chest 52, Bicep 18 1/2.
IM: Did your family’s health improve after the move?
Reg: My wife and children’s health improved almost overnight. Also, our business “took off” again, as well.
IM: How did you get involved starring in the movies?
Reg: Toward the end of 1960, my father received correspondence from two film companies located in Paris and Rome respectively, asking if I was interested in film work, to which we replied in the affirmative. I soon received a letter from the Rome Company at my home in Johannesburg asking me to come to Rome by the 12th of December, but due to prior commitments, I was unable to leave for Rome. Since I did not hear anything further, I subsequently left for Cape Town, where one, whilst working out at Issy’s Gym, I received without any preparation, a direct phone call from Rome asking me to be in Rome by December 27 for a film test.
IM: Who handled your business affairs while you were gone?
Reg: I quickly arranged for my colleague Jannie Graff to supervise both the studio and the equipment business in my absence and on December 26, I was winging my way to Rome.
IM: How did the film test go?
Reg: Upon arrival in Rome, the following morning, I was met by an official of the film company, Mr. Ralph Pinto, who promptly booked me into a comfortable hotel and then on to an office where I met the executive producer, Mr. Achille Piazzi. The film test was arranged for Thursday, December 29. I was very nervous, but both the director, Vittorio Cottafavi and an American actor, Burt Nelson, were most helpful and full of beneficial advice which I tried to assimilate. We did two speaking scenes for the test, the funny part was I spoke in English and my counterpart spoke in Italian, it was hard to tell when to start and when to end the conversation.
IM: Did you get an immediate reaction to the test?
Reg: I did not get an immediate reaction from anyone present. My always present confidence was a little upset.
IM: When did you receive the word?
Reg: The screening of the test was arranged for December 30th, but I was a little skeptical about what the reactions of the officials might be. I decided to stay away. Later that same evening, I received a telephone call and was told. “Your test was a success. We want you to appear in the role of Hercules in the film entitled “Hercules Conquers Atlantis.”
IM: When did the actual film shoot start?
Reg: January 23rd, 1961.
IM: How many films did you do in Rome?
Reg: We did a total of five films over a span of two years: Hercules Conquers Atlantis; Hercules in the Center of the Earth; Maciste in King Solomons Mines; Hercules in the Haunted World and Hercules and the Captive Women.
IM: Were you asked to “trim down” for the movies, like it was rumored to have been told to Steve Reeves when he was making the Hercules films?
Reg: Actually, the film directors requested that I should, if possible try and be even bigger. [8. Ed Note – Reg gave the director what he wanted and put on even more muscle to please his public. The result was a series of films, which show an action hero with the greatest living mass of muscle the world had ever seen.
IM: Where did you train?
Reg: I asked and received an Olympic weight set, along with other equipment, which were made available at the studio, so I did not have to travel anywhere to train.
IM: It is true, Reg, that you never watched any of your Hercules films?
Reg: Yes, I went for years until I finally watched them with my grandchildren. The kids think that I am the greatest, especially when lifting all of those heavy objects. My son, Jon-Jon, has all of my movies on video.
IM: How many languages do you speak fluently?
Reg: English, Italian and French. In the 1960’s the upper crust of Italian society spoke French, especially at social functions – hence the need to learn French.
IM: After coming back from Rome to South Africa, were there any changes in business?
Reg: We incorporated separate studios for men and women, judo and karate section, as well as a mail order equipment business, which involved wholesale and retail sales.
IM: Did you continue to do exhibitions?
Reg: My father, who ran the Reg Park Barbell Company in Leeds, arranged a series of exhibitions for me. I especially enjoyed posing at the 1963 Mr. Universe contest where Tom Sansone and Joe Abbenda won their titles. I weighed 235 for the exhibition and received one of the greatest receptions from the audience ever.
IM: How did you prepare for the tour?
Reg: I began working out six mornings a week. Each workout required about two and one half hours to complete. During this time, I eliminated my power training and concentrated more on bodybuilding principles with only moderately heavy weights. I handled lighter weights because power and bulk were not requirements of the tour.
IM: Why did you decide to enter the Mr. Universe contest again in 1965?
Reg: It was good for business, I thought that I would enter every seven years or so until somebody better came along. Another reason was that Reg Park studios sponsored four physique shows in South Africa in July of 1965. We flew Bill Pearl from California to put on a number of exhibitions at these shows. Since I personally was in such good shape at the time, I thought with little shaping up I could do well at the Mr. Universe in September. Also, the audience’s reaction to my and Pearl’s posing routines was outstanding.
IM: I heard the contest was almost won before the professional Mr. Universe even took place. No one seemed anxious to tangle with you.
Reg: I don’t know about that, but the contest went very well for me. I came in at 222 pounds and was extremely well defined. I won the class I title along with the overall Professional Mr. Universe for 1965. I became the first three time NABBA Mr. Universe winner.
IM: How did you train for the contest?
Reg: I trained over two hours in the morning and between 6 and 8 AM on a split routine, doing one section (biceps or triceps) and another body part (deltoids or back) in each period. I usually did twenty sets per bodypart at a fairly rapid rate, seven days a week.
IM: You looked huge. What did you measure?
Reg: Neck 19 1/2, Waist 33, Thigh 28 1/2, Calf 17 3/4, Biceps 19 1/2, Chest (expandable) 54, Just before the contest, I weighed 235 lbs.
IM: What are your views on bodybuilding supplements?
Reg: In my opinion, supplements over and above healthy natural food are a must and it is my belief that the older one gets, the more important and necessary they become. Youthful cells and tissue can only be maintained by adequate nutrition and such nourishment is obtained and assured from daily consumption of supplements that are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals.
IM: When did you first visit York, PA?
Reg: On February 10, 1967. We had a wonderful time and met most of the York gang, including Bob Hoffman, John Grimek, Jules Bacon, Bill Starr, Steve Stanko, Tony Garcy and Bob Bednarski among others. I trained at the York Gym. By the way, I tipped beam at 247 pounds while at York. I would have liked to stay at York for a couple of days, but due to our tight schedule we were forced to leave the following day.
IM: A new physique made an appearance at the 1966 Mr. Universe in London, namely Arnold Schwarzenegger. What were your impressions of him?
Reg: I thought he would become the greatest of all time. His calves were not full developed yet, but I figured in two years time he would wipe the floor with all the available competitors, including Sergio Oliva. Arnold came back in 1967 and won the NABBA Amateur Mr. Universe contest very easily. Of course, he went on to win three more NABBA Professional Mr. Universe contests in London (1968-69-70).
IM: In 1970 you entered the NABBA Mr. Universe in London and did quite well…
Reg: 1970 was kind of a missed year. I was very busy with my business. We opened three more gyms and I was too busy to train properly. I placed second to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Tall Men’s Class and I defeated Dave Draper who placed a close third. Arnold went on to win the overall Professional Mr. Universe. I must say that Arnold looked fantastic and was the better man on that day.
IM: What did you do different for the 1971 Mr. Universe contest?
Reg: Bill Pearl announced his intentions of entering the 1971 Mr. Universe along with Arnold and Oliva, so I wanted to be in my best condition. I decided to experiment with my physique and erroneously reduced my bodyweight to 216 pounds. This proved to be my downfall, because my two main competitors, Pearl and Oliva, both were over 230 pounds (Arnold did not enter). I placed third in class I, which was won by Bill Pearl with Oliva coming in second. Pearl went on to win the 1971 Overall Professional Mr. Universe.
IM: Did you enter any more Mr. Universe contests?
Reg: Yes. In 1973, I entered the NABBA Professional Mr. Universe. I came in second in Class I behind Dennis Tinerino. Boyer Coe (Class II) was the overall winner. After that, I retired from all physique competitions.
IM: What type of routines did you use in 1973?
Reg: I trained six days a week, around 2 hours per workout, two body parts daily.
- – Seated High Incline Dumbbell Press 5 Sets, 5 Reps
- – Seated High Incline Dumbbell Press 5 Sets, 5 Reps
- – Lying Face Down on Bench Lateral 5 Sets, 8 Reps
- – Pulley Pushdowns 5 Sets, 8 Reps
- – Lying Tricep Z-Bar Extensions 5 Sets, 8 Reps
- – Decline Z-Bar Tricep Extensions 5 Sets, 8 Reps
- – Lying Face Down on Bench Pulley Push Out 5 Sets, 8 Reps
- – Standing Extensions with Floor Pulley 5 Sets, 8 Reps
- – Chins 5 Sets, 8 Reps
- – Seated Pulley Pulldowns Behind Neck 5 Sets, 8-10 Reps
- – Seated Pulley Pull-Ins to Waist 5 Sets, 10 Reps
- – Seated Pulley with floor Pulley 5 Sets, 8 Reps
- – One Arm Seated Dumbbell Curls 5 Sets, 8 Reps
- – Preacher Curls 5 Sets, 8 Reps
- – Lying Flat On Bench Curls 5 Sets, 8 Reps
- – Incline Dumbbell Curls 5 Sets, 8 Reps
- – Leg Press 5 Sets, 5 Reps
- – Hack Squat with Machine 5 Sets, 8 Reps
- – Hack Squat with weight on belt Behind Back 5 Sets, 8 Reps
- – Standing Calf Raise 5 Sets, 20 reps
- – Seated Calf Raises 5 Sets, 20 Reps
- – Leg Raised hanging from Chinning Bar
- – Ordinary Leg Raises
- – Leg Raises on High Bench
- – Twists on a Swivel Machine
- – (All of the above exercises were 3-5 Sets of 30-40 reps.)
IM: How do you train today?
Reg: I train six to seven days per week for about 1 1/4 hours in the early morning, usually between 6-8 AM. I still weigh around 225 pounds.
IM: If you were starting over again, would you make any changes?
Reg: I would aim to be number one and even with today’s physiques, I know that I could beat them all without drugs.
IM: What is your opinion of the current trend of drug taking, especially in bodybuilding?
Reg: I think that those who sell drugs to young bodybuilders, especially female bodybuilders should be jailed for life and the key should be thrown away. Youngsters who are taking drugs are advised to stop at once. The full effects are not known, but those that are, and the deaths that have resulted should say enough. It is not only the quality of the mind and body at age twenty that you should consider, but also how you’ll function at seventy-five. I feel very sorry for the present generation of bodybuilders today because the athleticism is secondary, nutrition is tertiary and chemistry is everything.
IM: If you could give just one piece of advice to newcomers, what would it be?
Reg: Enjoy your training, enjoy your life. Pick a good partner, not just for training, but for life.
SOME AMERICAN MUSCLE MAG COVERS REG PARK APPEARED ON:
- – Your Physique – July 1950, Jan. 1951, Oct. 1951, July 1952
- – Muscle Power – Sept. 1950, July 1951, June 1952, April 1953, Aug. 1954, Oct. 1956
- – Muscle Builder – Sept. 1953, Jan. 1954
- – Ironman – Aug./Sept. 1950, March 1958
- – Muscle Training Illustrated – Nov. 1965, Jan. 1973
- – Muscular Development – Aug. 1972, May 1973
- – Physical Power – July/Aug. 1963
BULLETINS AND BOOKLETS PUBLISHED BY REG PARK:
- – Shoulder Developing Bulletin
- – My Waist Developing Bulletin
- – My Calf Developing Bulletin
- – The Reg Park System of Cable Training
- – The Reg Park Neck Specialization Course
- – My Definition Bulletin
- – My Back Developing Bulletin
- – My Bulk Developing Bulletin
- – My Chest and Arm Bulletins
- – My Leg Developing Course
- – The Science of Dumb-Bell Training
Reg’s son, Jon-Jon, has reprinted the “Bulk Developing Bulletin.”
( Pic above: Reg Park and his son Jon Jon Park )
Look for an ad in this issue. Reg is also writing a course on how he trains today and his philosophy on bodybuilding. It is due out sometime this summer, 1997. A video is also in the works regarding Reg’s training – Ed.