Reg Park – The Real Hercules

Reg Park Hercules

Reg park is renowned as one of the best natural bodybuilders of all time. He was a mentor to the great Arnold Schwarzenegger and is the first bodybuilder on record to bench 500 pounds (you can see the video here). Although he is primarily known as a bodybuilder his training principles and lifts would rival many powerlifters today, so I feel it is important to educate fellow weightlifters on the one formally known as Hercules.

“training is like life, you get your ups your downs, but if you think about your problems hard enough and logically enough, you’ll either solve them or reach a compromise.”
-reg park

reg park dumbell curl

Reg Parks philosophy behind bodybuilding was really simple, if you want to get bigger you have to get stronger. Heavy strength training leads to more recruited muscle fibers, which in turn leads to more growth. Reg was quoted as saying the only difference between a strength trainer and a bodybuilder is the amount of food they eat. The bodybuilder should increase caloric intake to add more muscle mass while the strength trainer, or powerlifter, shouldn’t eat so much to avoid unnecessary weight.

Confidence is another one of reg parks tools for increasing both strength and size, but frankly, it’s underrated in todays world of training principles. A training program should include this principle as much as should include lifting weights. After a workout you should feel like a force to be reckoned with, confidence should be oozing out of your ears and have you counting down until your next gym session. Unfortunately most programs have you dreading the days workout, most likely because you failed a set that you where suppose to complete last workout. Reg is a believer in progressing gradually to keep your confidence up and also warns to avoid training to failure to often. Training to failure to often can lead into a vicious circle of failing lifts. which leads to depression, no confidence, and worst of all, no progress. Remember, weightlifting should relieve some stress of your daily life, not add fuel to the fire. Another key principle is adequate recovery which is a part of every program, but you should not only take a break physically but mentally as well. Weights are just as much mental as physical if not more. Don’t even think about lifting when you’re taking time off just enjoy some other activities and return to the gym 100% and mentally focused.

Reg Park Dumbell Press

“Far too many bodybuilders spend too much time exercising the smaller muscle groups such as the biceps at the expense of the larger muscle groups such as the thighs, and then they wonder why it is that they never make gains in overall size and strength. I believe that from a bodybuilding point of view only physiques which have been developed by strength principles will bear the true characteristics of a champion physique, these characteristics in my opinion being maximum muscular size with definition and strength in proportion to one’s size as, for example, possessed by Grimek, Eder, Dellinger, Brenner, Robert, Peals and McShane, all of whom are not only champion bodybuilders but also extremely powerful men”.

Reg Park used a 5×5 program but it differs from typical 5×5 programs in a few ways, one being all five sets are not working sets. The first two sets are warm-up sets, or confidence builders, while the last three sets are working sets. For example if you’re using 250 pounds for working sets on the bench press it would look something like this: 210×5, 230×5, 250x3x5. When you can do all the reps on the last three sets you are ready to up the weight five pounds on each set, so it would look like: 215×5, 235×5, 255x3x5. Reg also recommends to take anywhere from three to five minute resting periods between each set to ensure you recover fully and can use maximum poundage.

Add these principles to your training regimen and see how it does for you. It’s a nice break from high volume routines like Smolov and can help pack on some muscle mass if that’s what you’re looking for, all you need to do is tweak your diet. For beginners below is reg parks split that he and Arnold both used and had great success with in terms of building strength, power, and mass.

Workout A

Exercise Sets Reps
Back Squats 5 5
Chin-Ups or Pull-Ups 5 5
Bench Press 5 5
Forearm curls 2 10
Calve raises 2 15-20

Workout B

Note:(For deadlifts do 2 warm-up sets and 1 “stabilizer set”.)

Exercise Sets Reps
Front Squats 5 5
Rows 5 5
Standing Press 5 5
Deadlifts 3 5
Forearm curls 2 10
Calve raises 2 15-20

You should rotate the workouts every time and only lift three times a week. The beginners programming is very similar to that of starting strength. You can workout whichever days of the week you want as long as two days of workouts are never back to back.

Week 1: A, B, A
Week 2: B, A, B
Week 3: A, B, etc

Power Training Split: Schedule 1

Note:(Perform 3x/week for 5 weeks before continuing onto Schedule 2.)

Exercise Sets Reps
Back Squats 5 5
Bench Press 5 5
Power Clean 8 2
Standing Press 5 5
Barbell curls 3 5
Deadlift 5 1

After the three sets of strict curls add 20-30lbs on and do two sets of five reps with cheat curls. Also the deadlift is not five sets of your max, it’s working up to a top weight and is for more experienced lifters. Also note it is only done on day 3 or once a week. Beginners should stick to one set of five repetitions for the deadlift.

Schedule 2

Note:(To be performed 3x/week for 5 weeks.)

Exercise Sets Reps
Front Squats 5 5
Clean and Press 5 2
Shrugs 5 5
Dips 5 8
Dumbbell curls 5 5
Deadlift 5 1

Keep the same methods with the deadlift as schedule one. Also for clean and press warm up with two sets of two and then after the work sets you have the option to perform two more sets of three push jerks. After the five weeks are up you can choose a different program or repeat it by starting over with schedule one.

reg park
reg park flexing

Remember that weightlifting is about learning what works for you. Try new things and see how they work out for you. These methods may not work as well as other routines, but you have to try them out to know for sure. Weightlifting is like an all you can eat buffet with all these routines and principles just waiting to be sampled. Add a slice of reg parks routine to your plate and see how well you like it, if not; there are plenty of other routines at your disposal.

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18 thoughts on “Reg Park – The Real Hercules”

    1. you need., July 29, 1998 By A Customer This reveiw is from: Strength Training Past 50 provides the information you need to get started with a strength training program, including -* Reasons why you should strength train (this section is a great motivator).* What equipment to buy (if you’re doing it a home).* Which exercises to perform. (This is the largest section. It has a two-page spread format: on the left, instructions for performing the exercises, on the right, photos of ordinary-looking people doing the exercises. It includes techniques using both free weights and machines.)* Building an effective program. (This section answered one of my questions: how to determine when to increase weights and how to do it.)You can read this book in one sitting. (I skipped the eating for strength chapter.)The photos show people using fancy Nautilus machines, which are a far cry from the equipment I use at my down-at-the-heels gym. Unless you have access to the machines pictured, you’ll probabl! y need someone at your gym to show you comparable equipment and exercises to do.All in all a good reference book for strength training. I recommend it. (I’m 62.)

  1. hello ive been taking weightlifting seriously now for a year and half but only done 3×10 training. im happy with the progress i have made. ive got a good body but just not seriously big and strong and wanted to try some strength training. My question is should i start with a beginner strenght programm or something else? i was just not really sure because im not really a beginner to weightlifting but have not done strenght training. What do you recommend?

    1. You could do starting strength if you’re unsure of how you’d react to a more advanced program. The beginner split that reg used should work well for you also.

    2. Highly recommend looking at…..I’ve used and studied a lot of different approaches over the last 20 years and this is a great way to get strong quickly.

  2. Great post!

    I am curious though, with the power-training split could you use schedule 1 routine on monday and tuesday, and use schedule 2 on friday? Keeping the deadlift only on friday. This would help keep motivated with a little variation each friday!


  3. Great post man, highly admire Reg Park. How long should one do the A and B workouts before moving onto the split routines?

  4. Hey Big guy i weigh 150 lbs. I have been doing body building for 16 months. I normally do dead lifts using 264 lbs, bench press with 145 lbs & squats 176 lbs. The power cleans how much should i use on it as a beginner

  5. I’m looking to get some original Reg Park and George Grosse weights, bars and stands.

    They date back about 60yrs stamped with their names, I remember them from when I was a kid. Where can I access them ? How much likely to pay?


  6. 3/8/14

    Isn’t 210 X 5 reps (85% of your 250) very high to warm-up with in the bench press and other than the military or incline press, what would be an alternative to the “off” bench press day? Likewise, could you bench press three times per week without burning out and if so, based on a working sets bench press of 250, what would your poundages look like including warm-ups.

  7. I’ve been bodybuilding for about 6-7 months now and I’ve had really good progress and have had some noticeable gains . Mostly just isolatiing muscle groups like chest one day and then back then shoulder etc with a mixture of compound and isolation exercises. I’m worried that if I switch to reg parks routine I’ll lose a bit of mass. What do you think?

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