Building High-Performance Muscle™

The Reg Park Way To Serious Size And Strength


Reg Park

If your goal is to develop a powerful physique that is every bit as strong as it looks, you can't do much better than to follow the example of three time Mr. Universe, Reg Park. Arnold Schwarzenegger often refers to Reg Park as his childhood idol and the greatest inspiration and influence on his own bodybuilding and life successes.

In this article we'll take a closer look at Reg's training philosophy and cover his very popular and highly effective 5x5 program as well. Even if you don't care about getting bigger, if you want to develop a lean and strong physique, Reg is the man to emulate.


Rule #1: If you want to get bigger, then get stronger

Many people training today separate hypertrophy training from strength training. They think that when focusing on getting bigger, one should focus on the muscle not how much weight one is using. This explains why today's bodybuilders are nowhere near as strong as the old school bodybuilders like Reg Park.

Reg didn't separate strength training from bodybuilding. He believed that in order to get bigger, you must get stronger. Heavy weight training equals more recruited muscle fibers, which equals more muscular growth. The only difference, says Reg, is that the pure strength trainer shouldn't increase caloric intake to avoid putting on size, while the bodybuilder should ramp up high quality nutrition in order to pack on more size.


Rule #2: Focus on compound movements

Reg believed in spending time on exercises that produce the maximum return. The cornerstone of his training was a healthy diet of squats, deadlifts, and bench presses, which he called the primary strength exercises. Secondary or supplementary exercises were cleans, high pulls, and clean and presses.

Personally, I'd replace the bench press with the standing military press, and throw in some pull-ups or bent over rows to balance the upper body. Regardless, Reg knew what he was doing, and had the results to back it up. Most trainees won't go wrong with a focus on the three primary lifts. Once you get your bench up to 300 pounds, and your squat and deadlift up to 400 pounds, you'll notice a big difference in how your physique looks.

muscles

The result of a healthy diet of squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.

If you don't want to get bigger, just keep your calories in check. For most trainees, worrying about getting too big is like worrying about making too much money. There are better problems to focus your attention on. Build a strong foundation on the three primary exercises, then add some supplementary exercises to round out your program and keep progress coming.


Rule #3 Don't let your lower back hold you back

If you've ever had a lower back injury, you know how important the lower back is to overall strength and power. We generate a lot of power from our backs and just because we can't see it in the mirror doesn't mean that it's not important.

Many trainees avoid doing any direct lower back work, because they don't want to strain their back. Then, ironically, they get lower back pains. The bottom line is if you have a weak back, you have a weak body. To avoid lower back pain and to build a strong and powerful physique, Reg believed that all training should include prone hyperextensions to keep the lower back strong and healthy.

Most gyms have hyperextension equipment, and if you're lucky your gym has Louie Simmons' reverse hyper machine. Start with a couple sets of ten with your bodyweight and then start adding weight. Progress slowly and carefully. You're not trying to set a PR on the hyperextension by seeing how much weight you can use for one rep, you're using it as a preventive measure to avoid lower back injuries and keep your back strong and healthy.

hyperextension machine

The Louie Simmons reverse hyperextension machine

After a few weeks of lower back work, don't be surprised if you notice a strength increase on overhead presses, deadlifts, and squats. Especially if you haven't done any direct lower back before.


Rule 4: Confidence is critical for increased size and strength

According to Reg, an effective training program focuses on increasing confidence. You should feel strong, empowered, and ready to take on the world after each workout. If you feel weak and defeated, then you're doing something wrong.

Imagine having a job in which you progressively work harder each month to make the same amount of money. Most people would find this absurd, and change jobs. Working smart means making more money for the same amount of effort, or better yet, working less and making more.

Training is no different. Rather than going overboard and burning out, focus on the minimum training dose that'll produce the maximum result. You can always add more if necessary.

Reg also believed that training to failure too often is a big mistake. If you train to failure too often, and miss a lot of lifts, your confidence will plummet, and so will your strength and size. Gradual progression is the way to go rather than having the illusion that strength and size will come in leaps and bounds. Have a long-term approach and enjoy the process.


Rule 5: You must know yourself to get the most out of training

Reg was a big believer in self-analysis. You must take the time to find out who you are, and what you're capable of. He stated that if you worry a lot, then you'll find great benefit from training, as it'll help remove stress, and help you get a better handle on your life. You learn a lot about yourself through training that can help you in other areas of your life.

Trainees who make the mistake of compartmentalizing their training lives from the rest of their lives miss out on these lessons. We learn the power of discipline, perseverance, patience, and hard work from training. Carry over these skills into your business or job, and you'll benefit tremendously.

If you're strong in the gym but weak in your personal and professional life, then you're weak overall. Carry over what you've learned from effective training to other areas of your life and you'll experience the full benefits of training.


Rule 6: Layoffs and restoration are critical

We live in a workaholic society, in which we think that more is better across the board. We feel it's critical to work longer hours to get ahead and make more money, thinking that we will be much happier only to want more after we make more.

Many serious trainees take this workaholic mentality into the training realm, not only training far too often, but also not recovering enough. The idea of taking an entire week off would be unthinkable to them. Regardless, training must be balanced with adequate recovery.

Reg believed that layoffs are important to build up reserves, and to allow the body to rest. Moreover, when you take some time away from training you can't wait to get back at it and have a renewed enthusiasm to push forward. Just as it is beneficial to take time off from work and enjoy a vacation it is critical to take a training vacation periodically.

When you take a layoff, don't even think about training. Immerse yourself in other activities and enjoy the time away from working out. Don't read training books and magazines all day and analyze your workouts. A mental break is just as important as a physical break.

Get a relaxation massage at the beginning of your layoff. Many trainees always ask for a deep tissue massage no matter what, but this generic approach isn't the way to go. Find a high quality bodyworker who can give you a personalized massage based on the state you're in. He or she will know what you need.


Rule 7: Start reaping the benefits of the 5x5 program

Most people think they know all about the 5x5 program, Reg's favorite strategy for packing on strength and size. Just pick a weight and use it for five sets. When you can do five reps on all five sets, add weight. Don't increase the weight until you can do five reps for all five sets. This allows for a gradual progression and an avoidance of burning out. Simple, right? Yes, but this isn't the 5x5 version that Reg used and recommended.

In Reg's 5x5 program, the first two sets are warm-ups, and the last three are the primary work sets. For example, if you're using 200 pounds for the primary sets on the military press, it would look like this: 160 x 5, 180 x 5, 200 x 3 x 5. When you can use 200 pounds for the last three sets of five, increase the poundage by five pounds on all five sets to take it to 165 x 5, 185 x 5, 205 x 3x5. Reg referred to the three primary sets as the stabilizer sets.

When you can do a given weight for three sets of five, you've locked that weight in, and are ready to move up. You can start with lighter weights for the first two warm-up sets, but make sure the poundage jumps from the first to the second set and from the second to the third set are the same. The first two sets are confidence-builders. Thus, if you feel tired on the first confidence-building sets, do one or two more to build up reassurance to attack the three primary sets.

Unlike many of today's bodybuilders that take very short breaks in between each set, Reg recommended 3-5 minute breaks to recover fully from each set. Also, focus on using as much weight as possible for each set, to acquire the greatest return on your effort.

hercules


Reg Park-Inspired 5x5 Programs

Option 1: (Two sessions per week, for busy people or trainees with poor recovery)

Monday

Hyperextensions 3x10 (one minute breaks)

Take two-minute breaks in between each set of A1 and A2. Go back and forth until all of the sets have been completed.

Barbell squat 5x5 (three minute breaks in between each set)

Thursday

Hyperextensions 3x10 (one minute breaks)

Take two-minute breaks in between each set of A1 and A2. Go back and forth until all of the sets have been completed.

Barbell deadlift 5x5 (three minute breaks in between each set)


Option 2:
(three sessions per week, for trainees who have more time and adequate recovery)

Monday

Hyperextensions 3x10 (one minute breaks)

Take two-minute breaks in between each set of A1 and A2. Go back and forth until all of the sets have been completed.

Barbell squat 5x5 (three minute breaks in between each set)

Wednesday

Hyperextensions 3x10 (one minute breaks)

Take two-minute breaks in between each set of A1 and A2. Repeat until all of the sets have been completed.

Barbell deadlift 5x5 (three minute breaks in between each set)

Friday

Hyperextensions 3x10 (one minute breaks)

Take two-minute breaks in between each set of A1 and A2. Repeat until all of the sets have been completed.

Barbell squat 5x5 (three minute breaks in between each set)


Option 3:
(3x per week for advanced trainees who have great recovery abilities)

Monday

Hyperextensions 3x10 (one minute breaks)

Wednesday

Hyperextensions 3x10 (one minute breaks)

Friday

Hyperextensions 3x10 (one minute breaks)

Take one-minute breaks in between each exercise and three-minute breaks in between each set.

For more information on Reg Park, check out his booklet Strength and Bulk Training for Weightlifters and Bodybuilders, available at Super Strength Training. Also, check out the official Reg Park website.


About the author

Mike Mahler

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