Reg Park revolutionized the sport of bodybuilding. Learn who Reg Park was, how he impacted bodybuilding, and what the workouts he wrote looked like!
Workout Summary
  • Main Goal
    Build Muscle
  • Workout Type
    Full Body
  • Training Level
  • Program Duration36 weeks
  • Days Per Week
  • Time Per Workout120 minutes
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Bodyweight
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Recommended Supps
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

Workout Description

While it’s not completely undisputed, the vast majority of bodybuilding fans consider Arnold Schwarzenegger the biggest and greatest star in the history of the sport.

His influence ranges from the stage to Hollywood and eventually into the world of politics. He’s inspired millions of people globally to train, act, and commit to the greater good.

While Arnold is due and receives a lot of the credit, there is someone else who doesn’t get quite as much recognition but is certainly worthy of it in his own right.

He might not be the one who did everything that “The Governator” has, but he is the man who influenced and mentored him.

He’s the man who inspired the man. And that man is Reg Park.

Who Was Reg Park?

Roy “Reg” Park was born in England on June 7, 1928. Early on in his life, soccer was his passion and his skills eventually led him to being a reserve on the Leeds United. Around the age of 16 he met David Cohen who was considered a local “muscleman”. Upon learning that Cohen trained with weights, Park decided to try lifting for himself.

Once he joined the British military he became a physical training instructor while stationed in Singapore. Upon his release from his military commitments he witnessed his first bodybuilding show which was the inaugural Mr. Universe contest.

Watching the great John Grimek edge out fellow bodybuilding legend Steve Reeves is what inspired Park to compete himself.

Reg Park's Success in Bodybuilding

Park’s effort in the gym would eventually lead him to competing in the Mr. Britain in 1946 where he placed 4th and winning the competition in 1949. After this showing, he traveled to the United States for six months where he met and worked briefly with Joe Weider. Weider would feature Park prominently in his muscle magazines which led Park to receiving a lot of attention.

The next year Park would jump in the 1950 NABBA Amateur Mr. Universe, the contest that inspired him to compete in the beginning. Park would finish second to Reeves. Park would need one more year before achieving his goal. In 1951, Park became the first non-American to win the Amateur Universe title.

His potential was maximized when he reached a bodyweight of 250 pounds at a height of 6’1”. Size and shape like his was unmatched and when he entered the 1958 Pro Mr. Universe contest, his winning was a foregone conclusion. He would win the title again in 1965. Park’s final contest was the 1973 Mr. Universe where he would finish as the runner up.

Reg Park’s Strength was Unrivaled

Park’s physique wasn’t just great by bodybuilding standards in his day. He was also known for his phenomenal strength.

Park is considered the second man in history to bench press 500 pounds. Although he wasn’t known for powerlifting, he was renowned by many people who trained for how strong he was in the gym.

Reg Park as an Actor

In between his competitions, Park acted in a few different movies in Italy in the role of Hercules. His work not only earned him acclaim in Italy but around the world as well. Park’s work in film is considered one of the many reasons Arnold looked up to him.

Park is also in a popular movie with Arnold, in a role that not many people know about. Park served as the host of the 1975 Olympia and Universe competitions in Pretoria, South Africa which was the contest covered in Pumping Iron. Park announces Arnold as the winner of the contest and references him as “the greatest”.

How Reg Park Influenced the Bodybuilding Universe

Schwarzenegger and Park met in the 1960’s in London at the gym of Arnold’s first trainer, Wag Bennett. After their chance encounter, Park would eventually see Arnold again over the years and became a mentor for him. They would go on to compete against each other in the Universe competitions where Schwarzenegger would defeat Park who was now past his prime but still a worthy challenger.

Park helped Schwarzenegger realize his potential by sharing ways to help him improve his weaknesses. One known example is how he convinced Arnold that he should be using a lot more weight to bring up his calves.

Park pointed out that Arnold weighed almost 250 pounds so each leg supported that weight when he walked. That meant his calves together could easily handle 500 pounds. Arnold eventually would work his way up to doing 1,000 pound standing calf raises. By the end of his bodybuilding career, one of his weaknesses became a strength.

Park would mentor Arnold throughout his career in bodybuilding, acting, and even in politics. He would live out the rest of his life in South Africa where he trained people and raised his family. He passed away on November 22, 2007 after battling melanoma for eight months with his family by his side. Before his passing, Schwarzenegger honored Park as a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2007 Arnold Classic.

Reg Park’s 5x5 Workout Program

The classic 5x5 routine has been used for generations in weight rooms everywhere. While Park wasn’t considered the first bodybuilder to train with the 5 sets of 5 reps plan, he was considered the most famous advocate for the system at the time he was doing so and promoted it in his writing.

In his manual “Strength and Bulk Training for Weight Lifters and Bodybuilders”, Park wrote that he started with one exercise for three sets of ten reps to prepare for the other movements. He would use the first two sets as warm-up sets and build up to a weight that he used for the last three sets of five reps.

Park rested for three to five minutes between the work sets to fully recover and maximize his strength. He advocated this for lifters he trained as well. Once you were able to use the same weight on any exercises for the last three sets of five, you were to add weight.

He had three phases of his version of the 5x5 plan. Phase 1 was for beginners that were new to lifting weights and is your basic big three of squat, bench, and deadlift. Beginners would train under this plan three days a week for three months.

Reg Park’s 5x5 Plan Phase 1

Exercise Sets Reps
1. 45 Degree Back Extension 3 10
2. Squat 5 5
3. Bench Press 5 5
4. Deadlift 5 5

Upon graduation from this level, Park would add more movements and incorporated calves for bodybuilding purposes. Phase 2 training was also meant to be done three days a week for three more months.

Reg Park’s 5x5 Plan Phase 2

Exercise Sets Reps
1. 45 Degree Back Extension 3 10
2. Front Squat 5 5
3. Squat 5 5
4. Bench Press 5 5
5. Overhead Press 5 5
6. Rack Pull 5 5
7. Deadlift 5 5
8. Standing Barbell Calf Raise 5 25

As you advance past this stage you went into his final level which was Phase 3. There were more and different exercises at this point including those specifically for muscle groups like biceps and triceps.

Reg Park’s 5x5 Plan Phase 3

Exercise Sets Reps
1. 45 Degree Back Extension 3 10
2. Front Squat 5 5
3. Squat 5 5
4. Bench Press 5 5
5. Overhead Press 5 5
6. Bent Over Row 5 5
7. Deadlift 5 5
8. Behind the Neck Shoulder Press 5 5
9. Barbell Curl 5 5
10. Lying Tricep Extension 5 8
11. Standing Barbell Calf Raise 5 25

Note that the lying triceps extension is for five sets of eight reps instead of five. Park felt that the triceps could benefit from the extra reps which is why this was different than the other exercises. Park also recommended decreasing the rest period from three minutes to two to help improve endurance and stamina.


If you were to follow Park’s plan, these workouts would take two hours and sometimes longer. This was the standard for his day.

If you want to try these but can’t commit to that amount of time, shorten the rest periods to around one minute. Just keep in mind your strength levels might be altered.

Jack Cincotta
Posted on: Tue, 01/22/2019 - 17:50

Great post, but I think that natural lifters would not be able to perform this many exercises in a given workout at full intensity. Especially three times per week. Phase one would be fine, but lifters would probably be better off dividing phase 3 for example into at least two or three separate days.

Shaun Clifford
Posted on: Tue, 06/12/2018 - 09:14

I think the 2nd phase is supposed to be high pull, not rack pull. Great article though. Big fan of Reg Park.

Marcello Sessa
Posted on: Sat, 01/12/2019 - 13:31

Ok, I thought the same thing,.. The rack pull should take the place of a deadlift, not be combined, (at least that's what I've come across in other tutorial s) correct?