Here is an early photo of Steve Reeves in his teens. Steve Reeves didn’t find bodybuilding, bodybuilding found Steve Reeves. What is meant by that is, that by age 15, Reeves already looked like a physique champion. Reeves would have already had people commenting on his build and associating him with being a bodybuilder. His frame is excellent and overall development is just a smaller version of his Mr. Universe physique. All the elements are already there. He didn’t have to be concerned about bringing up his calves or adding a peak to his biceps or losing body fat or, gee, if I only looked like a movie star. He already arrived. If a bodybuilding publication at the time saw this photo they would want to publish the picture and follow his progress because, who else looked like that? So, Reeves was just being Reeves, the bodybuilding industry sought him out because he provided a direction to go in.
It was the same with his movie career. The industry sought Reeves out. He had the look. It was the Italian movie industry that catapulted Reeves to international stardom. In the late 1950s, the Italians started mass producing epic historical movies like Morgan the Pirate and heroic mythology films like Hercules. Reeves was the original bodybuilder slash actor a couple decades before Arnold Schwarzenegger became a household name.
There has been debate as to whether or not Steve Reeves enhanced his physique chemically, but if you look at these photos of Reeves, attributed to have been taken of him when he was fifteen years old, it is not that much of a stretch to imagine him getting big enough naturally, especially in the 1940s, to win a contest in a few years, which he did when he entered the AAU Mister Pacific Coast contest in 1946 at 19 years of age.
One thing that really adds to Reeve’s wide-shouldered appearance is the width of his chest. In some poses, the base of Reeves’ chest appears almost horizontal from the sternum all the way out to the muscle’s insertion in the upper part of the humerus. This may not be a unique attribute of Steve Reeves but examples of others with such a squareness to the chest do not easily come to mind. Larry Scott, Sergio Oliva, and Arnold Schwarzenegger ushered in the round, almost boobish, pectoral muscles. This may have been inevitable with dianabol becoming much more available by the mid-1960s. Here is an early photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger looking more Reeves-ish, without the round hanging pecs. Schwarzenegger was an extreme responder to supplements and his pectoral muscles were the first to blow up when he was on. This photo gives us a better look at how Schwarzenegger may have looked without the aid of certain ergogenics, or at least without higher dosages. Zane, on the other hand, avoided the round pecs, perhaps partially due to his genetic structure, partially in response, or lack thereof, to supplements, or possibly his upper and outer chest training methods as opposed to reliance on bench presses and flys.
Back to Reeves. Here’s a couple of younger photos of Reeves. If you look at these photos of him attributed to from around age 15 to 16, you can’t find an image where he doesn’t look like the later Reeves. You can find earlier photos of Larry Scott, Nasser Sonbaty, Samir Bannout, and others where, if you cover their heads, you may not be able to associate them with what they later became if you weren’t familiar with their before picture but Reeves always looked like Reeves. That’s not to say that the others didn’t have great bodybuilding potential, because they obviously did. It’s just that Reeves had all the elements in place from the very start. The others needed the size to become complete but Reeves had that rare signature great structure very evident from his earliest photos. Take a few seconds to see more examples of Reeves before his first contest. We’ll have more on Steve Reeves in the near future.