Steve Reeves Fingertip Deadlift

4. Back hinge deadlift - On this "stand out" spinal erector muscle developer exercise Richard used an Olympic barbell which he centered on the end of a stable low flat exercise bench (or sturdy wooden box). Next he would stand at the exact end of the bench. He then leaned forward from his hips, pushing them rearward. Then with knuckles forward (false grip) took a wide hand placement (outside of shoulder width) on the bar. With the knees in a locked position (if his hamstrings were somewhat tight he would use a soft knee lock), arms locked straight at the elbow joints.

Simultaneously he contracted the muscles of his hamstrings, buttocks and lower back as he slowly stood up (pushing his hips forward) to a vertical position at which point he rotated his shoulders back and thrusts his chest out. While keeping a slight arch in the lower spine he would begin the next rep leaning forward, lowering the bar until his upper torso was at least parallel to the flat bench surface.

If his spine position began to be compromised (or rounded) he would stop the downward movement at that point (usually around the mid shin area). Most generally though he would make an effort to lower the bar to the feet so that it just touches them.

At first glance this famous lower back exercise (which Richard learned about from bodybuilding historian Charles A. Smith) would appear to be a version of the Stiff-legged deadlift while standing on a bench but there is a certain subtle technique that makes it slightly different.

As Richard would begin to pull the weight he didn't ALLOW THE BAR TO HANG AWAY FROM THE BODY. HE KEPT IT (the bar) IN CONTACT WITH HIS LEGS ALL THE WAY TO UPRIGHT POSTION. Richard said that even comparatively light weights in this exercise build up POWER. A bodybuilder who can use a 150 pounds in the manner described is indeed powerful.

One other unique deadlift variation he implemented in other workouts aside from the special 21 day program espoused in this e-report was what he called snatch-grip deadlifts (a favorite of the late Steve Reeves). He would load up a seven foot Olympic bar with a few hundred pounds of heavy iron. Now this is where it gets interesting. Instead of grabbing the bar he would instead grasp the lip edge of the 45-pound plates with only his fingers and do the deadlifts in this manner. (A picture is worth a "thousand words" as it applies to the two exercises mentioned. Here is a photo showing the late Steve Reeves of Hercules fame doing Snatch-grip deadlifts and an illustration of the Back hinge deadlift)

Snatch-grip deadlift Back hinge deadlift

With regard to the Back hinge deadlift Richard would do one set each of 20, 12, 8, 4, 1, 5, 10 and 15 reps within any of the deadlift executions mentioned

5. Donkey calf raise - Richard would do this exercise on a Rheo H. Blair wood calf block.

The block is six inches in height and allows for non interference of the stretching at the bottom of the movement. The ultimate in stretching is achieved because the block has a rounded edge and is completely covered with a 1/2" thick rubber foam and a 1/8" thick piece of ribbed rubber on top of that. This allows a bodybuilder to really grab hold of the surface with the toes and balls of the feet (without pain) and go into the calf-building super stretch without any fear of slipping off the block.

Richard used one of two basic foot positions on the Blair calf block.

Position #1: (toes 12 to 16" apart with heels 4" apart) develops the inner calf, but only coming up on the ball of the foot and big toe.

Position #2: (toes 8 to 12" apart with the heels much, much wider, as if assuming a pigeon-toed stance) it is most important to come up on the lateral or outer edge of the foot for maximum outer-calf stress. Richard assumed either one of these two positions without his shoes on.

(Personally I feel that it is best to wear shoes, which offer a high degree of traction and have a very thin, flexible sole. The best shoes that I have found that serve this purpose are the low-top Otomix. For Information visit:

He then bent over until his upper torso was perpendicular to the floor and supported himself by placing his elbows on another bench or on a horizontal bar which is about waist height and 30 to 36" away from the Blair calf block. Now it was just a matter of bending his knees and dropping down (to protect his lower back), allowing his workout partner to mount him in a position directly over his hips.

He locked his knee joints and begins with a set of 30 maxi-pump reps. Richard rested for a minute between sets then continued his journey into the pain zone by doing one set each of 20, 12, 15, 20 and 30 maxi-pump reps.

Sometimes he did what he termed a standing donkey calf raise where a workout partner sits astride his shoulders. He felt that this particular variation allowed for a more direct approach to the stretch at the bottom of the movement. Either one of these two exercises become especially intense if the workout partner holding a pair of 40-pound (plus) dumbbells in his hands.

If a workout partner was not available for the donkey calf raises, he improvised by doing them on a vertical leg press machine, or if things come to the worse, he attached a very heavy dumbbell or some cast iron dumbbell plates to a dip belt and would go from there.

Richard would work his calves to the point where their ability to resist the growth impulse would be used up and they would have to respond with new growth.

Pro Tip #1: The Rheo H. Blair calf block was a revolutionary new design in calf training equipment back in the 1960's but unfortunately it is no longer available. However a company named ARC International has developed the CALF MASTER block.

The CALF MASTER block has a bio-mechanically designed footplate which is shaped like an arc that follows the contour of the foot. The unique footplate (curve/arc) on this piece of equipment is a mirror image in design of the Blair calf block except that it is made of metal.

The CALF MASTER comes in three models. I suggest you call ARC International at 1.877.272.1468 and learn more about the revolutionary CALF MASTER.

Another calf training innovation that I have recently become aware of is Roger Stewart's "EXTREME" CALF MACHINE.

This machine is actually a calf block made of aluminum but with one important and unique feature. It has a patented pivoting footplate which adds an important new dimension for expanding and upgrading calf training as we know it. The pivoting footplate extends the exercise motion and thereby creates the ultimate stretch and contraction of the calves.

I own both of the calf units mentioned and I find that I get the utmost calf isolation, stimulation and growth using Roger Stewart's "EXTREME" CALF MACHINE. For more information e-mail Roger at [email protected] or call 1.866.468.3688.

Getting Started With Dumbbells

Getting Started With Dumbbells

The use of dumbbells gives you a much more comprehensive strengthening effect because the workout engages your stabilizer muscles, in addition to the muscle you may be pin-pointing. Without all of the belts and artificial stabilizers of a machine, you also engage your core muscles, which are your body's natural stabilizers.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment