Written by Steve Reeves
14 October 2017


An Open Letter to Arnold Schwarzenegger by Steve Reeves



Steve Reeves (1926-2000) is widely regarded as one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time for his symmetrical and classic physique, and for his dedication and love for the sport. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Reeves became a major film star after his bodybuilding career, starring in “Hercules” and other action movies. In the ‘90s, Reeves was already concerned with the direction of bodybuilding, and wrote this letter to Arnold.


Dear Arnold:

As you are well aware, the state of bodybuilding is in crisis. Competitors are killing themselves taking drugs that they believe they need to win shows that ultimately count for nothing in either their careers or their lives.

I know that you love the sport of bodybuilding as much as I do, because you grew up in an era when being a bodybuilding champion meant something. It stirred heroic and noble images in your young mind of how a man could and should look and how vibrant and virile such a man could be. I know because these were the same images that first caused me to pick up a barbell and to seek to better not only my physique, but also my life through physical culture (healthful living and bodybuilding).

Bodybuilding— real bodybuilding— is what I've just described. It can, and has, proven to work wonders in creating real men of substance, as opposed to what it's now become— a creator of men of real substance-abuse. It can and has opened doors— particularly to you and me.

We both went on to enjoy successful careers in film and made substantial sums of money, directly as a result of the physical benefits that our bodybuilding training provided.

And that is why I am now appealing to you to join forces with me and provide a voice that will be heard by the governing authorities in bodybuilding. The steroids and drug use has to stop and it will not stop as long as we condone its use by turning a blind eye to it.

I was out of the game for over 40 years; I turned my back on competitive bodybuilding because I couldn't bear to watch it become overrun by drug pushers, publishers and promoters who don't give a damn about the welfare of either the sport or the athletes who participate in it, and whose sole concern lies in selling fraudulent nutritional supplements, inferior equipment, and dispensing bogus training advice and selling tickets to bodybuilding events.

I wish to appeal to the young, starstruck youth within you that first became enraptured by the real bodybuilding experience. You've mentioned that both myself and more importantly, for you, Reg Park, were your heroes while you were growing up in Austria. Reg Park was a great champion, just as you were. But where are the great role models for today's youth? What do you see in today's "champions" that personifies the attributes of a champion? Where is the grace under pressure? Where is the giving back to the community? Where is the one current bodybuilding champion that you would want to instruct your children?

And this isn't the fault of the athletes, they're simply trying to achieve and maintain a highly artificial standard of muscle development that is not natural and definitely not enduring. And, if the muscle you build only stays with you as long as you're getting your synthetic hormone shots, what good is it?

As the promoter, along with your longtime friend, Jim Lorimer, of what is generally considered the best bodybuilding contest in existence, the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic, you have the power to lead by example. Despite what you read in the Weider magazines, your show is the king of the hill— not the Olympia. You know it, Jim Lorimer knows it, the bulk of the competitors know it and, more importantly, the IFBB knows it.


The reason I know that you are still as enthusiastic about bodybuilding as I am is simple: you could have turned your back on your roots the minute you became one of Hollywood's highest paid actors, but you didn't do that. After all, you've earned the right after years and years of gut-busting workouts to walk into the sunset with your seven Mr. Olympia trophies and retire from the sport altogether, content in the knowledge that your inspiration would serve to fuel the workouts of several generations of new bodybuilders the world over. Instead, you continued to support, promote and herald the benefits of bodybuilding for all people. The cynics will say that you did it to make a buck, but the wise know better; one film would yield you the equivalent of promoting 40 years worth of these contests, and yet you still continue to promote them. That can only be explained by one thing— a genuine interest in the sport. I salute you for that, so don't let these fanatics trample underfoot the sport that you've been an integral part of and helped to sustain all these years. They've ridden on your coattails long enough; now it's up to you to take control of the future of this sport.

What am I suggesting? Simply this: Insist that the IFBB mandate drug testing (and real drug testing for real bodybuilding drugs, not the joke of "cocaine" and "nubane" [Nubain] they tried to pass off as bodybuilding "drug testing" at last year's Mr. Olympia) in all of their shows. At the very least, you can insist that your show is drug tested. The IFBB will listen to you; not only do you put substantial money in their pockets in sanctioning fees, but without question you have been their most eloquent spokesman. Failing this, form your own federation; one that has new, objective, quantifiable standards for building— not the biggest physique or the "freakiest"— but the best proportioned, most inspirational and the healthiest.

The IFBB will listen to you; not only do you put substantial money in their pockets in sanctioning fees, but without question promoters such as Arnold have been their most eloquent spokesman. Unfortunately, I believe, these organizations have been using bodybuilders with big followings to grease the skids of their money machine and bodybuilding— the sport we know and love— has been allowed to go to hell.

Here's what I'm suggesting as criteria for all future bodybuilding shows; first of all, let's make a prejudging actually count for something more than an opportunity for the judges to glad-hand on another and play follow the leader. Let's implement real, tangible physique standards that can be adjudicated by an objective measure. For this, the judges will require a tape, a bodyweight scale and a calculator and that’s it.

And here's how I propose that they use the:


Height – Optimal Weight

5'5" – 160 lbs.
5'6" – 165 lbs
5'7" – 170 lbs
5'8" – 175 lbs.
5'9" – 180 lbs
5'10" – 185 lbs
5'11" – 190 lbs
6' – 200 lbs
6'1" – 210 lbs
6'2" – 220 lbs
6'3" – 230 lbs
6'4" – 240 lbs
6'5" – 250 lbs

The above figures are calculated with a medium-boned person in mind. If you have heavy bones, you can add 10 pounds to the calculations and if you have light bones, you subtract 10 pounds. These are the figures that I have arrived at after studying the physiques of many champions in many sports.

Once a person exceeds his ideal weight for his height, he becomes out of proportion and not only no longer possesses a symmetrically proportioned physique, but doesn't function optimally, either. Additionally, I believe if the emphasis shifts off size for the sake of size and returns to proportion and symmetry, not only will the physique look better, but it will negate the need for anabolic steroids, growth hormone injections and other heavier drugs that serve no purpose other than to build tissue. In fact, a person who came in heavier will be penalized for it, as he would have destroyed his optimal height-to-weight ratio for attaining symmetry.

However, the bodyweight-to-height ratio would be the sole criteria for adjudication of a physique. Since we also possess a bone structure that is in most cases in proportion to our height, I have further developed a method of prescribing the optimal proportions for each individual based on height and bone size that will result in perfect symmetry.

Proportion Chart

Muscle to bone ratios:
Arm = 252% of wrist
Calf = 192% of ankle 
Neck = 79% of head
Chest= 148% of pelvis 
Waist= 86% of pelvis
Thigh = 175% of knee

The proportion chart was calculated for men, and these percentages can vary from one person to another. The above proportion guidelines are calculated to be maximum measurements for a well developed, balanced and symmetrical physique.

I believe that if these standards of proportion were adopted and implemented by judging panels, bodybuilders would soon have no reason to use steroids and other drugs, because their pursuit for growth for the sake of growth would actually destroy the symmetry

Any and all muscle growth should be purposeful, i.e., balance or correct a muscular deficiency or lack of proportion. If, for example, a competitor’s calves are too small for his arms, he would know— instantly— by looking at the chart when he needed improvement. No longer would there be post-contest cries of “What are the judges looking for?”

A judge would simply take the measurements of height and limb circumference, contrast them with bodyweight and mark the competitor accordingly— allowing the competitor to know instantly whether or not he had made improvements in his physique or errors in his training and diet— allowing for the first adjudicating method that was completely objective and quantifiable, not subjective and confusing. In any event, please consider my contribution in the battle to bring bodybuilding (and bodybuilders) back to their senses.


For the last 20 or so years, the image of the ideal male physique has been and continues to be distorted by bulk-crazy judges. Not only that, but all of this is perpetuated by the majority of the bodybuilding magazines for their own financial gains. Disappointingly, this is done with little, if any, regard as to what impression the bulky image they are promoting and encouraging has on the uninitiated person on the street.

Too much size doesn't make a good impression or gain admiration and respect for the sport of bodybuilding. As I look back on those who have come and gone, I just can't help think that they could have done a better promoting and popularizing weight training if only they hadn't succumbed to the muscle magazine [vision of] BIGGER IS BETTER AND BULK IS BEAUTIFUL. The bottom line is the majority of the blame for this craziness should be placed on the judges who emphasized bulk, under the guise of proportion, and sorely neglected the absolute beauty of the human body that is balanced and symmetrical.

I'm telling you straight— if the judges had concentrated more on judging proportion and symmetry, along with muscular definition and size, and judged with a uniformity of standard, the Schwarzeneggers, Olivas, Nubrets and others of that caliber would still have been great physique stars. The big difference is that others wouldn't have to spend so many years taking growth-enhancing substances to gain that extra bulk to become champions.

Arnold, let's work together to put this derailed train back on the tracks and take this sport back to the glory and prestige it once enjoyed and can enjoy again. It won't help us personally, we're no longer competing, but it can be beneficial to the thousands of bodybuilders yet to compete; those who are just now coming along and who will be competing in the years to come

Let's give them a sport that has integrity and honor— and a method of training that will not only give them wonderful physiques, but also provide them with a lifetime of health and vitality and peace of mind.

Yours Sincerely,

Steve Reeves 


Steve Reeves’ Measurements:
Arms: 18.5"
Calves: 18.5"
Neck: 18.5'
Thighs: 27"
Chest: 54"
Waist: 30'
Height 6'1
weight 212 lbs.







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