You don’t win bodybuilding titles and star in action movies without a big pair of pecs. Steve Reeves, Arnold’s predecessor and physique idol of the 1940s and ’50s, did it all: Mr. America in 1947, Mr. World in ’48, Mr. Universe in ’50 and, of course, the starring role in Hercules. And he didn’t achieve legendary status by doing push-ups in his basement, either.

Steve was a proponent of developing the upper pecs with incline pressing movements at a 45-50-degree angle. He alternated between barbell and dumbbells and switched between incline and flat-bench presses every three months. To develop shape and definition in his chest, he performed both straight-arm and bent-arm (45 degrees or so) dumbbell flyes, which he referred to as “laterals” and “bent-arm laterals,” respectively.

A well-developed “thorax or rib-box” to support his brawny chest was high on Steve’s chest-training priority list, too. To get it, he finished up his workout with breathing squats and breathing pullovers, which meant nothing more than performing squats and pullovers (one dumbbell in each hand) with a moderate weight while inhaling deeply. For example, on a set of 20, he’d do five reps on one very deep breath, followed by 10 reps on three deep breaths, then his last five reps on five breaths.

“Remember, to be most effective and to aid in the development of the thorax, the breathing should be full and deep throughout the exercise,” said Steve. That’s old-school cool, baby.

The Workout

Incline Dumbbell or Barbell Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Dumbbell or Barbell Flat-Bench Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Straight-Arm Dumbbell Flye: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Bent-Arm Dumbbell Flye: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Breathing Squat: 2 sets of 20 reps
Breathing Pullover: 2 sets of 20 reps