Was Steve Reeves Really A Natural Bodybuilder?

Steve Reeves is the poster boy for retro bodybuilding. With his movie career and aesthetic physique he was able to become a sensation in the material world we live in today. He had a classic physique – wide back, tiny waist, big arms, big calves and athletic legs. He is often used as an example of what can be achieved naturally without the use of steroids. It’s easy to convince people that he was natural given the current madness observed in professional bodybuilding, but is this really the case? Was Steve Reeves a lifetime drug free bodybuilder?


Were steroids available during Steve Reeves’ career? 

According to the information in the public domain anabolic steroids were discovered in the 30s.

Clinical trials on humans, involving either oral doses or injections of testosterone propionate, began as early as 1937.

Testosterone propionate is mentioned in a letter to the editor of Strength and Health magazine in 1938; this is the earliest known reference to an anabolic steroid in a U.S. weightlifting or bodybuilding magazine.

Steve Reeves won his first major bodybuilding contest, Mr. America,  at the age of 21 in 1947. This leads us to believe that anabolic steroids were available approximately 10 years prior to Reeves’ debut on a large bodybuilding stage.

Sergio Oliva Believed Reeves Used Anabolic Steroids

In an interview conducted by Brian D. Johnston the legendary bodybuilder Sergio Oliva stated the following:

BDJ: Could you relay your own experience with drug use?

SO: This is an area of great interest for people. I don’t care who wants to take steroids, because that’s a personal choice… that’s his life. Now, today, everybody has access to them. I even saw in one of the big magazines that Arnold denies having used them, but Arnold was one of the first to bring steroids over to America. And everybody in the old days used them: Zane, Columbu, myself, Arnold, Larry Scott, Harold Poole, Dave Draper, and even Steve Reeves. There’s no way to deny it.

Conclusion: Steve Reeves most likely experimented with some sort of early testosterone based anabolic steroids.


Steve Reeves was big, 6’1″, 215 lbs but he was not very lean. What’s up with that?

Steve Reeves’s body fat looks higher than it actually is. That’s because he is holding water, most likely due to the testosterone use, which blurs definition. At that time water pills were not as popular and that’s why he doesn’t look as dry. He was plenty lean underneath.

David K, Dingemanse E, Freud J, Laqueur L (1935). “Uber krystallinisches mannliches Hormon aus Hoden (Testosteron) wirksamer als aus harn oder aus Cholesterin bereitetes Androsteron”. Hoppe Seylers Z Physiol Chem 233 (5–6): 281.doi:10.1515/bchm2.1935.233.5-6.281.
Hoberman JM, Yesalis CE (1995). “The history of synthetic testosterone”.Scientific American 272 (2): 76–81. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0295-76.PMID 7817189.
http://www.getbig.com/boards/index.php?topic=357912.125 .Retrieved on May 04, 2014.
http://www.stevereeves.com/Bodybuilder/bodybuilder.html .Retrieved on May 04, 2014.
http://www.ironmagazineforums.com/threads/46705-A-Sergio-Oliva-interview .Retrieved on May 04, 2014.


  1. shane

    What ever they had those days , there body’s were really far better looking than today’s bodybuilders.

  2. John G.

    Amazing claims, require amazing evidence. People who claim Reeves took steroids “because he just had to” have never seen genetic standouts. Guys that can make amazing gains no matter how they train or what they eat (or don’t eat). I do not know of one person who ever said he saw or knew first hand of Reeves using steroids. Some years back, an idiot in Germany said he taught Reeves all about steroids when Reeves was in France during certain years. Reeves proved he was never even in France during those years. When confrunted by this, the German ass than said he got Reeves confused with another top bodybuilder of the time. Some guys can just build amazing muscle. Mike Tyson was amazingly thick on boxing training, never using weights until he was 31 years old. Ditto a young George Foreman who was enormous. I’ve seen these men up close.

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