Thursday, September 10, 2015

Classic Bodybuilding: The Mass Building Methods of Steve Davis

     In the late '70s-early '80s,  Steve Davis became a well-known figure in the bodybuilding world.  He graced the cover of quite a few bodybuilding magazines due to his "classical" physique—he was by no means "massive" in the sense that we think of it today, but he had clean lines, and a well-proportioned physique.  But it wasn't necessarily his build that made him so popular, but, rather, the transformation that occurred in his body.
     You can see Steve's rather impressive transformation on the cover of his popular book "Total Muscularity."

     In addition to the above book, he also wrote a few others, but "Total Muscularity" remained the favorite among his readers.
     When I took up serious bodybuilding training in the early '90s, Davis wrote a monthly column for MuscleMag International that, I'm afraid, was overlooked by many of its readers—I just never felt as if Steve got his just due for (not just) his physique, but his knowledge of muscle-building and his expert dietary advice.
     Steve had some great advice for building mass—advice that can still be used today to great success.  One of the intriguing things that he used was something called a "set series"—the program below is built on the "set series" premise.
Steve shows off his classical lines in competition

Steve's 12 Keys for Building Quality Mass
     Here are the "12 keys" that Steve believed in, and recommended, for building muscle:
  1. Train each bodypart 2x per week.
  2. Use 8 reps for arms, chest, shoulders, and back exercises.
  3. Use 15 reps for calves, lower back, quadriceps, and hamstring development.
  4. Do not do ab work on a mass-building regimen.
  5. Wear a watch and time your rest between sets.  Keep it at 30-45 seconds, the shorter the better.
  6. Perform 2 exercises per bodypart (see sample routine).
  7. For each exercise, do a light warm-up set and then 6 sets using the same weight, reps, and rest between sets.  Steve called this a "set series."
  8. Keep a chart, and increase your weight each week.    Even tiny increases are good.
  9. Rest 3 minutes after each set series.
  10. Think heavy weights.  Lift heavy weights.
  11. Take in one gram of high-quality protein for each pound of bodyweight.  
  12. Follow the "Master Diets" found in any of Steve's books.
On the cover of the defunct Muscle World magazine

The Steve Davis Mass Blast
     Using the following routine, you would train six days on, one day off, your only day of the week off being Sunday:
Monday and Thursday
Chest, Back, and Lower Back
  1. Bench Presses 2x8
  2. Dumbbell Incline Presses 2x8
  3. Dumbbell Pullovers 2x8
  4. Bent-Over Rows 2x8
  5. Behind-the-Neck Pulldowns 2x8
  6. Hyperextentions 2x8
Tuesday and Friday
Shoulders, Arms, and Forearms
  1. Behind-the-Neck Presses 2x8
  2. Dumbbell Lateral Raises 2x8
  3. Barbell Curls 2x8
  4. Incline Dumbbell Curls 2x8
  5. Close-Grip 2/3 Bench Presses 2x8
  6. Non-Locking Pushdowns 2x8
  7. Reverse Curls 2x8
Wednesday and Saturday
Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Calves, and Lower Back
  1. Front Squats 2x15
  2. Hack Squats 2x15
  3. Leg Curls 2x15
  4. Donkey Calf Raises 2x15
  5. Standing Calf Raises 2x15
  6. Hyperextensions 2x8


  1. Sloan-
    Always liked this guys physique. ....on a training note. Competed last Sunday in a push/pull meet and came to a few conclusions. My bench press is officially a disaster. ...I went 1/3, granted I didn't prep for this meet (decided to enter 2 weeks prior, and had been doing a squat specialization program). Here's what I learned: I went 3/3 for my deads and smoked my previous PR even though I didnt do alot of deads or even deadlift assistance work. What I did do was squat 6x/week. I think you can get a big squat and dead from just squatting and DL'ing. However for the bench just benching has got my bench #'s going down. The suprising thing is bench has always been my BEST lift. In january I hit 320 in a last 2 meets I went 1/3 and could only hit my opener (292) going to go back and do what I was doing previously: bench heavy AND do lots of heavy assistance work (DB flat bench, heavy shoulder press and lots of skull crushers and dips) in other train my squat and dead like a powerlifter and train my bench like a "powerbuilder"/bodybuilder.

    I settled on following up my meet by using your "Ultimate Split Training Program"....) love you the pump days 8x10 and am following your advice for the power days and cycling thru 7's/5's and 3's. My power moves are trap-bar deadlift and floor press and my pump moves are close-stance Olympic squats and DB flat bench. Love how simple and challenging this program is....thanks for any and all insights!


  2. Jason,

    I think what you discovered is not that uncommon. When I was dominating powerlifting meets - by primarily just doing the 3 competitive lifts very frequently - my squat and deadlift were "sky-high" but my bench press never really went up that much. I didn't really worry about it that much, however, since my squat and dead were well more than triple my bodyweight.

    Anyway, during years when I would only compete once (maybe twice) a year, I would spend a lot of the time doing more "bodybuilding" or "powerbuilding" chest workouts in the off-season and - lo and behold - my bench would always increase a lot.

    The weird thing, however, is what you experience doesn't TYPICALLY happen for guys who are good bench pressers. I always chalked my paltry bench press #s up to the fact that I have long gorilla-esque arms, but it just goes to show that you really do have to find what works best for you.

    And good idea to follow my Ultimate Split Training. It's one of those basically "fool-proof" programs that will always produce - at the very least - respectable gains.

    Keep me updated.

  3. This is also very competitive so it will be hard work for you to establish yourself from the crowd to get noticed by those who pay for models. JayJenkins

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