Golden Era Bodybuilding Legend Steve Davis: ‘Even Mr. Olympias Poses Like Shit’
Mike O’Hearn talks to iconic golden age bodybuilder Steve Davis about training lessons learned from over 50 years of experience and hindsight.
Steve Davis is a bodybuilding legend, best known for his legendary physical transformation. Davis went from a powerful 285-pound weightlifter to a champion 200-pound bodybuilder. Training alongside Golden Era greats such as Vince Gironda, Frank Zane and Arnold Schwarzenegger – Davis is a wealth of history and knowledge for bodybuilding superfans. That’s why on this week’s episode of Generation Iron and Barbend’s The Mike O’Hearn Show, special guest Steve Davis looks back on 50 years of bodybuilding and the biggest lessons he’s learned.
To say that Mike O’Hearn was excited for this week’s special guest is an understatement. Steve Davis is a bodybuilding legend from an era who inspired O’Hearn himself to become a bodybuilder. So to be able to sit down with a living legend and pick his brains on all things weightlifting, nutrition and fitness was a really special opportunity.
The golden age of bodybuilding as a beast very different from the well-worn systems and media in sport that we have today. Information on how to build muscle was much less prevalent – and many Golden Era icons learned by trial and error – and of course, pushing each other to new levels.
Steve Davis was one such bodybuilder. A man who started out loving weightlifting and really didn’t know the “rules” of how to lift properly for bodybuilding. For example, he claims he never did a deadlift during his early years of bodybuilding. He had no idea that was considered a “fundamental requirement” of bodybuilding basics. Despite this, he became an aesthetic marvel and eventually became the Mr. World champion.
That’s why the most important aspect of this week’s episode was breaking down Steve Davis-era bodybuilding tactics, what he learned to do differently with decades of hindsight, and what things got worse as information (and misinformation) became more widespread. he makes sport. Let’s go.
“I’ve never done a deadlift in my life.”
Steve Davis wishes he had trained less in his early years of bodybuilding
During the conversation with Steve Davis, Mike O’Hearn asked a key question – if you could go back, what would you change in your bodybuilding strategy? Davis was quick to respond with a key lesson he learned over decades of weightlifting. Steve Davis wants to train less.
This may sound like a shocking statement. But as he breaks it down, he reveals a vital strategy that should be listed by every aspiring bodybuilder today.
Steve Davis explains how many Golden Era bodybuilders believed that “more is better” when it came to bodybuilding. The more time you spend in the gym, the more results you get. The more steak you eat in the offseason, the more muscle mass and eventually muscle you can build. Davis himself was doing 30 sets three times a week.
“It’s the idea of crushing the muscle, feeding the muscle, letting it rest,” Steve Davis says in the conversation. But the problem was that the remaining part was not properly focused. When you’re trying to do too many sets and too many reps a day, there’s no way one night’s rest will be enough to recover. Davis believes that if he trained less, focused on heavier weight and rested more, he could have grown even bigger and become more dangerous as a competitor.
Steve Davis describes bodybuilding as lighting a match. The most important thing is to maintain the intensity – not the number of sets you do. When you light a match, the most powerful moment is that first spark. You want to harness that spark instead of letting it burn slowly and die out.
Reflecting on how bodybuilding has changed for the worse
Steve Davis really appreciates how much the science of bodybuilding and fitness has improved over the years. How more common it has become. And how much more information can athletes get today. It was through these changes and his own personal experience that he learned to train less to win more.
However, he is also aware that some of these changes have also led to negative changes in the sport. Steve Davis and Mike O’Hearn discuss how years of history, rules and systems built into the sport may have led to narrow thinking. Bodybuilders are too busy trying to lift “the right way” that they don’t listen to their bodies, push the limits, or think outside the box.
For example, Mike O’Hearn points out how many experts online warn against lifting too much weight – due to the risk of joint injuries that will hurt in later life. But O’Hearn thinks lifting heavy weights (with a smart strategy) is key to strengthening joints and ensuring you fight off breakdown as you age. Health professionals have even pointed out that weight lifting, not just cardio, is vital for overhangers to prevent joint problems that could lead you to a walker in old age.
Steve Davis agrees and is shocked to learn that certain heavy lifting is considered “dangerous” in modern society. He thinks this way of thinking has led to less originality in bodybuilders and their physiques. It used to be that you could look at a silhouette and know exactly which bodybuilder you were looking at. Today, it is impossible to tell them apart.
Steve Davis also thinks this is true for the pose. With less emphasis on posing and no scoring, most bodybuilders are encouraged to just hit the mandatory and move on. Davis is shocked that even the best in the world — Mr. Olympia champions — have lackluster posing routines.
“Even the Mr. Olympias pose like shit.”
Steve Davis concludes the conversation by bringing up the myth of Milo. In the myth, Milo carried a calf up a mountain each day. Every day the calf grew older and grew bigger. But he continued to carry the cow every day. As the cow grew, so did Milo.
This is, in essence, real bodybuilding. It’s progressive training – and the key element that all bodybuilders should fall in love with if they really want to live the lifestyle. Davis even did her master’s thesis on how progressive training can be used to improve the image of mentally abused children. Although he never completed his master’s program, it is a fundamental attitude he still believes in today.
You can watch Mike O’Hearn’s full conversation with Golden Era legend Steve Davis on our latest episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show above. Be sure to check out new episodes every Friday only on the Generation Iron Fitness Network or wherever podcasts are uploaded.