What Do You Consider 'Old School' Strength Training?

What do you consider 'old school' strength training? Some people are put off by the old-school, while others swear by them. Here's a variety of opinions and the benefits/drawbacks of both. Is one better than the other? Learn more.


TOPIC: What Do You Consider "Old School" Strength Training?

The Question:

Some people are put off by the old-school strength training methods, while others swear by them.

What do you consider "old school?"

Do you incorporate any old-school training ideas into your regimen?

Commercial training vs. Old-school underground training; who do you think achieves better results?

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:

    Prizes:
      1st place - 75 in store credit.
      2nd place - 50 in store credit.
      3rd place - 25 in store credit.

To use your credit, e-mail Justin @ justin.podzimek@bodybuilding.com for more info.


1st Place - soundcheck129
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Some people are put off by the old-school strength training methods, while others swear by them.

As in any other athletic realm, people will constantly be looking back to the "golden age" of bodybuilding and comparing the icons of history with the modern heroes of today. Sure, it's easy to be envious of a build such as Arnold's, but Ronnie Coleman's physique isn't anything to sneeze at either.

It's Easy To Be Envious Of Arnold's Build, But Ronnie Coleman's Isn't Anything To Sneeze At Either. It's Easy To Be Envious Of Arnold's Build, But Ronnie Coleman's Isn't Anything To Sneeze At Either.
+ Click To Enlarge.
It's Easy To Be Envious Of Arnold's Build, But
Ronnie Coleman's Isn't Anything To Sneeze At Either.

Instead of pledging my loyalty exclusively to one style and ignoring another, I try to bring elements of both old school and new school style to my training. After all, I don't care what I'm doing is classified as, as long as it brings results in the end.


What Do You Consider "Old School?"

In my mind, "old school" training was all about the relationship between man and metal. Instead of advanced engineering and complicated multi-press machines, bodybuilders focused on barbells and dumbbells.

In a sense, old-school training was stripped down to the basics; no over-thinking, no over-supplementing, no worries about over-training, no sweet-smelling gyms with top 40 hits piping in at all hours. Instead of getting information from scientific studies, old-school bodybuilders relied on anecdotal evidence.

The belief of old-school bodybuilders was that one's sweat was the deciding factor in what kind of results one could expect. Old-school bodybuilders weren't toting around fancy shaker bottles and swigging creatine and caffeine coladas precisely 30 minutes before stepping into the gym.

BODYBUILDING.COM FORUM: OLD SCHOOL
JDJ's Old School Total Body Training.
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JDJ's Old School Total Body Training.
The physiques of the past were much more aesthetic & proportionate in comparison to today's monster's. Of course this is all a matter of opinion...
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In a word, it was a matter of simplicity. Old-school bodybuilders were concerned with lifting heavy weights until their bodies told them to take a rest. At that point, they would eat food like a starving man introduced to a free buffet; "lean bulking" was not a notion anyone had heard of.

Old-school bodybuilding was all about intensity and frequency; punishing your muscles until they could handle no more, resting just long enough to get more fuel in the tank, and then going right back at it.

It seems to me that old-school bodybuilders were willing to work harder and make more sacrifices- but perhaps this is just what they were used to. There were no 'magic bullet' supplements and bodybuilding wasn't accessible to the general public. You had to be willing to give your all and dedicate your life to it; old-school bodybuilding was a lifestyle, not an after-work activity.

This is a stark contrast to modern bodybuilding, which has the tendency to be much more precise and calculated. Many weightlifters of today try to calculate the exact number of calories they should consume in order to maximize muscle and reduce fat gain.

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In addition, modern weightlifters rely heavily on supplements, many of which were not invented when old-school bodybuilders were busy beating their bodies into submission. The introduction of a mind-numbing array of supplements has come with the commercialization of bodybuilding.


Do You Incorporate Any Old-Cchool Training Ideas Into Your Regimen?

As I mentioned previously, I do like to incorporate a lot of different styles and methods into my training. The particular era or philosophy behind it isn't what matters to me, it's the results that are most important.

One major old school idea that I use is the avoidance of machines. In my mind, doing "assisted dips" and using machines that move with you is like riding a bike with training wheels when you could be riding a Harley. Using free weights is more of a challenge to all of your muscles and, I think, delivers better results.

It's Like Riding A Bike With Training Wheels When You Could Be Riding A Harley. It's Like Riding A Bike With Training Wheels When You Could Be Riding A Harley.
+ Click To Enlarge.
It's Like Riding A Bike With Training Wheels
When You Could Be Riding A Harley.

In addition, I train with intensity. As clich? as it sounds, I try to become one with the weights and do not get distracted easily. I'm not afraid to sweat or grunt if it means the difference between five and six reps. Similarly, I love to lift heavy because I feel pushing my body to the point of no return will bring the best results. And I'm not afraid to train often; I get into the gym as much as I can because it is a passion of mine.

Lastly, I try not to over-complicate things. I'm not afraid to eat good food, and lots of it, I don't weigh out portions, and I try not to over-supplement. I use protein powder for convenience but I laugh in the face of dextrose.

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Commercial Training VS Old-School Underground Training.

As I mentioned earlier, bodybuilders coming from both the old school and the new school "commercial" training worlds have equally impressive physiques. Ultimately, it's the athlete doing the training that will determine the overall effectiveness of each program. But while old-school training may be more personally satisfying, I believe modern commercial training has the potential to gain better results.

In some respects, over-thinking things and relying heavily on the opinion of a scientist who has never stepped foot into a gym can be detrimental. However, when this knowledge is applied correctly, the results can be amazing.

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Thanks to advances in training knowledge and supplement science, bodybuilders can stay lean year-round. One example of this is the use of BCAAs; instead of taking down a steak to get amino acids for growth, a modern athlete can sip on some liquid BCAAs.

This can make a tremendous difference during a cut, as there are practically zero calories in BCAAs, yet they do benefit the body. Similarly, weight gainers and protein blends have made eating big a lot easier, and vitamins and other supplements keep one's entire body healthier.

Modern training has its advantages as well. Certain machines take the load off of joints and help prevent injury. Also, the advanced engineering can target specific muscles for isolated workouts. Furthermore, the emergence of fitness training as a mainstream activity has led to an abundance of gyms and health clubs, so it is easier than ever to find a place to work out with an impressive array of equipment. This has made bodybuilding quite convenient.

There Is An Impressive Array Of Equipment Which Can Help Prevent Injury.
+ Click To Enlarge.
There Is An Impressive Array Of Equipment
Which Can Help Prevent Injury.

The biggest advantage that commercial training has, though, is that it has old-school training as a reference point. The most effective methods have been discovered through trial and error, so modern bodybuilders have an advantage from learning from the successes and failures of the old-schoolers. By analyzing what has and hasn't worked, modern bodybuilders can cut to the chase and make the most of their time in the gym.


2nd Place - ianstewart
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Old School Bodybuilding

Some people are put off by the old-school strength training methods, while others swear by them.

I wouldn't see why, seeing as how a majority of the exercises and workouts we utilize in our regimes today are usually based of the ideals once held by some of the world's top bodybuilders.


What Do You Consider "Old School?"

When people see this question, they will immediately think of people like Arnold (the Austrian Oak) and Coleman, but in reality, we have to go back much farther than that. I believe that the standard that all bodybuilders want to achieve, this idea of a perfectly sculpted physique, did not develop anytime recently, but was actually developed years ago in the time of the Greeks and Romans.

They held this idea to be in the perfect shape and proportions, and these thoughts have been the driving influence behind the birth of modern-day bodybuilding. The father of bodybuilding, Eugene Sandow, believed in this Greek ideal body structure, and this is what he tried to achieve through his training. And therefore all bodybuilders have been influenced and are all attempting to reach the same goal once thought up hundreds of years ago.

Eugene Sandow Believed In This Greek Ideal Body Structure.
+ Click To Enlarge.
Eugene Sandow Believed In
This Greek Ideal Body Structure.

Old school bodybuilders didn't have all of the modern science on nutrition and exercise that we have today, but instead, were far more in tune with their bodies needs and limits. They continually pushed themselves and didn't leave the gym until they were too weak to lift anymore, than they went and ate until they felt sated.

They developed a much better understanding of their individual needs, as opposed to following set diet and workout regimes that many of us would follow today. In the gym, old-school lifters would focus on compound movements like deadlifts, squats, and bench press.

They used the basic equipment of barbells and dumbbells, rather than all of the fancy machines you see today. They put greater importance on doing these exercises first, and holding off on isolation exercises until the end of the muscle groups workout, simply because it is what worked best for them.

They were just men in the gym working as hard as they could with weighted metal in their hands, using the knowledge they had to grow in size to reach their Olympian ideals.

They spent ridiculous amounts of time in the gym, but ate to make up for it and lifted with intensity and purpose, as well as they put their hearts and souls into what they loved, and got the results because they stayed dedicated and worked harder than many do today simply because they felt more inclined to work for what they wanted.

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As for supplements, they had none or little, meaning they used food to fuel their muscular growth rather than half of the advanced nutritional supplements we use today. They fed themselves what they felt was necessary for growth, and followed no strict dietary plans and they didn't count calories or macro nutrients, they just made sure to get lots of protein, and basically, a lot of food into their diets.

I believe old school is the backbone of what we use today, being a focus on compound movements and free-weights as opposed to machine lifting. I do consider Arnold and Sandow old school, but I also remember what they were trying to reach in terms of image and strength.


Do You Incorporate Any Old-School Training Ideas Into Your Regimen?

When it comes to old-school training techniques I incorporate a vast majority of the original techniques into my lifts. I always start my workouts with the compound lifts, the ones that take the most out of you, because you want to put as much energy into those exercises that work best to stimulate muscle growth.

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I continually push myself and always try harder, keeping in mind that all those who worked in the gym before me did the same. Although I use to train for an extremely long time in the gym, such as two and a half hours plus, modern science tells me this is overtraining, so this may be the only thing I have cut back.

But fundamentally, I follow the same principles of lifting free-weights and eating healthy foods. I am an extreme advocate of healthy eating, as I believe it does provide the best conditions for your body to grow, but this is just personal experience.

I tend to avoid a majority of the machines and I work a muscle until exhaustion using the free weights in the gym. I do use supplements, but only the basics and these are essential for convenience, but I prefer to get a majority of my food intake from just that, real food.

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As you can tell, I am a strong believer that most modern day regimes have somewhat of a base in old-school bodybuilding routines, and I use those techniques as often as I can.


Commercial Training VS. Old-School Underground Training.

I would have to say it depends on the individual and the effort they are willing to put in, but overall I think a combination is the key to success. Old-school bodybuilders and modern bodybuilders are all impressive in their own rights; the science behind modern bodybuilding has the ability to make growth easier and quicker.

The focus on compound movements achieves great results, but modern techniques and using alternative exercises to focus on muscle groups allows for somewhat easier growth. We can use modern science to determine proper movements and safe procedures, but the influence of those movements comes from old-school workouts. A combination of both methods for training provides the best growth overall, or so I believe.

We also have the advancement in nutrition, meaning people can use powders and supplements and greater convenience and effectiveness. We can use slow and fast digesting proteins, and we can add essential amino acids and increase protein synthesis.

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I believe with the advancement of nutritional science, we have much more potential for growth than old-school bodybuilders because of convenience and supplements. We have a greater understanding of proper meal times and essential diet structure, providing our bodies with the right nutrients when we need them, which means we can provide our bodies with the best muscle growing environment.

In the end, I believe it comes down to the individual and their overall willingness and effort, but what most modern-day bodybuilders need to do is combine old school and new school techniques. We need to still listen to our bodies and work as hard as we can, pushing ourselves to achieve that old school ideal image.

Combining the two eras, the technology and the dedication, will provide someone with optimal results. So each method has its own advantages and we merely need to use the best aspects of these two time periods in bodybuilding; use what works.


3rd Place - big game hunter
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Old School Or New School Routines? Or Is It Just A School Of Thought?

Ask any person who works out if he would want the latest technology to aid him in his pursuit of fitness and his answer is most likely to be a - YES of course. Lets face it. We want the latest gadgets, machines, tools, etc in our gym. One reason being - they look good. The other reason being - they give you a feeling that you are moving ahead with the times.

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I don't want to work out in a gym which has old equipment and equipment which looks like what was used in the ancient Greek games.

I don't want to train with sand bags, kettles, tires, kegs sleds, logs, stones and ropes. I don't live in the stone age.

Well. Let's break it here. The difference between old school and new school is All In The Mind. What is used commonly today in several if not all modern exercise routines finds its roots in the old school days. Some of us may not even know that we are actually using old school principles in our routines.

Let's take a look at some of the classic old school exercises that have stood the test of time and are still going strong even today and will continue to do so as long as we humans remain unchanged as a species. These are just a few examples mind you. The list could run to several pages if everything has to be listed down.

Running (Running on a tread mill does not make it new school ), Jumping, Swimming, Throwing, Push Ups, Bench Press, Incline Bench Press, Dips, Sit Ups, Squats, Skipping, Shoulder Press, Shoulder Shrugs, Clean Presses, Lateral Raises, Front Shoulder Raises, Rows - for the back, Pull Ups, Deadlifts, Biceps Curls, Triceps Extensions, Abdominal Crunches, Forearm Curls, etc...

Some of the ancient athletes were very healthy and fit looking even without the use of the new school concepts that we know of today. So, there is no reason to believe that old-school training won't lead to results. Fact is that new school techniques depend largely on old-school fundamentals.

The Ancient Athletes Were Very Fit Looking Even Without The Use Of The New School Concepts.
+ Click To Enlarge.
The Ancient Athletes Were Very Fit Looking
Even Without The Use Of The New School Concepts.

Where does this put new-school training? Lets not count it out just yet. Read on.

The areas that new-school training has developed an edge over old-school training are:

  • Variety And Range Of Equipment - Equipment with which specific body parts can be targeted for overall development. There are equipments which help us train even with injuries to our bodies.
  • Nutrition - This is the one area where new-school routines have a huge advantage. The supplements and quality of food available has increased manifolds over the years.
  • Availability Of Knowledge - With the advent of the internet. It is not wrong to say that it forms a major part of training today.
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Old school routines largely incorporate compound exercises (compound exercises are basically ones where in a person uses multiple joints and muscles to perform the exercise). New school routines help us add and incorporate a lot more isolation exercises due to the variety of exercise equipment available today (isolation exercises are basically ones where in a person uses one muscle or muscle group and one joint to perform the exercise)

Now, make a mental note of the Magic Formula to success:

The Real Magical Formula = Old School + New School

Compound exercises are recommended to get the most out of a training session. Isolation exercises help correct muscle imbalances.

The successful athlete of today should know how to combine the principles of old and new school in order to arrive at the perfect strategy. Come to think of it, there is almost no routine that is followed today that does not involve some of the exercises that were practiced in old-school days.

Lee Haney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dorian Yates, Ronnie Coleman so on and so forth have used the platform set by their predecessors to take fitness and training to the next level. Each of them did not reinvent the wheel to achieve success.

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They used what they could from the old-school techniques laid down before their eras and combined them with some of the new school stuff to achieve magic. And this trend will continue well into the future - no doubts about that.

I personally do use a combination of old- and new-school training in every one of my workout sessions. I definitely believe in maximizing strength with the use of heavy compound exercises, plus overall muscular development without any lagging body parts.

This helps me achieve and move towards my goals which are to get stronger and leaner and have a well developed, symmetrical body. I make use of the advantages new school training has brought with it. I am up to date with the supplements and nutrition I require in order to maximize benefits and the knowledge available helps me stay aware of changing trends in the fitness world.

I bet there is no professional bodybuilder out there who uses only old-school strength training or only new-school training principles. The smart and successful ones are those who know how to achieve a balance of the two styles. Just take a look at the workout routines of Jay Cutler or Dexter Jackson or Ronnie Coleman or Dorian Yates. You will get the point I am trying to make.

Just Look At Their Workout Routines.
+ Click To Enlarge.
Just Look At Their Workout Routines.

With a healthy combination of the basic exercises (which may sometimes be called Old School) and new school options available, we are able to put together several routines that help us in attaining our goals faster than what we could if we were to cut out any one of them.

A healthy nutrition plan with the advantage of several supplements that we have to choose from today certainly makes training a lot more fruitful.

A wealth of information available to us today in the form of books, magazines, newsletters, internet articles and websites like Bodybuilding.com give us all the data to keep our training and training needs dialed in.

Stick To The Basics And The Stuff That Works: Old Or New Is Not The Question.

What is considered new school now may be considered old school a couple of decades down the line. Always remember - a biceps curl done with a dumbbell made of stone is no different from a biceps curl done with a shiny metallic dumbbell or a dumbbell made of the latest synthetic material.