You still hear about “Old School” training but much less often than you would ten years ago. A lot of that has to do with the natural evolution of gyms. As places like 24 Hour Fitness have begun to dominate the market, the general style of a gym has slowly evolved. But is that a good thing?
There are still some Powerhouse and Gold’s Gyms around as well as holdouts that just have heavy iron, but for the most part they have died out because they don’t appeal to enough people to be profitable. But as these gyms have transformed we have slowly lost ties to old school lifting. Gone are the big power cages, super heavy weights, and people blasting their bodies for hours a day.
Difference between Old School Training and Now
Science is the biggest difference between now and then. With the pure amount of knowledge we have available people have learned to be more practical and efficient with things like nutrition, supplements, workout systems, and recovery. Back in the day you generally lifted as much weight as possible for as long as you could to the point of absolute exhaustion. Then you would eat as much food as possible, rest, and then repeat the cycle.
But some of the legendary originals of the sport like a Reg Park or Arnold Schwarzenegger had incredible physiques. So perhaps there are some things we can learn from that style. It is always good to have variety in your training routine to help shock your body into getting stronger, faster, and more powerful. Maybe we should look at some old school techniques to try out.
Old School Techniques
- Volume Training – Generally speaking the old guard would lift as much as they could, as long as they could. You didn’t just do 2 to 3 sets of bench presses. You did 5 or 6. You pyramided weights to get down to doing 5-6 agonizing reps with the absolute most you could lift. It was brutal and challenging.
- Barbells and dumbbells – There were fewer machines back then and definitely none as well made as we have now. While they provided some variety, for the most part everything was done with barbells and dumbbells. Machines offer safety perks, but they can’t compare in the same way as free weights for the entire body where more stabilization is needed.
- Go heavy or go home – Or in most cases, go heavy and then go home. You lifted maximum weight all of the time and forced your body to grow. There was more grunting and absolute effort given. Of course some gyms now have a “No grunting or yelling” policy so you need to be aware before you unchain the inner animal.
- Power Exercises – Basic power exercises that shake your whole body to its foundation such as squats, dead lifts, cleans, bench press, dips, and pull-ups are the basics of the routine. Unless you have done them, you have no idea how physically challenging a great squat or dead lift session can be for your entire body.
- Recovery – Hit the gym as much as you can but rest when the body says it is done. Amazingly old school lifters didn’t over train as much as you would think. Yes they might work out twice a day but they would also get solid rest on off days and even take naps when needed. They were in tune with their bodies.
So is old school right for you? You should at least give it a try. In the very least it can provide a diversion to your current routine. Plus most everything that is being done today is in part to what was created and learned in the past.