5 reasons why the classic bodybuilders of the past had it right

Arnold, Franco, Ferrigno, Pearl, etc.. names a lot of us know and a lot of us look up to as icons of the bodybuilding world. Today’s physiques are more balanced, yes, they are bigger, yes, and they are arguably better in terms of overall symmetry and conditioning but along the way in the quest for the perfect physique, studies on muscle activation and Exercise Science degrees some very simple points are sometimes overlooked by many people.

For the person who is looking to be bigger, stronger and leaner, you can learn a hell of a lot from the old timers that will carry you through a lifetime.

1. Heavy shit builds muscle.

I don’t mean singles and doubles, but I do mean heavy weight for reps. Arnold could squat 405 for reps easily and used to compete in both PL and Olympic Lifting. Franco pulled over 700 and was regarded as one of the world’s strongest men. Kaz (who wasn’t a bodybuilder) dominated the WSM circuit in the early days and trained with a lot of volume, reps and heavy ass weight. The modern era has Stan Efferding, Ronnie Coleman, Johnnie Jackson, Amit Sapir and up and coming bodybuilders like Matt Dawson who crossed over from being an ASC pro strongman into the bodybuilding world. Those guys lift heavy, are strong and built a base by working up to big weights, not by doing DB incline presses for 20 reps.

Simple answer… worry about isolation shit but don’t sacrifice the pain.

2. They had fun at the gym.

Ever read old interviews with some of these guys? They had some damn fun while lifting. Yes they meant business but they also joked around with each other. You had introverts in gyms for sure, but by and large they were there to bust each other’s balls, lift some weight and have some damn fun.

I see people today acting like lifting is a job. Dudes need to chill out and enjoy it. I am not saying to carry on with a conversation during your rest periods but you should be enjoying this rather than being that surly asshole in the gym.

3. They ate clean but enjoyed life.

Chicken and rice, lean beef and potatoes and weren’t afraid to slam down a few beers or some cake once in a while. Show prep is different but off-season was a little more relaxed.

You guys who obsess over this in the off-season need a slap in the face at times. One garbage meal isn’t going to throw you into the no gain zone, so lighten up a little on the food and have some fun.

These guys sure as hell did and they still looked the part on stage and sacrificed when it mattered.

4. They didn’t take 5 grams of shit a week

Oh yes, I went there.

These guys weren’t natural, you would be a fool to think they were, but they also didn’t pump their bodies full of stuff that would make Secretariat blush.

Too many guys want the easy answer instead of relying on the variables they possess in front of them. That is train hard, eat like you want to build muscle and recover.

When you start pumping your body full of androgens to get bigger and stronger before you actually NEED to, you take away from building a smart base and become reliant on the “help”.

Build it with a brain before you even consider turning to other methods.

This is not me telling you that I condone illegal usage, this is me saying if you are going to do it (and a lot of people do), don’t be an idiot about this.

5. They learn what works for them

This is a big one and it gets lost in the era of coaching and online training. They actually figured out what works for them and applied it. Do you think these guys had coaches all over Venice Beach teaching them this shit? Hell no… bodybuilding was a blip on the map back then and the biggest contest in the world was held in a small auditorium.

They didn’t have a prep coach, a workout coach or a posing coach. They learned and taught each other.

This may be shitty advice coming from a guy who is a trainer but it is all truth. Even if you hire a coach you need to absorb what you learn from them, what works for you and take that with you if and when you leave that coach.

Accountability is amazing with a coach, but if you don’t actually learn what you were taught, you are wasting your potential as a lifter or bodybuilder.

These guys had to do it from ground zero, you can do the same with or without a coach.


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