As time goes on, there are more and more “ways” to exercise. If you look in the gym the next time you go, how many different variations are there on what are the core exercises each time? From boxercise to funky pump, insanity to CrossFit, we are being exposed to so much more different types of exercises than 20 years ago. On top of that, we have so many different diets to choose from that we are just plain confused about which one is best for us. Does the paleo diet work better because of the lack of carbs, or does it just make you plain tired because you haven’t replenished your glycogen stores? When it comes down to it, the basics have always been there, and they worked for everyone, from Eugen Sandow to Arnold Schwarzenegger, or from Nikki Fuller to Bev Francis. They never spoke of isolating one small muscle and working that until they were blue in the face. It always came from the basics of biomechanics and “old fashioned” weight training programs.
Bringing it back to basics is something a lot of people could do with in their exercise routine. The main reason most people now enter a gym is for vanity reasons. Which is fine, I’m not saying I’m not a little vain. But if you go into a gym with that attitude, you are merely working the bare minimum and not improving your strength. On the other end of the spectrum, there are many people who go five days a week and run on the weekends. These people may look like they have muscle, but this may be that “fake muscle” and not actually contain much strength. But if you are after strength instead of just looking good in the mirror, a good strength program will work better and quicker than a typical conditioning session. By getting people to focus on some of the core exercises, like deadlifts or bench presses, these are compound exercises that are doing a lot more for an overall level of fitness, which is a bigger benefit. It does seem that for the most part, the old routines seem to yield better results. But there is something that, in modern weightlifting, has an added benefit over weightlifters from 60 years ago. The rise of the supplement means that, within reason, we can work that much longer, train a bit harder and recover quicker. There are plenty of useful supplements out there, like hypertone force which works well for things like your Human Growth Hormone and increasing oxygen intake. And with our busy lives we can just mix up a protein shake, add in some Manuka honey to boost our body’s energy and drink it, blending a steak doesn’t sound too appetizing!
The basic exercises that work your whole body are the best-known ones, like the squat. Squatting is something that is done as a quick move in the middle of a cardio session, but the squat should be the tool in your armory when it comes to building a perfect exercise routine. A squat does so much for you; it works your core, your legs, your back, your shoulders. The list goes on. It is a great compound movement, and it should be part of your exercise routine. The fact of the matter is, this exercise is what will build strength. Combining this exercise with other routines, like the deadlift, you should be feeling the pain for a good few days afterward. Using classic exercises in your workout means less reliance on isolation exercises. Picking up a dumbbell for a few curls is great when you are starting out, but by only using a certain part of your body for a few sets doesn’t build strength in a quick way, and for the vain people, it is basically taking the longer route. A route you can do with the older exercises that work every part of your body and actually force you to lift the weight back onto the rack with all of your might because it is putting you under that pressure.
How do we see these classic exercises in modern weightlifting? Well, one of the most popular routines in bodybuilding making the rounds is the Stronglifts 5 x 5 program. The exercises in this program are very simple, in fact, there are only five: the squat, the bench press, the overhead press, the bent over barbell row, and the deadlift, all done with free weights, not machines. Each move is a compound exercise and works to give yourself an all-over conditioning. Each exercise is done for 5 rounds of 5 reps (except for the deadlift), which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s not just lifting the same weight each and every time. Each exercise is done in a certain pattern. Once you have successfully completed the reps without any trouble, the next time you perform that exercise, you add weight to it, which, done over the course of three workouts a week means that it will add up really quickly and you are likely to be lifting your own bodyweight very quickly! But these exercises are nothing new at all; in fact, they’ve been around for a long, long time. Reg Park was the first person to write about the 5 x 5 routine in 1960, and he was the mentor of one Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger, so surely he knows what he’s talking about!
The way modern gyms talk about the latest exercise craze, they are essentially variations on tried and tested formulas. They certainly work for people, and there’s a lot to be said for a Tough Mudder competition to get you running out in the open or using a maxi climber to get your heart rate going. But if you, like me, spend a lot of time on Pinterest trying to find exactly the right routine that will not only make you breathe heavier, get stronger, and give you those toned abs, these routines have been in existence for a long time. The old ones are the best.