Lifting Weights for 68 Years: Whats New and Different?
I began lifting weights in 1955and yes we did have electric lights and television. No personal computers and no internet. Somehow, we managed to survive.
Occasionally I am asked what has changed in training for strength lifting and bodybuilding.
Basically.not much. The core training lifts are essentially the same as in 1955.
No question that the equipment is better than the not so good old days. The bench press benches we had would be regarded as a joke these days. Power cages and combo racks were few and far between. The bars and plates are vastly superior now.
So what workouts did we do back in the dark ages?
Before Harry Potter and Arnold
The basic workout in 1955 for either bodybuilding or strength training was about the same as it is today.
The only machines we had were leg press gadgets where you pushed the weight straight up instead of on an incline.
Back then in our home gyms we had to change plates on the dumbbells for each lift.
Kettlebells consisted of a special handle we attached to the dumbbell.
The core lifts were the same as now, except that back in the old days the standing barbell press was the most common stud lift. The standard of a strong dude was being able to do a strict barbell press overhead with your own bodyweight.
Bench press benches were so flimsy that heavy benching was very limited.
The rest of the weight workouts were pretty much the same then as nowwithout machines.
What was better then?
This is IMHO!
Abandoning the overhead lifts in my view has not been a good thing. While it may be safer, it definitely cuts down on building coordinated athletic strength.
These days many take the bar off a rack to put it overhead. This eliminated another of the great coordinated strength builders, the power clean.
Except for gyms where people do Olympic style lifting, I have not seen people doing power cleans in a few decades.
I still strongly recommend that people who are serious about their training incorporate overhead lifts and power cleans in their program.
I am not a fan of most machines. IMHO they remove the requirement to control a weight in space and thus undercut building coordination and athleticism.
Learning to lift a weight off the floor seems to be a lost art. I see people setting up power racks so that they dont have to bend over to pick up their 60 lb bar to do cheat curls.
Whats better now?
There is no question that the barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells we have today are vasty superior to what we had to lift back when I started.
We did have Olympic lifting bars, but they were few and far between and only in gyms that specialized in Olympic lifting.
Power cages with adjustable rack heights were almost unknown.
One huge difference today is that the sport of powerlifting did not exist until about 1968. Powerlifting popularized strength training doing squats, bench press and deadlifts. This enabled generations of senior folks such as me to continue to lift heavy stuff for decades longer than we would have been able to do Olympic style lifting.
The dramatic improvement in workout clothing should not be overlooked. In the not so good old days all we had were bulky sweat suits or T-shirts and gym shorts.
The clothing choices are much greater now and much better quality.
Make no mistake, the good old days are right now!
Enjoy the gym and have a blast in 2024. Happy Holidays!