Old School Bodybuilding vs. The New Age

Written by the Boostcamp staff
Dec 17,2023|11 min| 3005

How has bodybuilding changed over the years of its existence?

When it comes to bodybuilding and really building muscle mass, nowadays you see guys doing fancy “optimal” exercises and favoring the isolation movements instead of the compound exercises. Modern bodybuilders too often leave the heavy barbell movements to the powerlifters and Olympic Weightlifters rather than using them to build some solid mass. However, you look at guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger and other bodybuilders of the Golden Era who utilized a good amount of compound barbell movements and really packed on mass, still getting shredded.

Let’s break down all things old school bodybuilding.

Bodybuilding Overview

When it comes to what exactly bodybuilding is, it is the art of building the body, putting on muscle mass and sculpting a physique worthy of being carved into a statue. Old school bodybuilding was considered to be more “aesthetically pleasing” than the bodybuilders of today, as the Golden Era focused more on hypertrophy and symmetry, rather than putting on as much muscle mass and overall size as their genetics allow for.

Now, you have competitive bodybuilders who step on stage, and compete against others that are trying to win a title. Unlike competitive powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting, the competitors are judged on their strength in certain lifts like the squat and bench press or the clean and jerk and snatches, bodybuilders are judged on their appearance. It is not a beauty pageant, but the competitors are judged on their conditioning, size, symmetry, and posing.

Competitive bodybuilding has changed a good bit since the days of the Golden Era, where bodybuilders had tiny waists and broad shoulders with legs to match, forming the perfect V-taper. In today’s day and age of bodybuilding you see more bloated abdominal muscles, and massive frames, with freakish conditioning and fine-tuned muscles, and it is quite the anomaly to look at when those guys are in the gym training or up on the stage. While it is partly due to steroid usage changing, it also has a lot to with the training styles that have changed up.

What Goes Into Bodybuilding Training

Bodybuilding training is nothing short of crazy, as bodybuilders are looking to put on some serious size and bulk up, not hit a one rep max on their squat, bench, and deadlift. However, bodybuilding training has very much changed since the days of the 60s, 70s, and eighties. Back then, guys focused on being as big and strong as possible, but nowadays they tend to look to be as big as possible and focus on more high reps with good form and a great mind-muscle connection, rather than going heavy and utilizing more intensity.

Scientific based training has become more and more popular amongst the bodybuilding community, and it no longer consists of just picking things up and putting things down. Now, there is a large emphasis on making sure that movements are done properly, and people look for “optimal” exercises rather than just going with what worked before. This is why you see more fine tuned muscles on modern bodybuilders than old school bodybuilders.

The Importance of Compounds in Bodybuilding Training

While getting in the proper accessory movements is crucial in bodybuilding training as it does help to make the muscles stand out, you cannot forget the importance of compounds. The compound lifts consist of movements that recruit more than one muscle to complete the lift. For example, the squat hits the quads, hamstrings, and the glutes all within one range of motion. The same goes for something like the bench press, that will recruit the chest, shoulders, and triceps to complete each rep.

With compound movements recruiting more than one muscle group, that is perhaps part of the reason that modern bodybuilders favor isolation movements. The isolation movements truly do help to develop the muscles to the point where you can see things you might not normally see in them. However, compound movements are just as important, as these are the ones that help you get stronger overall and build much more size, as you can really overload your muscles with compound movements. 

That being said, it is good to find a bodybuilding workout program that includes a healthy balance of compounds and isolation movements.

Old School Size and Strength

When looking for the perfect bodybuilding program to build that old school muscle and strength, check out the Old School Size and Strength program from Pete Khatcherian. The Old School Strength and Size Program is Peter Khatcherians go to training system for adding massive amounts of muscle and strength for intermediate and advanced lifters. 

The principles of Old School Size and Strength are based on both old school strength training methods, as well as higher volume bodybuilding methods of the Pumping Iron era, which is when Arnold Schwarzenegger was dominating the Mr. Olympia stage. 

It is worth noting that bodybuilders in the 60's and 70's were both brutality strong and had these aesthetically pleasing physiques that many fans of the sport will argue as the greatest in the history of bodybuilding. With the rise of the Classic Physique Division in different bodybuilding federations such as the IFBB and NPC, people are seeking to obtain a physique like a classic old school bodybuilder, and they also want the strength that comes with it. If this is something that you are in the gym looking to create, then perhaps the Old School Size and Strength Program is for you.

Exercises in the Program

The Old School Size and Strength program has exercises that will build some significant size and strength. It incorporates a great mix of exercises, as well as volume. In this five day workout split, you will be doing exercises such as:

  • Incline Bench Press

  • Chest Flies

  • Squats

  • Hamstring curls

  • Bicep Curls

  • Tricep Extensions

Those are just a few examples of the exercises that you will be utilizing during the Old School Size and Strength program. However, there are plenty more. 

The rep ranges go from 5 reps (particularly on compounds) all the way up to 15-20 reps, so you are getting a good mix of strength training and hypertrophy training. When it comes to the intensity, each set is performed at an RPE of 8-9, so you are getting relatively close to muscular failure on the last rep.

Where to Find the Old School Size and Strength Program

The Old School Size and Strength Program can be found right on the Boostcamp App, amongst other free programs, over fifty to be exact. When it comes to following a new workout program and seeing how you are progressing with it, you would want to find a platform that caters to your needs and guides you in the right direction. Boostcamp can do that, and it can even help you to measure your progress, track your workouts, and continue with linear progression.

Old School vs. New School Bodybuilding Wrap Up

Overall, when it comes to old school bodybuilding vs. the new age, it is quite the topic to discuss. There are plenty of differences between the training styles of each era, such as volume, exercises, and so on. Finding a good program to build that strength and muscle mass is key to a complete and functional physique, and the Old School Size and Strength program is the program for you.

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