This article was originally published on 1st January 2007. At the time, the idea of “old school fitness training” seemed quite new, however in the last couple of years, people are starting to look back to the more traditional ways of exercising. This is becoming even more relevant now that the global economic downturn is making people tighten their belts.
One of the largest monthly expenses people have, after paying rent, mortgage and tax, is actually gym and health club membership. Partner and family memberships at many clubs can be as much as £100 or $200 in some gyms, but even the cheaper gym rates add up to quite large sums over the course of a year.
When times are hard, gym membership is one of the first sacrifices – but this does not mean you have to stop working out. Old School Fitness is also Credit Crunch Fitness – it costs nothing more to do than the price of some trainers (or sneakers) and some old tracksuit bottoms and a T-shirt.
In this modern age too much emphasis is places on style over substance when it comes to getting fit. People join trendy gyms, wear fashionable clothing, drink the latest sports drinks, and usually pay extortionate amounts in the hope to achieve short term goals. The old school approach emphasizes the simple, basic exercises that have been proven to increase strength and fitness.
The exercises that used to be taught in School Physical Training classes, and are the core training in military schools, dance school and martial arts schools today. There have been some minor campaigns to reintroduce physical training into schools, to help battle the obesity epidemic.
Most schools in both the USA and UK have abandoned tradition physical training instruction, and replaced it with fluffy “games” lessons, where the emphasis is on team participation, cooperation and fun. Although team sports are a great way to improve social skills, they rarely teach people how to keep themselves in shape after they leave school. So, lets look at some old school fitness exercises.
Old School Circuit Training – Bodyweight Exercises and Interval Training
Circuit training is one of the best ways to gain all round fitness and strength. Intensive circuit training can be done inside sports halls as well as in the park. Each exercise is performed at a “station”. There are usually no or few weights involved. Generally the exercises include:
- Press ups
- Sit ups
- Star jumps
- Squat thrusts
- Step ups (onto a gym bench)
- Jumping onto then over gym bench with both feet together
- Burpies (sort of star jump followed immediately by a squat thrust – a killer !)
- Sprints up and down hall
- Running backwards, side ways etc.
- Dips (using gym bench to hold onto behind)
- Passing a medicine ball between two people, either back to back or
There are often many others that are incorporated to ensure that each class is varied, but these for the core of any circuit training class. Great for building overall strength and cardiovascular fitness and they exercise all the major muscle groups while keeping the heart rate high. The circuit can be done any number of times, and each exercise is usually performed for no more than 60 seconds before the next is attempted.
Old School Weight Training – Free Weights, Kettlebells, Tires and Sacks
Basic compound weight training is generally considered to be the “old school” weight training. Compound weight training exercises use several different muscle groups at once, as opposed to isolation exercises, which are the focus of bodybuilding. Compound weight training produces more functional and athletic muscle tissue. The best compound exercises to do are:
- Bench Press
- Shoulder Press / Military Press
- Bent Over Rows / Upright rows
- Shoulder shrugs
- Cleans and Clean and Presses
- Barbell / dumbbell curls
- Lateral Pull downs / pull ups
For weight training it is advisable to invest in some decent equipment, or join a proper weights gym. Free weights are much more versatile than machines, most exercises can be done with a pair of adjustable dumbbells.
In addition to using weights, many people are starting to use kettlebells, which are used to provide a more dynamic, more plyometric workout, and also other items more often seen in military boot camps, such as tractor tires and sacks which are pushed and shoved around. Many people find old school training to be a refreshing change from the sanitary (and expensive) commercial gyms and health clubs.