Old School is Still a Great School

Pictured above, you’ll see NFL Hall of Famer Walter Payton running hills as he often did. Walter Payton ran hills to condition himself for the grueling demands of the National Football League. There were no ulterior motives. He wasn’t seeking attention or approval from those around him. Instead, the goal was simple. Become a better athlete on the field.

Effectiveness vs. Attention Seeking

Times have certainly changed. Training is no longer just about physical improvement, but instead an attention seeking contest. Never before have I seen so many exercises invented. Unfortunately, new rarely equal better. And I don’t say this to suggest that there won’t be opportunities to improve on the past. I’ve just been around long enough to know that such instances aren’t nearly as common as some would like you to believe.

Listen below as I share some additional thoughts on the subject.

Effectiveness vs. Popularity

I’m sure some readers are thinking, “Yeah, but if the old school is so effective, why don’t we hear more about it?”

That’s a great question. Listen below for the answer.

Stand Out With Results

Whether you’re an athlete or coach, it’s important to realize that your success will always be defined by results. No one cares about what methods you use to achieve those results. You don’t get extra points for being original. And as I’ve said before, originality is overrated.

Thus, while many old school exercises may lack flash, they’re loaded with substance. And that’s just another reason why it’s useful to study athletes from the past. They weren’t vying for attention on social media. Their sole focus was quite simple. Get the job done as effectively as possible. Plenty can be learned from that simple observation.

Speaking as a professional boxing coach, my job description is also quite simple. I prepare my fighters to win. I’m not paid to be original or different. I’m paid to be effective. And while that may sound obvious, I believe it is an important statement to make (particularly in today’s age).

Final Thoughts

I don’t make a living on social media, and I don’t get royalty checks because I’m using exercises from the past. I make my living offline as a real coach with professional athletes who would fire me if I wasn’t effective. Therefore, when I talk about the old school, I’m not doing so because it somehow benefits me. I’m just sharing what we use and what actually works.

And once again, I’m not suggesting that we should never look to improve upon the past. We should always strive to improve at whatever we do. It’s important to realize though that there will always be more opportunities to improve an individual than there will be opportunities to improve the methods used by that individual.

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“Originality is way overrated. To make, you need to take. All great artists do.” – Darby Bannard


  1. Just want to say that I’m glad I discovered your blog some time ago and I find myself constantly returning to it, seeking the nuggets of training wisdom that I always find here. I am not a professional athlete, but being almost sixty years of age, I know the value of not wasting time trying to reinvent a wheel that already works perfectly. I am in total agreement, Ross. Keep up the good work.

  2. Hi Ross,

    Nice clips, and you might want to look up the “Lindy effect” as a nice rule confirming your point. The idea is that the longer something has existed, the longer it’s likely to remain in existence. Applied to exercise, if people have been doing push-ups for thousands of years, it’s likely that people will continue doing it for thousands of years, while if TV-fitness gimmick X has been around for three months, chances are it won’t stick around for very long. There are exceptions, of course, but the default bet is on what has already been around for a long time.

  3. Nice thoughts. I used to practise Martial Arts for 14 years… What my teacher/trainer used to say to us was: “Never try to do fancy moves, the simple things will give you the advantage”.
    Ps. First time commenting, I want to thank you for the quality content.

  4. A good example of all old school today is the rising star UFC Fighter from Dagastan (Russian province full of poor, Islamic mountain people) named Khabib Nurmagomedov. He runs hills, wrestles and spars with local athletes, and even wrestled bears as a child aka no high tech/fitness mag and model laden fitness industry marketing jive. Khabib is crushing everyone in his division and is gunning for Conor. I’m not an expert but know more than a lot of people and my gut instinct is telling me Khabibs going to crush Conor McGregor if Conor will accept that fight.

  5. In this video from United World Wrestling we get another insight in the Cuban wrestling system. Around 2:30 in the video on of their wrestler in the national team talks about why they are successful. He credits their success to wrestling year around. That increases their work capacity and puts them ahead of a lot of people. Take a look here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7NeoSoy3cs

  6. I couldn’t agree more. But when you think about it even with all the all new fads and gimmicks around today the vast majority of trainees still rely on the old standbys like squats, deadlifts, hill sprints and the like. New ideas will come and go. Some may stand the test of time. But the proven old school stuff will always be there.

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