Old School vs. New School Bodybuilding

What’s the difference between old school and new school bodybuilding?

A question everyone might have when learning a bit more about bodybuilding is what is old school bodybuilding and why does everyone refer to it as old. Well to put it shortly it was a moment in time when the entire community was widely popularized with the help of huge names like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lee Haney, Franco Columbo, etc. all legends that changed the sport for the better. 

From there you can only think to yourself would you rather have trained then or stay with the times and train with the new school techniques. Not that there is a good or bad side to be on, but #TeamMEAT is here to take a deep dive and discuss the major difference so you can make the choice for yourself. 

Time Period

Thinking about when the Golden Era started and where our modern era of bodybuilding began definitely has some distance between the two. We can date the Golden Era back to the 60’s and 70’s while we can safely assume that our modern age of bodybuilding can be sometime after the 2000’s till now. As of today that’s as far back as 60 years ago so you can only imagine how different things can have changed for the better. Although we can’t take away the teachings along with trial and error from the past, without those who knows where we would be today.

Training Differences

As far as training goes there’s no definitive right or wrong. You’re right though to assume a big trend for the old school lifters would be lifting heavy with a midrange amount of repetitions and about 2 to 3 sets. This would be focused a lot on a muscle group that would then be trained up to two times a week. As for new school lifters, we tend to see bigger variations of lifts where people will break the workouts up into more volume less reps or less volume higher reps. This allows the bodybuilders to find an area of need that isn’t as established as others they’re training.


In the past as you can see through old movies or just by doing a little research you can tell a lot of the old school bodybuilders relied heavily on free weights, such as barbells and dumbbells. Not to say they refused to use machines, but at the time they didn’t have the same technology as we do today. There will be pros and cons to each and every workout and it all comes down to what you need to focus on for yourself. Old school lifters didn’t have the benefit we do with the new equipment and machines so they worked with what they had and still reached their goals. Simplicity is what they had and it didn’t overcomplicate workouts. Today you have countless options that can work in many ways for you so you just have to decide how you want to build.

Drug Use

Straight to the point about it any sort of supplement, PED, or just medicine in general is far more advanced than before. Everything has become more accessible and safer for regular use. Doses these days are much more potent and lifters do intake a larger amount of these drugs which can enhance them in ways unlike anything before. Super beneficial to help areas that are lacking behind and can be a game changer for people competing. Although even with all this advancement you can only imagine the amount of effort and time put into the gym back then to get the physiques old school bodybuilders had.


The new school is much more particular and conscious when compared to the old school era of bodybuilding. Simply by the fitness equipment, advanced supplements, and digital solutions there are today you can’t overlook the upgrade. Although for a lot of people, the physique of the old school bodybuilder is more aesthetically pleasing and proportional than the average new school bodybuilder. The key for them was simplicity, and during training it’s all about the intensity and frequency.

Principles of the two aside there is no need to shy away from using ideas that work specifically into your regimen. Things like determination and the improvement of invested effort never change. It will never matter how much of your training gets classified as long as it produces results. 

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