Health and Fitness: Are We Stuck in the Eighties?

Posted by on Monday, February 17, 2014

The late 70s and 80s were a hugely popular time for bodybuilding, thanks to Hollywood superstars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. As a result, active participation in improving one’s health and fitness became a societal norm. To this day, exercises’ popularity has been on the rise, and as we progress in to 2014, it feels as though health and fitness has never been as popular as it currently is.

In 2014, we know more about health, nutrition and exercise than ever before, but when composing a fitness routine, many gym goers feel the need to base their routines on the fundamental muscle groups that bodybuilders like Arny were using in the eighties. Is this the right approach? Do we still need to specifically target and isolate muscle groups to achieve the best overall result?

The Eighties

30 years ago, competitive bodybuilders were dramatically increasing in mass, with an emphasis on overall size becoming the desired outcome; this started a paradigm shift in to extreme weight lifting and extreme eating/supplementation. Although anabolic steroids were nothing new in the eighties, they did gain popularity in line with the popularisation of bodybuilding.

In an attempt to maximise size, bodybuilders in the 80s focused on core muscle group splits, isolated and compound exercises (often including powerlifting, etc). Due to increasing competition and better prizes, the desired outcome for competitive bodybuilders was often size and symmetry rather than practical strength or fitness. The workout programs and routines that were popular in the 80s and 90s are practically identical to what is often recommended today; targeting core muscle groups on specific days in the gym, lifting heavy for 8 to 12 reps.


Many gym goers are still very much in an “8 to 12 rep” frame of mind; they cannot be blamed for this since it is so often recommended by experienced weight lifters and personal trainers. It is an approach that works for building strength and size, but it is also an approach which often neglects core areas of fitness. Users of this methodology will often neglect parts of their body due to focusing too much on isolation, rather than full-body activation. We have all seen those with massive upper-bodies and tiny legs; this is a massive imbalance in overall fitness.

A modern fitness program should ideally cover all aspects of fitness; full body strength, flexibility and cardio vascular performance. This creates a strong platform for all areas of fitness, rather than a specialisation in one or two. Exercise could include:

  • Bodyweight exercise
  • Plyometrics
  • Calisthenics
  • HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
  • Traditional Cardio Exercise (Cycling, Running, etc)
  • Weight Lifting
  • Kettle Bell Training
  • Resistance Band Training
  • Suspension Training
  • etc

By using some or all of the many exercise types available to you, you create a body (and mind) that is fit, versatile, and functional. Life simply doesn’t work in 8 to 12 repetitions!

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