I’m going to date myself with this one, but if you have been training as long as I have, you have seen a lot of things come and go over the years. Just as there are things we do today that will not be done in 20 years (occlusion training and using bands and chains are at the top of my list), these seven exercises used to be staples in everyone’s training protocol “back in the day.” #whatoldpeoplesay

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1. Dumbbell Triceps Kickbacks

This exercise was more of a rear-delt movement because it may have involved more work from the rear delt to stabilize the arm rather than the actual work done for the triceps. I recall thinking as a young teenager that my rear delt hurt more by the end of a set of kickbacks than my triceps did.

I will see this movement being performed on occasion these days, but more a bastardized kickback than the original version. The “new” version looks more like a dumbbell curl because the arm is not parallel to the floor, but instead hanging down so much that the biceps ends up doing more of the work. I would love to offer to correct the person performing this movement incorrectly, but we all know that these days everyone is an expert.  No one seems to want advice no matter how experienced the person is who is giving the advice.


2. Dumbbell Concentration Curls

I can’t recall the last time I have seen this exercise performed. It may well have been when I was doing them 30 years ago. I think I realized early on that this exercise provided little to no growth and I was only doing them because I saw Arnold doing them and his arms were huge.

This exercise was replaced by numerous curl machines that allowed for the same type of angle, but the trainee could use more weight and work both arms at the same time.  Still, if you want a great photo showing off your biceps, this exercise is king.

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3. Donkey Calf Raises

Arnold made these famous in Pumping Iron and my training partner and I performed these for every calf workout in the 80s while I was still in high school. As I have noted in previous articles about calf training, I am unsure if this exercise was a good option for increasing calf size or if I just really liked my partners sweaty balls on my back for three minutes at a time. Even on the occasion that I do this exercise with my wife sitting on my back, I get all sorts of weird looks like we are doing something perverted instead of effectively training calves.   Of course, it could also be that this exercise became extinct when Icarian made a machine that mimicked this movement, trading your training partner’s taint on your back for a pad attached to a weight stack. I mean, what fun is THAT, right??

 frank-zane-romanian-sit-up Photo credit: via Twitter

4. Roman Chair Situps

Ab training has come a long way in the last 30 years. I don’t recall using ab machines in the 80s, instead focusing on ab exercises like decline situps, roman chair situps, and, of course, Rocky Balboa leg lifts. The problem was that roman chair situps were horrible for the lower back and arguably would widen and thicken the abs and midsection vs. keeping it tight and streamlined. However, you need to understand that ab training in the 80s was about as much a “man card” display as bench pressing. You didn’t do these exercises as much for development as you did to show your level of machismo.   broom-stick-twists-skip

 5. Broomstick Twists

I don’t have much to say about this movement.  Even at 15-years old I was smart enough to understand that twisting without any resistance wasn’t going to do a damn thing. Again, though, it made for a great photo op to show off your midsection if you were ripped. File this exercise under the useless exercise tab.

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6. Behind-the-Neck Shoulder Presses

Though this exercise isn’t performed very often these days, I admit that I have been using them routinely for the last five years. They may have fallen out of fashion, but they are an incredibly effective movement for the side delts – especially when used on a smith machine that allows you to push back at roughly a 15 percent angle. The trick is to not allow the upper arm to get below where it is parallel to the floor. Outside of myself, I doubt I have seen anyone do these in the last 20 years in any gym I have trained in during that time.




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7. Sissy Squats

Horrible name, but a great movement especially when used in a superset after doing leg extensions. It isn’t a movement that allows for huge weights, so this is likely the main reason it fell out of fashion. Still, it can be a very effective movement when used following extensions or as a finisher on leg day to blow out the quads.

Old guys usually like to think that the things they did years ago are as good or better than what the younger generation does now. However, at least in this case, almost all of these movements have gone extinct and should remain as such. I am smart enough to know (and admit) that not everything we did “back in the day” was optimal.  Even though some of these movements weren’t terribly effective, I think we can all agree that these old-school exercises are likely much better than the crap that is being made up these days by Insta-Trainers. Just Sayin’.