Best Old School Exercises (with Photos)

Wide-Grip Chins


You don’t see too many people doing wide grip chins anymore. Everyone does lat pulldowns, but they seem to have forgotten about chins in recent years. Back in the day all of us—Arnold, Franco, Ken Waller—we all used to do them religiously.

What’s really great is supersetting chins with bench presses. That’s what Arnold and I used to do; back and forth, one to the other. You’re working antagonistic muscle groups, like when you train biceps with triceps. It basically pumps up your whole upper body.

T-Bar Rows


We would do these by jamming one end of an Olympic bar into a corner of the room. We’d switch off our hands, putting one in front of the other to grip the bar and switching each set. If we did four sets then each side would get preference for two alternate sets.

The T-bar rows done this way are great for giving you a big stretch in your lats—more so than doing straight barbell rows.

One-Arm Dumbbell Row


I see guys doing these on occasion, but they rarely do them the right way. This is an exercise you can really feel if you do it right. You get that deep stretch at the bottom and the nice contraction in the lat at the top. But if your focus is on going super-heavy you’re not going get the full effectiveness out of this movement.



What we would do is superset flat bench dumbbell flyes with decline pushups. We’d put our feet pup on a bench and then there were these low wooden boxes—maybe 4″ tall—that we would place our hands on to get that extra stretch at the bottom. This is a killer—really pumps up the pecs. Four sets of 8-12 reps done this way burns your chest out pretty well.

Cross Bench Pullover


Everyone did these back in the day. It’s where you lie across a bench with your middle back to shoulders supported by it and pull a dumbbell from the floor over your head in a big sweeping, arcing movement. We did these to expand our ribcages but they work the pecs, lats and even the triceps.

Concentration Curl w/Hanging Arm


Most people do their concentration curls by bracing the back of their upper arm to the inside of their thigh. What we would do was lean on the dumbbell rack with one hand and let the other arm dangle. Then we’d curl the dumbell up without moving our upper arm at all.

One common mistake people make with these is they curl the weight to their chest. Instead you should curl it out in the direction of your pinky. Makes all the difference.

Cross-Chest Dumbbell Triceps Extension


Lie back on a bench holding a dumbbell in one hand. Push it straight over your shoulder as if you were going to do a one-arm extension, but instead of bringing the dumbbell down next to your ear, lower it to your opposite pec. It’s a variation on the traditional one-arm extension, but it’s really good.

EZ Curl Lying Triceps Extentsions


You lie down and do eight reps of extensions bringing the bar behind your head. Then without stopping you do another 8 reps bringing the bar to your forehead. Then you immediately go to 8 pushouts—basically close-grip bench presses with the elbows held close to the body. It will totally fatigue your triceps.

Sissy Squats


You hold onto either a machine or a column or some other vertical bar that can take your weight. Then holding on with one hand you squat down, leaning your torso back so as to put all the stress on your quads. Remember to keep your hips forward at all times. If you’re doing them correctly you don’t even need weight, but you can hold a plate to your chest with your free arm.

ForeArm Roller


What we used to do was find a nice thick broom handle or a metal pipe and drill a hole through its center. Then we’d tie a rope through it and tie a weight to the other end and raise the weight by rolling the bar with our arms extended. It gives you an unbelievable burn in your forearms after just a few sets.

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