Old School Muscle | Lessons & Inspiration from 2 Men Who Know About RAW Strength


I have an inspiring message for you, or, shall I say, lessons I've learned from 2 Men that TRULY inspire me in the world of strength, muscle building and athletic performance. These men BOTH walk the talk and have been around the iron game much, much longer than I have.

Some of this might be the reminder you need to return to the basics and escape the fads and gimmicks.

Sometimes I seriously wonder if I was born in the wrong era. I wonder why I stand alone or stick out like a sore thumb when I'm the only guy who wants to wrap his hands around old school York dumbbells that were made before I was born.

In a day and age where athletes are connected to electronics and NASA-like software, we are getting away from developing what I call "The Coach's eye" - the ability to listen to athletes, to assess them verbally and non verbally before the warm up even starts.

We are getting away from Brilliance with the Basics and seeking out the training that has the most flash. How many bands can I attach to your body? Parachutes? How about demonstrating a proper squat? The fundamentals are powerful! I have not met anyone who is beyond the fundamentals, ever!

Why do we fear the basics?

Or, do we fear that being awesome at the fundamentals will not lead to more views on social media?

As always, Basics for the WIN. Results count and can NOT be denied!

When I wrap my hands around these old weights, I wonder who did so before me, I wonder how they trained, how much they squatted and what kind of atmosphere was going on in their gym or garage as they lifted these heavy weights. I can literally FEEL the history when I grab those vintage weights!

Look at the physiques and the weights that were lifted in those early physical culture years. Those numbers are BIG time impressive.

Those "Golden Era Bodybuilding" days must have been pure magic.

The lifters back then sure as heck didn't have to worry about guys checking out their hair in the mirror, recording one another on a Squat while setting weights on fire to get "more views and more likes", popping zits and reading the newspaper in between sets.... or maybe they did?

Was there always "that guy" who was at the gym just to talk and not lift?

Was there always "that guy" who never got better, he was just there to socialize?

I am all for having FUN when training and socializing but I LOVE getting Strong. I can flip the switch as soon as I get under that barbell or wrap my hands on the iron!

THE Photo of Tom Platz that Was Hung In Front of the Squat Rack at Diamond Gym!

I recall talking with Coach Ethan Reeve on the phone one day (which ALWAYS fires me up to train). We were speaking about experimenting with our training and all the different ways one can gain strength, power, add muscle and develop conditioning.

Of course, we agreed that there is more than just ONE way to make it happen. MORE than just one way to get powerful results and the men who have proved this through time over and over again, centuries old, are proof positive.

Above, Bob People's Gym, aka The Dungeon.

Coach Reeve and I agreed that if all we had were kettlebells, then we would make our athletes crazy strong using just the kettlebells.

Or just sandbags.....

Or just a barbell......

Or just strongman equipment.....

Coach Reeve is spot on...... it's about the attitude you bring to the workout, NOT the equipment you have.

This is why the strength and the physiques from the 50s - 70s were far more impressive than the majority of what we see today.

Jim Kiritsy said something I love, when I told him about how impressed I was with his athletes attacking the basics.

Jim said this....

Do the Simple things Savagely Well.

Heck, take a look at the "barrel bar" that Bob Peoples used to fill with stones for his deadlifts.

Notice his "power rack" is a self made, backyard edition. No band pegs.... No squat suit.... NO training partner.

Food for thought.

There are many ways to get the job done. Which had Coach Reeve and I talking about Dr. Ken who you saw in recent episodes of The Underground Strength Show. Check one episode below.....

Dr. Ken was training college & NFL Football players using odd objects like missiles. Weight is weight. Strong is STRONG.

Dr. Ken was also using steal beams with handles welded on them for deadlifts, farmer walks, one handed deadlifts plus all types of carries. I have video footage of Dr Ken training guys with heavy 150 lb DBalls and even cannon balls.

We can Deadlift with many different tools, squat with many different tools. Ultimately, the basics performed with brilliance will deliver powerful results.

QOD (Question of the Day): What odd objects do you use when training and how do you put them together to create powerful results? Drop a comment and let us know!

Live The Code 365,


The Underground Strength Academy - Est. 2005


22 Responses

  1. Z,

    I agree…weight is freakin’ weight. The body doesn’t give a damn if it’s tree trunk of a car tire. Just lift if…lift it correctlyand don’t be afraid to jack intensity through the roof.

    Intensity has a much higher return than the “type” of weight you lift.

    Great post Z. See you in Philly!

    Donovan “DFitnessguy” Owens

    Hutto, Texas Womens Fitness Boot Camp

  2. 1) Matt Wichlinski of Virginia Beach, Va.

    2) Ray Johnson of lemonto, Il.

    Congrats guys that’s freggin awesome (raising my coffee).

  3. I have video of Leistner squatting 400+ for 23 reps, overhead pressing 250+ for 5 reps, stiff legged deadlifting 300+ for high reps, and barbell curling 155 for 6 reps ALL IN THE SAME WORKOUT! Oh, and he was in his mid fifties when he did it…AND HE ONLY WEIGHED ABOUT 150-160 lbs. Dr. Ken is the man. I’ve read his stuff for over 12 years now, have all of his old publications, have been put through 2 workouts by him, visited his home and got to know him personally. He’s a great guy and no bullshit. He pushed me in the right direction business wise as well. He’s definitely been one of my mentors in the iron game.

    1. @P. J. Striet: PJ I have that entire workout on DVD as well plus more, it is SIIIC!

    2. @P. J. Striet: PJ – those 2 workouts musta been hellish, ha ha, I’ve seen his workouts on film, impressive!

  4. Odd Objects, that is one thing that we work with all the time at Horsepower Strength and Conditioning. I will just hit you up with the latest creation. We call it the HP prowler. Plastic folding table, 250 loader tire, bungee cords, Sandbags = rubber legs. The body did not know it was pushing a tire a table, it just new it was pushing weight. Attitude and effort build strength. Bring it everyday!!

      1. @admin: Car push, truck push… all good stuff! Ever had Athletes roll tractor tires up a steep grade. Works great… just make sure they keep their forward momentum or have good lateral movement!!!

  5. None yet, but I’m planning on ordering a sandbag and sending it home to my Dad’s garage gym so that I can train with it while on leave after this next upcoming deployment….

    1. @Leia: That will be awesome!! Fill it when you arrive overseas, empty it when you wanna travel with it.

      It will be Awesome!

  6. Kevin Salisbury says:

    I believe that creativity isn’t just for art but lifting as well. I couldn’t afford kettle bells so I bought the biggest water jug wallmart had, filled it up and use it for overhead snatches. Reduce water if you need a lighter weight. For farmers walks I use a wheelbarrow and load it up with rocks, bricks and sometimes my son. For part of my back routine I throw a rope over a branch, tie on some weights and use it as a pulley system. Rope training is great but with no rope I found a long logging chain at my neighbors and I do all the same routines with that. I am always looking for odd things to add and my strength has only increased because of it.. Stay strong and stay real..

    1. @Kevin Salisbury: Kevin ur the MAN! Those are awesome ideas, my brutha!!!

      Love the ropes and chains over the tree!

  7. Hey Zach,

    Just a suggestion, you may want to consider the graveyard shift workers. I know there are quite a few of us. Maybe some things that can help us out.

    Take care

    1. @Arliss: Arliss, thnx my man! You need suggesstions for training during work or after a long night at work?

      1. @admin: After work would be best. I tried normal work outs but they don’t cut it. I tried work outs after a short nap…wasn’t as intense. I think something brutal would be best in the morning. The reason I say morning (which would be 5-7am is because test levels are highest in the morning (unless that changes when you work a zombie shift).

        Have a great day

  8. Dustin M. says:

    Everytime I go back home, I will visit my grandma’s/grandpa’s home. They have a large tractor tire…about 300-400lbs. And of course, countless rocks/logs laying around the place. I actually record how I do with the tractor tire and see if my current workouts boost my overall conditioning and strength..

    I can currently flip that tire for 60 reps in 12 minutes. My goal is to just keep adding mroe flips everytime I come home (unfortunately which is rare). Then I finish my workout with endless sets of overhead presses with all types of rocks n logs..I push my body to the limit on these days. Unforutnatey, the overhead presssing done with these are not a measureable standpoint–but I dont care! I measure and progress in my actual training. 🙂

    In my garage, I have a sand-filled keg and a 55gallon partially water-filled drum. And of course, a solid barbell and several steel bars. I always get a kick out of watching my friends who can clean 250lbs or deadlift 400lbs…struggle to lift a 150lb keg. Im planning to fil that keg all the way up to 260lbs doing easy reps and endless carries. Or just hand them a steel bar to bend and they just mentally break down, haha!

    1. @Dustin M.: Dustin, you are reppin’ my brutha, NO doubt! #BEASTMode ALL Day!

  9. Dustin W. says:

    Two old milk cans filled with 240# concrete and steel, 225# field stone, 240# concrete stone and one heavy duty table.
    It is my only workout that day. Lift to table all the pieces. Then take them down, and keep going around in a circle with minimal rest for 60 minutes.
    Stone stacking with my boys at a local park. They pick em Daddy lift em!
    Nothing beats lifting stones and logs in a blizzard. Can’t wait for the snow!

  10. At home I use a combination of homemade sandbags, different shapes and sizes of stones, ammo cans filled with sand, and a homemade Bulgarian sandbag made from a rubber innertube, sand, and gods gift to man… Ductape… With rope I attach it to the sandbag, drop it over my porch which is about 6 feet of the ground and do curls without it touching the ground. With the stones and sandbags I do military presses and the ammo cans, curls, And shuttle runs. All topped off with a 3 to 5 mile run. Simple, Cheap, and Brutal.


  11. Hey Zach in regards to that grave yard comment. I’m a night owl musket I’d love to get some ideas for after work. Something that’s short, brutal and packs on muscle and strength and minimal in regards to cash and equipment.

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