5 Old-School Exercises You Should Be Doing

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Running is one of the oldest sports in existence. Advancements have made quite a difference since Pheidippides ran from Athens to Marathon in almost 490 BC. Yet, some things won’t ever change, like the fact that all you really need is a pair of running shoes. That doesn’t keep runners from trying new fads and trends in exercise, and nutrition in hopes of incorporating some of them into their routine.  As runners, running (hopefully) isn’t the only physical exercise we do. The supplemental work to prevent injury and build muscle is just as important.

That said, there are some old-school exercises that have been around for what seems like forever. And the reason is because they work, very well. Another reason these exercises are so ideal is that the standard version of all these exercises uses one’s own body weight and can be modified to be made easier or more difficult. What old-school exercises should you add back in or keep in your routine?


It seems like every black and white movie, vintage exercise manual or old guy at your gym does push-ups. And not only does them, but considers them as important as their cardio work or whatever other exercises they will be doing. Push-ups can be done anywhere, at any time and use a wide variety of muscles.

Push-ups work your pectorals, shoulders (deltoids), triceps, abdominals and the “wing” muscle right under your armpit. You can also do multiple variations of a push-up based on your needs.  You can make things more difficult for yourself like attempting a one-armed push-up or inverted push-up with your feet elevated on a bench or chair. Or if you are just beginning, pregnant or have wrist complications you can attempt push-ups from your knees or a standing position against a wall.


For a lot of people, pull-ups have fallen out of vogue. Part of that might be because they are pretty difficult for most people. It could also be because any middle-aged American that went through the public school system hates pull-ups due to the Presidential Fitness Tests they were subjected to in gym class. Or because it’s hard to find a pull-up bar that isn’t attached to the assisted pull-up machine at your local gym.

Pull-ups work your lats, your forearms, biceps, triceps and stabilizing muscles all through your upper body.  For those that need to make pull-ups more of a challenge, a weight can be added around your waist via chain or waist belt.

Calf Raises

Calf raises seem to be the epitome of old-school. A lot of runners can bang out 50 a side and not even feel a slight burn. It’s enough to make you think they don’t really do much. Not the case. Lucky for runner’s the calf muscle needs to be worked until it’s fatigued to produce results.

Performing calf raises most days of the week until your calves burn will assist in endurance and improve both plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis all while assisting in increasing your speed. Another reason to make sure you keep on those calf raises, as you age the calf muscle can atrophy. You want as much power in your stride as possible and calf raises can help.


It seems like every few years the lunge becomes “the” leg workout of choice.  It’s a safe bet that anyone who previously counted lunges as an important part of their exercise routine and ditched them cites one of two reasons: lunges hurt their knee(s) or they feel like they lunged themselves to death at one point and are over them. A lot of the issues that people encounter with lunges don’t have to do with the lunge itself, but the breakdown in form when performing the exercise. Lunging in place and in front of a mirror while standing close to a wall to assist balance can rectify these problems. Lunges are an excellent way to build lower body strength and just a few sets will get the job done.

Lunges work your glutes, hips, hamstrings, quads, core and inner thighs. That’s a lot of muscle bang for your buck in a single exercise. Plus, they can assist in evening out muscle imbalance. Your Physical Therapist will approve!

Leg Lifts

Most people immediately envision a boxer in an old-school gym doing leg raises. (Rocky anyone?) Any runner that has done leg lifts is well aware that while you feel your abdominals burning you also might feel like you are performing them incorrectly because you could swear that your legs hurt a little. In fact, your legs might hurt more than a little and be the portion of your body that fatigues prior to your abs. That’s because the major driver in leg lifts is your hip flexor.  You are working all three necessary and important muscles for running at the same time: abdominals, hip flexors, and your lower back. Leg lifts are an especially great core work for those that sit behind a desk because you are incorporating the often ignored lower back.

Bottom Line

Over the past few years, most anything “old-school” has become cool again no matter if it’s for the fact that the item was cool in its own right or simply that it’s retro. Old-school exercises remain in workout regimens because they are tried and true, don’t take a lot of equipment and almost always workout at least three sets of muscles at once. Do yourself a favor and see if you can’t ditch a few “new” exercise for one old-school option, it might save you a lot of time.