T Nation

Is Training Progressing?


Every month dozens of magazines give us dozens of articles on how to get bigger, leaner, and stronger. Every year new supplements come out with the same claims. Every year there are new nutrition tips and tricks to get your goals faster and better. Every year research proves what works and what doesn't. Every year gyms are flooded with newbies trying to get huge fast, super cut, and amazingly strong. Every year the old pros are still working on the same goals. This has happened for many years.

I just wonder are we that much better at it. With all the new supplements, training programs, research, and diet regimens, are we all getting to our goals faster and easier than athletes were 10, 20, or 30 years ago. I know records are broken and champs are replaced so some people are exceeding the goals.

My question is for you trainers and coaches with enough experience to remember back then, are we getting bigger, leaner and stronger faster and better than generations before us , or is every generation making their own mistakes and progressing at the same pace? Can a young athlete gain 10 or 20lbs of muscle faster than he could in 1975? Can bodybuilders cut to single digit body fat weeks faster than they could in the 1980s? Are lifters able to get to those big weight milestones in deadlifts or squats years before they did back in the 1990s?

I know T-Nation has made a lot strides in a lot of these areas. I even remember some comment made by Coach Thib that said if he had to rewrite a program from one of his earlier days he would do it differently. There is also a thread where guys say, if they had to do it all over again what would they do.

I know each of us wishes we could have done things differently ,but is each generation going through the same hoops , or are we really progressing??


I definitely think so. You answered your own question, records are constantly being broken in every area of sport be it baseball, power lifting, or running. In my mind this is largely because of advancements in nutrition and training techniques. You could also argue I suppose that with a much larger population base we have way more genetic freaks.

Now if you are asking specifically "does the average person have an easier time getting in shape now rather then 20 years ago" I would say that's a much more difficult question to answer because I think in that instance, regular people, not so much athletes, have to battle cultural influences and pressures such as an increase in service jobs where you are inactive for a large part of the day, the increasing use of transport, T.V etc. Granted if you REALLY want to I would think it would be easier now than in the past, i'm just saying there are other factors that come to play other than just the nutritional and training know how.

As far as sports go I don't think there's any denying that we are better today than in the past. I'm only 19 so I don't have any anecdotal evidence to give you but as far as in my sport, baseball, I know that 20/30 years ago weight training for performance improvement was all most unheard of. Now the whole team lifts weights and finally there has been a slow realization(only really in the last 5 years) from the coaches that running 2 mile runs is not appropriate for baseball. Baseball is notorious for its dogmatic approach to training, I think largely because the coaches are all 50+ and stuck in the past.

But with the new blood slowly filtering in things are changing. I have seen many teams now abandon long distance running and replace it with sprinting with adequate rest intervals and plyometrics. Not to mention that all most all high school athletes now supplement with protein powder and creatine. All this combined no doubt translates to faster pitching, faster base running, and longer hits. This I can tell you is true, there are guys hitting 350-375 bombs with wood bats when they are 18 years old now. I don't know if this went on 30 years ago but I doubt it because the guys doing this are huge(for 18) and are only this big because of rigorous training.


Thanks awesome response


Sports sciecne/medicine has gotten much better. But, although we live a little longer, the average person is in much worse shape.


DeadliftDave, I do believe that training is progressing, but some people are taking this to mean that it is easier.

It holds true to this day: If you're not lifting with intensity, eating correctly (at a basic level), and getting enough sleep, the rest is minutia. Granted, when you get those aspects consistently in place, supplements and the like can open up new worlds to you, but then and only then.

Arnold used to have to load a barbell on its end, then just let it fall over onto his shoulders so he could squat because he didn't have a squat rack. He sure as hell didn't have Surge or Flameout or Metabolic Drive. Hell, whey protein was just coming around then, and it tasted like ass (at least I've been told. I was kind of busy in the 1970s having not been born yet and all). Despite all that, he was one of the most successful and revered men in bodybuilding because he busted his ass day in and day out.

There's just no substitute for hard work, and that's something that progression in training will never account for.




Great post Xab


Rugby games from the 80's and very early 90's occaisionally play on a local TV station over here and when at the local rugby club I'm 'privileged' enough to hear some of the older members of the club talking about the modern teams and what they are doing.
What grinds my gears about this is that the game of rugby has changed so dramatically in the last 20(even 10) years.

Young players that spend most of their time on the bench or who don't even get that far would have been absolutely sensational back in the 80's or early 90's. Your average rugby(and indeed, any professional athlete) is now somewhat of a superhuman compared to the athletes of 10-15 years ago. And many people stuck in the past still believe they know more than the top coaches who are spoiled for choice with all these young, determined athletes.

I believe the same holds true for nearly all sports. The average player of today would have been amazing not that long ago. Both in a physical perspective and sport specific skill.


Athletes have been getting bigger, stronger, faster since the mid 70's.

I can't quite commit on body building and what have you but sports athletes definetly yes.

All you have to do is look at the size of players at the same position and sport from 1992 and now. You will see a pretty big margin.

I think it has to with increase knowledge mostly.

It used to be a big deal for a college athlete to be over 215. They would probably be a lineman in the early 80's. Now that is the wieght of the sklll players and some may weigh up to 240 and still be quick enough to handle high coordinated physical tasks.


I agree I think the progress comes from knowledge and the availability of knowledge. I know there were great strength coaches and awesome bodybuilders in past generations ,but now they have the opportunity to share their knowledge. In the 70s a great athlete in Columbus probably had little knowledge of what the athletes at Gold's Gym Venice Beach were doing on a day to day basis. Now you can keep in touch with a great trainer or nutrition coach that is on the other side of the planet. I think this helps explain the success of T Nation athletes. We have an almost overwhelming amount of knowledge on all aspects of muscle building from the top trainers, coaches, doctors, and nutritionists in the field. Not to mention the tons of feedback that everyone can share from the forums.