Captain America Teaches Us Why Old School is the Best School

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“New workout designed to target your stomach and obliques!”

“Revolutionary new supplement that speeds up fat loss!”

“The recent discovery about optimal performance scientists don’t want you to know!”

It seems every day, there’s a new workout plan, piece of equipment, or plan to get you more in shape than ever before. It usually involves BREAKTHROUGH technology, a scientific discovery, or patent pending workout strategy that is gripping the nation. These things make me laugh (and weep) for humanity.

It’s no wonder we act like cats chasing shiny objects, with our brains being subjected to this all day every day. These products and systems aren’t designed to actually get you healthy – they’re designed to target your insecurities and make the companies MORE money – until they create the next break-through to get you to spend more money.

Today I’m gonna share some harsh truths about the trend of mainstream modern fitness, and encourage you to see through the bullshit… and start thinking old school.

Here’s your soundtrack for the day (old school hip hop for the win).

It’s time to think more like Captain America, and less about what the latest and greatest is. (Yes, I see the humor in the fact that he was turned into Captain America with a super serum, but hear me out!)

It’s time to learn why Old School is the best school.

Reinventing the Wheel


Way back in the day, the first caveman, Fred Flintstone (I assume that was his given name) invented the wheel. He used that wheel to help him transport things great distances.

When it comes to getting stronger and more fit, we pretty much had things figured out as cavemen too:

  • Pick up heavy things occasionally.
  • Move your body weight in ways you move every day (think squats, push ups, and pull ups).
  • Move around at different speeds (walking, running, sprinting).
  • Rest

Those principles are the same principles that will help you get in the absolute best shape of your life today. The problem with these principles and methods of training? They’re boring! They are tough to market, repackage every month, and get you to commit to paying money to learn about.

Which is why every marketer is tasked with trying to reinvent the wheel – not to help you get in better shape, but to sell gym memberships, magazine subscriptions, supplements, and workout DVDs.

Think about it:

  • Every gym you walk into has all the fancy new machines, ellipticals, and equipment front and center. Buried in the back corner is the free weights. The machines and ellipticals break, require maintenance, and are replaced with more “technologically advanced” version every few years with the latest features. The free weights never change and rarely need to be replaced.
  • Every workout DVD has a “special proprietary workout solution” designed to stimulate/annihilate/shred blah blah blah. This is done to get you to buy this workout plan after you bought the last plan. The principles are the same, it just has a fresh coat of paint on it…to sell you the latest craze.
  • Every fitness magazine has “Get shredded with this new secret workout!” on the cover. If they told you to eat better and lift heavy things every week, people would stop reading and buying issue after issue. So they make a few small changes, throw in some nonsense terms, and BAM! “The Secret Workout You’ve Been Missing Out On.”

If you want to see success, start thinking, training, and living like Captain America. The Cap was frozen in time when old school strength, honor, courage, camaraderie, and values were important. In this story arc he’s thrown into a crazy modern world, with questionable morals, crazy new tech, and advancements that make him wonder if we have gone to far.

Steve Rogers continues to serve as a concrete pillar of morality and values – When the world goes to hell, Cap knows what he needs to do, and has his rules and beliefs to fall back on for how to proceed. He trains in an old school way and he attacks problems with old solutions that have worked.

When everybody else is racing to a new secret or advanced whatever, he simply puts on his helmet, reaches way back to how he was brought up, and gets to work.

It’s this faith in the old school process that allows him to succeed where others fail.

Be Old School Like Captain America


Captain America is the poster child for “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Go way back, and you’ll find cavemen climbing trees, moving rocks, picking up logs, dragging animal carcasses back to caves, sprinting from predators, and so on.

Next, we have the ancient Greeks, who trained in “Gymnasiums” to improve their strength and muscle through training. Believe it or not, there wasn’t a single elliptical machine, ab cruncher, OR smith machine present – it was real world movements and competitions among the Greeks to improve their physiques in tribute to their gods.

Have you heard the tale of Milo of Croton? He was said to have achieved the feat of lifting of a full-sized bull by starting in childhood, lifting and carrying a newborn calf, and repeating the feat daily as it grew to maturity. Today we call this progressive overload!

Fast WAY forward to the 1940s and 50s (what’s up Captain America!), the predominant method of well accepted “exercise” for people was strength training!

I’m not surprised that my workouts of today, and those of the most fit people I know (just look at any gymnast or power lifter) are no different from those same workouts of the past. I’m now in the best shape of my life, and my workouts consist of mostly the same movements I’ve been using for the past decade:

  • Squats, front squats
  • Deadlifts, romanian deadlifts
  • Gymnastic ring work
  • Pistol squats
  • Pull ups and push ups.

It ain’t sexy, it ain’t new technology, and it ain’t very marketable. But it gets better results than any of this newfangled nonsense you see on TV. It requires dedication and consistency over a long period of time – which is why you should be putting fitness first.

A strong body is a healthy body, and the methods to build awesome, powerful, functional strength haven’t changed.

I would argue that our pal Rocky Balboa was successful in his fight against Ivan Drago because he chose to train in the old school fashion rather than chasing science and technology. Plus, what a great song!

I’m sure Captain America would be proud of Rocky’s training methods. So how can you train more like Captain America?

  • Stop chasing the latest and greatest. Look backwards to what methods haven’t changed for decades and decades. These anti-fragile training methods produce results.
  • Stop looking for improved technology and quick fixes when old school focused hard work gets the job done.
  • Focus on functional and strong over flashy and showy.Tough to fight Nazis and terrorists if your muscles aren’t built to help!

what would captain America do?


Now, as a man who lived in the 40s and 50s, Cap is probably very confused about the foods and things people do these days. He ate foods that came from animals that roamed free on a farm, fruits and vegetables that came out of the ground, and wasn’t afraid of consuming fat. Sugar – worse than Darth Vader as we know – wasn’t nearly as pervasive back then as it is now.

Fast forward to today, and Captain America wants to punch a hole in the wall for what he sees:

  • Foods loaded with sugar, touting “low-fat” as a healthy option.
  • Processed foods that don’t look anything like actual foods.
  • Diet pills that promise quick results with no effort.
  • Juice cleanses that help with rapid weight loss!
  • A severe lack of products that come out of the ground.

So how can you be more like Captain America? Ask yourself “What would Captain America do?”!

Hat tip to my friend Eric Barker, who pointed this study out:

“We found we could get kids to choose the healthier food much more often if we simply asked what their favorite superhero or their favorite princess would do.

Even if they responded “french fries”, half the time they took the apple slices. It simply causes an interruption in their thinking that causes them to pause, hit the reset button inside their head and think again.”

As you are making your decisions on how to eat, how to train or what to do, before you make your decision, ask yourself “What would Captain America do?”

No seriously, before you make your next food decision, ASK YOURSELF what the Captain would do, and then make your decision.

I bet he’d opt for the real food grown in the ground rather than processed through a ton of machines until it’s unrecognizable.

It’s tough to be a superhero when you can’t fit into your uniform!

old school is the best school


“Yeah, yeah, that’s great, but technology has drastically improved our lives, and thanks to some scientific breakthroughs human performance is at an all-time high.”

I hear you loud and clear.

We love technology here at Nerd Fitness, duh. We’re nerds! Whether it’s a Fitbit to track our steps for the day, Evernote to track our workouts, or Zombies Run! app to help us run more…technology can make our lives easier.

HOWEVER, we must first learn to live like Captain America and understand the importance of REAL life, non-technological breakthroughs and success before we start seeking tiny, technology-assisted performance boosts.

After all, do you think a new and improved Captain America uniform would help Steve Rogers fight the Nazis if he looked like this?

Fundamentals first.

Besides, Old School obviously beats out New School:

  • The Ewoks’ old school battle techniques against the Empire on the Moon of Endor (go Ewoks!).
  • Full-fat ice cream vs new “low-fat ice cream” (with way more sugar).
  • Grass fed beef vs grain fed beef.
  • The original Ninja Turtles movies vs. Michael Bay’s abomination.
  • Old school break dancing instead of whatever twerking is.
  • The movie Old School

So, it’s time to make a re-commitment to old school, and a pledge to ask yourself when trouble arises: “WWCAD?”

What sort of old school solutions do you love to implement in the battle against new-school nonsense? 

What solutions have withstood the test of time and helped you succeed?



photo source: JD Hancock: Superheroes, The Conmunity: Shield, Varin: Captain

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