‘Old School Strength’

Old School Training

Why reinvent the wheel?

That’s the opinion of many a grizzly aged, gorilla strong, strength athlete. All you need is the big three, with some overhead stuff and grip work thrown in for good measure! Stretching? Just go deeper!

I’ve heard this mantra many a times, from many a hardcore strongman. I’ve even adopted this myself to achieve some of my heaviest lifts ever.

Combine that mindset with some of the most brutal, tried and tested systems known to man, and you’ll be on track to a winning formula. The Russian Squat Routine and the equally revered and feared Smolov routine immediately come to mind as successful field tested programs – man the Soviets knew how to get strong! Good for injury free longevity? Maybe not. Good for long term inhuman gorilla like strength? You bet!

This leads me nicely into the topic of this post. Whilst doing research for the site I stumbled across this article:


The main focus is around a true gritty Northern chap named Alan Fairclough who, by all means of his description, sounds like Chorley’s own version of Rocky Balboa’s iconic hardcore, spit n’ sawdust boxing trainer Mickey Goldmill (yes, Mickey actually had a surname!).

Now, all this made me recall the legendary tales of one man’s coaching and true leadership that a very good friend of mine, Mark Haydock (Dinnie Stone World Record Holder), used to recall to me. When Mark started out he had the fortune of training under this legendary, truculent strength coach. (And yes, I’ve just learnt that word too 🙂 )

The penny then dropped.. Mark’s old coach and Alan were the same person!

Now, the lessons Mark taught me, some of which he learned from Alan, have been priceless in developing my own strength. I have, however, met many an educated gym bro who has been quick to dismiss the old school methods as heretical, injury evoking, subpar routines.

But trust me. If these systems are followed with good technique combining the principles of progressive overload with a HEAVY focus on consistent variability in both volume AND intensity, they are rarely truly beaten by their Western counterparts.

My experience as a Physio/Personal Trainer has provided insight into the risks of training ‘old school’. This is why I strictly emphasise that these training methods need to be directed by an expert with bags of experience in coaching them!

Do trainers like Alan exist anymore in this age of PT’s who appear to be more obsessed with their social media than using their expertise to help clients achieve their goals? If so, please reach out so you can pass on your wisdom and experience via the medium of Find Gyms UK!

p.s. If anyone fancies perusing the web for some further information on the Soviet training methods, I’d suggest looking at:


The individual systems aren’t delved into too deeply, but the author provides a very effective summary of reasons behind the Soviet’s old school strength. I hope this sparks flickers of interest in some serious strength seeking young padawans!

p.s, p.s. – if anyone is in need of stronger grip (hint – everyone! Google ‘grip vs. longevity’) check out some of the magnificently mad, yet brutally effective tools Mark’s mind has conjured up at:


Whilst you’re at it you can catch his world record lifts on his Instagram link!  

All the best!

Signing out,


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