By Austin Perry
The puffy hair, mismatched gym apparel, incredible physiques and sunglasses worn at all times.
Welcome to the 1980’s – the peak of fitness.
I’m sure we can all agree that there is nothing more nostalgic and visually vibrant than seeing old school photos from the gym where it was normal to have parachute pants, prominent skin tans and Gold’s Gym stringers.
Maybe it’s just me but fitness and bodybuilding back in the 80’s was just way cooler than today’s standard and that’s not just because of the abnormal yet stylish outfits.
Let’s take the Pontiac Firebird out of storage and pop in a Duran Duran cassette while we break down 7 different ways that fitness was cooler back in the 1980’s.
Quite easily the best reason on this list for why old school fitness was the best and it’s mainly due to the top bodybuilders being in their prime. You had key icons such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Tom Platz, Lee Haney, Ken Waller, Frank Zane and more.
These famous athletes ushered in an iconic era of what’s considered to be the perfect physique with much better symmetry.
Ah yes, you knew this was going to crack our list at some point. The gym clothing was odd but somehow fashionable at the time. You had women with full aerobic spandex, leg warmers and headbands that could be spotted from 20 miles away.
Let’s not forget about the aviator shades, short shorts, parachute pants and stringers doused with an entire color palette.
Fitness created its own fashion during the 1980’s and started the wave for gym clothing ever since.
Man, the hair was uh – something else, right? Whenever you think of the 1980’s, it’s hard not to associate the perms, feathered side part and overly-curly hair that is packed with enough hairspray to single-handedly destroy the ozone layer.
Hell, even some of your favorite bodybuilders during that time were probably rocking a Magnum P.I. mustache when it was just as trendy as invading Area 51 is today.
The hair simply completed the look and natural aesthetics of that era in fitness and really makes it stand out from other generations.
Back before social media became a common necessity in life, the only way to catch up on news in the fitness industry was to grab a copy of the latest Muscle & Fitness magazine to find out all of the new ways to slim down, boost nutrition and take care of your skin.
But let’s talk about the branding and design of these magazines.
There’s no chance you see this magazine on the shelf today and aren’t immediately prompted to pick it up with how colorful and descriptive the main cover was at the time. With the only way to obtain new fitness knowledge being restricted, the M&F magazine was a must have.
Free weights, sweat, chalk and blood. Training back then was as hardcore as could be, there were no advanced methods to help with your workouts that didn’t come directly from picking up a dumbbell and releasing all of your anger on it.
With no cell phones holding a person back from taking extended periods of rest time or creepily taking mirror selfies in front of the squat rack, training was not only intense but equally effective in commercial gyms.
It was also a much more social environment within the bodybuilding spectrum.
In generations previous, the males mostly populated all of the local gyms. The 1980’s subsequently started the movement for females and pioneered the craze for women to become more active and popularize fitness during this time period.
Actresses like Jane Fonda and popular model Lisa Lyon paved the way for females in fitness and started trends to become healthier while helping more women pursue the bodybuilding path as well.
The 80’s fitness revolution also brought about new creativity and trends that would take the world by storm. By now you’ve probably heard the word Jazzercise and if you’re not aware or are too young to know, just check your mom’s VHS collection because odds are, she has at least one video of an aerobics session with an epic soundtrack playing in the back.
This generation also brought us new inventions such as the Thighmaster and the ever-forgettable video series featuring Richard Simmons and his workout dance videos.
Let’s also throw it back in time to where the fitness industry wasn’t oversaturated with endless categories for supplements that become nauseating to look at on websites now-a-days and instead, focus on the meat and potatoes.
Your basic multi-vitamin, protein powder, mass gainer and amino acid tablets.
With supplements starting to heat up during the 80’s, there wasn’t a whole lot out there when it came down to the specifics.
Turn the page 30 years and the whole world is now consumed with pre-workouts galore. If you’re really feeling like exploring the roots of what your favorite bodybuilders took on a daily basis minus the ‘extra help’ along the way, take a look at the following products that should be considered a staple point in your supplement regime.
The Music Selections
Before there were iPhones with the capability of playing music through streaming services, blasting the boom box to some of the hottest tracks during that time was typically the best bet for staying hyped up during a workout.
Imagine getting an insane pump while listening to Billy Idol or Michael Jackson when they dropped some of the most iconic songs in history.
This was a time where Run-D.M.C practically modernized Hip-Hop and catapulted it into the mainstream.
What’s not to love about a solid playlist made up of some of the most popular songs during that decade?
While it’s hard to believe that the 1980’s were such a long time ago, the statement can be made that this generation revolutionized fitness and the way we have popularized health and wellness today.
From the new trends, fashion, hair and many others; it’s hard not to look back on this time period as being the coolest for how well-diverse the fitness community was and how it would shape future generations to come.
Even your favorite bodybuilders from this time period were becoming star actors in box office hits at the movie theatre just due to the popularity gained with the fascination for fitness.
While the case can be made that there are other generations better than the 80’s for fitness, it’s safe to say that it standardized health and wellness while pushing it into the mainstream outlets for everyone to feel comfortable getting involved in.