In the Golden Era of Physical Culture you had mail-order musclemen teach the best ways to train and become strong and vibrant. Even bodybuilders of that era of 1900-1960 ran, swam, lifted weights, wrestled, boxed and performed feats of strength that would blow any one's mind out of the water. They taught you the most simple exercises whether it was bodyweight or weight lifting and the more basic the better results you made. Presses, Pulls, Grip Work and Squats were the mainstay and used Barbells, Dumbbells, Odd Objects, Push-ups, Pull-ups, Free Squats, Hand Balancing and Gymnastics.
This was before Steroids became a hit and wasn't used as much as it is today. Back then they relied more on guts, good food, hard work and old fashioned muscle building. Machines weren't big at this time and even today they're as useless as a fart in church. Record lifts in this time period are still unmatched in today's modern era of weights and strength. They didn't take supplements to "help" them get stronger, they used Progressive Resistance Training and did the best they could of their natural abilities. Today, you can't break a record in sports without having suspicion of someone using something to give them that edge and it's a damn shame.
Modern trainers can learn a thing or two of the old-timers in their programs. Back then, you didn't have the Internet, you didn't have hip hop abs or the biggest loser, hell not even P90X and yet those guys were far stronger and more importantly far healthier then the overly cautious and paranoid fitness nuts of today. Back then the average age capacity was 45-60 and a lot of them surpassed that, some lived to be 90 and one old-timer lived to be 104 and didn't die of natural causes. This is where one needs to learn what the important key is. Be happy with what you do and develop challenges. Yes our age capacity has risen in the last 50 years but a lot of it has come with a price. On another note more athletes today are dying younger then the athletes of yesteryear and its mostly due to drugs, drinking, steroids, very low or very high food intake that isn't safe and even fame has gotten through to their heads to the point where they'll do anything to stay at the top.
Courses and Programs back then (the good ones from top notch strength advocates) were much simpler and easier to understand unlike today where you have programs that actually can injure you and put you in the hospital. Basic programs build superior results period. All of this specialization isolated crap today doesn't make you any stronger then a plastic door, you go through it and it rips apart just like that. A lot of programs today don't make much sense when if you move inch the wrong way, your exercise is shot to hell or you have to do this many reps or that many sets to determine if you're strong or weak. It's never common sense anymore and people end up quitting as fast as they started.
In my personal opinion using steroids for personal gain is just about the dumbest thing you can do to yourself. Steroids using injections and pills to gain an edge is just stupid. There's controversy as to how steroids are used either in sports or in medicine. In sports they're used to recover quicker, run faster, jump higher, gain enormous amount of strength, build more stamina and create over the top levels of testosterone . In medicine its to help patients with low levels of testosterone, help skin tone and help their immunity system. No matter how you slice it, there's side effects with artificial steroid use with the creams, pills and needles to which if not used wisely or correctly, it can cause almost the opposite effect of what its originally used for. It has to do with more pressure these days to be bigger, stronger and faster then your competition and plenty of men and women take it too far either as an addiction or for purely selfish reasons. Back in the day where steroids weren't in the public or even heard of there were athletes that looked far better and had longer careers then most athletes today and that was purely on how simple their training was and some of their records are still up today.
To become naturally strong and be a good athlete or strength fanatic yourself, look to the history of what those who trained in the past and how you can adapt their styles with yours. Don't do the same things they did, just learn the basic principles of what they taught and use them to build a style for yourself. In today's era we have very unhealthy people in and out of the fitness world and its time to get back to our roots of what hard work and busting your ass really meant.