Episode 1: Mike O’Hearn talks about the evolution of bodybuilding training and nutrition tactics from the 1980s to the 2020s.

Welcome to The Mike O’Hearn Show. Our brand new digital series and podcast hosted by Mike O’Hearn. With a focus on all things bodybuilding, fitness, and strength training – O’Hearn brings unique insight into trending topics in the industry due to his near ageless fitness career over 4 decades. Which is why for our episode premiere, Mike O’Hearn breaks down the evolution of training and nutrition strategies over the past 40 years. How do we train today vs the 80s? Let’s jump into it.

Technology and science is rapidly changing. It’s hard to believe that it was only 15 years ago before iPhones existed. Before we could connect to infinite information in the palm of our hand at any moment. That same kind of rapid change is constantly happening in the fitness space as well. If you were to compare the diet and training tactics of fitness masters in the 1980s – they would vary in many ways versus today.

While the core functionality of training will always be the same – the details have largely shifted. And it hasn’t stopped. What the fitness world looks like in another 40 years will likely have many shifts compared to today. Mike O’Hearn has been dedicated to strength training, bodybuilding, and fitness since his teen years. And he’s still going strong today without slowing down. This makes him the perfect person to provide insight into the evolution of fitness over these past few decades.

Gym Training – Working Smarter Not Harder

So what is one of the biggest differences in training tactics today vs the 1980s? Mike O’Hearn believes it comes down to how hard we train in the gym. Now this might sound misleading. O’Hearn doesn’t believe in secret tips to skip ahead of the line. But what he does believe in is the old adage, “Work smart, not hard.”

At one point in this week’s episode, Mike O’Hearn says that the goal of the gym is to gain as much benefits with as little work possible. What he means by this is to not overtrain. In the 1980s, more was always seen as better. The hardcore lifting mentality was to push your body so far that it forces growth. While it’s important to push past your perceived limits – recovery is also vital.

Mike O’Hearn understands this and believes more people today understand this than they did 40 years ago. O’Hearn notes that many bodybuilders use to push their bodies so hard that they would degrade from the pressure. While this still led to some truly amazing physiques, it also led to shorter careers laden with injuries down the road.

Mike O’Hearn learned early to not push so hard that he would be physically burnt out and broken by middle age. He looked at pro legends like Lee Haney for inspiration on how to train smart rather than too hard. Due to this, O’Hearn is still able to maintain a fantastic physique and train with full energy 40 years later.

“We understand the best rep range today better than we did back then.”

– Mike O’Hearn

It’s the little details that have improved over time with science in fitness. We understand how to better optimize training without breaking our bodies. We understand the importance of rest much better. We also understand how nutrition affects our bodies and our training methods more than we did 40 years ago. Which brings us to our next topic.

How Nutrition and Macros Perception Has Changed

We see the world of nutrition and diets much more differently than we did 40 years ago. Mike O’Hearn points out that the importance of dietary fats in a bodybuilding or fitness diet has taken a 180 vs yesteryear. In the past, dietary fat was seen as the enemy. It’s right there in the word “fat.” No one wants to be fat – so we should consume less of it and more quality protein.

But in reality dietary fat (especially from lean healthy sources) is vital toward maintaining a powerful physique and a healthy life. On top of this, we have grown to understand how much carbohydrates contribute to gaining fat on our bodies. In fact, the distrust of carbs has gone too far – at least in Mike O’Hearn’s opinion.

In 2022, carbs have a bad rap. They are seen as unnecessary. Carbs provide our bodies with energy – but beyond that can be seen as largely unnecessary. So modern dietitians and fitness gurus believe in low carb diets that bring in other sources of energy for our bodies. This helps with staying lean and avoiding unnecessary weight gain.

However, Mike O’Hearn thinks that the massive trend of low-carb diets has swung too far in the other direction. O’Hearn swears by carbs and still keeps them largely in his daily diet. He finds them necessary for longevity and building a healthy bodybuilding physique.

O’Hearn thinks that social media has played a slight part in the negative perception against carbs. Social media has created a world where fitness icons need to be lean 24/7. They need to post pictures of their shredded physique throughout the entire year. This denies people a period to focus on bulking and growth. O’Hearn finds this especially damaging for young aspiring fitness lovers.

During the teen years and early 20s, athletes should experiment with pushing their muscle mass as far as they can go. But if most people feel the need to stay lean 24/7 due to social media – this puts them in a constant state of deficit. That denies them a whole world that may open up if they allow themselves to put on more pounds and get to know their bodies muscle mass limits more.

Wrap Up

Mike O’Hearn likes to look ahead. He was talking about lower rep ranges and working smarter back in his younger years before many believed in that gym mantra. He believes that his views on carbs and other diet trends will eventually be popular in another 10 or 20 years. His longevity in fitness proves he is often on point. Science and technology will always continue to evolve. O’Hearn encourages all to try and stay ahead of the curve.

You can watch Mike O’Hearn’s full comments in our premiere episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show above. Make sure to stop by every Friday for more new episodes as we launch them each week.

Derek Dufour
Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.