I read an article that stated you trained arms four times a week. That seems like a lot. Do you still do that and is it necessary?
Don’t know where that info came from, must have been an article from the stone age. For most of the time between the 1970s through the ’90s, I trained arms twice a week and always supersetted bis and tris. I know believe once is sufficient, the arms being worked regularly with the remaining muscle groups.
Carry on… God’s might… Dave
I’m trying to figure out how I’m doing in my training as it relates to elite bodybuilders. I see the bodypart measurements in the muscle magazines — wow! I’m a million miles behind. Are those measurements done cold or warmed up? Flexed or not flexed?
Proper measuring is done with the muscle cold and flexed, unless otherwise stated.
Most measurements we see recorded in the muscle magazines are exaggerated by the publisher to achieve effect. The mags seem to have a hard time dealing with mere truth.
Who knows what the truth is today with all the egos, deception, misconception and synthol running through the system?
I need some advice. The barbell wrist curl doesn’t agree well with my left wrist, so I’ve started doing the dumbbell wrist curl instead. One arm at the time, arm resting on the thigh. I noticed in the picture below that you are using a special body positioning when doing dumbbell wrist curls. Would you recommend that I do the same and do you have any special pointers about the performance of the dumbbell wrist curl? Also what set/rep scheme would you recommend?
Sitting upright and placing the forearm flat on the thigh and doing the standard wrist curl motion is just fine.
I discovered in practicing the movement this way that the long bones of the forearm do not lie flat on the thigh, causing the hand and thus the dumbbell to tilt inward. This produces an awkward action, disallowing a strong execution and threatens to torque the wrist. By leaning my shoulder into the exercise, I assume a position that sets the forearm squarely and firmly on its thigh base. This stability encourages powerful, safe and fulfilling forearm bombing.
For most of my training history, I worked my forearms first on arm day. I would always superset wrist curls (5×20,18,15,12,10) with thumbs-up curls or reverse curls (5×12,10,8s) and pulley pushdowns (5×15 to 20). I switched to once a week when I hit about 100 years old, twice a week when I was younger.
What do you think of bee pollen, and what can you tell me about your Bomber Blend?
In my opinion, bee pollen is highly overrated.
Bomber Blend is a protein powder blended from whey concentrate and casein, both superior sources of milk proteins of the highest biological value, and balanced to supply fast-acting protein support and long term protein tissue-building activity. The powder is fortified with a carefully selected variety of vitamins and minerals, branch amino acids and anti-oxidants to make us invincible (slight exaggeration).
Protein is woefully low in most weight-conscious diets. As an adult seeking to retain muscle and hopefully build some extra, you can’t get too much and maybe not enough. I have come to count on it at my age and throughout my life for repair, energy and well-being. The users all rave about its quality, good taste and mixability. (Main downside: shipping costs.)
I despair when folks waste a bundle of money and confidence on gimmick ingredients.
Carry on with God’s speed… Dave
I have trouble with balance when doing squats; my weight is too far forward. I put a 1/2″ board under my heels and found it very comfortable. Which is better, flat footed or heels raised? I’ve seen pictures of you squatting flat footed and also with a heel lift.
A minor heel lift (1″ max, lower is better) is suitable for certain trainees whose thigh length and torso length are disproportionate (long femur or short torso). Too much lift can cause undue stress on the knees and trouble in time. We tried squatting with a board under the heels for a short time during the late ’60s, but quit after not too long, when we all began noticing knee pain…that went away as soon as we removed the board.
However, this is a good solution for certain body types or people lacking good ankle mobility. The leg length you might be stuck with, but the ankle mobility you can work on.
One person we never heard much about was Johnny Isaacs. He was in the Dungeon era with you, wasn’t he?
Johhny Isaacs, as I knew him, was soft-spoken gentleman with a mild South African accent and paper-thin skin, which is to say… he was real lean.
He and I trained at the Dungeon during the same years through the mid-’60s, but at different hours of the day. He was fully built when I arrived in California in ’63, while I was still in the bulky building stages. He was rock hard and had a wide back, well-capped shoulders and a narrow waist with good-sized arms and not a bodypart out of proportion. Like Reeves, he wasn’t real thick, but square and trim. He was not a tall guy, nor was he short.
Johnny was admired and respected by everyone and his young-and-climbing training years were shared with a generation before me. He was more settled down with family and job life than the other typical Dungeon regulars. He was mature… not crazy. In the ’60s, this may have seemed weird or square; it certainly was tough.
I saw him irregularly over the years and we were always glad to meet and brief each other of our good health and joy of life.
I watched him on stage at a few local shows and he did well, perhaps won, though I can’t remember. I moved north soon after and then lost touch. Johnny was Reg Park’s brother in law, an honorable man…. actually, two honorable men right there.
Carry on, and God’s speed…
I have an unusual injury and am looking for advice. I have played the violin 5 hours per day for nearly 30 years. As you may know, you twist your upper torso to the left when playing the violin. Often after practicing, my upper spine suddenly “locks” out of place to the left. The pain is excruciating, and I can’t straighten up for hours. I have been through years of physical therapy, but I am no better. My question is, when I did physical therapy, I never lifted beyond 4 pounds. Do you think I could fix my ligaments if I lifted much heavier weights? I don’t want to make it worse!
I particularly love to listen to the violin and admire anyone who can play it. Alas, I play no musical instrument. The radio in my pickup truck gives me trouble.
I can clearly understand that the awkward body positioning hours on end and under the stress of practice and perfecting has caused your malfunction and pain. Seems this condition would be one you’d share with other violinists — is there no common exercise program for violin players? There must be a treatment for this, an authentic chiropractor of the school that knows its stuff, or massage therapy or acupuncture or active release therapy (ART). Another interesting option: Feldenkrais practice… check into that and see what you think.
I would quickly suggest basic bodybuilding as the most logical approach to strengthening your entire body in a balanced and systematic way.
I pause long enough to scratch my head and suggest that you consider a basic overall progressive weight-resistance workout — barbells, dumbbells, cables and certain machines — for your health and strength and fortification. I don’t know how delicate you are because of the troubled area or what kind of general physical condition you’re in or what kind of gym knowledge you have, but you certainly can benefit from basic muscle building modified to suit your needs.
You will probably need some personal training to get you going, unless you know the fundamentals. And in this case, maybe you could find an expert with some physical therapy knowledge or at least using exercises suggested by a physical therapist since you have what sounds like a severe condition.
If repair is possible, the rest would be up to you, I believe, a sensitive and disciplined and persevering violinist, to listen to your body, know the pain and follow your own way to rebuilding through exercises you discover, alter or design.
Takes time, attention and courage, which you’ve got in heaps.
God’s speed… Dave
Can you tell us more about Joe Gold? For all his contributions, we barely know anything about him.
I knew Joe Gold for forty years. His broad smile lit up a room.
He was a tough guy, an authority figure, straight as an arrow piercing the bull’s eye. He took risks when everyone else took shelter. He took aim when others took flight. He walked, hiked and trudged when others stumbled or pulled up lame. They simply don’t make them like him anymore.
Because of his authentic Muscle Beach-ness and Mae West days in Las Vegas, his innovative gym equipment design and World Gym empire, his generosity to the underdog, his honesty, common sense and worldly courage and stoicism, The Gold became important to many people. He was and still is an icon in the subculture that is bodybuilding and physical culture.
Joe was my friend.
I’m 35, female at 5’6″ and 125 and cannot lose weight. I have several areas of fat, almost rolls, that I can’t get rid of. I only have treats such as ice cream or pizza once in a while and can’t understand why I can’t make any progress. It’s frustrating after all this work! What can I do?
You are at a fine edge according to your specs… 5’6″ and 125 is right in there, can even higher, depending on muscle mass.
The occasional ice cream and pizza shouldn’t present such a problem. On those infrequent days when you indulge, plan a tough weight workout later that day or on the following day to take advantage of the carbohydrate load… pump, strength and endurance will be up and ready for action. This resembles, in fact, a popular training technique put forth by highly regarded training experts; carb up and blast the weights, according to a methodical scheme.
Consider short, intense and frequent cardio sessions (HIIT… High Intensity Interval Training) to suit your training needs. Three or four 12-15 minute HIIT workouts will outdo the 30-minute slugs for athleticism and muscularizing. Tough at first, but invigorating and pleasing once you adapt.
Have you considered sprints at a track to fight stubborn fat? Have you checked the balance of your hormonal system via lab tests? Are you certain your calories are on track (via journalling)? Do you drink alcohol regularly?
Look at your weight workouts for clues to your fat-burning muscle development, but most experts believe the answer to fat control lies in the kitchen.
I’ve been encouraged to start exercising, pretty much for the first time since an athletic time in high school and college. I’m 75 now. What should I do?
How to and how much exercise depends on the age and condition of the elder trainee.
We all should exercise daily to maintain and improve vigor, increase muscle mass, strength and tone, and prevent or reverse osteoporosis. Without exercise, especially resistance exercise, these vital factors are unattended.
We age more quickly and we fade more quickly, losing our facility to live life independently and well. Exercise done with attention and intention improves our mood and attitude and self-esteem, providing regular periods of stimulation, production and fulfillment.
We think better and we think more positively as we respond to our exciting new discipline.
And worthy relationships are developed with those who have the courage and spirit to choose and participate in this fun activity and wise diversion.
I suggest walking daily as the starting exercise. Once this in high gear, it can be augmented by providing challenge along the way, via inclines, stairs, with a weighted pack and variation in determined paces.
Short walks within a gym with weights in hand, now known as Farmer Walks, is a functional musclebuilder; it’s challenging and time-friendly.
There is no healthier, more efficient and direct way to build robust muscle and strength and overall body condition than weight training.
The basic exercises are the best. They are simple and just require easy instruction and regular practice.
Most every basic barbell exercise can be practiced, except (at least at first) those that are performed overhead while standing or those where personal limitations prevent action. Dumbbells have great advantages, can be used widely, safely and productively, but require a bit more instruction and practice.
The key to success is exercise consistency. Exercise focus and proper execution closely follow, and consistent practice assures their development.
High hopes and high spirits are no less important to the vital pursuit. Frequent recollection of your motives – strength, health and long life – will suffice to keep the fires hot.
Exercise is simple and basic and engaging, but it’s not a minor thing. It’s our responsibility, our obligation. We owe it to ourselves, to one another.
I love reading about the old days when bodybuilding was beginning to go public, your time during the late ’60s, and especially from reading Dick Tyler’s stories about you in the Weider magazines. It sounded like you were great friends. It was an important time in our history, thank you both.
Bodybuilding was young, there were fewer participants, just enough champions, no stars, and training was real, simple, shared and enjoyed. We appreciated one another and welcomed one another into our lives.
Yeah, life wasn’t perfect and there were struggles as always and not everyone was a candidate for sainthood. But the sport was fresh, emerging and yet to rudely imitate itself or be terribly roughed up by the money man.
This was when Dick Tyler and I became friends as the first two-man crew of budding Weider Barbell Co. in Santa Monica, California. It was the spring of 1964.
By the spring of 2004, we had seen moon landings, seven presidents, many wars and promises of peace, explosive technology…and a history book about the golden era of bodybuilding, West Coast Bodybuilding Scene.
After 30 years of wandering, that project brought Dick and I back together like time returned, slightly older and probably slightly closer as a result.
Though neither of us will say it out loud, those were the good old days.
I know you are a Christian. Why don’t you talk more about your walk with Christ?
We have received the most victory in our newsletter and web page from being open, yet subtle about our relationship with God. More than half our readership is secular and we want to approach them regularly, to inform, to energize, to encourage and otherwise positively influence. Can’t risk losing them by trumpeting my faith, and I feel Jesus approves.
Whispering often has the effect of thunder.
What can you tell us about Steve Reeves? Do you know any good stories?
The big secret is I know nothing about Steve Reeves. That his was the greatest physique who ever lived has nothing to do with it, and besides, everyone already knows that. That he inspired me when I was 13 and still does today 60+ years later has nothing to do with it.
His great height and structure, perfect muscular balance and formation and incredible good looks have nothing to do with it. He exuded the strength of 10 men, but I didn’t know the man; only watched in awe from my seat in the 20th row, popcorn everywhere, as he crossed the big screen. “Yoli,” he said. I didn’t care what he said.
Thing is, no one from the old days with whom I’d spoken about Steve Reeves was able to give me a comprehensive answer. Zabo said he was alright, a quiet guy. Not bad, a compliment from the Chief, but not much color. Russ Warner spoke with words and gestures and neither form of communication served to give a picture of the marvelous specimen. Guys from Muscle Beach didn’t have any stories to match the legion, the myth, the star, the icon. You’d think they, too, would be as big as the man. I’m clueless.
A few tales have come down from those infrequent gatherings of old timers in the ’90s. The tales were as banal as the hors-d’oeuvres. No meat, no insight, no dimension, no engaging beginning, and end.
I once had the opportunity to meet Steve at a physique show in NYC where he received a tribute from Dan Laurie. I was a guest poser and up to my ears in oil and pumping, and ungraciously and shyly dodged the occasion. He was about 50 and dressed in a dark grey suit.
He loved horses. That’s it…my scant well of Steve Reeves’ knowledge and insight has run dry. Reading bios doesn’t always work, either.
From all accounts, he was not arrogant, overcome with confidence or boisterous. Sounds like a humble soul, hard working and direct. I like to think of him as a great and noble man. I’m probably right.
I’ve heard about your Top Squat and am interested in getting one because a regular bar is uncomfortable on my back. Can you tell me a little more about it?
The Top Squat is super device designed especially for those with shoulders suffering limited range of motion. The unit does not alter the squat’s integrity; it, in fact, improves the weight distribution and the squat’s effectiveness due to the user’s ability to rearrange the bar’s position on the back mid-movement by rolling it a half-roll lower during the squat.
However, in your case, I suggest padding your bar with a layer of folded towel to see if that alone provides sufficient relief. You can also buy a simple bar pad that slips over the bar for extra padding. That might do it and save you money.
The Top Squat is useful in achieving uprightness in the full squat. It’s difficult to discuss technique details without being on the spot, looking, showing and telling. More often, these things are often discovered by trainees themselves as they concentrate on the repeated practice and exercise performance.
Basically, the action of the Top Squat is to start with the handles in a downward position as you locate the bar comfortably on your back. Step into position, stand erect and drop slowly into your squat, raising the handles slightly upward as you descend. This turns the Top Squat with your bar about a quarter to a half roll back and into a more advantageous position for a perfect and more upright squat as it engages the thighs mechanically to assist your strengthening goals.
For people who have constantly tight shoulders from years of training or benching, give it a good go with confidence in learning its qualities and benefits. It takes some dialing in and finesse. The device is cool, and like everything else, it takes a few tries to overcome change as you adjust to the subtleties of feel.
Anything to carry us forward without pain and bad strain.
I’ve been a gym member on and off many times over the years. I like it and appreciate it, but sometimes work gets overwhelming and there’s just no time. I’m planning on getting back to training after the first of the year. Do you have any suggestions?
Get back to the gym now, without demands or great expectations… just the right steps forward one at a time. The timing is perfect and you have the urge. Go now.
I notice how folks start to train and quit just as you have for the same reasons — life. They return to the iron and find it a refuge and source of all kinds of rewards and benefits — beyond muscle and might, as if that wasn’t enough.
Life is a struggle, and fatigue and depression will take us down and make us old if we give it a foothold. Fight back with all your might.
Reacquaint yourself with that old friend within you. Show him what you can do today, together. The weights are more fun and needed than ever.
I would like to know a little more about your Bomber Blend protein. What are the main ingredients and are there performance enhancers? Also, how much protein can we take in a one sitting?
Bomber Blend is very popular with the davedraper.com readers and forum members, and the regular customers keep coming back for more… a good indicator of its value and quality and taste.
There are no added performance enhancers; just what you see, and those ingredients have been carefully added to improve the proteins tolerance and absorption and muscle building attributes. Vanilla is the preferred taste as it can be flavored as you desire — banana, peanut butter, fruit juice, milk, water.
The blend of casein (long-chain molecule) and whey protein (short chain) assures immediate and extended performance values. Substantial BCAAs and a heavy B-complex have been added for tough muscle repair.
Priced right, too, cuz there are no middlemen, distributors or advertising costs to jack up the price, although shipping costs keep ratcheting up the price. It’s the best, in my honest opinion…been using it at least once a day for over 15 years.
How much protein we can take in varies from person to person depending on the health of metabolism, genetics, protein quality and needs. The number commonly tossed around is 35 grams at a sitting. I get double and triple and quadruple that amount to assure sufficiency and satisfy energy needs. Is that the right way to go? Who knows.
I calculate less and go with the feel, common sense and high hopes.
I have one question: I slightly strained my elbow, the pain is only felt when I attempt to lift anything heavy without first unlocking the elbow. Should I continue lifting weights but stick to lighter ones until my elbow is fully recovered or should I stay away from lifting any weights at all? I have a feeling you are going to tell me that you are not a doctor, but I was hoping that perhaps after all those years of weight training, you might at least know whether or not it would be safe to continue lifting weights provided it doesn’t hurt the joint.
I’d continue to train and work around the injury. Often once the body is warmed up and the spirits are aroused and a few endorphins are afloat, you can carefully investigate a variety of exercises that recruit the triceps and bend the elbow, though this might require limited range of motion, light weight and specific warming up.
Listen to the pain, focus on the muscle’s action and be hopeful and patient.
Here are some possibilities:
Dips performed on a machine
Pulley pushdowns with elbows closely tucked into the torso (try a rope handle)
Abbreviated (top half of movement – don’t lock out) close grip — 12″ space — bench press on the smith machine, bringing the bar toward the bottom of the chest or sternum
Use dumbbells in any pressing to provide a more flexible groove.
Don’t be too aggressive, but by all means don’t be passive.
Not training is a loss of time, is bad for the spirits, provides fertile ground for an extended training gap that plunders and slows the healing process as injury-repairing, life-giving nutrients (oxygen, vitamins, minerals and other metabolites) are stalled and arrive in limited supply.
I wanted to get your opinion about creatine and your thoughts about how to use it, including cycling and loading. And do you have any suggestions on what to mix with creatine to make it taste better?
Creatine is tasteless to me. I take a teaspoonful followed by a chug of water. I wonder if you might do better with a different brand. Anabol Naturals is the one I’ve used for nearly 30 years. It’s a pure powder with no taste at all.
Try it, you’ll like it. I’ve been taking it moderately — 2 tsp per day (am, pm or anytime) for many years. You might retain intramuscular water, which is good for cellular activity; you won’t retain water subcutaneously, which is not good. I’ve heard some women gain the water weight quickly and don’t like it…fewer women like it than men, I think.
Helps last rep and satisfying pump.
I don’t cycle and don’t fuss too much over when and how I take it. Get it in the system and keep it well supplied. Before the workout for certain availability and after for certain replenishment is a good scheme. AM and PM works well for me and I take larger heaps on training days and smaller heaps on non-training days.
Push that iron… DD
I have been training a while. I like the look of the past, the 60s and 70s. I think I’m about 25% bodyfat and want to get lean, but I can’t. I always seem to lose muscle instead of fat, causing me to slim down to a smaller version of myself and I don’t like it.
You share the same predicament with 90% of all bodybuilding enthusiasts and participants: how to gain muscle and lose bodyfat at the same time.
We all have this target – it is bodybuilding in its simplest form.
I have limited information about you, but my gut feeling is that you, in your quest for leanness, are sacrificing muscle size and muscle growth. I suggest you hold your bodyweight; use it to work hard and go for muscle mass, density and permanence.
Train each muscle group two times per week – once won’t do it unless you’re well along in your development. Throw in another 2-3 days of intense cardio. You need a rock-solid six-month musclebuilding stretch, without being overly critical of definition.
Then assess your progress and reevaluate your goals. This six-month input will be most productive, I have no doubt.
Let logic be your guide. Seeking leanness and building muscle mass at once basically requires contradictory processes.
For this phase, I suggest red meat and well-placed carbs to give you a training advantage and insure greater muscle response.
We always see bodybuilders stall their musclebuilding process and cease to grow at all, looking for abs or cuts or definition prematurely. Trim down next season. Let’s stand back for a moment.
What’s the rush, anyway?
I’m 53, am working out hard and consistently and have been making sound progress for over three years, but am lacking upper pec development. What can I do?
Think for a minute and you’ll realize you never see a bodybuilder with underdeveloped lower pectorals. Our favorites, the classic bench press, the flat dumbbell press and dips see to that. It’s high across the clavicle and into the front delt where most bodybuilders struggle. There’s not lot of muscle tissue in this region with which to work.
And remember, muscular-skeletal structure and genetics play an important part in all of this.
Front delt and upper pec, though separate in action, are often engaged in the same exercise. So, for muscle mass, try steep dumbbell inclines (60% to 75%) – with palms forward and upper arms coming down to just past parallel position, elbows at 90%, dumbbells parallel to the floor. Press up with a two-count to a position directly over your forehead for 4 or 5 sets of 15, 12, 10, 8 rep variation.
To superset, throw in dumbbell shrugs starting with a moderate weight, working up the rack for sets of 6 to 8. This keeps you moving, focused and works traps and upper pec. Perform the shrugs as follows to emphasize upper chest mass recruitment: with dumbbells in front of the body, stoop slightly allowing shoulders to drop forward. Take in a deep breath and with might, roll shoulders up fully and lean back as you do. Finalize your motion by assuming a fully flexed erect military position. This brings in some spinalis, mid back, spinatus, and lots of traps and upper pec.
I don’t recommend rigid barbell inclines as I view this exercise a threat to the rotator cuff.
Cable crossovers work well to recruit the entire chest. Stand in the center of the apparatus with cables in hand. Take a giant step forward and with stiff arms, draw handles high and straight forward, leaning as you do to counter balance the resistance. Continue with full range of motion, extending and contracting evenly and deliberately. Focus on upper pec contraction for 6 reps until the burn is significant and then shift handle movement 45% toward the floor. This engages more pec mass and allows another 6 reps to burnout. Look for rhythm here.
Pulldowns to the front, wide grip, elbows drawn back as you pull the bar toward your chin (keeping a nice concave arch in the back) also engages minor pec. Specifically a lat movement, this incidentally benefits high pec/delt tie-in. Sweet bonus.
Another real possibility is the forward plate raise. This is a meaningful movement that serves as both a warm up and muscle builder. It can be spliced into a mid-section routine; usually supersetted with incline leg raises as prep for the forth-coming delt/chest workout. Grab a 10lb plate and with stiff arms raise the plate from the waist to somewhere nearly straight overhead. Work up to a 25lb plate with reps at 12, 10, and 8. Four sets work well to affect the target region. A regulated body thrust enables you to go heavier (35-45lbs) and the movement takes on the action of a “clean.” Your grip vigorously pressing inward is what accounts for the chest-specific action. Tough stuff as you go heavy. Focus on the negatives.
This selection of exercises should be a regular part of your repertoire. Strategically placed, they are full of purpose with an emphasis on the resistant upper chest area.
Hit it, kiddo, you’ve only got another 50 years to go.