Dave Draper

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Answers to common weight training questions
Updated: 28 min 37 sec ago

Preparing for a bodybuilding show

February 19, 2018 - 17:48

I have a show coming up in May and want to come in at my absolute best. I’m 38 and have never felt better nor stronger. I am training two times a day six days a week- each body part twice weekly. I am currently 210 and wish to put on an additional 3-5 lbs. over the next few months. I really need some advice on my diet.

The best I can offer from my vantage point is, “Good luck,” or “God’s blessings.”

I know nothing about you and I would need to know everything to be of any value, and even then, my insight is aged.

Gaining 3 to 5 pounds in a few months and while on a contest diet is ambitious. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t reach your mark. That much muscle in a year for an already well-muscled lifter is notable.

I’ve always been protein hog and get my carbs from nutrient-packed vegetables and low-fat milk products, not much grain or pasta.

Get your EFAs from supplements or fish. Use red meat (my choice of protein for aggressive musclebuilding) and seek continued muscle gain and hard workouts until you’re 3-4 weeks out.

Then, depending on skin tone and bodyfat percentage and definition and personal gauging and appearance, drop the milk products and replace some meat with fish and chicken. Reduce your training intensity and enjoy stimulating and pumping workouts.

The last week is tough to gauge and it’s up to you to balance carbs in the menu so you can appropriately deplete carbs in order to carbo load successfully for show time.

Don’t overtrain, get skinny in search of the final ab or cut and don’t starve or exhaust yourself.

Keep smiling, rest up, know your music and posing, get color and be genuinely strong on and off stage.

I say anymore and I’ll have you walking the plank.

Go… Dave

Going back to the Muscle Beach days

February 19, 2018 - 17:47

I love reading your stories of the good old days of Muscle Beach and the Dungeon. The training partnerships must have been awesome then! Do you think we’ll ever go back to those days?

The world was not always a scramble for time and space. There was a moment in history during the ’50s — in America, at least — when a rare aura of contentment covered the vast landscape. It was then that the seeds of Muscle Beach bore fruit and the bodybuilders began their muscular, tanned and rippling journey.

Bodybuilding wasn’t a thing that one procured, it was a lifestyle one lived — cherished and nurtured. Bodies weren’t built in calculated, furious and frenzied sixty-minute workouts. They were lovingly coaxed and cajoled by men and women as they basked in the sun over long afternoons.

TV and film studio extras, off-season Las Vegas acts, waitresses and part-time postal workers, this band of rascals would gather at the platforms and engage in training at various levels throughout the day.

Zabo, my worldly mentor, told me of the 100-set squat workouts that he and Peanuts West joined in, covering lunch and dinner (which they stored in their coolers): “During the first half of the workout, I did leg raises between sets so I didn’t have to do them when we were done. Drank six quarts of water one day.”

I don’t think we’ll go back to those times, but you never know. Could be a vast revolt against high tech and everyone will head to the beach or the Dungeon gym. Wouldn’t that be nice?


Want to open a gym

February 19, 2018 - 17:42

I’ve always loved to be in a good bodybuilding gym and am thinking of opening one near my home. I know you owned a good gym and wonder what you think of my idea.

Laree and I spent 15 years trying with all our insight, intelligence and might, good names and reputations and bulldoggedness to make a happy life in the gym world. To this day our gym in Santa Cruz was my all-time favorite gym in the world — just right in every way.

But I would never advise anyone to open a bodybuilding gym for any legitimate, heart-felt reason. A good gym doesn’t have a chance in today’s communities and neighborhoods. The bottom line big-box bums have taken over and people are signing up.

The CrossFit and small group training gyms seem to be doing well, if that’s of interest to you. I just don’t think there’s a place for many old-school bodybuilding gyms anymore.

Sorry… Godspeed… Dave

Be creative, even risky

February 13, 2018 - 17:04

I’ve been training for almost 40 years and seem to be floundering. I want good health and posture and the energy to carry on as I get into my 70s. How did you go through this stage?

Age will take us down in every way it can. Train always, eat right and be of good spirit — this is our armor and weapon against the worthy foe.

Train when it’s hot and when it’s cold, eat a balanced diet regularly and continue to seek progress, whether in the form of maintenance or real muscular and strength improvement.

Be positive, yet realistic. Your body and training will go through its ups and downs as it always has.

Be creative, almost risky, vary your routine on occasion, try supersets and put bis and tri together for the fun of it.

Read Brother Iron Sister Steel and posted articles (former weekly newsletters) on davedraper.com.

God’s speed… Dave

Crossbow exercise equipment

February 13, 2018 - 17:00

I’m thinking of doing some exercises at home and found a Crossbow for sale on Craigslist. I work long hours and don’t have the time or desire to go to the gym across town. I also have joint pain and many of the exercises I used to do with weights don’t work for me anymore. What do you think of Crossbow? It looks good to me.

I assume the Crossbow is similar to a Bowflex. Though I haven’t used one or seen one up-close, I have heard good reports.

The unit will no doubt serve you well, especially considering your complaining joints and the long hours spent on the job and slightly waning training enthusiasm.

That you find the unit appealing is a major plus, as your training input is gauged by your attraction to and enjoyment of the equipment. And there it is — before you at home.

Blast it as you come to understand it (‘blasting it’ might take on a new appearance and new meaning).

Maybe the almighty weights will move to the foreground when the timing is right. Don’t forget, eat right.

God’s strength… DD

Don Howorth

February 13, 2018 - 16:57

I know you and Don Howorth were friends back in the day. He had incredible shoulders! I’ll never forget the first time I saw pictures of him in a magazine. Wow!

Don was and is one of my heroes and for many reasons apart from his incredible shoulders and width and lovability.

It was the way he carried himself with quiet strength, his savvy and insight and his ability to laugh at the great pretender hiding in the daylight.

Don knows.



February 4, 2018 - 18:56

You mentioned DOMS recently. I was wondering if you can tell us the most reliable causes of DOMS since I know the description has changed in recent years. How do you handle DOMS?

I knew I was stepping on thin ice under which there was deep and muddy water when I used the techy expression DOMS to clutter my response to a simple question.

DOMS to me, an illiterate bodybuilder from NJ, is the muscle soreness due to the competition between hard training and inadequate muscle repair.

Rather than retreat from training, I would attempt to enhance muscle repair by improving your anabolic environment, adding rest and easing into some less intense, more stimulative training for an appropriate period or adjusting, altering and modifying the exercises at hand.

Don’t get confused by what I say. I don’t lay down many concrete laws. Should I stump you, excuse me and side with your common sense.


Out of shape powerlifter

February 4, 2018 - 18:56

I used to be a competitive powerlifter, but after getting married and having two children, I fell away from lifting. Our kids are ages 8 and 2 — I lost muscle, gained fat and feel awful. It’s time to get back into it. I’ve been out of it for about 10 years and wondering how to get back to contest readiness.

You are among many musclemakers lost in the journey from here to there. I’d get into the gym and take on the basic job of getting into condition. Let the heavy weights sit on the racks and represent goals of the future. You want injuries and disappointment and frustration? Start heavy benches and deads and squats.

Don’t return to the sport and invest in injury, dear dad. It’s a sorry and costly preoccupation at this time in your life.

Use those tough lifts as empowering exercises along with the other tried and true basics, work up to some respectable weight in time, but think strong bodybuilder, not brute powerlifter. It’s happier, healthier, wiser, more functional, more sensible and trouble enough without wrecking your shoulders and singing the blues.

Drop enough weight to overcome the soft feeling, but not so much to feel small and lose strength and energy (5 to 10 pounds over the first couple months of hitting it). The strength and fitness will return as you restore your rhythm and gym self-assurance. Of course, your eating must be protein high and carb low to accomplish your muscle and strength levels.

It’s a haul but full of hope, benefits, gifts and advantages. In two years you can crank on the power if you’ve carefully graduated and the need still stirs inside you.

Do not look back, go forward and deal with what you have today and the promise of tomorrow. Those ligaments and joints need restoration and preparation. Baby needs shoes.

God’s speed… Dave

Chuck Collras

February 4, 2018 - 18:47

I read that Chuck Collras died in December. Did you know him?

Chuck Collras and I were among five top bodybuilders (Zane, Franco, Arnold, Chuck and I) clustered on the cover of a European muscle mag, dated 1970. I’m most pleasantly reminded of that gang as I remember that artistic black and white.

Chuck was as original and memorable as the sand of Muscle Beach, the ocean waters that splash upon it daily and the stately pier that reaches out as if to touch with affection the warm western winds.

I knew Chuck from pictures of him in Weider’s magazines lifting weights on Muscle Beach before I ever thought of going to California; I met him only days after arriving from Jersey and we trained side by side in the Dungeon for years.

In time, we competed on the same stage against others and shared the same space on covers of magazines. He was a rare hero of Muscle Beach whose lifting, power and muscle caused him to smile and, well, chuckle.

That he was a child of God’s — Jesus as Lord of his life — outshines all else, always but especially as we remember him after his death, 12/17/2017.

God’s grace and peace… Dave Draper

Can’t shake this extra weight

January 30, 2018 - 14:50

I have been training and eating healthy for many years and almost have this fitness/nutrition formula down except for one problem. Here goes: I am 5’6″ and weigh 125 lbs. I take in 2000 calories per day, broken down into 6 meals of 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat.I train 4 days a week with two 30-minute sessions of cardio. Once in a while I will eat a bowl of ice cream or some pizza. I then do extra cardio, but the problem is I can’t seem to shed the extra calories that I consumed. What is the problem here?

First and most importantly, in my opinion, you are at a fine edge according to your specs… 5’6″ and 125 is right in there. You may be striving for something you already have.

The occasional ice cream and pizza shouldn’t present such a problem. On those infrequent days that 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.

You’re living a good life and following a good training scheme. You could raise the protein intake (up to 40%) and lower the carbs and wouldn’t mind losing some fat ingestion as well.

Consider shorter and more intense and frequent cardio sessions (HIIT… High Intensity Interval Training) to suit your training needs. Three or four 12 to 15 minute HIIT workouts will outdo the 30-minute slugs for athleticism and muscularizing. Tough at first, but invigorating and pleasing once you adapt.

Do you weight train hard enough? Have you considered sprints at a track to fight stubborn fat? Have you checked the balance of your hormonal system (via doctoring and blood tests)?

Look at your weight workouts for clues to your fat control and fat-burning muscle development. But again, consider that fact that you might already be at your goal and for some reason, just can’t see it.

Best to you for persisting and fighting for the cause…


Do I need to eat red meat to make gains?

January 30, 2018 - 14:44

A big guy at the gym told me I need to eat beef if I want to make gains. I’ve been eating mostly chicken, tuna, egg whites and drinking shakes. I really don’t want to put on fat. Is he right? Will I make better progress if I include red meat?

I can offer you little more than my experience and the observations of my peers over the years. Muscle gains come slow and hard, and they come most successfully from eating red meat daily and blasting the weights. Beef is high in B-complex for muscle repair, provides creatine for cellular energy and offers a most efficient profile of amino acids for muscle building. The fat present in lean red meat guarantees aggressive energy for the heavy training with the iron.

Those looking for long-term muscle growth should not be afraid to carry a few pounds of bulk for power, energy and system resources.

The fish and chicken and eggs are valuable sources of protein and are particularly efficacious in getting lean and defining muscle mass. They should be sought regularly for muscle recuperation and growth.

Expressed metaphorically, when ingesting red meat in abundance I feel like a gorilla and when relying only on chicken and fish and other non-beef proteins, I feel like a chimpanzee. (In real life I’m a duck. )

Train hard and eat right for good.. DD

Training MOs from the 1960s

January 30, 2018 - 14:42

I know you like supersetting, but I wonder if you could tell us where you learned that. Was there someone teaching you and were there some practices that were remarkable when compared with other training?

It would be hard to determine when certain training MOs stood apart from the rest.

Guys back in the 50s were inventing and discovering and improvising ways of training that felt good and worked. They didn’t put a pen to paper to declare the methodologies; they were lifting weights. I did things both haphazardly and according to a basic plan by instinct as I proceeded along in my mid-teens. I could feel the muscles overlapping in their strain as certain exercises worked particular muscles and I trained accordingly.

When I reached California — the Muscle Beach dungeon in ’63 — I began to see “the light.” They and Gironda’s group (this includes Zabo, Howorth, Eiferman, Dick Sweet, Shuey, Scott,) were defining things clearly and had been for years and years. Specializing, supersetting, tri-setting.

Leroy Colbert and I did some arm supersetting and specializing back in Jersey before I left to enhance my bis and tris before making the big trip west. Did legs twice a week by themselves for the same purpose… to bring them up to par.

I’m sure some proud mutt will claim they invented the practice. Don’t believe them.

Keeping it simple works best.

God’s speed… dd

Training at age 80

January 22, 2018 - 16:35

Thank you very much for your telling us about your past injuries and your coping with them. I never had any injuries to hinder my training progress. I am 80 years young, 6′, 175 lbs. I go to a local gym almost every day for at least 30 minutes of intense training with machines and free weights. What I need is a training program. Got any suggestions for me?

You’re an extraordinary fitness-training lifter. Carry on the good deeds that have brought you this far: consistency, perseverance, moderation, commonsense, care and discovery and learning through practice and attention.

Stay with the iron (dumbbells are my fav) and the agreeable machines… and walk plenty, including stairs and hills.

Get ample complete protein and good fats and carbs and plenty of water and no junk food.

Rest plenty – love and laugh and smile and be happy – avoid conflict – seek peace and calm – Thank God always.

I hurt here and there and have concerns about this and that. I appreciate and commend your healthy being.

God bless us and our friends more and more… Dave

Marathon runner wants to gain muscle

January 22, 2018 - 16:35

I am a marathon runner and have been competitive in distance racing for the past 10 years. However, I also want to gain muscle through my weight training in the gym. What type of training program would you be doing if you were me?

You are practicing two rather conflicting sports; marathon running finds advantage in a lithe, sinewy and relatively lightweight body. Your training for the sport is constant movement and requires long and enduring workouts.

However, the extraordinary leanness comes at a price, so I commend you for your efforts in muscle building.

I’d be sticking to the basics — moderate dumbbell presses on a 45 and 60-degree incline, stiffarm pullovers, standing bent-bar curls, dips, squats and complementary calf work, leg raises, hanging leg raises and hyperextensions, repetition deadlifts and some wide grip pulldowns. Practice 3 to 4 sets of 10, 8, 6 reps twice a week in some combination that suits and pleases you.

Meat protein, lots of steamed and salad vegetables and water regularly throughout the day. Be consistent and confident.

God’s speed… Dave

Fixed weights or Olympic weights?

January 22, 2018 - 16:35

I am new to weight training. Could you explain the difference between fixed-bar weights and Olympic plates?

Olympic weights are preferred by those who become more involved in weight training. The equipment is less shaky, more balanced and precise; the plates rotate on rotating end plate-holders, and loading and unloading is smoother and easier. They are more professional and more enjoyable to use — solid and sure and smooth, an effect welcome to the mind as well as the body.

They are more expensive and are regarded as an investment, not a purchase for a hobby or curiosity.

Gyms use Olympic bars and plates on benches and platforms, and often have an arrangement of standard bars fixed at certain popular weights for floor use.

I wish you the best in your future weight training. Stick with it; you’ll be happy you did.


How many times per week to train arms?

January 16, 2018 - 19:24

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

Measuring bodyparts

January 16, 2018 - 19:22

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?


Wrist curls

January 16, 2018 - 19:18

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.


Bee pollen and Bomber Blend

January 2, 2018 - 16:05

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

Squatting with a heel lift

January 2, 2018 - 16:05

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.