Dave Draper

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Answers to common weight training questions
Updated: 34 min 58 sec ago

Front squats vs back squats

July 23, 2017 - 17:38

Do you like front squats, and if so, how do you work them into a workout program?

I love front squats, though for me they are a mad dog on the shoulder cage.

We are allowed to do all sorts of combinations of exercises, sets and reps… and, they all work more or less.

Squats followed by deadlifts was a favorite routine of mine when my bodyweight was high, my goals and state of mind aggressive and my health and repair superlative. I thoughtfully performed and balanced them, squeezing what I could from the two before they went dry. When younger I could get a handful of productive workouts from the pair.

You could install the two every other leg day for the sheer joy of it. Although… danger… this is like mixing C4 and dynamite.

I have followed standard squats with front squats as a priority technique, using the latter with a relatively light weight to completely saturate and infuriate the quads. Can’t recall what scheme Arnold and I had going during those workouts where you see us doing back squats with four plates and fronts with three… they were done in close sequence, I know.

Mostly, front squats are a great muscle builder to be practiced solo when squats have lost their bang and when you’re up to them. That bar across the shoulders requires considerable strength in the torso and throughout the upper body. Big Bonus. You are heavily loading and, therefore, demanding power from some very interesting, unusually stressed muscle groups.

Front squats place the weight in front of the hips, shifting the resistance to the front of the thighs. It’s a full quadriceps action that is substantially unlike that of the basic squat. Gain strength, control and confidence from the original squat before you take on the fronts. You’ll have to practice this movement to discover the bar placement, handhold and balance… there are tricks at every angle.

This squat is not for everyone. That’s OK. One cannon is plenty.


Had children, now need to get started training at home

July 23, 2017 - 17:35

I have had 2 children in the last 3 years and have lost 50 lbs, but I want to start really building some muscle and getting toned. I have a workout machine at home, but it is not free weights. Can I get the results I want on this machine, and if so how?

You mention a machine you have for your home training, but don’t give any details about its action or utility. Be assured that you can build strong muscles and improve shape by exercising at home and eating right. It’s up to you to apply yourself with feeling, intensity and determination. Start today to practice with what you have available and the aforementioned qualities will form and grow. With these priceless intangibles, you will discover the smart path to follow.

Whatever exercises your home apparatus has to offer should be done with order, planning on six to eight different complementary exercises a day, four days a week (Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri) and three sets of each x 8, 10, 12 reps. Start with planks, side bends and leg raises to warm up.

On off days, when possible, walking/jogging combinations, stairs and uphill runs or walking with a weighted backpack will add to dedicated conditioning and weight control (push the darlings in a stroller?).

Freehand exercises can be added if equipment needs supplementation: floor pushups from knees, not toes, with a close grip and wide grip for shoulders, chest and triceps; High repetition freehand full squats and toe raises off a block while holding onto a support post for legs and lungs; Chins and dips with assistance on improvised equipment.

With nerve and heart and ingenuity and need you can do it all. And think of the grand effect this action will have on your beautiful children over the years.

God’s strength… Dave

Smith Press question

July 23, 2017 - 17:32

You talk about using a Smith Press pretty often, but can you tell me the difference between the resistance of a Smith bench and a regular bench?

You asked about the Smith Press and the bench press resistance comparison. And since you didn’t confine me to 140 characters, here’s my unabridged answer.

Every Smith Press is designed and structured differently. The bar plus mechanics weigh about the same as an Olympic bar, but it’s hard to accurately calculate because the bar is, by virtue of the structure, somewhat suspended…so we guess. Some manufacturers feature a counter-balance to neutralize or diminish the resistance of the unloaded bar. Some, as in the case of CYBEX, utilize a bungee cord counter-resistance. I personally don’t like these interferences, and at our gym I quickly dismantled them. Some machines glide smoothly, some bind. Should any friction exist in the guide system, it is translated into less resistance coming down, more resistance going up….an annoying drawback of the Smith Press.

Another thing – the guided movement provided by the machine alters the natural bench pressing arc, thereby hampering the recruited muscles’ full exertion. In some positions, 100 pounds on the bench press seems like 150 on the Smith.

The advantages of the machine are in the control, the rigid limiting mechanics that protect injured rehabbing shoulders, chest or tris. Others would call this a disadvantage, and I think that probably has to do with body structure. For some of us (me), it works quite well.

It’s a neat gadget for partial pumping movements, isolation and improvised strictness. Great for split leg squats. Nice change of pace to get away from bench press domination.

Use free weights for big pounds; use the Smith Press for motion focus and muscle action.


How long for a workout program

July 16, 2017 - 13:22

How long do you suggest I continue a workout program?

Unless a new routine feels just plain wrong or is undersireable for legitamate reasons, 4 weeks from my experience is the minimum input for a training commitment. It takes that long to determine the weights to be used, establish continuity and pace and recognize the WO’s overall effects.

Once fixed in place, you practice and press on to understand the workout – to finesse, tweak and dial it in . . . to hammer it and mold it. This takes extensive time, 6-8 weeks or more, with fair adjustments along the way.

Too often we abandon a good workout before it has fully served us, before we are fully saturated by it. Our eyes are diverted, looking elsewhere for the another way before we have applied honest discipline by persisting, squeezing, taking the necessary one step back before taking the exotic two steps forward. Tough times. It’s here that I suspect the mean sticking points are surpassed — overpowered — and maximum adaptation is achieved, the critical point of development.

This is especially so with the younger trainees. After you’ve played around long enough to become familiar with the variety of exercises available to you, as novelty and curiosity diminish, establish a basic, orderly routine of two or three high-standard exercises of 6, 8, 10, 12 reps per muscle group and hit each group twice per week.

Perform this outline over 4-5 days per week, allowing at least 60 minutes. Throw in some cardio, ab work and supersets, hit some heavy days with singles or doubles on big movements a few times a month.

This will set you in motion without overtraining if you eat and sleep right. You’ll learn and grow.

As we truly become established, the more our instincts and training antennae develop and can successfully direct us toward the satisfaction of our needs, our goals.

Gotta push it.


Too bad for them

July 16, 2017 - 13:22

I told a friend about your superset programs, which I’ve been using for a couple of years. I feel better and am in better shape than ever, and I’m sure it’s because of the supersetting. The guy won’t listen, says his trainer doesn’t believe in them. Too bad for them!

That reminds me of a story:

When I was a boy of 13 I got a job at Tito’s Bar And Bowling Alley setting up pins. You had to be 15 to work in the place and I decided to …er…pretend.

The time came at the week’s end to collect my earnings.

“Mister,” I said, overcome with guilt and shame, “I’m only thirteen.”

The scruffy owner look down at me without seeing and grumbled his street-wise philosophy, “What they don’t know don’t hurt ’em. Kid, ya gotta learn to keep ya mouth shut. Beat it.”

It was right about then that I began doing heavy bentarm pullovers.


Hit an impasse at age 50

July 16, 2017 - 13:17

I know the body goes through changes during the 50s; however, I am trying to become as muscular as I possibly can. I seem to have hit an impasse. What would you suggest to increase metabolic efficiency? Also, how to deal with loose skin, if you have a solution.

Occasionally I glance at my tarnished over-60 trophy and wish I had another 25 years to train for it. Time, the bandit, shows no mercy, no favoritism; he just takes and takes and gives nothing in return but loose skin and slowing metabolism.

The only thing we can do is continue what we do in all its nuances. Enough aerobics (HIIT is best) to suit your circumstances — 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week — and the training style you trust 3 to 4 days a week.

My methods suited me over the decades and I trust them for everyone, the sets and reps and focus and pace and intensity and combinations and consistency.

Standard sound eating habits, the typical bodybuilding practices, are a large part of the scheme to gain muscle and counter fat. The addition of vitamins and minerals and the protein are needed to keep training and repairing at the highest level.

Beyond those chief ingredients, I wonder how effective the exotics or specialty items are in the big fight. I like glutamine and branch-chain aminos… creatine. I also like to pay my rent.

Abate and bruise time with patience and confidence and joy. If these things don’t work… cheez, I dunno…


Looking for motivation to change

July 9, 2017 - 17:50

I’m looking for motivation to make changes in my life, but so far I can’t seem to get it together. I’ve got the common issues of gaining weight, missing workouts and not eating very well. On the weekends I do a little smoking and drinking with the gang. I’m not yet 30 and feel pretty good. It’s easy to put things off when you feel okay, I guess.

When we’re healthy or okay we resist smart yet pleasure-sacrificing changes because we think we can get away with things. Then, when it’s too late, we try to fix it, saying with gut-wrenching regret “if only” and “I should have…” taken care of the diet, the drinking, the smoking, the dismal abuses, the weight gain, the missed workouts…

Smoking is for fools, sugar is for kids and a year from now without restraint you will be a wreck.

Same old story with everybody, and I’d do anything not to be as weak as the masses around me. I’m not being careless or superior, just taking a lesson from my surroundings and experience and feeling responsible. It takes courage to do what is good and right. It is also exhilarating and joyful.

Saying you can’t get it together is like saying, “I’m a loser and have no control of myself.” It’s not true… or is it?

Simply fix it. One step at a time, or more appropriately, one giant leap of guts and confidence and commitment. By the fall, you will be a renewed person with strength, energy and self-esteem.

I fully well know “simply fix it” doesn’t work until we get to a place where we actually want to make a change. So maybe that’s the answer: Figure out how to want to make the change.

Your buddy The Drapes

PS: Read Your Body Revival

Tell us your Christian history

July 9, 2017 - 17:50

You write “God’s Speed” and other references to God and Christianity. Can you tell us your Christian history?

I’ve been a Christian since childhood, but wandered after heavy exposure to the devil’s world that was Venice CA during the 60s when sinful freedoms ruled. Sheesh, what a mess. By 42, after nearly 20 years of bad choices and full of dope and booze, I was admitted to the emergency ward with near-fatal congestive heart failure. Lots of hospitalization, lost weight, muscle, strength and health for several years during the immediate recovery, and lingering side effects always, including into these days of heart trouble.

It was at that very time — diagnosis — I was recalling my early Christ-centered upbringing and turned to Him in the days and months of my release from the hospital. Time, prayer (mine and others’), the Bible, church, Christian friends, learning and growing and the Holy Spirit have made it all right. I didn’t turn to AA, but the church and Christ.

Of course, all the cliches are there. He provides and heals and is the answer. The fact is these are all true and must be meditated upon, sought after, embraced and trusted. The growth that comes through the process is priceless, the healing consistent and certain, though often slow. I had to be taken to the edge.

Back then, no one could tell me to stop my bad habits. I eventually tried but failed and failed again, cuz I’d gone so far and had become so weak and shabby in spirit, mind, performance and appearance. Ugly stuff, but by God’s grace I pulled through and praise Him where I can without chasing away my audience.

Thanks for asking and I hope this reply serves you in some way. Go with God… Dave

Overweight, lose weight, gain muscle?

July 9, 2017 - 17:50

I am overweight (male, 300 pounds at 5’8″) and I know it is so difficult trying to gain muscle while losing fat. My doctor is concerned because of high blood pressure and triglycerides, and suggests 75 grams of protein per day, which is a struggle because I am a vegetarian. I eat plenty of pasta and grains.

Without meat, you will still find substantial sources of protein in eggs and milk products and Bomber Blend (my fav),. I’d be looking to get 200 grams a day, but at least try for 150. Your doc and I don’t agree about protein intake… the research doesn’t solidly support either of us, as is often the case with nutrition, unfortunately.

Lower your useless carbs. Drop 10 pounds slowly — save the muscle — after any initial water weight is lost.

There are numerous diet alterations, medicines and even supplements you can take to lower blood pressure and triglycerides. I have no expertise in that area, but I suspect weight loss will take care of this with no need of medicine.

It is possible gain muscle and lose weight at the same time, particularly at this bodyweight. Choose a favorite four-day-a-week bodybuilding routine and train with zeal. Don’t look for power gains, and don’t train to get ripped either. Be strong and patient. With added attention to diet and consistent hard-yet-no-pressure training, things will fall into place — more muscle, less body fat, lighter, improved chemistry and lower BP.

Chicken and fish is nice…. lotsa salads, remember the salads…

Motivation and encouragement is the key to all this stuff once you have the basics down.

Go… God’s speed… DD

Bulking cycle

June 23, 2017 - 14:06

I’m starting a bulking cycle. I’m trying to do 8 meals a day and have just about run out of menu ideas. I’m coming off of a diet that helped me to drop quite a bit of fat, and I got ripped for the first time ever!

Stick with your training plan with the periodic and day-by-day variations that suit your needs and desires. Push but don’t stress or fret over gains. Consistency and enthusiasm rule. Invent and create based on the basics you know and love.

About the menu: Coming off a diet that got you ripped, you might be too preoccupied with cuts and muscularity to gain mass.

In my opinion, for your menu options, red meat adds muscle mass (and workout drive) more aggressively than fish or poultry. You want some mass to grow on, start eating less judiciously and more powerfully.

Add some variation of the following: a quart of reduced fat milk, 3 to 6 eggs, 6-8 ounces of red meat, more cottage cheese here and there daily and add a can of tuna daily.

As you are upping the protein, I’d remove by instinct some of the items that don’t have “muscles” written all over them.

Eight meals a day is a difficult habit to maintain and a little nuts. Try a dedicated 5 or 6 in seeking your mass. Bomber Blend makes for a handy meal to cover one of them.

This is work. You’ll grow stronger, still hard, but might sacrifice definition — too often a limiting factor in musclebuilders seeking size and power. Definition will easily return when the time is right.

Have fun, Dave

Elbow tendonitis

June 23, 2017 - 13:59

I seem to have developed elbow tendonitis. From what I’ve read, it’s probably from preacher curls. Do you do preachers and have you had problems from them? Do you have any suggestions?

Tendonitis is a drag. Work around it by avoiding those movements that excessively aggravate it, by altering the groove of exercises to accommodate the injured and painful region, by warming up extensively and using lighter weights when you must, and by wrapping where and when you must (wrist, elbow or knee)

Use dumbbells instead of a bar for pressing.

The preacher curl is notorious for instigating this condition. Lose the preacher curl and go with standing bentbar curls and dumbbell work (inclines, seated alternates).

Be careful not to hyperextend the arms in triceps work. Warm up with light weights (a lot) and consider wrapping the elbows during triceps work and pressing. Use dumbbells or a bent bar when curling instead of the straight barbell.

That about covers it. Wish I had more.

God’s speed… Dave

Tricks for arm size

June 23, 2017 - 13:54

I just can’t get my arms to grow, no matter what I do. Do you have any tricks for me? What kind of curls do you like?

Keep training with all your might and don’t despair. My tris lag, I’m bummed and continue to search for the solution, but structure and tendons and muscle attachment often define the shape of the biceps and its fullness.

If standing heavy barbell curls (full range of motion, resisting concentric movement), done regularly and with monster effort and a degree of acceptable body thrust, does not bring the biceps into fullness, no trick curl will.

Do this, perhaps on a non-biceps day: Work the forearms by tri-setting very attentive wrist curls (4×12-15 reps) with hard-working thumbs-up dumbbell curls or bentbar reverse curls (4x 6-8 reps) and dips or pulley pushdowns for a little triceps action (4×12-15 reps).

This will add to your arm impressiveness, help fill in gaps and add to the weekly arm load for bigger and better arms.

Thank God… DD

A dozen favorite exercises

June 18, 2017 - 13:03

Are there a dozen exercises you like best? Would you tell me what they are, please?

There aren’t many more than a dozen favorites.

1) clean and press — overhead press
2) press behind neck
3) any degree of incline dumbbell press
4) dumbbell stiffarm pullover
5) wide grip bentover row
6) one arm dumbbell row
7) seated lat row
8) wide grip overhead pulldown, + close grip and under grip
9) standing barbell curl
10) seated dumbbell alternate curls, + various degrees of incline curl
11) squats
12) deadlifts…

There are, also, pulley pushdowns, wrist curls, and don’t forget dips…

See ya… Dave

Muscle Beach icon

June 18, 2017 - 13:03

Who was your favorite Muscle Beach icon?

The greatest of all bodybuilding heroes, most appealing, commercial, interesting, participated extensively in the Muscle Beach scene and about whom there are tons of information and excellent photos throughout his life (including Muscle Beach) is Steve Reeves.

Happy Days… Dave

Getting ready for a contest

June 18, 2017 - 13:02

As we get into the summer months, I’m getting ready for a bodybuilding contest in late August. I’ve really invested a lot of time and money into this sport and can’t turn back now. But at 2-3 weeks out I start to lose my motivation and just want to say “hell-with-it” and have quit the other times I got ready to compete. Lifting is easy…diet is toughest part. Sometimes I wonder if I should be doing this. Any suggestions?

I’d consider heart and soul and hard work the most valuable investments you’ve made, and certainly not wasted if you don’t enter a bodybuilding contest. Time is wasted regularly on empty games and schemes and temporary satisfactions, and money is spent on toys and junk and falls through the cracks. Seldom are either smartly invested in one’s strength and health, well being and character. You’re rich.

The last weeks are the toughest because the goods are either there or they’re not. What’s beneath the remaining few pounds and defined by the last few reps and sets will be revealed soon… usually way too soon for the contender. Relax at this point. You don’t have to compete if you don’t want to. It’s entirely up to you (with a little help from one or two confidants). Approach the days ahead with this freedom.

Train for the show, and, if ya feel like it, enter it. If not, don’t, but at least you tasted the experience of training for one.

You have the remaining weeks to pose, get color, stimulate and coax the body with sensible and lovable training. Don’t beat yourself up. Most everyone gets nervous and overtrains during the last weeks, trying too hard to build last-minute muscle and definition, causing stress and catabolism, fatigued muscles and a depleted spirit. They’re whipped on stage, yet look twice as good three days later after the relief of the show’s completion is assimilated and they’ve eaten, slept and relaxed. They’re bigger, harder and healthier and happy.

Feed yourself, sleep, train for fun and pump, relax and visualize your success.

Apply the functional miracles of positive thinking, imagining or visualizing the completion of hard work well done and your personal competence in achieving your goals: a strong body, well-constructed, conditioned and capable, and disciplined. No judging, just comparing yourself to yourself and recognizing your worth in this endeavor. Visualize a great time on stage, connecting with the audience and hitting your poses with might and excitement and confidence — the audience can sense your love and strength, and the absence of fear and doubt.

It all makes you stronger, win or lose or walk away.

God’s strength… Dave

50 pounds overweight and ready to get started

June 11, 2017 - 14:25

I’m about 50 pounds overweight and have been for at least 10 years. I’m sick of it! I’m ready to do something, but how do I get started?

You’re not the only one with an overweight problem. The fact is, almost everyone you encounter today faces the dilemma. They’re either a little or a lot overweight and probably under-muscled and under-conditioned. The grand and outstanding difference between you and them is you’re courageous, motivated, energized and enthusiastic. You’re doing something about it.

You are ready, willing and able to take the tough steps… so… um… what’s in your refrigerator that shouldn’t be? What’s on your pantry shelf and behind cupboard doors that does not deserve space or accommodation? Pull out a large garbage bag from its handy dispenser and fill it with those items of regret, threat and destruction. When the job is done, drag the bulky plastic container to the neatest garbage pail or homeless center. Let your conscience be your guide.

Squirming throughout the process is part of the exercise. These are desperate little demons of appetite and gluttony and self-satisfaction being exorcised from your body. Once the junk and the devilish habits and desires are exposed and eliminated, you’re free. The way before you will be less difficult, less dangerous and less exasperating.

Now you can turn your undivided attention to the good things of life: weights, protein and the pursuit of happiness.


Personal training

June 11, 2017 - 14:23

What to you think of personal training?

Personal training can be valuable in the beginning, when people need guidance on exercise form. Getting a training session once a month for a new workout program is quite useful for beginners too. But hesitate to endorse it because the trainee begins to rely on another, rather than developing that internal strength to show up, and to finish a workout.

I once watched a coach and his client at a gym, and after the trainer handed his trainee the weights, he proceeded to count the reps like they were eggs in a basket: one egg, two eggs, three and so forth until the completion of the set, only he didn’t call them eggs. I guess they could have been jellybeans or all the red cars on the freeway — hard to tell by the tone and cadence of the string of numbers.

The coach said, “Good set,” as he relieved his insufficiently affected athlete of the burdensome objects. They continued to talk about the numbers—not the sets, reps and poundage, but the ball scores, the stock prices and the cost of a five-day cruise to Jamaica.

After a brief silence, as if struck by a whim, the coach returned the foreign cold steel devices to the drowsy man languishing before him on the incline bench and said, “We’re almost done, big guy.”

Let me at them was the smiley lifter’s unspoken response, absolutely inspired by the decisive conclusion of another exhausting, all-consuming bout with the impervious iron and steel. Phew!!

Focus, dedication and enthusiasm, the essentials of effective training. Discover them, develop them, never let them rest.


Thick bar training

June 11, 2017 - 14:19

Where did thick-bar training come from and when do you use it?

Thick-bar training goes back quite a few years, to the strong men days of yore, with thick-handle dumbbells of specific weight for feats of strength. Then came the Apollon Axle and Buffalo Bar from IronMind.

Our gym had an Apollon Axle (2′ x 84″ hollow steel bar weighing just over 30 lbs) for pressing, curling, cleans and deads. The thickness is tough to grip and changes the mechanics of the exercises performed and thus the muscle recruitment by virtue of the bar’s altered center of gravity. Cool.

The Buffalo Bar is a one and five-eights-inch curved Oly style bar weighing 50 lbs for stable squatting. Also very cool.

Any thick-handle dumbbell work should be specific and not practiced regularly throughout one’s training routine.

The bars are popular in clubs and gyms where training is embraced by an involved membership. Sometimes the handle thickness accommodates sensitive hands due to injury or arthritis.

That’s about all I can think of right now. God’s speed… DD

What could I be doing better?

June 5, 2017 - 18:35

I am 36 and have not been weight training consistently since high school. I went from a svelte 200 pounds to 272 in four years. I recently started eating a little better and started a regular program of walking several times a week and stretching and went from 272 to 240. Then I decided (thanks to you) to give some serious weight training a try. I have been lifting two times a week consistently and I can see and feel the improvement. I have been a little frustrated because after the initial weight loss, my weight creeped back up between 255-259 and has remained there for the last couple of months. I lift on Tues (biceps and back) and Thurs (triceps and chest). I also walk briskly for just over a mile three times a week. What can I be doing better?

You’re on the right track and have come a long way toward restoring your health and reviving your standards for right living. However, to advance further physically and in your disciplines, you need to increase your focus on exercise and menu. This might sound radical, but it is the only answer.

Your training scheme is sufficient for maintaining a fit body of an appropriate bodyweight, but does not serve to build the muscle mass and leanness you desire. Were I you, I’d train to build muscle by increasing my weight training to three to four days a week, while keeping the walking or jogging at three. I also note that you have no leg work in your current training plan. You would want to fix that gap, and make sure you get shoulder work on one of the upper body days.

If this increased training is approached with confidence and suitable aggressiveness, it can be uplifting and inspiring and fun. It will work because it does work.

If your attitude is compromised by guilt, lack of enthusiasm, doubt, procrastination or other hesitations, your quest will whither with the sun-baked grass.

Your eating habits must be followed with continuing certainty: Eat more frequently, smaller servings, more protein, more salads and raw vegetables, less sugar, enough EFAs, no junk.

Get familiar with pop top cans of tuna, tupperware and food preparation.

This all sounds impossible, but take your time. Take two steps forward and one step back. Carry on till the good and smart and right become habitual, enjoyable and the only way to go.

This should not come as an insult or harsh statement to the serious-minded person: A loser is one who gives up on a good thing too soon… or ever. Boy, there’s a lot of that going around.

This serious stuff, but it’s also wonderful.

Carry on the good fight. God’s speed… Dave

Rib Cage Expansion

June 5, 2017 - 18:24

How can I expand my rib cage?

The popular MO for building a voluminous chest is heavy deep breathing squats supersetted with stiff or bentarm pullovers.

Of course, heavy dumbbell flat and incline presses are my favorite pec muscle builders, better than the bench press and safer for shoulders.

Time and consistent training are key ingredients.

God’s strength… Dave